Christians, WTF?

I just saw this at Gawker, about folks selling Cafe Press merchandise with “Psalm 109:8” on it and the words “Pray for Obama.” The shop’s not up at CafePress any more, because as cute as folks might think it is to make veiled Christian death threats against the President, the Secret Service tends to not find it so funny.

There are quite a few things wrong with this. But let’s just set aside the whole smug “I’m bragging about wanting our President dead” crap. If I have to point out to you how fucked up that is, whew, I don’t even know where to start.

But two is the smugness of it. You know what? Most people in the United States are Christian or have been Christian at some point. You are not actually a persecuted minority. You’re a very privileged majority. So, when this small subset of folks start throwing out Bible verses like only a small, chosen group will know or be able to find out what they mean? They look like dumbasses. Guess what? The Bible is a perennial best seller. Churches give them away for free. You can read them on the internet. Your secret code is not secret.

Three, reciting scripture in order to learn it or to know it when you need to draw strength from it, is a time-honored tradition. But calling forth a Bible verse in order to make the things described in that Bible verse happen to someone else? That’s magic. It is, in fact, witch craft in the most basic and historical sense. For centuries, people who wanted to bring the reality described in a Bible verse into their lives have written down those verses and worn them or attached them to dolls or stuff them into bottles or written them on walls. It could not be any more clearly witch craft if you wore a pointy hat while you did it.

And I believe you are forbidden from practicing the crafts of witches, are you not?

Four, you are not the only Christians. You’re just not. But you are ruining it for everybody by making it seem like, in any group of caring, compassionate, loving Christians, there are a subset who cannot wait until God comes around to really smite their enemies. And, if God doesn’t work fast enough, this subset gives the impression of being willing to act “as an instrument of God’s will” in order to hurry things along.

People are afraid of you. Because you are Christian.

That’s what it’s come to. You smug, vengeance-seeking, magic practicing Christians have made non-Christians afraid of Christians.

There should be some mechanism by which you can apologize to other Christians for this nonsense, but I don’t know what it would be. Maybe another round of t-shirts with another Bible verse?

I don’t know.

But I do know this. If you were tempted to buy this merchandise, you have gone off the path and are wandering adrift and rather than trying to convince other Christians that you know where you’re going, you might should consider getting back up on the path with your fellow believers.

And the fact that people are passing this around like “Oh, too funny“? Or trying to claim they didn’t realize what followed that verse?

I don’t know. To me it says something so deeply troubling about the state of Christianity in this country that it just breaks my heart. It’s like these folks think the Bible is the equivalent of a laugh-a-day calendar or something, with a pithy quote for every occasion.

And it makes me feel very bad for the people I love who believe the Bible is deeper than that.

I mean, frankly, my Dad didn’t devote almost forty years of his life to a religion that could be reduced to making jokes about the death of a President. And I resent seeing the public face of that religion represented by people who believe it can be.

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37 thoughts on “Christians, WTF?

  1. One of the central tragedies of modern American Christianity is that it’s largely fallen to those of us who have fallen away to be its most persuasive human-hearted defenders against the repellent toads of hate.

  2. Five, projection much? This song complains that “the mouth of a wicked man and the mouth of a deceitful man have opened upon me; they spoke with me with a lying tongue. And with words of hatred they have surrounded me”. I’m just saying.

  3. I was going to quote the earlier text but nm beat me to it. Instead, I point out the following, which are the last 3 verses:

    Let my accusers be clothed with dishonor, And let them cover themselves with their own shame as with a robe.

    With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD;
    And in the midst of many I will praise Him.

    For He stands at the right hand of the needy, To save him from those who judge his soul.

    I guess one could make up t-shirts that say Luke 6:37 (don’t judge, etc.) but you’ve already covered the whole “it’s not secret code” thing.

  4. This is an excellent post with just the right tone and focus. I can send it to very devout Christians I know who are open to well reasoned points. Maybe it will help them to speak up to the haters among them.

  5. I think in many ways it has been a bad day for Christianity.

    It seems that there are those who have latched on to one form of Christianity or another not to practice the tenets of the faith but to misuse the perceived power of the faith or our God to direct their own agendas.

    As the writer of Ecclesiastes said: there is nothing new under the sun. And that’s true.

    But it still is bothering me a great deal today.

  6. Aw, Kat. A little bit later he said that there’s an appointed season for everything. Y’all can have your time to laugh tomorrow.

  7. As a Wiccan and a gayliberal (all one word ya know) in the Bible Belt, I do indeed live in fear.
    I’m also a witch and find it really really funny that Christians are resorting to a kind of ersatz voodoo. Because that’s totally what Jesus would do.

  8. All I can say is thank you.

    It seems like there’s a new idiot like this every week. It would be easy to paint us all with the same brush. Thanks for avoiding that. I’m tired of having to apologize for people like this–and having to remind others that we’re not all like “those people,”–when, as you rightly pointed out, they should be apologizing to me (and the rest of humanity).

  9. Well, let’s remember: this is about someone trying to hawk a T-shirt, not any Biblical teaching.

    American Christianity lost its way when it became married to American consumerism.

  10. Sigh… there will always be idiots, in whatever group or subgroup exists.

    I’m pretty conservative. I’m Christian. This is the first I’ve heard of such a thing.

    Such a broad brush you paint with. Find something idiotic a fringe of a group is doing, and damn the whole group for it.

    I mean, with such a technique, I could use this story from a week or so to generalize what the anti-war movement is really about.

    I could write an indignant blog post.

    I’d title it, “WTF, War Opponents.”

    And I’d use it to generalize about all of you.

    *****

    Look, I remember “Checkpoint.”

    I remember “Death of a President.” Won quite a few artsy-type film awards I believe.

    Any idiot can get a Cafe Press account. It’s takes a bit more: connections, money — and a bunch of green-lighting — to get, say, a book nationally published, or a film released in the art house scene.

    This is not a “your side did it, so our side can do it too” argument.

    To reiterate, watch how wide you paint with that brush of yours.

    Just saying.

  11. To Bridgett: Love the “repellent toads of faith” descriptive. Mind if I share it with others? It expresses so much I feel but with a sense of humor that somehow makes me feel less badly for being so angry with those folks.

    This blog entry was a saving grace for me today. Thank you. I am one of those who have become, if not afraid of Christians, then fearful of them – meaning that these evangelical folks are getting so emboldened that it would not surprise me at all to see one of them do something extremely violent.

    After all, that’s the way the guy who killed Dr. Tiller got whipped into frenzy, thinking he was on God’s Holy Mission. When you add to the mix the Fox News hosts who seem to have no common sense or decency at all and who seem to love sensationalizing everything for ratings, well, I am getting scared of what could happen.

    Where are the moderate Christian leaders? It’s fine and refreshing to have people condemn these loonies on a blog, but where – for God’s sake, truly – are the moderate leaders of the faith? They should be demanding equal time to explain and defend the faith that the others are distorting.

    Hmm – could it be that we re finally feeling what moderate followers of Islam have been feeling about their loonies? I hope so. Maybe we can all come together – moderates of faith and moderates who follow no faith and shame the others into silence. However, they first must have a conscience, and I am beginning to suspect that many of them are not smart enough to recognize they have one or why it’s important to follow it.

    Oh, before I forget — just so we won’t think ourselves alone in this frustration: here’s a link to a French website where you can find an article stating that the French are getting quite nervous as American loonie evangelicals are gaining ground there — 400,000 converts now. France has an even stronger divide between state and religion and wants to keep it that way but it looks as if they are going to have the same fight on their hands as we do.

    Here’s the url: http://www.thisfrenchlife.com/thisfrenchlife/2009/11/evangelical-churches-france.html

    The article truly gives one pause – this movement is not one that is going to go away. This is about power not prayer. Power over women, power over sexual identity and sexual behavior. Power over how we think and live. I suspect this drive for power comes out of a deep feeling of impotence over their own destiny, a deep fear of change, and a deep fear of “the other.” Such fear and need for power is a dangerous thing and should not be underestimated.

    To Lee: I do not think this blog commentary was directed at conservative Christians (what I call Big C Christians – true followers of Christ, whether conservative or progressive). It was directed at people hiding behind and using a faith to conquer, to kill, to control. As long as you do not subscribe to the “christian” fringe, then you as a Big C Christian should not feel threatened or offended. What you should perhaps consider doing is standing against those who would use your faith as cover for their own selfish and violent ends. As a true believer in Christ, you have better standing to protest them and even a duty to do so, in my opinion. Just saying.

    Blessings be to everyone as we try to cope with this rising tide of hate and misuse of faith. It will affect believers and non-believers alike unless we can diffuse it.

  12. Such a broad brush you paint with. Find something idiotic a fringe of a group is doing, and damn the whole group for it.

    One has to wonder if Lee even bothered to read the post before spouting off.

  13. Lee, you know I love you, so why, when you read me, do you read me as an enemy of yours that you have come to feel respect for?

    Why can’t you read me, in a case like this, as someone who is angry FOR you instead of being ready, at any second, to see me as someone who is angry AT you?

    After all this time, do you not get that you can sometimes imagine me commiserating with you, not shrieking at you?

  14. Hey, Lee, anytime you want to paint me with the same ‘broad brush’ with which you quote Code Pink, go right ahead. I’d consider it an honor. It would be nice if you didn’t use a lame corporate media smear as your evidence, though. Then I wouldn’t have to ask you where your conservative Christian honesty is hiding.

  15. I’m sorry that I can’t do links right now–I’m away from the computer–but to the person above who asked where the faith leaders are who speak against this I have to answer honestly. They’re all over the place.

    Shane Whatsisguts who runs The Simple Way just wrote an excellent piece for Esquire. Somebody over at my blog linked to it in the comments section.

    Rick Warren, in between trying to sell books, is very open about speaking against this type of behavior.

    My own pastor–at a major Southern Baptist church–speaks about things like this from the pulpit, decrying it as false faith.

    My sect within Christianity–The Mennonites– are very open and public about nit mixing religion and politics.

    If you are only getting your information about Christians from a few places you may not see these things. But they are out there.

  16. B, sorry to come across as too angry. I know you mean well. Often times it’s not you who I’m replying to, but some of your commenters.

    Sam, at the risk of getting off topic on this thread: here is a video made by Code Pink themselves where they relish in taunting small children.

    I do consider you of a par with them.

  17. The article Kat referenced is by Shane Claiborne and titled “What if Jesus Meant All that Stuff?” It’s in this month’s Esquire and also available on line.

  18. To Coble: I rejoice in hearing that there are Christian leaders who are voicing their concerns about the extremists, but, let’s be honest here, the sources you cite are not being seen by mainstream America. Esquire magazine? Rick Warren? Your church? Congratulations and sincere rejoicing that someone is doing something, but these are not enough.

    We need national leaders, voices on national news networks, in the largest papers, on talk radio. We need to be swamped by moderate, decent Christians condemning the extremists.

    Thank you for pointing out the sources you did. I have always admired Mennonites and the Amish and others who truly live their faith instead of trying to force everyone else to change. Those who live as examples are always to be respected, but those who live to force others into their path deserve no respect.

    BTW, Rick Warren has some serious image problems for a lot of us. The slimey way he ran the Obama – McCain “debate” was troublesome and irksome. I would hope someone with who is less concerned with his own celebrity would represent mainstream Christians.

    Again, Coble, thanks for the sources. I will check them out and I am grateful to hear that you and others are trying to calm the waters. I wholeheartedly support your efforts. We need more people like you to come forward and talk about living the faith rather than just preaching it. Best to you!

  19. Thank you, Lee, that’s very sweet of you. Also:

    Police barricaded Pennsylvania Avenue and protesters ended up entertaining the kids and families, mostly picked by lottery. Military families evidently had a special entrance elsewhere.

    (emphasis mine)
    Evidently, there were no children of “military families” directly witnessing Code Pink’s Halloween street theater. And what you label ‘taunting’ looks way more innocuous than what many parents would send their kids through on Halloween (e.g. a ‘haunted house’), only with a message attached. I can understand you not agreeing with Code Pink’s antiwar message. But instead of just saying that, you want to hide behind the tender feelings of little children (who seem like they can handle Code Pink’s scary displays better than you can). That’s not only dishonest, it’s a wee bit pusillanimous. Not very Christ-like.

  20. Aunt B., I think that much of the failure of these people to be “good Christians” originates in the Biblical-literalism camp. You can’t build a cohesive, less-than-schizophrenic doctrine or practice on the entire Bible. The Bible encompasses everything from scatological poetry to messages advocating love, hate, peace, war, and sending bears to tear children to pieces. Any attempt to create a “nice” sect (Franciscan, Mennonite, etc.) is going to run afoul of something, or fail to uphold something else, so you end up with a no-holds-barred, psychotic mishmash.

  21. Just for the record, I’m not a fan of Warren myself.

    I just don’t know how we set this record straight. The modern Anabaptist and Protestant churches don’t really have that many public leaders, frankly. Our very structures–created in response to the Roman Catholic church–mean that there aren’t Big Voices to speak for the faith as a whole.

    (Thanks, bridgett, for cleaning up the Claiborne information.)

    I’m not trying to sound argumentative (although I realise it probably reads that way without tone markers). I’m just honestly not knowing what we can do as Christians because this chicanery makes the news all the time.

    I feel like I spend half my life trying to make up for the bad impressions other Christians have put out there. And, of course, the bad impressions I myself have left on my own bad days.

  22. I have to agree with Katherine. There are many middle ground Christians who are speaking about this as loudly as they can, and just don’t have the same grab as the story itself.

    Diana Butler Bass in Sojourners: http://blog.sojo.net/2009/11/17/psalm-1098-a-prayer-to-destroy-obama/ Frank Schafer on Rachel Maddow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wo1tw6RvfM

    Brian McLaren, Matthew Paul Turner, Adam Hamilton, Jim Wallis and Dan Merchant are just a few of the Christian leaders who have been speaking out about things like this for a while. Yes, there need to be more, but they are speaking, just having a hard time getting others to listen.

  23. Yeah, I just want to reiterate–I’m not that worried about where Christians who disagree with this kind of stuff are. They’re everywhere and they’re from all denominations (which is, in part, why they lack the ability to be widely heard–they don’t have one massive pr machine behind them).

    I’m more concerned for those Christians, who find this kind of stuff appalling and still have to deal with the fall-out from it. I mean, we’re literally at a point where people are afraid of Christians, afraid they’re violent, or that they see nothing wrong with threatening to be violent if they can’t get their own way.

    I mean, imagine trying to do your Christian duty to the poor and the sick and the downtrodden only to find that they are terrified that you’re a violent nutjob or that, if they don’t share the same political beliefs as you, they might be in danger being around you.

    That’s the thing that kills me. I don’t think the vast majority of Christians owe me anything other than commiseration and shock that people who claim to be Christian don’t know better than this.

    But I think these Christians owe an enormous apology to the vast majority of Christians for royally fucking things up for all of them.

  24. I mean, imagine trying to do your Christian duty to the poor and the sick and the downtrodden only to find that they are terrified that you’re a violent nutjob or that, if they don’t share the same political beliefs as you, they might be in danger being around you.

    is this where i pointedly suggest such folk might try to pass for harmless atheists just doing their secular humanist duty…?

  25. I mean, imagine trying to do your Christian duty to the poor and the sick and the downtrodden only to find that they are terrified that you’re a violent nutjob or that, if they don’t share the same political beliefs as you, they might be in danger being around you.

    It happens all the time. Goes with the territory, I suppose. That doesn’t make it any less bothersome, though.

    is this where i pointedly suggest such folk might try to pass for harmless atheists just doing their secular humanist duty…?

    I do know what you’re saying in that we shouldn’t be providing charity accompanied by proselytisation. I try to be very careful when doing so.

    But at the same time…

    We would be liars if we betrayed our core beliefs. Pretending to be atheist would be denying God. So I have no qualms with offering charity without any kind of strings attached or any proselytising for the faith. I prefer to let my actions speak for themselves.

    But I can never ever take any action while denying God. That is an anathema to me.

  26. Lee, the teabagger/912/birther Christians are NOT fringe anymore, that’s the point. And this story has been on every major news network including the right leaning CNN and the outright conservative Fox.

    The people who sell such shirts are the mainstream of the Republican party now, because it has swung so far right as a whole especially to appeal to this crucial group of voters lest they go third party. They are increasingly bold in their attacks on moderate Republicans and if you describe yourself as conservative you are squarely aligning yourself with them. Teabag/birther/912 conservatives gather by the hundreds, not in pairs like Code Pink is pictured.

  27. > the teabagger/912/birther Christians are NOT fringe anymore… The people who sell such shirts are the mainstream of the Republican party now

    Let’s compromise: such people are the mainstream of the Republican Party, and the Republican Party is now a “fringe” political group. May it ever be so. :-)

  28. I miss my church, and it is for this very reason that I can’t go back…yet.

    I grew up in the Southern Baptist church in the 60’s and I learned my compassionate, merciful, progressive faith at the feet of my parents and the wonderful Sunday School teachers I had, all of them products of their times — the Depression, World War 2, etc. This, in North Georgia, during the sixties, when it seemed like the world was on fire. My elders seemed to “get it” as we kids rebelled and questioned what we heard and saw, and guided us along in the faith, not by fear, but by the faith in a God who only requires of us to love justice, practice mercy, walk humbly, and by the Sermon on the Mount.

    The modern version of the SBC is not that faith. They are indeed hypnotized by consumerism and thirst for power. My heart breaks.

  29. The modern version of the SBC is not that faith.

    As a Mennonite who attends a SBC because there are no fully-active Mennonite gatherings in my area, I’d like to offer a (half-hearted) plug. It’s been my experience that the churches within the SBC vary wildly and the congregants within each church vary to a degree as well. There are some fire-breathing nutballs, of course. But I’ve also met and grown in love with many warm-hearted, generous of spirit and loving people in my own SBC church.

    Granted I still have issues with their approach to Gospel Capitalization And Marketing, but if you sorrow from spoiled hope I’d like to reassure that the entire sect isn’t yet without merit.

  30. Thanks, Katherine Coble, for your reassurance. I know that the entire denomination is not polluted, it’s just that in my area it is extraordinarily hard to find pastors and congregations that aren’t.
    I guess I should take a cue from your experience and seek out alternatives. Again, sincere thanks.

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