A quick note: Lately I’ve felt a bit of yearning to write for the blog and it just so happens to coincide with Joel and Glen starting to write again. With that said, this post isn’t going to conform strictly to the “Apostolics Like_______” model. It’s going to be sarcastic and hopefully funny. But, yeah, deal with it.
The recent ballyhoo over Chick-fil-A’s support of “pro-family” groups is just ridiculous. I’m not going to rehash it here, you can go ahead and read up on it yourself; the odds are good that you’ve at least heard about it by now, anyway. What I want to suggest, nay, beg, is that Christians stop posting statuses, tweeting, and writing letters in support of Chick-fil-A as a “Christian” company.
Side-bar: Before you read any further, open up a tab on your browser, log onto facebook, scroll down your homepage, and skim the first twenty or so statuses and updates from your “friends.” You were no doubt annoyed, disappointed, or marginally disgusted by some of what you saw, right? Of course you were. Several of those offending blips on your page were from self-professed Christians too, right? Right. Here’s a very unscientific, but nevertheless true statement: Christians are easily the most annoying people in social media. Don’t agree with me? Righteously offended? Reserve your judgment for a week or two, keep slogging through Scentsy testimonials, six month late KONY 2012 commentary, spammy “I’m not ashamed of (Insert Christian Thing), like if you aren’t either!,” posts, disturbingly violent, subversively racist anarchic threats directed at our President, lengthy miracle testimony from somewhere really far away that probably didn’t happen, and links to terribly made youtube clips featuring bland Christian rock with a Bible verse taken out of context, then decide for yourself whether I’m right or not.
You aren’t protecting “The Family” or doing God’s will by making some stupid quip about how much you love mass-produced, mayo-slathered chicken byproduct, you’re being stupid. Willfully stupid. Then again, it’s not surprising. Every decision we make is imbued with political, moral, religious, philosophical, and economic value and yet we are very often ignorant of the implications and impacts of those decisions. This is by design. Businesses and governments pay billions of dollars to advertising agencies and public relations firms to shape how we view the products and services we use.
Would you buy hot dogs if all you knew about them was how they were made? It's common knowledge, of course, but we still buy them, because decades of careful advertising has conditioned the American mind to associate hot dogs with childhood, cookouts, leisure apart from work, and national holidays. Somewhere in our minds we know that the least desirable parts of the animal (and stray factory worker fingers) go into making a hot dog, but we’re willing to put aside that knowledge or laugh it off because of the more positive associations that obfuscate the unpleasant reality of what we’re ingesting. Happy commercials of idyllic families eating “healthy” turkey dogs and colorful packaging belie ingredient list on the back—which the producer, mind you, only prints at the behest of government regulation. Look up “Mechanically Separated Meat,” you’ve eaten a lot of it.
Aside: Given the American predilection for simultaneously being distrusting with the government and allowing it to engage in covert political, economic, and military skullduggery, I’ll forgo illustrating an example.
The problem with PR and marketing is that isn’t always so stomach churning. It’s often more insidious and the “Christian business” is a perfect example. Leaving aside whether or not the Bible makes it untenable for a person to follow the teachings of Jesus and make the decisions necessary to be a competent Capitalist, the idea that a business should market itself as being Christian and that other Christians should support it on those murky, hard to define grounds is patently absurd. Seriously, what does it actually mean to be a “Christian business?”
It closes on Sunday? If this makes sense to you because you believe it honors the Sabbath, then please be sure to shut off your electricity every Sunday, turn your cell phone/landline off, do not go on the internet, and don’t drive. All of those activities require services that run on Sundays and your use of them means that businesses and government offices need to remain open, thereby keeping other people from honoring the Sabbath—you’re actively causing other people to stumble. You’re a stumbling block! Except you aren’t.
Does it mean that a company is inherently good in its transactions and dealings? I’ll answer this question with another question: how many times have people had nasty fall-outs at your church when they went into business together? Lots. Were there accusations of lying, cheating, stealing, and dirty-dealing levied on both sides. Yup. Guess what? That stuff happens all of the time, because it’s what businesses do to make profits. It happens; it’s just rarely exposed until Christians start dealing with one another directly. Spend some time with your town/city’s non-church (or other-church) going population and you’ll frequently find that the “Christian businesses” at your church have awful reputations, with accusations of hypocrisy and underhandedness figuring prominently.
You’re saying to yourself, “that’s not what I believe makes a business ‘Christian!’” which is a completely logical response that gets at the real issue: nothing makes a business a “Christian business” except saying that it is one. “Christian” is such an impossibly broad term that it’s all but impossible to nail down what it actually means when it comes to personal belief, let alone as a designation for a business. There’s nothing to stop a business from calling itself “Christian” and, depending on where it wants to make its money and which population it wants to target, everything to gain.
This is how you get random businesses professing Christianity; it just makes too much sense for a circus to market itself as a “Christian circus” when it rolls through Central Illinois. It’s just good business logic for a company like Christian Mingle to market itself on some watered down notion of finding “God’s Match,” via its servers and algorithms. And it’s only logical for Chick-fil-A to call itself a “Christian” company and take a stand on hot-button political and social issues. There’s nothing to lose and money to be made.
The majority of Americans operate under two convergent myths: that faith is sacrosanct and that faith should be the penultimate arbiter in our political and economic decisions. Both of these are false. I’m not talking about your faith in Jesus, that’s between you and Him, so just keep trembling (Phil 2:12). No, what I mean is that when other people talk about faith, particularly politicians and businesses, we need to stop behaving as if, simply because they’re something vaguely Christian-sounding, that it should be a priori free from suspicion. If you need me to list for you all of the times politicians and televangelists waxed weepy about Jesus’ love and condemned sinners, only to be exposed as liars, criminals, and sexual deviants, then stop reading now, find a shovel, and dig yourself out of the hole you’ve been living in. Seriously, why do we assume that a profession of faith automatically makes a person more trustworthy than someone else? Ok, sure, you’re saying that we don’t always believe it when somebody says they’re a Christian. Only if they’re white. If they’re black, then we disregard their numerous assertions of Christian belief and go on believing they’re Muslim. It’s a holy ghost “seeing in the spirit” kind of thing, yup, nothing racist about it.
That faith continues to loom so large in our political and economic decision making is unsurprising, but foolhardy, nonetheless. Let’s run down the list of political candidates who make a point of letting you know that they’re Christian: George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romeny (kinda, sorta), Michelle Bachman, and Rick Perry. Notice a trend? They’re all Christians! When you put a microphone in front of them, they have no idea what they’re talking about! Seriously, tell me with a straight face that you really think Rick Perry or Michelle Bachman have any business in higher office based on their plans for government or their ability to handle complex foreign diplomacy issues.
Didn’t think so.
But people voted for them! It’s true! It’s a well-worn truism that Americans don’t vote with their brains, but with their guts—at least our guts are bigger than our brains, that helps, right? Even so, it’s plainly obvious that members of a certain political party talk about their faith because they know that they can buy votes. It’s too good of an opportunity for a politician not to mention his or her faith prominently, it’s like burning votes.
That’s why we need to drop Chick-fil-A. Again, Chick-fil-A is not saving the family or standing up for God because it donates millions of dollars to organizations like the Pennsylvania Family Institute and the Family Research Council. What are these groups? They’re political advocacy groups that advocate for the family—whatever that means. Again, I’m not going to elaborate where you should really be doing the thinking for yourself, but let me say this: the FRC is a PAC. Like every other PAC, it spends millions of dollars trying to keep lawmakers from legalizing gay marriage or holding up stem cell research. Those are facts, here is another one: Everyday millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet. Children in Christian and non-Christian homes go to bed malnourished in squalid living conditions. They do not have access to affordable healthcare or an equal education. They lose out on the basic necessities and resources that should be their birthright in “The Greatest Country in the World.”
Yes. Jesus really cares that Chick-fil-A supports gay people not getting married. Oh, and the Chick-fil-A Bowl, because Jesus likes football, too. I’m sure that our Lord and Savior, who spent LITERALLY His entire time in the Gospels preaching and ministering to and about the meek of the Earth just loves that the flock regularly ignores them and funnels billions of dollars into partisan issues. Keep the meek meek, amirite?
Chick-fil-A’s stand, and other Christian’s active support of them, is dumb and shameful. I’m sorry that’s not poetic. Seriously, we’re stupid, you guys. How dumb is it?
Sarah Palin think it’s countercultural and edgy to buy crappy chicken. That’s really, really dumb.
Parting shot: Remember up top when I said a lot of “Christian businesses” do underhanded things because they’re businesses and businesses do underhanded things? Chick-fil-A does that, too. They created fake profiles on Facebook to defend their product. This is like Jesus and Zacchaeus in Luke 19, except the exact opposite. Seriously, they don’t even trust the Christian base to adequately defend them. That’s a whole other kind of depressing. Not only do they think Christians are too stupid to think critically about their position, but also that they’re incapable of the aggressive ignorance and hand-eye coordination requisite to post feeble defenses on Facebook statuses. Ouch.
Odds and Ends: Here are a few untimely meditation that aren’t substantial enough to merit their own post.
1. Pathetic Critiques of Gay Marriage: In the interest of full disclosure, I support the right of the GLBT community to get married and start families. I didn’t put this into the body of the article above because I wanted to try to isolate support of Chick-fil-A as a foolhardy thing in its own right, apart from the issues it supposedly stands for. My rationale is pretty simple, I’m not convinced enough by biblical evidence that homosexuality is any more a “sin” than interracial marriage/relations were one time sins according to widespread readings of the text (hey, wow, some Christians still can’t handle it, apparently! ), or that slavery and servitude were just fine, as long as you were nice (Ephesians 6:5-9).
2. Realistically, why would non-Christians and former Christians care what the Bible says about homosexuality? Do you care what the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Analects, or the numerous writings of Buddha have to say? Jesus used the scripture because He was speaking to an audience that believed in its cogency. Paul, on the other hand, became all things to all men, including, for example, engaging in Platonic discourse with Greeks and Romans who would have summarily dismissed a Judean subject ranting about their one God.
3. The more personal complaints about homosexuality strike me as objectively paradoxical, particularly in light of the political inclinations of the people who launch them. The pro-family lot is generally politically conservative, favoring a smaller, less intrusive government, American values (whatever that means), and policies in support of the “free market.” Well and good; so you basically want the government to stay out of your business, but not other people’s business. This emerges in some weird and predictably stupid ways.
a. Take the so-called, “But what about my children/grandchildren? How am I supposed to explain two men kissing?!?”
i. Why am I supposed to raise your kids? Do it yourself, that’s what ‘Murrica is about. Seriously, these are the same people who flip out about schools giving their children shots because of intrusive federal policy, but when it comes to homosexuality, it’s someone else's job to handle it or, better yet, make it go away. If your child/grandchild can’t handle the idea that adults can fall in love with someone of the same sex, but can learn on their own about the centuries of horrific torture and murder falsely committed in the name God or learn to subtly look over Brother Smith at church, who dresses flamboyantly, regularly quotes Barbara Streisand movies, found his "calling" in the music ministry, and has remained a bachelor because God just hasn't sent him the "right one" yet, then you’re a patently terrible parent/grandparent.
ii. I would further remind you that these are also the same people who picket and attend political rallies for Tea Partiers who threaten to slash funds for government programs that do some of the following for children: Food Stamps, low income area schools, education loans and after school programs for the at-risk, and medical insurance programs.Why should they have to pay for other people’s children to have basic services? I don’t know, because it makes you a decent person and a baseline Gospel living Christian? This is what people mean when they say Christians are hypocrites.
b. Gay homes are bad homes. It would be one thing if this has been proved sociologically, but it hasn’t and won’t be. I’ve never seen someone come out and say, “My parents were gay, it just ruined my life.” What I do see is, “My parents are gay. I had a childhood pretty much like everybody else. In fact, it was probably better, since unlike many a straight family, it wasn’t a forced marriage because they were too stupid not to use protection. They actually wanted me and were prepared for it.” (Paraphrasing, of course.)
i. Even if the “Liberal Media” were doing a really great job at covering up these counter-narratives, there are how many Christian channels that these children of broken gay homes could run to? Certainly enough to make millions of dollars in tithing and gift giving drives. Enough to keep Kirk Cameron in a job, making terrible movies about bananas as God’s ultimate weapon or something.
ii. Why does it blow people’s minds to imagine a gay couple as a family? Especially because families are already so problematic in the first place. Think about how weird it is to talk about your family life with others. I don’t mean just the sort of genial stuff that normally pops up in chit-chat, like, “Yeah, my dad always steals from everybody’s plate at dinner” or “I hate/love the appointed time my family gets up on Christmas morning.” It’s the type of stuff that fuels bland conversation, while also humanizing you enough so that the other person thinks you’re probably safe and well-adjusted. What I’m actually talking about is the private stuff, the things you’d never ever talk about with the majority of the people you meet for fear of ridicule or the chance that you’d never make meaningful friendships.
iii. As a child, your own family is really the only referent for what constitutes a “normal” family. It isn’t until you get older and start visiting other peoples’ families that you realize, to your eternal shame and mortifying embarrassment, that it’s only your dad that lounges around the house all day in his underwear, scratching himself freely. Other families keep their ketchup in the refrigerator to keep it cold (disgusting), keep aside an hour per day for family prayer, don’t get into semi-violent debates over the logical paradoxes of time travel (and its overall merit as a plot device) in the Back to the Future franchise, or don’t have relatives that maintain multiple virtual marriages over the Everquest Online servers. You found yourself defensive, offering weak, “but, in our family we…” apologetics and coming to secretly loathe your friends and cousins for saying the same. In other words, part of becoming an adult is understanding that everyone’s family is different and, in the process, learning to accept your own dysfunctional home.
iv. My family is not typical. My dad left us when I was thirteen, it sucked, a lot. Before he left, he was an angry, abusive monster. After he left, my mother struggled to make ends meet and raise three kids. If you don’t think that it messes with your head that your family doesn’t look like other people’s normal families, then you’re wrong, it does. When you get older, when you can move past the hold that images and representations of families have on our minds and understand that a real family is much more than what it looks like, it becomes fairly obvious that if two men or two women can love and protect a child, it constitutes a good family.
4. On How We Trust Testimony: We've already discussed how the Evangelical Christian, with a few exceptions, strongly distrusts the government for, among other unprovable crimes, being the harbinger of various Apocalyptic prophecies contingent on the current month's issue of End Times Magazine and Irvin Baxter's latest soon-to-be-false misreading of the Bible and the New York Times. Like his fellow Evangelicals, Peter Pentecostal is raised to suspect that what the government tells him is in all likelihood a lie or at least part of a much larger and incomprehensibly complicated Rube Goldberg scheme to trick otherwise unsuspecting Christians out of their precious bodily fluids .
a. This explains part of the fascination and fanatical devotion to noted crackpot and blubbering mess Glenn Beck. I'm not going to write a post or even take the time to map out how glaringly terrible Beck and his chalkboard conspiracies are, other than to say that he is the very antithesis to the postmodern experience. In this poststructural empire of pure signs and endless, malleable meaning that we all live in, Beck and his followers are the solitary self-referents. They stand for nothing and represent nothing but their own profound insanity. It would be quite remarkable, if it weren't so loathsome.
b. But that was an unintended segue. My problem here is the glaring disparity between how we trust the government, which lies and screws us over in ways that Americans haven't historically cared about (keeping money in the pockets of wealthy individuals and corporations, enacting laws that protect property, while consistently striking down or severely hampering any attempt to gain civil rights for non-white, straight men) and how we distrust it, mostly for things that are actually for our own good or things that don't exist anywhere but in our imaginations. That same type of deeply ingrained distrust doesn't exist, however, when it comes to church authority figures. Why? Again, it comes back to our blind trust in the faith of others, that a profession of faith and, even better, the agreement by someone else--like a pastor--that this person knows what they're talking about, breaks down the endemic mistrust we spend our whole lives cultivating.
c. This next part is tricky, so read carefully: Some, maybe even many of the "prophets" who come to your church or show up on TBN are charlatans, liars, and crooks. Please be mindful that I'm not trying to cut out an entire fold of the ministry, so to speak. Lord knows I don't want to completely disillusion the flock, thereby excluding many an enterprising future prophet out of a potential post-mid-life crisis career change. That would be wrong, because there will in all likelihood continue to be too many men who need a way of the turmoil of a failed business and marriage on the rocks.
i. The real problem isn't with the individual prophet, I don't think that they're intentionally doing the morally reprehensible things I've just charged. Neither am I discounting the miracles and works of God that occasionally happen in the presence of a prophet. Rather, I want to point out the environment that creates and feeds them. I'm not going out on a limb when I say that every person who has ever claimed to be a prophet believes or has believed in God. Marjoe Gortner believed in God, but then he stopped believing in God and used his reputation as a revivalist to con Christians who believed him wholeheartedly. It was easy for Gortner and remains easy for nutcases, er Prophets, like Benny Hinn, because the baseline for proof is so ridiculously miniscule. How many prophets come to your church that you've never heard of? Probably 2-3 per year, depending on the amount of money your church is known to be able to muster in donations or how willing you've been in the past to "sow seeds."
#. "Sow Seeds" is not-subtle code for money. Everything that we do is not "of this world." We're not supposed to be like the world, we're separate unto it. Except for money. God's cool with money. Are you an intrepid, daring individual? The next time a prophet comes to church, please do an experiment for all of us. When he asks for a seed offering, because he will, why don't you march up to the front and suggest that everyone donate Saturdays to do work on the church or general work/help for struggling families in the church/community? See how well that flies over.
##. If you don't think that churches have reputations (like, whether the congregation responds to excitable preaching or how much money they're willing to give) on the preaching circuits, you haven't been invited to enough post-church Cracker Barrel meals with the visiting preacher.
ii. Too many asides. What I'm trying to say is that if Evangelical Christian really is an authority distrusting, Free Market disciple, then he needs to apply this same skepticism to the prophets who visit. Only in a church can a person get away with telling about the great things God does through them, but never showing. A prophet's miracles always happened somewhere else, usually the last church he just left, where they're still having revival, supposedly. Honestly, do a serious, unblemished tally of all of the miracles and prophecies the prophet made: Did they happen? Yeah, turns out not everybody in the church got rich, got an expanded mission for God, got a promotion, had all of their lost family members returned, huh? Turns out, 40 minutes of dance and singing induced oxygen deprivation and an endorphin high will do that. Maybe he'll get it on the next try?
###. I was assuming, of course, that the prophet spent time actually sweating on, touching, and yelling breathlessly at everyone in your church. LOL what a big assumption. He probably stuck, somehow, almost miraculously, to the biggest tithers in church, right? Crazy! I mean, he said "Now, church, I don't know this man. Pastor, I've never met this man, right? But I've got a word from God for you: He wants to (Insert Promises)." God must have led him to them, just like God somehow always leads them to the same people, cause that's exactly what Jesus did.
iii. After a prophet visits, do some people decide to "give themselves" to God? Yeah, that's a really great thing. The prophet didn't do it, God did and He would have done it if the prophet was there or not, because He's in the business of loving people and wanting to save them. That we attribute this work of God to a prophet is our own particular sickness. Prophets are the Evangelical equivalent of the Rally Monkey in baseball. They look and act ridiculous. They happen to be there when really cool things happen, but in reality, they have nothing to do with what's going on and when looked at from the outside, it makes everybody involved look stupid.
Conclusion: If you’re on one side or the other, it won’t change your mind. Just some thoughts.