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UPDATE: It Depends on What Your Definition of “Christian” Is…

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This article was updated Sunday 23 November to clear up some grammar issues, and in doing so I have provided some updates to let you know what is currently happening, and to better enhance my arguments.

My friends, last week I had something occur that was so troublesome that I had to report it to certain Federal law enforcement authorities as well as a nationally known advocate for religious liberty issues.

Since the Feds are still doing their investigation I have to wait to post the article. I spoke with and I am in contact with the head of that group. Like me he is waiting to see what the investigators report. As things stand right now I expect that it may be sometime in December before I can publish in any detail what happened.

Conceivably this could end up getting some media attention because it involves a military member, civilian or contractor working for a military command that deals with IT issues. It is an organization which has been accused of hacking people and organizations across the political spectrum. Stupidly the individual did not think that I could look up his IP address and in this case track it down to the exact base, command and building where it originated.

The individual used the government network to post demeaning and harassing posts about my religious beliefs on this site under a pseudonym. What they said,their pseudonym and e-mail moniker left no doubt that they are some kind of politically minded and motivated right wing Christian intent on shouting down their opposition.

I cannot go into any more detail but it is troubling. If the comments had come from a civilian network I would blow it off as the work of a crackpot. The person may be a crackpot, but I figure that based on where this message originated it was someone working for the military who has a Top Secret security clearance. Why such a person would be attacking me, a senior Navy Chaplain and combat vet about my religious beliefs from a military network is beyond me.

But then maybe It all depends on what your definition of being a “Christian” is, and based on the religious-political hyperbole of the Christian Right, I don’t think I am a Christian anymore. But then being a “Christian” really does depend on what your definition of being a Christian “is” to use the words of former President Bill Clinton.

I am not a Christian if it means…

Elevating your interpretation of the Bible over Jesus…

Using your interpretation of scripture to damn other people to Hell or anywhere else, including Mississippi, even if there are equally valid interpretations from other Christian sources…

Elevating partisan political issues above the commands of Jesus…

Being more concerned with maintaining your political power than caring about people…

Demonizing anyone that disagrees with whatever pet doctrine that you hold dear, even if that doctrine was condemned by other Christians throughout history to be heretical…

Accuse others of the most horrible, unbelievable and false conspiracies and then claim that God told you to do it…

Claim a right or privilege for yourself based on your Christian Faith, and the use the police power of the state to enforce it, all the while denying the same rights to others…

When you are criticized by the very people that you condemn to Hell, or use economic boycotts against, or use the power of the state to condemn claim that you are now the victim of persecution…

The funny thing this is not new.

Such behavior by Christians goes back over a millennium.

In 1054 the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox split over one word in the Nicene Creed that described the precedence of the Holy Spirit.

The Protestant Reformers elevated their interpretation of scripture over the Roman Catholic instance on scripture being interpreted through Church Tradition and the theology of Thomas Aquinas.

The Radical Reformers insisted on believer’s  or adult baptism over infant baptism…

Early Pentecostals, as well as some today, insisted that unless one had been baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of “speaking in tongues” that you were not a Christian…

Sadly, the trend continues as every new Christian sect insists on its own version of “the truth” being absolute truth. History shows that nearly every time such religious absolutists gain control of a civil government that they either by legislation or fiat make their religious law the law of the land.

Among these various denominations and sects these doctrinal issues are still officially in place, even if many church members don’t understand. The only difference is now that many of these people, who I would say are sincere in their beliefs have come together under a political banner, condemning secularists, atheists, and other non-believers to ensure that the Christian franchise remains on top.

This was the whole intention of the Manhattan Declaration of a few years back. Throw aside centuries or actual theological and doctrinal differences in order to keep political power, yes that is the Christian way.

After the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the empire a theological dispute between Trinitarian and Arian Christians became political. Whenever an Arian Emperor was in charge Trinitarians were persecuted, and when Trinitarian emperors were in power the payback was hell.

The Cathars in France were exterminated in military crusades by the Roman Catholics.

The early reformation led by John Huss in Czecheslovkia was not only condemned theologically but led to a series of wars as the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire sought to suppress it.

Martin Luther united with the “anti-Christ” Roman Catholic Church to exterminate the “enthusiasts” and Anabaptists during the Peasant’s Revolt.

Ulrich Zwingli executed his former students who had become Anabaptist and been re-baptized to demonstrate their new faith by “re-baptizing” them until they drowned in the Rhine River.

John Calvin ran a religious theocracy in Geneva where any dissent was punishable as heresy. and his government routinely executed “heretics” who did not hold his truth.

The Roman Catholic Church ran the Inquisition in conjunction with with the Spanish crown, as well as other Catholic monarchies, condemning anyone who strayed from the Catholic faith to persecution, imprisonment and often death.

Of course there was the Thirty Years War in which nations with state religions, Protest or Catholic launched wars of brutal extermination against each other, wars which devastated Germany and which the ruins of castles along the Rhine testify to even today.

The Anglican Church in conjunction with the British crown made Catholicism an act punishable by death, and persecuted other dissenters from the state church including early English Baptists, and the Calvinist dissenters who eventually came to the new colonies as the Pilgrims and Puritans….

The Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony had the exclusive rights to the franchise, and persecuted early Baptists and Quakers often executing them, and in the case of female dissenters accusing them of witchcraft…

Sadly many in the Christian Right under the sway of a Neo-Calvinist political theology called “Seven Mountains” or Christian Dominionism are working at the local, state and federal level in this country to institute a theocracy in this country, with them, like their Puritan and Genevan ancestors having the franchise….

I could go on as there are plenty of other examples that I will not cite here. However, forgetting doctrine and even forgetting Jesus to keep power is nothing new for Christians.

Be assured that if all the groups that the now supposedly politically unified Christians now oppose were wiped out and no longer existed, that these same people would start fighting each other again to gain the exclusive franchise of a state religion. That is the unalterable nature of humanity. That is the unalterable nature of religion, that is the unalterable nature of life.

If you are a “true believer” in any of these Christian traditions you may disagree with me. But in your heart you know that I am right because you know that you are right, and if you are right then no one else is. Thus your power and status must be maintained regardless of the cost. That my friends is the nature of the political Christianity which is more grounded in politics and power than it is in Jesus. Eric Hoffer wrote about people that he called the “True Believers”:

“A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self.”

Disagree with with me if you want, but since I paid a lot more attention to church history, systematic theology and philosophy in seminary than most people do I can whip this stuff out without even looking at my notes.

The fact is that once an external enemy is defeated, those within the politically motivated Christian churches turn on themselves. Christians of different denominations or are different must also be defeated, humiliated and destroyed.

That my friends is the truth of history. That is the ever present witness of supposed Christians who value their political power, their economic position, and their place and status above all others. Alliances between various Christian sects are almost always temporary, never once have Christian sects who have united to face down what they think is an existential threat to themselves  have maintained their unity after the threat is eliminated.

And so it is… For such people it is not about a truth, nor is it about really about faith, nor is it about love. Those are ruses used to justify the naked brutal power and domination that they strive to achieve. Power and domination that is only satisfied when the ones seeking it have eliminated all opposition, even that of former allies.

That is why I say that it is all about “what your definition of Christian is.” 

So if my belief and trust in Jesus is not enough for the true believers… I am okay with that.

If the fact that I am baptized, confirmed and even ordained is not enough for the true believers… I am okay with that.

If the fact that I have had a “born again” experience where faith in Christ became real is not enough… I am okay with that.

If my belief which is grounded in scripture, tradition and reason is not enough for the true believers is not enough… I am okay with that.

If I do not use the name of Jesus to bludgeon non-believers and  if I do not ally myself to the Christian true believers who seek their political power and are willing to make temporary alliances with  those that they despise in the process…. I am okay with that.

If all of that means that I am not a Christian…

Then I am not… and I am okay with that.

I guess that if valuing the rights of Christians above all others and forcing others to follow whatever version of the Christianity is allowed by the state means to some to be a Christian then I am not a Christian… and I am okay with that.

If being a hateful, self righteous person who despise all that do not believe like them,mor do not meet their slitmus test of what it is to be a Christian then I am not a Christian… and I am okay with that too.

If those are the things that are now what are the marks of being a Christian, then I do not want to be one… I am okay with that.  I would rather follow Jesus than be labeled that kind of Christian.

After all, in the end it is about what God thinks, and not what your definition , or my definition of what being a Christian is.

I guess that Bill Clinton was really on target when he said that it all “depends on what your definition of is is” especially for politically minded Christians. People who have sold their souls to maintain political power but who don’t give a wit Jesus. Who don’t care about what their churches actually teach until they eliminate external opposition; and who then can concentrate on eliminating  the “heretical” Christians who were at one time their allies.

That is the ugly truth of “Christian” history.

Condemn me if you want. But before you do please take a look at history, especially the history of other Christians who once they eliminated external threats persecuted other Christians that did not believe just like them.

As far as me, I am now no longer on the defensive. I am taking the offensive against people who value their privilege, power and place in society more than they do the simple command of Jesus. That command of Jesus, to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself matters more than political power.

As far as me, I will fight and protect the rights of the same people that condemn me to Hell. I do this  because as an American who believes deeply in the ethos of our Declaration of Independence says that “all men are created equal” and because of my office and oath to the Constitution that am demands that I defend them.

I am obligated to give them the protections and freedom that they refuse to give others. That being said, when they decide to mock me, attack me or threaten me using government equipment on taxpayer time, I will not play the victim. I will use every legal and moral option available to me to expose those that do for what they are.

So I cannot say anymore about what is happening regarding what I mentioned up front, but I will update you when I can.

You cannot believe how much that I want to expose those that attack me using the freedom that I by my service and oath strive to protect. But at some point I will.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You Don’t Know What You’re Missing Until You Find It: Judy Experiences Real Hearing

This is a very personal post as it deals with my wonderful wife Judy aka the Abbess of the Abbey Normal and very real struggle that she has faced her entire life to hear.  Judy was a neo-nate baby back when survival rates were not so good.  Her late father used to talk about when she was in the hospital that he overheard two doctors at his place of business talking about the baby girl who wasn’t going to live.  But she survived.  However, something, God only knows what happened and auditory nerves were damaged leaving her with a serious hearing loss.  Her loss is what is known as a “ski-slope” loss.  She had a decent amount of hearing in low frequencies.  The loss cuts halfway into the speech range and she has almost nothing in the high frequencies. Unfortunately her late parents didn’t pay much attention to things like this and it wasn’t until First Grade that a teacher noticed that Judy could not hear very well and talked funny.   She started speech therapy in second grade. It was when she was eight that she got her first hearing aid, and the second one came a couple of years after.

Back in those days, the mid 1960s hearing aids didn’t do much for people with this kind of loss.  They basically amplified the noise that they heard and nothing else.  So if you had a big loss in the speech range but hearing in the low frequencies you only got more of the low frequencies.  It would be like if you removed all the treble from whatever music system you use and just turned up the bass with a bunch of distortion thrown in.  Such was the case with Judy for many years. In spite of this she learned to function as much as she could as a “hearing” person. She worked hard in speech therapy to say sounds that she could not hear.  By the time that I met in my freshman year of college her many people who did not know her simply assumed that she might be German or some other European transplant.  She took German in college did pretty well and became President of the German club. She did well enough to get around and communicate with Germans in Germany using her German skills when we were stationed there.  In college she went into the program for deaf students at California State University Northridge.  It was there that she became much more proficient in American Sign Language.  Since college Judy has continued to get better hearing aids which in almost every instance have allowed her to gain more hearing capability. As this has occurred she has continues to do things that a person with her amount of hearing are not supposed to do.  She sings second soprano in her church choir and plays the guitar.  All of these things according to the numbers should be impossible for her, but she has developed great speech discrimination despite her hearing loss, but even so still misses a lot.

Now Judy never really knew what she was missing for many years.  Every time she got new hearing aids they would be some improvement, sometimes a lot of improvement over the older versions.  This became much more dramatic with her first set of digital hearing aids.  However, even with relatively recent technology featured in her current set of hearing aids her hearing is only 62% of normal, in other words a 38% loss.  This is not bad compared to the 77% loss that she has without them.  So even best case she misses a lot and cannot understand things like words to popular songs on the radio or a CD player.  She cannot hear much that we in the hearing world take for granted.  If she wants to hear she may have to keep the aids up so loud that they cause headaches.  Until they developed hearing aids which could be adjusted for directional use in a crowded environment the background noise at restaurant or other public venue would make it very difficult to hear who she was talking to.   She cannot hear someone whisper, nor understand if someone turns their back on her as they talk even with her current hearing aids. She has worked her ass off to speak well, sing and play the guitar.  She has a good voice; most people do not know just how bad her hearing is because she does well so many things that she is not supposed to do within the parameters of her loss.

It is funny how many Christians, especially Charismatics and Pentecostals have been uncomfortable with someone with this kind of disability around.  It seems that many have a hard time dealing with the fact that there are some people who do not get healed.  The fact that Judy has suffered with this all her life and never been healed has made our life at times in church rather interesting as people had words from the Lord that she was going to be miraculously healed and often wanted to pray for her, which most of the time Judy allowed them knowing that they meant well and if God wanted to be healed that it would happen.  Since we had seen many other miraculous things in our life who were we to limit God?  At the same time it was never a problem for us that she was not healed, unless of course she lost the use of a hearing aid.  During this time I don’t think that either of us subscribed to this being either an attack of Satan or the will of God.  For us it kind of fits in the, well…to put it in the street vernacular “shit happens” category of life, even to good people including Christians.  There is something in Scripture talks about the rain falling on the just and the unjust so I think that both of us believe that this is part of the human condition and not something personal on the part of either God or the Devil. Since Judy was a baby when she lost her hearing I have a hard time believing that somehow God caused it or foreordained it.  I guess I’m a pretty bad Calvinist or Augustinian huh?

Now I do believe in and seen what I would have to describe as miracles, including a fair amount in our lives.  At the same time I do not see these as a daily occurrence.  Miracles are such because they are not ordinary daily occurrences no matter how hard we believe and want them to be.  Some people for no fault of their own or God’s never get healed, in fact there is a 100% certainty short of the Second Coming, which I believe will be triggered with the Cubs winning the World Series, that all of us will die sometime in our lives, some even more than once, like Cubs fans.

Last week this changed.  Judy has a pair of hearing aids with a very new technology that has leveled the playing field.  She is now experiencing what it is to really hear for the first time in her life.  It has been at times a very emotional experience as she heard certain sounds for the first time, or the nuance or depth of other sounds.  Things that she could not do before like understand someone who was not directly facing her, for example someone behind her at a stadium or in the car.  Or hear the soft staccato sound of rain water coming down the drain spout, or hearing the shower upstairs from downstairs and understand song lyrics on the radio or CD, and movie dialogue.  With each new experience hearing things that she has never heard before and often being so overwhelmed that she starts to cry, she knows that she has crossed the Rubicon and cannot go back.  She realizes what she is missing all of these years and and wants to make sure that she never goes without it again.

Her hearing aids are loaners which she has on a trial basis.  We are praying that Tricare will approve her new hearing aids, and while I expect that somehow it will work out but Judy is dubious. I keep on telling her like Donald Sutherland’s character “Oddball” in Kelly’s Heroes “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”

Now they are quite expensive and we hear from her Audiologist that Tricare seems not to be doing much approving for new hearing aids.  Before this was seldom an issue. However for some reason I am hopeful.  What has surprised us is that some Christians have suggested finding a way to lose or destroy the old hearing aids to ensure that she gets the new ones.  This was shocking because neither of us could do that, even if we wanted to.  Now I might pray for them to die, or for the dog to eat them or for Judy to get caught in a sudden cloudburst with no cover so they would short out, but we can’t in good conscience destroy or lose them.  Now there is the possibility that one has developed a short after we went to Kira’s outdoor wedding due to moisture accumulation in the heat and humidity.  If that is the case and it is dead or dying then the hearing aids may have made the decision for us and that would be a good thing, it might be the first time that I have been thankful for the awful humidity back here.  So like a team that is down in the 4th inning by a big score we can always pray for rain…right?

I do hope that she gets the new aids with no delay or just a minimal one.  The difference that they have made in her life is amazing and it is really cool to see how well she is doing with them.  I am blown away with every new discovery that Judy makes.  You can find some of her thoughts about this at her blog, the Abbey Normal Abbess at http://abbeynormalabbess.wordpress.com/

Peace, Steve+

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