A rundown of what you need to know about Trump’s mission to ‘destroy’ the Johnson Amendment. This Amendment regulates what tax-exempt organizations such as churches can do in the political arena. If you think that this issue all about freedom of religious speech, you’re wrong… it’s all about money and power. We’ve also got What’s Good // What’s Bad chronicling the interweb’s best and an interview from the Snarky Faith vaults with the great singer-songwriter, Gregory Alan Isakov.
Join us as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.
Join us for our conversation with activist and founder of Unchained at Last, Fraidy Reiss. Unchained At Last is the only nonprofit in the US dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged/forced marriages and rebuild their lives. Unchained also is the only nonprofit in the US dedicated to creating social, policy and legal change to end forced marriage in America. Fraidy has a powerful message about this unseen epidemic in America. We’ve also got What’s Good // What’s Bad chronicling the interweb’s best and worst of the week and a rant about Christians and boycotting.
Buckle up for a wild ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.
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Well, good afternoon, and welcome to another round of Snarky Faith Radio. I am your host, Stuart Delony. As you’re out there listening this week, you may say, “Who is this guy? He sounds different.” Well, it’s because I got a haircut. I just wanted you guys to know I got a haircut, so I may sound a little different on the radio. Just a heads up, so no one gets confused. This week on the show, we have an interview with Fraidy Reiss who is the founder of Unchained At Last. It’s an organization that helps women get out of forced marriages. It’s a great talk, and we will get to that in a little bit. Before that, you know what it’s time for? It’s time for “What’s good // What’s bad”. Just a reminder, if you want to see all the videos and all the links that we’re talking about here, you can find it on our website www.snarkyfaith.com.
Over this past week, since we’ve talked, since we’ve hung out, since we’ve been around one another, did you catch the Oscar flub that was heard around the world? I’m pretty sure everybody knows about it where Pricewaterhouse gave Warren Beatty the wrong card. He read out the wrong Best Picture winner, which was super awkward, super embarrassing, but the thing I loved most about this was I love that confused look on Warren Beatty’s face when he looked at the card. He starred at it. He looked at it. He wasn’t sure what to do with it, and he was just like, “Uh.” It was one of those things that reminds me of what it looks like when my mom is trying to figure out how to take a picture with her iPhone. She’s just like, “Uh. Why is it on my face? Why can’t I—?” Yeah. It was one of those classic moments, which is almost as laughable as the fact, if you heard in the news that, uh oh, Mike Pence used to use a private email account, not a private email server, but a private email account that, in the past, got hacked. What I love about that story is that, as governor, he was still using his own private account, which was an AOL account. I didn’t even realize AOL accounts were still a thing. [Laughter] I remember it back from in my teens when you would get AOL. You could dial in and hop on to the internet. Oh my gosh. How far we’ve come, but it’s just funny that people still use AOL accounts. I didn’t know that was a thing.
Onward and upward into “What’s good // What’s bad”. Here’s the first thing we’ve got. First off, sticking to politics, did anyone read—this comes from the Washington Post—information was recently taken down from the Iowa Senate Republican websites. This guy’s name is Mark Chelgren, and apparently, on his website, he had some incorrect information because it said that he formally held a business degree. As folks went to dig into, really, what degree this was, where it from, actually, he had taken a management course at Sizzler years before. No, but this is real. This is a real thing. The dude was touting that he had a bachelor’s degree in business and it was simply just, I think, a one-time management course for Sizzler, the restaurant, like when people would say, “I went to McDonald’s University.” Same idea. Yeah.
Many of you know we are in that period of time called Lent, which marks the days that march us towards Easter. As part of a Lent tradition, you’ve seen this in the stores. You don’t even have to be religious go follow this Lent tradition because we’ve seen them everywhere. The Peeps. They start happening. You see them in your grocery stores. You see them at the Walmarts and Targets of the world. Yes. Those little, squishy, marshmallow things that kind of represent chicks that are simply just a sugar bomb in your mouth. Well, if those weren’t good enough or sweet enough for you, this year, they’re running a limited time edition Oreo Peep. You’ve got the Oreo cookie on the outside and squishy, little Peeps on the inside. The only problem, as people have noted across social media is (a) your tongue turns completely pink when you eat them. The scarier part is on the other side, like after your body has digested and processed it, when it’s ready to make its triumphant exit, yeah, it’s turning everybody’s poop pink. It’s freaking people out. Thanks, Peeps. Thanks, Peeps and Oreo for turning our poop pink as that’s a great meditation reminding us of the coming of the resurrection of Christ for Easter. [Sarcasm] Right. Whoever thought about that? You could, actually, literally give up normal colored poop for Lent and say, “I’m good. I’m doing this. I’m going to commit to 40 days of eating Peep Oreos.” Delicious. [Sarcasm]
Moving away from poop and getting back to Easter, we’ve got a video. I don’t know if you’ve caught it. I love it. It’s really funny. There was a guy dressed up (I believe this was in Europe) as Jesus walking around as an art piece, a guy dressed as Jesus, walking around, carrying his cross with him. I don’t know if this is an airport or a subway station, he’s coming out the other end of an escalator. Well, apparently, there wasn’t enough clearance in the ceiling, and his cross gets jammed up and jacks up the ceiling. All we can say was, “One of those Jesus party fouls.” Really, if you’re Jesus and carrying a cross around everywhere, you’re bound to come into some mishaps, sometime.
Next, on a slight tangent from talking about Jesus, let’s talk about zombies because, in certain circles, and depending upon your definition of The Walking Dead, it could be argued that Jesus, in fact, was a zombie. He was dead, and then became reanimated again. Let’s talk about fake zombie breakouts. The Randolph County, which is Randolph County is in Indiana, their sheriff’s department ended up having to list this service announcement this week on Facebook. [Laughter] It said this. It said:
“Local alerts from WZZY 98.3 FM regarding the zombie attack and disease outbreak from deceased bodies is a result of the radio station’s alert system being hacked. There’s no local emergency. We have contacted the radio station and notified the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Again, there’s no emergency or disease outbreak in Randolph County.”
What had happened was someone had actually hacked in to the radio station’s alert system and began to broadcast out an alert that there was a disease that was spreading, that people were dying, but then becoming reanimated like zombies, and people needed to hide and take cover. This is what happens when we have to wait an entire week until the next Walking Dead episode. [Sarcasm] Come on AMC. When Netflix drops a new show, they drop them all at once. They don’t tease us. They don’t make us excruciatingly walk out to figure out what’s happening to Rick and everybody else. Come on. All seriousness, I can’t imagine that this caused a panic, but apparently, it did cause a bit of a panic because you never know what could happen in Indiana. Wasn’t that where Stranger Things was filmed? Hmm.
Next. This next thing started off as a “What’s good // What’s bad”. What I’ll do is I scour stuff out on the interwebs for you guys and find interesting stuff that’s been going on. The Washington Post had posted a piece entitled “Why Can 12-Year-Old Girls Still Get Married in the United States.” It was one of those things that would’ve been in the “What’s good // What’s bad” category as bad. It just blew my mind. It blew my mind that we still have forced marriage issues in our country, that we still have child brides in our country, that this is still happening. This is the kind of thing that you always read about when we think about human trafficking and stuff that goes on in third world countries. We get appalled about it like, “How can this happen?” This stuff is happening under our noses in this country all the time. I read through this article. I did some more research on this article. It, actually, led me to Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained At Last. This whole idea that this continues on in this country is blowing my mind right now. I wonder if she would take time out of her busy schedule to talk to us, to inform us, to educate us about the problem that we have going on in this country. After a few emails, Fraidy decided that this may be a good platform for her to be able to share her story. I felt like it was a good platform to educate you guys, my beloved audience, about this problem that’s going on. That led into the interview with Fraidy Reiss from Unchained At Last. Here it is.
[Begin Audio Clip of Interview with Fraidy Reiss]
Stuart: Today, I’m sitting here with Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained At Last. Unchained is the only nonprofit in the United States dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged or forced marriages and rebuild their lives. Unchained, also, is the only nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated in creating social, policy, and legal change to end forced marriage in America. Fraidy, thank you so much for being on this today.
Fraidy Reiss: Thank you for shining a spotlight on this really important issue.
Stuart: When I was doing the pre-interview research and questionnaire, there’s terms that get thrown around when talking about this a lot. You’ll hear arranged marriages. You’ll hear child marriages. You’ll hear forced marriages. Can you give us some definitions, so we have a working definition in this conversation?
Fraidy: Yeah. That’s a really good place to start. First, people have, like you said, some confusion about what is an arranged marriage. What’s forced marriage? How are they different, and how are they the same? My answer to that is that a forced marriage is one in which one or both parties does not give full, free, informed consent. In many situations, a family or community will call it an arranged marriage, but calling it that, doesn’t make it that. If both parties are not giving full, free, informed consent, then that’s still a forced marriage. The question of child marriage is—by the way, we can go back and talk about the problem with differentiating between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage is that there’s such a fine line between consent and coercion. If somebody says yes but only after experiencing extreme duress, threats, whether they’re implicit or explicit, or fraud, coercion, bribery, then it becomes a question of was that yes actual consent or was that coercion. It’s very difficult, many times, to differentiate between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage. We let survivors tell us. Did you feel that you had the chance to say yes? Did you feel that you were able to consent to the marriage? The question of child marriage, not all child marriages are forced. A child marriage is one in which one or both parties is under the age of 18. Not every child marriage is a forced marriage because some children enter into a marriage willingly. Not every forced marriage is a child marriage because somebody can be forced into a marriage or pressured, or coerced, or bribed, or threatened, whatever it is, at any age.
Stuart: Gotcha. All this starts with your story in this. You were raised, what I’ve read here, is in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community where you were pushed into an arranged marriage.
Fraidy: Yeah, and again, there goes the wording. You’re calling it an arranged marriage. In the community that I come from, they don’t call it arranged or forced marriage. They just call it marriage. You have to look at what was actually happening as opposed to the label that a family chooses to put on it. Yeah. In my situation, I was raised in a very insular, ultra-Orthodox, Jewish community where I was taught from when I was a toddler that my goal in life was to marry young in an arranged marriage and to be a wife and a mother. Soon after I graduated from high school, my family arranged my marriage. I never really had an option. The question of whether I was going to marry was not asked. That was told to me. The question of when was not asked. It’s after you graduate from high school. The question of whom, well, the matchmaker brought me somebody. I had a matter of hours over a period of a few weeks to decide whether I wanted to marry him, never being allowed to be alone in the room with him or have any physical contact and with tremendous pressure on me to say yes.
Stuart: When did it start going wrong for you, or how soon did you start seeing that there was a problem?
Fraidy: Well, I knew him for only a total of three months when we were married because we had a few weeks to, so called, date and then a six-week engagement. He was still a stranger to me when we married. It was only one week after our wedding that he first showed himself to be violent, and soon after that, that he first threatened to kill me.
Stuart: Oh my gosh. When you started seeing that there was problems here, that there was major problems here, where did you go to look for help in your community?
Fraidy: I went to the places that I had been told I was supposed to go for help. I went to my family, his family, and the rabbis in the community. Wherever I went, there were no offers of help. There was, you chose this guy. Even though this marriage was arranged, I had said yes. I was told, you chose this guy. Marriage is forever. Here’s another thing that’s important to understand is that a forced marriage is, not only at the point of entry that one or both parties doesn’t give full, free, and informed consent, if one or both parties is forced to stay in the marriage, then that, then, becomes a forced marriage. As little choices I had entering the marriage, I had even less in terms of leaving it. Under Orthodox Jewish law, I did not have the right to divorce my husband. Only a man is allowed to divorce his wife under religious law. I did not have reproductive rights. I wasn’t allowed to use birth control, so I gave birth 11 months after my wedding. Soon, I had two children. I, also, had no financial rights. I wasn’t allowed to work, have a bank account, or a credit card in my own name. I was completely, financially dependent on my husband for myself and my kids. With a family that wouldn’t help me, there was just no way out.
Stuart: How did you get out?
Fraidy: Finally, at age 32, managed to leave because I became the first person in my family to go to college. It was really frowned upon. The high school that I went to, the all-girls, ultra-Orthodox Jewish school that I went to, we actually had to sign a paper in high school promising that we would not take SATs or driver’s ed, by the way. That’s how concerned the school was. That’s how concerned the community was about people going to college. I became, at age 27, the first person in my family to go to college over the arguments of my husband and my family. I insisted on going, and graduated at 32, and became financially independent even before I was financially independent. As soon as I graduated, I changed the locks and filed for the divorce. My family and community shunned me. They consider me dead, but I rebuilt my life with my two daughters.
Stuart: How was that? How was that process of rebuilding?
Fraidy: Horrifying, terrifying and joyful and liberating at the same time. I was escaping, not only from an abusive marriage but also, leaving a very insular, religious community where I didn’t have a television, a radio, newspaper, very little contact with the outside world. I knew nothing about the outside world and had to learn that hamburgers are not made out of ham and that the Beatles are, actually, a group, a band. Just basic things like that, and what size I am in jeans.
Stuart: That is incredible, especially when you’re talking about how insolated life was to, then, begin to leave that. It’s like you have to relearn everything.
Fraidy: Yes, literally. Not relearn, learn everything.
Fraidy: I was 32 years old learning, for the first time in my life, about what the world is like out there. Terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
Stuart: When we start to talk about these forced marriages, especially in the realm of child marriage, can we talk about stats when we’re looking at how prevalent this is in the U.S.? I think, oftentimes, there’s this common assumption that this kind of thing only happens elsewhere in the world. How prevalent is this?
Fraidy: You’re absolutely right about that assumption. I get that a lot. If I meet people, for the first time, who already know my story, they say, “Oh, but you’re white. This doesn’t happen to white people,” or when people hear my story, they’ll ask me, “Oh, so you’re from Iran, right?” I say, “No, I’m from Brooklyn. I grew up in Brooklyn. I’m very American.” The statistics on forced marriage, simply, aren’t there because so little research has been done on this. There was one nationwide survey of forced marriage that was done in 2011 by the Tahirih Justice Center that looked at a two-year period leading up to 2011. It found that during that period, there were up to 3,000 known or suspected cases of forced marriage in the United States. Child marriage, also, the statistics just were not there until we, at Unchained At Last, undertook this huge nationwide research project. We went state by state. We went to all 50 states plus Washington D.C., and we asked for marriage license data going back to 2000. We were able to get that data from 38 states. Twelve states and Washington D.C. don’t track the data. From the other 38 states, what we found, from analyzing the data that we retrieved, is that more than 167,000 children, as young as 12, were married just between 2000 and 2010, in those 38 states. For the 12 states and D.C., because we didn’t have the data, we came up with a formula to estimate how many children were married because there was a strong correlation we identified between state population and the number of children married. Including the actual numbers and the estimate for the states that don’t track the data, we determined that nearly a quarter million children were married in America between 2000 and 2010. Again, from the data we do have, we know they were mostly girls married to adult men, and they were as young as 12 years old.
Stuart: That is absolutely frightening to hear that, especially as a father of two girls. For me, that’s just mind blowing. I’ve read that Unchained At Last is fighting to have all 50 states adopt legislation that would change the marriage age to 18 with no or very few exceptions. What kind of pushback are you seeing in the work that you guys are doing of changing legislation?
Fraidy: So far, there’s been no public outcry against the bill. The pushback really, if there is any, more and more states are introducing legislation that eliminate the exceptions to the minimum marriage age of 18, which, currently in all 50 states, allow children to marry. If I could just go back and say that again. Currently, the minimum marriage age in almost all 50 states is 18, but every state allows exceptions under which children can marry. The legislation that we’re pushing to introduce would eliminate those exceptions state by state and reserve marriage, which is a serious, legal contract, for those who have reached the age of majority, which, usually, is age 18. In states where the age of majority is higher, then we’re pushing for an age of marriage that’s higher. More and more states are looking at this now. Legislation that would end all marriage before 18 without exceptions is, now, advancing in New Jersey where it’s close to passing. It’s, also, pending in Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and about to be introduced in Pennsylvania. Then, legislation that would, at least, cut down on child marriage, although not completely eliminate it, is pending in New York, Missouri, New Hampshire, and more and more states are starting to look at that.
If there’s been any pushback, it’s been from legislators who are just shocked when they learn about this issue. They have a lot of questions. “Well, is that really your problem here?” I can show them, yes, it is. We have the data showing that this is a significant problem in your state and across the United States. Then, some legislators have questions about, “So, is this violating anybody’s religious freedom?” No, it is not because U.S. Supreme Court has upheld legislation that incidentally forbids an act acquired by religion if the legislation does not target religion, which this bill does not. Besides, most major religions tend to view marriage as an important, holy union between two willing partners. I talked about the U.S. Supreme Court having upheld legislation that incidentally forbids an act required by religion if the legislation doesn’t target religion. Also, most major religions tend to view marriage as an important, holy union between two willing partners. That’s, not at all, where child marriage is. Child marriage, often, is forced, and child marriage almost always ends in failure. Between 70 and 80 percent chance of marriage ending in divorce if there’s marriage before age 18. Really, this bill is entirely consistent with modern religious views.
Stuart: Well, I’ll ask you this, and this is more of an off-the-cuff question to this. I was reading in the Huffington Post today. It was an article about some legislation that was trying to move forward in Mississippi. They were trying to push forward a bill that would add domestic violence to the list of legal reasons a person can get a divorce in Mississippi. The problem is, that it died in the House Committee on Tuesday after its chairman, Representative Andy Gibson, said that it could open up the floodgates to divorce. I know. [Laughter] Legislation like this is still on the periphery of what you guys are dealing with. I don’t know if this is simply an issue of too many men running things from a standpoint or what it actually is, but when I read this, I’m just like, “Oh my gosh. What is wrong with you?”
Fraidy: First, excuse me while I vomit on the floor. I can’t even believe you just said that. That’s just horrifying. So far, we haven’t come across anything as terrible as that. There are some legislators who have said along the lines of what you just said. A girl gets pregnant. She needs to get married. There are, unfortunately, legislators who have said that. That’s just absolutely horrifying, even getting past the whole sexist notion of that. Actually, studies show that pregnant girls or teenage mothers who stay single have better long-term outcomes than those who marry. Also, in states that have a pregnancy exception to the minimum marriage age, they’ve, often, been shown to be used to cover up a rape and to force a girl to marry her rapist. States have been moving away from pregnancy exceptions to the minimum marriage age because they’re terrible public policy. We are getting, in a limited way, some of that pushback from legislators, but, for the most part, it’s a matter of educating them and explaining to them you’re not helping a pregnant girl or a teenage girl by marrying her off. You’re actually working against her. By showing that this is why, other states have moved away from it. Only nine states still have a pregnancy exception. In fact, there are several states that specify in their law that pregnancy is not enough of a reason for a girl to get married.
Stuart: Looking at this on more of a global scale, I think, and I believe, from what I was reading, but you would be more of an expert to answer this. What countries are handling this problem of forced marriage better, and how are they doing it?
Fraidy: Are you asking about forced marriage or child marriage? There are a lot of countries that are handling forced marriage better than we are. In terms of child marriage, it’s very difficult to determine which countries are handling child marriage better than we are because, like in most U.S. states, they set 18 as the minimum marriage age. If you were just looking at it quickly, it looks like we’re doing a great job, but it’s those exceptions that are the problem. A lot of countries have the same situation. More than half of all countries allow girls to marry under a parental consent exception, and that’s, specifically, girls. Most countries have more protections for boys than for girls, which is really upsetting. In terms of child marriage, it’s really hard to say. I’ve read so many different studies that have shown the topic so differently about different countries. It’s hard to know what’s, actually, happening in those other countries. In terms of forced marriage, I can say that the U.S. lags behind many other countries in acknowledging and responding to forced marriage. I often use the example of the UK where they’ve longed acknowledged that forced marriage is a problem, and for that reason, there’s a national hotline that people can call to ask for help if they’re facing or already in a forced marriage. There is a task force that responds to individuals who are in need, even if somebody was taken overseas. If a UK citizen was taken overseas to be forced into marriage, this task force will respond, and rescue that individual, and bring the person back to safety. There was always a civil protection order that those facing a forced marriage could use to gain safety and protection. Then, a couple of years ago, the UK also criminalized forced marriage, so there’s, now, an actual, statute that criminalizes forced marriage in the UK. We don’t have any of this in the U.S.
Stuart: From your experience and the experience of those that you’ve been helping to get out of these situations, how do you see that religion plays into this problem in both child marriages and forced marriages? Also, just in that same regard, how do these religious communities that we’re seeing here allow, condone, or turn a blind eye to things that are happening within these marriages?
Fraidy: Before I answer that, by the way, I just want to add to what I said before. There are ten U.S. states or territories where there are laws on the books that can be used to prevent or punish a forced marriage. That’s a very small percentage. Also, those laws appear to be written for completely different reasons, not to prevent or punish a forced marriage. An answer your question about religion, so there are four main reasons that we’ve seen that parents will force their child, whether it’s a minor or an adult, into a marriage. The first one is tradition. That could be cultural or religious. It’s not always in a religious context that a forced marriage happens or a child marriage happens. Girls, often, will say to us, my parents were never religious, but all of a sudden, when it came to marriage, this was just something that was deeply ingrained in them. The second one is money. Sometimes, there’s a bride price or dowry that changes hands. Related to that is immigration. A girl is, sometimes, forced to marry a man overseas so that he can apply for his U.S. visa. Again, in many of those contexts, there’s no religion involved at all. Then, another big one is control. Parents will use marriage as a way to control a child’s behavior or sexuality. If a child comes out as LGBTQ, a girl gets pregnant, parents find out their child is dating or dating the wrong person, and they don’t like that, they’ll sometimes use marriage as a way to control that. Again, that could be completely outside of a religious context.
Stuart: Take me through the steps of how Unchained At Last helps someone. Someone reaches out to you, what are the things that you guys do to be able to help them?
Fraidy: If it’s an adult, what we do is we help the person. Most of the people we help are girls or women. If it’s an adult woman, we help her to leave home. That can be very tricky. We implement an escape plan. Sometimes, she’s being held against her will. Sometimes, she’s even been taken overseas to be forced into a marriage. We have to work with the state department to bring her back, and then get her into a shelter. Then, help her to rebuild her life. Often, that means getting her free, legal representation, so she can get a restraining order against whoever it is who’s threatening her or abusing her, or filing for divorce if the marriage has already happened. Sometimes, there’s a nasty custody battle because some of the women we help have been married many years and have multiple children. Then, anything we can do to help this woman become financially and emotionally independent. That’s always for free. We don’t charge for any of our services, so that’s psychotherapy. If she escaped with just what’s she’s wearing, we’ll get her a whole new wardrobe. If she’s transitioning from a shelter to her own home, we’ll help her get pots and pans, and dishes, and a couch, and beds for her kids, and for herself. Anything she needs whether it’s ESL classes or getting her GED, so that she can move on and get an education. Sometimes, there are other legal needs that she has like immigration. If she was brought from overseas, she needs legal representation to get her legal immigration status. It’s whatever we can do on a case by case. No two cases are the same.
Unfortunately, when it’s child under the age of 18, even one day before age 18, our hands are tied, and we’re blindfolded. There’s very little that we can do. Those girls, often, end up just giving up. They stop reaching out to us, and we cannot reach out to them without putting them danger. Some of them just decide to go along with the marriage because they realize that anything else is just too difficult. Some of them turn to self-harm or suicide attempts because they’re so devastated by what’s happening to them. We see clients from so many different backgrounds, and so many different stories, every socioeconomic level, but the one constant in almost all of these cases is the betrayal. This is something that I can relate to from my own story. The perpetrators in these situations is their own parents. It’s their own family members. It’s really traumatic for these girls and women to realize that the worst trauma of their life is happening, and it’s their own family that’s doing it.
Stuart: For any of our listeners out there that may be caught in a similar situation like to the ones that you’re describing here, how should they go about contacting you? What would you tell them? Can you speak directly to them if they’re caught in a situation like this?
Fraidy: If you are in a forced marriage situation whether that means facing an impending forced marriage or you’re already in a forced marriage, I urge you to reach out to us at Unchained At Last, so that we can help you. You can call us or email us if you’re unable to make a phone call safely. We will do whatever we can to help you. It’s just important to get the help and not try to figure out the situation on your own. Unfortunately, what some people do is they’ll try to get help from—especially someone young in high school or in college, they’ll often go to a teacher for help or go to a friend. In many situations, somebody who doesn’t have experience with this is very well meaning and tries to help but reacts in the wrong ways and that can, often, exacerbate a bad situation. We’ve had situations where a girl approaches a teacher, for example, and said, “Please help me. My parents are trying to force me into a marriage.” Then, the teacher, very well meaning, will say, “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll call your parents.” That, of course, often leads to a bad outcome. Many times, parents will pull the girl out of school, and then she disappears. There’s no way to help her. We’ve, also, had situations, unfortunately, where a girl approaches somebody and asks for help and gets turned down because a teacher doesn’t understand the situation. Even the police will say, “Well, this is just an argument between you and your parents. You can work this out,” and dismisses it. If somebody has dismissed your concerns, please don’t think that that means that you deserve to be forced into a marriage. You don’t.
Stuart: What about folks that hear this and want to get involved or support Unchained At Last? What are avenues they can get involved?
Fraidy: We’re a really small organization, almost all volunteer. We have two staffers, me and one other person, a social worker. Beyond that, we’re almost an all-volunteer organization, and we rely on the kindness and generosity of people like you. If you want to get involved, go to our website. You can make a donation. That, of course, is always helpful. Because we’re a very small organization with low overhead, your money goes directly to helping women and girls. There are different opportunities on our website for ways to volunteer. Depending on which state you’re in, if legislation is pending in your state, you can send an email to your legislators and your governor saying, “I support this legislation because it happens.” You can read about upcoming events. We organize periodic chain-ins. It’s these political protests where wear bridal gowns, and veils, and chain our arms and tape our mouths to protest forced and child marriage. We provide the bridal gowns and the chains. It’s quite an experience, so I urge everyone to join an upcoming chain-in. It’s an experience you’ll remember forever.
Stuart: On that, topic of chain-ins and upcoming events, what’s on the horizon for you guys, right now?
Fraidy: Our last chain-in was just last week in Albany. We don’t have any chain-ins currently scheduled, but we’re looking to do another one coming up soon in New York City. We hope to do one in Massachusetts in the spring. Then, looking to do, perhaps, in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut. Go to our website to learn more about those chain-ins. Other events for those of you who are in New Jersey—do you have any listeners in New Jersey? We have an event coming up next Thursday at the Bloomingdale’s in Short Hills. Bloomingdale’s are holding a fashion event, where 20 percent of the proceeds goes to Unchained At Last. We have our annual dinner coming up in September. We’re doing a dinner cruise for anyone who wants a cruise on the Hudson River with an open bar and a DJ, so it’s good times and all to benefit a really good cause. This is your opportunity.
Stuart: We’ve heard about your work. We’ve heard about all that you’re doing. For you personally, what inspires you the most to keep going, to keep doing this great courageous work?
Fraidy: For me, it’s so personal. I couldn’t do anything else at this point. I’m so dedicated to this because I know what it’s like to be in a forced marriage and unable to leave. Then, the women and girls who call and ask for our help, they are our daily inspiration and a reminder to me about how important this work is. It’s only with us survivors telling our stories, and making noise, and attempting these chain-ins that we can make Americans aware this is a problem. Forced marriage is a problem here in America. Child marriage is a problem here in America. That’s the only way we’re going to see change.
Stuart: Well, Fraidy, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you so much for your work and all that you’re doing to make a difference in this world. It is such a noble, honorable cause that you’re going after. I just wish you the best, but I really just do appreciate the time that you gave here today for the show.
Fraidy: Well, thank you. I really appreciate your taking the time to, again, shine a spotlight on us because we need more people talking about this and being aware of this.
Stuart: Thank you so much.
[End Audio Clip]
Again, my thanks to Fraidy Reiss. You can go to www.unchainedatlast.org for more information. The thing I love about the work that she’s doing is that it is an absolutely, worthy cause. You know what’s not a worthy cause, Christian’s boycotting Beauty and the Beast. Yes. The new Beauty and the Beast movie that I know little kids out there are all excited about happening. Of course, as this movie rolls forward and is about to come out, leave it to the religious right to start trying to find something to boycott, something to get angry about, something to stand against. Who’s at the epicenter of all of this? It’s none other than my anti-man crush, Franklin Graham. Yes, thank you, Franklin. Thank you so much for highlighting this huge problem that we have here in America and especially, the America church. [Sarcasm] It’s one that I would probably put under #whitepeopleproblems, #firstworldissues. Yeah, if the biggest thing that you as a mouthpiece or a supposed mouthpiece that Christianity can get up and rally the troops around is the fact that there’s a side character in Beauty and the Beast that happens to be gay. Really? Don’t you run a humanitarian organization, Franklin? Don’t you run an organization that’s trying to help the problems in this world with hunger, with people that have a lack of clean water, a lack of access to healthcare? Those are big problems. Those are problems that I wish Christians were known for being about, for known for trying to fix in this world, not this kind of crap that you’re pulling, not this kind of crap again where we have nothing better to do than boycott issues of entertainment. I mean, really. Let’s talk about having your eyes on the prize or completely missing the point, which is what’s happening right now.
For the sake of context, I will read to you this post that Franklin Graham sent out over Facebook last week. He said:
“Disney has aired a cartoon with same-sex couples kissing. It has also been announced that their new movie “Beauty and the Beast” will feature a gay character in an attempt to normalize this lifestyle. They’re trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children—watch out! Disney has the right to make their cartoons. It’s a free country. But as Christians, we also have the right not to support their company. I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney. I met Walt Disney when I was a young boy. He was very gracious to me, my father, Billy Graham, and my younger brother when we visited. He would be shocked at what has happened to the company that he started.”
Then, he goes on to say, “If you agree, comment below and share this with others. Let Disney know how you feel.” I swear, this stuff has been going on forever in the Christian community. It’s one of these huge, white, American, privilege problems that we like to do this. We like to say, “I don’t like the content that you’re making. We will boycott this.” At the same time, I just want to highlight the absolute hypocrisy behind this. If you want to ask me, as the guy with a radio show called Snarky Faith, I mean, seriously, that you’re worried about a side character being gay in this. Come on. The whole core of this movie is, essentially, bestiality. It’s, apparently, normalizing bestiality for our young children. [Sarcasm] Come on. You totally missed the point here, Franklin. If you want to boycott something that you can say is pretty definitive in the Bible, let’s go after bestiality. This movie’s about bestiality. [Sarcasm] No, I digress from that. I’m just kidding, but this is the problem. This is the problem that we have with Christianity in America today. It’s the fact that we do not know what it means to be a Christian. If we think being a Christian is going out and policing culture, taking the “moral” high ground in all of these issues, setting up straw man arguments, doing all this in our own echo chamber of followers, when we do that, we, actually, accomplish nothing besides just puffing ourselves up. We use these issues as platforms to, hopefully, stoke popularity amongst our legions of followers that we have in the midst of this. None of this has anything to do with making the world a better place. None of this has to do with feeding those who are in need, helping those who are hurting.
If you read the core teachings of Jesus, if you read that, it’s simply about loving those around us, providing help for those who are in need, and being a good friend and not being an ass at every turn, which is, somehow, the American, Christian complex. For those mouthpieces out there, they have defaulted to, somehow, just being an ass because they feel like they have the moral high ground to do it. Is this what Jesus was here for? Did Jesus die on a cross so that we can police movies, that we can boycott things, and scream about our preferences not being made? The only one thing that I will say was true about his statement is that this is a free country, and people can make whatever kind of movies they want to make. The idea that you are wasting efforts, that you are wasting time, that you are wasting people’s attention on trivial matters like this, things that don’t matter, things that show that you are so out of touch and have no idea, really, what God is calling us to do in this country.
You see, I believe that we should be about bringing walls down, not building them. I think we need to be about dialogue. I think we need to be about peace. I think we need to be about the good things that we want to follow after instead of trying to tear down culture at every turn. You don’t create culture by tearing down everybody else’s culture. That just makes you a critic. Critics don’t get anything done. Now, we need them because, otherwise, it be completely hypocritical of myself [laughter] who’s in the middle of criticizing this to say that we don’t need critics. We do. We, also, need tangible action. I’m not talking about boycotts. I’m not talking about Facebook posts. I’m talking about, actually, getting your hands dirty while helping others, putting yourself out there in a vulnerable position to be able to love others. You see, we had heard about Unchained At Last. These are people that are doing tangible things. They’re trying to help people get out of horrible situations. When we just sit here, and like to kick back, and just criticize culture, and try to rouse up folks against things like that, it simply and only comes from a place of privilege. It costs nothing to do it. You’ll get Facebook likes. You’ll get Facebook shares. You’ll get all of those things that tend to make yourself feel good. Oh, yes, I’m on the right end of this argument because look at this. [Sarcasm] Look at this. All these people that agree with everything that I say, continue to agree with everything I say. I go back to the place that we are at right now in a country where we are very divided, where we can’t even hear the other side anymore. The idea of attacking and tearing down only continues to polarize us and push us further and further apart. Where’s the humility in all this? Where’s the grace?
No, I haven’t seen the Beauty ad the Beast movie, and I, probably, will rent it at Redbox when it comes out because I have two daughters. Have you watched the movie? Are there themes of redemption and grace in it? I’m guessing there are. When we highlight what is good in the world today instead of only having a lens to look at what we don’t like, or what we disagree with, or what we think is bad because if you claim to have a faith in Jesus and a walk with a Savior that is redemptive, that loves, that wants healing and wholeness for all, you’ve really missed the boat. I don’t think that the pursuit of Christianity is being able to point out sins of others. I don’t think it’s about being a cultural critic. I think it’s about loving others. I think it’s about making a real, tangible difference in the world. We get caught up in these stupid and pointless Facebook, and Twitter, and social media political arguments where we are just playing to our side. We are doing nothing at all. Actually, let me correct that. We are doing something. We’re, actually, just creating a divide, and we’re making it to where our voice will no longer be heard. You see, if you’re against everything, it’s really hard to ever see about what you’re for. If you’re against everything, that’s all you’re going to be known for being. We have to be a people that want to create change, that want to create change that doesn’t exclude people. We want to be able to create a change where people have the space and have the place where they can hear messages of hope that things can get better, where we can begin to see what is good in the others around us. Now, I’m not saying we have to agree with everybody, but the moment where we can cease to see the humanity on the other side of the aisle, when we cease to see them as people, as creations in God’s own image, when we cease to see their humanity, we’ve become monsters. We’ve become monsters that little resemble the Savior that we so loudly like to proclaim.
The problem with Christianity in America today is the fact that it’s forgotten why it exists. It’s become consumed with the fact that it has lost power. Now, I’m not talking about spiritual power. I’m not talking about anything transcendent. No, it’s, mainly, about political power or cultural power. See, any time Christianity falls into the ranks of power grabs, and hierarchy, and being a mouthpiece for all of these kinds of things, it’s lost its way. It becomes something that it’s not. That is a sad thing. If only we can return to our roots, if only we can learn mercy and we can follow justice, and we can learn empathy, we can practice compassion, we can begin to see folks that aren’t like us, we can begin to see them as something beautifully and wonderfully created. If we spend our careers, if we spend our passions, if we spend our lifetimes tearing people down, we’re just simply monsters. Again, I read the Bible. I’ve read the Gospels. Jesus does not call us to be monsters. Jesus calls us to take out monsters, the monsters that prevent others from being able to see the light. If we’re so busy building walls, if we’re so busy insolating ourselves from everybody else, how can you spread the thing that you claim to be as Good News? When good news becomes a weapon, it is not good news. It may be good news to you that’s holding that weapon, but it, certainly, isn’t good news to those that you are slashing with it. For faith that proclaims something that we call Good News that Good News needs to be good news for everybody.
That’s all I’ve got this week. I will back again with you next week. Just a reminder as we end this broadcast, you can always catch this episode and all past episodes on podcast at www.snarkyfaith.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Just look up Snarky Faith. Again, thank you for journeying with us through this last hour. Without you, we wouldn’t be here. Without you, I’m just sitting in front of a microphone talking to myself. I do, I appreciate you, our listeners. I appreciate you for being a part of the journey. If you want to give us feedback, ask questions or anything else like that, just remember you can email us at email@example.com. If you also go to our website www.snarkyfaith.com, you can sign up to be on our mailing list where we are going to start doing, once a month, live episodes online where you can tune in. You can ask questions. You can interact with Ben and I. You can be a part of the entire journey and conversation. Thanks so much. You guys have a great week. I’m outta here.
A rundown of all you need to know about Christian hypocrisy in regards to Trump’s refugee ban. With theological hypocrisy wildly slapping about in a politically fueled haze, how people of faith should respond? We’ll delve into scripture for answers and fire a few warning shots at some of the culprits (*cough cough* Franklin Graham). Buckle your seat belts and crank up the hypocrisy… it’s going to be a fun ride. We’ve also got What’s Good? What’s Bad? chronicling the interweb’s best and worst of the week. Join us as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.
Tune in and come along for the ride…
[showhide type=”pressrelease” more_text=”Click for Full Show Transcript” less_text=”Hide Show Transcript” hidden=”yes”]
Title: Crank Up the Hypocrisy
Episode: # 138
Program: Snarky Faith Radio
Host: Stuart Delony
Well, good afternoon, and welcome to another round of Snarky Faith Radio. I am your host, Stuart Delony. My, oh my. Oh, my. Oh, my. Oh, my. What an insane we week we have had. Yes, I am talking about all of the Trump craziness. Don’t you worry. We will be getting into that in a minute. Before that, we have “What’s good // What’s bad” of this last week. Just a reminder that all of the videos, all of the links that I’ll be talking about in the first segment that we have here, you can find them on our website, www.snarkyfaith.com. They’re there. They’re waiting for you. They’re saying, “Hey. I’m here. I’m waiting for you. Just click on me.” Okay. That was as good as I can do.
Yes, so “What’s good // What’s bad” from this last week, and we won’t comment on Trump just yet. Starting off with a little bit of the bad. Have you guys heard about this? Tom Weathersby. It sounds like such a regal name. No, Tom Weathersby is a Mississippi Republican serving in the Mississippi State House of Representatives. That’s right because all progressive things come out of Mississippi. [Sarcasm] I’ve been to Mississippi several times. I would say Mississippi and Arkansas are pretty much the armpit of the United States. You can feel free to argue with me about that. Are there any other worse armpits in the United States besides Mississippi and Arkansas? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to talk about it.
Back to Tom Weathersby. Tom has introduced a bill in the Mississippi State House of Representatives. He’s introduced this bill that could become a law that would fine people for wearing saggy pants. For example, a style of pants, which hang so low that, one’s underwear may or may not be exposed. He commented this. This is quote, the good ol’ Weathersby. Personally, I like to see people dressed when they’re in public. I like to see people with their pants up. Let me say this again. Wait. Wait. I should do this for full effect because you’re hearing this in an articulate manner. Personally, like to see people dressed up when they’re in public, and like to see people with their pants up. [Spoken with Southern Accent] Well, thank you, Tom. I appreciate your preferences. For the rest of us that don’t have our preferences turned into potential laws, this is just insane.
His bill, here’s what would happen with it. It would make it unlawful for any person to wear pants, or shorts, or clothings, clothing bottoms—I like how I made clothings personal. No.—or clothing bottoms that would expose underwear or body parts in an indecent or vulgar manner. They’re actually trying to push forward a law that is involving saggy pants. Here’s the penalties. For the first offense, there’s a noncriminal citation warning. After that, the fines begin at $20 for the second offense. Then, run up to $100 by the sixth offense. Plus, if you make it to that on your little punch card, your sixth offense also can include psychological and social counseling by the Department of Human Services and the Department of Mental Health. Gee, thanks, Tom. I really appreciate you spending your hard earned time as an elected official bringing forth absolute nonsense and BS like this. [Sarcasm]
If you look around in your state, which most people do not want to look around in your state, Mississippi is like a third-world country. The top of your list of things that you need to start fixing about Mississippi—infrastructure? No. No. No. Education? No, forget that. No, it’s saggy pants. Thanks, Tom, for being the ass hat of the week from us. Geez. How do people do this? You just love how out of touch politicians can get.
Next, on the “What’s good // What’s bad.” Starbucks has announced that they’re planning to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years. That has led to the #boycottstarbucksmovement for those, presumably Trump supporters, that don’t like how Starbucks is speaking out about the atrocities that are happening in our country. I will note this. They are looking to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years in 75 countries. Not per country, but across the 75 countries where they are doing business. Now, people are mad. People are calling for a boycott, most probably, people that don’t drink Starbucks or don’t have running water in their homes. [Sarcasm] Yeah, those people. They’re calling for a boycott of Starbucks because Starbucks is having a heart and showing a little bit of compassion. Yeah. How about #shutupaboutstarbucks? Geez.
Next, did you guys catch Stranger Things at the Stag Awards? At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, they announced that Stranger Things, the cast from that, won for Best Dramatic Ensemble, and our own, Chief Hopper, David Harbour, gave an absolutely powerful speech about the state of our country. It was passionate. It was beautiful. It said so many things that we all are feeling right now. Also on this (which, again, will be on our website), part of it, you have to watch it through twice. Watch it through, first of all, to just absorb what he’s saying, and being like, “Dang. Well done. Well done using your platform in a way that, hopefully, transforms a lot of the crap that we’re dealing with right now.” That’s the first listen through. The second listen through, just watch Winona Ryder in this. She is absolutely coked out of her mind or on some sort of magic mushroom because the—it is like she goes through every emotion in the playbook as he’s speaking. She does it in a way—and I don’t say people are coked-up lightly. She does it in a way that’s about a three-second delay on anything that he’s saying. She has this ridiculous look on her face. It’s amusing. It’s funny. I’m just glad that Winona Ryder is not my wife [laughter] or anybody in my life.
Next. When we’re talking about this, when we’re talking about all of the insanity that’s going on, isn’t it good to have a little bit of music, something to be able to listen to go, “Oh my gosh. I can unplug. I can just think, and contemplate, and get away from the insanity that is the headlines of real news (not fake news) that are going on.” I mean, good God. You would assume that half the headlines that we’re getting right now are fake news. In most cases, you would assume that they’re fake news from the Onion. Oh, no. They’re real every day. Thanks, Donald. Thanks for being our president. We so appreciate it. How soon is the impeachment going to come? [Sarcasm] Not soon enough.
Back to escapism. I love Ryan Adams. Many of you, either, don’t know Ryan Adams and should or already love him. Ryan Adams did a gig with the BBC where he played “Karma Police”, Radiohead’s “Karma Police”, as somewhat of a protest song. He plays it acoustically. It is beautiful. It is something to behold, and it is pure, great escapism. Turn off those headlines. Walk away from your device. Well, I guess you can’t walk away from your device and listen to it. Walk away from the news headlines of your device, and listen to it. It is great stuff.
Lastly, which I will only tease here because I will actually circle back to this at the end of the show. I, first of all, need to say this in “What’s good // What’s bad”. I’ll just go ahead and admit this. This is a confession. This is something I’m going to just lay out there for allof you. It may shock you. It may not. I would say that David Tennant is my favorite Doctor Who. What? What about Matt Smith? What about…? Fill in your blank. No. I’d always heard, as we entered into the Doctor Whovian universe about five or six years ago, that usually, your first doctor is your favorite doctor. That, actually, was not true for me. I started out with Christopher Eccleston. David Tennant, you captured my heart as the Doctor. You will always be my Doctor. That is not throwing shade on Matt Smith, but I will just tell you that he is the Doctor. He was actually on the BBC again this week giving his five reasons for why everything will be okay with the world today. I will give you that. I will actually give you that on here at the end of the show. Who doesn’t like to leave a show with all the good feelings of everything?
Oftentimes, when you listen to a show called Snarky Faith, it can be a lot of snark. It can be a lot of sarcasm. It can be a lot of tearing stuff down, and not always the most amount of, “Oh my gosh. I feel inspired. Oh my gosh. I can go on for another day in this insane world that we find ourselves in.” Welcome to bizarro world, folks. Welcome to bizarro world. You’ll get David Tennant at the end of the show. You’re going to have to stick around and listen to that, or be a jerk, and wait for the show to load, and go all the way to the last three minutes. Hey, the choice is yours. That’s the country we live in, or is it? Oh my gosh. Okay, so enough of that. Enough of “What’s good // What’s bad”.
Let’s just get into the what’s bad of the week, how we can decompose, decompress, deconstruct a bunch of other D words in the middle, probably a few of them being a d-bag describing our president, but yes, we have to talk about what’s happening with the refugee crisis, our borders, and the insanity of Donald Trump. Mix that all in—because, again, you’re listening to a show called Snarky Faith. Mix that all in with Christianity and American. You’ve got a recipe for a bunch of crazy crap with a bunch of crazy folks, and a bunch of crazy hypocrisy. I won’t use the word heretic because I’ve been called it too many times, and I’ve actually learned to find it endearing over time. That was Annie Lenox that said this in her song “Walking on Broken Glass.”
Now, every one of us was made to suffer. Every one of us was made to weep, but we’ve been hurting one another and now the pain has cut too deep. So take me from the wreckage. Save me from the blast. Lift me up, and take me back. Don’t let me keep on walking, walking on broken glass.
Ever since we’ve started this year, it feels like, at least here in America, that this is the year of us all walking on broken glass. It’s the year of us trying to learn how to survive in an environment that is toxic to us, to others. It’s something where we feel like we’ve gone into the upside world of Stranger Things or the bizarro world from the comic books. Things don’t make sense anymore. Guess what? I know this come as a shock to you. I know this will come as a surprise to you. Christian leaders are not making it any better. Are they offering us hope? No. Are they offering us a way out of where we are at? Absolutely not. Why would you expect them to? Yes, that’s me being very, very sarcastic.
When we begin to look at this refugee crisis, and the closing of our borders, and all of the insanity that’s going on, I want to start off this entire discussion that we’re going to have here by talking through just some simple scripture. This comes from—it’s a friend of mine, Joel Varner, a good, dear friend. He and I go way back. He posted this recently. His list goes like this. Here’s a short list of what the Bible has to say about how we are to treat foreigners and strangers as Christians. Again, many will claim we’re a Christian nation. I’m not backing that claim, but a lot of those in the religious right, a lot of those that helped to win the election for Trumpy-pants, they would say that they are Christians. They’re saying they were guided by God, but everything so far that we’ve done in this administration has been pretty much not that. Here’s some scripture just to be able to use as the ground floor, use as just the foundation for our conversation about why Christians are not handling this refugee crisis correctly.
This one comes from Exodus 23:9, “Do not oppress a foreigner. You, yourselves, know how it feels to be foreigners because you were foreigners in Egypt.”
Now, Leviticus 19:33-34, “Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would an Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
The next ones from Deuteronomy 10:18-19, “Make sure that the orphans and the widows are treated fairly. He loves the foreigners who live with our people and gives them food and clothes. So then, show love for those foreigners because you were once a foreigner in Egypt.”
Are we getting a theme here? Are we getting a theme here in the basis of faith here? I’ll continue on. The next on comes from Zechariah 7:9, “Long ago, I gave these commands to my people. You must see that justice is done, and must show kindness and mercy to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners who live amongst you or anyone else in need.”
Then, Numbers 15:16, “I am the Lord, and I consider all people the same whether they are Israelites or foreigners living amongst you.”
Then, in the New Testament, Matthew 25:35. This is Jesus speaking, “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in.”
Lastly, from Hebrews 13:2, “Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it. “
Laying this bedrock, laying out this entire ethic, which runs through the New and Old Testament, about caring for the foreigner because the Children of God through the course of history through the Bible, were foreigners. Israelites? Foreigners. Jesus was also a refugee. Knowing all of these things, why aren’t Christians standing for this? Why aren’t Christians out in the streets calling out our president? Why aren’t Christians, the one that voted for our orange Oompa Loompa, out picketing, and saying, “What are you doing to these refugees?” That is a huge problem in American Christianity today.
In many ways, American Christianity has become an enterprise. It’s an enterprise in how to make money, and how to make a name for yourself. You see megachurches rise, and get big, and get powerful. You see them become these mouthpieces for their pastors who use them to parley into book deals, and speaking deals, and essentially, get-rich deals for them. You also see politicians use the name of Christ and use the Christians to get elected. The problem is when we see many of these churches out there today, when we see many of these politicians that proclaim Christ, why do none of them look and act like Christ? They look and act like the empire that Christ was speaking against. Christ came at a time where he was under the shadow of the Roman Empire. He was a marginalized people group that was not Roman. If you weren’t Roman, you weren’t anything back then. Oh, how far we’ve come today. It’s just interesting how history tends to repeat itself.
Let’s talk about the protesting. Let’s talk about the outrage that is happening in our country. Last weekend, actually, two weekends ago, we saw the Women’s March on Washington. We saw people coming out with a cause, with a desire, with an unrest of the way things were going on and wanting to rectify that. So of course, we have to have a Christian alternative [sarcasm], meaning the March for Life that also happened this week. I’m not even talking about the protesting that was going on in the airports all weekend. We’ll get to more of that, but no, let’s talk about this March for Life that was going on this last week where you saw Christians by the hundreds out there in force.
My biggest question for that group out there—I’m not saying that their desire is bad or what they are doing is completely bad. There is some bad. Actually, never mind. There is afair amount of bad in it. The question I kept having and I saw this in a post where they were trying to point out the hypocrisy in these pro-life movements that are happening where fertilized eggs for us—here’s the math I’ll give you. Fertilized eggs equal people, and we need to protect them. Refugees, somehow, aren’t people that need to be protected even though we just went through a bunch of scripture in the Bible. We have a bunch of Christians out here that care more about certain issues, and raising their flags for these cultural norms that they are trying to fight against, but they’re quite silent when it comes to worrying and caring about the refugee, the people that are hurting in our country right now, the people that are trying to escape from persecution to begin a new life. It’s not like our country was founded by a bunch of immigrants anyways, right? [Sarcasm]
It really makes no sense that we’re having this whole refugee crisis because we were all instantly since America was ordained by God, we somehow sprouted up from the soil as fully-formed Americans, and that was the founding this Christian nation, this great wonderful Christian nation that, as we say Christian nation, has never done anything against people groups, but we won’t mention the Native Americans, African Americans, the Japanese Americans in the internment camps. [Sarcasm] No, no. We won’t mention that, but we’re totally a Christian nation founded on Christian principles of I want to get mine and in order to do that, I don’t care if you get yours. [Sarcasm] That’s probably the least succinct way to say Manifest Destiny or the American Dream.
Let’s being to hop in on this religious hypocrisy surrounding refugees, and politicians, and Christianity in America. Now, we’ve talked about the rise of the religious right in the past on this show. You can go to our website www.snarkyfaith.com, and listen to that. I won’t get into how we got here. I just want to talk about the hypocrisy of where we are. To frame the conversation, I want to go through two different articles by Carol—I’m just going to try to get her last name. Carol, I apologize if I’m wrong with this—Kuruvilla. I’m not quite sure, and in advance, Carol, I’m apologizing. She’s the Associate Religion Editor at Huffington Post and has been writing some fairly scathing pieces on the religious right lately. I would be open to pick those things apart if everything’s that she’s saying, scathing wise, wasn’t 100 percent true. She begins to talk about this. Again, we’re framing this through the lens of the refugee ban that is going on in the country that, good ol’ Donald, signed on Friday. This is an Executive Order that he slipped in on Friday on (did you guys check this?) the Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less. Yes, he slipped this in Friday because Donald likes to sign things, and then show people what he signed because he thinks that’s all you have to do as president. This went into effect on Friday, and then chaos happened afterwards.
When we begin to talk through this in the lens of looking at Christianity and faith, we have to say that there’s a fair amount of hypocrisy happening within Christian leaders especially regarding this issue. We’ve already gone through this whole biblical mandate and command to welcome, clothe, and feed the stranger. First of all, that should be the drop-the-mic moment for Christians, just by and large. These are commands that the God of the Old Testament, that Jesus in the New Testament gives us. Right. We are told we are supposed to do this. When Jesus is asked about what is the greatest of the commandments, and he says it’s, “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and that we are called to love our neighbor as our self.” These are pretty clear tenants of Christianity that have been ignored for a long time. What I want to say in the midst of this is that if you take these out or if you ignore these, what do you have left of Christianity besides some sort of a multilevel marketing scheme to get you into heaven. When you begin to look through this, this idea of clothing, and welcoming, and feeding the stranger, the way people have justified this, oh, this applies to churches, and to individuals like the government. Wait. Wait. Wait. We’re going to cry out separation of church and state here when it’s convenient to us, but during the election process, you have Donald Trump getting his own evangelical think tank of small minded thinkers and money grubbers to come together to advise him on all things Christianity, their version of Christianity.
We see this. We see candidates schlocking their faith to get votes. Because why? Because they see it works. They’ll quote the Bible. They’ll quote Two Corinthians if you’re orange and running for president. We see all of this, and then we see this command that God is telling us; to care for the stranger, to care for the immigrant, to care for these people. It is one of the biggest copouts that I can think about in modern day Christianity is the fact that we ignore this because we like to stand behind the separation of church and state. That’s the government. The government is separate from the church. Yes, I know that government is separate from the church. Why do those getting into government use the church to get into government? That’s another show entirely.
What we have here from Ms. Kuruvilla—I will stop saying her name. We’ll just call her Carol from now on. [Laughter] I’ll just quote this directly. She says:
In essence, for these evangelicals, their traditional Christian values should have an impact on how the president makes decisions about abortion and same-sex marriage, but on the matter of refugees fleeing war, it’s perfectly fine for the president to turn his face away from suffering because safety comes before being a good Samaritan to those in need.
Let that just sink in. We have our Christian right. We have our Christian people that are pushing stuff over social media and Facebook that are going out, and picketing, and boycotting Starbucks, for example. We have this group of people that I know it’s easy to dismiss them, but they were formidable enough to be able to elect our Oompa Loompa president. Right? We see that these white evangelicals, they have an overwhelming Trump [laughter], they have an overwhelming support for Trump, not they have an overwhelming trump card. It just happens to be Trump. They were some of the ones that helped to put this clown in the White House. At the same time, they would tell you that they have a high regard for the Bible saying that it is the inerrant Word of God, and it is our absolute source of moral authority. But, when we begin to get into this stuff, the nitty-gritty stuff, the stuff that makes us feel a little uncomfortable and a little unsafe—like immigrants because we don’t know their story. We don’t know what they have been through. We haven’t found them on Tinder or Grinder. We don’t know these people. We don’t know them. This is a human nature thing. The unknown equals fear, equals something that we should throw shade on or we should be suspicious of. We do that.
This reminds of one of those things that you hear about in Christianity where people say one of the reasons that people are leaving the church is because people like Jesus, they just don’t like church. Like Gandhi put it, “I like your Christ, but I see very little of Him in His followers or his Christians.” This actually feels like the reverse of all of those statements that we’ve heard before. If feels like Christians are now saying that I like the church, I just don’t like this Jesus. As long as He saves us from hell, we’re cool with him. All of this stuff he told us to do, all like the social justice-tinged things that Jesus called for us as Christians to do, all of the things that were trying to flip worldly powers on their ear, yeah, those things. Nah, let’s not too much about those things. [Sarcasm]
We see Trump, goes and signs the Executive Order on Friday for new vetting measurements because he wants to keep the “radical Islamic terrorist” out of our country. Now, we have, from seven countries, a ban on refugees coming in, which is shameful in the least, especially for a person that at least likes to call himself and parade around as a Christian when it benefits him. I’m not saying that this is all dire in American Christianity because when we begin to see agencies like World Relief calling these moves very alarming. The thing that begins to get scarier and scarier is when you get to the think tank. When I’m talking about tanks, I’m talking about the shallow tanks. It’s the shallow end. It’s those who don’t think too deeply. Usually, when you hear think tank, you think about all of these diverse minds, these heavily educated ones that think deeply and think outside the borders to be able to have something happen. No, but when you get to the Christian think tank—which again, is like the baby pool of think tanks. We all know that the baby pool is really just full of baby piss.
In this article that Carol goes through and begins to interview different pastors and different thought people within this whole religious-right community to be able to ask them what are the answers? What should we be doing? Is this right? Is this wrong? All of these kinds of things. Let’s see. This is Dr. Robert Jeffress who is the Senior Pastor from First Baptist Church of Dallas, who’s a big Trump supporter. He said this, and I’m going to quote. He said, “President Trump’s actions are in keeping with the biblical mandate for government to protect its citizens. Now, while scripture commands individual Christians and churches to show mercy to those in need, the Bible never calls on the government to act as a good Samaritan.” Really? That’s one of the biggest copouts I’ve ever heard. That, oh, if you’re an individual, you can be a good Samaritan, but if you’re a person that is elected to office who’s been riding on the coattails of the religious right in our country, and saying that I will stand up for the Bible. I love the Bible. It’s the second greatest book that is out there, second only to Art of the Deal. If you do all of this, and talk about your faith, and use this as a platform to be able to get in, and then abandon it all, it is just a load of several things that I actually can’t say on the air right now.
No. As he even says this, the Bible never calls on the government to act as a good Samaritan. Is he also saying that any kid of a prominent evangelist, who happens to run an organization that may or may not be named after the parable of the Good Samaritan, and such organization that may or may not be called Samaritan’s Purse (which I’m really talking about Franklin Graham here), who runs a health and an aid organization to areas in the world that are hurting. It really seems like the Franklin Graham’s (which we will get back to on the second half of the show) that we will help you as long as you don’t live close to us. We will help you as long as you don’t make us feel uncomfortable.
Now, going through this article too, we hit on Dr. Ronnie Floyd. He’s a Senior Pastor of Arkansas Cross Church, who is actually part of the Evangelical Advisory Committee for Donald. He says this:
Our government’s first job is to protect the people, and the church’s first job is to serve the people. Our government and many churches will continue our extensive efforts to serve the vulnerable here and abroad regardless of what government policy is.
Again, it’s what we would say is a copout. He finishes up by saying, “We don’t advise the government on questions of national security, and they don’t advise us on who and how to serve people.” I know he saying this that the government does its thing, and we do our thing, and we don’t ask for advice on either of these, but he’s part of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Committee. If you’re on the president’s advisory committee, wouldn’t you assume that you’re doing some advising? This isn’t just a networking thing, like, oh gosh, we can network with so many great other pastors on this committee. [Sarcasm] No. No. It’s an advisory committee. The assumption with that is that you are going to advise a president who happens to be elected. This just gets me over and over just the copouts that are happening. I understand about the separation of church and state. I understand that, yes, we do not have a theocracy. We do not have people that are running the government under God’s will even though they tell us they’re going to do that as they’re going to be elected. This is this grand amazing hypocrisy to this tragedy that is happening on our borders right now. These pastors that have the ear, the orange ear, of our president are not speaking into to this. For that, I will say shame on you!
Then, we get to our buddy, Franklin Graham, where he had said, “Well, this is not a Bible command for the country to let everyone who wants to come. This isn’t a Bible issue.” He also stood up and praised the president. He prayed over the president at the inauguration. This is a total sham. Here’s what begins to get me about all of this is that you have folks that will have an ethic for your life that only fits in these blocks. Then, you have a separate ethic that only fits into these blocks. The whole idea of Christianity is that we’re called to have a faith that gives us a lens to look at everything in the world. It’s not a pick and choose thing. This isn’t something to where, oh, I will be a good Samaritan today because I feel like it, or I will go and help out at the homeless soup kitchen around the holidays because I want a warm and fuzzy feeling. No! This is something that’s supposed to call us. Good God, I would hope that the leaders, these Christian leaders that have a platform, that this would something that would affect everything that we do as a faith. This is a huge faith issue, and I’m not even getting into the legal stuff that Trump is going to get himself into (hopefully impeachment) that this is going to create within the federal courts. No, I am only talking about this through the lens of people that profess to say that they follow after Jesus that we can, somehow, turn a blind eye to these direct commands for how we are supposed to act as a people.
Here’s the answer to this—actually, it’s not the answer. Here’s the scary part to this. See LifeWay, which is a very big Christian book chain out there. By no means is this an endorsement of LifeWay. It is a very douchey venture that I will leave, again, for another episode. LifeWay was doing research. I know. Christians and research, and science, and all that kind of stuff, it seems like an oxymoron. No, you actually have legitimate groups like the Pew report and LifeWay. They will do what they’re supposed to do when it comes to research. Last year, they found that a majority of Protestant pastors, majority being 86 percent, came to an agreement (they agreed) that Christians have a responsibility to care for refugees and foreigners. At the same time, this is the same thing that they were polling for, also found from these pastors that 44 percent of these pastors’ churches had a sense of fear about refugees coming into the United States. How often do think this 86 percent of Protestant pastors—let’s just go ahead and say 86 percent of the pastors agreed that we need to care for the foreigner, so of all the pastors that they’re polling in this (close to half) said that their church fears the foreigner. I will wager and I don’t always wager things, but I will wager that these pastors who have this feeling that this situation with the refugees is wrong are not preaching this in their churches. Do you know why? Are they not preaching this because it’s not in the Bible? Well, no, we’ve already established that. Are they not preaching this because they don’t feel like it’s an issue? No, we’ve already established that in how they were polled. They will not preach this because they are worried about their jobs. They are worried about doing the right thing because they want to continue to have a paycheck regardless of the hypocrisy that is going on in their own churches. Any time you have churches or Christian leaders that are pandering to their followers instead of speaking out and doing what’s right, you have a recipe for disaster.
Later on in the article, she talks to Katelyn Beaty who is the Editor At Large for Christianity Today. Again, Christianity Today is not the most progressive bastion of Christian thought out there. Katelyn had this to say. She said, “I believe our nation will be judged and remembered for how we treated these neighbors.” The funny thing is, Christians, we have spent so much time worrying about things like which bathroom are people peeing in, or should women have the right to choose what to do with their bodies? We can get all wrapped up in that. When it comes to these issues, the sad thing is the vast majority of Christianity in America is silent about what’s happening. I just want to circle back to that statement that Jesus said that we’re to love the Lord our God, and love the neighbor as our self. When you read that scripture, I think it’s easy for us to think, “My neighbor. That’s the guy who lives next door to me,” because we live in our own insulated little bubbles where we just don’t care about those that are not like us. If you go back to the scripture, if you go back to the original context of that, your neighbor is anyone that is not you. It could be your enemy. It could be your physical neighbor, but it’s someone that’s not you, that’s not necessarily in your tribe. It’s those that, oftentimes, that we can find hard to love.
Now, to the second article from Carol Kuruvilla. This one is going to center around our friend, Franklin Graham. Now first and foremost, I’ll just let this out. My opinion on this topic—because, of course, you haven’t been listening to me for the past 40 minutes and not gotten my opinion. [Sarcasm] I will just go ahead and say this and hopefully, remember to bleep it out as I edit the show. Fuck Franklin Graham. You have this guy that was raised by one of the most, if not the most, famous evangelist in modern time, Billy Graham. What happened to this douche bag? I mean, seriously dude. You run a humanitarian organization. One of the problems with your humanitarian organization is, I think, that they want to make sure that they convert people more than they actually want to help people. That’s been a problem of Christianity for probably the past 1500 years. Going on to their website for Samaritan’s Purse—remember. We mentioned earlier. The Good Samaritan? Franklin names his organization, the Samaritan’s Purse, after that same idea of helping someone who is different from you. Here’s how they lay this out on their website what they’re about. Okay. This is from the Samaritan’s Purse website. It says this:
The story of the Good Samaritan gives a clear picture of God’s desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we may find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued the hurting man whom others have passed by, Jesus told his hearers to go and do likewise. For over 40 years, Samaritan’s Purse has done our utmost to follow God’s command by going to aid the world’s poor, sick, and suffering. We are an effective means for reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the name of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Now, again, what the hell? What the hell? It’s the weirdest thing to be able to hear somebody say the right thing, and then, out of the other corner of his mouth, go and do the exact opposite. How do you justify this? If any of you out there who are listening that donate to Samaritan’s Purse—and I don’t usually do this, but I’m a little bit pissed. Stop giving to this organization. Stop because your money is funding this angry, xenophobic bigot to go out there and continue his own warped view of what Christ’s command was. We have Franklin Graham when asked on this whole issue of the refugee crisis, dismissing it saying this is not a Bible issue. Well, dude, you lead a humanitarian organization that provides relief to victims of war, and poverty, and persecution all over the world. That’s what your organization does. When those people that hurting from war-torn countries, once it comes into your backyard you’re like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m totally fine with helping you when you’re in your own stinky, smelly, bomb-riddled country, but mine, I like my neighbors. I like the way it is. I may be afraid of people that may break into my house. These people, we don’t know what they’re about. Whatever.” I can totally be Jesus to the world as long as it’s not in my own country. Well done, Franklin Graham, and I mean that with the thickest sarcasm that I can throw out.
When he was interviewed by the Huffington Post, he told this. He said:
It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone who wants in to come. That’s not a Bible issue. We want to love people. We want to be kind to people. We want to be considerate, but we have a country, and a country should have order. There are always laws that relate to immigration, and I think we should follow those laws because of the dangers we see today in this world. We need to be very careful.
Those are coated words. Those are coated words for fear mongering. I believe the religious right has been able to keep their base for the longest time by fear mongering. Fear mongering is what got Trump elected. In the whole process of fear mongering, you have a scapegoat. You blame them on everything that’s going on. It has nothing to do with personal responsibility. When you begin to say this—and I know that some people have heard about this. Like online, they’re speaking out against, well, we just don’t want to let everybody in, right, as if we don’t already have a vetting process.
I found this. This was on the whitehouse.gov until Trump got in. They had listed out, here’s the vetting process, the screening process for refugees to enter the United States. It’s extremely complicated. I’m just going to give you a broad overview. You can look this up. You should go online and look up what is the vetting process for refugee entry into the United States. You start by identifying yourself to a U.N. refugee agency. This agency collects your identifying documents, performs the initial assessment, which is bio-data, which could be your name, your birthday, address, date of birth. They do iris scans, so they’re scanning your iris. They do interviews to confirm refugee status and the need for resettlement.
Then, that moves to applicants, are received by federally funded resettlement support center. This is the next step, which again, collects the identifying documents, creates an application file, compiles information to conduct biographic security checks. Then, they start doing biographic security checks. They start going through all of this. These biographic security checks go through the U.S. security agencies, which is the Intelligence Agency, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department. They look for stuff, information, that the individual may be a security risk, connections to bad, known folks in those areas, and outstanding warrants for criminal violations. You’ve already gone through that.
Then, the Department of Homeland Security does an interview. They conduct and interview in their offices by trained interviewers. They fingerprint the folks. They have biometric checks on them. They re-interview them again. Then, it moves to more biometric security checks where, again, fingerprints are taken. They’re screened against the FBI’s biometric database. The fingerprints are, also, screened against the Department of Homeland Security’s biometric database. The fingerprints are, also, scanned against the U.S. Department of Defense’s biometric database. If they’ve made it to this point with no security concerns at all, which could be paperwork. It could be legitimate security concerns, or it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Then, you move towards medical checks where they do a full medical screening, cultural orientations, and assignments to domestic resettlement locations, so you’re going through more of this. Prior to the entry into the United States, they’re subject to screenings from U.S. customs and border patrol, and the TSA screens them as well. Then, all refugees are required to apply for a Green Card within a year from their arrival, which triggers another set of security protocols within the U.S. government.
Okay. All of this, we’re assuming, happens overnight. No, it doesn’t. This thing can take up to two years to do that. All of this BS that we are throwing out there, all of this BS that we are using and saying that, oh, this about keeping us safe, this is about keeping us in order. It is complete crap. We have systems in place to do that. They’re extensive systems. If you have issues with breakdowns in those systems, then, guess what? It’s not the refugees’ fault. It’s our government agency’s fault at those respective agencies. We go back to these folks like Franklin Graham that like to say they’re doing the work of Christ, but they’re really not doing that. There is just so much hypocrisy as we see what is happening in our country today. I would encourage you to get well informed and get out there to protest, to volunteer, to invest deeply in the areas where our country is broken and hurting.
Lastly, I will leave you with this because I promised a little bit of David Tennant. He was on recently on a BBC show where someone had asked him to come up and tell us why it’s all going to be okay. There is nothing better than getting a reassurance from David Tennant that the world is going to be okay. After all, he’s the Doctor, and the Doctor knows what’s going on. I’ll leave you with that.
Just a reminder that as we end this broadcast, you can always catch us on podcast at www.snarkyfaith.com. If you have questions or things you want to comment, you just go to email@example.com. Send it to me. I would love to hear about it. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter. Just look up Snarky Faith. That’s it. I thank you for being a part of this. I thank you for being a part of this movement, a part of this show, a part of this listenership. Without you guys, nothing is possible. Thank you so much. I appreciate you. I’ll be back again next week.
[Begin Audio Clip of David Tennant]
It’s all gonna be okay. Trust me. I’m a Doctor [audience applauds], but it’s up to us to make it okay. It’s time to be positively rebellious and rebelliously positive as long as we stand up for what we believe in. Don’t give in to anger or violence. Look out for the little guy. Keep an eye on the big guys. Refuse to keep our mouth shut. Just generally try not to be dicks. Every little thing is gonna be alright.
[End Audio Clip]
Transcribed by Miriam Delony
A rundown of the Franklin Graham and the Christian tradition of throwing temper tantrums. When rage is misdirected, it quickly becomes something that’s far from righteousness. Call it what you want, but some Christian leaders are in need of anger management and a hefty dose of humility.
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