I started my writing career in the most bizarre of ways. I first sold a biker story to a now defunct biker magazine. I've never been on a Harley, but I do like boobs, and the story's ironic twist (kind of a pornified O. Henry conceit) centered on boobs and a snake tattoo. Yeah, glad that's off my chest... That was 1990. A year later, I sold a story about a homeless guy who organized a street church service to David C. Cook publishing because they thought it was non-fiction. Yes, it's often better to be lucky than good. I then struggled for years trying to get something else published. It was incredibly frustrating. This was due in large part to my penchant for preaching; I've always struggled with fiction because I tend to be more concrete than abstract, a fact that will surprise some of you, I'm sure.
I was also a Christian at the time, but had grown up on Mad and Cracked, so satire was one of my primary languages. I finally discovered The Door in the late 90s. Thanks in large part to Harry Potter and Left Behind, I was able to convince the editors that a piece called Harry Potter gets Left Behind was a brilliant idea. I wrote a dozen or so pieces for them before they folded.That was right about the time I started writing regularly for the Oklahoma Gazette. Journalism is a joyless form, necessarily so. I've been at it for nearly 10 years now, and I've often felt my brain lurch when I try to shift writing styles. This blog has helped keep me from becoming completely entrenched, but I do find the journalism world frustrating and rewarding in almost equal parts.
This week is about frustration and resignation. I've written a few pieces over the years for the Gazette's satirical column Chicken Fried News. These are actual news stories with snark and satire added as commentary. I've had fun with churches giving away Harleys for Easter, SBC issues, and a host of other insanities. This last week was one of the best I've written. I just read the edited version that went to print. I never do this! Never. I shouldn't have, but I had to this time to be sure I wanted to link it on fb. They are non-byline pieces, and on many, the whole writing and editing staff contribute so that what is left is often better than when it started. Occasionally, it's worse.
Religion is hard to write about, especially satirically if you don't want to alienate everyone. Anyone can write satire that mocks believers, but the task, and it's one which The Door got right, is to satirize for the sake of redemption. In religious satire, as in blowjobs, the appropriate amount of teeth is crucial. I'm posting the piece as it appeared in the Gazette, followed by the original. You tell me what you think. I'm used to being edited. Any writer who thinks he is above editing is a beginner or an asshole. However, I don't like being defanged, and I think this is exactly what happened. Note: The reference to Mary Fallin is about a recent Lost Ogle story about our governor spending thousands in tax dollars to get her hot tub and pool temperatures correct.
In a move that’s sure to confuse almost everyone, the Oklahoma House last week approved a measure creating an official state motto. Authored by Rep. Danny Morgan, House Concurrent Resolution 1024 would make “Oklahoma — In God We Trust!” the official state motto. Morgan told The Christian Post that research and review of the Oklahoma Constitution revealed that the state has no motto. As to the “Labor Omnia Vincit” (Labor Conquers All) on the state seal, Morgan explained that was only in the Constitution as a description of the seal.
Although the U.S. and Florida both use the phrase, The Christian Post reported that the exclamation point and the state name makes the new motto totally legal. Morgan, a Democrat who is former mayor of Prague — home of the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague — said no church or religious group had supported or endorsed the proposal. Presumably, the measure has the endorsement of God. At least we trust that’s the case.
In a move that is sure to confuse almost everyone, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved HCR 1024 in March. The resolution, authored by Rep. Danny Morgan (D-Prague), would make “Oklahoma -- In God We Trust!” the official state motto.
Morgan gave The Christian Post an interview after the fact, wherein he informed the online publication that research and review of the Oklahoma Constitution revealed that Oklahoma has no motto. As to the “Labor Omnia Vincit” (Labor Conquers All) on the state seal, Morgan explained that was only in the constitution as a description of the seal. Clearly, then, it would seem the seal’s designers were only looking for a cool Latin phrase as opposed to an actual motto.
Although the United States and Florida both use the phrase, the Christian Post reported that our use of an exclamation point and the state name makes the new motto totally legal. That’s sure to be a relief to some, but what of all the gods that will be lining up to be the object of our trust?
Morgan, the former mayor of Prague, home of the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague, said no church or religious group had supported or endorsed the proposal. No word on whether that list includes the infant Jesus of Prague himself.
The truly good news is that now that God is getting a shout out from Oklahomans, it’s possible our governor can get her pool fixed gratis. We hear that Jesus guy is awesome around water.
Broadman & Holman, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, has recalled an unknown number of pink study Bibles. If this were The Onion, I'd follow the lede with this: "an unidentified spokesperson for the denomination said the color is too gay." Unfortunately, this ain't The Onion, and their reason for the recall isn't funny. The Bibles were a fundraising effort to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the formerly well-known breast cancer organization known as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Excursus: Did anyone notice when it stopped being Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation? Now it really is Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Were they opposed to the cure before, or just clarifying their raison d'etre? This is an organization I very much support (at least in principle), but that name is just bad. Maybe a simple shift to Komen Foundation would have been good. I'm pretty sure people assume they're opposed to breast cancer, not promoting it.
Back to the Baptists. A dollar from the sale of each Bible went to Komen through the merchandising arm of the SBC, LifeWay stores, which is part of LifeWay Christian Resources. (Anyone else think it odd that the SBC is starting to resemble Kali, the Hindu goddess?)
According to a spokesperson from Komen, LifeWay had pledged $25,000. That was before someone informed B&H that Komen has a partnership with Planned Parenthood. Oh shit. Here we go. Thomas Rainer, the president of LifeWay, but not the SBC, released a very helpful statement about the process. Two statements stood out:
As this project has developed, we realized it was a mistake. (Grammar counts, even for a president, sir. Two point deduction for tense switching.)
When our leadership discovered the overwhelming concern that some of Komen's affiliates were giving funds to Planned Parenthood, we began the arduous process of withdrawing this Bible from the market.
A mistake to fund breast cancer screening and education? Nicely done, Mr. President. You didn't think it was a mistake until you received angry letters, emails, and calls from irritated fundamentalists who believe the transitive property precludes you working with "enemies" for a good cause. Here's a simple formula for readers in case you're confused about the transitive property: B&H helps Komen, Komen works with PP, therefore B&H helps PP. It's absurd, of course. Komen guaranteed the money wasn't going to any causes other than the stated ones, but Rainer said it goes against LifeWay's core values to have "even an indirect relationship" with PP. I find it an extremely dubious claim to say that funding breast cancer screening and awareness is in conflict with your core values, Mr. Rainer. If I'm funding a good cause, why do I give two shits about other partners that are funding the same good cause? This is, of course, only an issue because the SBC believes PP is only in the abortion referral business. You can disagree about abortion all you like, but withholding funding from a breast cancer organization because they use PP for screenings is absurd inasmuch as PP is also doing a good thing at that point. Ought it not be the business of Christian organizations to support mitzvahs from wherever they originate?
As to the arduous process...ugh. We're so sorry that this has inconvenienced your company, sir. I'm sure the women and men who struggle with breast cancer are sympathetic about all the boxing and shipping and paperwork required. And what will be done with those pink Bibles now? Can you just send Komen a check for the 25K you promised? I am hopeful that the SBC will realize that it's far better to keep their word on a pledge than to take the opportunity to grandstand and demonize, but I'm not sure which way they'll go. I mean, the Bible says nothing at all about keeping your word, right? It's not as if the relationship between Komen and PP was a hidden one. You used the research arm of the SBC to vette your new partnership, right? Ridiculous. Just give them the money and burn the damn Bibles. It's hard to take all that hell and wrath talk seriously when it's bound in pink anyway.
Richard Land, president of the (it turns out) ironically named Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has released an open letter to Newt Gingrich. Land is concerned that Gingrich is not polling well among evangelicals. I assume he really means Southern Baptists with whom he comes in contact, but he says evangelicals. Fair enough. He tells the former Speaker that based upon the informal polls Land takes as he travels the country, Newt polls well with evangelical men and terribly with evangelical women. What's the solution?
Land wants Newt to pick a "pro-family venue" (maybe a Southern Baptist affiliated university?) and address his marital history. See, evangelical women aren't supporting Newt because he divorced his bed-ridden first wife to marry a mistress, whom he subsequently divorced to marry his second mistress (but we don't really have the enumeration down with any degree of certainty). Land wants Newt to totally come clean. Evangelical women, Land says using his mother as an example, are reticent to vote for a cheater unless the cheater comes clean. (I'm doing my best to play it straight at this point, folks.) He concludes with this exhortation.
Such a speech would not convince everyone to vote for you, but it might surprise you how many Evangelicals, immersed in a spiritual tradition of confession, redemption, forgiveness and second and third chances, might.
You're probably wondering why I'm even posting this. It's just Land being Land, after all. Nothing to see here, folks. Right? When evangelicals, especially of the conservative variety, wonder why I don't take them seriously when it comes to ethical talk, this will be one of the examples that I use. There are (at least) three points at which Land's thinking and writing border on idiotic.
Second subtitle would have been "Why not to Trust Pastors Who Speculate on what the Bible Means about Things it doesn't Mention." Driscoll got some (un)wanted press recently for his masturbation chapter in the laugh out loud funny Porn-Again Christian. The money shot...er...quote is:
First, masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he's watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body.
This is only the first disturbing quote among many in this chapter. Here's the thing about qualifiers and examples; they're usually based on experience or common lexicon. If I'm illustrating something in class, I'm likely to draw on Eminem, Jay-Z, Family Guy, South Park, or a recent film. It's shared language and experience. Absent those options, I have to draw on common human experience, like initiating a new relationship before the old one is over, especially in the form of inappropriate texting, conversations at work, or flirtation that goes too far. Most students can identify with something in those examples. Driscoll offers a qualifier that is beyond bizarre, and quite frankly, probably drawn from his own bizarre experience. "...particularly if he's watching himself in a mirror..." Um, you know, in all honesty, most of us have tossed one off or rubbed one out from time to time, but watching in the mirror, well, that's just a special case. It seems Driscoll has reached into his own box of darkness here and found himself guilty of that common human error: everyone beats off like I do. Okay, maybe it's everyone thinks or does like I do, but still, it's hard not to see Driscoll (aka Maximus) in a pleated Roman skirty thing tossing one off in front of a cheval mirror. Helmet? Maybe. Sword? For sure. Ha! That's a Bible double entendre.
As for the assertion that masturbation borders on homosexual behavior, it's just idiocy. Homosexual behavior requires another person of the same sex to be present and participating (even voyeuristically) in the act. All Driscoll offers here is another reason (amongst the vast catalog) for young Christians to feel guilty about masturbating. Even after admitting that the Bible doesn't mention it, he goes on to offer "Practical and Theological Reasons not to Masturbate." Oh, little beater-offer, beware the pastor who uses theological as a euphemism for "it's not in the Bible but here's why God thinks it's important."
Another dead giveaway that Driscoll is both full of shit and a perv? His shitty interpretation of Song of Songs. Driscoll insists that Song of Songs 2:3 permits oral sex. Now, before we proceed, you should know that the Mosaic law expressly prohibits sodomy, and sodomy, dear beater-offers, can be oral or anal. Against all evidence to the contrary and all solid exegetical practices, Driscoll, because he likes blow jobs (and who doesn't?), is going to insist that this verse permits oral sex:
As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
Most Biblical scholars, especially of the Hebrew expert variety, will tell you that euphemisms, idioms, and figures of speech are critically important for understanding a text. The use of a word idiomatically in more than one location is critical to understanding it as an idiom elsewhere. Fruit is nowhere else in the Tanakh used to mean testicles, penis, dick, cock, trombone, skin flute, nuts, jewels, pecker, etc. That Driscoll believes fruit here means dick or balls only means he's relentlessly American and a huge fan of bjs (and who isn't?). If you want to plumb the depths of his weirdness, check out his justification for cunnilingus, and yes, he uses the word in the soon to be banned in 84 countries chapter.
The most egregious example of his hubris, though, is the list of questions and answers in their entirety. Just read through and see how freely he interprets the text while ignoring or fucking the text in the ass (that's bad, by the way). I've seldom seen sexual preferences and peccadillos so clearly writ in exegesis. Enjoy, kids, but take a tissue along for the ride...
California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 499, a law that will go into effect on January 1, 2012, that gives girls as young as 12 access to the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) without parental consent. The bill also provides for them to receive the hepatitis B vaccine and any other future vaccines for STIs. There is plenty of room here for discussion about parental rights and government authority. Parents groups are rightly worried about a government arrogant and paternalistic enough to abrogate parental rights under the guise of protecting young women. However, the question is about whether or not public health outweighs parental rights in this situation. It's a topic that ought to be open to vigorous debate, and both sides have good points.
Enter Christian author and rising star of the "Bronze Age Sexual Ethics for Modern Women" speaking circuit Teresa Tomeo. Tomeo, a Catholic and former "secular media" journalist (yes, secular media...sigh), has risen to prominence recently because of her new book: Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture.
The subtitle should tell you most of what you need to know, but this isn't about her book. It's about the press release her managment company sent out this week. Hilariously named The Maximus Group—presumably because the owner has a hard-on for Gladiator or John Eldredge or both—this is the company that handled advertising for the sappy, crappy film Courageous. And I apologize for calling schlocky propaganda a film. Ominously titled New California Law Frightens Bestselling Author Teresa Tomeo, the press release included some choice quotes from our Catholic ethicist.
Bestselling author Teresa Tomeo finds it disquieting, to say the least. "It is frightening that some in our society continue to push parents out of the picture when it comes to major decisions involving their sons' and daughters' health and welfare," said Tomeo, author of the new book EXTREME MAKEOVER: WOMEN TRANSFORMED BY CHRIST NOT CONFORMED TO THE CULTURE.
First, please note the Gospel of Marketing 1:1. Never miss an opportunity to sell your shit. We are told that Ms. Tomeo is feeling disquieted because of the nebulous "some," but we're also told she has a new book. Awesome! So, is this a public service announcement or an ad? That's just quibbling, though. This gets really funny.
"Children can't sign up for athletics — or be given as much as an aspirin in school — without Mom's or Dad's approval; but now, 12-year-olds in California can get the HPV vaccine without parental consent?!
First, that semicolon is all wrong and the dashes don't belong. Did Gladiator guy hire an English major to edit this shit? Might give it some consideration, or, er...pray over it? And what's with the double punctuation?! Really? Anyway. I suspect part of the reason children can't sign up for athletics or get an aspirin at school has something to do with liability issues for the schools. Also, this has nothing to do with health providers giving vaccines, but let's not let that stop the histrionics. Ready?
"We don't pass out filtered cigarettes or light beer to our youth," Tomeo added. "Why would we give them more reason to engage in unsafe behavior?"
Um, do we pass out full-calorie beer? Was she going for the "I'm a hip, drinking Catholic" with the beer reference? And what of unfiltered cigarettes? Those bizarre semantics aside, this is just faulty thinking. Cigarettes cause cancer; Gardasil prevents it. The analogy is simply false and inflammatory, oh, and stupid. Tomeo is yet another voice warning girls that sex is unsafe, just like cigarettes and beer. It remains true that Christian spokespersons who are so based on celebrity rather than intelligence or expertise seemingly have nothing new or interesting to contribute to any public debate.
It's time to fully exploit the tragedy of 9/11 for all its worth. After all, why let hapless sinners go to hell (or America down the toilet) if churches can use the 10th anniversary of this disaster to market themselves or their sermon series or themselves? Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, is using the upcoming anniversary to pimp...um...promote his new sermon series "Twilight's Last Gleaming." The Sunday evening series begins September 11, and they've created awesome graphics to advertise, including the Virgin Mary holding a torch.
That's the Virgin Mary, right? Because no way does a real Baptist mix civil religion and Christianity, right? Maybe the Holy Mother was paying tribute to her French cousin, Lady Liberty? Anyway, Jeffress, seen here looking like a cleaned up, gayer version of Dennis Kucinich, wants you to invite your friends and family so they can help save America. Actually, they can't save America, but more on that in a second. First the photo.
After his old time radio hour, I think Jeffress will be talking about..oh, wait. The ominous voiceover on the video gave me a list:
In addition to learning of America's inevitable collapse, lucky believers will also learn
In case you're wondering how "leaders in America" feel about this series, there are blurbs. "I stand in awe of the clarity of his convictions." --Mike Huckabee. Awe? Really? Just because he's clear? There are three more: Cal Thomas, Erwin Lutzer, and James Robison. Who cares. You can watch the video for yourself.
More troubling than yet another sermon series about "the last days" or "the last days of America" is the tendency to exploit what ought rightly to be a solemn observance. Much has happened in the intervening ten years: the deposing of Saddam, two endless, pointless wars, the death of Osama bin Laden, a catastrophic foreign policy, a widening divide between rich and poor, a bailout of banks that systematically raped consumers, a mortgage crisis, unemployment, and the list goes on. It really is a sobering time, but it's not made better by calling attention to yourself as a man with answers when the day is not about you. Nor will answers from a Bronze Age book do much for me, especially when you're concerned with "moral relativism," as if the Church hasn't all along believed what was convenient and comfortable while pretending to believe everything in the Book. Moral relativists aren't just non-theists, Dr. Jeffress. And some non-theists are not moral relativists; we just happen to disagree about the constitution of morals and the Constitution.
What do Martin Luther King, Jr., George W. Bush, and Captain America have in common? (I really wanted to start with "these three guys walk into a bar," but it doesn't work.) According to a Harris Poll conducted as part of a launch campaign for a new Bible—yeah, we need yet another special version—63% of Americans incorrectly attributed a Bible verse to one of the three. Shocking, right? Much will be made of this in some corners, corners laden with lamentations of creeping Biblical illiteracy, the dumbing down of America, and the increase in immorality. Some will say that it's a tragedy that Americans can't recognize their Founding Document (they're insane, but they'll say it). It's a hurricane in a hookah pipe though, I swear. I'm actually going to side with my illiterate countrymen on this one because they were tricked.
Before I get to the real rant, here's the trickery. 2572 adult Americans responded to an online poll in which they were asked to identify the origin of this quote:
We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don't know what to do, we never give up.See, I'd have guessed Jim Valvano from his "Never Give Up" speech. It's because the language comes from the world famous Contemporary English Version, and all five people who have read it recognized the source. The rest of us would have no idea what to make of such impotent language when compared to this:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair...That's the KJV, and it's the language poets and playwrights have used for centuries. It's the way most of us heard it growing up. Forgive me for never having been moved to tears by "never give up," except by Jimmy V, but he was dying of cancer for shit's sake. Include the whole verse in the KJV or NKJV, and I'm betting the numbers go up considerably.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.I'm guessing close to 100% would have gotten that one. But, if you're trying to sell Bibles, especially Bibles written in magically understandable shit prose, you need to market your product.
The American Bible Society decided to commission the Harris Poll as part of a campaign to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11 with the release of the Freedom Bible. Fuck me in the face. Nothing like using the remembrance of a tragedy to sell a Bible with painfully anemic language, thereby increasing the tragedy. (There will be more of this as the day approaches...) To make matters worse, the marketing material equivocates on the meaning of freedom. What kind of freedom is meant? Read the web site and let me know because I'm a little lost. I was looking for a picture of Mel Gibson as William Wallace or as that badass dad from The Patriot, but what I got was a magical bird tree and a cityscape. Are those doves? Is that NYC sans WTC? Which tampon box artist did they hire to do that cover?
Lest you're concerned that the release of the Bible is poorly timed, the press release offers a bullet list of important factoids to justify their decision, the best of which is this:
Despite living in a predominantly Christian nation, 82 percent of Americans who have dealt with trauma rely most on sources other than the Bible to cope, including 6 percent of whom say they do not rely on anything.Where to even start? 1. Not a Christian nation. Not even predominantly Christian. There are no Christian nations and no unicorns. Sorry to break it to you. 2. They rely on friends, clergy, family, counselors instead of the Bible? Shocking. I mean, why wouldn't they find comfort in this: "And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword." So strange. 3. The six percent are liars.
I really don't care if people read their Bibles or not. It would help some of my students when we read Randall Kenan and Alice Walker and Shakespeare, but they're not necessarily crippled by not having read it. A little honesty in press releases would be nice, though, especially from the theist camp.
What kind of Christian are you? Believe it or not, how you answer the Adam and Eve question is now considered by some to be an issue of your evangelical-ness. This will come as no surprise to those of you who are familiar with fundamentalist declarations emerging from allegedly evangelical mouths, but for those of you who don't think Adam and Eve had children who promptly incested it up to create the next generation, well, you might be surprised to find yourself outside the camp.
The normally accurate NPR ran a story that in the words of one friend is further proof that the MSM doesn't understand religious categories. Clearly, Ms. Hagerty, the author, also fails to understand international boundaries. That's not all she gets wrong, though, beginning with which Genesis account Americans believe. According to the story, 4 in 10 Americans believe the Genesis 2 account of creation. As someone who teaches mythology and comparative religion, and who has taught Bible, I assure you 4 in 10 Americans don't know the difference between the two creation accounts in the Bible. (Four in ten Christians don't know the difference because 8 in 10 Christians haven't even bothered to read the entire Bible.) The Americans I talk to believe a conflated version of both, and this is made worse by "apologists" insisting against all good linguistic sense that Gen. 2 actually expands upon Gen. 1. Horseshit. They're competing narratives.
Here comes the evangelical mishmash, though, as Hagerty intends to explain the importance of the primordial couple: "It's a central tenet for much of conservative Christianity, from evangelicals to confessional churches such as the Christian Reformed Church."
First, if you're going to start with a "who it's important to" angle, maybe start with fundamentalists, because it's damned important to them, and not with evangelicals. Second, since when are all evangelicals "conservative," and what does conservative mean here? And if you're going to end with "confessional churches," why do you pick CRC? Pretty sure Lutheran and Presbyterian are better known, but that's a nitpick. Since when are evangelicals and confessing Christians on opposite ends of a continuum? Can't Reformed, Lutheran, and Southern Baptist be evangelical? Are the terms mutually exclusive? (Yes, friends, I'm counting the SBC as a confessional church. As long as they disfellowship churches for going against the Baptist Faith & Message, they're confessional. Get over it.)
Time to make it worse:
But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account. Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: "That would be against all the genomic evidence that we've assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all."
What kind of scholars? Oh, biologists. Shit, I thought you meant Bible scholars. Ok, so a Canadian biologist is publicly questioning the existence of a real Adam and Eve, and this is news for American evangelicals? Everyone knows Canadians aren't really saved, not in the American fundangelical sense. And what does it mean that he's conservative? I think Canadian conservatives are different than American evangelical conservatives? Did Ms. Hagerty not know about the border between the U.S. and Canada? It makes a theological as well as a political difference, honest.
Hagerty does toss in one American "evangelical," but he taught at Calvin College, so does that make him confessional? John Schneider, professor of theology, said: " There was no historical Adam and Eve, no serpent, no apple, no fall that toppled man from a state of innocence." I think most people know that. Really, I do. Anyone who thinks about it, anyway. I know some Christian traditions are committed to it, but it's an untenable position, and not just because of the incest. But wait, scary science always brings out the Defenders of "Truth."
The world famous apologist Fazale Rana (who the fuck is he? she?) has an opinion:
"From my viewpoint, a historical Adam and Eve is absolutely central to the truth claims of the Christian faith," says Fazale Rana, vice president of Reasons To Believe, an evangelical think tank that questions evolution.
A cursory examination of the website for Reasons to Believe will quickly inform you that we're not dealing with evangelicals here. Nope. Fundamentalists for sure. I'll just say it: creationist equals fundamentalist. Sorry. It's true. But there is a name we know...
Al Mohler! Fuck yeah! What's he going to say this time? "Without Adam, the work of Christ makes no sense whatsoever in Paul's description of the Gospel, which is the classic description of the Gospel we have in the New Testament," Mohler says.
Sigh. Without Homer Simpson, our understanding of how delicious donuts can be makes no sense. A metaphor, allegory, or analogy is still theologically useful, even without an historical referent. Why is that so damn difficult to grasp? And since when is Paul's description of the Gospel the "classic" description? What the hell does that even mean? Is James's not classic enough? Peter is out too? And if Paul's description is classic, did you mean Paul's or the Pauline school's? This is ridiculous oversimplification from someone who ought to know better.
The last three paragraphs are worth quoting in their entirety:
"This stuff is unavoidable," says Dan Harlow at Calvin College. "Evangelicals have to either face up to it or they have to stick their head in the sand. And if they do that, they will lose whatever intellectual currency or respectability they have."
"If so, that's simply the price we'll have to pay," says Southern Baptist seminary's Albert Mohler. "The moment you say 'We have to abandon this theology in order to have the respect of the world,' you end up with neither biblical orthodoxy nor the respect of the world."
Mohler and others say if other Protestants want to accommodate science, fine. But they shouldn't be surprised if their faith unravels.
It's not the respect of the world, you twit. It's believing things that are congruous with what science and math and history tell us about the world. If you're ignoring science and truth simply to keep alive a very narrow version of a faith, you're a fool. Christians everywhere, including the sciences, have found ways to integrate their faith with what science tells us about the world. Sorry, I'm not kicking biologists out of colleges so we can keep the primordial incestuous family alive. It's just...well, I was going to say silly, but this seems more egregious than that.
What kind of Christian are you? Evangelical? Well, see, that really means literalist or fundamentalist these days. How 'bout progressive? That just means liberal. Emergent? Ha! Good luck with that one. After Tony Jones and his band of merry marketers finished sucking the blood out of that label (sorry, leaf logo), all of Christendom is trying to figure out what to call people who want to be Christians but don't want to be douches, or even lumped in with the douches. This topic has made its way around techno-Christendom of late, and I've even weighed in, mainly in response to a post on Tripp Fuller's site. I actually agreed with Tony that evangelical is only useful for politically and theologically conservative Christians; moderate to liberal evangelicals will need to find a new word. My agreement, it seems, ends there, especially in light of Tony's new post.
Dr. Jones (that's what his new book jacket says, so I'm going with it, even though most folks don't put their credentials in front of their names on book jackets...) has chosen five new labels to replace "progressive." He warns Christians that they can use labels like Christ-follower if they like, but they should be aware that journalists will choose a label for them beyond that quaint nomenclature.
Here's why I get to weigh in. I'm a journalist. I write about religion, among other things. Unlike most journalists, I have a degree in Biblical Studies and a graduate degree in Theology. That means I understand the language and labels a shad better than my colleagues. Jones is right that we will refer to you crazy Jesus lovers with labels. The old ones are Catholic, mainline, evangelical, liberal, and fundamentalist. There are others, but those cover a pretty good spectrum. Believe it or not, good journalism doesn't use fundamentalist unless the topic is reactionary Christianity ca. 1930. We try to be careful with labels. That's why it's critically important to choose the correct label. That was the beauty of emergent, until Jones and his ilk made it Emergent, and it's painfully ironic that he is now calling for the masses to come up with a new name. Perhaps he sees a new book deal in the future. Alas, not with these labels...
Jones has chosen a top 5 (and by top I mean he likes them, not that they are good ideas).
Um. Wow. As a journalist, I feel compelled to ask, once a label like that is offered, "what the fuck are you talking about?" Labels are supposed to help clarify who a person is and what his tribe believes. Let's go through the list and see how well each candidate succeeds.
Open? As in Open Theism? As in open to LGBT persons? As in open to correction? All this label does is demand follow-up questions. And let's assume that it's a theological category (even though I don't think it is), it would only speak to a narrow set of theological conclusions about God's nature, knowledge, and activity, not a believer's politics, values, or habits.
Trinitarian. The worst of the list in terms of a vague redundancy. Did you mean Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Anabaptist, Methodist? You haven't narrowed anything down, except to exclude a few Black, Oneness, and Apostolic churches. I might as well call you an historically orthodox Christian.
Kerygmatic. The worst in terms of the "what the fuck does that mean" effect. Kerygma. Greek. Proclamation. Yeah, that's helpful. We're talking about journalists here, not your nerdy profs from grad school. The journalists write for the public, and as a rule, they know less than journalists. Try to avoid ancient languages when "clarifying" issues.
Prophetic. Sigh. Really? How is this helpful? The vaguest of the vague. Pentecostal? IHOP? Charismatic? Jewish? Messianic Jew? Given to annoying and tear-filled jeremiads? Making up shit you hear "God" say? Living eschatologically? Bitching about capitalism? Wearing a robe and Birkenstocks? Joining the local food co-op? This could mean nearly anything, except "I love whores and booze."
Incarnational. I thought about being incarnational, but then I decided I disliked my body, so only my spirit is Christian now. Ok, fair enough. This could actually mean someone who thinks it's important to live where she ministers. That would actually be refreshing, but again, Catholics have been doing this for 1800 years. How are you clarifying anything?
It's time for new words, I agree, but this top 5 list reeks of over-theologizing. Labels ought to be simple, and not associated with current movements/definitions is really helpful too. (Too bad you roundly fucked emergent, eh? An elegant, simple, little word sacrificed on the altar of Mammon. There is justice here, though. Jones's new book is about emergent ecclesiology...crickets...silence...awkward...can I get a rim shot?)