Archive for January, 2012

The Rank Apostasy Of The Religious Right

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

The hatred of Barack Obama and the contempt for those Jesus called “the least of these,” as well as an abject and sewer-borne hypocrisy, was manifested in South Carolina over the weekend as Republican, evangelical voters gave their overwhelming support to a man whose promiscuous public and private immorality is nothing short of stunning.

That the Bible-proclaiming arbiters of morality and family values who have inundated the GOP over the last thirty years, and especially since the election of this nation’s first Black President, have embraced Newt Gingrich as their leader is an example of the apostasy Scripture warns would happen in the last days. That evangelical pastors would attempt to explain away Gingrich’s serial adultery by comparing him to God’s restoration of King David is an example of whorish pandering and naked stupidity far beyond that spoken of in the Bible.

There is no sin Newt Gingrich has ever committed that was not defeated and forgiven by Jesus Christ on the cross; redemption for Gingrich is no further away than that of my own. But Gingrich’s behavior evinces no signs of repentance, no signs of humility, and no signs of conversion. On the contrary, he demonstrates only a pallid, vague apology for his extensive catalog of wrongs committed and sins indulged — while displaying anger at those who would dare to question him on specific offenses he’s committed, and committed while publicly condemning others who do the same.

In this, he shows that he despises the kindness of God.

This is a man who uses his children from the first sick wife he dumped to deny accounts given by the second sick wife he cheated on and dumped in order to defend his character and marriage to his third wife, with whom he cheated on his second. This is a man taken to court by the mother of those children when he failed to pay child support; this is someone who was excoriated by Congress and his own party for ethical violations that shocked even the most insidious Washington insider. Further, this is a megalomaniacal narcissist with a messiah complex whose grandiose view of himself is utterly at odds with the truly Spirit-converted life. Any pastor truly called by God would assure a repentant Gingrich of his forgiveness by faith in Christ — and any pastor filled by the Spirit would counsel steps toward his restoration and reconciliation with those he’s wounded.

That probably would not include having the adulterous Callista singing in her Catholic church’s choir, nor would it encourage Newt to use his children and his manufactured outrage to shield him from legitimate questions about his conduct. Or does the Religious Right exempt Gingrich from pastoral counsel and judicious steps toward Christian growth and restoration? Have they judged that his being hateful enough, pompous enough, and divisive enough is . . . good enough for them?

Gingrich’s seduction of South Carolina’s evangelical voters and his elevation to front-runner status as Florida’s primary draws near is nothing more than a shameless and lemming-like rush on the part of the GOP off the cliffs of decency and discernment. The Church of Jesus Christ ought to consider the Religious Right and Gingrich himself to be the focus of evangelism and prayer, not standardbearers and brethren empowered to wallow in and spread a message of power, privilege, greed, and division entirely at odds with even a cursory look at the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If those in the Religious Right extend an enthusiastic hand of political favor to a man so corrupt and so devoid of evidence of true salvation, if it accepts at face value that all evidence notwithstanding, Gingrich has, in his words, “gone to God for forgiveness” and concludes that the words need not match the actions if the agenda — an ugly, un-Christian, pandering and bigoted agenda — is good, they will prove to be the leaders of perhaps the greatest apostasy this country has ever seen.

They will confirm to a watching world that the Gospel is for sale, that the American Church is ready and willing to bed powers and principalities, and that those Christians who work for justice in their worship of the Savior are, truly, a despised, silly, sentimental and irrelevant remnant.

But let God be true and every human a liar — for it’s the faithful remnant and not those in the grip of lust and power who wait for their Lord with awe and expectation, knowing that, indeed, the Way is narrow and few will find it. I pray for the sin-stained GOP, because I take seriously Jesus’ warning that some who say “Lord, Lord” will find that they were, in fact, entirely unacquainted with Him or with his message. May God have mercy on them, but may God also silence their voice and dismantle their power with the strong, cleansing wind of the Holy Spirit.

Caught In Careless Editing! Sacre Bleu!

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Erstwhile reader Ben makes the falling point:

“It would be a lot easier for me to believe you knew anything about Mark Driscoll and had read this book if you actually knew his wifes name….”

(comment received January 20, 2012, from Mark Driscoll marriage book post)

Ouch. In my passion to pour out my profound concerns about the Driscoll’s new book on “real marriage,” I mistakenly referred to Grace Driscoll as “Gail” in much of the post. My father would be disappointed; errors like that resulted in an automatic “F” in his newswriting classes, with various colorful and scathing comments scrawled in red pencil, just in case the 72-pt. “F” didn’t shake you up.

I’m not as shaken up as I would’ve been then, but it was a bit of a jolt to see that I was that careless. Here’s my response to Ben:

“Good catch, Ben. I should’ve caught the errors — although I reference Mrs. Driscoll as “Grace” as often as I carelessly referred to her as “Gail.” I guess the thought of grace didn’t come up as I was reading the preview chapter I was sent. I have the participant’s guide to the book, remain unimpressed, and am waiting for the book itself. Be assured, however, that I know quite a bit about Driscoll and his thuggery. Be assured, too, that when I make a mistake, I put it front and center. So thanks for your comment, which is now a blog post.”

Market-Driven Healthcare Is Market-Sanctioned Death

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Defenders of the healthcare status quo seem terribly concerned that enabling access to preventative care will result in an orgy of medical spending on the part of an innately selfish consumer base.

One Moscow Vision 2020 community forum pundit likened it to the louse who orders the most expensive item on the menu once she knows the other person is taking care of the check. I, of course, think the bad behavior exhibited in the healthcare economy we have now makes that analogy overly simple.

I’m being generous.

The idea that medical consumers — we call them “people” — would engage in a determined recklessness in using “other people’s money” in the form of government healthcare-access programs is a convenient way to defend continuing injustice. I think we’ve all seen a multitude of examples of “people making bad decisions” in the healthcare climate we endure these days in the U.S. Most of the time, those decisions are made by insurers, whose approach to market-driven, business-model healthcare counts every single cost except for the very real personal costs inflicted on sick people.

I don’t see the truth in the example that using “other people’s money” in healthcare distribution is like you and me going to a restaurant and my ordering not the lobster I would’ve if I’d known you were paying and, lacking that knowledge, ordering only the soup-and-sandwich combo. Possibly engendering bad manners in social interactions is not the same thing as denying people access to preventative care that not only spends healthcare dollars wisely in prevention and early diagnosis, with better treatment outcomes, but also empowers people to manage their own personal health. People who seem to believe that the indignation I might feel that someone “orders up” if I’m paying is at all analogous to their having access to and making use of comprehensive preventative, diagnostic, and treatment options that by every standard improves the life — and life expectancy — of the patient are simply dead wrong. It isn’t.

I cannot imagine a scenario under which people “pig out” by availing themselves of “other people’s money” — which, given the tax-supported nature of government involvement in healthcare is actually THEIR own money — to pay for their scooping up each and every test possible. Those who say so surely are aware that most diagnostic tests are ordered by doctors themselves, not by patients. In other words, while I might call and schedule my own mammogram (at my doctor’s recommendation), I can’t just wake up one morning and decide that an MRI would be a fun way to pass the day.

No, those tests are ordered by physicians. I suspect the defenders of healthcare as a business model haven’t had the experience of having their doctor suggest an MRI to pinpoint the source of acute pain, or a complete blood panel to rule out leukemia, only to have to tell her/him that they can’t afford it — either because they’re uninsured, or because they carry a $10,000 family deductible and can’t come up with their share of the cost. Further, it’s hard for me to imagine that the unequivocal defenders of the market actually envision a world in which “too much” medical care is a bad thing, unless, of course, they’re in the camp that believes that Grandma really ought to have to have her case reviewed by managers disinclined to spend money on an 80-year-old.

If you’re at all “pro-life,” you can’t defend that, unless your allegiance is only secondarily to the giver of Life and primarily to the market. Which I believe is often the case with “Christian Libertarians” and others who worship at the altar of free enterprise, even when it’s the fodder of sin, violence, and death.

Finally, I think that the Libertarians and I would measure the moral strength of a country in different ways. They seem to think that the market-driven, frankly discriminatory stinginess now evident in the way this nation deals with healthcare is not only a good business model, but an honorable way to have its citizens deal with each other — and not as equals or as co-citizens, but in a hierarchical model that ensures that those in power, those who are not doctors, those who control the pursestrings and thus make life-and-death decisions that result in death, not life, are entitled to inflict a business

I disagree. The measure of this nation’s moral character is when the gap between the have’s and the have-not’s, while evident in other areas, should never result in the acceptability of early death and prolonged suffering because it makes business sense to people whose healthcare needs are immune to the “silent hand of the market.” That, I’d never apologize for. I’m just amazed that so many others would defend it, as if the sin of committing idolatry is excusable only if the focus of that adulation is the free market — allowed by God, yes, but never permissable as an adjunct focus of devotion. And until Christians put the market in its place — which, as would seem evident, is necessarily below that of God as well as those created in His image — more and more people will die because care wasn’t available to them.

If there’s “market success” in that, it serves only to damn the ammoral hand that guides it, not commend it.

Mark And Mark Driscoll’s Wife On Being Married t o Mark Driscoll The Way Mark Driscoll Says His Gal Should Be

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Mark Driscoll and his lovely wife Gail have put out a new book on marriage. I have ordered their new book on marriage, and not just because the publisher swears I’ll be, like the rest of the Church, blown away by the wisdom therein. My response will probably be explosive; I think his publishers meant something different. But it’s important that I remain open to new, explosive, experiences, and so I discovered how to hit “one-click order” while holding my nose; new skill thus mastered, I’ll read the book, I’ll throw something against the wall, and then I’ll write about it.

I’ll do this because of the emotional — nay, near-hysterical — sense of loathing I feel whenever I read anything by Driscoll. Not that I generally enjoy cultivating nausea; it’s just that Driscoll and Douglas Wilson have recently fallen into each others’ arms, emerging as evangelicalism’s oddest couple, and no matter how ill it makes me, it makes the Body of Christ a lot sicker.

Turns out I have a pretty strong stomach for a little gal.

Together, the two are pretty different from each other: Wilson is a faux-intellectual, would-be Oxford Don Wannabe whose Federal Vision theology is off the rails and whose contempt for evangelicalism, revivalism, and “winning souls for Jesus” is almost as profound as it is for icky people with tattoos and piercings; Driscoll is a buff, rock ‘n roll-loving megachurch pastor whose theology of thuggery — he once remarked that he could never imagine worshiping a god he could beat up — attracts street people, whose lives he often claims to see through the Holy Spirit with film-clip clarity.

Together, though, they provide a potent argument for Christian machismo and “Biblical” patriarchy, a posture stiffened by their mutual disgust over “sentimental” and “feminized” churches made soft by “girly men” and egalitarian theology. Driscoll’s female congregants may sport ink and studs while pushing their strollers and submit to their men on denim-clad knees. Women in Wilson’s churches eschew tattoos and nose rings and focus on amassing breathtaking arrays of teacups and napkin rings. A gathering of the women’s groups from Driscoll’s Seattle Mars Hill congregation and Wilson’s Christ Church/Trinity Reformed Church would likely be a culture shock for either one, but their menfolk are well endowed with a rock-hard theology of male headship, female subordination, and robust fecundity.

In other words, Driscoll offers the same old culturally-bound, un-Biblical masculinist wine, only in cool, tattooed, hipster-bedecked wineskins, while Wilson serves the wine of suspicious, stodgy sexism from moldy old wineskins whose externally refined appearance only makes more foul the wine within. Wilson has written books on marriage that ignore the clearest New Testament teachings about the covenant between a man and a woman while straining beyond credulity the metaphorical and illustrative, and always in service of a hierarchical approach to relationship foreign to the Trinity — or the Bible. Now it’s Driscoll’s turn, and while he’s not the . . . ahem . . . classicist Wilson is, he has his own approach.

It’s not real promising. Driscoll’s theology of the marital relationship just HAS to be more than “Because I’m a dude, that’s why, and she eventually got ahold of herself,” although the excerpt I read doesn’t leave me with much hope that he’ll expand his take on Biblical marriage.

The single-chapter excerpt I read was utterly nauseating, an exercise in that special Driscollian Patriarchy that makes its Stud-In-Chief cheerfully recount, for example, cringeworthy moments like the time he made Gail cry because her new haircut was too “mom-looking.” He tells us how “hot” she was before marriage and how “frigid” she was for a time afterwards, and while the book is written, supposedly, by the two of them, I would imagine that if Driscoll ever struggled with erectile dysfunction, his would be a purely physiological issue — nothing, you know, that his followers would ever have to know about. Gail gets no such break. She’s now an open book, simply because at one point in her life she was at least a semi-open door.

Usually, in Driscoll’s knuckledragger approach to theology, culture, and relationship, the risk is assigned to and eagerly assumed by his rabid, more-hep-than-thou devotees. They devour his every take on marriage, sex, relationships, parenting, family, culture, and media, believing that because Mars Hill is where the action is, it must be where the Spirit is. It’s a toxic place and a vile message, but they’ve embraced it, and no single Driscollian will likely face his public scorn.

This time, however, Driscoll has a target for much of his anger, dismay, and frustration. It’s Grace, or at least has been Grace. Driscoll has put his wife front-and-center; while he comes off as a gruff, insensitive doofus, his “guyness” rescues him. Grace, however, appears to be left twisting in the wind as Driscoll recounts her cheating on him during their courtship and his struggle to “forgive her” for behavior that she claimed was the result of past sexual abuse suffered at the hands of another man in her life. One wonders if Driscoll’s congregants and the breathless masses who envy them needed to know about Gail’s sexual past; it may just be me, but I marvel at how little his unabashed relational idiocy likely will matter to his fans. I have no doubt that they’ll be fascinated at the revelation of her occasional lack of sexual response and yet completely unbothered that they have any inkling at all of it.

I think Mark Driscoll is a blight on Christiandom, and I think an undiscerning, culturally-compromised, media-prostituted Church deserves him. I can see how he lends a bit of youthful “cool” to Wilson; I see how Wilson serves to lend some legitimacy in Reformed and “classical” circles to the street-smart Driscoll. Sadly, I can also see that those who confer legitimacy on either of them appear to be sorely lacking any example of Christian leadership that looks even remotely like Jesus. Driscoll’s and Wilson’s ministerial track records, public pronouncements and behavior and shipwrecked theology prove handily that they should, if we were in a sane and reasonable Church culture, be focuses of evangelism and not recipients of statesmen-like respect.

It takes more than being male to be Christlike, but that’ll be lost on these two as long as their eyes, hearts, and hands are focused on a worldview whose origin is comfortably lodged below their belts, not in their hearts.

Saturday’s GOP Debate (Sawyer/Stephanopolous Version)

Monday, January 9th, 2012

I missed the first half hour of Saturday night’s GOP debate, and so when Jeff told me they’d spent a good fifteen minutes — or, in his words, a “frightening” 15 minutes — discussing contraception, I was doubtful.

He also told me Rick Perry didn’t pick a booger on stage. Again, I was doubtful, although the pantheon of things Perry does to embarrass Perry is greater, perhaps, than my imagination.

So I watched the first half of the debate again last night on CNN. I saw a befuddled, wounded-looking Perry assure the audience that Barack Obama is a socialist, I saw Ron Paul grow peevish with tempestuous microphones and taunting opponents, and I saw Jon Huntsman once again illustrate what sane people look like when sailing rocky seas while surrounded by nitwits. It was upsetting, but I’m used to it — even without Bachmann and Cain, the GOP field is pathetic and obtuse, an example of the very worst effects of the Religious Right on the Republican Party.

But even though I had anticipated a Santorum surge (it’s true — ask Jeff!), I was unprepared for the reality that the opposition party in the 2012 presidential election would actually involve itself in a discussion not of the immorality of poverty, greed, war-mongering, or debt, but of contraception.

Birth control.

Trojans, pills, foams, and Nuvarings. Natural Family Planning, abstinence, and coitus interruptus, perhaps. IUD’s and injections, and for some maybe even Coca-Cola douches. All things important to Americans, but none of them at all appropriate focuses for the politicians who serve them.

Fortunately, even among the doofurati of the GOP, Santorum stood out as exceptional. That’s how it should be; Santorum’s social conservatism is far beyond the pale of what’s truly “Christian” and what’s honestly “conservative,” and his ascendance in the polls is, I hope, just another example of the Religious Right’s endless, fruitless courting of the God-talkers in the GOP — an exercise in bigotry and pandering that should result in their resounding loss in November.

Whether it will or not is largely dependent on the degree to which American evangelicals embrace God or mammon, Jesus or Herod. They’re free to side with the powerful and the rich and extract misery after misery upon the poor. But they’re not free to claim that their Savior applauds their efforts.

The Bible As A Vessel For Football Evangelism

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Tim Tebow, the dashing young Christian quarterback of the Denver Broncos whose kneeling-after-a-point praise has frankly been made too much of by believers and by the outside the fold, threw for 316 yards in yesterday’s game.

It has nothing to do with John 3:16. But aren’t you horrified that some people think it does?

If you’re not a believer, you might switch “gobsmacked” or “politely amused” for “horrified,” but if you revere Scripture, you oughta stay with it. With “horrified,” that is.

That the Church has degenerated to the point that some believers — Google “Tebow’s 316″ for yourself — have erupted in wonder that HE CAN EVEN THROW TO THE SCRIPTURES! is sadly predictable. TV Praise Show-culture and sports adulation has combined here to make dumb people even dumber and dumb Christian people even crazier, less discerning, and more gullible and ripe for deceit.

It’s of no particular importance, just cause for great embarrassment, that pop Christiandom flocks to signs, wonders, and prophets from the gridiron but can’t figure out that the President is an American citizen — unless, of course, you believe the Church should bear a witness of truth and power to a lost and dying world.

In that case, it’s pretty effing disturbing, as is the fact that some of you will be more concerned that I hinted at the “F-word” than you are that such a huge swell of Christiandom would countenance the idea that any particular football statistic can be appropriated for use in Bible study.

Rock And Roll And The Republican Party

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

“I’ve spent a life exploring
That subtle whoring
That costs too much to be free
I’ve been to Paradise, but I’ve never been to me”

Charlene, “I’ve Never Been To Me,” 1981

Yeah, I don’t think of pop music and the GOP together too often, either.

But a couple of classics — meaning they were popular when I was rocking the disco blouse or trying in vain to feather my hair — seem appropriate for the GOP field, especially after Tuesday’s Iowa caucus results.

First, we have resolution to Michelle Bachmann’s dilemma regarding the future of her campaign — whether to change course and drop out, or buckle down and redouble her efforts. But she says she’s out, so the question of “Bachmann: Turn Or Overdrive?” is off the table for reasons I’m cautiously celebrating. That is, I’m thrilled that so few sentient beings in Iowa actually thought she was a reasonable choice for leader of the free world.

Perhaps now the Minnesota Congresswoman can focus on educating her husband Marcus on the difference between pedophiles and gay men. Why would we expect a moral health professional to know that on his own?

On the other hand, my joy was, as I said, muted. Thousands of those who couldn’t justify voting for Bachmann flocked eagerly to Rick Santorum, whose campaign focus seems largely to be based on his moral outrage over sentiments like those expressed in Billy Joel’s “Come out, Virginia.” (“Come out, Virginia, and don’t be late/Catholic girls start much too late/they say there’s a heaven for those who wait/but sinners have much more fun”).

I don’t know how else a presidential candidate determines that marital contraception is an appropriate national campaign platform issue. Certainly many committed Roman Catholic politicians, regardless of their personal convictions regarding contraception, have determined that the things Jesus actually spoke about, things like justice for the poor and peacemaking, warrant more attention than whether or not oral sex is sinful for married couples to engage in. So it doesn’t seem, as a plank in his platform, to be part-and-parcel of Santorum’s Catholicism. While Rick and Karen are blessedly free to eschew birth control in their marriage, his condemnation of other couples’ choices represents a dangerously unwieldy burden on American people who expect their President to concern himself with that part of their economic well-being not tied to the purchase of Trojans.

Finally, we have the ineffably immoral Newt Gingrich, whose every utterance brings to mind pop chanteuse Charlene’s words above. Nothing about Newt’s egotistical and reckless prostituting of himself is without cost to a nation that only a month ago, as he rose to the top of the GOP heap, appeared close to anointing him Vicar of the Viciously Virtuous. It seems now that Newt is himself reaping some cost, but the mere fact that he’s taken seriously as a candidate after two decades of pompous, pernicious conduct on the national stage is sobering. That a former Speaker of the House and national cultural lightning rod could reintroduce himself to so many gullible, uninformed conservative voters as a religious, reasonable, refreshing voice from the outside is an indication that today’s GOP is as intellectually bankrupt as it is morally insolvent.

There’s no anti-tax pledge in the world that can remedy that one.

Newt and "Junior Partner" Rick On Economic And Racial Justice

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

“I will go to the NAACP convention, and explain to the African-American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps.”
>
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich while campaigning in New Hampshire (January 5, 2012)

Remember this the next time one of the GOP candidates or pundits deride the “dangerous class warfare” of the Occupy protestors.

How I, as an off-and-on NAACP member, would love to be there when Newt Gingrich presumes to lecture the African-American community on his vast knowledge of the economic struggles of Black families. After all, he was so insightful in his contribution to the nation’s understanding of economic justice when he suggested that young inner-city kids have no understanding of hard work — perhaps because they rarely see their two- and three-job-juggling parents — and should, therefore, take the place of union janitors in cleaning their schools.

I’m always just thrilled to hear the perspectives of privileged-bloated white men on racial justice, sexual integrity, and class divisions. It’s nearly as enlightening as having a bank robber tutor me on the advantages of one checking account package over another. Or of my dog trying to communicate to me the virtues of a localvore, vegan diet.

That, combined with Rick Santorum’s “blacks and welfare” comment Tuesday, illustrates that the GOP is comfortable with the conservative status quo that clings to the tired, disproved notion that “welfare” is “a Black peoples’ thing” and corporate favors and tax cuts are quite appropriately the providence, if not Providence, of wealthy whites. For a party greatly inclined toward whoring, that’s a terribly convenient, comforting notion no less so in its demonstrated falsehood. But these folks regularly cuddle up to liars, cheats, and panderers, so you’ll forgive me if I continue to be not surprised.

The Republican Party is falling apart because of its insistence on rewarding piety, not virtue; privilege, not honest gain; stupidity, not scholarship; and judgmentalism, not judgment — and the free fall risks bringing us all down with them.

The big question in November and beyond is, will we continue to let them?

Keely
www.keely-prevailingwinds.com

> From: thansen@moscow.com
> Date: Thu, 5 Jan 2012 13:54:02 -0800
> To: vision2020@moscow.com
> Subject: [Vision2020] Say What?
>
> “I will go to the NAACP convention, and explain to the African-American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps.”
>
> – Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich while campaigning in New Hampshire (January 5, 2012)
>