The Christian Jihad

I have been kind of withholding a post on the Planned Parenthood shooting because I have been waiting for more details on the shooter’s ideology to be confirmed. However, I read a pretty great article this morning about the theology of Christian terrorism which has prompted me to make a response. I want to make it clear though that I cannot confirm the motivations of Robert Dear and, as a result, cannot be certain that it was a terrorist act. As a result, I will try to keep this in general terms, speaking on the social structures surrounding this event and the responses that it has evoked.

Luckily, it seems that the vast majority of people seem to condemn the actions of Robert Dear, even those who would identify as “pro-life”. However, in certain right-wing circles of the US, the response has been disturbingly muted. For example, most of the GOP Candidates have been avoiding giving an opinion on the shooting, or have deflected the blame. You could make the argument that they haven’t commented because we can’t confirm whether it actually was a motivated terrorist attack yet or just a crazy guy committing a mass shooting at random. However, this is clearly a weak argument, as a lack of facts wouldn’t have stopped them from immediately commenting on a more “convenient” event, such as the Paris massacre, which fits into their message. Put simply, I have little doubt that the GOP Candidates would condemn this shooting in a heartbeat, but the bullshit of American partisanship is forcing them from being seen as defending Planned Parenthood, because there is a sizable contingent of their voter base which is sympathetic to Robert Dear.

For a laugh, I decided to check The Blaze’s responses to the shooting, as I expected them to have the most publicly toxic responses and to provide me with a window to the mindset of the militant American evangelical crowd. I was actually happily surprised to see no outright sympathy for him, but there was (predictably) a ton of deflection of blame from the right. One particular article caught my eye though, by IC2S veteran Matt Walsh, which claims that “Abortionists and Planned Parenthood shooter are just two sides of the same coin”. Now, thankfully Walsh actually states in the article that he does not approve of the methods that Dear used against Planned Parenthood, he also states unequivocally that he feels no need to publicly condemn it either. He also makes the incredibly bizarre assertion that “the Planned Parenthood shooting only proves that Planned Parenthood is evil”. I find these points to be equal parts strange and extremely callous. Presumably, Walsh feels that this shooting is a case of a murderer murdering mass murderers. Within Walsh’s conservative, “eye for an eye” morality, this makes Dear’s actions difficult to condemn… which is the whole problem.

Look, you don’t have to be a left-winger to condemn the Planned Parenthood shooting which, in all honesty, looks likely to be a case of domestic, Christian terrorism. You don’t have to be right-wing, or even “pro-life”, to oppose abortion either. However, partisanship and tribalism has soured our morality and taken away our humanity when we can’t even acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, terrorism is something that we can commit as well. If it turns out that Robert Dear was indeed motivated by Christian anti-abortion rhetoric*, then this is pretty clearly a case of a Christian committing an act of terrorism not unlike the Islamic terrorists we have been condemning and killing for so long.

This brings me to the heart of the matter – if you kill innocent people in order to bring about an ideological end, you’re a terrorist. If you support Robert Dear then you’re on the same level as those who support Al Queda or the Islamic State. The only difference between the two comes down to ideology. If you support the Planned Parenthood shooting but cry out for us to keep Syrian refugees out of the country because they might be terrorists, then brother I would suggest that you remove the plank from your own eye. I pray that we may learn how to come to understand and reconcile with our enemies and become a culture in which such acts of violence can be rightfully condemned without fear of oppression.

*Even if he was insane, this rhetoric still matters, as it would be what influenced him in the first place. I’m not entirely convinced that it should shoulder the blame per se, but they should at least acknowledge that maybe their messages were a part of the problem.

IC2S Playlist Update 30/09/2015

It’s apocalypse-mania this week on the playlist. While last week’s selections were loosely/unintentionally-themed, this week it’s entirely intentional. We’re checking out a couple songs about the end of the world, because… well, I love depressing music and it doesn’t get much more depressing than this! Cheekiness aside, while I have written in the past many times about my distaste for the so-called “Biblical prophecies” concerning the end of the world, it is nevertheless a fascinating subject and steeped in some great imagery… perfect ingredients for a moody song.

First up this week we have “The Great Fear” by Impending Doom from their album There Will Be Violence (note that someone on Spotify screwed up and labelled it as “Walking Through Fire” – this is incorrect; each song has been shifted down 1 position, with the opening song being replaced by the closer). I know that there are some Impending Doom fans who think that the band’s first 2 albums were their best, but I couldn’t disagree more – they were basically unlistenable in my opinion. There Will Be Violence really marked the point where they evolved their sound and (let’s be honest) watered it down just enough to make it sound really appealing to more people. And I don’t mean that in a Dead Space 3-style “mass appeal” way – I mean that there is a handful of people who are interested in listening to loud, chaotic noise while what sounds like pig grunts are overlaid over it. However, more people will be interested if you reign in the music somewhat and replace the pig grunts with death growls and screams. Sure, a few people are going to be disappointed, but it’s hard to argue when the results are so strong and accessible to more people.

Anyway, while “The Great Fear” is yet another Christian metal song about the Rapture/Tribulation, it is a pretty great one. Impending Doom has a really great talent for creating catchy hooks in their songs which make you want to scream along. “The Great Fear” has many of these moments, particularly in the chorus and basically the entire latter-half of the song.

Secondly, I don’t think I’m overstating things by calling Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” from American IV: The Man Comes Around a modern classic. I imagine a lot of people first experienced it in the fantastic opening credits of Zach Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, but my aunt was actually the one who introduced me to it. I have a hard time saying that I’m a big fan of Johnny Cash because, honestly, a lot of his music really sucks. However, I’m as big a fan as anyone of a really good Johnny Cash song, and “The Man Comes Around” is definitely one of them.

Shirking Responsibility

The spark for this post came to me a while ago, back when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in the news with its recommendations to ensure that Canadians were aware of the awful legacies of the residential school system. However, as soon as they mentioned that the church was involved with the cultural genocide and abuse which occurred at these schools, my parents’ gut reaction was to blurt out that it was only the Catholic church which was responsible for this.

Setting aside the popular perception that it was only the Catholic church involved*, this reaction bothers me for a number of reasons. First of all, I don’t think it’s being honest – do they really give a shit about the supposed (and in this case incorrect) “facts” of the matter? If I told them that their comprehension of the facts was incorrect, would it cause them to feel real shame for the church’s involvement in the residential schooling system? Somehow I don’t think so, I think that the blame will get shifted in another direction (“oh, well our church and our family aren’t even close to a residential school!”).

This brings me to the second reason why their statement irritated me. If they aren’t really interested in the facts of the situation, then I believe that this attitude is merely a knee-jerk reaction to shift blame. After all, if we believe that the Catholics bear all of the responsibility for residential schools, then it is easy for us to say that they’re the ones who should do something about it. Consequently, this means that we end up not having to do anything – we don’t have to change our worldview, we don’t have to change our attitudes towards people, and hell, we don’t have to make any restitutions to help out people who have been getting screwed over for generations.

Let’s get theoretical though for a moment – let’s pretend for a moment that it was just the Catholics who were involved with residential schools. If this were the case, then our response still shouldn’t change. In spite of what some more fundamentalist Christians might think, Catholics are just as legitimate ambassadors of Jesus as the rest of us. As far as most people outside of the church are concerned, the differences between Catholics and Protestants are minuscule. How do you think it looks for them if we, as Christians, say “residential schools were bad and all, but we weren’t responsible, it was those other Christians who you should be mad at”?

If nothing else, we should accept the responsibility rather than trying to squirm out of it by shifting the blame. Ideally, we should seek to repair the situation as well, even if we do not necessarily believe that we bear any real responsibility to do so – especially since we are always so quick to declare ourselves the “moral” center of the country which is keeping it from slipping into evil. If we become people known for helping others and being a positive force in society, then we won’t need to try to point out that it was “someone else” who was responsible for committing evil – people will realize that they are not representative of the Christians that they know.

I can remember myself saying less than 10 years ago that I didn’t feel bad for indigenous peoples who complained about losing their land, because it happened hundreds of years ago and they should all be over it by now. I am ashamed of the ignorance my past-self. However, I was completely ignorant of the repercussions that the actions of our ancestors had. I was unlearned enough to understand that indigenous people aren’t concerned about the evils of the past, they are concerned about inequalities which affect them today as a result of the echoes from the past. Similarly, people don’t understand why people still complain about slavery, racism or the Confederate flag, but this is because they don’t understand how their effects continue to echo into the present and have resulted in massive levels of inequality for African-Americans (not to mention that basically every problem in Africa can be traced back to the evils of colonialism).

If you don’t take anything else from this post, then at least take this message to heart: next time you hear someone railing about some form of injustice, listen to what they have to say. You don’t necessarily have to agree with them, but give them some respect. Then, instead of passing off the responsibility to someone else, ask how you can help and come to common ground.

*And it’s not like the Protestant Churches are all that united anyway. If they wanted to continue shifting blame they could say “Oh, well it was just the Catholics, Anglicans, United Church, Congressionalists, Presbyterians and Methodists. It wasn’t the Pentacostals though so why should we take the blame?”, or “Those were Methodists, were are Free Methodists so it doesn’t count!”

The Metal Religion

Although it seems to have cooled off slightly in the last couple years, western culture seems to be obsessed with the pessimistic notion of the coming apocalypse. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of correlation or causation, can you blame them when the American church is, at its core, super-pessimistic? Seriously, all the preaching about redemption and hope from a loving God is meaningless when you immediately turn around and preach about the same God getting pissed off about basically everything and threatening to torture you forever for things you have no control over which He put in you in the first place.

All of this isn’t even something you’ll notice if you’re within the ideological framework, but if you stand back just a little bit and view it with outside eyes, then you might notice that the Christian worldview looks less like the love-centered philosophy we espouse and more like something out of a Metalocalypse episode.

Brutal.

This idea started to formulate itself when I was listening to Christian metal of all things. I have noticed from listening to Weathered Steel radio that a very large percentage of Christian metal revolves around the apocalyse or how society is breaking down and hating the Christian message. As much as I love the band, Impending Doom is probably at the forefront of this trend – Death Will Reign is my favourite album that they have put out, but nearly every song on it is just so pessimistic about the world’s future that I find myself having to enjoy it with a theological grain of salt.

Anyway, Christian metal has always seemed to occupy a bit of an odd slot within the Christian media industry. For one thing, it seems to be a fairly popular for a niche subgenre. It is also looked down upon by many in Christianity, who think that all things metal are purely evil. However, as you have probably figured out by now, I would argue that Christian metal might just be the most honest expression of the current Christian dogma here in North America.

Think about the worldview that our current dogma is portraying. Since most churches in North America have incorporated eschatology into our theology in the last hundred years, we have claimed with utmost sincerity that, as the world continues to advance, there will be violence. They preach about unavoidable future apocalyptic events which will wipe out the entire non-Christian population (in God’s great grace and mercy, no less) and bring about the destruction of the entire world. We preach hell as a literal place of fire and pain, where people are tortured for all of eternity with no relief, all because they didn’t choose to believe a specific ideology during their finite lifespan (or, even worse if you’re a Calvinist, because God decided that you weren’t worth saving). In addition, we believe that the vast majority of the total world’s population is heading directly to this fate (as a very conservative estimate, that’d be at least 50 billion people suffering forever), and yet we say that God is merciful because he decided that a handful of us fulfilled his requirements to be be exposed to His message and accept it. We preach that, because 2 people committed sin a long time ago, we are all naturally inclined towards committing evil and that society would collapse into an orgy of sex and violence if not for the presence of Christians guiding our moral compasses. We believe that an entire race of people has been decreed by God to be hell-bent on committing evil against His people, which causes us to be blissfully ignorant when “God’s people” commit human rights abuses against them. We preach believe that there are hideous, unseen, diabolical monsters surrounding us daily which are trying to lead us and society at large into destruction, and which battle with angelic forces on a constant basis.

Again, metal.

By the way, don’t get me wrong here – I’m not calling for heretical changes to Christianity or something like that. My point is to draw attention to just how pessimistic and gloomy Christianity has become in North America, and just how much this hurts our real cause to be a beacon to the world. The gospel is supposed to be the Good News, but as long as we are preaching about the sin and doom of godless men, then we’re probably not going to open up anyone’s eyes to this hope. The current Christian mindset and traditions need to change, because as it stands, we’re preaching a really ugly lifestyle.

Extraterrestrial Jesus

So in the past week, there has been quite a bit of excitement after the discovery of Kepler-452b (aka Earth 2.0) was announced. The most interesting discussion for me was Benjamin L. Corey’s response to Jeff Schweitzer’s claim that the existence of alien life would spell the end of religion. Ben refutes Schweitzer pretty comprehensively, so I’m not going to take too much time on that, but the topic did leave me absolutely fascinated with all the questions it would open up.

As Corey shows in his response, I think that Schweitzer’s main issue is that he picked the wrong proof to base his article around, mainly because he seems to believe that every Christian (and religious person for that matter) is a young earth creationist. This is already a rather poor “proof” to base a whole opinion around though, because it has already been long established that you can be Christian without taking the creation account literally. It’s also rather silly to insist that, because the Bible never mentions extraterrestrial life, then therefore the Bible is wrong if they are discovered. I assume the logic of this notion is that Schweitzer can’t understand why God would hide knowledge from us, but this just seems like a poor assumption to me. Considering that nearly everything in the Bible was written to, and about, a specific time, place and peoples, why the heck would they mention “oh yeah, by the way, there are aliens out there too. Have fun!”

While Schweitzer’s article is fundamentally flawed, that’s not to say that the topic is not entirely without merit. While I sincerely doubt that alien life will spell the end of religion, it would certainly cause a shift in some traditional dogma and cause a small percentage of religious people to abandon their faith. For example, young earth creationism would be dealt a major blow and would become even more of a joke than it already is (and yet, despite Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research stating that alien life is impossible within a creationist’s belief system, they will definitely change their tunes to save face). This, of course, doesn’t even take into account all the people who will ignore or deny these discoveries.

Personally, I think Schweitzer would have been far better served if he had tackled his thesis by asking theological questions about the impact alien life would have on religion, because I believe this is where peoples’ faith will be tested the most (since I understand it the best, I’ll focus on the impacts on Christianity in particular though). For example, if we discover an intelligent species, then are they capable of attaining salvation (aka, did Jesus die for the aliens too)? Or what if we discover an intelligent alien species which has very similar Christ-like narratives – would this mean that God’s son had to come and die multiple times for each species? And if not, then how much sense does it make for Jesus to only come to one life-bearing planet and leave all the others in the dark (this, of course, assumes that all of creation is sinful)? If all discovered species have animal-level intelligence, then can we just ignore them in terms of their theological impact? Will alien life debunk Christian dogma, or are our beliefs meant to be tied to humans and our planet only? Perhaps most dangerous is the following question that all Christians will have to ask themselves: am I just twisting my beliefs so that I don’t have to deny them?

In any case, I think that these sorts of theological/philosophical issues would be far more likely to lead people out of religion if we contact alien life, rather than any supposed “incompatibilities” with the Bible and extraterrestrial life. I do find it quite interesting though that, in the past 10-15 years, belief in alien life has gone from being a crackpot idea to a very plausible possibility (that said, believing that Earth has been visited by alien life is in a whole other league – there’s a big difference between probability and an unverifiable lack of concrete evidence). Of course, just like how these attitudes have adapted over time, the religious response will surely evolve and become more sophisticated as we inch closer and closer to the possibility of extraterrestrial contact. With any luck, Christianity will be progressive enough to be open to the possibility when the time comes and have the proper responses to deal with it.

Oh, but screw the young earth creationists. They’ve had it coming for a long time.

Translating Ideology

So the other day I had the horrifying idea of checking out what The Blaze thought about the gay marriage ruling a couple weeks ago in the United States. This was partially due to some unresolved thoughts that cropped up in my previous encounter with The Blaze, when one of their contributors claimed (extremely poorly) that Christians were obligated to support the death penalty. At the time, I had never head of The Blaze, but I was left under the impression from their “About Us” page that they were supposed to be non-partisan news source which was only concerned with “the truth”… which just so happens to be ultra-conservative American traditions. Uh oh.

Well, even with that in mind, my search ended up being even worse than I had expected. Page after page of outright hatred and doomsaying over something that isn’t going to affect the vast majority of the readership in the slightest… it’s like they don’t even realize that most other Western nations have allowed gay marriage for quite some time now without society breaking down into anarchy, or religious freedoms being adversely affected.

However, the worst article of them all, titled “Gay Marriage Still Doesn’t Exist, No Matter What the Supreme Court Says” by Matt Walsh, just left me absolutely dumbfounded. Here’s the link if you’re interested, but I’m not going to break it down point by point like I normally would, because that would give it too much credit. After reading this, I actually felt quite troubled for a long time, trying to process what I had read. Normally I would put out an impassioned rebuttal, refuting the idiocy on display. However, this time it was different. There is no nuance to this rant. It is either extreme ignorance at best, or pure, unadulterated, blind hatred. As a result, I can’t really address the content of the message, but rather the frameworks which make something this vile and pants-on-head-stupid possible.

First of all, this message is endorsed and given a voice on a freaking news site. Sure, the disclaimer at the bottom of the article claims that “TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author”, but c’mon – an article does not make its way onto a news source without getting approved through the editorial process, which effectively endorses the content whether they want to make it official or not. When they post up the article I’m going to write up about how 90% of Christians say they enjoyed gay sex when they tried it, then maybe I’ll start giving that disclaimer the benefit of the doubt.

Also, The Blaze hardly counts as “journalism”, but it has an audience and the pretenses of being a news source, so it gives this article way more legitimacy than it would have on the shit-slinging blog it would normally appear on. As of the time of this writing, Walsh’s article has gotten almost 100,000 shares, which is incredibly distressing. I imagine that a good portion of those are probably people making fun of the authour, but those shares are still exposing more people to this awful perspective and drawing more people to The Blaze.

Just as intended.

The most important factor in the creation of Walsh’s article though is ideology. This is actually why I can’t respond to the article directly, and why you either didn’t need me to break it down for you to understand why it was insane, or have no idea what I’m going on about right now. Walsh is so far ingrained into his own ideological framework (which seems to consist of ultra-conservatism, evangelicalism and/or fundamentalism, American nationalism and apparently the divine inspiration of the US constitution, among other things), that it becomes basically impossible to reason with him unless you share the same ideology. Obviously this can be applied to any ideology, including my own, but I would at least like to think that my own is based in rationality and logic, making it accessible to the majority of society to understand, and I try to hold my beliefs in some humility (rather than harping them as the concrete “TRUTH” as Walsh and The Blaze do).

With websites like The Blaze and Fox News catering to, and spreading, this sort of extreme ideology, the existence of articles such as this leaves me rather disturbed. I like to believe that my arguments can at least get through to someone, whether they agree with them or not (and that is ultimately up to them to decide of course). However, when faced with someone whose ideology is so different from my own that our respective thought processes and realities are basically night and day, I don’t know how to even respond. It’s like we speak entirely different languages, or aren’t even the same species.

For the sake of this argument, let’s say that this is what Matt Walsh looks like.

You probably encounter this conundrum all the time. For example, look at the conservative church’s ideology regarding Israel. They believe that the modern nation of Israel is God’s chosen people still and give them their support no matter the circumstances (which they generally don’t look into anyway). Furthermore, they view all Arabic states as Israel’s enemies, who mindlessly are drawn into attempting to destroy the nation in a battle of good vs evil. However, this ideological framework is incredibly dehumanizing towards the innocent Palestinians who get caught up in the conflict. It ignores all the flagrant human rights violations that Israel is committing (and in fact, our unwavering support for Israel empowers their ability to get away with it). It also makes it seem like conflict is inevitable, part of a conflict that has been going on endlessly for a thousand years, but this completely misses the modern roots of the conflict which stretch back to the era of colonialism and can be potentially defused in time. The extremely bitter sides of the abortion “debate” also can be boiled down into a conflict of ideology – one side views it as a human being at conception, others as a fetus.

As long as we stubbornly hold onto our ideologies and refuse to even consider anyone else’s perspectives, we’re going to continue to run into situations like these where we can’t engage in any meaningful dialogue. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s an easy solution to this issue: it takes time for people to change, so the only real solutions are to work on them with compassion, or ignore them. I’m hoping that, through education, we can someday see an end to hateful ideologies, such as those held by Matt Walsh and The Blaze… until then though, we’re going to have to bust out Google translate and try to get through to those whose thought processes are so radically divergent from our own.

Two Wrongs: The Desire to Repay Evil With Evil

So the other day I was on my lunch break and one of the people I sit with mentioned that an imprisoned child rapist was gang raped by 20 cell mates, stitched back up, and then had his stitches torn back up so he could be gang raped again. Just everything about this story left me horrified and disgusted, but I think I ended up even more disgusted when the person who told me the story said “Good, he got what he deserved.” When I replied that they didn’t deserve that, they replied that they should get worse, because they did the worst thing you can do. This was probably just a throw-away moment in her day, but it has stuck with me and left me really troubled for a number of reasons.

Look, I’m gonna make a controversial statement here: child rape is bad. However, that doesn’t mean that this guy deserved to be brutally gang raped. NO ONE deserves to get raped. It’s the whole reason why we consider it to be bad in the first place. And just because he violated this principle in such an awful way still doesn’t mean that he deserves to have his basic human decency taken away as well. I have a hard time wrapping my head around how a perfectly normal person can say that this was a good thing. I mean, I think that they probably aren’t really thinking about the implications of what they are saying, because if they are then that’s a really screwed up outlook on life. When I was younger and far more conservative, I might have agreed with their sentiments, but I didn’t even view criminals as real human beings in a sense, nor would I have actually examined what I was advocating. I mean, think about what you’re saying: you’re claiming that it is good for a person to be forcibly gang raped until they are left bloodied, and then thrown back to the wolves immediately after being given medical care to be gang raped again. You’re saying that it is good for someone to suffer so severely. You’re saying that it’s good to make a conscious decision to commit an act of brutality on someone in a really sadistic, torturous manner to maximize suffering.

Society does not get better by the principle of an eye-for-an-eye. Violence only breeds more violence. I’m obviously letting my own faith and sense of morality shine through here, but c’mon… there’s a reason why vigilantism is illegal, why revenge isn’t a free pass to commit crime and why religions have been drilling in the idea of forgiveness as the height of morality for millenia. Awful stuff like this doesn’t solve anything or fix the fact that a child was raped and killed. A proper legal system will determine the punishment this man should receive, and any retribution beyond that should be dealt with as if the man were totally innocent as far as I’m concerned. I’m extremely curious to see how this story would be received by feminists, Christians and especially Men’s Rights Activists (since one of their few valid goals is seeking the elimination of prison rape)… I might have to take this story to Reddit to get a general consensus, but my suspicion is that they will all be pretty evenly split between disgust and gleeful retribution, since this comes across more as a personal morality litmus test than a group signifier.

On another note, the victims’ reaction to the recent Charleston shooting has shown a really powerful example of how we should respond to injustice. When faced with the man who had killed their friends and families, a man who was fueled by pure hatred, they forgave him. Dealing out revenge may be cathartic, but it is ultimately shallow, selfish and doesn’t bring any real justice to the world. Repaying evil with mercy is a truly inspirational act and makes the world a better place, helping to undo some of the evil which was initially perpetrated. As David Wong put it so eloquently, the rape of a rapist doesn’t cancel the other out, it just means that there’s more rapes in the world, and ultimately means that “rape” wins. Just try to remember that the next time you feel wronged – you can get some temporary personal satisfaction, or you can make the world just a little bit nicer.

I know which one I’ll try to live out.

Christian Media Industries Part II: Movies & Video Games

So in my previous post on Christian media industries, I ended up covering a lot of ground and a lot of different facets of the subject. However, I unfortunately covered so much ground that I skimmed over some stuff that I wanted to mention when I first conceptualized that article, and before it ballooned out of my control and turned from an overview into my concerns with Christian media. I’ll probably turn this into a small series, I already have a Part III outlined that I would like to write about. So with that in mind, we’re going to dive back into the surprisingly interesting world of Christian media industries…

When I first sat down to write about Christian media, I had intended to dedicate a section each to both Christian movies and video games, but I ended up cutting this out because I had a bunch of other things I wanted to mention instead. Previously I had said that “many Christian artists actually want to reach out to the broader culture, but their message doesn’t get the needed reach” due to the insulated marketing of the Christian media. This principle doesn’t really seem to apply to Christian movies or video games for the most part – almost all of them seem to be completely and exclusively marketed towards the Christian audience. The reason for this should be pretty simple: even low-budget movies and video games are very likely going to be more expensive to produce than books or music. This means that the risks that the producers are taking on are going to be substantially more compared to other segments of the Christian media. Considering that they are already cutting down on their potential audience with their low production and marketing budgets and Christian themes, it makes basically no sense for producers to market to the general public, especially if they want to turn a profit. The Christian market is, after all, rather large and potentially quite lucrative.

Low budgets and basically non-existent marketing campaigns have proven to be a good strategy for the Christian movie and video game industry, since Christians have basically proven that they will buy anything, quality be damned, as long as it has a Christian label slapped on it. There’s a reason why even major studios, such as Fox, have their own Christian division (specifically, an evangelical-targeted division). Hell, even The Asylum (the most notoriously parasitic, profit-focused studio out there) has a Christian division, and it’s not because they’re trying to push their sense of morality on anyone – this is the same studio that creates “mockbusters” and softcore porn, because it’s the most efficient way for them to get money. It has been proven time and again that producers can choose to invest so little in a Christian movie that they are basically guaranteed to turn a small profit, because many Christians don’t seem to be very discerning about the quality of their media, as long as it has the “right” message (hence why utter shit like Bibleman is able to get made and get God knows how many sequels).

Video games have a more difficult time on this front though. Video games are hugely expensive to produce and tend to take huge teams to actually see them through. As a result, the ones that do exist are generally made by parasitic publishers who are just looking to make a quick buck off a low-quality game, or are made on shoe-string budgets by well-meaning (but potentially crazy) people who drown the product in an obtuse level of preachiness to justify the expense. They also tend to be really derivative: on the best end of the scale, you get Guitar Praise, which is basically Guitar Hero with Christian rock music, and on the worst end, you get stuff like Bible Adventures (I actually used to play this game in my childhood… all I really remember is that it controlled horrendously and the art is pretty awful for a NES game). Games that try to do something different, like Left Behind: Eternal Forces, are hamstrung by their low budgets and get plagued with technical issues (not to mention that Eternal Forces has been mired in controversy, even if its gameplay wasn’t a buggy mess). Luckily for Christian video game publishers, parents who buy Christian games tend to not be very discerning about the quality of the game, so many of these games are able to scrape back their budgets.

One thing that helps Christian movies to succeed (and also why there has been a growing trend over the past couple of years for there to be one or two “big” Christian movies receiving a wide release) is the concept of word of mouth. Street-level buzz is a key factor that basically every movie wants in order to get maximized profits, but Christian media has it built-in with weekly church gatherings. This is the reason why The Passion of the Christ was such a massive success, why studios can risk a large budget on a mildly-Christian blockbuster such as Evan Almighty or The Chronicles of Narnia* and why we’re seeing more and more movies like God’s Not Dead and Expelled (low budget, limited theatrical release movies aimed squarely at the Christian market) – churches basically provide free advertising whenever a Christian movie gets any sort of theatrical release. This follows the social marketing principle of influencers, where you get market to a few key members in a group, who will in turn market to a wider audience with far more effectiveness than a traditional advertising campaign could accomplish. This was demonstrated quite effectively when church pastors were calling on their congregations to go see The Passion of the Christ, or when Sunday school leaders were putting up posters for Evan Almighty or The Chronicles of Narnia (not to mention that a large number of churches are going to buy up copies of the movies for their libraries).

Aside from the costs involved, I would argue that the second biggest issue with Christian movies and video games is the lack of talent involved. Unlike Christian musicians, there is no system built in to most churches which fosters movie making or programming talent, so these kinds of artists will have to search elsewhere to develop. Furthermore, those who do have talent will likely be turned off of the Christian media industry anyway due to the very limited number of opportunities and the industry’s notoriously awful reputation. Any who do stick around will probably find their talents stifled by creative restriction, shoestring budgets and those with significantly less talent.

Even when there is a modicum of talent, there still tend to be some major issues which keep Christian movies from achieving any sort of mainstream recognition. I would argue that the Kendrick brothers are probably the most talented Christian filmmakers out there at the moment, but they still get poor-to-mixed reviews… and for good reason. They can shoot a movie quite professionally, but their films struggle in most other departments due to a lack of talent elsewhere. First of all, their films usually feature amateur actors, which is really problematic because all of their films are dramas – arguably the genre which depends the most on good acting to succeed. Secondly, their scripts tend to be weak, relying really heavily on cliche, tropes and literal “deus” ex machina to solve the conflicts, with basically no subtlety whatsoever. Most egregiously though, their movies are RIDICULOUSLY PREACHY. As one review stated about their film, Fireproof, it “stops becoming relatable to us all and only to the already, or easily, indoctrinated.” I remember that when I saw Facing the Giants I thought it was pretty good, but lamented that you could never show this to a non-believer because it was clearly made for the already-converted, preaching about how good God is to us in basically every scene. Hell, it honestly even becomes grating to those who already believe – I get it, already, do we have to grind the film to a halt every 5 minutes to remind us that God is where our strength comes from? Bloody hell, some subtlety would instantly take the Kendrick brothers to higher places.

As you can probably see, Christian movies and video games have the rawest deal in the Christian media industry. Christian books and music have an easier time succeeding due to the lower costs involved and the fact that the church itself helps to foster their development, but movies and video games are basically left to the desperate faithful trying to get out their message, or predatory studios looking to make a quick buck off the undiscerning masses. With the recent high-profile disaster that was the Left Behind remake stinking up theaters, I can’t see this trend changing any time soon, unfortunately… However, I do have some hope with the increasingly growing indie development scene potentially producing some great Christian media which doesn’t seek to pander to the evangelical market, but rather seeks to portray Christian themes and foster thoughtful spiritual dialogue. One can only hope at least.

*However, they water it down quite a bit so that it still appeals to the masses of course, but play up the Christian elements when marketing it to the church.

SHOULD Christians Support Capital Punishment?

This weekend, I stumbled upon a news article that absolutely floored me. It was called “Why Christians Can, And Should, Support the Death Penalty” by Mary Ramirez, and was posted on The Blaze in response to the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial verdict… bloody hell, I never expected that I would be writing so many damned posts on religion when I started this blog back up…

Look, I can understand why someone would potentially support the death penalty, so this isn’t intended to be a political critique. This is an issue that can cut across party lines (but tends to be more common amongst conservatives). Where I take issue with this article is that Ramirez claims that there is some sort of compelling evidence that makes it so that Christians should support the death penalty, which is just a baffling statement. Now obviously I don’t know Ramirez personally so I’m going to have to go off of some speculation, but I would argue that Ramirez’s political and cultural stance has definitely coloured her opinion on this issue, far more-so than any actual Biblical study.

First of all, she cites a single verse to claim that the Bible condones capital punishment, Romans 13:4:

“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (NIV)

It would seem pretty cut and dry if not for one problem – Paul is not Jesus, and the gospels themselves are pretty cut-and-dry on the issue of capital punishment. John 8:3-11 states that:

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Now, I am well aware of the textual issues of this passage, but I quite like a pair of justifications for it: that it was removed from the earliest copies of the gospels to avoid claims of condoning adultery (which I can totally see happening), or that it was a well-known event which was recorded elsewhere and added to the Gosepels at a later time. That said, even if it is not a part of the original passage, I have two rebuttals. The first is that it is consistent with Jesus’ other teachings (eg, Matthew 5, Matthew 7:1-3, Matthew 22:36-40). Secondly, its original “authenticity” should irrelevant to a Biblical literalist, since they believe that the Bible was basically written by God and is inerrant and without contradiction (in case my tone hasn’t given it away, I am not a literalist myself).

This leaves us with Jesus making one definitive statement while Paul makes another, so what should we make of it? Well, I would look at it thusly: Jesus’ commands supersede Paul’s. Paul’s writings are still important obviously, but he still boils down to a major evangelist interpreting the gospels and preaching them to people. This also can go some way to explaining some of the problematic or outright false statements in Paul’s gospels*. For example, read the rest of Romans 13 and you’ll see what I mean. Are we supposed to believe that the Taliban or ISIS are God’s servants because they have been put in a place of authority? Are we wrong to call out government programs, such as apartheid, unjust since Paul says that only wrong-doers need fear the government? Is state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing an acceptable use of the government’s power? Obviously the answer to all of these is no, which flies in the face of what Paul’s actual writing says if you’re a literalist.

That said, you don’t have to throw out this verse by any means – with the context of John 8:3-11 in place, Romans 13:4 suddenly changes from a command to support capital punishment to an endorsement of separation of church and state. It is within the state’s abilities to perform capital punishment, but it is not the place for a Christian to partake in it.

Anyway, moving on to Ramirez’s second point, she decides to focus in on the literal meaning of the commandment “thou shalt not commit murder”. I’m honestly not entirely sure why she does this, because it doesn’t seem to support her argument all that well, but I’ll go with it for now. It seems to me she’s trying to justify capital punishment by saying that the Bible doesn’t count it as murder, because the commandment against murder applies to unjust and unlawful killing only. This… is a strange argument, to put it lightly. For one thing, it feels like a regression on her previous point (and my arguments regarding that point have basically already refuted this point as well, so the more I talk about it, the more time I feel that I’m wasting). This just feels like someone grasping for a technicality to try to justify their own position, as follows:

Premise 1: The Bible commands that “thou shalt not commit murder”.
Premise 2: Murder refers to an unlawful and malicious act.
Conclusions: It is permissible for the government to perform capital punishment.

As you can probably see, this is a rather shaky argument and one that could easily get knocked down (eg, sure, maybe it doesn’t count as murder, but does that mean it’s still okay for the state to kill people? When it is permissible?). In any case, it feels redundant even giving time to this point.

Finally, Ramirez addresses a third point, the defence of society. You’ll probably notice that this isn’t a “Christian” argument, it’s a political/personal one. Now this is fine normally, but for an article that’s supposed to offer Christian reasons why to support the death penalty (and is doing a fantastically poor job of convincing me), this is an out of place point and simply illustrates that she is shockingly lacking in evidence for her actual point. Again though, let’s just go with this one in any case. She starts her argument referring to a movie where someone overcomes conscientious objection in WWI, arguing that the need to defend their loved ones supersedes their convictions regarding killing. This is a fair enough point honestly, and one which I am not sure where I lie: as much as I like Benjamin L. Corey, I have trouble getting entirely on board the Christian pacifist train, despite largely agreeing on a philosophical level.

However, this point is rendered moot when Ramirez throws down the most outrageous sentence in the whole article:

“Did you ever stop to think about how ending the life of a monster like Tsarnaev is an act of self defense?”

This is just an insane mischaracterization for so many reasons. Most importantly, it is comparing two things incorrectly. If she was comparing conscientious objection to a police officer having to shoot someone who is actually an active danger to the public, then that would be one thing (in fact, this can be applied to Tsarnaev’s brother without a second thought). However, Tsarnaev himself is in custody and would have faced a lifetime in prison if he hadn’t been handed the death penalty – put simply, he isn’t going to hurt anybody anymore (and in fact, he’s probably going to get the shit kicked out of him by the other prisoners). Strictly speaking, it doesn’t matter whether Tsarnaev gets the death penalty or life in prison, because in both cases, as long as he serves his sentence, then that it justice. Considering that Tsarnaev isn’t a danger to the public, a Christian should hope that his death penalty sentence will be overturned and he will instead get life in prison.

There are a few very practical reasons why a life sentence is preferable to death. First of all, from the Christian perspective, it would be pretty reprehensible to take someone’s life without allowing them to attain salvation. On a related point is that so many years pass between the sentence and the execution that people generally have changed significantly. I’m not saying that they should be released by any means, but what are the chances that in ten years, Tsarnaev will understand the enormity and evil of his actions? Having someone who can speak out about extremism and delusion is far more valuable than eliminating them outright. That brings us to our next practical reason why not to execute prisoners, and that is that Tsarnaev will become a martyr to the cause. This has happened time and time again, and you could argue pretty convincingly that this is what Tsarnaev wants right now – which, again, is reason enough to deny it and work at reforming him. Also worth considering is the costs: many people think it’s too expensive to keep prisoners locked up, but it’s nothing compared to the cost of executing a prisoner, due to the necessity of the appeals process. And why is the appeals process necessary? Because of my last point, because innocent people have been executed in the past. Obviously Tsarnaev isn’t one of them, but in a more general sense, people have been sentence to death unjustly. I know that the existence of people executed unjustly flies in the face of Romans 13, but trust me on this one – in principle, the state should not end lives on the presumption that anyone can be exonerated if evidence of their innocent exists.

After all of that though, I have to say this: Mary Ramirez is more than entitled to support the death penalty. I myself supported the death penalty when I was in high school, which was probably the most devout period of my life up until this past year. However, my support of the idea at the time did not come from my faith, it came from my political principles at the time. However, if you support the death penalty then that’s one thing, but if you’re going to try to use the Bible to justify it and to claim that all Christians should do so as well, then you’ll need to do MUCH better than this.

*Paul’s epistles tend to be rooted very specifically in a time and place, but this conflicts often with “modern sensibilities” (slavery, feminism, etc). It was a reality at the time that slavery was a thing, that men were the uncontested heads of the household and that capital punishment was a common punishment for damn near anything. However, considering that times have changed and that these (amongst any other issues in Paul) are no longer everyday realities, can we argue that, for example, women are required to submit to their husbands or cannot lead a church congregation? I would argue that no, they do not – Paul’s letters were intended to teach the people of the day in the climate of the day, so interpretation is far more necessary than in other sections of the Bible.

Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You Know What

So if you live in Ontario like me, then you have probably heard that there’s a bit of a kerfuffle regarding Kathleen Wynne’s sex ed curriculum, with social conservatives/religious folk going mildly insane (to put it lightly). My parents have said that if this curriculum was in place when my brothers and I were going through school, they would have home schooled us instead of putting us through the public school system. However, as much as I dislike Kathleen Wynne, I actually think that there’s a lot of fuss being put up unreasonably here. Don’t get me wrong – coming from a socially conservative background, I can understand why a subset of people are freaking out about this, but I believe that the amount of things that they would find objectionable are significantly less than they would expect (in case you didn’t notice, there is A LOT of ridiculous misinformation and hyperbole being passed around conservative political circles to try to create a public outcry out of sheer ignorance).

Let’s go through some of the more “controversial” aspects of the curriculum. First off, is the fact that the curriculum starts in Grade 1 (ages 6-7). This might seem a little early to some people, but it’s not like they’re actually learning about where to stick their naughty bits. Is it so horrifying for children to learn the proper names for their genitals? I don’t see a problem with this at all. I think in Grade 1 I was tittering like a madman whenever someone mentioned a “pee-pee” and quite embarrassingly didn’t realize that “boobs” were not the same thing as “nipples”, leading to me to idiotically claim that some other kid was showing off his boobs. Boobs-aside, I was basically 100% ignorant about what made girls different at this time, but having children be aware of these sorts of things is hardly going to destroy their innocence. If anything, it’ll be good to pave future groundwork, hence why they’re starting the very, VERY basics so early. If nothing else, it’ll make for the funniest day of class for a first grader.

After that, I can’t really see anything else that’s potentially objectionable until Grade 6 (ages 11-12) and Grade 8 (ages 13-14), where they bring in the idea of gender identity and sexual orientation. Now I personally do not see the issue with this, there are some that will argue that the intent here is to cause kids to become more open to homosexuality and trans-gender people and view it as something “normal” and “natural”. And you know what… as a Christian man, I say FREAKING GOOD. I’m obviously intimately aware of how difficult the subject of homosexuality is in the church (and for good reason, let’s admit), but the general consensus at the moment in the evangelical church seems to be “love the sinner, hate the sin”. However, the historical approach to homosexuality has shown anything BUT love to these people. What Christians have shown is centuries of exclusion, belittlement, ignorance, outright hatred and violence towards homosexuals. Children have been forced out of their homes for being gay, lost friends, have been kicked out of communities, have committed suicide, have faced barrages of insults, have suffered with AIDS while the government ignored them (“because it was just a disease that affected the fags, so good riddance”), etc. If this can be stopped, then bring it the hell on as far as I’m concerned, and maybe we’ll start seeing less disproportionate vitriol thrown towards these “sinners”. Not saying that the church will/should suddenly become a-ok with homosexuality or start performing gay marriages, but we at least should give them equal treatment and avoid discrimination and judgement… y’know, like our religion instructs us to do.

Furthermore, homosexuality and gender identity IS A THING THAT EXISTS, as much as some people may want to ignore it and regardless of the causes. If anything, Grade 6 might be too late to bring this topic up, since many people who identify as homosexual claim that they knew it at a young age, and the other kids were definitely calling each other “fags” long before this… In any case, it’s obviously a topic that has to be raised at some point, and pretending it doesn’t exist or isn’t something natural (which it is, like it or not*) isn’t going to make it go away or help your children when they encounter it for themselves… or, God forbid, identify as queer in a religious family.

Grade 6 also brings in the concept of masturbation, a very… er… touchy subject for the religious folk. For one thing, it happens to be something that kids are going to be encountering around this timeframe, and considering that almost every man (and a great deal of women as well) does it, it’s kind of hard to call it something “unnatural” (and that’s not even mentioning the damn, dirty apes). It’s also worth noting that it’s a rather grey area in Christianity at least: it isn’t considered an inherently sinful thing, but the argument is that it is straddling about a half dozen other sins, so it’s best to avoid it. Some people, like my parents, believe that this curriculum teaches children to masturbate, but that’s not really the intent – like I said, many kids are already going to be starting this practice by this time, so it’s more meant to come across as “yeah, you’re not crazy for doing this, basically everyone does”. As for whether kids are going to start because of this… well, that’ll be up to the kids I suppose, but there’s a good chance that they already have heard about it by this point. If you don’t want your kids doing it, be sure to shame them for it early so that they’ll feel awful about it for the rest of their lives when they inevitably start doing it.

Anyway, moving on. In my opinion, one of the more ridiculous controversies is how, in Grade 7 (ages 12-13), students are taught about oral and anal sex. Well let’s get this out of the way first – they already teach this in the current Grade 7 curriculum if I remember correctly (or, at the very least, my class was taught about it). In addition, kids are probably already aware of these concepts by the time they hit the 7th grade. Again, I grew up in a sheltered home and I was still at least dimly aware of both of these concepts, even if I didn’t understand why someone would want to do either (and I’m sure my classmates were far more familiar than I was). It’s not like this is a new idea they were implanting in our heads. With access to the Internet, kids are going to come across these ideas earlier and earlier, so it’s important to educate them at a realistic time period. Finally, the curriculum DOES NOT ADVOCATE ANAL SEX. My parents are in an uproar about them teaching the butt-stuff because they view it as an abomination and figure they’re trying to get kids to try it out. However, the curriculum explicitly states not to do either of these activities because they can give you an STI. I believe that by Grade 7 I had heard the old jokes about how “Catholic girls do it in the ass”, and that is a stereotype in the first place because girls try to avoid getting pregnant, losing their virginity (because it only counts if it’s vaginal apparently…?) and/or getting an STI. Letting them know that they can still get an STI is probably going to help to discourage some people from trying it out. Similarly to masturbation, anal and oral sex are things which exist, and science can’t determine if anal sex is going to make God angry. If you want to bring the your own moral compass into it, then supplement your childrens’ education with your own teachings when they get home.

Anyway, moving on again. In Grade 8, students “analyze the benefits and risks of relationships involving different degrees of sexual intimacy”. I can definitely hear my parents saying that this is encouraging kids to have sex, but I’m not so sure I agree. If anything, it’s being realistic and getting kids to make an informed decision, because I good deal of them are likely going to do it anyway within the next few years, no matter what they have been brought up to believe (for reference, I am aware that at least a half to two-thirds of the professing Christians I grew up with had sex in high school without a regret, despite all of them having been taught by the church and their parents as well likely not to do so). Being aware of the risks may not get them to abstain, but at least they’ll be aware of exactly what they’re getting into if they do decide to go forward with it.

However, there are also some positive elements that those who decry the curriculum fail to acknowledge. First off, starting the curriculum so early will actually help to prevent child sexual assault. In many cases, exploited children are unaware of what constitutes exploitative behaviours and so they go unreported. For my own part, we were simply told not to talk to strangers, but we had no idea why or what they were trying to protect us from. I easily could have gotten abused and not realized it. Leaving it at “don’t talk to strangers” also ignores the fact that the vast majority of molestations are committed by family members or their friends.

The Grade 3 curriculum is pretty realistic. I can remember pretty clearly quite a few kids “going out” at this time, so best to get those under control so they’ll start to get the groundwork for more realistic future relationships. Developing safety guidelines for Internet use is also extremely critical, and would hopefully be supplemented by parental discussion. Grade 4 (and Grade 9) is pretty similar in that regard – kids seem to be getting cell phones earlier and earlier, so sexts and snapchatting and various other things will need addressing, PRONTO.

People also seem to be missing one of the overall messages of the curriculum – it recommends not having sex until you are physically and emotionally ready (be that in marriage or whenever, that’s up to the individual, as it should be). Holy shit, are you telling me that this evil curriculum co-written by Satan himself and contracted by a diabolical lesbian who is hell-bent on transforming our children into lustful paedo-orgy machines actually teaches kids not to have sex? Conspiracy! Furthermore, the emphasis on consent is EXTREMELY important in a day and age where “rape culture” is becoming more and more visible, and will probably result in less sex as well. Identifying STIs is pretty important as well, I think we might have gotten 1 day of that in sex-ed back in grade 7 or 8, and I can’t remember a single thing from it. I couldn’t tell you what any STI looks like, let alone specify them.

The high school curriculum is quite good as well. I had about 2 days of sex-ed in high school, in grade 10, and only because I took phys-ed after it became an elective (most people ditch it after grade 9). 1 year of sex-ed, when a lot of people are already engaging in sexual activity and when some of them are going to be giving birth or freaking married in a few years, is woefully inadequate. Even if you are against having your kids having sex in high school, this stuff is still extremely applicable for later in their lives to help them make healthy choices and relationships, and will probably make their marriages more fulfilling.

Beyond all of this though is the major issue of growing up in a world where the Internet has always been a thing. Kids are now getting more access to sexually explicit material and misconceptions at a younger and younger age, making frank, honest, realistic education absolutely crucial. Sure, perhaps you happen to be an amazing parent, but so many children won’t get the necessary information at home, and if we keep the current system then we’ll only continue to churn out children who think that “donkey punching” or yelling “fuck her in the pussy” on live television is hilarious, who joke about rape and sexual assault, and who don’t even have the presence of mind to realize that pressuring someone into sex is wrong.

I’m going to have to put some special grilling towards the Campaign Life Coalition as well, since they’re one of the main organizations protesting the curriculum changes… and because they’re batshit insane. The hypocracy of CLC (a pro-life organization) protesting these changes is that they will probably LOWER the number of abortions compared to an abstinence-focused curriculum. Educate kids on their bodies, encourage them to make healthy choices and provide them with contraceptives, and suddenly teenage pregnancy rates drop significantly, reducing the need for abortions. Of course, CLC is obviously more of an ideological mouthpiece rather than an issue-focused organization, so this should hardly be surprising (their website is also good for a laugh with their extremely one-sided insanity).

CLC’s delusions about kids in Grade 7 still being sweet and innocent is so ridiculous that I have to go on my own little mini-rant about it. As they get further from kindergarten, kids become less “innocent little angels” to more “dirty little bastards” in my experience. Most boys are introduced to pornography when they’re around 8-12 years old, and while I was super sheltered as I have mentioned, one of my brothers and I actually fit into this one like a glove (I was 11 or 12, and he was a year younger). I had an abusive prick of a friend who invited both of us over one night, and we were hanging out when he mentioned that his sister had a porno tape. We didn’t really believe him, nor did we really want to find out if it was true, but he threw it on anyway and… well, yeah… I was too young and too sheltered to get any sort of enjoyment out of it, and it was probably mildly traumatic for me at the time. Many kids stick with it from that time onwards though – I can remember another group of friends when I was 13 or 14 talking about their favourite types of pornos (I distinctly remember one saying they blindfolded a guy and then hid a drop of honey on a naked woman, and he had to find it with his tongue). Maybe I just had really screwed up friends, but it kind of shows the sorts of things you probably weren’t aware that your kids were aware of… and c’mon, if we ditch this curriculum, then are we really going to be stupid enough to leave our childrens’ sexual education up to freaking pornography?

To summarize things, I believe that enlightenment is far preferable to so-called “blissful ignorance”. Taking kids out of this environment might make them accept their parents’ ideology… for a time. I know that for myself, discovering that an authority has held information back from you for no real benefit to yourself makes you want to look into the stuff that was withheld from you. My advice to parents protesting these changes: put your children through it, but be sure to talk with your damned kid about the things you disagree with, because they’ll probably agree with you until they’re old enough to make up their own minds about it. Teachers can influence their development of course, but a parent’s advice almost always holds major sway. Treat it kind of like how Evangelical parents treat evolution already and I imagine the results will be pretty similar. I went through science classes but always rejected evolution because I had been previously taught that it was incompatible with my faith. However, over time, I reexamined the relationship between science and religion, explored other theological ideologies outside of conservative evangelicalism and came to my own decisions about how that all works. That said, many others stick with their initial beliefs, but at least they make their own decisions in the end. If nothing else, I’m sure they’ll appreciate the knowledge gained later in life when they find themselves entering into relationships – whether you approve of them or not.

*And by this I mean that homosexuality/transsexuality isn’t exactly something that people choose, it’s something they’re either born into or develop over time (science seems to be still uncertain of the exact causes). Considering that it happens in nature is a further support that it is something which occurs naturally. Whether you believe that homosexuality only exists because of sin, I don’t think you can make a really convincing argument that it is something which is unnatural (in our modern world at the VERY least).

Christian Media Industry

I consider this blog to be one largely about current events and popular culture, but occasionally I like to write about religion (or, let’s be honest, Christianity). Don’t worry – I’m not going to use this blog to try to shove the Bible down anyone’s throats, because I know that I HATE getting preached to. In fact, today’s post isn’t so much about the Christian religion itself, as it is about the chaff that surrounds the Christian community. I have touched on my thoughts on the Christian music industry in the past with my post on Ozzy Osbourne, but this post will expand on that to cover my thoughts on the entire Christian media industry.

First, I’ll lay a little groundwork on how businesses can compete with each other, to provide a context for what the Christian industry is and how it operates. The most visible and familiar kind of business is the one which is directed at the mass audience. This category would include stores like Wal-Mart (easily the best exemplar of this principle), major blockbuster films, pop musicians, etc. These kinds of businesses tend to have high overheads, but because their appeal is so wide, the potential for profit can be extremely high if they can capture that mass audience. This also means that their services and marketing will be tailored towards the lowest common denominator.

Attempting to compete with a mass market provider means that you’re going to have to go all-out, because if you can’t offer service as well as your competition, then you’re going to get left in the dust. The obvious example here is the mom-and-pop stores that Wal-Mart just annihilates when it moves into an area. However, it also applies to other big chains, such as Blockbuster. Another great example of this is Target, which recently was involved in a sudden and high-profile bankruptcy in Canada. They made an aggressive expansion into the country, opening around 150 locations and spending billions to get a major foothold. However, this was still not enough to allow it to compete with the Wal-Marts and other retail chains present in the country (not to mention that their service here was distinctly worse).

So what is a small business supposed to do to try to compete with the Wal-Marts of the world? The solution to this problem is actually quite simple and becoming increasingly popular: ignore the mass market, and focus all your efforts on marketing to a niche audience and foster brand loyalty. Some good examples of this philosophy would be vinyl record or health food stores, metal bands, low budget horror movies, etc. The thought process behind this approach is that there are a practically unlimited number of niches out there which the mass market cannot cater towards, so by providing their specialized service, they basically eliminate the need to compete with the mass marketers. In addition, there is a smaller overhead compared to the mass marketers, the individuals in the audience will typically spend more money than the individuals in a mass audience, and it increases the likelihood of repeat purchases and brand loyalty.

In case it wasn’t obvious, the Christian entertainment industries are in the niche market category and live or die by these principles. This can probably best be evidenced by how the money spent on Christian media seems to be tied into their rate of success (in order of their prominence, Christian media is dominated first by books/magazines, then music, then movies and finally video games being by far the weakest of the lot). This highlights the first issue I have with Christian media, and that’s the ethics of it. One of the more famous passages in the gospels is when Jesus comes to the Jewish temple and sees people selling sacrifices and creating booths for money changers (people who exchange currency basically, and who almost certainly would have been charging for this service). He drives them out in anger, claiming that they have turned God’s residence into a den of robbers. I’m torn on this particular issue. At its basis, the Christian media industry is either commodifying worship and teaching, or it is cynically preying on Christians’ beliefs to sell a product that wouldn’t be able to stand on its own otherwise. However, at the same time, this is how our society works. If we did not pay Christian artists for their work, then they wouldn’t be able to make a living (and for most Christian artists, it’s a modest living at that)… with that in mind, I think the bigger ethical issue is the use of the “Christian” label in the use of marketing them, especially when it is used in a particularly cynical manner. While there are obviously a lot of people within the industry who are actually looking to enrich the Christian faith, I think it’s fair enough to state that the primary drive of the Christian industry is to market products and make money.

Also, before I go any further, I really want to stress that I am by no means making a blanket statement that artists in the Christian industry suck or are worse than the mainstream media (except for the Christian film and video game industries, which just plain suck in general due to a lack of funding and talent, or because they are produced by “Christian” subsidiaries of major companies in order to make a quick and cynical buck). There are many who are extremely talented, but whose lyrical/writing focus does not appeal to a mass market, or because they have been trapped in the Christian label (which I will also cover soon). I should also mention that I believe that Christians probably have a disproportionately high number of talented musicians and singers, because the church system tends to foster and provide access these talents due to choirs, youth bands, worship services, etc. In contrast, someone growing up outside the church would have to find these talents through school, extra-curricular activities and adult encouragement – obviously not impossible by any means, but there’s just less access and fostering.

While the niche market approach may be what is keeping the Christian industry alive, it is also a major weakness in many ways. Probably the most obvious reason is because many Christian artists actually want to reach out to the broader culture, but their message doesn’t get the needed reach. This is because of prejudice towards Christian media in general, but also because the Christian industry only really caters towards the Christian market, leaving any further promotion for the aritsts to deal with themselves, or for the consumers to create word-of-mouth. In Christian music especially, when an artist does cross over into the mainstream, the Christian label continues to haunt them. Anberlin, Switchfoot, P.O.D. (especially), and countless other bands that have crossed over have been stuck forever with the label of “Christian” rock, which always remains a part of the dialogue surrounding them. As I Lay Dying has perhaps the most extreme example of this problem, as their lead singer, Tim Lambesis, ended up slowly finding himself renouncing Christianity. However, he was the head of a Christian band during this whole process, and he couldn’t exactly turn away from his Christian audience, or he would lose a huge portion of his audience. He ended up sticking around and pretending to still be devout, until he tried to have his wife killed, at which point all of this came to light. Of course, this led to the inevitable retroactive questions of “Can we really consider As I Lay Dying to be Christian anymore?”, even though Lambesis was the only member who had recanted.

Moving beyond these thoughts and onto more personal concerns, I have been wondering recently why it seems like the Christian industry seems to cater towards conservative Evangelicalism*. This should seem quite strange, since Catholicism remains the largest Christian denomination worldwide, with an estimated 1.2 billion adherents. I have come up with a few probable explanations to this question. For one thing, the USA is a cultural juggernaut and is the source of most of the Christian media. Of course, socially conservative Protestantism is the majority in the States, and so the producers will naturally cater towards their own understanding of Christianity (hell, as someone who grew up in an Evangelical church, I wouldn’t even be surprised if many of them were only dimly aware of other Christian traditions, or didn’t bother to acknowledge them with any legitimacy). Beyond that though, the majority of Catholics are based in Latin America and Africa, and which don’t tend to be priority markets. Another possible explanation is that the Christian media industries’ emergence as something distinct from the rest of culture correlates with the rise of Christian revival movements in the 60s-80s, such as the so-called “Moral Majority”, and the growing political power of right-wing evangelicals starting in the Reagan era. Naturally, this sudden surge to prominence and growing political important would require the market to cater towards them, and for the artists amongst them to express their faith to others.

It seems to me though that it makes sense for the Christian industry to market towards the social Evangelicals from a purely-economic mindset. A socially conservative Christian is more likely to consume Christian media, since they will be more opposed to mainstream culture than a mainline, Progressive or a Catholic. This, unfortunately, creates a bit of an evangelical monopoly in Christian popular culture though, which can have some serious problems… I can’t be the only person who grew up in an Evangelical church, consuming their media, and believing that they were the only ones who were doing things the “proper” way.

If it wasn’t obvious, this virtual monopoly means that, in North America at least, the conservative evangelicals control most of the dialogue on what is and isn’t “Christian”. It scares me when this gets applied to platforms like RightNow Media, which is obviously seeking to be the Netflix of the Christian media industry. If it succeeds in this regard, then the market will become even more monopolized. What are they going to allow/disallow as the gatekeepers of this content? Are they going to decide that it’s only “Christian” to teach young-earth creationism and leave no room for alternate interpretations (and then suffer the inevitable backlash from conservative evangelicals boycotting them if they do not)? Do they let people on who promote Islamophobia in the name of Christianity? Where is the cut-off line, and how is it determined? This isn’t just me seeing

When I was attempting to write my first novel**, I really had to sit down and decide if I was going to market myself towards the Christian industry or if I would risk going for something more mainstream. In the end, I figured I had a better chance of success if I went for the Christian market, but this affected the writing process somewhat: I had to exercise some self-censorship, mostly in regards to swearing and throwing in some arbitrary Bible allusions. The funny thing though is that either way, I’m still a Christian who wrote a book, so isn’t it more than a little arbitrary that it’s only considered a “Christian” work if I submit myself to the market gatekeepers’ standards?

…and as great as that last paragraph would have been to end this one, I can’t write about the Christian media industry without spewing vitrol about perhaps the most cynical corner of it: the prophecy industry. Christian bookstores dedicate multiple shelves to hundreds of books claiming to interpret the many vague prophies in the Bible, predicting what is going to happen in the “end times” and how current events tie into this. Spoiler alert: they’re all routinely bullshit. The people who write these books tend to be either misguided/short-sighted Bible scholars, cynics looking to make easy money by saying whatever they want to without having to have any accountability if it ends up being false, or people who are literally as insane as your average conspiracy theorist.

Let’s get this out of the way: it is frankly idiotic to assume that the so-called “end times” will occur in our lifetime. EVERY generation since the birth of Christianity has believed that they were the ones who were going to be present for Jesus’ return. I think that the Christians being slain by the Roman Emperors, Martin Luther going to war with the Catholic Church, the troops witnessing the horrors of the first and second World Wars and the even the people living under the threat of nuclear annihilation all had better claims to support this assumption than this generation, and yet it is the Christians living in a rich country with practically no Christian persecution who are screaming the loudest that their time is finally coming. It’s little more than human arrogance to believe that the “story” is going to end with us, and thereby contextualize the entire Bible according to our current and limited understanding of the world. For example, at some point during the Cold War, someone decided that the Bible was prophecizing that Russia and Iran would attack Israel based on a reference to a pair of “northern nations” who would do so in Ezekiel and Revelations… oh and what do you know, Russia and Iran happened to be our enemies at the time! With all of the evils that ISIS has been perpetrating for the last year, there is also a renewed sense of Islamophobia which is increasingly being worked into end times narratives (despite the fact that ISIS has been targeting its Muslim neighbours almost exclusively… in fact, I would bet that Israel is actually helping to fund ISIS to attack its enemies).

Anyway, to tie this back into the main thesis of this post, the prophecy industry only is able to exist and shill its toxic bullshit because of the economic realities of the Christian media industry. As a Christian, I enjoy quite a few aspects of the industry (many of my favourite bands are, or were, a part of it, and I quite like some of the authours within it), but I am left conflicted and concerned by the many ethical and ideological issues that plague it. Unfortunately I don’t have the answers to these issues, aside from a hope for some gradual cultural shifts… but I sure as hell can complain in the meantime.

*This is based on personal observation, so this might be just personal biases, but I am confident that this is the case. In general, Christian media will be ambiguously non-denominational, but when a denominational bias is intentionally put forth, it seems that the conservative Evangelical position is the most represented of the lot across all media.

**I never finished it, unfortunately. I got almost 40,000 words in before I grew really dissatisfied with it and shelved it. It was a post-apocalyptic road trip story about four people travelling west across the desolation left in the wake of a nuclear war, with the intent of making it more realistic than your average apocalyptic story. It was very much a therapeutic exercise for me at that point in time, dealing with how to love somebody, communism and some abstract religious philosophy. I started conceptualizing it in November 2010, but by the time I got writing it, post-apocalypse stories were already a really tired genre (and a post-apocalyptic road trip was already very much a thing with The Road). Plus, it was a really serious story, and I don’t really think I write “seriously” well enough. In addition, The Last of Us basically did the best post-apocalyptic road trip story I’ve seen, and covered a lot of the themes I was exploring as well, so the basis of the idea has more-or-less been done better than I could have. Finally, and probably most importantly, the personal issues I was tackling at the time have been resolved for quite some time now, so it just doesn’t feel relevant to me anymore. Who knows, maybe I’ll revisit the incomplete manuscript someday and give it a huge overhaul, but for now I’m going to focus on my efforts elsewhere.

Back From the Dead 2: Electric Boogaloo

I’d like to mention a couple other rather major changes that have happened over the last year that I neglected to mention in the previous post, but that I feel are worth mentioning. I was originally going to make this a small post, but it kind of ran away on me so I guess this is what you get for now. Enjoy it.

First of all, my music tastes have been refined a bit more. Work has allowed me to truly discover the joys of internet radio – no longer am I stuck choosing to listen to 3 classic rock stations, 5 pop stations or 1 country station. Now, I can finally listen to my actual interests, namely metal. I really should have sought out internet radio long before now, but… well, eh, whatever. Some of the bands this has introduced me to include A Feast for Kings (I really hope they can recover after the tragic death of their lead singer, because their debut EP was incredible), Impending Doom (if you have a single brutal bone in your body, you owe it to yourself to check out There Will Be Violence, Baptized in Filth and Death Will Reign), Sleeping Romance (kind of like Evanescence, but with more metal and far less angst) and My Heart to Fear (I’m only starting to get into them, but if nothing else then check out “The Sneaking Chair”).

My tastes have also started to shift slightly towards electronic music. This is largely thanks to the Hotline Miami games and John Wick, which have showed me that shooting people looks really freaking cool when you do it to a backdrop of electronic music. It’s not a genre that I’m a huge fan of still, but I can see that potentially changing in the future as I dabble with it. I have already used some of this influence for a Stormrunners compilation video – normally I’d do a straight-up hard rock or metal song to back it, but this time I decided to use an electronic-metal remix of Love & Death’s “Paralyzed” that I realized would be awesome for the task. I’m pretty impressed with the result, so we’ll see where this goes in the future. I was also working on an electronic album a couple years ago that I shelved, but I was actually listening to it again the other day and quite liked what I heard still. This new-found interest might make that album see the light of day after all… 😉

Oh, and on the subject of music, I’d feel awful if I forgot to mention P.O.D.’s The SoCal Sessions. I first saw them advertising this thing as a crowdfunded effort on PledgeMusic. As I have said before, they have been one of my favourite bands for more than a decade now, but I was hesitant about this one: an all-acoustic album where they cover some of their older songs. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t entirely on-board with this when I heard about it. For one thing, they already kind of did this with a live album called the Rhapsody Sessions, which was one of their more boring efforts IMHO. Furthermore, they had already tried a more acoustic sound on When Angels & Serpents Dance, which was a decent album, but felt like they completely ditched their heavy sound to the album’s detriment. The fact that Murdered Love went back to their heavy sound suggested to me that the band was trying to get back to their roots rather than following deviations. So basically, these potential issues were making me hesitant, but I pledged and more or less forgot about the album for months. However, I got a package in the mail a few weeks ago which surprised me, until I opened it and saw some really evocative album art with P.O.D.: The SoCal Sessions emblazoned upon it. I threw it in my computer and my worries about it being a lazy cash grab were blown away from the first song. This album is actually, to my great surprise, really good. Sonny nails it on the vocals, the song selection is excellent and very diverse, and some songs are actually improved by the acoustic transition. In particular, “Panic & Run” has to be one of my least favourite P.O.D. songs, but the acoustic transition takes it from an unfocused, too-fast hard rock song to an apocalyptic reggae track. The band’s reggae influences get played up even more, which is awesome as far as I’m concerned. In fact, the only track I’m not keen on is “Will You”, but that’s mainly because it is the only one that sounds like a “generic” acoustic version of a heavier song. Luckily, the other tracks are adapted far more interestingly.

Anyway, enough about music that probably only I care about, and onto something else that only I care about: theology (I’ll keep this one brief, I swear… if you can’t stand religious talk though, then skip ahead two paragraphs)! I think I have mentioned on the blog before that I am a Christian and grew up in a rather conservative, Evangelical family. However, around 6 or 7 years ago I began to feel paralyzed in my faith and was having trouble reconciling what I believed, what I had been taught, and the increasingly apparent politics of the Evangelical church. Things got worse when I went off to university as the Christian group I was with was pushing on me hard to evangelize to anyone I got a chance to. There was one particular question they were also pushing hard on me to answer their “spiritual conversation starter”, but I could not come up with an adequate answer: “what is it that you crave?” Hell, I still can’t come up with the sort of fundamental answer they’re looking for… knowledge? Certainty maybe? Ugh, thinking about that again is really bugging me.

In any case, the Evangelical monopoly on what it is to be “Christian” has been really bothering me, someone who is rather liberal and who strives to be an intellectual. However, one of my best friends (who happens to be studying for military chaplaincy) introduced me to Progressivism through Benjamin L. Corey’s blog, Formerly Fundie. I have to say, this has really helped turn me around and I feel like I’m actually growing and maturing thanks to my faith once again. I promised to keep this brief, so I’ll just summarize this really quickly: if you grew up in the church, then chances are that you’re going to start to question and start to fall away before you hit twenty. If your teachings were anything like mine, then Evangelicalism will make you feel like you either have to believe the way that they want you to believe or you’re a heretic. They’ll drill their ideology in you and make you feel ashamed (not necessarily for malicious reasons either, but just because religion has been designed this way to be self-perpetuating). If nothing else, just know that there are other understandings which still hold onto the core beliefs and which have just as much (if not more) theological basis than the mainstream church.

Anyway, thanks to Benjamin L. Corey, I have also discovered the joy of podcasts. As much as I’m loving internet radio, it can get a bit stale when they play the same songs on rotation every day. So I started listening to Corey’s That God Show while I worked, and it got me hooked. Listening to podcasts basically feels like learning at work, and keeps it from getting too repetitive. In addition to That God Show, I have been listening to The Cracked Podcast, Unpopular Opinion, Dead Things, Quality Control and Hello Internet. If you get the opportunity to listen at work, have long drives, or just have a fair bit of downtime, I’d recommend checking them out. 🙂

Religious Musings: Part 2 – Quantum Theology

I was originally planning on integrating this post into my last blog entry about the Pope, but it quickly became very complicated, long and didn’t flow very well with the rest of the article. Ultimately, I decided that it would be better to separate the two articles to give this bit of theorizing the attention I feel it deserves. Anyway, mulling over all of this theology also made me wonder about perhaps the most controversial passage in the satirical article. Is it in any way possible that “through acts of love and charity the atheist acknowledges God as well, and redeems his own soul, becoming an active participant in the redemption of humanity”? Honestly, I would be overjoyed if it was true since I have friends who do not share the same faith as myself, but I believe this is wishful thinking at best (sadly). However, my mulling about this and the evolving state of religion led me to wonder what would happen if a certain theory of quantum mechanics is proven. I would like to make sure to emphasize that I do not actually believe the content of this post. It is nothing more to me than entertaining theoretical musings… but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any substance to it. Oh and just a warning – things are about to get complicated and mind-blowing.

Maybe grab a handful of Advil too.

If you’ve read Michael Crichton’s Timeline, watched Source Code or played Bioshock: Infinite, then you’re at least mildly familiar with the basics of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. It’s a real scientific theory which posits that infinite alternate dimensions branch out from every action (there’s scientific ideas to back up the theory in the first place, but that’s the simple shorthand of it). It’s extremely complicated, but seriously – read Timeline. A lot of media seems to be incorporating the theory and that book has helped me understand them so much better.

Anyway, assuming that this theory is true, what I’m wondering is how this would interact with religious doctrine. In particular, if there are an infinite number of dimensions, what does that mean for human souls? Obviously there would be an infinite number of different versions of the same individual spread out across dimensions. Do all of these individuals spread across dimensions share a single soul, or does each have their own? Can we look forward to seeing an infinite number of ourselves when we die? I think I’ll leave the nitpicking over that one to the philosophers, but it makes more sense to me that individuals across dimensions share a single soul.

Argh, I’m getting a headache already.*

However, another issue arises from this conundrum if it turns out that these infinite number of individuals all share the same soul. In such a case it would mean that collectively, across all of the dimensions, all individuals would inevitably attain salvation. The obvious consequence of this is that nearly everyone will go to heaven, whereas Christian doctrine assumes that you only have one lifetime to save yourself. This creates a bit of a theological issue – yes, it would mean that everyone is saved, but it’s distinctly different than the universal reconciliation taught in liberal churches. For one thing, it’s not a cop-out to avoid offending anyone. Individuals will be repenting of their sins… just maybe not in this dimension.

Still following me? In case you need a simpler, possibly clearer distillation of the idea, then it would be as follows:

Assumptions: Jehovah and the fundamental principles of the Christian religion are true, as is the many-worlds interpretation.

Premise 1: If the many-worlds interpretation is true, that means there are multiple versions of the same individual spread across dimensions.

Premise 2: Either these individuals have separate souls or shared souls.

Premise 3: If these individuals share a soul, then all souls will be given infinite opportunities to attain salvation.

Conclusions: In such a situation, all souls will attain salvation.

Of course, there’d have to be some exceptions to this line of thinking. I would assume the divine are exempt from the machinations of quantum mechanics (since Satan overcoming God would be pretty blasphemous). Jesus would have to be the perfect sacrifice across all dimensions (otherwise He has absolutely no purpose). Also, assuming the popular interpretations of Revelation are true, the Anti-Christ and False Prophet would have to be doomed to condemnation since Revelation states that the unholy trinity are cast into Hell together at the end of time. There might be other exceptions, but these are the ones that stand out to me.

Hopefully this has given you something to think about… even if you had to fry your brain in the process. Got any thoughts on this theory? Sound them out below.

*That’s no joke either, writing this blog post seriously gave me a headache.

Religious Musings: Part 1 – TEH POPE IZ TEH ANTI-CHRIST!!!11!!eleventy!

I was extremely close to delaying my last blog post and replacing it with this one. If I hadn’t been delayed by work then I definitely would have put this one out first because the first half of this post is almost old news now… oh well.

Anyway, on Christmas Eve a friend posted an article on Facebook about how Pope Francis said that income inequality was immoral, which caused Bill “heart blacker than Don Cheadle” O’Reilly to state that “I don’t know if Jesus is going to be down with that”. Later, I was talking about how, despite not being Catholic, I liked Pope Francis’ progressive views. However, I was immediately shot down by my brother’s fiance who said that she had heard that the pope had said that all religions are true and there was no hell. I was pretty floored. I mean seriously, what the hell? Being progressive is one thing, but at a certain point you totally jump the rails and basically just say “religion is the lulz, eh?” Of course, pretty soon this whole thing became very suspicious to me – even if Pope Francis was an extremely liberal Christian, the Vatican isn’t just controlled by him. Why would the other leaders in the church allow him to say something so obviously against fundamental Christian doctrine?

Ultimately, I decided to track down the source of these claims. Turns out that this is a viral story which has spread quite a bit, although mostly by blogs and news sites of ill-repute… not to mention featuring a smattering of duped Christians declaring that Francis is the anti-Christ of the week and liberal atheists stating that this would make religion actually make sense now (what, have they never heard of the United Church and how abandoning fundamental principles results in rapidly-declining membership?). Hell, I even saw a Muslim comment on how Islam is the best religion because it doesn’t abandon its core teachings like this evil pope. Of course, the source article was pure satire, a fact lost on all of the people who spread it (and especially the idiots in news blogs who failed to do any sort of fact-checking).

However, I want to look at the original article and examine some of the claims which were made in it which are actually a good thing without being heretical. In case you need the link to the original article again, here you go.

“In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful. Today, we no longer judge. Like a loving father, we never condemn our children. Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us. We all love and worship the same God.”

This one is pretty much a no-shit declaration, not to mention that it’s Biblical anyway. Everyone is welcome in the church, whether we agree with them or not. Discrimination is the work of humans, not God.

“…those who would dare to turn immigrants away, be they legal or undocumented, turn their backs on Christ himself! A racist is not a true Christian. A racist casts aside his humanity to become a beast, a demon! He is the embodiment and personification of evil, a Satan! …because Muslims, Hindus and African Animists are also made in the very likeness and image of God, to hate them is to hate God! To reject them to is to reject God and the Gospel of Christ. Whether we worship at a church, a synagogue, a mosque or a mandir, it does not matter. Whether we call God, Jesus, Adonai, Allah or Krishna, we all worship the same God of love. This truth is self-evident to all who have love and humility in their hearts!”

This one pretty much links with the first quote – intolerance and racism are a human legacy which has soiled the reputation of Christianity. A racist can be forgiven of course, but it is undoubtedly wrong.

“In accordance with our new understanding, we will begin to ordain women as cardinals, bishops and priests. In the future, it is my hope that we will have a woman pope one day. Let no door be closed to women that is open to men!”

Yes, yes, YES! Discrimination against women in the church by traditionalists is honestly ridiculous. Yes, I know that Paul wrote that women should not be above men, but why does the Bible also give women such prominence (not to mention that women are also hailed as deaconesses in the exact same books)? There’s also the context of those books, at which time it would have been odd for women to be in a position of power in the church. Beyond all of that though, there’s just modern day common sense. Women are seen as equal to men in society now. Women are fully capable of holding positions of power over men. Is God going to condemn us for suddenly allowing women to have equal stake in religion? Somehow I don’t think so.

I think I’ll end this discussion here for now. However, be sure to come back for part two of this religious musing next week – I’ve done some theorizing over quantum mechanics and religion which might just blow your mind.