Grow where you are planted … and other “granny scriptures”

One lesson my professor taught in my homiletics class back in 1989 was to make sure you did your background research on your text/topic thoroughly to avoid relying on “granny scriptures” as the authority behind your main points.

A “granny scripture,” he explained, was something that granny said so often everyone accepted was in scripture and had as much authority. A favourite, and most worn out cliché, example is, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” There’s no such text or principle cited or taught in scripture.

If you rely on a “granny scripture” as your main point then, to use the modern meme parlance, you are relying on #alternativefacts and #fakenews. You’re not relying on fact or truth.

Another popular meme is, “grow where you’re planted” or “bloom where you’re planted.” This meme is used to advocate against proactive change. It might something go something like, “Be happy and content with your lot. You’re being ungrateful if you try to change your circumstances.

Often actual scripture is cited to support this notion, the most frequent used is 1 Corinthians 7. The context the entire letter addresses is that societal status is not an excuse for the prejudice occurring in Corinth or the resulting in-fighting among the church community there. Free citizens don’t outrank slaves, married do not have more importance than singles etc. in the church economy. Paul’s point, in chapter 7, is you won’t overcome prejudice by changing your social status.

He is not advocating the meme of seeking change is wrong. This is shown by his caveat statements, about the difference between the enslaved and the free in v.21 of “if you can gain your freedom, do so” and v.23 “do not become slaves of human beings.

There’s nothing in this chapter that advocates, if you’re a victim of domestic abuse, stay in the marriage and bloom where you’re planted. Or, if you’re working for a dishonest or unethical employer, stay in the job and bloom where you’re planted. As a couple of examples.

What if the legislators, like William Wilberforce, who lobbied against slavery had ‘bloomed where they were planted’? What if the Allies fighting against Nazi Germany had bloomed where they were planted instead of fighting on the  beaches, fighting on the landing grounds etc.?

Bloom where you’re planted, sounds noble and altruistic. But it is, often, self destructive. A more accurate application of 1 Corinthians 7, that isn’t a “granny scripture,” would be the well known Serenity Prayer.

“God, Give us the grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed, Courage
to change the things which should be changed,
And the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

Why your Deadpool protest may be your undoing

The-Fall-of-Icarus1

In the last few days, I’ve come across a few conservative types protesting about and criticizing the Deadpool movie that has recently come out. The thrust of the articles I read was: It is bad and you should not watch it because I said so.

Hmm.

Not that, not liking a movie is, in itself, somehow, a bad thing. But the protests came across quite strong and prompted me to think through the approach taken by some of those leaders.

Continue reading “Why your Deadpool protest may be your undoing”

Trolls and Bullies

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Image courtesy of The Michael Leunig Appreciation Page

Bullies and trolls derive great hubris at others suffering. When you call them out for being what they are – idiots, jerks and soulless cowards – they demand the victim play coy or explain and defend themselves against the vilification. When a victim choses to retreat of the sake of safety and healing, the trolls and bullies hunt them down to taunt them further. The victim is the one who should apologise they say. They are rapacious with their prying, snooping and googling to saté their gluttonous appetite for the misery of their victim. When they find the victim may have moved on and may just be putting the past behind them they regurgitate their bile and spew further invective upon them. Each time the bully and troll open their mouth or touch their keypad they expose themselves as fools.

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes. The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by their praise. Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them. ~ Prov 27:19-22 NIV

7 Ways Christians Lost The Gay Marriage Battle, And How We Should (Not) Fight The War

This is a summary of points made in a super long blog post by Nathan Campbell. Even Nathan says to just skim it and only read the parts you think are interesting.

To start you off, I’ve listed the heading of the points below. I’ve also added my own comments. This is important, as they’re Nathan’s points, but MY comments interacting with those points.

If/when you have time, you may like to read the full article … and the comments dialogue that follows.

Each point begins with “We“. Which includes any Christians who are not advocates of SSM. Yes, it’s a generalization. And, as is evident in the comments on Nathan’s article there will be those who insist they are not part of the “we”. I think being defensive and refusing to own responsibility for the tone of debates held thus far only serves to shut down the conversation.

1. We Didn’t Treat People The Way We’d Like To Be Treated
Overall I think the tone of discussion that has been most publicized (that I’ve had visibility of anyway) is summed up here. There have been very few exceptions.

2. We Lost When We Entered The Fight Expecting To Win, Rather Than Seeking To Love
I’ve observed a lot of, “This will show them!” rhetoric from Christians trying to demolish the arguments in favour of SSM legislation.

3. We Lost When We Decided To Fight For Marriage, Rather Than Speaking About Marriage As An Analogy For The Gospel
Let’s face it, the Christian view is incongruous with general culture. A lot of conversation has tried a little too cleverly to redefine rationale away from classical Christianity.

4. We Lost When We Made Marriage About Children, Rather Than About The Sex That Produces Them
I differ with some of what Nathan has written on this point. Sexual reproduction is by no means the only way children enter any family of any kind or make up. I do agree with his concern that much of the Christian discussion around this point has been prejudice against single parents and adopting families.

5. We Lost When We Lost The Fight On Gender, And Didn’t Think Hard Enough About How To Include The T Or I Parts Of LGBTQI In The Conversation
I think this is also the case among SSM advocates. It is also the case throughout most Christian discussion on gender and sexuality. It fits into the too-hard basket for many and because they can’t cope with something outside their own experience they ignore it.

6. We Lost When We Made The Argument About The Next Argument (The Slippery Slope), Rather Than Lovingly Understanding What The People In Front Of Us Desired And Were Asking For
Whether there is a slippery slope or inevitable trajectory does not deal with the immediate questions being asked. Yes, there have been reports of people wanting to do all sorts of weird things in countries where SSM has been legalised. But how does that compare, in reverse, with an Australian couple wanting to get a divorce to protest SSM? Personally, I would put them in the same class.

7. We Lost When We Didn’t Fight Harder For Love To Mean Something Other Than Sexual Intimacy Or Total Acceptance (Not Compassionate Tolerance)
What is love anyway? And, going back to the first and second points, have “we” loved anyone in the way we have approached the entire argument?

I’ll finish with the same quote Nathan did in his post.

1 John 4:7-14
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

Fair and unfair questions about the connection between religion and abuse

The Sydney siege has given rise to a lot of discussion in Australia about the role of the gunman’s religious beliefs in either inspiring or contributing to his actions which culminated in taking arming himself and taking hostages in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney this week. Precedents have been cited of others with allegedly similar professed beliefs committing heinous crimes throughout the world.

The overly simplified argument is that Islam was founded amidst violence and that many adherents believe they are justified and encouraged to pursue violence against those who disagree, reject or convert away from Islam. True enough, there are examples of this. Perhaps most notable are the recent actions of the Islam State cult and the Taliban or Al Qaeda. In other instances there are national governments lead by an Islamic ethos that display strong prejudice and discrimination against non-Islamic minorities in their countries.

Yet, making an inference, whether implied or explicit, that all adherents of Islam are on the same trajectory for the same reason as those that motivate the Taliban or the Lindt Cafe gunman is poor logic and hypocritical.

Questions ought to be asked about the contributing factors inspiring a decision to take hostages and murder two of them. What role, if any, did a perception or interpretation of religion play in that decision? But to assume that all other adherents of that religion, regardless of degree of traditional orthodoxy or intercultural expression, are no different to the gunman or the Taliban, creates some dangerous precedents.

Asking questions in general or debating the merits of an ideology or religion ought to be welcome in the public square. Such discussion ought to be able to take place without degenerating into ad hominem attacks and insults. These only serve to create animosity, fear, hatred and do nothing for the interests of truth and justice.

If, when considering Islam, you make a leap from one gunman or one criminal association or even the habitual practice of a particular government to extend to each individual without exception, then why don’t you do the same with other ideologies and intercultural religious expressions?

For instance, to cite the example made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday, when the IRA terrorists were bombing the UK and killing innocents, is every Roman Catholic a murderer?
Likewise, when an Atheist regime in North Korea oppresses an entire nation, is every non-theist an egomaniacal abusive dictator bent on destroying the world?
Or, when a Christian minister or Catholic priest abuses a child, is every Christian a pervert and a paedophile?

You can no more argue that Islam always attracts or inspires violence than you can that Christianity always attracts or inspires crimes against children. It goes beyond the absurd and becomes a deviance of it’s own.

Let’s ask the difficult questions, and lets make sure that all ideas and actions are held up to scrutiny. But let’s do it in fair play. I for one, am more than happy for my beliefs and practices to undergo the same. I’m confident you can do it and disagree passionately with my religious conclusions, regardless of how well I might make an argument, and still not malign me at the end. (If you do, well it’s no loss to me that you’re an incorrigible hard case.) Neither do you have to endorse or agree with me to ask those questions and seek understanding and clarification.

However, if, in the course of your examination you find some gross inconsistency in my character, I’m confident that you’ll attribute that to my personal flaws without condemning 2000 years of Christianity or every other professing Christian of being guilty of the same for the same reasons regardless of their background and context.

I hope my Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist and all other friends are equal to the task also. There’s no need for us to reach a consensus to have the discussion or to reap the benefits of civilised society.