Christianism: On the Rise or Last Gasp?

I first learned the term “Christianism” in a piece by Andrew Sullivan a few years ago. Christianism is a label well earned by Christianists (inaccurately labeled the “Christian Right” by mainstream media), who are religious fundamentalists in the US that advocate for a political agenda with dangerous theocratic leanings. Christianists now occupy influential political positions and possess unhindered access to all branches of the federal government, as well as numerous state and local governments.  At the risk of sounding paranoid, this is cause for real concern.

Texas is a case study in just how Christianists, if left unchecked, will craft legislation that jeopardizes the freedoms we all enjoy. For example, Texas lawmakers are currently proposing legislation that would give adoption agencies the authority to discriminate at will. This bill, claim legislators, “protects religious freedoms” of private adoption agencies, many, of which, receive public funds.  The truth is this bill is aimed at discriminating against LGBTQ couples who seek adoption.  Further, it opens the door for more forms of bigotry behind the veil of “religious conviction.” This cruel from of governance does not come from “the Christian Right”; It is neither Christian nor right. This is but one of many efforts currently underway to legislate a “religion” that not does not reflect any of the tenets of Christianity.  Rather, this kind of policymaking comes from Christianism (which is just another form of fundamentalism); it is dangerous and undermines our 1st amendment protection from an established religion.

We’re certainly not living in a theocracy, yet. But there’s definitely an unholy alliance between Christianists and the government that is supposed to protect the rights of all who live within these United States. It is important for people of faith and the media alike to identify what Christianism truly is; It is bad for the United States and for the global community.  Whether what we’re witnessing is just he beginning of something or the last gasp of a dying breed doesn’t matter: We must resist all efforts of what looks like a theocracy in the making.

I’m With You Thomas

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,
and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side,
I will not believe.” ~ Thomas, the doubter
John 20:25

I started defending Thomas years ago. His skepticism resonates with me, even if for different reasons. I accepted long ago that doubt is just one part of the faith journey- a necessary part. It has prevented me from being “certain” and ideological.

Blessings may be upon those who “hear and believe”, but sometimes “seeing” goes a long way in restoring confidence to the doubtful.

Perhaps, one doubts the fundamental faith claims made by the church, like the resurrection of Jesus. I experienced such a faith crisis in my early 30s. I knew then my understanding of what it meant to proclaim “Christ is risen” needed to change. Later, a mysterious encounter with the divine at the funeral of a man I never met would reassure, for me, the promise of resurrection- but with new understanding.

Others need to see the church do something other than bully people, foster hatred, or abuse. There are a many congregations in our world that are authentic centers for sanctuary, healing, forgiveness, mercy, and acceptance.  The world needs to see- and hear- less of the brutish preachers (let’s not name them- they get enough media attention) and more of the fiercely loving communities that embody what Christ called his followers to do. “They will know we are Christians by our love,” as the old song goes.

So, Thomas, in my book, and I’m sure others, you get a pass- not that you need my stamp of approval.  I just hope others who share your doubt will embrace it, because, contrary to what some might say, it actually strengthens one’s faith.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio, 1601-1602, , Sanssouci Picture Gallery; Potsdam, Germany

Religious Freedom Bills And Fake Religious Infringement

If Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, signs a so-called “Religious Freedom” bill, it will become, yet, another law in search of a problem that does not exist.  Religious freedom, guaranteed by the United States Constitution,  is not being trampled on by anyone.  It’s just not happening (unless one considers the anti-Muslim activity around the nation).  Proponents of such legislation are free to believe what they will about LGBTQ persons.  No one is stopping that. Period.  What these folks want is to legislate hate into law.

Thankfully, Gen Con and the Christian Church( Disciples of Christ) are, both, threatening move future conventions to other states should this bill pass.  Hopefully, this economic threat will lead to more sensible and just action.

These laws are about one thing: bigotry.  They are on the wrong side of history.  They are neither Christian nor religious in any shape or form.

United States of Adolescence.

As the State of Texas pushes forward to foolishly join other states with open-carry legislation and the US Congress continues to bolster war spending and cut vital social safety nets, I thought of this spot on insight from Richard Rohr:

In the first half of life, success, security, and containment– “looking good” to ourselves and others– are almost the only questions. They are the early stages in Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”. In a culture like ours still preoccupied with security issues, enormously high military budgets are never seriously questioned by Congress or by the people, while appropriations reflecting the later stages in the hierarchy of needs, like those for education, health, care for the poor, and the arts, are quickly cut, if even considered. The message is clear that we are largely an adolescent culture.~ from Falling Upward. 

In short, our leaders legislate like teenagers  Short sighted.  Driven by emotion and fear.  Selfish.  But the only ones to blame are the people who put them in power.

OU, SAE, and One Recruit’s Self-Respect

150309043336-pkg-howell-oklahoma-fraternity-racist-chant-00003828-small-169The University of Oklahoma has expelled two students and removed the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity for their racist chant recently caught on video.  Whether the university had the legal right to do so will be decided in the courtroom.  No doubt first amendment rights will be invoked.  Even so, some protected speech simply has consequences. So, a few thoughts regarding this matter:

1. Fraternities have never been known for their inclusivity.  They are exclusive by their very nature.  Maybe it’s time to reconsider their place on a 21st century college campus.

 2.  The ‘n-word” has no place in our vernacular. I am reminded of the words of a colleague of mine: “You cannot refer to someone as a ni**er and not act niggardly towards them.” The use of the term by all needs to cease.  It cannot be reclaimed or repurposed.

3. More education needs to occur on what racism actually is.  Anyone can be a racist.  Racism, however, is prejudice times power.  That means one group benefits more than all others. That these college students thought they could join in singing a racist chant and get away with it, and they would have were it not for someone present with a conscience and a smartphone, was both arrogant and a function of institutionalized racism.  Responsible and productive education about racism needs to be introduced from the moment every child enters Kindergarten.

4. Parker Rice and Levi Petit, the expelled students, need not be thrown out of society.  They participated in an indefensible act for sure.  But their transgression pales in comparison to the racism that exists in the halls of government, in the pews of many churches (not all!), local law enforcement agencies (again not all), and, yes, educational institutions.  They cannot be made the scapegoat for a wider problem. But they certainly learn their lesson.  We all must change  on all matters of discrimination.

5. Shout out to fellow North Mesquite High School alum, Jean Delance, for your decision to go elsewhere. I’d like to see you in a TCU uniform, but suit up where you and your family feel is best for you. Respect!