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I never know what to write about after a blog post like yesterday, one that seems to connect with a lot of people. Because no matter what the post was/is about, within a few hours, we’re all sick and tired of seeing the topic show up in our feeds, let alone putting forth the energy to keep talking and caring about it. The current topic is no different. Though there are a handful of readers still hashing it out on my blog (and the country at large is still making it trend on Twitter), most of us are feeling hungover after yesterday’s buzz. I know I am.

Many of those who read yesterday’s post and then ripped me a new one in the comment section or via email (which is fine—I can take it!) alluded to the fact that yesterday’s uproar was about far more than just the topic at hand. According to them, yesterday was about fighting for basic liberties and religious freedom. For some, it was about standing up for God’s Word and for the values that they believe to be holy. Many of them suggested that they were tired of the media beating them down for what they believe.

Lots of people mentioned that last frustration. Which I can understand. Some members of the media can be hard (and even cruel) toward religious folks. While I don’t believe there’s some grand conspiracy against Christianity, Jesus, and God, I do think that some media folks go out of their way to make Christians look like buffoons. But I also think that we Christians often make buffoons of ourselves. However, that said, I get it. A whole bunch of Christians feel attacked and beat up by the media. And if the tones of their comments is any indication, some of them are angry, some are just cynical, and some are exhausted.

And again, I hear that. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to me. Moreover, it’s one of the reasons I believe the Church should be careful and concerned about how it engages cultural dialogue; because beat up people beat up people. And we the Church beat up a lot of people. While I don’t expect all of us to understand that, the truth is, some of us Christians are just a little difficult to get along with and at times. In fact, some of us so hurt and angry and feeling beat-up that we are downright careless in our attempts to make our points. And many of us can be especially cruel toward those with whom we disagree.

Friends, though you and I might disagree on things like theologies, politics, and other cultural matters, what we can unite on is our common belief that Jesus saves and is making all things new.

But uproars like yesterday’s big topic often make me wonder if any of us really believe that Jesus saves or if Jesus has any earthly worth at all. Because if we did believe that Jesus saved, we’d showcase faith void of fear and fear tactics. We’d use scripture to build up and promote God’s love rather than a stake to be tied to come hell or high-water. And if we truly believed that Jesus saves we’d join his cause of “making things new.” We’d stop blaming everybody else for our circumstances. We’d look in the mirror and self reflect. We’d stop using God as an excuse (or crutch) to say all kinds of mean and/or hateful things about other people. And we’d include a little bit of humility in our words and opinions. Why? Because we might be wrong. Which is what makes our faith faith.

Did Jesus ask the Church to wage wars against people? I don’t think so. Now, our Christian history might suggest otherwise but always fighting with each other wasn’t Jesus’s original plan. According to the Apostle Paul, our enemies are not made of flesh and blood.

Yet sadly, after yesterday, there are a lot of gay Americans who feel beat up. And there are a lot of black Americans who feel beat up. And not just by the comments from an old man with a long beard, either; but by Church people, so-called followers of Jesus.

Many of those who didn’t like what I wrote yesterday made a very good point. Yesterday was indeed about far than the topic at hand. It was about people. Lots of people. Hurt people. And hurt people who hurt people.

People that I believe were created by God and loved passionately by God.

And that’s something that seems to get lost amid today’s social media battles, that we are all people, made by God, loved by God.

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BREAKING NEWS: The Christian Dynasty in America is angry today! In fact, they are really really angry!

No, they’re not angry about the number of homeless people roaming our city streets. And no, they’re not angry about the number of children dying everyday from malnutrition. And no, their anger isn’t about President Obama (though give them some time, they’ll connect the dots soon enough).

So why are so many members of America’s Church up in arms today, filling up our Facebook and Twitter feeds with complaints, threats, and demands?

Because one of their beloved, Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson, is being persecuted y’all. Yes, PERSECUTED! No, he’s not being held hostage by Bible-haters somewhere in Southeast Asia. It’s worse than that. The eldest member of America’s favorite reality TV family has been suspended indefinitely by A&E! I know, right? This is some serious prayer chain fodder for sure.

Now, why did A&E suspend Robertson? Well, because of comments the star made during an interview with GQ writer, Drew Magary. What did he say? Here are a few quotes…

On the topic of homosexuality: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

On why he believes vaginas are better than anuses: “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

On growing up with African Americans “pre-entitlement”: “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Read more here and here.

A few hours after GQ posted that interview online, A&E suspended Phil. And that’s when a plethora of Christians began erupting into boisterous protest. My Facebook feed turned into a Duck Dynasty lament, a chaotic display of fury. Some Christians offered prayers. Some bemoaned that, in America, “freedom of speech” was officially dead. Some Christians offered phone numbers, links, and addresses, encouraging their friends to voice their disgust to A&E. Some Christians updated their statuses with opinions that bordered on insane.

Can we–members of the American Church–all just calm down for a moment and look at ourselves? Because we look ridiculous. We look foolish. And worst of all, some of us sound downright ignorant. Because how we respond to events like this matters—ducking matters!

First of all, stop making this about freedom of speech. This isn’t a freedom of speech issue. Trust me, read Phil’s interview. The Dynasty patriarch possessed all the freedom in the world to say exactly what he wanted to say. But sometimes, depending on who’s offering the paycheck, there are consequences to what we say. That’s been true since America’s beginning, while you have the freedom to say nearly anything you want to say in America. Sometimes saying whatever you feel like saying comes with a backlash. This isn’t about Phil’s freedom of speech; it’s about what—and more specifically—how Phil expressed his opinions that caused A&E to push the pause button. So please, if you’re going to complain, complain with wisdom. Have your facts straight. Understand the real issue here. Don’t stoop to Sarah Palin’s level.

Secondly, remember this is about a reality TV show, a meaningless TV show about a family of outspoken rich hunters. It’s just entertainment, people! Some Christians seem to believe this is a really important thing to be angry about. But it’s not. Did you know that 500 people were killed in Sudan yesterday? Did you voice your grievance about that? Because that’s actually important. Whether or not Phil ever appears on Duck Dynasty is completely meaningless in comparison. So let’s get our priorities in order here. There are much more important events happening in the world.

Thirdly, we the Church need to remember that, regardless if you agree 100 percent with every single comment Phil said in the interview, some people were deeply offended by his comments regarding homosexuality and race. Your support of Phil and Phil’s messages, whether you mean it this way or not, is hurtful toward other people. And that should matter to us. Why? Because we are the ones who proclaim the grace and mercy and love of Christ. And Christ cares about those who are offended by Phil’s speech. Some people call Phil’s words homophobic. Others seem to believe his comments about the African American community are racist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree. It doesn’t matter that Phil didn’t mean it that way. That’s what happens when we speak our minds in the media. We end up saying things that hurt or offend other people. And we, those who declare the way of Jesus, need to care about that. So please, before you support one rich celebrity hunter with your opinion, remember that your affections for DD might be deeply offending a large group of people. And if that doesn’t matter to you, that’s your problem, not theirs. Because as followers of Jesus, that should matter.

Fourthly, as you’re raging against A&E for putting Phil on suspension, it might behoove you to consider whether or not your own church would welcome Phil in all of his ‘Duck’ glory in their congregation or on their stage without some major edits to his lifestyle, speech, or overall image. Maybe you go to one of the few churches that accepts people–all people–just as they are. And perhaps your church would welcome Phil as he is to your congregation. But how long would it last? How many times would he get away with saying the words “vagina” or “anus” in public without getting a talking to from the pastor? How many churches would allow somebody to stand up in their congregations and say what Phil said regarding black Americans? Maybe some. But in many churches, those words would raise much concern. So really, do any of us have any room to judge A&E’s decision when most of us go to churches that tend to try and micromanage people like Phil? Would Phil be able to teach Sunday School at your church? Would you allow him to be a deacon? And remember, it wasn’t too long ago that a church/ministry canceled an appearance by the Duck Dynasty crew because they have their own brand of wine. So before you lash out at A&E for “being closed minded liberal Hollywood elite,” remember that America’s “rightwing conservative elitist” Church has a lengthy record for putting people on “hiatus” for a myriad of reasons. Let’s not be hypocrites on this.

And lastly, remember that it is we who, every single Sunday, proclaim the values of kindness, love, humility, hope, grace, and mercy. While these virtues are not exclusively “Christian values,” as America’s biggest religion, most Americans, regardless of their spiritual creeds, are well aware that it is Christianity that preaches these values of Christ as the best standards for living. A&E does not preach these values. Some of their directors might love Jesus, but the Beatitudes are not their brand. GLAAD does not promote on a weekly basis the values of Christ. They might LOVE Jesus, but it’s not something they proclaim on a regular basis as their mantra. But we do. Christians do promote the Beatitudes as their creed. So while it’s fine and necessary for us to look in the mirror and judge how we are adhering to Jesus’s teachings against hate, pride, calamity, and the like, we do not have the right to cast judgment on other groups of people or individuals who do not share our beliefs. Hatred or unkindness from other people or groups is no excuse for us to return hate with hate. Regardless what A&E ultimately decides, we are the ones who should respond with humility, grace, and mercy. Because that’s our creed. That’s what we preach every damn Sunday. That’s the message that we believe speaks louder than protest, anger, and hate. So remember that as your tweeting your frustrations about Phil and Phil’s messaging.

And in the end, Church, Phil will survive this. He might not be on TV. But he’ll survive. But to us, the Church–those of us who lift up the values of Christ–how we respond to these kinds of situations, whether they are meaningless or of great importance, will be remembered long after the controversy is over. Why? Because when we act like fools, we are adding our foolishness to a legacy of foolishness that America’s Church has become well-known for.

So let’s be wise.

Let’s be careful.

Let’s get our priorities in order.

And for God’s sake, let’s all calm the duck down.

UPDATE: Read a follow-up post here.

What if Hell is actually just Facebook?

Think about it. What if Hell isn’t a literal place buried deep in the center of Earth, but instead, it’s just a really good idea, a concept so grand that it compels us to log into and engage as soon as we wake up in the morning?

What if Hell isn’t an all-consuming reality, but rather an online interface made up of html code, a virtual platform where all of us happily share our realities?

What if, rather than being a place that burns the souls of humankind, Hell burns up the time, energy, and emotion of humankind?

What if Hell’s wailing and weeping isn’t actually wailing and weeping at all but instead, it’s the silent plea to be “Liked,” that eternal cry for somebody, anybody to “Like” what we do, where we’ve been, who we are, and with whom we are doing it all with?

What if Hell isn’t scary at all, but rather just an intangible community of relationships that we keep open on our laptops and scroll through on our smart phones?

What if the gnashing of teeth is actually that mostly inaudible noise we engage in our feeds, the complaining, the opinion-making, the sharing, the selfie taking, the oohing and ahhing, and the liking?

What if demons are trolls? Or what if they’re those online friends who seem to constantly challenge our ideas and opinions, leaving mean-spirited (sometimes hateful) comments in reaction to our status updates and pictures? Or what if they’re the friends who really like us, the ones who innocently “Like” our virtual stuff, join our virtual causes, and virtually tell us we’re awesome?

What if Hell is a seemingly innocent distraction, something that we engage when we are bored, lonely, insecure, proud, angry, broke, empty, aroused, or merely awake? What if Hell is a grand entertainment, a leisure activity that diverts our attentions away from the who(s) and what(s) and where(s) that are most important?

What if, instead of going to Hell, we’ve joined it? What if, amid many our best intentions to avoid Hell, most of us are already there, engaging it now?

What if Hell is actually just Facebook?

Would we be able to save ourselves?

Would we even want to?

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This nativity, “a minimal one where characters in the Christmas story are represented by wooden blocks with their names printed in plain black capital letters,” was created by London designer Emilie Voirin.

According to Voirin, “the characters have lost their features and colours for a modern appearance that could appeal to both believers and atheists.” SOURCE.

Sure, it’s a little Ikea, but I love this concept. To me, it makes the nativity more about the story of Christmas as opposed to how pretty or lavish the figures are…

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You can purchase this nativity at the artist’s website. Or you could buy some varying-sized blocks and write names on them.

Read more here.

Huh. Sounds like the donkey might be the one giving birth.

You’re welcome.

Sent to me by Matthew.

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The folks at Memolition have posted 7 maps of the United States, each highlighting one of the 7 deadly sins and showcasing the sin’s “spatial distribution” or which parts of our great country struggle with said sin the most vs. which parts do not.

The maps were created by researchers at Kansas State University.

How did they calculate our sins by region? Well, it differs according to sin. For instance, according to Memolition, “lust was calculated by compiling the number of sexually transmitted diseases — HIV, AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea—reported per capita.”

Sloth, on the other hand, “was calculated by comparing expenditures on arts, entertainment and recreation with the rate of employment.”

While it’s hardly perfect, it’s certainly offers some interesting fodder to bring up at holiday parties or family gatherings…

See all 7 maps here.

Which of the 7 sins/maps do you find most intriguing…

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In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 10, Jesus gives his disciples some pretty detailed instructions.

5) These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

6) But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

7) And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

8) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. King James Version

That last verse, the one where Jesus empowers his disciples to not only heal sick people but also raise people back from the dead is the nucleus for the documentary Deadraiser.

DEADRAISER Teaser Trailer 2 from Mountain Light Cinema on Vimeo.

I haven’t watched Deadraiser, but when a friend sent me the trailer for the documentary, I was reminded of a section that got edited out of my next book, Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever-Growing Deity.

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The edited part was about Bethel Church in Redding, California, the charismatic congregation that helped launch the music career of Jesus Culture.

Here’s a part of that edited portion…

My friend calls Bethel Church in Redding, California the “Gold Dust Church.” That’s because members of the charismatic congregation swear that, on occasion, while people are singing or while somebody is preaching, God will begin sprinkling the church’s audience with the finest shavings of gold. Pastor Kris Vallotton, a senior associate at Bethel Church and “noted prophetic voice in Northern California,” says he’s witnessed the “phenomenon” hundreds of times. His first experience being glitter bombed by God happened in the late 1990s at a MorningStar Prophesy conference when, as Vallotton describes it, “the speaker released the ‘glory of God’ in the room” and suddenly God doused every person in the room with a shimmery golden shine. Vallotton tries to downplay these events as the mysteries of God at work. I have no reason to believe the man’s lying. But that doesn’t negate the question as to why God would, on random occasions, cover Vallotton and his congregants with a sudden burst of golden discharge…

…But Redding’s Bethel Church isn’t your average American congregation; for one thing, the church boasts a School of Supernatural Life, which might sound like the name of teen drama on The CW, but in reality, is a curriculum “for those who want to encounter the supernatural ways of God in their normal everyday life.” Topics that Supernatural’s students learn about include angels and demons, the joy of sexual purity, dream interpretation, and how to handle humans. But according Vallotton, one of the extracurricular activities performed by students at the school is the practice of raising the dead. After reading Jesus’s words about “raising the dead” in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter ten, Vallotton says “[the students] decided to go down to the morgue and ‘practice’ raising the dead!” So far, they haven’t been successful. But Vallotton believes their actions showcase great faith, which seems to be the point of Bethel’s Harry Potter School, to empower young people to become everything that the folks at Bethel believe Jesus wants them to be, dead-raising, demon-extracting, future-seeing, prophetic-speaking psychic-like followers of Jesus.

So do we believe everything Jesus said? Are the people of Bethel showcasing great faith? Or are they taking the words of Christ out of context? Should all of us be signing of for classes on how to raise the dead?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’ve never raised anybody from the dead. I did try one time. When I was a kid. But then my father informed me that the person I was praying over had already been embalmed, so it was impossible for Jesus to raise the corpse from the dead.

Nothing is impossible for Jesus, I thought.

Have you ever raised somebody from the dead? Cast out devils? Heal a leper?

Do you believe everything Jesus said?

Poor Megyn Kelly. Last week she caused quite the hoopla over the racially-charged comments she made regarding Santa and Jesus, basically informing us (or her audience) that they are both white dudes. Kelly addressed the crazy on her show on Friday, passive aggressively playing the Fox News anchor victim and claiming she was just being funny when she said those things about Santa…

And as for Jesus? Well, she didn’t admit she was wrong, just claimed that, regarding his race, the jury is still out…

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Dear God, help me. Please, help me. My little Adeline needs me, her daddy, to be present, but not just present, lovingly, wisely, and gracefully present…

God, you have made my little Adeline Olive so full of spirit, a passionate clump of beauty, hope, and complete dissatisfaction… 

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… she posses such an innocent joy, an undeniable light…



…and such hopeful curiosity and talent…you’ve given her a lot of talent, God… talent for singing and dancing and kicking… gosh, she loves to kick, God…

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…God, my baby girl’s filled up with a lot of things…

…she’s pretty fearless… and cute… and unafraid to display whatever her spirit is feeling (in full glory, mind you) without hesitation… and without notice…  And sometimes she morphs from delighted to merely satisfied to downright uninterested in being my daughter in about 1.3 seconds….it’s an amazing thing to watch, God… she’s quite good at changing moods…

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…God, one second, she’s like this, as joyful as one of your angels…

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…to the next second being like this, as grumpy as those other angels you made, God…

…her moods change on a dime… it’s like she has menopause or something… and her ability to produce snot and tears is really quite miraculous…

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Adeline can go from acting like it’s the END OF THE WORLD….

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…to acting like she’s LIVING THE DREAM quite fast, like one of those pit bulls…

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And sometimes, God, she’s all of those things–strong, funny, devastated, and alive–all at one time…

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I’d be lying, God, if I didn’t feel completely inadequate at times… I’m just sometimes scared that I don’t have the wherewithal to be the daddy she needs me to be… cuz sometimes the daddy I am on one day isn’t the daddy she seems to need the next… she’s pretty indecisive at times…

… and I so want to be the daddy she needs me to be, God… I love her spirit–all of her spirit–and I don’t want to do anything to harm the beautiful person you’ve created… 

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…I want to help her shape her passionate, albeit sometimes messy, spirit into something useful… something more beautiful that it already is… I want to empower her to be herself–all of herself minus the parts where she kicks and bites–but you know what I mean…

…But God… I need help… Lots of help… She’s my baby girl… and I want nothing but the best for her…

…so please help me find the best of me, so I can love her, guide her, and give her wings to be all that you created her to be. Amen.

This right here is the reason for the season! Written and performed by Larry Massey, all I can say is that it’s going to be a very Larry Christmas…

Enjoy.

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Found at Christian Nightmares.

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We’ve long known John Piper was a poet. And while he’s no Longfellow, he’s actually not bad at rhyme and meter.

His latest poem, a ditty called The Calvinist, has been produced into a short film for our visual pleasure. As its title implies, Piper’s words tell us exactly what he thinks a Calvinist is, what a Calvinist does, and where a Calvinist goes.

The words are read by Piper and a group of his Calvinist friends… Read More

The embed coded is acting up, so here’s the link to the video.

There’s almost too much stupidity in this piece to even take it seriously. But I think it’s interesting that, when Megyn Kelly brings Jesus into this conversation, she does so with such confidence that it raises a question for me. Do people really believe that Jesus was white? I mean, I realize we Americans have created Jesus images that portray him that way… but seriously, is this a common assumption for Christians in this country?

And sure, I have no doubts that some Americans believe Jesus was/is white. But how does one of those Americans end up becoming an anchor at the largest cable news network? I mean, there must be room for human error in the media, but I don’t think that Ms. Kelly believes she’s wrong on this. I think it’s her sincere historical assumption that Jesus was a white Anglo-Saxon.

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