Rabid (what really scares me about Trump)

Trump doesn’t frighten me. His followers do. He is only one person. There are many thousands of them. The fact that he is popular means that they agree with his message.

Remove him from the election and these people will still feel what they feel.

They will still be afraid of anyone who isn’t them, and they all appear to be straight, white, and Christian.

Somehow they feel that the civil rights advances of others are threatening to them. For some reason they feel that allowing other people to live their lives differently means that their own choices are under attack.

They don’t get that allowing gay people to get married does not mean that straight people have to become homosexual. It does not take away straight people’s rights.

They don’t get that allowing people of other faith traditions to practice their religion does not mean that Christians cannot practice their own. It is important to remember that Jesus never said to attack another person’s way of life – in fact, he said the opposite. Judging other people (and making laws against them or discrimination against them is not what Jesus would do)

They don’t get that allowing immigrants into America does not mean that those who are here will lose their jobs or homes. And, lest we forget American history, the vast majority of Americans are immigrants or descended from them. Trump’s own father was an immigrant from Germany.

Trump frightens me because he is a center point to the rage and frustration that so many of them are feeling.

Saddam Hussein didn’t kill anyone. He just talked, and his followers did the deeds.

Hitler didn’t kill anyone. His followers did.

The leaders in the Rwandan genocide didn’t kill anyone. Their followers did.

Nobody has been killed by the people who follow Trump. Not yet. They’ve rioted. They’ve assaulted. It is a start.

I’m surprised that his hate speech hasn’t been called out for what it is. Is it because he is a presidential candidate that he is allowed to incite violence against people? Other citizens are called out for that. There are watchdog agencies that check for such activity. Why aren’t they speaking up? Or are they stunned into silence by his pomposity?

I’m concerned that all of the advances that have been made in the effort of unity and inclusion will be swept away in a tidal wave of fear and ignorance.

The leaders of hate are simply the voice to long unspoken feelings that have been bottled up, suppressed, whispered. The leaders of hate don’t do anything to get their hands dirty. Their followers are the ones who do the evil.

Is this what we want America to become? A nation where it isn’t safe to be gay, or black or an immigrant? Where it isn’t safe to challenge the status quo? Where it isn’t safe to be an intellectual? Where it isn’t safe, period?

Trump is a figurehead to a slow boiling pot filled with people who feel threatened. In making room for people who are “other” they feel pushed out, excluded, ignored. In a way, I understand this. America is a land where it is considered laudable to have gay pride, black pride, Latino pride. But “white pride”? It is seen as racist. They have been told that they cannot be proud of their roots.

You can’t fix discrimination by discriminating. This is true for everyone.

Forgiving Fred.

Fred Phelps has died. He was the leader of the Westboro group. They weren’t Baptist, and they weren’t a church. Not really. They were an organized group of haters. They showed up at military and high publicity funerals to protest gay people, even if the person who died was straight.

Among Jesus’ last words were “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Let us forgive Fred and his followers.

We cannot become like Fred Phelps or his followers. If we do, they have won. To hope that he “rots in hell” or to desire to “piss on his grave” is to let his brand of hate to take over.

This is about really knowing the message of Jesus. This is about knowing that the message is about forgiveness and love. It is about showing that same forgiveness and love that is shown to us through Jesus to others

Why would people want to become Christian if the face of Christianity is Fred Phelps and his group? Why would they want to become part of the Body of Christ when it looks like it is only used to attack others?

This Body was created to heal, not hurt. Our hands are meant for feeding and clothing others, not for holding picket signs. Our fingers were not made for pointing.

Imagine if this group had used its resources to mobilize their members to go to flood areas and other natural disasters to help out. They could have used their powers for good. Imagine if they’d used their money and time to teach people how to read or how to eat healthy food

We, as members of the Body of Christ, are held to a higher standard. We must forgive him. To forgive is not to condone.

We must remember that he was not acting alone. When we talk about how bad he was, we have to remember that it wasn’t just one man who showed up with a picket sign.

We talk about how bad Hitler was, but we forget that it was thousands of his followers that did the dirty work. We talk about Osama bin Laden, but we forget he wasn’t the one who was bombing and killing. Both of them were just giving the orders and others were just carrying them out.

If we are filled with hate towards Fred Phelps, we are one of his followers as surely as they were.

The bad thing is that there are plenty of people who call themselves Christian who agree with the Westboro group’s motives, if not their methods. They think that the purpose of Christians is to tell off other people and to have them live by a certain narrow set of rules.

They don’t remember that Jesus, in John 8:7, when he came across a group that was going to stone an adulterers, said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus doesn’t condemn her, or anybody else. Neither should we. They don’t remember that Jesus paid for all sins, for everybody, across time, by his death on the cross. We aren’t sinners, none of us. That debt is paid.

We can’t condemn even those who condemn others. Even Fred Phelps and his followers. We have to love them, because they need it the most. We have to show them love. We have to show them how to love by being loving to them.

Forgive them. Be the face of love to them. We must teach them who Jesus really is by being Jesus to them. Jesus is love. Thus, we should be too.

What the Duck? Hate isn’t a Christian virtue.

Last Thursday I was in my water aerobics class. There is a lady there who I regularly talk with. She is an evangelical Christian and is a minister in her church. I’ve had better talks about God in that pool than I ever have in church.

Today was different. She came up to me and asked me if I’d heard about the whole Duck Dynasty thing. Of course I have. Who hasn’t, by now? I don’t even watch TV and I know about it. The patriarch of this group of rednecks says some pretty harsh things about gay people and the network his show is on fires him.

She starts talking to me about this as if she assumes I’m going to agree with her. I’m reminded of the times when people start to tell me a racist joke, thinking I’m on their side. She smiles really big and says “But we know who is going to win in the end, right?” She means Jesus. She means to say that she thinks this intolerant, judging, backwater man is right, and that she thinks I agree with him.

I took a breath in. I smiled. I’m learning this is a good tactic to disarm people. Because this is disarming. I’m trying to remove a dangerous weapon from her. I’m trying to remove the most dangerous weapon there is – using Jesus as a weapon.

I can’t stand it when people use Jesus as an excuse to hate other people. Of course, they don’t think they are being hateful. They think they are being obedient. They think they are following the Word.

So, I decided to test this minister. She’s studied the Bible longer than I have, and been examined by her church. She is a lay minister, sure, but she had to be certified and tested by them to say she is a minister. So she should be able to answer a simple question.

She didn’t see this coming.

I asked her – “What did Jesus say about homosexuality?”

Full stop. She looked to the side, in deep thought. She was scanning her memory banks. They came up blank, because Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality. He talked a lot about love. Part of love is not judging other people. He talked a lot about not judging. It isn’t Christ-like to tell other people what they are doing is wrong.

She fumbled. She had to be right. She said “But Scriptures say that…” and I interrupted. “Not Scriptures. What did JESUS say?”

And then she realized that her whole plan was going wrong. She thought she had an ally. I’ve never challenged her on her homophobia before. I’ve let her talk it out. But I certainly haven’t agreed. I’ve hoped that she would come to the same conclusion that I have – that the only sin is to be hateful and judgmental and to not show love.

As Christians, we follow the commands of Jesus. His commands supersede the rules of the Old Testament. Take whatever rule there is in the Old Testament and measure it up against Jesus’ rules – Does it show love to God? Does it show love to our neighbor (i.e. everybody)? Then do it. If it doesn’t fulfill those parameters, it is optional. This is why Christians can eat bacon cheeseburgers, and don’t have to cover their heads, and don’t have to worry about wearing fabric that is woven from two different materials. These rules don’t push us further in love.

The same thing applies to the words of Paul in the New Testament. If his words measure up against Jesus’ commands to show love, then do them. Otherwise, skip them. Remember, Paul is the same person who said that women shouldn’t speak in church. If they have any questions in church they should be silent, and ask their husbands at home later. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) If she is going to use Paul’s words against homosexuals, she needs to remember that Paul was totally against women ministers, of which she is one.

Now, she has to prove she’s right, so she goes into Scriptures, even though that isn’t what I asked. She tells about the men in Sodom and Gomorrah who wanted to sodomize the angels. (Genesis 19:4-5)

Fine. I’ve read Scriptures too. I may not be a certified minister, but I know this.

I countered with the fact that Lot volunteered to send out his two virgin daughters instead, to be raped by the crowd of men. (Genesis 19:6-8)

Then I added the fact that after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughters were convinced that they were the only people left on Earth and that they were responsible for continuing their father’s line. They got their father drunk and had sex with him, and got pregnant. (Genesis 19:30-38)

I pointed out that you can’t talk about homosexuality being wrong in Scriptures without noting that raping virgins and incest is perfectly fine.

This stumped her.

She countered with “Jesus says love the sinner, hate the sin”.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Jesus said nothing of the sort. Try to find the verse for that. Try to find anything like that in the Gospels. It just isn’t there. It isn’t there because it isn’t loving.

Jesus didn’t define people as sinners.

Jesus died for everybody’s sins. Jesus died to let us all know that we are free of that debt. Jesus died so that we could live.

Plenty of Christians say that they aren’t judging gay people. They say this in the same way that racists say they aren’t racist. They judge them when they say that being gay is a sin. They judge them when they say they aren’t entitled to the same legal rights that every other adult citizen has. They judge them when they exclude them or limit them, or deride them.

When Christians judge gay people, they aren’t being Christ-like. They just aren’t. The bad part is that they are giving a bad name to Christians. Because they are so vocal in their judgment, they give the impression to non-Christians that being hateful is a hallmark of being Christian. It isn’t.

Love is the answer, always.