Asleep In The Light

I identify more with Judaism now, but I was raised in a Christian home. I know the Bible better than most. I no longer celebrate Easter because it is believed that Easter actually became known as it is because of a church custom of taking pagan holidays – in this case, the celebration of Eostre, the Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, hence the bunnies and eggs being so popular – and “Christianizing” them so the pagan cultures would convert without having to give up centuries-held traditions.

It’s not that I don’t believe in G-d or His Grace. I just don’t believe that the church today really puts much emphasis on it these days, even though they claim to.

A rabbi that I know and deeply respect once said something to me that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “if Yeshua (Jesus) was the messiah, He certainly never intended his followers to become what they are.” He wasn’t talking about one issue in particular, he was discussing many issues in that one statement, and he was right. Christians in America can be the most arrogant, pious, and self-serving people on the planet. They do more damage to their own cause than they will ever be willing to admit, and they claim it all in the name of love.

This isn’t solely going to be an indictment on Christians for their teachings on homosexuality (although that is definitely part of it). There’s more to it than that. I’m not willing to call them hatemongers, but they are blinded by their own self-righteousness. Keith Green wrote some amazing songs that called the church out on its hypocrisy – I grew up with his music, and I still love it. What astonishes me is that he was so popular with the very people who were behaving exactly as he described:

“Oh bless me lore, bless me lord”
You know it’s all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts
No one even sheds one tear…

The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
’cause it’s asleep in the light …

I still remember, well after Green died in a plane crash, the music minister at my church singing that song one Sunday morning. The high points of the song garnered cheering. My church, Grace Community Church of Clear Lake (now GCC Houston with two massive campuses, one on either end of the city), had a very large, beautiful facility. It was very expensive. I remember fundraising efforts to have the backlit stained-glass window installed behind the baptismal. All of the money that has been spent on that facility could have gone to a million different things, but they spent it on the latest and greatest buildings and technology.

At the time, I would have proudly defended it. We need these things, I’d say, because we need to be able to attract people to the church to hear the gospel. I now believe I was very wrong, and so were they. Knowing what I know about what went on in the offices I don’t think any of the staff were nearly as ministry-minded as I used to believe. Even I wasn’t ministry-minded; I was religious, and I couldn’t tell the difference between being religious and having faith. They really are two vastly different things. I now understand perfectly the dichotomy of that song’s message and how nobody in the congregation understood it.

In my first year of working as an EMT, I had to learn where the county homeless shelter was and who was allowed to be there. Because the homeless could go there and get three square meals, religious groups were barred from gathering to pass out food – I have since had to ask many of them to leave. Nearly all of them have gotten aggressive with me, often accusing me of being an angry lesbian (yes, it really is that obvious) who hates God and only wants to stop their “ministry”. I’ve had groups all but assault me, trying to “lay hands” on me to pray for my salvation. I know that they don’t mean to hurt me, but at the same time I can’t let them do those things. I’ve had to call police to remove them more times than I can recall.

You see, rather than offer assistance to the county to help run the shelter and kitchens, they’d rather hand out food themselves and preach. I used to do it, too, and I know exactly why they do it – to feel better about themselves. They go out on a Sunday afternoon and make a gesture that, in the end, really doesn’t mean much. Once their good deed is done for the week, they go to church on Wednesday and brag about how they did battle with the “forces of darkness” (that would be me, of course) and talk about doing it again.

Being a good Christian is about more than a big facility, expensive production equipment, and going out to hand out food to the homeless once in a while. It’s about more than saying grace before sitting down to eat. It’s about more than a cool slogan, t-shirt, bumper sticker, or the most recent devotional version of the Bible. It should be about faith. Among Christians, divorce and financial irresponsibility are rampant. They want to hold all of society accountable but they can’t even hold themselves accountable. Jesus said that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, yet we have Christian leaders (including my former pastor from Houston) telling their congregants that G-d’s blessings will make them wealthy if they only have enough faith.

The only people that Jesus specifically condemned to hell, however, were the religious leaders. He spoke seven woes upon the Pharisees and Saducees. I think if He were here in the flesh now he’d say the same thing. He’d ask, “what do you need this huge building for? Why are there pictures of the pastor all over every piece of literature this church hands out? Why are you on TV asking for donations when you already have a huge home and an expensive car? Why are you out protesting a group of people when you could be quietly living a faithful life and setting a better example – without the piousness?”

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s Easter. If it means something to you, I think it’s great – it’s between you and G-d. The next time you get into that debate and you feel the urge to shout me down, ask yourself why. Why is it so important that I force my faith on everyone through law? Was G-d’s promise to “heal their land” really meant for us, or was it simply directed at a wayward Israel? How does the gospel gain converts when you beat everyone about the head and shoulders with your beliefs and claim that they’re the same as our Founding Fathers?

If you can’t answer those questions honestly – without invoking the “this is a Christian nation” argument – then you need to question yourself. Unfortunately, I don’t think enough people out there are smart enough to do that. That is why the church will always be asleep in the light.

Outing True Hate

I got into it on Twitter with a guy who talks like a 15-year-old. He says he’s Catholic. He openly hates gay people, loves using the word “fag”, and is an incredible hypocrite.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the man who calls himself Daniel Cali – AKA @dheaddan from somewhere in the liberal state of Illinois:

Now, after the “discussion” began (if you could really call it that), I called him a hypocrite. Why? He spouted the tried-and-true Leviticus “clobber passage” to try and prove to me that I am damned for being gay. I pointed out that the same set of ceremonial laws – the very laws that Jesus Christ purportedly sacrificed Himself to fulfill, thus no longer requiring ceremonial cleanliness – ban us from handling pork products and wearing cotton/poly blends. Simple argument, right? He comes back with the argument that the New Testament tells us we are allowed to eat foods considered unclean despite that law, purely because of Jesus’ sacrifice. He replies that only food was made spiritually acceptable again (but not fabric woven of two different materials? Interesting…). I called him a hypocrite, because that’s exactly what he was.

He later made multiple excuses for calling me a sodomite and a fag.

First he called me a sodomite – which, since I am a lesbian, is not possible. Sodomy is defined as “anal or oral copulation,” the key word being the very last one. Copulation requires the involvement of male genitalia, and Dan apparently doesn’t know enough about biology to understand this. He insisted that I was a sodomite even after I first pointed him to Ezekiel for the reasons that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed (homosexuality is never listed among the sins God destroyed those cities for), and I contend that based on scripture, the use of the name of that city to describe male homosexual acts is incorrect in any case. He continued to call me a sodomite even after being reminded that the word describes male interactions, gay or straight.

He wasn’t listening. He went on to call me a fag multiple times (all spelling inaccuracies are his, cut-and-pasted from his Twitter feed):

Daniel Cali ‏@dheaddan
@animelmaguire I am not a hypocrite, but your a fag.

Daniel Cali ‏@dheaddan
@animelmaguire BTW when you cite chapter and verse where fag is OK with God, then let me know until then you’re wrong and don’t bother me.

Daniel Cali ‏@dheaddan
@animelmaguire Sodmite is another one of those inaccurate descriptions, sodomy is any abominable sex act which, you as a fag engage in.

Daniel Cali ‏@dheaddan
@animelmaguire keep twisting sorry that is not condoning fags

Daniel Cali ‏@dheaddan
@animelmaguire I am in good company for the same term “fag” was used by William F Buckley when referring to Vidal Gore.

Daniel Cali ‏@dheaddan
Fag-> @animelmaguire: I thought you were shaking the dust off your feet. Since you cannot stop using that foul word, let me help you.Buh-bye

If you doubt me, click here and read his tweets before he deletes them.

His first excuse for using the word “fag” was he was “saving space.” I called him on it, and his next excuse was that we had “perverted” the word gay and he refused to use it in that connotation. Well, in England they call cigarettes fags…cultural reference. If a word has such extreme negative connotation, you’re not doing yourself or your so-called faith any favors by using it continually. In reality, anyone with half a brain knows that you’re playing games with me, particularly trying to get me worked up. I’m doing with you what I did with Jeffrey Don Davis – I’m outing you, a supposed conservative, for the hard-right hatemonger that you are. You are another part of the reason why liberals call me a self-loathing closet case.

I hate to break this to you, but the Constitution will not hold up under social conservatism. It will not jibe with laws being passed based purely on religious dogma, which is all you seem to believe in. America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and I am a believer, but our founding fathers were not all Christians (several were actually Deists, including Thomas Jefferson) and they specifically wrote the Constitution to reflect America as a free nation, one that was never intended to recognize as law the beliefs of a singular religion.

In other words, if you’re against Sharia being passed into US law, you cannot turn around and insist that Catholicism be what our laws are based on.

So that I don’t beat a dead horse, here are a few other blog posts I’ve written on these subjects. Oh, and Dan…take a gander at Luke 11:37-52. The only time Jesus openly condemned anyone to hell (that we know of) were the religious leaders who pretended to have it all figured out. If you look at the way He continually deals with them throughout the gospels, He gets irritated that they put on a good face and twist scripture and the law to turn it into what they want it to say. I find it amazing that, despite His dire warnings, a couple thousand years pass and nothing has changed. Just like Fred Phelps, you claim that you’re behaving this way out of “love”. You apparently missed I Corinthians 13.

Whose Morality? – Commentary on the birth control debate and how liberals are attacking Catholicism

Put It In Context, Part I – Debate over what hate is and how it does still infect those on the religious part of the Right

Jennifer Knapp Makes A Comeback, Part II – contains my testimony and comments on going from being religious to being a person of faith

Happy Hanukkah!

Shalom! In solidarity with my friends in Israel and all of my Jewish friends stateside, I’d like to share the three traditional Hanukkah blessings recited on the first night, during the lighting of the first candle on the Menorah.

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam
Asher kidishanu b’mitz’votav v’tzivanu
L’had’lik neir shel Chanukah. (Amein)
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe
Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us
to light the lights of Hanukkah (Amen)

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam
she’asah nisim la’avoteinu bayamim haheim baziman hazeh. (Amein)
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe
Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam
shehecheyanu v’kiyimanu v’higi’anu laz’man hazeh. (Amein)
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe
who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season (Amen)

L’Chaim!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CroWUg4J7Y]

The Culture of Satanic Panic

I’m not sure what it was that brought the name into my head. Maybe it was God. Maybe it was one of my synapses misfiring. For some reason, Dr. Rebecca Brown, M.D. popped into my head a couple of weeks ago. Brown (who is no longer a doctor – something I will explain later in this post) wrote two books, He Came to Set the Captives Free and Prepare For War. My mother insisted when I was in jr. high school that I read both of them. The two books told the story of Brown and an “associate”, Elaine (whose full name was never given in the books), and their self-described journey through Satanism. The books were extremely graphic; they bordered on being outright pornography. As an eighth-grader in Houston at a private Christian school, I was young and impressionable. Mom wanted me to understand “what’s really out there.” She heartily disliked my desire to learn martial arts and had begun to stop letting me watch movies like The Karate Kid and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. According to Brown, the martial arts were wholly Satanic and would bring a demonic curse onto your child if you allowed them to study any of the various fighting styles.

As I waded through the now nearly-endless parade of articles written debunking Brown’s claims, I came across a story I hadn’t read about in years: the West Memphis Three. It isn’t often that I side with the accused in a crime these days. I have become convinced, though, that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley are all innocent.

In early May of 1993, my family watched the news from our Houston living room as a massive story played out in Arkansas. In the tiny truck-stop town of West Memphis, three eight-year-old boys – Michael Moore, Stevie Branch and Christopher Byers – went missing one night only to be discovered dead in the woods the next day. The boys were found nude, hogtied and had severe head trauma. Their clothing had been wrapped around sticks and stuck in the mud, although two of the boys’ underwear was never found. A police juvenile parole officer named Steve Jones made the initial discovery.

Police investigative techniques were terrible. The small town WMPD was not trained to deal with such a horrific crime. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Having been to crime scenes, I can tell you that any police officer, EMS worker or coroner whose training is worth a damn knows when they spot a dead body. You typically smell it first – even outdoors. Police officers in West Memphis, though, charged right into the shallow creek where the boys lay and dragged them out. Even in 1993 most police officers knew that even when children are involved, you have to keep your wits about you and recognize what the situation is before you go charging in. They didn’t, however, and if any footprints had been there they were lost in the kerfuffle.

A camera wasn’t available until a full half hour after the scene was discovered. The coroner wasn’t called until two hours afterward. During all of this, Jones – the parole officer – piped up and said, “it looks like Damien Echols finally killed someone.” No evidence, no nothing, he just spit the words out effortlessly. Echols was one of his low-level troublemakers, a young man given to wearing his hair long, his clothing black, and listening to bands like Metallica – and Jones was convinced because of his appearance and his deliberately shocking statements (“sure, I’m a Satanist!”) that Echols was pure evil. Rumors swirled in the largely poor- to middle-class town gripped with the Satanic Panic of the 80’s and 90’s that Echols and Baldwin were members of a Satanic cult.

The coroner’s investigation wasn’t any better than the police investigation. Both agencies refused offers of help from the Arkansas State Police. At the scene of the crime, reporters finally got a statement from John Mark Byers, the adoptive stepfather of one of the victims. Police had failed to shield him from the scene and the details. Police then failed to tell him that talking to the press was a big no-no. Byers immediately went to reporters and told them some of the facts at the scene, things that only the perpetrator would have known. Within 24 hours half of America knew those facts.

Damien Echols was polygraphed just two days after the grisly discovery in the Robin Hood Hills woods. Any and every teenager that could have possibly been associated with Echols in any way was polygraphed. Police claimed that Echols was deceptive yet could not produce a written record. One detective was described as verbally abusive to interviewees who gave answers that didn’t implicate Echols. Then, not quite a month after the murders, police dragged Jessie Misskelley in for questioning. For more than 12 hours he was questioned by police and somehow only the final 46 minutes of the interrogation was recorded. He told police exactly what they wanted to hear: that best friends Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin had decided to ambush the three boys and kill them for a Satanic ritual. The problem with the confession was that the beginning of the recording catches what had already been going on for 12 hours – Misskelley didn’t know a damn thing about the crimes. He gave the wrong time, the wrong location, and inconsistent statements regarding what had been done to the boys. Detectives had to correct him multiple times before he spit out a story that was consistent enough to start making arrests.

None of this mattered. Police built their “case” on the shoddiest investigative work I have ever read about in my life, and prosecutors, knowing the sensibilities of the people in the area, took the case to trial with nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Misskelley and Baldwin were sentenced to life behind bars, and Echols was sentenced to death. Later it was discovered that judge David Burnett exhibited behavior which implied he’d already decided that all three boys were guilty. Kent Arnold, foreman of the Baldwin/Echols trial jury, had inside knowledge of Misskelley’s confession and entered it into the deliberation discussions after the confession had been ruled legally inadmissable – by then Misskelley had recanted and refused to testify against the other two.

Today, judge Davis sits on the Arkansas Appellate Court and in a clear conflict of interests ruled that the three could not have new trials, even in light of new evidence – which included DNA. The convictions of Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley were secured with no evidence at all. Prosecutors didn’t even have circumstantial evidence! I believe that the outcome of this case, including the behavior of officers involved and the convictions from local juries, was heavily tainted by emotional reactions based entirely in a phenomenon we now call Satanic Panic.

It was in 1992 that I first read He Came to Set the Captives Free. Everyone at my family’s church, Grace Community Church, was raving about the information in it. Brown described a life in which she was called on by God Himself to save the masses from Satanism – all on her own. She supposedly began with Elaine, who reportedly had been one of Satan’s brides and a high priestess of a massive Satanic coven. The story contains claims that Elaine was married to Satan in a Presbyterian church, that she later sipped champagne aboard a luxury jet with him, and he later taught her astral projection so she and the other members of the coven could murder without leaving any evidence. As if that isn’t enough, the book also claimed that Elaine routinely took part in human sacrifice, that the humans being used ranged from newborn to fully adult, and graphically described the orgies supposedly held by the coven. Very little detail was left to the imagination. Elaine also claimed to have been Satan’s personal representative, going so far as to help place other Satanists in various churches and negotiate huge sales of arms between various countries all over the world. Brown herself tells tales of treating an ER patient, a young pastor, who had supposedly been tortured, stabbed and crucified – a story that has never been corroborated.

Is it any wonder, growing up in a church that pushed this astronomical level of nonsense, that I grew up to call Disturbed my favorite band?

Two weeks ago, I started digging to find out the truth about Brown, Elaine, and the stories they told. I remember Brown describing interactions with patients deep in ICU psychosis and her belief that it was caused by demons. I remember reading the gory details of human sacrifices, including crucifixion. I remember reading claims that the movements taught in martial arts were really silent Satanic incantations (which I now find hilarious, having spent half my life in the martial arts, including Shaolin and Krav Maga). I remember reading about the claim that it took eight weeks to exorcise hundreds of demons from Elaine after her conversion to Christianity.

There’s a bigger story to be told. Rebecca Brown changed her name to hide from the infamy that followed her true name – Ruth Irene Bailey. “Satan’s special hospital”, where Dr. Bailey did her internship, was Ball Memorial Hospital. Her claims that bibles were removed and ministers banned? False. It was discovered that she had begun bringing candles to use in exorcisms in the hospital and was asked to leave. Her behavior was so bizarre that she had to change her name. In fact, her medical license was revoked by the Indiana Medical Board in 1984 for stealing prescription medications, intentionally misdiagnosing patients so she could claim they were possessed by demons, and then prescribing illegal amounts of certain drugs. This was a full two years before her first book was published. Brown has kept the “Dr.” and “M.D” titles to add credibility to her wild stories.

Elaine, who Brown always refused to allow to be identified or interviewed, was Edna Elaine Moses. Moses was a deeply mentally disturbed woman whose family was not surprised in the least when writers started sniffing around the authors. According to her immediate family, she was well-known for being an attention-seeker, going so far as to regularly fake having full tonic-clonic seizures while in public. During the time she supposedly traveled the world as Satan’s personal representative to religious leaders, heads of state and rock stars, she was actually working as a Licensed Practical Nurse in Indiana. The two women met at Ball Memorial and quickly moved in together. It is believed due to evidence gathered to revoke Brown’s medical license that the women were drug addicts and possibly lesbians; Brown and Elaine shared a bed from the time they moved in together to the time that they parted ways. Brown was unofficially diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and Elaine had been frequently diagnosed by doctors as being of “mixed personalities” and was of “questionable reliability.”

To this day I question my sanity. As a kid my head was filled with tales of Satanism and evil pervading everyone around me. Everything involved demon possession. Ruth Bailey/Rebecca Brown (who is, by the way, still in the ministry with husband Daniel Yoder, who is a convicted criminal for multiple cases of identity theft) helped hucksters like Mike Warnke sell overhyped stories of Satanic Ritual Abuse to gullible Christians all over the world. I believe that they helped create the atmosphere that allowed three innocent teenagers to be convicted of a crime they were never involved in by convincing hordes of the faithful that Satanism afflicted the larger majority of the population. I very seriously doubt that there was even one single Satanic cult in or even near West Memphis when those three boys were murdered, but the police, Steve Jones, and their sham of an “occult expert” – Dr. Dale Griffis, a former cop who claimed that the boys’ blood and semen would have been collected for use in future rituals, despite the fact that none of the boys had been bled very much and that they were far too young to produce semen, making such a claim impossible – spoon-fed a deeply religious citizenry a drama they wanted to believe in, if for no other reason than to strengthen their own faith.

The claim made by Brown, one oft-repeated by my mom and many of her friends back then, is that Satan wants you to question the story. He supposedly wants you to to think it’s so fantastic that it’s unbelievable. To question whether it’s true is dangerous, they said. While my logical mind realizes this is a falsehood on a grand scale, sometimes I still question whether or not I’m wrong to question such stories. I do know this…during the time that I was reading those books, something felt very wrong. I always had difficulty sleeping because of the nightmares that plagued me. I’m sure most of the people I knew from Grace still believe in that garbage and would likely argue that the fact that I’m a lesbian now is proof of demonic activity and I’m only writing a missive like this to further confuse things.

I think that the culture of Satanic Panic is just another emotional drug that some Christians like to cling to, much the way many of them do to high-energy “worship” that includes speaking in tongues without interpreters and being “slain in the spirit.” There’s no wisdom in it.

Desecrating Ground Zero

I’m sure by now we’ve all heard about the plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero – the site of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that resulted in the deaths of 2,997 innocent souls and 19 jihadists. Much has been made of it. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg vehemently defended the decision to allow it to be built, saying it’s a matter of religious freedom. Governor David Paterson tried to find more neutral ground by offering state assistance to help find another location for it. In the meantime, the proposed mosque has trampled on the last nerve of most Americans (even some liberals). We feel it is a desecration of sacred ground. We have a right to feel that way.

My great-grandmother once told me about what it was like when she heard about the bombing at Pearl Harbor. She remembered where she was, what she was doing, and how she felt. She markedly recalled the mood of everyone she knew: anger. We didn’t do anything to the Japanese, so why are they attacking us? How dare they! Everyone rightly believed that the attack needed to be swiftly and decisively repaid, lest the attackers feel they could destroy us – and actively try. It was simple then: kill them or they will kill us.

Somehow we’ve managed to lose our grip on reality since then. I have seen and heard many gays in the public eye defend Islam and Muslims. There are even gay groups that defend the Palestinians, despite stonings, hangings and beheadings that are doled out for those caught in homosexual acts. Never mind the fact that if we were to display our gay pride in an Arab nation ruled by Sharia we’d be arrested and executed – they’re the underdog in American culture, and by God (or Allah, as it were) we need to help them!

We’ll be helping them while they dig our graves. 9/11 was not the first attack that jihadists carried out against Americans. There was the bombing of the USS Cole, the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the Khobar towers, the Beirut Marine Barracks, the first bombing of the WTC, and the Iranian hostage crisis. None of those incidents were provoked. Each and every one were carried out by Sunni and Wahhabi Muslims bent on carrying out jihad against American infidels. Now we have Muslim groups all over the world collecting funds to have a Muslim community center and mosque built just steps from the site of the worst terrorist attack ever to be carried out on American soil, and it was carried out in the name of the very religion whose leaders wish to build their holy place on that hallowed ground.

I just love how the Muslims planning the mosque and their defenders are calling for tolerance. It’s all about freedom, they say. Well, here’s their tolerance in action…Greg Gutfield, host of Fox News Channel’s Red Eye program, has decided to plan a gay bar to be built next door to the mosque. The idea is that it will cater to gay Muslims. Gutfield has been jeered by a lot of liberals – including a lot of gays – for trying to stir up trouble. Really? You’re kidding, right? Gutfield tried to get them to talk about it, and they’ve refused. They won’t even talk to him off the record. Here was his Twitter message:

@park51 Hey, how do you feel about my gay Muslim bar set to be built near the Mosque? Do you embrace in name of tolerance?

…And their response, also via Twitter:

.@greggutfeld You’re free to open whatever you like. If you won’t consider the sensibilities of Muslims, you’re not going to build dialog

Oh, okay…I see. So everyone else has to be tolerant and understand MUSLIM sensibilities, but you don’t have to give a damn about American sensibilities about what you’re trying to do? How does that work? I cannot believe you would condescend to us by telling us that we need to be sensitive to you while you dance on our still-healing wounds and try to claim that you’re “sensitive” to our feelings and beliefs on this issue.

Muslim sensibilities? If you’re so open to people being tolerant then you should show some yourself. If you expect Americans to live with a mosque at Ground Zero, then you had best not dare bitch about your sensibilities. You had better learn to live with a gay bar next door, because that is how we live here. If you want to “build dialogue” with us you must first be willing to discuss all of the issues. Of course, we all know how you carry out dialogue – it plays out every day in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank…you’ve made it quite clear what your idea of “dialogue” is.

The Big O has now weighed in. Naturally, he’s calling for tolerance to be shown to the Muslims planning the mosque.

The uber-liberals over at the Huffington Post have, on cue, called the backlash against the mosque site Islamophobia. I have one thing to say to that accusation:

Yes, I AM.

Jennifer Knapp Makes a Comeback, Part II

Just over a month ago I blogged about the incident that ended my interest in Christian music. After years of brick walls and disappointments, one day out of the blue I asked Jennifer Knapp backstage after a show how to get into the musicians’ union. She responded with contempt, as though I were little more than an irritation to be gotten rid of. I gave up on my music and didn’t touch my guitar for years, only recently picking it back up to play a few acoustic gigs (my first times onstage without a full band). Later I told of hearing that Knapp was making a comeback and the rumors that swirled surrounding her sudden disappearance. Chief among those rumors was one that she was gay and living in Australia. At the time, all she was admitting was that she had, in fact, been living in Australia.

The cat was let out of the bag almost two weeks ago. Jennifer Knapp is gay and is living with her partner.

In the comments section of the article in Christianity Today, I engaged several readers in “debate” (if you could call it that) about whether Knapp is sinning or not. Don’t ask me why…I got the typical handful of responses. Homosexuality is sin. Leviticus 18:22. Romans 1. It’s so sad that she’s gay. We need to pray for her repentance. God gave her up to unnatural desires because of other sins. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

Deep thoughts, I tell you. Nothing new. I grew up with all the same stuff. I even taught it for a while. By the time I was 23, I had never had sex (as I vowed not to until getting married), had never used narcotics, didn’t start drinking until I was legal, and was essentially only listening to Christian music. I lived a pretty pious life and was very self-righteous about it. Anybody who didn’t believe the same theology I believed was, in my estimation, not a good Christian. By age 23 I was a worship leader, a youth ministry intern, and involved in every facet of my church that I could get involved in. Church and music were my whole life.

That said, I fail to see which sins caused God to “give me up to unnatural desires.” Sure, I was pretty holier-than-thou, but I was also young and had a lot of lessons to learn. This is a commonly used argument today, particularly when Old Testament scripture is knocked down by putting it in context with the events of the Gospels and the fulfillment of the law with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Where, though, in any of scripture do we see God giving up the faithful to such an unspecified unnatural desire? And how is this unnatural desire defined? In reality, it isn’t. In fact, there were no words to describe homosexuality in either ancient Hebrew or Greek. Certain words commonly translated to mean “effeminate” and “homosexual” actually probably meant something closer to male prostitutes and men who pimped out young boys (a practice which was, and remains today, popular in Arab culture).

As for the so-called “clobber passages,” they always, always, ALWAYS begin with Leviticus 18:22, which forbids same-sex relations. The same set of laws, which runs from Leviticus chapter 17 through chapter 20 (with regulations concerning priests surrounding), also describes how to atone for sins through animal sacrifice, tells you what kind of animal to use and how to kill it, then goes on to tell you not to eat meat with any blood remaining in it, that if you do you will be cut off by God, and gives part of the moral law which is later repeated: do not withhold wages from a hired man overnight, do not breed two different kinds of cattle, do not plant two different kinds of crops in your fields, do not wear clothes woven of two different materials, do not eat the fruit of conquered lands for three years, do not trim your beard, get tattoos or piercings – anybody who breaks the laws are to be put to death, including for cursing one’s parents.

Obviously, we don’t follow most of the Levitical law. I have both facial piercings and near-full tattoo sleeves. We certainly don’t put people to death for pre-marital sex and and cheating on their spouses. If I were straight, according to Levitical law alone I’d be condemned just for my ink. My friend Michael, however, brings up a very good point.

The bible calls Jesus the Living Word of God. Throughout the New Testament, there are numerous references to the apostles “preaching the word of God,” yet since scripture hadn’t been written, what could they have been talking about? They were talking about sharing the gospel, the good news of Christ’s sacrifice to pay the penalty for all sin. And, Jesus cut the entire law down to two things. In Matthew 22:34-40, He stops the Pharisees in their conniving tracks by telling them that the law and the prophets are defined by loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself.

In an interview with The Advocate, Knapp described getting an email from a fan who begged her to come out because “that would make [me] feel less alone.” I would remind all of those who say it’s sad that Knapp is a lesbian just how sad it is that anyone feels alone when in your midst. There is no reason for that. In light of Jesus’ teachings, you are completely and totally wrong for allowing that to happen.

By the time Jesus was born, very specific prophecies about the promised Messiah and a very specific timeline had all the mothers of Jerusalem arguing whose son was the Christ. The Jews expected God to send a powerful man to conquer and kill their Roman oppressors and give the land of Israel back to them (which God had taken away in the first place because of their refusal to obey). As He had many, many times in the past, God did not fit their plan or narrative. Jesus was the first born of a working-class family, the son of a carpenter meant to be a carpenter Himself. He was not interested in war or glory. God’s plan was to offer a single sacrifice, one that would atone for every sin and strike down the old ceremonial laws – and offer salvation to all, both Jews and Gentiles alike. When Jesus finally revealed Himself the Pharisees, intent on finding the Messiah they expected, did everything they could to silence Jesus. In the end they had the whole of Jerusalem convinced to free a murderer in place of a battered and bleeding man who had fed them, healed their sick and raised their dead. They were so convinced of their version of what the Messiah should be that they offered to let His blood be on their heads.

Are we any different today? We have certain expectations of God. There are many things that most Christians are certain of, chief among them that homosexuality is sick, wrong and sinful and an indication that God has given up on a person. At the same time they ignore the majority of Levitical law right along with some of the commands that Jesus specifically left us with.

Human beings have proved two things throughout history: first, that we are shallow, fickle creatures and perpetually imperfect. Second, that our definition of who God is and what He is supposed to be is nearly always wrong. Yet we continue to pass judgement and blame it on scripture. For that we can fully expect to answer to God.