Thursday, November 18, 2004

Three Thursday Thoughts

Why is the statement "I am my brother's keeper" considered liberal?

Why is the idea that the rich have a responsibility to help the poor considered class warfare?

Why don't the Democrats get why they lost big, when they lost the war of semantics?

And here I thought we were the party of intellectuals.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Heresy in the American Church

A dear friend and brother in Christ from my college days sent me an e-mail today entitled "Church Test". The title is an illusion to a Scripture that admonishes believers to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1b)

The following are 25 common heresies that are being propagated in many of the fastest-growing churches in America. This signals the continuing move of American Christianity away from the historical norms of the faith, and becoming extremist personality cults. My mainline and Catholic brethren who are well versed in Church history will recognize many of them as ancient heresies such as gnosticism, montanism, and pelagianism. (The Catholics would very likely point out my own Protestantism as one (see for their reasons why) but I refer here to pre-Nicene stuff that was thrown out before the first churches were even organized.)

Even if you are not a Christian, or hostile towards Christianity, it is very important for anyone who wishes to understand the "red state" mentality to know why we face an uphill battle in our attempt to convince some religious conservatives to vote their economic interests. The charismatic/Pentecostal movement is the fastest-growing segment of Christianity in the world. This is where I spent my late teens and early 20s. After stepping out of it and reviewing what I believed, I'm greatly alarmed. I definitely understand the mentality.

While I still believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit (such as prophecy and tongues) still operate today, I think that there is a lot of spiritual abuse in the midst of this outpouring. Much like the doctrine of the neocons, the spiritual abusers play upon ignorance and fear.

If you are not a Christian, please don't respond by ridiculing the church in general. That's just not fair. Also, realize that I'm not here to convert anyone, just to explain what is being taught as truth in many of the churches that rallied their congregations to vote against their conscience.

If you are a Christian, let me know if any of these teachings or others have infiltrated your church or those of your loved ones. As I recount the 25 common heresies, I'll let you know which I've heard in my 12 years of being born again.

Let's start with a few of the more ridiculous, and then get more serious as we move up the list...

1. Jesus became sin on the cross and then went to hell to complete the atonement, was tortured by demons forour salvation. (I haven't heard this preached, but I've read it. Dualism at its worst.)

2. After 3 days the spirit of God came into Jesus' emaciated being and revived him; so he became the first reborn man again in hell. (See #1. Makes no sense.)

3. Jesus was really a rich man, not poor. He even had a treasurer. He didn’t go to his house because he was so busy on the road. He had lots of money, the finest clothes and homes and that’s why we all should be rich too, we follow Jesus. (The last three churches I was a member of actually taught this doctrine. I would get into huge disagreements over it.)

4. The anointing comes when the healing crusade comes to the city. Afterwards it all goes back to normal
and those who want to be healed have to wait for the next meeting when the healer comes. (Comes from the cult of personality associated with the contemporary Charismatic movement.)

5. The anointing was so powerful on the program when he spoke but we need to act when he is there or we will not receive the promises under the anointing. (Have heard this often.)

6. If you do not give your 10% you are robbing God,and you are cursed and the Holy Spirit will leave you. (Almost universally taught--"you are cursed with a curse" if you do not tithe. But most churches who preach tithing tell you 10% is the least you can do, and that the blessing of abundance is on the offering. Many a poor soul has been beggared by this heresy.)

7. If someone speaks in tongues don’t worry about an interpretation, what counts is that the devil can't understand what is said. (Definitely taught in many of the megachurches, including the one where I was born again.)

8. If you have faith you are told will always be prosperous and successful and be healed. And if you are not then you do not have much faith. (Taught everywhere I went.)

9. You need to claim the Scripture from Isaiah, "by his stripes I am healed". Say it out loud over and over again till you get it in your spirit and really believe it. It is thepower of your belief combined with the word that will change things. (Taught everywhere I went.)

10. A prophecy can fail, but not to worry, it's not false, it was a prophecy that was be averted by prayer because all prophecy is conditional upon our prayers. (Heard this a couple of places.)

11. Being gay or lesbian is a greater sin than lying, gossiping and heterosexual fornication. (This notion of a hierarchy of sin is universally believed, and is dangerous. Christians are supposed to believe that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The Bible calls human righteousness "filthy rags".)

12. We can only fellowship with those who agree with us in doctrine, as stated in Amos: "How can two walk together unless they are agreed?" (Widely taught. The actual translation from the Greek, I believe is "how can two walk together unless they agree to do so?" Which makes more sense. This is why the evangelicals and charismatics will NEVER work with liberal and mainstream Christians. To be honest, most don't believe they're Christians at all.)

13. Want to have God’s abundance, want to have God’s blessings? Sow a seed, a big seed into ____ ministry even if you don’t have it, just vow it and give when the money comes into your hands. Or you can put it onyour credit card even if you are trying to get out of debt. (Widespread teaching. I fell into this thinking big-time in undergrad and ended up wrecking my credit.)

14. Someone gets up in church and tells a story about an angel who came to them last night and took them to heaven or hell and have a completely different revelation that what the Bible says, it is to be accepted as God’s truth on the basis of who they areand being sincere. (Definitely happens. One of the books I read as a new Christian was Mary K. Baxter's *A Divine Revelation of Hell*, which many, many sisters and brothers in the faith take as gospel.)

15. Someone can say Heaven is much like earth and we should not be concerned because everyone is going to go there. Only the Christians will have a better place there than the rest. (The doctrine of universal salvation is now taught in some megachurches. Reminds me of the Countee Cullen poem, "For a Lady I Know.")

16. You can hear a famous teacher say I’m a little god…a little messiah, and so are we are all gods because he tells you that’s what it says in the Scripture. (Have heard this--they misquote a Psalm to get this crazy idea.)

17. The pastor has the congregation repeat after him numerous times scriptures out of context and even non-scriptures as they do group affirmations. (All the time. Congregation, say it! "All the time.")

18. Don't pray for God's will because that is not a prayer of faith. You ask for whatever you want and believe for it because God's will says YES. (Oh my, yes.)

19. If you are slain in the spirit it must be of God because feels so good and wonderful. How could it be wrong since it happened in the church and not everything supernatural is written in the Bible. (Could write a book on this phenomenon.)

20. We are told these are all new things God is doing so it does not matter if they are not in the Bible, the Spirit is doing a NEW work. (How holy laughter and holy barking helps to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven, I'm not sure.)

21. We can go to a meeting have the teacher pass God’s spirit to whomever he wants by touch or the wave of his hand and then leave all the people on the floor looking like a war zone. (Have seen this, too.)

22. If you don't speak in tongues you're not really a Christian! You have not been baptized by the HolySpirit, you don't have the Spirit. (Huge heresy that is infecting even some mainline churches in the South and Midwest.)

23. You can judge those outside the church but if you say something is wrong inside you are divisive and are to leave them alone even if they are saying the samething as the cults and other religions do. (Definitely. Do not criticize the pastor/bishop/Head Honcho or God's wrath is upon you.)

24. You hear it said that "If you leave our church you will no longer have the anointing, you will be forsaken of God." (Definitely. Fear kept me from leaving many churches.)

and one more...

25. You have heard it said or implied that the Democratic Party is against God and/or Christianity and that the Republican Party is imperfect yet godly. (All over the place--and it turned the map red at the bottom and in the center--and it gave a fictitious president four more years.)

Somebody help me. This isn't the Christianity of the gospels, of St. Augustine and St. Francis (at whose tomb I wept), of Thomas Aquinas, of Mother Teresa.

This is a "new Christ."

I've had 1 John on my heart since the aftermath of the election. We evangelicals are literalists, and we love the Bible. A lot. 1 John is up in the running for my favorite book of the Bible, with its messages of love and spiritual discernment. Some of my phrases for living are gleaned from this book, such as "he who says he loves Him must walk as He walked", "the devil has been sinning from the beginning", and "God is love."

I really wish I could send a copy of this one book of the Bible to the values voters and force them to read it... and not just the parts about the whole world lying in wickedness. Many pastors have deceived and fleeced their flocks by quoting the Word of God completely out of context, lifting a single verse and going on a crusade.

But how about this for moral values?

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything." (1 John 3: 16-20)

Again, my intent is not to proselytize. Only to inform.

Some Issues Left and Right

While reading DailyKos today, I was astounded by a fair number of racist and anti-Semitic comments made in response to this post about Colin Powell's resignation from the State department chief and Condi Rice being tapped for the role.

I was extremely dismayed by some of the ignorance displayed. No, white liberals, it is not okay to use racial slurs against my brothers and sisters on the other side of the aisle. Talk about Colin Powell's ineffectual term as Sec'y of State. Talk about Condi Rice's complete and utter lack of nuanced thinking. Do not talk about how loyal or disloyal they are to the race. Do not make crude country-club jokes about them and sexual relations and the president. You do not have that right. And you really do not want to remind African-Americans that we've only been Democrats for a couple of generations... or about this party's sordid history.

Anti-Semitic discourse on the left bothers me as well. The question "why are the Jews universally despised in every nation?" is as hateful as it is untrue. And while I disagree with the many documented Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian Arabs, I am a fervent supporter of Israel's right to exist. As a dispossessed descendant of the African diaspora, I find the hagiographic tale of Israel's founding as a dream come true. Would to God that my people could return to the Africa of 500 years ago--an Africa that will never exist again. Our mother continent has been so raped and traumatized until it will take us another half millennium to recover.

As an evangelical, I definitely believe that the Jews throughout history have been God's chosen people. My faith mandates that I pray for the peace of Jerusalem. My faith also tells me that the friends of the Jews--the righteous Gentiles, as it were--prosper. We ought to beware of anti-Semitism's ugly head whenever it rears.

The other issue I'm concerned with is the notion that there are two types of Christians: literalists who voted Bush and liberals who voted Kerry. I'm a Bible literalist--as in, I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, from cover to cover--and yet I enthusiastically voted Kerry.

This site -- -- perhaps summarizes my views best.

It is because I believe the Bible is literally true, and God still speaks, that I voted for Kerry. Social justice is at the heart of the faith. It reminds me of an anecdote I heard about a homeless woman at a missions event at church: "I'd be able to listen to what you had to say about Jesus if I had something in my stomach." Yet with our harsh and unforgiving doctrine, we embody this Scripture: "These people praise me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."

The unfortunate thing is that Dems are in danger of losing their Christian base--those of us who love the Lord but also believe in establishing his kingdom on earth by showing mercy and lovingkindness. We're the Christians who don't have to talk about our faith... we're too busy doing it.

Yet the insults keep... on... coming.

If the Dems are not careful, soon they won't have the luxury of being a coalition between diverse interests. They will be what the Republicans accuse them of becoming: coastal liberal elites, mostly white, mostly of means, who look down their noses at the rest of us.

Friday, November 12, 2004

What a Purple-Full World... and Nation, Too!

It seems as if every state is a purple state.

Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman of the University of Michigan have constructed excellent cartographic maps of the 2004 United States election based upon population studies:

It is to the advantage of the far-right media to portray this nation as utterly divided. Yet this is not 1860, and we have more in common with each other than we think.

Down South in college, thanks to those "right wing-nuts" and "redneck evangelicals", I never lacked even living 1000 miles from home. While in theory, I might have been next door to a perfect heathen thanks to some of my beliefs, those beliefs didn't stop them from stuffing me, making sure I had rides everywhere I needed to go, pressing money into my hand when I was at my most starvingstudent, etc.

Then in graduate school, my haunts and hanging buddies moved from the right to the left. They were as kind to me as the Christians in college were... giving me a boost repeatedly every cold morning all winter, letting me have my morning coffee when I was short on change, giving me a ear to talk to and a shoulder to cry on.

Don't get me wrong. Vast disparities in income, social justice, and philosophy still exist.

Yet we are still "one nation under a groove".

And that groove is freedom.

We've hit a rough spot. By emphasizing our similarities instead of our differences--successful strategies used by the winning candidates the Democrats fielded--we will be all the better as a nation.

And I think to myself, what a purple-full world...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Shocker: Sanity From the Religious Right!

Focus On The Wrong Families?

Finding this at right-wing propagandist site shocked my socks off. Cal Thomas articulates many of my issues with these "values voters". Yet I don't think he goes far enough. They aren't in danger of losing their first love, they have lost their first love.

I always wondered why we had so many issues with gay rights, when we can't get our own marriages together.

I always wondered why abortion was a major concern, when we were aligning ourselves with a party whose leading lights advocated the execution of children and the mentally challenged.

And I thought we'd decided the Crusades were a bad idea... like, oh, say eight centuries ago.

Jesus said that if we lifted Him up, He would draw all men. The past election's "value vote" was a cheap ploy to co-opt the work of the Holy Spirit. The reason why the United States is such a Christian nation is because it is a free nation. Real Christianity thrives in liberty. It dies in theocracy... observe what happened in Christendom in the Middle Ages. As an evangelical, I do believe in the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, but I don't think it is my place to force Christianity as a religion down people's throats.

Gays, lesbians, and women who choose to terminate their pregnancies are serving as scapegoats. Instead of cleaning out the issues in our own churches, we are becoming like the Pharisees of old.

Lord, I thank God I am not like that man...

My question for values voters is this: when Jesus walked, did He close down the brothels? No--he overturned the tables of the moneychangers in places of worship. Did He join in the stoning of the woman who had committed adultery? No--he forgave her, and gave her an opportunity to start anew.

I agree with Thomas. Can't the evangelicals hear Jesus talking?

Nevertheless, I have this against you: you have left your first love.

You know, Jesus' ministry was for us--the church. His kingdom. One of the Scriptures that gets to me every single time is found in John, when Jesus prays for Himself, His disciples... and then, for us! He tells the Father specifically that He was not praying for the world, but for us, that we would be one, just as He was one with the Father.

It was his desire that we walk as He walked--in love. Is denying groups civil benefits walking in love? Yes, our faith teaches us certain things about a homosexual lifestyle. However, many of these couples have children. Should their children be denied benefits?

As for a woman's right to choose, women in Biblical times were engaging in infanticide. The potential child is one sad casualty of abortion, but another, less mentioned one is the woman herself. What about her physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being? Should we risk two lives by criminalizing abortion and forcing it to the darkest corners of our society?

The supposed rise in homosexuality and abortion has been attributed to (among other things) the "selfish spirit of the age". What about prosperity theology that has overtaken the American church? The gospel of materialism? The mantra of name-it-and-claim-it? The taking of Scripture out of context? The idea that the minister with the most toys--and the most members--wins?

Where are the New Testament Christians?

What's more, would Jesus vote Democrat or Republican?

Would Jesus be concerned with any of this at all?

Monday, November 08, 2004

What Are Real Conservatives Like?

Here's Chris Bowers' thoughts:

While I agreed with him on some points, on others I felt he was too harsh. I'm mulling over my own list.

What do you think "real conservatives" are like?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A Democrat Customer Satisfaction Survey

It seems as if the Dems have come up with a customer satifaction survey:

This is extremely amusing to me. Here's the top ten things I'd tell them, in no particular order:

10. Ignore the media telling you that you're not the party of values. In this Orwellian age, words have whatever meaning the right-wing Information Ministers imbue them with.

9. Resist the urge to become Republican Lite. Become a real opposition party.

8. You have become the party of women, minorities, and young people. Let your leadership reflect that fact.

8. Don't make gays and lesbians the new black people of the party--courted every four years, a relationship of convenience.

7. Tell the Republicans we'll give up Michael, Al, and Janeane when they get rid of Rush, Sean, Ann, Bill, Laura, Michelle... and the beat goes on. Sorry, right-wingers. We like Mike.

6. Get the rest of the Midwest. Indiana might be a long time coming, but Missouri is a good bet, and so is Iowa. Colorado--ours in 2008. Nevada--if not in 2008, then definitely in 2012 if demographic trends continue.

5. Encourage young Democrats who are on fire right now for the cause to read the great documents of democracy, from classical thought, from the American experience, and from the worldwide anti-colonial and anti-totalitarian struggle worldwide. The Republicans love to quote the Founding Fathers... our young people need to be able to state the view that the Federalist Papers give about dissent and the rights of minority opinions.

4. Start winning the hearts and minds of the young. I cannot stress this enough. Strengthen College Democrats nationwide. Have them sponsor high school events. Urge them to volunteer in the local community.

3. Find your way back to the working class. The demise of labor organizations is one reason why the blue-collar white middle American worker is no longer voting his/her economic interests. I have been on the receiving end of elite liberal contempt (however unwitting) from my bicoastal friends, who think Detroit is a backwater slum on the edge of a pond somewhere in flyover space. Tsk, tsk. Looking down your nose isn't a very good way to get votes.

2. Elect Howard Dean chair of the DNC. Rather than railing about the "Howard Dean-Michael Moore" wing of the party, you'd better be thanking them and groveling, because if it wasn't for them, Kerry's defeat would have been more crushing than it was. Some of us were around during the year-long primary season and have long memories, you see...

1. Protest George W. Bush's inauguration on January 20, 2005. Was he fairly elected? I suppose so. Do we have to like it? No.

The best way to remind GWB that 51% is not a mandate is to have a million men and women in the capital (yes, in the January cold) on Inauguration Day. If this is organized, I intend to take part. More later...

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Help From Across the Pond

No essay today, but here's two points to ponder. The first is a brilliant essay from an English fantasy writer of renown, Phil Pullman, about the power of words and the dangers of restricting discourse. The other is about the dominant English political party, left-leaning yet ultimately centrist Labour.

The War on Words, Philip Pullman (Guardian Unlimited Books),,1343733,00.html.

Time to Get Religion, Nicholas D. Kristof (NYT Op-Ed Page)

(You'll need a online New York Times subscription to view the second link. Don't worry, it's free and well worth the time it takes to fill out the information.)

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on either or both of these.