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Category: Faith

This Bill Maher and Ben Affleck Exchange Is Incredibly Important For Liberals and Conservatives

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Let me first just say that I’m not sure if keeping score on something like this is good for anyone… But Bill had a strong point to make, but so did Ben actually.

Wow… I love a good debate, and this really was a huge debate to watch. On one side you have the liberal force of “tolerance” so that we don’t lump groups in a distortion of their true character (represented by Mr. Affleck), and on the other side we have the liberal cornerstone of an activism that has zero tolerance for any social and economic oppression subjugated by any ideology (represented by Mr. Maher). This article sums up a good portion of how I feel, but I think there is more to it. I think that what Bill was saying is incredibly important, and I think that what Ben was saying is crucial to actually solving the problem. Bill was pointing out that renouncing your faith should not be cause for being put to death, which it is perceived to be for many people. He quoted that something like 90% of Egyptians felt that leaving Islam should result in capital punishment, and I thought I’d heard the same about Saudi Arabia. That is astounding to me, and assuming that the polling is correct I am left terrified of how we might bridge the divide in our cultures.

Ben however, was taking a firm stance that you can’t just throw entire regions and cultures out like this – which I find admirable in terms of how we may ever have to address this problem. Where I find myself frustrated on this front is the double standard between the Middle East and the Heartland of America. Liberals like Ben (and maybe not him more specifically) almost predictably take this stance of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater on people and their cultures, until it comes to the Christian coalition (not the necessarily the actual organization with that name) of people across this country who are reamed constantly by the media for having faith. Some groups and individuals who call themselves Christians probably deserve some harsh feedback, but we don’t usually hear this same kind of nuanced approach with Christianity in America.

If someone wants to go after religion they don’t necessarily hurt my feelings – society needs people like that so you don’t end up with a population that thinks we should kill people who don’t believe in what we believe in and can’t prove. BUT, if you are going to do it you should remain consistent, and nuanced in your value judgements of these differing groups and their ideas. I wish Bill wouldn’t be so willing to throw people out like he does, and I wish Ben would clarify his standard, as well as recognize that what Bill was saying is scary. If those poll numbers don’t scare you then you must not be paying attention…

I will actually be taking a trip in November with my good buddy Gavin to Egypt, and I just want to say that I can’t wait to meet these people who are often villainized by the media – and who like me don’t have the world figured out yet. I’m sure we could come up with some astounding polling from the United States over the last century, so to side with Ben for a second I hope that we can work on finding our common ground so that maybe we can work on exchanging our best ideas, and not just harp on our differences.

So, here is the exchange, and below is a very interesting article about the whole thing. Please feel free to give me your feedback:

And due to neither of these men being representatives of Islam I figured we’d throw in this Reza Aslan interview that would most support Ben’s thinking for before you read an article about why Bill is right:

The Daily Beast
 

Bill Maher 1, Ben Affleck 0

The Real Time host’s spat with the Gone Girl star gets to the heart of a major and longtime problem within contemporary Western liberalism

Every once in a great while, something happens on television that you know while you’re watching it: Well, this is unusual. Those old enough to know what I’m talking about when I say “Al Campanis”  will remember that that was one of your more extreme cases. The exchange between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck on last Friday’s Real Time wasn’t a Campanis moment, but I knew instantly—watching it in, well, real time, as it were—that this was going to spark discussion,  as indeed it has.

In case you missed it, the two—both committed and thoughtful liberals—got into it on the question of whether Western liberals can or should criticize Islam. Mentioning freedom of speech and equal rights, Maher said: “These are liberal principles that liberals applaud for, but then when you say in the Muslim world, this is what’s lacking, then they get upset.” Sam Harris, the atheist author, agreed with Maher and said, “The crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of Islamophobia where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry towards Muslims as people. That is intellectually ridiculous.” Affleck, as if on cue, challenged Harris: “Are you the person who understands the officially codified doctrine of Islam?” And then: “So you’re saying that Islamophobia is not a real thing?” Right after, Affleck said that such criticisms of Islam were “gross” and “racist” and “like saying [to Maher] ‘you’re a shifty Jew.’”

It was cracking good TV, but it was more—it hit home because they were describing one of the most important debates within liberalism of the last…10 years certainly, as pertains to Islam, but 40 or 50 years as relates to arguments between the developed and the developing world, and close to a century when it comes to discussions of how culture should affect our understanding of universal, or as some would have it “universal,” principles. Reluctance to criticize the failures of other cultures has been a problem within contemporary liberalism, with negative consequences I’ll go into below. So this liberal is firmly on Maher’s side, even as I recognize that his rendering is something of a caricature.

Here’s some quick history for you. First, the Enlightenment happened, and humankind developed the idea of universal rights. ’Round about the 1920s, some scholars in the then-newish field of cultural anthropology started to argue that all rights, or at least values, were not universal, and that we (the West) should be careful about imposing our values on societies with traditions and customs so removed from our own.

A big moment here came with the debate over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which asserted the universalist position without apology and which was pushed mostly by mainstream political liberals (Eleanor Roosevelt most notably). There were many critiques of the declaration from what we would today call “the left,” but those voices had little juice in those days, and when the UN adopted the declaration, it was a great victory for liberalism.

Fade in, fade out. Then came the anti-colonialist uprisings of the 1950s, Frantz Fanon, postmodern political theory, Vietnam, the Israeli occupation, the intifada, et cetera et cetera. All of these and many other kindred events seeped into the liberal bloodstream, still rich in universalist cells but now also coursing with the competing cells of cultural relativism (invariably a pejorative these days, although it wasn’t always).

And so, yes, we have seen in recent years from liberalism, or at least from some liberals (a crucial distinction, in fact), an unwillingness to criticize the reactionary aspects or expressions of other cultures, expressions that these liberals would have no hesitation whatsover in criticizing if they were exhibited by, say, Southern white Christians.

The most obvious example that comes to mind is that of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Muslim-African-Dutch-and-finally-American feminist intellectual. She of course is famous, now mostly for some of her more incendiary comments, but recall how she first became so: She and her collaborator, Theo van Gogh, had made a film critical of the oppression of women in the Muslim world. He was murdered, and she received death threats. She fled to the United States.

Now, here was a key moment: When she came to America in 2006, where was Hirsi Ali going to plant her flag? As she tells the story in her book Nomad, she met with liberal and conservative outfits. She says the liberal ones were “tentative” in their support for her and her ideas, but the conservative American Enterprise Institute embraced her totally, even though on certain issues (like abortion rights) she’s no conservative.

Hirsi Ali, of course, has subsequently gone on to say, quite controversially, that not just radical Islam but “Islam, period” must be “defeated.” But here’s the question: Before she started talking like that, why was she unable to find a home within American liberalism? It should be, and should have been, a core part of the mission of liberalism to support secular humanists and small-d democrats from all over the world, but from the Muslim world in particular. Most of these people are themselves liberals by Western standards, and they are desperate for the United States to do what it can to oppose the theocracies and autocracies under which they’re forced to live.

Maher, and certainly conservative critics, overstate the extent to which liberals fail to make common cause with such folks. Christian evangelicals who do work on, say, genital mutilation (which Hirsi Ali suffered) get a lot more attention in the media, because it’s more “interesting” that white conservatives give a crap about something happening to nonwhite women halfway across the world. But as the writer Michelle Goldberg pointed out in a review of Hirsi Ali’s Nomad for the journal I edit, Democracy, numerous women’s organizations and feminist groups do work to advance women’s rights in the Muslim world.

Goldberg wrote: “A few years ago, I visited Tasaru Ntomonok, which is the kind of place Hirsi Ali would probably love—it’s a Kenyan shelter that houses and educates girls fleeing female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Among its supporters are the high profile feminist Eve Ensler, the feminist NGO Equality Now, and the United Nations Population Fund, a bête noire of many conservatives. There are similar grassroots organizations working toward women’s liberation all over the world.”

Even so, Maher has identified a problem within Western liberalism today. Debates about multiculturalism are appropriate to a later stage of development of the infrastructure of rights and liberties than one finds in some other parts of the world. That infrastructure has existed in Western countries for a century, and it is the very fact that it was so solidly entrenched that opened up the space for us to start having debates about multiculturalism in the 1970s and ’80s.

But in much of the Arab and Muslim world, that infrastructure barely exists. So—and how’s this for a paradox?—to insist that our Western standards that call for multiculturalist values should be applied to countries that haven’t yet fully developed the basic rights infrastructure constitutes its own kind of imposition of our values onto them. A liberated woman or a gay man who lives in a country where being either of those things is at best unaccepted and at worst illegal doesn’t need multiculturalism. They’re desperate for a little universalism, and we Western liberals need to pay more attention to this.

via Bill Maher 1, Ben Affleck 0 – The Daily Beast.

Tired of That “I Want To Go To Church And Not Be Called Dumb Or Bigoted” Feeling? You’re Not Alone.

 

 

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In 2008 I moved to China to live with a group of Americans in China (including my sister) who had pledged to live amongst the Chinese, and teach English in their schools as a form of ministry. We of course couldn’t be overt,  that would have been illegal, but we would live our lives and set examples so that they might find themselves curious why we loved so freely, and shared what we had with such ease – well that was the goal at least. While I was living in China someone introduced me to the teachings of Tim Keller, and at first my pride prevented me from giving it a shot and listening to my friend’s advice (and I think this same know-it-all mentality is a one of the biggest plagues of the human condition).  Ever since I began listening to Mr. Keller I have found great comfort in people having differing opinions, and in the idea that God made me curious and surely wants me to ask as many questions as I genuinely am able!!!

I just ran across this clip recently, while I recommend watching longer talks of his, I know about this “know-it-all” human condition from which all people seem susceptible of falling victim, so I figured I’d post a short and sweet video as an introduction for anyone willing to listen for a hand full of minutes on this beautiful Sunday. If you are interested in hearing more from Tim I recommend watching his talks at Google, which were reported at the time to have been the most crowded lectures by an author at Google (which surprised me). I will post one of them below from when he went to Google to discuss his book “A Reason For God”. I hope you enjoy.

 

Tim Keller at Google

6 Times Stephen Colbert Got Serious About Faith

I don’t know if I could love this anymore than I do… I think that an article like this can serve as a good reminder that nobody deserves a claim to faith over anyone else, as Mr. Colbert would likely be assumed to be an enemy of the Christian population. I don’t think that he is, and I don’t think that he we find himself to be either.

 

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6 Times Stephen Colbert Got Serious About Faith

When Colbert dares to get real, he’s surprisingly passionate about his beliefs.

 

Next year, when David Letterman signs off as host of The Late Show for the last time, Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert will take over, positioning himself as the new face of CBS late night.

Though he’s made a name for himself by creating an over-the-top persona satirizing the hyper-conservative on The Colbert Report, the real Stephen Colbert—the one headed to CBS—is very different from the character he’s created. When he’s not in front of the camera, Colbert is frequently teaching Sunday school, attending mass or spending time with his family, who are all devout Catholics. Here are six times the funnyman got serious about one of his favorite topics: faith.

The Time He Talked about Faith and Tragedy with The New York Times

Back in 2012, The New York Times profiled Colbert, who reveal details about the man behind the persona.

At one point in the interview, Colbert talked about the experience of losing both his father and two brothers in a plane crash when he was just 8 years old. Colbert said it was the example of his mother’s faith that has helped him process the tragedy: “She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the Cross and the example of sacrifice that He gave us. What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain—it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice.”

 

The Time He Explained Hell on NPR

When Colbert was a guest on NPR’s Fresh Air, host Terry Gross asked how Stephen Colbert—the real, religious father, not the persona—explained complicated issues like God and hell to his own children. And though not all Christians may agree with his personal interpretation of what hell looks like, his thoughtful response is a reflection of someone who has genuinely wrestled with big ideas surrounding faith: “I think the answer, ‘God is love’ is pretty good for a child. Because children understand love … My son asked me one day, ‘Dad, what’s hell?’ … So, I said, ‘Well, if God is love, then hell is the absence of God’s love. And, can you imagine how great it is to be loved? Can you imagine how great it is to be loved fully? To be loved totally? To be loved, you know, beyond your ability to imagine? And imagine if you knew that was a possibility, and then that was taken from you, and you knew that you would never be loved. Well that’s hell—to be alone, and know what you’ve lost.’”

The Time He Embarrassed a Guy that Suggested God Caused Evil

Poor Philip Zimbardo. When the Stanford professor appeared on The Colbert Report in 2008 to promote his book The Lucifer Effect, he clearly didn’t know what he was in for. Despite a jab at Dr. Zimbardo’s villainous facial hair, the interview—which focused on a behavioral experiment that the book is based on—started out civil enough. Then at the 3:30 mark (warning, the video contains a bleeped-out explicit word), things take a dramatic turn when the discussion turns to the origins of evil in the Garden of Eden. When Zimbardo suggested that, “Had [God] not created hell, then evil would not exist,” Colbert broke character and snapped, breaking into an impromptu theology lesson. “Evil exists because of the disobedience of Satan. God gave Satan, and the angels, and man free will. Satan used his free will and abused it by not obeying authority. Hell was created by Satan’s disobedience to God, and his purposeful removal from God’s love—which is what hell is. Removing yourself from God’s love. You send yourself to hell. God does not send you there.”

The Time He Argued for Christ’s Divinity

Stephen Colbert is not a fan of Bart Ehrman. The religious scholar came on The Colbert Report to promote his book Jesus, Interrupted which questions the credibility of the Gospel and the divinity of Christ Himself. It got brutal. For nearly 7 minutes, Colbert deftly explained seeming contradictions in the New Testament, showed how Scripture supports Christ’s divinity and intellectually embarrassed the scholar in Zimbardo fashion. You can watch the entire exchange here.

The Time He Discussed the Importance of Humor in Faith

In 2012, Stephen Colbert took part in an event called “The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy and the Spiritual Life” at Fordham University. Moderated by Rev. James Martin—Jesuit and priest and author—the event featured a light-hearted, but intelligent conversation about faith and humor between Colbert and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

“If Jesus doesn’t have a sense of humor, I am in huge trouble,” Colbert joked at the event. Though the two discussed a variety of issues, the one thing Colbert made clear was the genuine love he has for the Body of Christ and being a part of the Church: “Are there flaws in the Church? Absolutely. But is there great beauty in the Church? Absolutely … The real reason I remain a Catholic is what the Church gives me, which is love.”

The Time He Used the Bible to Advocate for Immigration Reform at Congress

Though much of his testimony before Congress—advocating for immigration reform and farm workers—was played for poignant laughs (“Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read [the bill]”), Colbert also used a another strategy to get his message across—quoting Scripture.

After talking about how he spent one day as a farm worker (making him an expert, of course), Colbert got serious about his motivations. “I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and this seems like [some] of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave. And that’s an interesting contradiction to me. And, you know, ‘whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers,’ and these seem like the least of our brothers right now …. Migrant workers suffer and have no rights.”

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/6-times-stephen-colbert-got-serious-about-faith#ubP5caTTYJi58Bgc.99

White House explains why Obama didn’t say “under God” in Gettysburg Address

Today I was having lunch with my dad, who recently changed jobs and is now able to come home at the noon hour, and we were discussing business and current events. My father asked me if I had heard about the newest “stink” in the White House over the President omitting “Under God” from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address, and I said no. We talked about what might possibly be going on, so I told him I’d look it up. My dad is a rather reasonable man, and he recognized that while he isn’t the biggest fan of the Presidents that even taking a breath makes some people mad at the President.

So with a little help from Google and a quick read this wasn’t a quick mystery to solve. It appears that the President was handed an originally copy of the speech by renowned documentarian Ken Burns, as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney clarified. The phrase “Under God” seems to have been added later by President Lincoln in the middle of giving the speech. So if there is any blame to really delve out here, it seems that it might need to be aimed towards mister Burns, and I’m sure that he would be willing to have that conversation (he is a very professional and thorough arbiter or history).

The one tidbit that I would like to add to this conversation however is that it seems that the President’s harshest critics might be missing one piece of the puzzle in regards to their constant war with President Obama. Barack Obama was elected President of the United States 2 times – and he was the first man to be re-elected with more than fifty percent of the vote since Dwight D. Eisenhower (and yes, that was in the 1950’s…). The majority of the American people identify in some way with this man, and being on such a hair-trigger to condemn anything that he does isn’t seeming to help their credibility with the average voter, or non-voter (seeing as how non-voters tend to lean for the Democratic Party). If they want to truly revamp their party they need to consider a new path when it comes to dealing with this President. He hasn’t been as warm and friendly as some presidents of the past (i.e.: Bill Clinton), but that is also the case for his behavior with his own party. His personality is not really a partisan issue, just ask the Democrats in Congress.

*This is not an analysis of his governing abilities.

I’ve included the article from CBS News addressing the omission of “Under God” from the speech, and the White House reaction. I think for those of you reading this who are highly skeptical of President Obama you might want to consider what your best strategy moving forward might be in regards to rebuking him, as the game plan for the GOP thus far has not been successful.

White House explains why Obama didn’t say “under God” in Gettysburg Address

AP PHOTO/CHARLES DHARAPAK

President Obama irked some conservatives with his recitation of the Gettysburg Address, which he read aloud as part of a project celebrating the 150th anniversary of famous Lincoln speech. For the project, spearheaded by documentarian Ken Burns, a number of politicians and other high-profile people recorded themselves reading the Gettysburg Address. Some conservatives took offense to the president’s reading. “Lincoln added ‘Under God’ as he was looking out over battlefield. why would Obama remove?” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Twitter.

Conservative Christian leader Bryan Fischer added “Obama’s omission of ‘under God’ is more evidence of his anti-Christian bigotry. He honors Islam but disrespects Christianity.” White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday gave a simple explanation for the reading. “He read the version of the address that Ken Burns provided,” he said, noting that Burns is a “noted Civil War scholar.” Specifically, Carney said that Burns gave Mr. Obama the “Nicolay copy” of the Gettysburg Address — the first draft of the speech, named after John Nicolay, the White House staffer who preserved it.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Richard Dawkins vs. Cardinal George Pell on Q&A (10-4-12)

As much as people don’t seem to generally love debates, or questioning their own faith, I really love finding a good religious debate YouTube. I thought this one was pretty great. Have a great Sunday.

David Christian: the history of the world in 18 minutes – Ted Talks

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I always enjoy hearing very smart people simplify things. Mr. Christian in this talk does an exemplary job of just that. I truly appreciate people who consider themselves more so individualistic than most, however I tend to appreciate more the collectivist. I don’t know if it’s my empathy bone, or that I paid attention to what Jesus said when I was in Bible class on Sunday mornings, but I love the idea of people collaborating to make things better. This talk is about history, but of course we talk about history so that we can plan for the future.

Lisa Ling Talks with Leader of Exodus International about Abandoning Reparative Therapy – “Our America”

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Reparative Therapy, simply put is the counseling-like practice of attempting to get people who are alleged or professed to be attracted to their same gender to change their mind and peruse those of the opposite sex. This practice is a relatively common practice in America, in fact in the last Presidential election one of the Republican candidates (Rep. Michel Bachmann) helped run a family practice that implemented the practice of reparative therapy. This type of psychological practice has been deemed as unhelpful, and actually very harmful by virtually any reputable psychological board or agency.

As I’ve said before in posts such as this, I am not gay, but I feel responsible for the well-being of those who are struggling to protect themselves. I know multiple people who were either victims of this type of therapy as children or young adults, and it seems to have caused some serious trauma in each case.

You do not have to agree with the idea of supporting same sex marriage (although it might be worth considering all of the implications of limiting the rights of others on behalf of your own personal comfort / taste), however finding out that something like this has been psychologically unhelpful and flat out abusive deserves your attention, assuming you don’t actually wish ill on gay people because they are gay.

I’ve relayed this Bill Maher joke before, but I’ll do it again – one thing that I have in common with homophobic people is that I too am freaked out by the idea of boys kissing, so I guess I won’t kiss any. However, I don’t think that my comfort level should dictate their rights, or their health.

P.S. My wonderful sister was on this show last year (not this episode) speaking about childhood obesity (as she is a child psychologist). She reported that Lisa Ling is absolutely the “real deal”. She said that she was gracious and kind, and actually took it upon herself to help beyond the programming of the show to get an overweight child the help that they needed. This report from my sister of course only expanded my crush on Lisa Ling…

Lisa Ling Talks with Leader of Exodus International about Abandoning Reparative Therapy – “Our America”

20130626-071347.jpg

Reparative Therapy, simply put is the counseling-like practice of attempting to get people who are alleged or professed to be attracted to their same gender to change their mind and peruse those of the opposite sex. This practice is a relatively common practice in America, in fact in the last Presidential election one of the Republican candidates (Rep. Michel Bachmann) helped run a family practice that implemented the practice of reparative therapy. This type of psychological practice has been deemed as unhelpful, and actually very harmful by virtually any reputable psychological board or agency.

As I’ve said before in posts such as this, I am not gay, but I feel responsible for the well-being of those who are struggling to protect themselves. I know multiple people who were either victims of this type of therapy as children or young adults, and it seems to have caused some serious trauma in each case.

You do not have to agree with the idea of supporting same sex marriage (although it might be worth considering all of the implications of limiting the rights of others on behalf of your own personal comfort / taste), however finding out that something like this has been psychologically unhelpful and flat out abusive deserves your attention, assuming you don’t actually wish ill on gay people because they are gay.

I’ve relayed this Bill Maher joke before, but I’ll do it again – one thing that I have in common with homophobic people is that I too am freaked out by the idea of boys kissing, so I guess I won’t kiss any. However, I don’t think that my comfort level should dictate their rights, or their health.

P.S. My wonderful sister was on this show last year (not this episode) speaking about childhood obesity (as she is a child psychologist). She reported that Lisa Ling is absolutely the “real deal”. She said that she was gracious and kind, and actually took it upon herself to help beyond the programming of the show to get an overweight child the help that they needed. This report from my sister of course only expanded my crush on Lisa Ling…

“And Then the Conference Uninvited Me to Speak” – Does Rejection Change Your Ideology?

This post is a topic that I will have to write more on later, I have plenty that I’d like to say, but for now I’m going to let Jen’s post do the talking for me because I feel so similarly. Having spent a lot of my life working in Christian organizations I have to say that I don’t take this conversation lightly. The question of where we all come from excites me, and if that’s not the case for you maybe you should poke that limp limb. Ask questions, and be patient when people lose their minds because they are scared of thoughts about where we come from, and where we’re going. If people having a sincere faith in something offends you on a personal level you might want to reconsider the whole thing… Just keep asking questions. This post is about interfaith community riffs, but this could be applied across organizational a interpersonal boundaries. Jen challenged me to think twice about my own comfort in rejection. Are you ok with rejection for the things that you believe? I hope you are.

 

And Then the Conference Uninvited Me to Speak

by Jen Hatmaker on March 18th, 2013
Like most graduating high school classes, mine rewarded our parents and educators by perpetuating Senior Skip Day right before finals. I can only imagine these satisfying gestures are why secondary teachers are able to get out of bed in the morning.In a slightly innocent twist, my class of clowns decided on the Wichita Zoo for our naughty excursion, so off we went in our scrunched socks and Keds, Z Cavaricci jorts, and oversized striped rugbies.

Note my cool shades on the front row that are so dated, they are now “ironic.”
My seventh grade daughter has a pair. Hold me.

I begged my mom to call in a feigned illness for me, and when she refused, I tracked the soft target, because Dad would’ve assuredly provided an alibi, but he was missing in my hour of need, so I…simply skipped. The only attendance bail in my high school history, and despite the breezy, cool aura I’m clearly projecting, I spent the day with my stomach in knots. (When I received the subsequent day of in-school suspension, I cried silent, hot tears the second I entered the ISS room, and the monitor found me pitiful and let me sit in her office playing solitaire all day.)

For such a prim rule-follower, it was surprising when they started strangling me.

I grew up immersed in typical Christian subculture: heavy emphasis on morality, fairly dogmatic, linear and authoritative. Because my experience was so homogenous and my skill set included Flying Right, I found wild success in the paradigm. My interpretations were rarely challenged by diversity, suffering, or disparity. Since the bulls-eye was behaving (we called it “holiness”), I earned an A.

But careening into adulthood, my firm foundation endured some havoc. I noticed very few of my Third Day Acquire The Fire Disciple Now Weekend Mercy Me compatriots stuck with church after high school. Evidently, that is absolutely the trend: According to Rainer Research, approximately 70 percent of American youth drop out of church between the age of 18 and 22. The Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be “disengaged” by the time they are 29.

80 percent. Gone.

A recent nationwide poll on religious identification noted that respondents citing “no religion” (The Nones) made up the only group that grew in every state, most numerous among the young: a whopping 22 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds claimed no religion, up from 11 percent in 1990. Worse yet: the study also found that 73 percent of Nones came from religious homes; 66 percent were described by the study as ‘de-converts.’

This gave me pause, because the mechanism was not holding. More precisely, the church I grew up in was not making disciples. The religion I knew was leaving young adults disinterested at best, hostile at worst. It failed to capture their loyalty. Dechurched adults cited grievances that gave definition to my own inner struggles:

  • Emphasis on morality and voting records to the exclusion of weightier matters like justice and transformation
  • A suspicious amalgamation of the American Dream and Armed Forces
  • A me-and-mine stance as opposed to you-and-yours
  • Persistent defensive posture, treating unchurched or dechurched people like enemies instead of future brothers and sisters in Christ
  • Narrow talking points that slice and wound and slash; principles over people
  • A boring religion of behaving instead of an adventurous life of true discipleship
  • An unreasonable opposition to science
  • Arrogance over humility, using the Bible as a bludgeon instead of a balm

But here was the Good News: upon heavy scrutiny, none of this remotely sounded like Jesus, so He wasn’t the problem, which was a relief because when having a faith crisis, you don’t want to discover your Main Character is a fraud. As far as I can tell, Jesus is still the easiest sell on earth, because if you don’t love a guy who healed lepers and pulled children onto His lap and silenced the religious elite and ate and drank with sinners, then you just don’t know Him.

Jesus remained politically neutral, unswervingly, despite the teeny tiny fact that the Savior was expected to engineer freedom through political upheaval. He never once pandered to the powerful and prominent. He was called a drunkard and a fool for the company He kept. Jesus committed His kingdom to the most unlikely: the sick, children, women, the poor, the marginalized. Everyone else? Blind, deaf, according to Jesus.

So if it wasn’t Jesus making enemies out of the adopted, it had to be the structure in which we contained Him.

This was the point my ministry took a hard left.

If you’ve been around me at all in the last six years, you’ve heard me pushing for reform, asking the church to stretch, to become the new wineskins my generation is begging for. I’m hungry for a church less known for sanctimony and more for their shocking intervention for hungry babies and human trafficking and racism and injustice. Christianity is too thrilling to reduce to middle/upper-middle class First World Problems, encapsulated in issues and gauged by a nebulous moral compass that lost its bearing decades ago.

People are starving – spiritually and physically – and this world needs some Good News, but they can’t decode what is actually good about us. Good is finding a safe place to struggle, to doubt, to ask hard questions. Good is food when you’re hungry. Good is warm, kind, genuine love extended, no strings attached. Good is clean water, medicine for your sick baby, education, family. Good is community, even before ‘belief’ binds us tight. Good is sustainable work, dignity. Good is Jesus and His backwards, upside-down ways.

I constantly ask these hard questions of the Bride, of myself, of my own little family.

Because of this, I was recently uninvited to speak by a large church. They cited my struggle with the church, concerned that “these disparaging glimpses at the church certainly can be helpful to a more mature follower but cause great confusion to those who are not quite so far along in their walk with the Lord.” In fact, it is the exact opposite. It is the young believers asking the questions and finding very few safe places to do so. Sanitized Christianity in which the church is propped up and healthy criticism is labeled as “spiritual attack” is the head-in-the-sand approach turning away the next generation.

Second, and not surprisingly, a blog was cited in which my hilarious friend jokingly brought a bottle of margarita mix to a Lifeway taping, hoping to cast us as boozers in front of my very conservative publisher. (To their credit, the filmmakers just laughed and carried on because, you know, it was a joke, and my LW peeps totally get me. We are guilty of many offenses, but taking ourselves too seriously is not one of them.) This satire pushed an envelope that is still licked shut, and the uninvitation was sent.

It doesn’t matter what church it was or where, but here is what I want to tell them:

I understand. I really, really do. Not only did I appreciate your gracious tone, but I genuinely know where you are coming from. I get the things that make you uncomfortable and why, and I realize we will likely never see eye to eye, and that is okay. Unquestioningly, you love Jesus and the church, and I have no doubt you are serving your community and each other. Within your tribe in your demographic in your city in your tradition, you are exactly how and where you should be. My feelings toward you are terribly warm, seasoned with familiar memories of the church that raised and loved me.

But what makes me unsafe to you is exactly what makes me safe to others.
The skeptic, the cynic, the doubter; my arms are wide open. Their questions and disbelief don’t scare me; I am unthreatened. The loosey-goosey, tambourine shaking, barefoot liberal who loves Jesus and the earth and votes straight-ticket Democrat? I love her. The young adult generation who is leaving the church but running to Jesus in unfamiliar, new ways – I gather them to me like a Mama because they are going to change the world.

I am not put off by creed or denomination or sexual orientation or terrifying doubt or outright anger or nationality or socioeconomic status or issues or weirdness or politics. I’m not going to make a deal out of a glass of wine when 25,000 people will die today of starvation. I just can’t muster the energy. (And since Jesus’ first miracle was turning 150 gallons of water into wine at a wedding in Cana, I’m pretty sure He hedges left here.)

With nearly 8 million people leaving the American church a year, we need some renegades closer to the margins, building bridges, creating safe spaces to question, wrestle, rethink.Plenty of churches exist to serve the 20 percent already connected. For them, I am grateful. Enough shepherds are on the ground for those sheep. They have a deep well of leadership, and my absence will not even be felt. They are brothers and sisters, and I’ll see them on the other side.

As for me, I’m throwing my lot in with the other 80 percent, the ones with their arms crossed, their hearts broken, their worth unrealized. The ones who shake their fists and shake their heads, but still crave hope and redemption, because we all do. Bring me your doubts, your fear. My Jesus can handle it all and then some. He is all of our dreams come true. If you don’t believe me, start in Matthew and read until the end of John. Jesus is a hero, a brother, a Savior in every since of the word. He is everything good and gracious. His love for us is embarrassing, boundless, without standards at all.

Along the way, if I make some of my brothers and sisters uncomfortable and we must part, I hope we can throw our arms around each other and promise to write. I trust you will do your part over there, and I’ll do mine out here where life is sticky and faith is less a blueprint and more a compass, gently leading all us ragamuffins north. I’m willing to wrap us all in grace, because one day we’ll both discover we got some parts right and other parts wrong. Jesus’ mercy is going to be enough for us all.

So if anyone wants to venture out to the margins, past familiar boundaries, through sanctioned Christian staples, beyond guilt-by-association fears, outside traditional approval – I’ll be here with my people, with Jesus, making others crazy and getting uninvited from things…

…unless it is a wedding in Cana and the wine has run out.

FRONTLINE | The Choice 2012 (full episode) | PBS

FRONTLINE | “The Choice 2012” (full episode) | PBS.

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Here it is… On October 9, 2012 Frontline put out this election cycle’s film about the Presidential race, and I love it… If there is one thing that you are going to pay attention to this campaign season I recommend this special. I have been open with the fact that I plan to vote for President Obama, but even though I have problems with Romney I actually respect him a lot… That might seem weird, considering that I’ve posted about him being dishonest, but I think that the reasons for him being somewhat dodgy are complex. So, I just say that to insist that this special really is as non-partisan as you are going to find… Really… Gov. Romney’s Wife Ann Romney and brother Scott Romney are both willingly interviewed, and they are very candid, and it seems like they’re having fun.

I’m sure that there are some great jokes about PBS and Big Bird to make here, but I’m not going to do that, because I very seriously want to reiterate that I think you should watch this… I love Frontline, and I love Presidential politics, because it stirs the people’s melting pot. Presidential politics can sometimes be the best way to quantify where this great and diverse nation sees it’s self now, and in the future. I hope that you enjoy it, and if you do please share it with people who you think might be struggling with the bickering, these are 2 great men…

If you enjoy the video or are interested in learning more go to the FRONTLINE website, there is a lot more information outside of this film. And if you really like it, like me, you might want to buy it on itunes to support great work like this (remember, the way you spend your money is a form of voting, and that’s why Honey Boo Boo is on TV…). So feel free to buy it for $2.99 (that’s not very much money…) on iTunes, you can just click below:

Frontline – The Choice 2012 (iTunes)

There were a lot of great pictures in this special, and I took a lot of snap shots, so I’m including them… Hopefully they’ll help tell part of the story.

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