Update and Open Thread

There has been a request to talk about some new subjects, so I thought I would open this post up to comments on any new issues you may want to discuss.

For example:

-Bill Gothard has resigned as President of IBLP. Apparently, in between writing inspiring quotes, he liked to feel up young woman. This is frowned upon in polite society.

-Pastor Frank Damazio of City Bible Church has cancer. According to the updates on the church website, he does not appear to be doing well.

-Mars Hill Church in Seattle is imploding. Mark Driscoll is learning that you can only be an asshole for so long, before it finally catches up to you.

-Someone has started a new City Harvest Church blog. It’s called Healing Saints. 

-In that same vein, Pastor Rick Snow is now the Intern pastor at City Harvest Church. This was more JP’s beat, but apparently Rick is no longer pastoring Atlanta City Church. I wonder what possibly could have gone wrong.

As for me, I am doing well. I got engaged this past month and will be getting married in April, to a woman, which I know disappoints some of you. I have lost interest in continuing to run this blog. But Henri hasn’t cut off our web hosting, and I don’t want City Bible Church to get their grubby paws on this domain name, so I suspect the site will continue to sit here for a few more years.  There are a lot of other great blogs out there discussing church/Bible issues. One of the best is Stuff Christian Culture Likes. Stephanie Drury is doing the Lord’s work there.

I hope regular readers are doing well. It’s been a fun journey. This was one of the first blogs to specifically hold a church accountable, and it was a great run.

Men Can End the Sexual Exploitation of Children

 

Recently, in an interview to join a group that will go speak on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of  Children (CSEC) I was asked the question “What can men do to help end CSEC”. After I finished my rant I was asked to write it all out to share with the rest of the group. Here is my rant…yes it is completely off our typical topic of church bashing but I’m sharing anyway.

Q: What can men do to help end CSEC?

A: The first thing and the most important thing men can do to help end CSEC is to stop buying children for sex. No, seriously…just stop. If we could do this one, seemingly simply thing, we could put an end to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. By causing the demand we have created the supply and since we are the problem we are equally the solution. So step one, stop buying children for sex.

But now we need to broaden things a little. Step 2 requires that we look at the sex industry as a whole. How does the entire sex industry relate specifically to the buying and selling of underage boys and girls and what roles do our actions play in supporting this? Let’s look at Strip Clubs and Pornography for example. A Portland Police Officer once told me that he has never investigated a strip club where prostitution wasn’t happening. Now, this is not to say that there is prostitution at every strip club OR that at every strip club involved in prostitution you will find underage children but simply to point out the connection. We should also be aware that there are underage girls who work as dancers in strip clubs….yes, it happens.

Men…and women…I’m not trying to judge, I’m simply asking that you keep this in mind as you make your daily life choices.

The same goes for pornography. I probably don’t need to go into much detail about this. There are plenty of underage children who are filmed having sex. Many of the young boys and girls involved in CSEC have also been video taped and had those tapes sold off to pornographers. Yes, it also happens.

Now again, I’m not trying to pass any judgment on strip clubs or pornography. And so long as all the participants are of consenting age and are involved without force or coercion both are completely legal. I’m merely trying to connect some dots. I would love everyone to simply be conscious and aware of the link between CSEC the Sex Industry as a whole.

A good general rule of thumb when dealing with the sex industry is this: “SHE’S YOUNGER THAN SHE LOOKS”. Experts across the country say the average age of entry of a child into the sex industry is 12-14. So if she looks young… well…imagine how young she may actually be. Again, I’m just asking that you keep this in mind.

Ok, so now we need to move further out and take an even broader look at society in general. How do we, as a male dominated society, treat male and female sexuality? How do we view women? How do we view women’s bodies? How do we view the sexual urges of man? Do we treat male sexual needs the same as women’s sexual needs? Is it uncomfortable for you that I even mention women’s sexual needs?

And let’s talk about the objectification of women. When was the last time you flipped through a magazine and paid attention to the ads? Have you noticed in advertisements how often women are portrayed as OBJECTS? Almost regardless of the type of product (food, drink, clothing, etc) you can find ads where an object in the ad has been replaced with an image of a woman. American advertising objectifies women at an alarming rate.

Have you read any articles lately on any case involving a rape accusation? I say “Any” because unless it was written by some feminist blogger you will most likely here these questions:

“Did she say, No”?

“Did she say, No, loudly and forcefully”?

“Did she try to fight back”?

“What was she wearing”

“How much did she have to drink that night”?

“Why was she hanging out with that crowd”?

“Why did she go out to that bar alone”

Men…do you see how our society acts as though it is the male right to have sex? Its as if we assume that unless the victim forcibly fights back the sex was consensual? I don’t know about you, but personally, I live my life under the assumption that you do not want to have sex with me.

You see, the questions shouldn’t be directed to her but rather to him. For instance:

“Did she say, Yes”?

“Did she say, “Yes”, loudly and convincingly”?

“Was it clear she wanted to have sex with you”?

“Did you assume because her skirt was short that she wanted to have sex with you”?

“Where you trying to get her drunk”?

“Did you and your friends try and intimidate her or manipulate her”?

“When you saw her all alone why weren’t you trying to protect her”?

We often hear tips on how to keep our young daughters, sisters and wives from getting raped but really we should be spending the time in teaching our sons, brothers, and selves to respect women and, to put it bluntly, NOT TO RAPE.

The question, was “what can men do to help end CSEC” and the answer is really broad. Children being sold for sex is a microcosm of the broader issues of sexism, oppression, racism, and male privilege. It’s 2013, people. This is not a new issue. Why have we, as a society, spent so many years ignoring the fact that our children are out on the street being raped? Our CHILDREN? Do we really believe that when a 14 year old takes $50 for giving someone a blowjob that they are just as guilty as the man paying for it? Or that when a 16 year old gets handed $100 bucks after sex that the sex was truly consensual? This is rape. Rape! I don’t care how much she got paid. And until we men, stand up and say something and act like we give a damn it’s just going to keep happening.

As we move forward in fighting this issue it’s important to keep the focus on the demand. We can blame the “pimps” and the “traffickers”, we can blame the “parents” or the “children” themselves. We can blame poverty, drug abuse, bad choices, and any number of other things but until we stop blaming and start taking responsibility for the actions of men nothing will change.

Here’s the catch. Once we begin to address the crime of “buying sex” it starts to become personal. What is going to happen when your boss gets locked up for trying to buy sex from a child? What will happen with your job? What happens when we start changing laws to really go after the perpetrators who are buying sex and raping our children and we suddenly find our doctors, schoolteachers, politicians, co-workers, pastors, friends, and family in jail?  Is it still worth fighting for these children or should we just look the other way?

The Chicago Alliance Against Sex Trafficking did a study and found that the #1 deterrent to keep men from buying sex would be public shaming.  What if we simply put their guilty faces on a big ole billboard? Are you willing to drive by a picture of your neighbor, brother, father, or even yourself to protect our children? Is it worth that sacrifice? Is it worth the offense, and the hurt of finding out how close to home this issue really is? I think so. I hope so.

Are you willing to take a personal inventory of your life to review how you treat women in general and also how you may inadvertently support CSEC through other forms of the sex industry????

Ok, let’s review: how can men help end CSEC?

Step 1: Stop buying sex from children

Step 2: Educate yourself about the connection between CSEC, the Sex Industry, and our male dominated “rape culture”.

Step 3: Give a damn and be willing to make personal sacrifices.

And then, once you have completed steps 1 through 3 here are some other things that can be done.

 

  1. Men can work to change the laws around CSEC. Bang on your local politicians door and demand change. Let’s create harsh penalties for buying sex from children. No more slaps on the wrist, let off with a warning, or diversion training. Let’s make it really hurt.Change the laws around those that are selling sex. Guess what, they aren’t the criminals…they are the victims…and they should be treated as such. But in order to make that happen effectively we will need to have proper victim services in place to help them transition their lives and that takes quite a bit of money so…

 

  1. Men can raise money to help fund current programs that are doing direct service work. Places like SARC, The Athena House, Lifeworks, and others.
  2. Men can be mentors to young children. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Try being a Big Brother or volunteer at the boys and girls club. Read to kids after school. Mentor a kid through life. Invest your time in the life a young boy and you could easily accomplish so much. Your time could keep him from A) Getting stuck in the CSEC life himself. B) Becoming a “Pimp”, or C) from eventually becoming part of the demand problem and buying sex from children. Men are involved in all 3 phases of CSEC so by working with young boys we can affectively cut off the problems before they start.
  3. Adopt or provide foster care. I know it’s a huge task but can you imagine the difference that would make?
  4. Join me at SARC in the Education program where we teach middle and high school age kids a CSEC Prevention Course.

 

 

Here are some more resources for those interested in learning more:

 

A short video: The Making of a Girl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvnRYte3PAk

A great book: Girls Like Us http://www.amazon.com/Girls-Like-Us-Fighting-Memoir/dp/0061582069

A Powerful Website: Project Unbreakable http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com

An impactful documentary:  Playground http://campaign13.org/playground-the-film/

Get inspired to think outside the box: Exile Poster Project 2011 http://www.exileposterproject.com/posters.html

Men Actually Doing Something: The Epik Project http://www.epikproject.org

Get or Give Support: Sexual Assault Resource Center http://sarcoregon.org

Mentor: Friends of the Children  http://friendspdx.org

Seriously go Mentor: Rosemary Anderson High School Mentorship Program http://www.portlandoic.org/rahs/encourage/volunteer

 

A comment from Anna

My friend, Anna (who I have an incredible amount of respect for) recently commented:

For one thing, he reinforces the dichotomy that a person has either faith or reason; that it is impossible to have both. Since there are many people in history and in modern times that do have both, that is a false assumption.

I think this could be a good point for discussion.

To me, there are plenty of reasonable things to have faith in. And when it is reasonable to do so, very little faith is required. However, there are certain things that take a bit more faith…and the more faith required, the less reasonable something becomes.

For instance:

It is incredibly reasonable to have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow. (minimal faith required)

However, it is less reasonable, but still possible, to have faith that the Portland Timbers will win the MLS this year. (a whole lot of faith, trust, and pixie dust required for this one I’m afraid, however…RCTID)

At some point on the scale of things, faith becomes unreasonable and illogical…such as a belief that Polar Bears and Tropical Parrots lived side by side in the ark while the entire world flooded. It is unreasonable because, as far as we know, it is impossible. Here is where we would need to claim “miracle”.

Miracles, are unreasonable and illogical…and that’s what makes them miracles. If we could explain and understand they would cease to be considered miraculous.

So, on one hand, I agree with you, Anna. Faith and reason can coexist but at some point our understanding seems to diverge. For me, faith eventually becomes unreasonable.

Some Mistakes of God

I’ve spent the last couple weeks reading through some of the selections by Robert Green Ingersoll and am quite fascinated by them. Especially Some Mistakes of Moses in which RGI goes through the OT step by step and, while asking amazing questions, also points out seemingly obvious mistakes and contradictions. Additionally, he brings up some good broader perspectives, such as:

“After all, the real question is not whether the Bible is inspired, but whether it is true. If it is true, it does not need to be inspired. If it is true, it makes no difference whether it was written by a man or a god. The multiplication table is just as useful, just as true as though God had arranged the figures himself. If the Bible is really true, the claim of inspiration need not be urged; and if it is not true, it’s inspiration can hardly be established” (page18)

I’m curious of a couple things:

1. How do you view the Bible?

2. How do the mistakes and contradictions in the Bible affect that view? (specifically, the scientific errors and contradictions found in the 2 creation stories of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2).

3. Do we need a divine inspiration to read through the mistakes of the Bible to find truth? Or is it’s truth universal?

 

 

 

God Slayer

This is quite possibly the best piece of agnostic writings I have ever read. Regardless of your views on religion I highly reccomend reading it. My intent in posting it here is not to attempt to sway anyones beliefs or to cause anyone to question their faith…I would hope, however, that those who are already in a state of questioning will find some peace in the words of Robert Green Ingersoll. I certainly have. Here are some excerpts:

 

In the Old Testament, they said. God is the judge — but in the New, Christ is the merciful. As a matter of fact, the New Testament is infinitely worse than the Old. In the Old there is no threat of eternal pain. Jehovah had no eternal prison — no everlasting fire. His hatred ended at the grave. His revenge was satisfied when his enemy was dead.

In the New Testament, death is not the end, but the beginning of punishment that has no end. In the New Testament the malice of God is infinite and the hunger of his revenge eternal.

______________________
 
All that the human race has suffered in war and want, in pestilence and famine, in fire and flood, — all the pangs and pains of every disease and every death — all this is as nothing compared with the agonies to be endured by one lost soul. 

Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God. 

______________________
If there be gods we cannot help them, but we can assist our fellow-men. We cannot love the inconceivable, but we can love wife and child and friend. 

We can be as honest as we are ignorant. If we are, when asked what is beyond the horizon of the known, we must say that we do not know. We can tell the truth, and we can enjoy the blessed freedom that the brave have won. We can destroy the monsters of superstition, the hissing snakes of ignorance and fear. We can drive from our minds the frightful things that tear and wound with beak and fang. We can civilize our fellow-men. We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine — with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy.

Co-ed Combat and the Misogyny of John Piper

Here is an article titled Co-ed Combat and Cultural Cowardice from John Piper that I find to be downright offensive. It is doubly offensive to me because 1. It’s ridiculously sexist and 2. It uses religion in a manipulative way to exercise power and control over women (nothing new…but still offensive).

In this article John discusses why women should never be allowed in combat because men were made to protect women…isn’t that sweet. The whole article is written in such a strong and caring and loving and protecting and none of those things are true its just bullshit way. Here’s what I mean:

A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp.

Right you are, John, you noble SOB. Women belong in the kitchen!

Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.

Here, here. Let’s subjugate women for their own protection. It’s what we want, what they want, and damn it, it’s what God wants most.

 Suppose, I said, a couple of you students, Jason and Sarah, were walking to McDonald’s after dark. And suppose a man with a knife jumped out of the bushes and threatened you. And suppose Jason knows that Sarah has a black belt in karate and could probably disarm the assailant better than he could. Should he step back and tell her to do it? No. He should step in front of her and be ready to lay down his life to protect her, irrespective of competency. It is written on his soul. That is what manhood does.

Suppose, John, that both the man and the women end up getting stabbed because of the bullish incompetency of your religiously endorsed masculine ideal? Sure they both die but at least the man still has his respect! Right? Cause “that is what manhood does”???

And collectively that is what society does—unless the men have all been emasculated by the suicidal songs of egalitarian folly.

“…the suicidal songs of egalitarian folly”? I had to look up the word egalitarian so just in case you slept thought that english class too I’ll translate for you: “believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.” Wow, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there IS NOT and COULD NEVER BE a thing called “egalitarian folly”. Mr. Piper, all people ARE EQUAL and deserve equal rights… and if your religion teaches otherwise then fuck you. We should love and care for and protect women BY GIVING THEM EQUAL RIGHTS AND BELIEVING THEY ARE EQUAL…And collectively that is what religion does – unless the men have all been intoxicated with the suicidal songs of religious hubris. (see what I did there, John?)

God created man first in order to say that man bears a primary burden for protection, provision, and leadership. And when man and woman rebelled against God’s ways, God came to the garden and said, Adam, where are you?(Genesis 3:9), not Eve, where are you?

The interesting thing to me is when Jesus showed up everyone was looking for a warrior; someone who would come lead the Jews to freedom and give them power and control over all…that was their idea of the Messiah and yet instead what they got was someone who sacrificed his life. He went the opposite direction of masculinity and showed what true power looks like: SACRIFICE.

See, and I’m sorry to go over this again but I can’t help it, WHEN YOU HAVE EVERYTHING THAT YOU NEED there is only one way to prove it: GIVE IT UP. Stop chasing the dream. Stop chasing more. Stop chasing a different lifestyle. GIVE IT UP. That is what Christianity is supposed to mean (as I understand it). We sacrifice our lives and give them up. And yet, here we have John Piper, who is just one of many misogynists out there teaching the Christian community, telling men to HANG ON TO THEIR POWER AND CONTROL BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT GOD WANTS. Nope. I’m pretty sure that what your God wants is to see people who can say, “I believe in God… and to show you that I believe in Him I am willing to sacrifice all I have, because no matter what I give away and no matter what you take from me I will always have the gift of grace, through my faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, which brought me salvation for all eternity and that is all I’ll ever need” Believe it.

…or don’t… but try to understand it at least. Is your religion about power and control or about sacrifice? My 30+ years in church taught me that religion is all about power…so I left…and now am free to love everyone and treat them all with equality. God bless the egalitarian folly in me!

How Jesus Became a Christian

I just finished a fascinating book called “How Jesus Became a Christian“. Its a historical perspective on how Jesus went from being a Jew that taught Jewish law, to the Christ Figure of Christianity through the conflicting battle of Paul and James. Quite fascinating…from a historical standpoint.

The basic premise is this (although I encourage you to read it for yourself because I will likely just muddle up what the author is really trying to say but here it goes anyway):

Jesus was born to Jewish parents in a Jewish society and attended/taught at Jewish Synagogues while leading Jewish Followers. He taught that the Law (Torah) should be followed more closely than even the Pharisees do. (Matt 5-7). He taught that the Law (Torah) will NOT Disappear. And that anyone who “sets [the law] aside…will be called least in the kingdom of Heaven”. The teachings of Jesus are ultra legalistic and not full of easy Grace.

Then Jesus dies. His brother James takes over for him and, as anyone who has read the Letter of James knows, continues to teach a very legalistic/works based religion (in complete contrast to Paul).

On the other side, Paul comes along, having never met Jesus, and has this “Mystical experience on the road to Damascus”. He then takes some existing Hellenistic views and some teachings that would be familiar with the “gentiles” who worshiped a similar God called Dionysus and creates a new Jesus that he can sell to the Romans. Because of how “easy” Paul’s religion is (compared to all the rules and laws associated with Judiasm) the Roman’s and other gentiles take to it. The rest…is history.

Anyway, besides pointing out a few biblical inconsistencies and giving me some great historical insight I was really struck by the teachings of Jesus. Having never read them with any other view than that of Jesus is the Son of God teaching grace…I was struck by how legalistic many of his parables really are…and also that Jesus was a jerk…or at least the way his words got translated to english make him sound very impatient. I’d like to ask you about 1 verse in particular…

So, Christian friends, what do you do with this Biblical scripture from Matthew 5?

18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

For me, this book made me further believe that many Christians engage in Bible worship 1st, Paul worship 2nd, and Jesus worship…well, Paul’s interpretation of Jesus…3rd. There are so many documents out there that discuss early Christian life. Many of them conflict  with the Bible. Many of them argue with Paul’s interpretations of Jesus and his “mystical experience” on the road to Damascus. But the only ones that make it into the Holy text are “Paul approved”. And, by “Paul approved” I simply mean the authors would have believed in Paul’s teaching on Grace more so than on any of the other beliefs about Jesus at the time.

Also,  why is Paul’s experience any different than Joseph Smith and his Book o’ Mormon or Mohammed and his Koran?

Faith Like A Child

Faith. What is faith?  According to dictionary.com faith is a “strong or unshakeable belief in something, especially without proof or evidence.”.

I have had multiple people tell me that you must have “faith like a child” and this makes sense to me.  Children (my 5 year old self as a prime example) will believe in anything without questioning. It’s so simple that it’s beautiful…the pure innocence of it all.

However, children often lack the basic knowledge required to ask simple questions. A child-like faith isn’t a strong faith, one that can be defended and reasoned, one that can be held up to questioning. It’s a faith that says, “I believe because I was taught to believe”. After all, who among us hasn’t believed that Mickey Mouse is alive and well at Disneyland?

Children have faith in Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. They love stories of Big Foot and The Abominable Snow Man. Sadly, children also have faith that they are superior to others because of the color of their skin or that because they are born with a penis those without should submit to their lead.

You see, children will believe in anything they are taught…so when someone says you should have a “childlike faith” I must questions their motives. Why should I work to shut off my mind, my reason, my heart, my life…to try and force myself to believe in something that doesn’t feel right?

At the same time, I see faith as something that can be very beautiful. An unshakeable faith is quite impressive. I’ve seen a number of people defeat their drug and alcohol addictions by finding faith in God. I applaud them and their faith.

 

But… I’ve also seen many people blindly hand over their hard earned money to a scam artist because of that same faith.

Faith can be and is powerful. But I see it taking more than a verbal decision to believe. I need an experience…something that becomes so powerful that I can’t deny it.

Faith is found in all religions. It’s the one common theme running through each and every one. And yes, even the Atheist has to have faith that there is no God (although he would deny it). I’ve heard people speak about encounters with UFO’s; people, who by all other accounts, are perfectly normal will stand in the face of ridicule and say “Yes, it sounds crazy but I know what I saw”.

This is the sort of experience that I would need to have in order to find faith in…well…anything probably.

Rock, Flag, and Jesus

If you’ve ever seen Always Sunny in Philadelphia than I need say no more: Rock, Flag, and Eagle…perhaps one of the greatest moments in cable television history. Why do I bring it up and what does it have to do with this blog? Well, I’ll one up that question and find a way to relate it to City Bible Church and our friend Frank Damazio.

Currently Frank is teaching a series called “FAVOR”. Most of our readers are already rolling their eyes but I still want to break it down. Here is a blurb from his FAVOR card:

“I am entitled to the covenant favor of Jesus that is and will continually surround me. I declare favor to be my shield from anything and everything the enemy may seek to throw my way. I am blessed with favor in my life, my work, my business, and my home. I am the head and not the tail. I am set above not below.”

When I see this all I can think is “They do not understand that gospel of Jesus”. The FAVOR of God is SALVATION. That’s it. Plain and simple salvation. If you believe in Heaven, Hell, God, Jesus, and the Bible then you should know that salvation is all the FAVOR that you need.

Then, I believe, you should take that favor, that privilege and go out and bless others. That is how you influence the world for Christ. Show the world that you have all you need…your life, your work, your business, and your home…all full of that favor called salvation.

Unfortunately, salvation doesn’t sell. I mean, don’t get me wrong, salvation is the nice advertisement to get people on your car lot…but you can’t let them drive off in the ad car. No way, you need to rope them in with something more.

Christianity today is nothing more than the American Dream put to religion. Whatever you want to achieve you can and Jesus is here to help you do it. After all, you have the “covenant favor of Jesus”in your life.

Rock, Flag, and Jesus.

The best part…it’s free. It’s actually better than the American dream because it won’t cost you anything. We can cruise you through the hyperbole of “losing your life” and “taking the narrow path”. We can convince you that “The world is evil and out to get you but safety is found in the church (so long as you are current on your tithe)” and then voila…whatever you desire will be yours in Jesus. Let us sing:

“I’m gonna rise up, I’m gonna kick a little ass, Gonna kick some ass in the USA, Gonna climb a mountain, Gonna sew a flag, Gonna fly on an Eagle, I’m gonna kick some butt, I’m gonna drive a big truck, I’m gonna rule this world, Gonna kick some ass, Gonna rise up, Kick a little ass, ROCK, FLAG AND EAGLE!”