My day started like any other day… in the darkness before dawn, where a screaming baby, with no patience for my morning stumble, demands his first breakfast. Before my brain could even comprehend a new day has started, I sat down to feed “the dude.” Picking up my phone, I catch up on all the important things going on in the world… i.e. check who commented on my witty Facebook status, pin multiple DIY projects on Pinterest that I will probably never do, and finally, check the news to keep up with what’s happening in the world. Many days, I have sat in the darkness of the pre-dawn hour saddened by the atrocities happening around the world, but not this day. I experienced a myriad of emotions I rarely feel together ranging from anger to embarrassment.
The headline at the very top of the page read, “We Don’t Want Them Here.”
Only moments before reading this headline, I scrolled past images in my newsfeed of Jesus standing over Trump in the Oval Office and even carrying suitcases back to the White House. I’m thinking neither of these is very accurate considering they probably didn’t have suitcases back in Jesus’ day, and Jesus wasn’t white. Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe they’re just alternative facts… I digress…
There are many things wrong with these sentiments, but what stood out to me so very early on this particular day was the juxtaposition of these memes against the reality of what is currently happening in our country. Trump is being hailed as an advocate for life and for Christian principles, yet this administration has blatantly turned it’s back (and, by default, our backs) on those who are in desperate, life and death situations.
People who are marching in the streets are told to suck it up, called snowflakes, and told how appreciative they should be to live in a great country like America. All the while, what we should be asking is why are you marching? If millions of people are hitting the streets to protest the travel/Muslim ban (insert BLM, women’s rights, etc… here), we should realize that there is a group of people who are hurting. That should be enough for us to question our methods and go seek change. Instead, we have the complete division between those who are hurting and those who are privileged enough to not have to worry. From the comfort of my home, I have watched the crisis unfold in Syria, and I cannot wrap my head around the degree of suffering these people have endured. As I hold my two-month-old in my arms, I try to put myself in the shoes of a woman fleeing for her life with her child in her arms. Tears stream down my face as I remember these are the people we are denying a safe haven.
What do I want to ask my friends and family who truly believe that Trump is bringing back conservative Christian values to this country: Where is the empathy? Where is the compassion? If we were faced with the same life and death situations these refugees are running from, would we not hope that someone would be brave enough to take us in? Bible 101 teaches us to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? The Samaritan. The one who is considered to be the lesser. As a Christian, I am not told to help those who hold the same belief system, those who look like me, or those who can help me get ahead in life. I am called to show the love of Christ.
By this point, you’re probably asking “What exactly is this post? A pessimistic rant about the state of our nation?” Maybe…but what if we turned it into a call to action. There are people hurting in our world. More importantly, there are people hurting in our neighborhood. What if we could step outside of ourselves for even a brief moment each day and seek these people out in order to ask them how we can help? If we can’t help, maybe we can listen. There is a deficit of listeners in this country. We can fill that void. And maybe, just maybe, we could inspire the change we seek in this world. What America needs most is empathy.
Kelley is a woman of many questions and very few answers. Unfinished projects, awkward silences, and karaoke top her most hated list while good beer, a solid community, and puppies top her most loved. She is realistic to a fault, but has hope that all things have the potential for change.
Join us for part two in our conversation with professor and author Karl Giberson. Karl is the Science and Religion professor at Stonehill college and author of many books such as Saving Darwin and Worlds Apart: The Unholy War between Religion and Science. Karl also penned a satirical series for the Huffington Post called, Jesus at Trump Tower. We discuss his motivations in writing and also have a dramatic reading of Jesus at Trump Tower. We’ve also got What’s Good // What’s Bad chronicling the interweb’s best and worst of the week.
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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Title: Jesus at Trump Tower
Episode: # 141
Program: Snarky Faith Radio
Host: Stuart Delony
Well, good afternoon, and welcome to another round of Snarky Faith Radio. I’m your host, Stuart Delony. We have a show that is pretty packed, chock-full, stuffed to the brim, and other synonyms I could probably use to describe how much stuff that we actually have going on in this show. We have part two of Karl Giberson’s interview. Part one was amazing. Part two, we’re going to get to this. We’re going to get to his whole new series that he’s publishing called Jesus at Trump Tower. After Karl’s interview, we actually have the dramatic radio play version of his first article “Jesus at Trump Tower.” Before that, you know what we’ve got. We’ve got “What’s good // What’s bad” and something else that I just want to float out there to you. For the last little bit on the show, we’ve got a surprise. What is that surprise? Well, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I went ahead and told you now. You’re going to have to stay tuned and listen to that. Yes. If we’re going to go down the checklist: “What’s good // What’s bad”, Karl Giberson interview, part two, “Jesus at Trump Tower” dramatic reading, and super surprise (that I won’t tell you about just yet). Without further ado, let’s hop into this week’s “What’s good // What’s bad”. Here we go.
Just a reminder that you can catch everything, every video, every link that I’m mentioning in “What’s good // What’s bad” over on our website, which you can find it at www.snarkyfaith.com. It’s just that easy. It’s just that simple. All you got to do is click and all these things will just pop up for you because they’re waiting for you. They’re there for you.
Here’s the first thing in “What’s good // What’s bad”. Oh my gosh, do I love Ken Ham. Ken Ham, the ardent supporter of creationism, the creator of the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. He has outdone himself. He has absolutely outdone himself because they’re premiering online a new diorama that depicts the wicked population in the pre-flood world. Now, you may say, “What’s the big deal?” We tend to love trolling Ken Ham on here because of just the ridiculousness of the Ark Encounter and pretty much, just everything, everything about it. Yes, in his search for trying to prove the fact that everything in Genesis is absolutely, literally true, they are now going to have a new part of their exhibit with a diorama that shows dinosaurs fighting gladiators against humans and giants. Now, if this was a total joke piece, I would be like, “Man, well done Ken,” but we all know they’re not going for jokes here. They’re trying to continue to prove their ridiculous ideas and theories, so what we literally have in this diorama, which you can see on our website, they have giants who are gladiator-style fighting tiny, little humans, and at the same time, they’re unleashing dinosaurs into the gladiator pit. That’s right. I even, almost, just feel dumber by expressing this, but it’s too funny to not miss. Thanks, Ken Ham. Thanks for continuing to pop up into our “What’s good // What’s bad” of the week. You have truly outdone yourself.
Next, you may have missed this in your news cycle, but it is beautiful. It is absolutely beautiful. They have a Japanese pool player giving one of the best interviews, one of most bizarre, hilarious interviews that I’ve ever seen to the BBC. You have this BBC reporter, which is Tony Wainwright, and he’s interviewing Nayoyuki Oi who is the defending Chinese Taipei player 00:05:36 in pool. Oi’s answer to everything is just hilarious. I don’t even know what you’d call this. We’ve got words around here like Spanglish when you somehow interweave Spanish and English. This is—I don’t even know. It could quite easily be one of those things that you would say this is just English folks making fun of this guy, and his accent, and his lack of being able to fully grasp and hold onto the English language. Oh, no. Oi sells it. He sells it up and down. The reporter doesn’t even know what to say. It is hilarious. It is something to absolutely behold, and it’s beautiful. I’ve never really cared to watch the sport of pool. It’s fun to play, but this dude makes me want to start tuning in week after week if he’s playing, and really, just tuning in to figure out what happens afterwards when somebody sticks a microphone in his face. It’s gorgeous. It’s amazing. Hats off to you, my friend.
Alright, so you didn’t assume that we would have a week without mentioning our dear Trumpy. Before we get to him, we’ll start easy. We’ll start easy with his beloved Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Now, Sean Spicer has become known for, not only his incessant, ridiculous OCD love of chewing gum. What he also has a huge problem with is pronouncing names. I’ll tell you first, I would be the first one—not the first one, the last one to be calling out somebody who can’t pronounce names. I butcher them constantly on this show. It just somehow doesn’t work in my brain, but at the same time, I also know enough that I don’t have the skill set to be a press secretary, so therefore, I would not go for the job of press secretary. They’ve actually set up online a word generator on the Sydney Morning Herald, and it’s really funny. You simply type in your name, and it spits out what Sean Spicer would call you. For mine, Stuart Delony, it’s Stubbins Delt. That seems about right. Right? I don’t know. Yes, you should try it. It’s on the website. Moving on to our dear president.
Stephen Colbert ran this small, little video snippet on his show last week. It’s just too good not to play here. Just too good. So good. It’s called “Self-reflections with President Trump.” It’s Trump talking about the president and how he feels about our current president. Have a listen. Oh, Donald. If you could only listen to your own words, the world would be a better place.
Speaking of disgusting things like our president, something that you may want to know is that if you are someone who enjoys eating canned greens—which I’m not sure if there’s any of you out there that actually enjoys eating canned greens. I don’t think I’ve eaten canned greens since college. If you do eat canned greens, there’s an article over on the Huffington Post that goes through the FDA defect levels handbook. What they have, they lay out, simply, how bad it has to be to where canned greens can’t be edible, which is a reassuring fact. Thanks, FDA. They go on to say this, “To be sold in the stores, canned green beans are actually allowed to contain up to 10 percent of mildew on their leaves.” Yummy. Doesn’t that sound good? [Sarcasm] If we take that same handbook and then apply it to spinach, which is a little different because it’s in the mustard green family, mildew’s not the worry here, but insect larva. In their handbook it says this, “You are allowed to have two or more, three millimeters or longer, larvae and/or larvae fragments or spinach worms (which are, basically, caterpillars) whose aggregated length exceeds 12 millimeters that are present in 12 pounds of spinach.” Isn’t that enlightening? Isn’t that wonderful? [Sarcasm] Yeah. It’s pretty gross.
Lastly, in our “What’s good // What’s bad” segment, I’ll give you something that’s actually uplifting, and interesting, and does not involve anyone talking about larvae or any such thing. This comes from Kimberly Stover who blogs at kimberlystover.com. She wrote this absolutely, on point, just hitting the heart of the matter blog post called “If being a Christian means X, Y, Z, then I’m not a Christian.” The article starts off using this quote that I’ve been seeing floating around social media. It’s a quote from Billy Graham where he warned, “I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” Just even unpacking that statement coming from Billy Graham is amazing considering the fact that he fathered Franklin Graham who continues in his father’s footsteps. [Sarcasm] Maybe. No, not really at all. Franklin Graham’s a douche. What Kimberly does, is that she moves forward to this article, really it’s an article of resistance. She wrote this poem that I’ll read you hear today. She says:
“If being a Christian means that I have to deny healthcare to another human being, then I’m not a Christian. If Christian means I have to deny equality to the LGBT community, then I’m not a Christian. If being a Christian means I have to turn a blind eye to the suffering of refugees, then I am not a Christian. If being a Christian means I have to accept building a wall separating me from another human being so I can be privileged and they can suffer, then I am not a Christian. If being a Christian means I have to deny scientific evidence of climate change, therefore, contributing to the destruction of the Earth, our home, then I am not a Christian.”
You can find the entire article over on her website, kimberlystover.com. The poem that she wrote was beautiful, and that was just a tiny snippet of it. I thought it was a good staging point for us to hop off of, and then go into our talk with Karl Giberson. If you caught last week’s episode, which was part one of the Karl Giberson interview. Now, Karl is a Professor of Science and Religion at Stonehill College. He has written many pieces for the Huffington Post, and on top of that, he is a proponent of evolution, but also holds in his other hand, the fact that he’s a Christian and how those two things can get along. We talked about what it means to be a thinking Christian because oftentimes, it feels like those things don’t exist in the real world. Sounds like an oxymoron sometimes, and it absolutely shouldn’t. We have part two of Karl’s interview here today talking about science, critical thought, and then eventually, we’ll use that interview to dovetail into our dramatic reading of his first article in his series of posts that he has at the Huffington Post called “Jesus at Trump Tower.” Here is the second part of our interview with Karl. Enjoy.
[Begin Audio Clip]
Stuart: Well, we had mentioned earlier just in this whole conversation that we’re having here about that whole divide between science and religion. Why do you think, in that same realm, why religion and politics have been easy bedfellows and you see science and religion being very against one another? Why do you think that somehow politics and faith have been integrated way more than they probably should be?
Karl: Well, Randall Balmer, a friend of mine that teaches at Dartmouth College. He’s done a very interesting analysis of the relationship between the evangelical church and abortion. Most evangelicals think that being anti-abortion is the traditional Christian position that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. This is Randall Balmer’s work, not mine. If you look at the response of the evangelicals, even people like Jerry Falwell, and so on, in the immediate aftermath of Roe v Wade, there wasn’t this consistent message that we need to oppose abortion at all costs. Balmer traces this. He shows that what we think of as the religious right was originally organized around opposition to civil rights. I mean, it was a southern, racist movement. Jerry Falwell, Sr. spent the latter part of his career trying to buy up all the books that he’d written when he was younger that were opposed to the integration of the schools. Many of the Christian schools that got started in the south were started to avoid white evangelicals needing to have black classmates. There was a lot of political power in the civil rights movement. This power created the opposition of the religious right. Then, they lost. Right. The civil rights movement won, basically, all of the battles, at least legally. This is Balmer’s insight here. The movement had political power but nowhere to use it. They said, “Well, we’ve lost the battle for civil rights. We need something to animate our followers, so we can keep this unity, this big powerful voice that we have, alive.” They picked up abortion. They made a political decision to try and convince evangelicals all over America that abortion was the great question of our time, and that Christians needed to rally against that. This, then, was exploited by the Republican Party. The Republican Party, basically, suckered this large, evangelical demographic into thinking that because we are anti-abortion, we are your party. Gradually, over the last two decades, the GOP platform, the Ten Commandments, and the Bible all became blended together in this big mishmash of stuff. That’s what evangelicalism is today.
Stuart: If you took that from an evolutionary standpoint, probably, DNA-wise, all those things shouldn’t be combined and create anything. Right? Is that how it—
Karl: That’s how you get a monster. Right? You throw together random genes from disparate species and you put them together and you say, “Let’s see what comes out.” What comes out of that is now sitting in the White House as the president of the United States.
Stuart: Yes. Speaking about that, speaking about our beloved McDonald president that is in the White House, you wrote this piece, which is what initially led me to finding you, called “Jesus at Trump Tower.” I think it is a beautiful satire that also just has undercurrents of truth that, hopefully, folks should be able to read and be able to just begin to question more about what’s been going on especially with a candidate that was endorsed by so many evangelicals out there. In talking about this piece, what led you to write this article?
Karl: Well, the concern that developed for me as I watched the political scene over the last year was an astonishment at how enthusiastic many of my own lifelong friends who were conservative evangelicals, how much enthusiasm they had for Donald Trump. I just found that mystifying. Then, as he won the nomination, they became even more enthusiastic, and they seemed to, somehow, feel like these little, small things that Hillary Clinton had done like use a private server like that that was a gigantic, moral failure, but Donald Trump’s history with woman was just something to be overlooked as locker room expectations, and so on. I began to become really discouraged about the moral insight of this community that I had once been a part of and that had done a lot to shape my understanding of the world. Out of my dismay at this and I had many Facebook dialogues about how the Republican Party and Donald Trump, in particular, were about as far away from the teachings of Jesus as one could possibly imagine. If you just theoretically tried to invent an anti-Jesus party, you’d get the GOP led by Donald Trump, and Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell, and so on.
My specific impetus to write this piece came when I became convinced that Trump, as president, was actually worse, not better than Trump as candidate. I tend to be an optimist. I held out hope that some of the worst characteristics of him as a public figure might retreat, and he might become more of a statesman when he moved in as president, and perhaps we could get behind him. Maybe, in some mysterious way, he would be a much better president than he was candidate. It quickly became clear that he was a worse president than he was candidate. The more power that he has, the worse he gets. I thought, you know, the right thing to do in a situation like this—and by right, I mean, if one takes morality seriously, and if you have a public voice, you should use it—then, we need to oppose Trump. We need to make reasonable efforts to make sure that Trump’s failings as a leader and as a human being are spotlighted with enough regularity that people will slowly become fed up with him. I thought, well, if I satirize Trump talking to Jesus to try to make it clear to any thoughtful evangelical who might read that that really Jesus and Trump have no overlap whatsoever. I can’t, as a Christian, continue to support Trump. This, actually, would be a contribution that I could feel good about. Plus, it’s fun to do that. The piece is more than Alec Baldwin just making fun and you just laugh, and the end of his little diatribe, there’s no real point that you’ve taken home. I wanted it to be a, if you will, highbrow, more theologically informed take down of Trump.
Stuart: I thought you did that very well. For those of you that were looking for this, you can look up “Jesus at Trump Tower,” and it’s featured at the Huffington Post right now. Before we finish this interview, I like to, usually, end these interviews with a ridiculous question. Karl, I wanted you to be able to take this as I was looking into your background. I did find out that you’re a little bit of a Treky. Is that correct?
Stuart: Yeah. The Next Generation.
Karl: Yeah. I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s the glories of binge viewing. I watched them in consecutive order from one to the end. I thought this was marvelous.
Stuart: It’s easy to see how The Next Generation could inform some of your desires and your love of science. How would you say The Next Generation informed issues of faith for you?
Karl: I probably don’t have a constructive answer, but I do have—there was a sense in which there was faith connection that Star Trek with its interesting vision of traveling from one intergalactic civilization to the next and meeting all kinds of different people, it does, I think, remind you that if the universe is, indeed, like that, we need to wrestle with the parochialisms of our Earthly religions. There’s been a fair amount of discussions. Some people have even written entire books on what is the relationship between Christianity and life on other planets, and so on. I remember back in college when Larry Norman who was the first big Christian rock star, who was controversial because he was making regular rock music acceptable. He talked about life on other planets. He had this great line from a song where he said, and he’s talking about Jesus, he said, “If there’s life on other planets, then I’m sure that he must know, and he’s been there once already and has died to save their souls.” The notion that Jesus has hopped from planet to planet to planet and died in some way to save them all from sin just seems so implausible to me that it really forces, I think, a certain humility on somebody taking the Earthly situation seriously. We may not be able to simply generalize our religion in some universal sense. That’s the kind of thing that has drawn me more and more to think that, really, Christianity ought to be about trying to dig really deeply into the things that Jesus taught, and to figure out how one would translate those into a modern world where we have a tax system, and an internet, and a global economy, and so on. We should be thinking more about who is our neighbor like I tried to do in my piece.
Stuart: Well, Karl. Thank you so much for your time. If anyone is wanting to find out more information about Karl Giberson, you can find his books on Amazon, SavingDarwin, Saving the Original Sinner, Language of Science and Faith amongst many others. You can also find his blogging at the Huffington Post. Karl, Thank you so much for your time, and I just really appreciate you joining for the show, and tolerating me long enough to make through this hour together. Thank you so much.
Karl: Sure. It was fun talking with you.
[End Audio Clip]
Stuart: Well, that is it for our talk with Karl Giberson. I just want to, again, say, muchas gracias, Karl. Thank you so much. Karl was a wonderfully, gracious person to be on the show. We chatted a bunch before the interview. We chatted a bunch after the interview. He’s just an all-around, solid dude who’s, also, pretty smart to boot. Moving on. This is the thing that we’ve been building up for the last two weeks. It’s finally here. Yes, we have the dramatic reading of Karl’s first work in a series that he did call “Jesus in Trump Tower.” Here is “Jesus in Trump Tower.” Enjoy.
[Begin Audio Clip of “Jesus in Trump Tower”]
Narrator: One day, Jesus visited Donald Trump at Trump Tower. He had been invited because Donald wanted to ask him a question, and Jesus was curious. Trump usually answers questions since he has such a high IQ and even has an uncle who was so smart that he taught engineering at MIT for fifty years.
Trump: You know, Jesus, I’m smart. Really smart. Probably the smartest person who was ever president. It’s in my genes. I have great genes. But I want to tell you something, something big. I don’t know everything. Okay. I know you might not believe that, but it’s true.
Jesus: I believe you. In fact, I’ve known that for some time.
Trump: And you are smart too, I hear. Maybe as smart as me. Who can say? But you’re the Son of God and all. So, I want to ask you a question.
Jesus: What would you like to know?
Trump: I’m interested in eternal life, in heaven. Okay. Now, I’m not worried that I won’t go to heaven, of course. In fact, if you come to Trump Tower you will see I practically live there now! And my latest wife is an angel, if you know what I mean. And we know angels don’t grow old, just like my wife doesn’t grow old because I keep replacing her with a younger one. Okay.
Narrator: Jesus stared at Trump, struggling to maintain his divine composure.
Trump: So, my question is this, Jesus: Let’s just suppose I wasn’t 100% certain about going to heaven. What must I do to be totally sure that I will, you know, inherit eternal life, as they say?
Jesus: Have you read the Bible?
Trump: Oh, totally. Look, nobody has ever read it quite like me. I am the ultimate Bible reader.
Jesus: Okay. What does it say about how you should live?
Trump: You mean in Two Corinthians?
Jesus: No, in the Law. In the Old Testament.
Trump: Oh. I see. My Bible is brand new. Latest edition. I don’t read old stuff, only new Bible stuff like Two Corinthians.
Narrator: Jesus responded patiently.
Jesus: In the part of the Bible called ‘the Law’ it says you should ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.’
Narrator: Trump combed his hair and formed his mouth into a perfect circle as though he was going to say something, but Jesus interrupted.
Jesus: Do you do that?
Trump: Big League, okay. Nobody loves the Lord more than Donald Trump. Believe me!
Jesus: Well, good.
Trump: So, I am all set! I have this eternal life thing in the bag. Bigly! I knew it.
Jesus: Not so fast. There’s one more thing you have to do. You must love your neighbor as yourself.
Trump: Love my neighbor as myself? As myself? Come on, Jesus. You are pulling my leg, right? I mean, I have some great neighbors but they’re not as great as me. Okay. They don’t have as much money. Their wives aren’t supermodels. They’ve never had a reality TV show, and nothing in their apartments is plated with actual gold. Okay. Some are losers. How can I possibly love them like I love myself?
Narrator: Jesus began to respond, but Trump interrupted.
Trump: You know I just thought of something. I bet my neighbors actually love me more than they love themselves! Okay. Why wouldn’t they? So, I make it easy for my neighbors to follow this rule about loving your neighbor as yourself.
Narrator: Once again Jesus tried to respond, but Trump interrupted.
Trump: I do have some great neighbors, though. Great neighbors. Every one of them is a millionaire. Every one. And some are billionaires, but not so rich as me.
Jesus: Donald, these are not your neighbors.
Trump: Yes, they are. They live in the same building. They are my neighbors.
Jesus: No, that’s not what the Bible means when it speaks of our neighbors.
Trump: Well, then who is my neighbor, according to the Bible? Not those foreigners who work at Gucci’s on the first floor, I hope.
Jesus: Let me explain this by way of a story.
Narrator: Trump looked at his watch.
Trump: Okay, but I hope it’s not a long story. I feel a tweet coming on.
Narrator: Jesus got up, and walked to the window, and began to speak.
Jesus: A man was traveling from San Diego to Los Angeles when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes. They beat him and went away, leaving him half naked and bleeding to death on the edge of a deserted beach. The pastor of San Diego’s largest megachurch happened to be walking along the same beach, and when he saw the man, he made a wide berth and passed by at some distance. In similar fashion, the mayor of a local town, when he came to the place and saw the unconscious man, passed at some distance. But an undocumented migrant worker, as he walked along the beach, heading to the farm where he picked watermelons for $36.00 a day, he came across the injured man and took pity on him. He went to him and saw that he was bleeding from knife wounds. So, he poured clean water from the bottle in his lunchbox into the man’s wounds to clean them. Then, he took off his shirt and ripped it into strips to make bandages to stop the bleeding. And he waited with the man, cradling his head in his lap. After a time, the injured man regained consciousness, and the migrant worker helped him stand and supported him as they walked together to a nearby building which housed a small shop that rented beach towels. Although he had very little money, the migrant worker gave the owner of the shop $50 in exchange for letting the injured man rest in his facility, and use some of his towels for bandages. He also borrowed the shopkeeper’s phone and called 911. As he headed off to the watermelon farm, the migrant worker was happy to see an ambulance pulling up in front of the shop.
Narrator: Jesus paused and kicked Trump in the shin.
Jesus: Pay attention, Donald.
Trump: Sorry, Jesus, but this is such a long story.
Jesus: I need to ask you something important about the story I just told you. Which of the three people who encountered the injured man was a neighbor to him?
Trump: I have no idea. I don’t know where any of these people lived. Probably, none of them were neighbors.
Jesus: But you see, Donald, in the Kingdom of God our neighbors are not just the people who live next door or in the same high-rise building. Our neighbors are the people who come into our lives who need our help. And the injured man on the beach needed help.
Trump: Was he vetted?
Trump: Yes. Vetted. Was he a terrorist? A rapist? A murderer? Was he an American citizen? The pastor and the politician were right to give him a wide birth until he was vetted. You don’t put yourself at risk helping people who are not vetted.
Jesus: How long does vetting take?
Trump: Doesn’t matter. You take whatever time you need.
Jesus: But the man was bleeding to death.
Trump: Doesn’t matter. You vet people before you help them. Okay. And if they die, too bad. They should’ve been more careful. Look, this migrant worker was probably not even an American citizen. Okay. And he took this unvetted guy, who could have been a terrorist or a murderer, and left him with a shopkeeper. Not very neighborly if you ask me. I certainly wouldn’t have brought that injured guy to Trump Tower, believe me.
Jesus: In the kingdom of God, we help those in need, even when it is uncertain, or even dangerous. That is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. If you were bleeding to death on the beach, you would want help. Would you want a neighbor to help you, even if they did not know who you were? You asked about eternal life, Donald. You must love those in need, all of them, in every part of the planet, in every religion as you love yourself. Then, you will inherit eternal life.
Narrator: Jesus noticed that Trump was typing something into his phone.
Trump: @realDonaldTrump. Jesus has crazy ideas about neighbors. Over-rated as a thinker, even if he is the Son of God. Sad.
[End Audio Clip]
Stuart: Well, this is the moment that we’ve been waiting for the whole show. I teased it, and you’re wanting to know who our special guest is. It’s none other than illustrious, Dr. Ben. [Begin sound clip of audience clapping and cheering] Dr. Ben is back after you’re extended paternity leave.
Dr. Ben: Illustrious makes me sound like I have conditioner in my hair.
Stuart: Oh, if they could see the video I see, there’s a lot of conditioner.
Stuart: Maybe some hot oils.
Dr. Ben: I can’t remember the last time I used conditioner.
Stuart: Okay. So much has happened, Ben, since we’ve had you hang on the show. Really, I guess, the way I’m making it sound, I haven’t talked to you either, since then, but I have.
Dr. Ben: I just fell off the map, fell off the grid—
Stuart: You did.
Dr. Ben: – like most people do when they have children.
Stuart: No, you were, essentially, just in a coma, and we were about to pull the plug. Miraculously, you started breathing on your own again.
Dr. Ben: You’re about to Million Dollar Baby me.
Stuart: I know. [Laughter]
Dr. Ben: I’m more like a $10.00 baby.
Stuart: Alright. So much has happened. We have not talked to you since the inauguration. We have not talked to you since baby Deacon dropped onto this Earth and made a crater impact.
Dr. Ben: Historic.
Stuart: It is. He’s been changing your guys’ life. First of all, how is it being a dad right now? Where are you at dad-wise?
Dr. Ben: I’m feeling a little more like a dad, I guess. It’s interesting how people, I think, have this mythos around children. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but it’s very difficult. Actually, a lot of the things that people joke about or hinted at like not being able to sleep. I need some wood to knock on. That’s been good. He sleeps like a champ. I mean, he’s actually a pretty, easy kiddo. For both of us, there’s just a long learning process of recognizing that we’re parents. It’s not like you have a kid, and then all of a sudden, magic happens and you feel like a parent. You know.
Stuart: Usually, it’s magic happens, and then you have the kid.
Dr. Ben:[Laughter] Yeah, pretty much, and then the magic’s over. I’m just kidding.
Stuart: My oldest is about to turn 15, and we’re still learning. We’re still figuring this out. We still don’t really have a clue. We’re doing the fake it ‘til you make it, or until they leave for college.
Dr. Ben: Yeah. I think that’s pretty much life, in general, just fake it ‘til you make it.
Stuart: We’re going to have to get little Deacon on the show at some point. We’ll have to get him to, at least, cry into a microphone.
Dr. Ben: He might show up on this show.
Dr. Ben: Depending on [laughter] whether he goes down to nap or not.
Stuart: Okay. The weather’s pretty warm today. Are we going to have naked babies? This isn’t that kind of program.
Dr. Ben: No, we were out playing with compost earlier, so I think he’s pretty wiped out right now.
Stuart: Compost and wiped out. There’s so many—
Dr. Ben: Compost pickin’.
Stuart: On all of that, do have any good dad jokes now that you’re a dad?
Dr. Ben: Myself.
Dr. Ben: Bad. That’s a pretty good joke.
Stuart: Well, considering you haven’t been on the show since we went from orange messiah as a candidate to, now, orange messiah as a wrecking ball in the White House. What have been some of your unique observations you had since all this craziness has happened, orange in the White House?
Dr. Ben: I’ve been thinking this morning that we joked months and, gosh, maybe even a year ago, about feeling endangered like, “Oh, Trump’s listening to this. He’s going to have a hit out for us.” Now, it’s becoming more of that could actually happen at some point. Right? He’s removing people from jobs. People are dropping off the map in some places that have criticized him like companies are closing. He goes after people with a vengeance when they come at him.
Stuart: Very Putinesk. 00:42:24
Dr. Ben: Yeah. His buddy, Putin. Yeah, he’s learned a lot from him. I guess, in terms of insight, we’ve talked about this before. I think I get a little frustrated because I feel that people are so distractible. Maybe, I’m too idealistic, or I simplify things too much, but I feel like there are general problems on the table in our country. I’m not saying that there aren’t still problems right now that we’re trying to deal with and raising awareness for in the country, but on the one hand, we go from one problem to the next so quickly. I feel like Trump puts all these problems out there, and our messages get watered down, and confused, and muddled. It’s very attention deficit right now in politics. Also, I feel like for me, at least, I’m just tired of hearing about it. I’m exhausted from Trump. He just is everywhere. Also, from anti-Trump. I’m not saying I agree, really, with anything that he says or does, but I’m just tired of him. He’s exhausting. All of this is just exhausting.
Stuart: Yeah. That’s one of my biggest worries is that we’re going to, eventually, just hit a point where this crazy that we’re living in becomes normal. Then, we become numb to that.
Dr. Ben: Yeah. It’s true.
Stuart: You can only be shocked so many times before it just tends to—you start to shrug it off. I feel like we’re living in the middle of a Saw film. After a while, you just become numb to the violence. You become numb to what awful things are happening.
Dr. Ben: Yeah. This could be, potentially, a dividing analogy. It could be way off the mark, but after having watched basketball for 20-something years now, have picked up that over at Duke has this strategy with his team that they tend to foul a lot throughout the game because, I mean, the referees can only call so many of them. If you fell ten times in a minute, they’re going to get exhausted. Well, for one, they probably don’t see all ten of them. Also, they’re not going to call that many fouls. You’re going to get away with a lot more. Over time, you’re used to seeing that. It’s cognitively difficult for them to pick out. Of course, they’re still calling fouls, but it’s just this trick of tricking their brains into not seeing that you’re fouling the entire game. I feel like it’s similar to Trump. There’s just so much stupidity and spin. I think that’s what really is coming up in satire and comedy now. He just spins stuff so quickly; fake news and I didn’t say that. People laugh, but it’s scary. It’s very much 1984 that there’s a lot of truth and untruth going on at the same time, and people just get confused or tired. I don’t know which one. You think people of the older generation who don’t have access or don’t care to watch news shows or satire, are not really going to pick up on that there’s so much false information. They’re just going to believe, take everything’s he’s saying at face value. I don’t know. I guess from a philosophy background, I tend to not really bite at the sexy stuff. I really want to dig into what’s actually on the table, what’s actually going on, maybe like pull the curtain a little bit. I think it’s so easy, right now, to just bite into that whatever Trump is saying at the moment, and let’s fight that. We were getting so close with things like Occupy Wall Street and really raising awareness of like the haves and have nots. I feel like we were getting really close, especially, with Bernie Sanders being a mouthpiece for a lot of inequality. I feel like that is at the heart of a lot of our problems. That feels like 40 years ago, now. That feels so distant from where we’re at. It really frustrates me.
Stuart: Well, tell me this. As we start wrapping up this show, what is one thing that gives you hope right now?
Dr. Ben: I am excited to see—I want to be careful in how I put this because I am a Christian. I’m nonviolent. I don’t advocate for violence, but I am seeing seeds of revolution or at least, revolutionary thought, or excitement in voices that feel that they can act against fascism and against bullying. I don’t know. It was almost like there was so much marginal stuff, like celebration of margins, going on that we lost the need to act. We were just reveling in the idea of identity and things like that. Now, I think people are becoming more active and saying, “Oh my gosh. In four years, where are we going to be? We need to do something.” That’s exciting.
Stuart: That is definitely a good word. As we start moving to the end as we have actually arrived at the end of the broadcast this week, just a reminder that you can this show and past shows on www.snarkyfaith.com. If you go to our website and sign up for our newsletter where we just send you one email a week with all the content that we are putting out over on the website, if you join us, if you join our little snarky tribe on there with the newsletter, what we’re going to start doing is what we were testing out here today for this part of the show is that we’re going to start opening up to that private group of subscribers where we’ll start doing a show once a month that we will open it up. We’ll have a part where Ben and I talk like we like to talk back and forth. Then, we’ll open it up for Q & A, and let you guys be able to share questions, and ideas, and pushbacks, and critiques, and all that good stuff. If you want to hop on board with that, go to www.snarkyfaith.com and you can catch all of that. Also, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter. We love to have you a part of this little tribe that we’ve got going here. That’s all I’ve got this week. We will catch you again next week.
A rundown of why evolution matters to faith with an interview with professor and author Karl Giberson. Karl is the Science and Religion professor at Stonehill college and author of many books such as Saving Darwin and Worlds Apart: The Unholy War between Religion and Science. Join us for part one of our talk as we delve into the importance of critical thinking. It’s an insightful discussion about how Christianity and science shouldn’t be put at odds with one another. We’ve also got What’s Good // What’s Bad chronicling the interweb’s best and worst of the week. Buckle up for a wild ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.
[showhide type=”pressrelease” more_text=”Click for Full Show Transcript” less_text=”Hide Show Transcript” hidden=”yes”]
Title: Interview with Karl Giberson
Program: Snarky Faith Radio
Host: Stuart Delony
Well, good afternoon and welcome to another round of Snarky Faith Radio. I’m your host, Stuart Delony. Hey, dear listeners out there, whether your listening over the airwaves or whether checking us out via podcast, I just want to tell you guys, thanks for tuning in again. Thanks for being a part of what we do here at Snarky Faith Radio. This show today is going to be an interesting one. I know I may say that quite often, but we’ve got a guest interview with Karl Giberson who is a Professor at Stonehill College, and renowned or maligned, depending upon who you ask, for his work of integrating evolution into the journey of faith. Now, I’m not talking about evolution like, “Hey. We develop. We change on our journey, our faith spiritual journey.” No, literally evolution. He’s a brilliant mind. I think you’re going to enjoy the talk that I have with him. Today, we’ll be having part one of that talk. Karl is also known for his satire that he writes for the Huffington Post. He started a series recently called “Jesus at Trump Tower.” For the interview part today, we’ll be talking about really that relationship between being a critical thinking Christian. That’ll be part I. Next week, you’ll get the rest of that interview along with the dramatic interpretation of “Jesus at Trump Tower.” That’s right. We’ve done it here. Karl said it was cool. We’ve got some voice actors together, and we put together “Jesus at Trump Tower” for you, my dear listeners. Stay tuned because that is coming out next week. Before we get to that, it’s time for “What’s good // What’s bad”.
First off, with “What’s good // What’s bad”, holy sweet Lord, thank you for giving us John Oliver. Also, thank you, John Oliver, for coming off of hiatus because I don’t think I was going to be able to last another minute in our crazy, topsy-turvy McDonald Trump world that we are living in right now. John Oliver came back last week. It was beautiful. His show, which you can go and find on our website www.snarkyfaith.com. You can look for the “What’s good // What’s bad”, which will have all the videos that I’m talking about here in this segment, there for you, waiting and ready to go. John Oliver in Last Week Tonight did something beautiful and absolutely amazing. We all know that Trump likes to be briefed on issues of national intelligence, basically, by watching cable news. In order to get sanity into his big, fat, orange head, what John Oliver did this week was to purchase ad time during cable news in the morning. What he did was, during these commercial spots that they purchased, they actually integrated real facts into seemly real commercials just so, you know, our president can get the idea, and get his little bit of news. Hopefully, that’s not as crazy as the cable news that he continues to watch and digest on a regular basis.
Speaking about Trump, again, this will be on the website too. Every week feels so insane. I think we’re—what?—three or four weeks into the presidency now, and it is wearing all of us out. Guess what? We should have seen this coming. We should have seen this coming a while ago. I actually found clips when he appeared on WrestleMania. When you watch this, when you watch the insanity of—well, first of all, let’s just say this. Professional wrestling is a stupid, insane soap opera that really fools nobody, and if, actually, people do think it’s real, that’s even more scary. Well, I’m assuming those are probably the people that voted for him. Yes, he makes an appearance—I think it was ten years ago—on WrestleMania. As you begin to watch through that episode where he is on it, you begin to see, oh, he’s essentially treating the presidency like WrestleMania. The only problem is, WrestleMania, most of us know, it’s fake. The presidency, he’s treating it like it’s fake in some sort of insane wrestling match, but somehow the rest of us are stuck with this reality that continues to unfold. I don’t know about you, but I’m just having a hard time making it through opening the news every morning to be able to read it. I don’t want to check my phone ever when I get news alerts or anything like that because it begins to cause indigestion even just when I hear that sound of new news coming out because, generally, in the world we live in today, no news is good news.
Alright. Enough of that for now. Enough of Trump’s America. Did anybody catch Denzel Washington’s acceptance speech at the NAACP Image Awards for outstanding actor in a motion picture? His speech is every bit inspirational. It’s one of those things that we need now. The problem that we have is that we can easily become cynical. We can easily become bitter in Trump’s America. We can easily want to check out, but that’s absolutely the wrong way to handle it. It’s easy for me to say that. I mean, hey, I’ve got a show called Snarky Faith. I love being sarcastic, and yes, if you’ve been listening to the show for any period of time, you realize that, yes, I am cynical. I also love to be inspired. I also love to be reminded that Trump’s America does not have to be our America. There is a vision that he has that is moving out into the world right now that is terrifying and scary. What we need to do, is we need to move back to creating our own narratives, our own narratives for the things that we believe in, the things that we love, the things that we are most passionate about. I think we need to go back to dreaming. We need to go back to working hard. Denzel’s speech, I think the dude could read the phonebook, and it would come off so eloquent. What he said in the end of it, you can watch the whole thing on our website. He just said, “Keep striving. Never give up. Fall down seven times, and get up eight. Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship. Keep moving. Keep growing. Keep learning.” I think we need that. Instead of us becoming more and more cynical and bitter, I think we need to become more and more hopeful and inspire those around us that there is another way, that there is a different narrative that we can capture and that we can make happen in the world that we want to create. I look at this. I look at my kids when they watch the news. I look at all of this. I see them becoming cynical. I don’t disagree with it, but I don’t want them to end there. I want them to keep moving and to keep dreaming.
Speaking of dreaming another way for the world to be, the NPR had this great story about Pat Brown who is attempting—well, I guess not attempting because he’s actually done this. He has pulled off a veggie burger that tastes like actual, real meat. That’s right. He has actually made a veggie burger that tastes like a real burger. Why does this matter? Well, on one level, I would say that it matters simply because—or at least me and my family, we would be what you call garbage vegetarians, which means that, for the most part, we’re vegetarian. If you’re going over to people’s houses or other people are serving stuff, we make amendments to our beliefs within that. My wife has been on a pursuit of trying to make good bean burgers. While they are delicious, they do not taste like a real burger. No, the story is not important because finally, Stuart has something else to try to eat. No, that’s not what it is because if you begin to think about what it takes to make a quarter pounder hamburger, it’s great, they have this whole chart about really how awful raising livestock for us to be able to eat meat at any whim that we want to. McDonald’s is, what, 24 hours now? I guess you could call that meat. No, but when you think about how it harms the environment, so they break this down. For you to be able to eat a quarter pounder hamburger, what that looks likes is that is 6.7 pounds of grains and feed for the animal. That also takes up 52.8 gallons of drinking water to irrigate the crops. That also requires 74.5 square feet of grazing and growing for feed crops. You need to have an area for the crops to be able to feed the animals. You also need areas for the animals to sit around and graze. Right. In all of that, per quarter pounder hamburger, that requires 1,036 BTUs for feed production and transport, which is the equivalent of running your microwave for 18 minutes. This matters not simply based upon Stuart wanting a better tasting veggie burger. No, this matters because if they can do this, this can fundamentally change the way that we handle the food industry. On top of it, how much of an impact or a footprint we continue to put on the environment day after day, year after year. These burgers are all natural. When you see the “meat” before it’s cooked, it looks just like ground chuck. It cooks likes ground chuck. It smells like it, and it tastes like it. Can you imagine how much that would transform not only the way we eat but also the way that we handle the environment? It’s a fascinating story about one guy’s pursuit to change the world through hamburgers, and it’s from NPR. You can check that out on the website too.
Lastly, I will leave you in the realm of pure escapism. This is absolute, pure, disgusting escapism. There’s this guy. His name is John Ferraro, who’s also know based upon his talents, by the nickname Hammerhead. That’s right. Hammerhead pounded his way into the record books of the Guinness World Records Italian show. Do you know what he did? You can kind of guess this a little bit based upon his name. He pounded 38 nails into a board, in under two minutes, with his forehead. Yes, you heard that right. Thirty-eight nails into a board with only his forehead. Now, how can anybody do this, would probably be your first question. My first question is why would anybody want to do this? Really, how can anybody do this? Well, Hammerhead, apparently, has a skull that is twice as thick as the average human being. Supposedly, his forehead is 16 millimeters thick compared to the average person, which would have 6.5 millimeters. The video’s on the website. It’s something to behold. It’s not one of those things that I would say is not for the faint of heart, but it bizarre. It makes you cringe while you watch it. I’m not quite sure if that fits into “What’s good // What’s bad”. It kind of just is. It really begins to be a visual for how I feel about the way the world is going today. You ever have that feeling when you want to just bang your head against the wall? Well apparently, this guy literally does. I would just do it metaphorically because otherwise, it would hurt, and it really wouldn’t solve anything. That is “What’s good // What’s bad” from this week.
Next up, we have the interview with Karl Giberson that I’ll give to you right now. Here it is.
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Stuart: We’re speaking here today with Karl Giberson. Karl holds a PhD in Physics from Rice University. He’s also lectured on science and religion at the Vatican, Oxford University, London’s Thomas More Institute, and many prestigious American venues including MIT, Brigham Young, Xavier University. He’s also published more than 200 reviews and essays in the New York Times, CNN, The Guardian, USA Today, LA Times, Salon, and he also blogs at the Huffington Post. Karl, thank you so much for being here today.
Karl Giberson: I’m happy to here.
Stuart: One thing I when I was doing a little bit of background, research into you, I noticed that in 2013 you were elected to the International Society of Science and Religion. Is there any kind of secret handshakes or signet rings that came along with that?
Karl: No, unfortunately, I think that if you put religion and science together, you don’t get anything quite so interesting or mysterious as that. Basically, you just put nametags on your chest, and go over to the buffet, and start eating. That’s about it.
Stuart: That’s pretty much what anybody in a secret society would say who doesn’t want you to know about the signet rings and the secret handshakes. Right?
Karl: Yes. That’s exactly right.
Stuart: [Laughter] I’d stumbled across your work initially just with your Huffington Post article “Jesus at Trump Tower.” We’ll dive into that a little more. As I started to look into your background, it became more and more interesting about how much you’ve written and you’ve talked about this whole weird, tension, this divide between science and religion. I wanted to start us off with a softball question for you. Why do you think Christianity is so afraid of evolution?
Karl: There’s so many different ways to approach that. I think one of the significant factors is that very successful, evangelical entrepreneurs have managed to craft an argument that Christianity needs to do that. I say that because that movement didn’t come out of any mainstream religious tradition. I mean, it wasn’t that Catholicism, or the Baptist church, or the Presbyterian church, or the Anglicans looked at this really closely and said, “We really think that this idea is incompatible with traditional Christianity.” It wasn’t even an immediate response to Darwin in the early part of the 20th century when the fundamentalist movement was getting started. It was not anti-evolutionary at that point. Many of the prominent early fundamentalists were fine with Darwin. In both the middle of the century, there were some just very energetic, articulate people who began to make an argument that you could take the first chapters of Genesis and you could take a particular interpretation of natural history and the fossil record and fit those two things together. This was the only place that a Christian could truly stand and be faithful to both God’s Word and the evidence of nature. That argument just turned out to be very successful. The audience was right there for it.
Stuart: I take from how you’re framing this too that you’re a big fan of Ken Ham.
Karl: Oh, yes. Ken and I are really good buddies. [Sarcasm] I think if you go to his website, you can read a lot of interesting blogs where he just praises my work to the heavens. [Sarcasm]
Stuart: I’m assuming that you have a lifetime pass to the Ark exhibit or whatever the fun ride he has going on.
Karl: He’s always asking me to come out and get my perspective on [laughter] his projects.
Stuart: I love how you’re laying this out. Another just follow-up to that question, why is this still a thing? Why is this argument still a thing within the church, do you think?
Karl: Well, I mean that, in a certain sense, was the thread that defines a lot of my career, is wrestling continually with that. At first, when I began to engage this question, I thought, “Perhaps the reason is that people didn’t know enough science, and if we could just explain the fossil record and genes, and so on, that they would come around.” I quickly discovered that it’s not about that at all. Eventually, after writing several books about it, and talking to a lot of people, and having a vast army of fundamentalist calling for my head, I began to look at this as more of a cultural phenomenon. I think the reason why this is a thing is because American evangelicalism has separated from the mainstream, intellectual culture. In that separation, they’ve created their own colleges and universities, their own presses. They have their own authority figures. They have their own television celebrities and so on. There’s a whole separate world that a lot of evangelicals live in. This is a world where they hear from people that seem very sophisticated that there’s a controversy over whether evolution is true or not. I mean, they just think that’s true the same way anybody else might say there’s a controversy about whether there’s aliens elsewhere in the universe or something like that. They think it’s a live question because the people they listen to are telling them that. They live on an intellectual island cut off from the steady advance of science.
Stuart: Hmm. If Karl had his way, how would you reframe this conversation about evolution?
Karl: I’d like to reframe the conversation at the level of Sunday school teaching because I think that’s where a lot of the structural problem persists. If you look at the typical education of a child growing up in the evangelical church, they learn Bible stories. They learn them in Sunday school. They learn them if there’s a children’s part of the service. They learn them from books that uncles and aunts give them for Christmas and so on. They get all this biblical literacy: the stories of Adam and Eve, and Moses and the Ten Commandments, and Noah’s Ark and so on. They just learn all these stories. Then, those stories are just taken literally by young minds because that would be natural. Then, when they get to be 13 or 14 and need to revisit those stories in a more sophisticated way, maybe talk about where those stories came from and why we know the actually can’t be taken literally anymore, we don’t do that. We don’t bring the story back around there. If you look at what the programming for teenagers is like in churches, it’s all about trying to keep kids from having sex, getting on drugs, hanging out on the streets, giving them a separate place to be apart from the world and all of its problems. There’s just no attempt to help them grow up intellectually.
You regularly encounter people who are college students. They’re 19 years old. They’re in college, and no one has ever suggested to them that Adam and Eve might not necessarily be historical figures. I’ve been particularly surprised at the number of people who come to college with that view, even though they’re part of a denomination that doesn’t actually hold that view. The stories that they learn when they’re four years old just take up residence in their head and just stay there. Then, all of the sudden in college, they have faith crises because they’re hearing for the first time that there can’t possibly have been two individuals in the Middle East 10,000 years ago from whom the entire human race descended. That’s just not possible. A lot of their faith gets shattered when they realize that.
Stuart: On that same tangent when you’re talking about the, I guess, Sunday school during the formidable years with people. How do feel like Christians holding on to this historic idea of Adam? How has that forced Christianity to reject science, and facts, and critical thinking, and all of that kind of stuff?
Karl: This was something I didn’t appreciate as much as first, but it turns out that the only real issue for most people is Adam. Thoughtful students, who I’ve engaged in class for decades now, who are very eager to accept science and to get out of this anti-science mold that they’ve been raised in without losing their faith. They’re okay with the Earth being very old. They’re okay with a creation that’s understood that it’s a long process over time. They’re okay with the fact that God has a plan. All that seems acceptable to them, but they recognize that when it comes to Adam and Eve, and the fall, and sin and so on, that there’s something theologically important there that they’re not sure how to navigate. I think the issue for most Christians who are wrestling with this is not really so much evolution per se, it’s how do we account for sin in the world unless we have two individuals who brought it into the world. If we don’t have that story in history somewhere, then we have to suppose that God made all of this bad stuff that makes life so tough. That’s just not acceptable for most people in terms of their understanding of Creation.
Stuart: With again, if you had your way to do this, what kind of posture should a thinking Christian have?
Karl: This was a large part of my own formation as I left fundamentalism and eventually, evangelicalism, was coming to the realization that science is an enterprise of great integrity. What’s going on in the scientific community is not a political effort to achieve consensus around a set of secular, anti-religious ideas. There’s no general, anti-religious sentiment in the scientific community. It’s a very honest search for truth. In an age where telling lies about everything has become so commonplace, I mean, science really should be understood as one of the few enterprises where, actually, telling the truth and being honest about what you are encountering in the world. That’s one of the few communities where that value is still at a very high level, more so than in the church today. I really think that thinking Christians need to recognize that science is an enterprise with a lot of integrity, and they need to take it seriously. When scientist come and say, “Look. There’s no way the human race can be descended from two individuals, no matter when they lived, because there’s too much diversity in the gene pool to have it all have originated that way.” Then, people need to say, “Okay. That means that Adam and Eve are not historical characters. I have to live with that. If I can’t figure out how to fit that into my idea about sin, and suffering, and the origin of all the evil in the world, then I’ll just have to accept that as a mystery that I don’t understand.”
Stuart: I love how you begin to talk about science as a search for truth. I think that many folks in the religious realms would say that religion is about searching for truth or ultimate truth. Where do you think that they go wrong? Specifically, Christianity when we talk about searching for truth, a lot of folks within those realms already assume they have the truth. Right. Maybe you can tell me if I’m wrong or not, but when you look at science, the pursuit of truth continues. It’s not simply, we’ve found this truth. Let’s just leave it and walk away from it. We’re good here, which is what seems like, a lot of times, within Christian scholarship has become where we already have the truth. Instead of necessarily needing to search deeper for it, we already just have it and we need to proclaim what we have. Again, why do you think it is that Christians aren’t always on that search for truth much like folks are in the science realm?
Karl: Well, the point that you’ve made is one that my good friend, John Polkinghorne, has made on many occasions and talked about how science and religion really are cousins and they’re related in that they both take the search for truth very seriously. I don’t think that it actually plays out like that in practice. I think in some ideal sense, all Christians would say that we’re all about having the truth and being open to truth, but the reality is that the Christian community is more about protecting historical truths rather than seeking new truths. You never find within the Christian community, really in any of its traditions, an excitement when they discover that something that they’ve longed believed to be true, actually, is not true. Whereas in the scientific community, when something like the Big Bang emerges and people are very startled by this idea that there was some sort of extraordinary beginning event to the universe, this is big news. It’s exciting. It’s like a novel that’s reaching a crescendo. People get really excited about it. Even though these revolutions are often hard-fought because people holding to other views don’t give them up quickly. There’s an excitement that something really significant is going on. I mean, in contrast to that, when something emerges that challenges the traditional Christian idea, it’s circle the wagons and protect the received wisdom, from the past, at all cost, and try and fight back against this new truth.
Stuart: Yeah. Like what you’re even saying, it’s like the tow the company line kind of posture that you have. Some of this I wonder, and we’ve wrestled through this on other shows. I would love to hear your feedback on this. I think some of it comes down to how we disseminate and how we raise disciples currently in the American church. Even if you just look at the basic structure of how things happen, it’s simply you have one person on a Sunday, telling everybody else what to think. You have this idea that you’re just translating to them. Very rarely do you see churches nowadays, actually teaching people to critically think, to be able to have the tools to make the conclusions themselves. Again, if you look at science, science is a study where you’re continuously pushing people to research, and to dream, and to search for what’s out there. Whereas within Christianity, oftentimes, at least American Christianity, it seems like it’s boiled down to we already have it figured out, and we just need you to continue to know what we have figured out.
Karl: Yes. I certainly agree with that. The issue with science, though, I think is more complicated. I don’t want to be overly critical of the church on this point because these scientific issues are peripheral. Most of the conversation in the Christian tradition has been about Christ and what that means, how to understand all that. Right. Everything else is secondary to that. If you look at what a good pastor is trying to do—let me answer this question by relaying a conversation that I had with one of America’s leading evangelical pastors who put it this way. He said, “In my congregation, I have people who are wrestling with the death of a child. I have people who are struggling with their sexual orientation. I have people who have had an abortion and are feeling very guilty about that. I have people who are looking after parents with dementia and so on.” He went down the list of the real world issues that people fight and look to the church to help them get through these struggles of life. Then, he said, “When do I have time to talk about the age of the Earth?” That’s a very good summation of why this is such a serious problem. If you’ve got somebody in front of you who’s child was killed in an accident, and you’re trying to help them get through that, you’re not going to say, “I’d like to take a little bit of time now to talk about the age of Earth and how it’s 6,000 years old.” [Laughter]
Stuart: True. Yes.
Karl: Yeah. Those parishioners end up just thinking, “Oh well. This is a creationist church. We believe the Genesis story and the Earth is young. Adam and Eve walked in the Garden of Eden,” and so on. Those just don’t end up getting into the sermons.
Stuart: Some of my background is that I went to Fuller Theological Seminary. I like to commonly say that Fuller was amazing for me, but it was also terrible for my career because one of the things that I valued about how they handled things was one, because they’re interdenominational. They really just push critical thought, which oftentimes, critical thought, when it comes to the church, isn’t always very welcome. This may sound silly, but I want to see how you unpack this. Would you say that you’re a Christian who happens to be a scientist, or is it the other way around? Within all of that, I know, oftentimes, in culture, it’s an either/or paradigm that we thrust things into. How do find that balance between faith and your profession in science? How do you find that balance?
Karl: Well, I found it increasingly harder. I went through a transition as an undergraduate where I had to free myself from the fundamentalism with which I was raised. That was a difficult intellectual transition, one that, in many ways, I never really got past that emotional struggle. I had been raised in a very fundamentalist, biblical-literalist church, but it was a wonderful church. It wasn’t political. There was no gay bashing and so on. It was a very warm and nurturing environment. In a sense, I was cutting off something that I look back on very fondly rather than escaping something that turned me off. Then, I spent many years teaching at Eastern Nazarene College in the Church of the Nazarene, which is not a fundamentalist denomination per se, but for practical purposes, is. I began to feel increasingly alienated from that tradition. The more I became more scientifically informed, the church, in general, in America seemed like it grew increasingly more conservative. It became more hateful on issues of gender, and gay marriage, and so on. I began to feel alienated from the whole evangelical world. I can’t really identify myself with that label anymore.
I had a conversation like this with Robert Wright who does this blogging, hedge thing for the New York Times. He’s followed my career over the years. He asked me, “What does it mean to you? What does it mean to be a Christian?” I said, “Look, for me, I don’t really want it to mean much more than I think it’s important to pay attention to the things that Jesus said about caring for the least of these among us, and if somebody says that it’s important to me, I’m totally happy to let them have the label Christian and so on.” For me, I’ve really gone a long ways from being interested in trying to unpack theological doctrines and so on. Robert Wright actually laughed when I gave that definition. He said, “ Oh, I’ll be happy to pass it on to Sam Harris that he can call himself a Christian now.” [Laughter]
Stuart: Would you say that you approach religion, faith, and theology with the same rationality that you approach science?
Karl: No, I don’t. I mean, I think that’s one of the things that needs to happen for the church is for the church to recognize that these big, transcendent questions that are at the heart of the Christian understanding of reality need to be approached with greater humility. There needs to be more room for people who can’t buy various pieces of the package. The case to be made, for example, for say the virgin birth, right, it’s unbelievably weak. It’s a very weak case. If you’re going to say that, “Oh, well, if you can’t sign on to this particular doctrine then you’re too liberal, you’re heretical, and we’d rather you not teach at our institution or not attend our congregation,” and so on. If you’re going to insist on these things, which are very difficult to support adequately, be embraced with the same confidence that we might embrace the periodic table, or the elements, or the shape and motion of the Earth, then you’re just going to drive a lot of people away because a lot of those things in the Christian world-view are quite extraordinary things.
Stuart: I loved how mentioned this, talking about how we, in the Christian world, like to label folks as heretics very quickly. It doesn’t take very much for folks to start trying to say, “Hey, you’re out of the tribe. You’re out of here.” Do you see that same posture in the scientific community? If you believe this, do we run you out as quick as possible?
Karl: No, I don’t see that at all. Now, I know that people in the intelligent-design movement who have felt marginalized. They would say, “Oh, no, they run us out there.” Because I think that the scientific community does its work with great integrity, I think some of the conclusions to that community has come to simply need to be accepted now. If you want to be in the club, so to speak, you can’t keep revisiting questions from the 19th century as if they’re still alive. I mean, Darwin is correct. The world evolved. That’s the end of it. The claims by the Discovery Institute that these are still open questions, that there’s still a real controversy, and we want it taught in the public schools, there’s still room for advance on these 19th-century notions of design. I mean, that question was adjudicated in the 19th century. It’s not a 20th-century question. It’s certainly not a 21st-century one. There is a certain scientific heresy, I guess, you might call it. If somebody wants to be a member of the scientific community and doesn’t believe the Earth is billions of years old, doesn’t believe that radioactive dating works, doesn’t believe evolution and genetics, and so on, if they just reject all that, you have to question their right to be a member of that community. I don’t know whether that’s actually comparable to what goes on in the evangelical communities that jettison people so often and so quickly, or so little. [Laughter]
Stuart: Mm-hmm. Speaking about evolution, can you talk to this a little bit? It’s a nebulous-type question. Do you think that (a) evolution should matter to faith, and (b) do you think evolution can actually inform our faith on a deeper level?
Karl: I think it should matter only in the sense that if you are going to engage questions of human origins, then you should do that with the truth and not with a myth from the Bronze Age. I don’t think that every rank-and-file Christian in every pew in the country needs to be reading about Darwin and understanding evolution. I mean, we don’t expect baseball fans to all know about Darwin, so why would we expect evangelicals to all know about Darwin. Darwin is not some all-encompassing idea that everybody needs to be wrestling with all the time. If you’re an elementary school teacher, when does Darwin come into your discussion? It’s not going to happen. It’s not something you deal with in the first, second, third grade. On the other hand, I think that it’s incredibly useful to recognize that evolution has shaped us as humans in very profound ways. If we don’t take those into consideration, then we don’t really understand ourselves. I think, for instance, if you take an issue like homosexually that for most of history was viewed as a strange, perverted choice made by people who are sick. Now, we understand that it’s not. It’s a natural way that people are. I mean, it becomes important to recognize that there is a human nature, and we’re born with it. We can’t escape it. We have issues related to our gender, or sexual preferences, and everything else. If you really want to understand humans and their condition in the world as actors in this great drama, you’ve got to pay attention to what we know from evolution.
Stuart: For you, coming at your faith, especially from your background, your education, everything else, what feeds you spiritually?
Karl: Well, probably, the most meaningful experiences that I have are with just the wonder of the world. I wrote a book called The Wonder of the Universe for InterVarsity Press. It was a wonderful experience writing that. I think, just literally, when I look out the window that what’s out there is so extraordinary. I think often about the fact that the DNA that has made me what I am has also made those trees what they are. They use the same DNA and so on that I have. This idea that we have a long history that goes from the big bang all the way through to the big brain that history is what has created us and made us. It’s very grand. I really have trouble imagining that that is just a purely materialistic process with no transcendent compliment to it. I’m not inclined to say, “Oh, well, God was just managing the whole process, and here are all the things that we can see specifically that He did.” This was a comment that Freeman Dyson made in his autobiography. He said, “In some sense, the universe knew we were coming.” That’s a really interesting comment. You look back ten billion years ago and you say, “In the universe, as it exists right now when it’s four billion years old, you couldn’t have life in it. Then, all these things start to happen that make it possible for there to be life at some later point.” You just think, “Wow, this trajectory is quite extraordinary.”
For me, that is an amazing part of the story of who we are. That nurtures me spiritually, that knowledge. At the end of all that, I find it to be very spiritually fulfilling to just note the grandeur of the world as it exists right now. I mean the beauty of the sunset, autumn leaves, and even today, there’s something beautiful here in Boston with this spectacular storm that’s whipping snow everywhere. By tomorrow morning, there’ll be very interesting patterns that the wind has created on the surface of the snow that will have mathematical shapes and so on, to them. To look at that and to see that there’s this amazing order behind everything that happens, even amidst the noise and the chaos of the storm, is for me, spiritually rich.
Stuart: I want to know pivot a little bit towards your piece at the Huffington Post. As we’re transitioning towards that piece, where do you think Christianity has gone wrong in America?
Karl: Well, Christianity is such a broad term, so I wouldn’t want to just say Christianity. Let me comment about the demographic with which I’m most familiar. I think that the evangelical demographic, that large group, which, I think, would probably number around 100 million, probably, in America. I mean, it’s the largest, certainly, by far of the various groups. I think that demographic, largely because it didn’t pay enough attention to the life of the mind, has allowed itself to be duped by clever charismatic leaders who have transformed its priorities into a political agenda instead of something that you can say is based on what Jesus taught. The fact that if you find a random evangelical and pluck them out of their habitat and examine them scientifically, you’ll discover somebody who thinks that it’s really important to have a big military, that we should make bigger, more updated bombs, that we should stop spending so much money feeding hungry people, that we should block our borders to refugees fleeing certain death in their home countries, and so on. You find this strange, right wing politics that seems to have replaced Jesus teachings that at great personal sacrifice we need to be prepared to help those around us who are in need. I think that’s what has happened. Because this group has been so inattentive to the life of the mind that they don’t understand that their moral positions are no longer the ones that Jesus held. Their scientific positions are from the 19th and even 18th century, and so many positions they hold are just indefensible now in the modern, off on this island that I talk about earlier.
[End Audio Clip]
Well, that’s the end of part one with our talk with Karl Giberson. Thanks to Karl for being willing to sit down with me and do this. Like I’d said earlier in the show, we’re also going to give you a treat with the dramatic reading of Karl’s piece in the Huffington Post, “Jesus at Trump Tower.” To give you a little bit of a tease, I’ll give you a little bit of Trump right now.
[Begin audio clip with a Trump impersonator reading a part of “Jesus at Trump Tower” by Karl Giberson]
I’m interested in eternal life—in heaven. Okay. Now, I’m not worried that I won’t go to heaven, of course. In fact, if you come to Trump Tower you will see I practically live there now! And my latest wife is an angel, if you know what I mean. And we know angels don’t grow old, just like my wife doesn’t grow old because I keep replacing her with a younger one. Okay.
[End Audio Clip]
Well, that is all I’ve got this week for you. Just a reminder, as we end this broadcast, you can always catch us on podcast at www.snarkyfaith.com. You can go to our website for all sorts of stuff. We put out writing on a regular basis. We have “What’s good // What’s bad” that you heard earlier in the show, and of course, we have our entire catalog of past shows that you can catch there just in case you’ve missed us one week. I want to just tell you, thank you for listening. Thank you for being a part of the process. Thank you for being part of my radio therapy that I think I have to go through [laughter] on a regular basis just to stay sane in this crazy, topsy-turvy world that we find ourselves in right now. If you want more, you can also find us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also go on to iTunes and type in Snarky Faith. You can find show there. If you are over on iTunes, feel free to give us a four- or five-star rating. Give us some love. Give us some reviews. We love to hear back from you about all that kind of stuff. If you have questions, if you have thoughts, if you have comments, if you have articles that you want us to talk about on this show or put in “What’s good // What’s bad”, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I truly hope you all have a wonderful, hope-filled rest of your week. Again, I’ll leave you with the words of Denzel Washington: “Keep working. Keep striving. Never give up. Fall down seven times, and get up eight. Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship. Keep moving. Keep growing. Keep learning.” That’s all we got this week. I am out of here. We’ll catch you again next week. See ya.
Transcribed by Miriam Delony
A rundown of Martin Scorsese’s movie Silence, based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. This was a tough movie to get through, but a rewarding and powerful one, none the less. Join us as we talk about the importance of doubt in the journey of faith. We also have an interview with Scorsese presented by FULLER studio. It’s an outstanding talk about his faith and how it impacts his films. We’ve also got What’s Good? What’s Bad? chronicling the interweb’s best and worst of the week. Buckle up for a wild ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.
For more resources for a deeply formed spiritual life can be found on Fuller.edu/Studio.
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Episode: # 139
Program: Snarky Faith Radio
Host: Stuart Delony
Well, good afternoon, and welcome to another round of Snarky Faith Radio. I’m your host, Stuart Delony. My. We’ve got a show that’s going to be—I think it’s going to be a little different, but I still think it’s going to be something special. How about you just buckle up your seats? Make sure your tray tables are up and ready, so we can just launch into the snarkaverse. First up, let’s go ahead and just hop right into “What’s good // What’s bad” from this last week. Just a reminder that you can catch everything from “What’s good // What’s bad” on our website www.snarkyfaith.com. Just go over there. We’ve got the videos. We’ve got the links. They are sitting there and they’re just waiting for you. They’re like, “We’re lonely. Why haven’t you come and found us? We’re here. We’re waiting.”
One thing I have learned over my many years of being here on the earth is simply this. If you’re going to insult somebody, especially in a snarky manner—because again, you’re listening to Snarky Faith Radio, and I take snark very seriously. If you’re going to insult somebody, do it right. With the Super Bowl, I’ll just give you a snippet of snarky comebacks. I had a friend of mine that had been saying, midway through the Super Bowl, there’s nothing that can stop our Falcons’ rise-up. All this other blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. He had commented, “Who’s the joke now,” at halftime because he’s a Falcons fan. If anybody who’s anybody that was either watching the show or has any amount of news that you get, that you consume regularly on your feed, know that the Falcons really didn’t return from halftime. The Patriots came back. Huge win. When you start trying to insult things and insult people, just make sure you have your facts straight. I had a buddy, so I snarkily threw something back at him, who was casually saying, “Oh. Look who’s the joke now?” It was him that was the joke. He threw back an insult at me that, “Well, you like in North Carolina. When you guys actually get a football team, then you can talk.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Well, the closest thing that you have is the South Carolina Panthers.” [made a wa wa sound] If any of you guys know the NFL, there are no South Carolina Panthers. There’s the Carolina Panthers who have a stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Again, if you’re going to take something on, if you’re going to insult somebody, at least do it right.
I’m using that as a pivot over here to “What’s good // What’s bad” with the Fox News crew in the morning. They were slamming Al Sharpton, Reverend Al Sharpton, because he tweeted this out last week. He said, “Before you head to church today, remember to thank God for his Son. Jesus was a refugee who fled to Egypt.” What began to happen with that statement was they started to tear it apart. They were saying it was inaccurate, and foolish, and the Reverend needs to go back to Sunday school to be able to get his facts straight, which is funny because one of the things they went on to say was, “It was simply known that Jesus’ parents were just simply going to go and pay their taxes. That’s why they were going to Bethlehem.” You see, the only problem with that is, yes, there was a census. Yes, Mary and Joseph were required to go to Bethlehem for the census, which as we know census, oftentimes, is like secret code. We want to count you, so we can tax you. The problem with that is Sharpton wasn’t even talking about that at all. He was referring to the fact when King Herod decided to start killing the babies to get rid of this child Messiah. Then, Joseph gets a dream. An angel tells them, “Hey. You need to flee. You need to get out of here. You need to go to Egypt.” He wasn’t going to Egypt to pay his taxes. He was going to Egypt to flee from being killed. In essence, Jesus was a refugee. There’s actually several scriptural notes where Jesus actually refers to himself as a refugee. If you’re going to insult somebody, Fox News goons, just make sure you have your facts straight unless you want to look like an idiot. If that’s what you were going for, well done. You get a gold star for being a bunch of morons.
Speaking about religion in the news, if you haven’t checked this out, again, the links are on our website. There is a fascinating interchange that goes on between Stephen Colbert and Ricky Gervais where they begin to have this dialogue/debate. I would say more dialogue than debate because I thought it was very classily done. It was done in a way that I thought was very evenhanded where, again, Ricky Gervais is well known to be an Atheist. Stephen Colbert is a good Catholic boy. They have this dialogue, this back and forth that goes between each other. What I love about it is that it is a spirited conversation, and it is a respectful conversation. For those of us that don’t know how to do this, this is a great example of watching two people that respect one another, have a dialogue about positions where they are very, very diametrically opposed to one another, but they can still do it. They can still smile, and they can still be friends for another day. I thought it was a beautiful interchange. You don’t have to agree with either side of them to at least note that they did dialogue quite well.
Next. I’m not sure if you want to classify this one as good or bad. It all really just depends on where you’re sitting and really, your taste in movies. Guess what, folks? This is big news. The Syfy channel has announced that Sharknado 5 has finally begun filming. Yes, Sharknado 5, known as the unemployment check for Ian Ziering and Tara Reid. The fact that they have no careers, but have found this weird little niche in the pop-culture universe to keep acting in bad movies. It’s really fascinating. The movies are so bad. They are so bad. My kids love watching them. It’s almost phenomenal how bad they are. I hope Ziering and Reid can understand this that they suck so bad that they actually make something better by being together in this. How can you take anything seriously called Sharknado. Well, you could also say that, probably, about the president of our United States right now. It’s as absurd. It’s as horrifying, and it is just as awful as Sharknado except for in Sharknado you can sit back and enjoy the escapism as it rolls over you as you have a tornado full of sharks, whereas, with our new president and the way our government is heading, it’s one of those things you actually can’t sit back. I mean, I wish it was on the Syfy channel because then we could go, “Oh my gosh. The credits will roll at some point. It will be over,” and we can say, “Wow, that was just awful.” Sadly, every day I wake up and I’m still living in Trump’s America. It’s incredibly sad, and we’ll get more to that [Laughter] as we move through this show.
Next. If you’re in the mood to read and not simply watch stupid videos on our website, the Atlantic put out an article last week that is fascinating to be able to go through. I’ll just summarize it up in small little bits right here so I don’t steal anything from this. I would say it is well worth sitting down and reading through this. The title of it is called “It’s Putin’s World. How the Russian President Became the Ideological Hero of Nationalist Everywhere.” It takes you on this journey through the past couple of years and the rise of Putin, and the rise of nationalism, and how all of these things, much like Sharknado, were a perfect storm. You should check out the website. You should check out the link. It is very good, and it is well worth your time.
Next. If you don’t like reading about reality and Vladimir Putin, I’ve got another article for you that, again, I will repeat myself by saying it is well worth your time. This one is escapism. It’s snarky, and it’s satire. Yes, Karl Giberson whom I’m going to work on trying to get on the show. He’s the Professor of Science and Religion at Stonehill College. He wrote for the Huffington Post. He wrote an article called “Jesus at Trump Tower.” I would say it’s a satire. It’s a parable of Jesus having a meeting with Donald Trump. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s mainly just sad because there’s so much truth in the midst of this. I think it’s one of those things for us that would say that we walk this path of faith that we walk after this Jewish Rabbi, that we follow his teachings, that he matters somehow to us in this insane world that we find ourselves in. It is beautiful to be able to watch one of these modern-day parables unfold in the face of the horrors that we’re living. I just lay out like it’s not funny at all. It’s actually really satirical. It’s funny. It’s worth your time. Go out and read it because reading is fundamental.
Next. You know what’s also not satirical even though it sounds like it? Yeah, the fact that Trump has vowed to destroy the law that bans churches from endorsing political candidates. It’s finally come down to that. Yep. Good ol’ MacDonald pledged to repeal a 50-year-old tax law that prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from participating in political campaigns. This is why we have the separation of church and state. To go and to smash that divide, smash that line, leads us into some scary, scary, dangerous places. Now, I know a bunch of pastors out there who would love that because, simply, they’re using the pulpit as a political platform week after week. The scary part about that is churches, in many ways, should have very little to do with politics. Now, I think politics should inform what our faith calls us to do, especially when we see atrocities, especially when we see bans, especially when we have refugees that are in crisis and folks that are hurting. Yeah. I think our faith can move us to want to do positive change, positive impact in our community, but I do not believe that our churches need to become more and more political. It is a dangerous move that he is playing with amongst all of the other dangerous moves that he is playing with. This is one of those that slides under the cracks that I think we need to know about, that we need to know that that whole separation of church and state is a good thing. We want our government to be about the government. We want our churches to be about our churches, and never the two shall meet. We do not want that to happen.
I’ve been in those situations too often. I’ve actually literally been in churches that passed out voter pamphlet guides. They would preach, and they would bring in candidates that they believed were whatever “God’s chosen people” were. The problem with this that I have is that you’re not educating your congregations, churches out there. You’re not educating them to have a lens of faith in how they look at the world around us. All you’re doing is telling them to think. You’re telling them how to walk through the steps, how to pantomime this, how to lip sync a faith. I know you do it mainly because it’s an easy control structure for people. Don’t teach them to think, but tell them what to do. [Sarcasm] It’s like one of those big parenting mistakes that I’ve seen people make with their kids over and over. They don’t teach their kids to think. They just tell their kids what to do. Guess what? At some point, the authority structure breaks down, and the kids have no idea how to make decisions rationally for themselves.
Churches, you are doing the same thing to your congregants. Teach them to walk out the ways of Jesus. Teach them to walk out the loving, and merciful, and gentle ways of Jesus. Then, let them apply it to their world. Do not steal the act of learning from people because, otherwise, we’re just having congregations of parrots and not prophets. We’re having congregations of people that do not know how to think for themselves when it comes to matters of faith. Then, we have situations where you have people saying, “Oh. He’s God’s chosen one. Whatever he does, he farts mercy and grace because he has God’s favor.” [Sarcasm] Then, we get in this crazy, cranked-up situation that we find ourselves in where the religious right puts an insane fanatic in the presidency, and they say that they are doing this for God. When you begin to look at the actions of what is happening from this administration, they are far from anything that Jesus would ascribe, or endorse, or actually call His followers to do. Frankly, Jesus calls his followers to do quite the opposite of everything that we are seeing done by this Trump administration. The long story short, the fact that there is a divide between church and state is a good one. It’s a check and a balance. It’s something that keeps those two parties, even so thinly, apart and to break that, will cause a ton of religious ugliness even more so than we’re seeing right now in this country. Mark my words. To get rid of that is a huge flaw, a huge mistake. By no means, does it have anything to do with the name of Jesus.
Lastly for “What’s good // What’s bad”, we all sat through the Super Bowl, saw the commercials. For the most part, for probably the last three years running, I could say, for the most part, I was quite disappointed with the content that they were pushing out. I get tired of that forced sentimentality that tends to happen during the Super Bowl, and I’m more of a fan of the outrageous stupidness that we used to have like the over-the-top if you keep going over the top. At least, I felt like I’m being amused or having the opportunity of being amused. When it comes to these commercials, I don’t want to be preached at during the Super Bowl with one exception, and I’ll get to that in a second. My main beef is with Netflix. You threw out a Stranger Things season two commercial in the middle of the Super Bowl. Everyone in our family was excited. We were all jazzed up until the end of the commercial, which is what ruined it when it said we have to wait all the way to Halloween. I’ll get back to the commercials in a second.
Anyone check out Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on SNL. It was everything. It was absolutely everything that I needed to be able to laugh my way through this week. I feel like this is three episodes in a row when “What’s good // What’s bad” is filled with escapism because it’s my only outlet for sanity. It’s my only outlet to make it through the insane news cycle that we find ourselves caught within.
Lastly, circling back to the Super Bowl. Again, we’ll make sure links for this are on the website. They had had a commercial during the Super Bowl. Surprise. Surprise. No. There was a commercial by a building supplies company called 84 Lumber. First of all, it’s to be noted that there was a bunch of controversy surrounding their ad because the Super Bowl would not let them show the entire ad. They said it was too controversial. What they did was they put in part of it, and then, called you to go to their website to go and watch it, which all of us did at the same time because we were confused and curious about what it was all about. It’s an ad featuring a Mexican mother and daughter embarking on this difficult journey north, which we’re assuming, how they left us, that they’re trying to get to the wall, to get into the country to have a better life. It’s five minutes long. It’s powerful. I would just say it’s definitely worth a watch.
Moving on in the show from that from one thing that was worthy of a watch to another thing that was worthy of a watch. What I wanted to bring today—which is why I said earlier, this episode is going to be a little bit different than usual. I went to Fuller Theological Seminary for my master’s degree. One of the reasons I chose them was that they were an interdenominational seminary, meaning that they are a seminary that doesn’t have one kind of groupthink fuelling what they educate. They’re from a broad spiritual spectrum of traditions that comes together. I will tell you this. One, I don’t know that my master’s degree has necessarily paid off for me. I had a conversation with a friend of mine, that I went to school with, the other day, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It was one of those things where going through that program messed up my faith in a good way. It messed me up in a way that probably—well, I’ll just go ahead and say this—that means I can never work for a church again simply because of—I’ll circle back to what I mentioned earlier—it taught us to think critically with our faith, to think critically in how we view culture and the world around us with our faith. Part of Fuller is they have all of these other initiatives on the side. They have all these faith and film, faith and art and culture initiatives that are informative. They are brilliant, and I got an email out, since I’m an alumni, last week about a session that they had held with Martin Scorsese who directed the film Silence. As soon as I got this interview back, I was like, “This is great. This is really interesting. This is an interesting conversation about someone’s journey of faith, and how they wrestle it through, how they deal with doubt, and how doubt is good.” As I was watching this, I was like, “Oh man. This is really, really good.” I decided to write them. I said, “Hey, I’ve got a radio show. I’m an alumni. Can I use this on our show?” The odd thing that they told me was, “Absolutely. We would love to bring this to a broader audience.” I will let that be the last part of our show, the interview with Martin Scorsese. Before I get to that, I wanted to debrief you on the movie that he’ll be talking about. I wanted to debrief you on the movie Silence.
I went and saw this movie a few days ago. I will tell you that it’s still haunting me. Now, it is not an easy movie to watch. I will go as far to say that this is not a movie for everybody. When you think of Oscar contenders, which this movie, by and large, was shut out. It doesn’t have the feel goods. It doesn’t have those feels that La La Land would have. It doesn’t have that religious, war bombasity that you’d have in something like Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. You see, the problem with this movie is also its greatest strength. This is why I think a lot of folks were surprised that it did not get more Oscar nods than it did. It’s well done. It’s got Andrew Garfield. It’s got Kylo Ren in it, and Liam Neeson. I mean, hey, this is like Taken for the Catholic clergy, I guess, except for Liam Neeson. He’s the one that has been taken. That’s how that works. Okay. I digress. No, but what I’m saying is this is a movie that doesn’t give you clear answers about faith, which is one of the main issues that I have with Christian films is that the message is everything. The acting, and script, and cinematography, all of those things, nah, it doesn’t matter as long as we have a good message. [Sarcasm] Typically, those types of Christian films are the ones that give the audience what they already know. They do not require you to wrestle through anything. They do not bring up any poignant parts of faith. I mean, they’re just candy-coated religious tracts for people to consume, and nod their heads about, and feel good that they’re doing their godly duty by sitting down and watching whatever Christian crap movie that they’re watching. Silence is very different than that.
If anyone knows Martin Scorsese, one, he’s a master filmmaker, and two, if anybody knows the book Silence, this is a difficult one to adapt. Let me just read you the summary of the movie before I give you my knee-jerk, deep-gut reactions to this film. I’ll read you the summary here. Alright, I’m taking this from Matt Solarsice. This is part of his review, which I thought actually summarized the movie quite well. His words for this was, “Silence is monumental work and a punishing one. It puts you through the hell with no promise of enlightenment, only a set of questions, propositions, sensations, and experiences.” Yeah. [Laughter] Yeah. I would say that that is 100 percent true. The synopsis of the film goes like this. You have priests. They leave for Portugal for Japan to find a third priest who’s gone missing while working as a missionary. The third priest, which is the Liam Neeson character, is believed to have committed apostasy. Apostasy in this context is renouncing God or renouncing Jesus. He’s seen to have committed apostasy by stepping on an image of Jesus while being tormented by the Japanese. This is a work of historical fiction that is going on here from a famous novel. The movie is just simply that. It’s just a quest to be able to find the truth of what happened to this other priest. While I’m not a Catholic and I don’t really comprehend all the nuanced elements that were going on, I still comprehended the entire thrust of what Scorsese was trying to do with this.
There was a few lines in the movie that just really, really hit me. I felt like this movie was a meditation. As I’m sitting there watching this and letting it just wash over me, it was gut wrenching at times. It was hard to watch at times. There were these two quotes that I wrote down while I was watching it. I’m the nerd that has a notepad when I watch movies, probably not when I’m watching the Fast and the Furious. I don’t need a notepad for that one, but for movies that I expect (a) to talk about here on the radio with you, and (b) just ones that I think are going to move me in a way that I want to remember. I do. I’ll take in a notepad and I’ll jot these things down. Really what this is, is you have these priests coming to this island of Japan in a time where it was very hostile towards missionaries to be there. As these young missionaries, these young priests, are beginning to see how people are hungry for the gospel, but at the same time, the government wants to squash all of it. It’s really, really hard to watch just the martyrs and all that goes on, torture-wise, within this movie. By no means, is this like a—I mean, there’s movies that have far more torture than this. I’m not even talking like Saw-level torture. I’m talking even like Braveheart-level torture. I guess what wrung my soul out was this idea of silence, and what do you do when God is silent to you.
It made me just think of so many different things in the Christian landscape. One of the quotes in the movie was, “The price for your glory is their suffering.” This was somebody who was taunting one of the priests. This idea that the priests were there to be able to share the gospel because that’s what they feel called to do based on the Great Commission in the Bible. By doing this, it was causing great pain amongst the people because the government was oppressing them because they did not want this to spread. Another line that stuck out to me was, “This is of no use and has no value to us in Japan.” I think that it’s something that should lay true to all of us that walk in faith regardless of what faith tradition you’re a part of is that, especially, when you think of just the historical context of colonization and how, especially, the Catholic church moved along the colonization of, well, England, of France, of Italy, all of these, that somehow, they saw these imperial conquests or conquistadors, but they also saw them as bringing their religion along with going in to change their culture and subjugate their people in a certain sense.
It brought up a lot of issues that I’ve had a lot in my life mainly that being this idea of apostasy, this idea of renouncing your faith. I’ve always just thought about this when you see posts on social media when folks are like, “Look at these Christians that are standing and being killed for their faith through ISIS.” In my own heart, which is funny because—well, (a) I’ve been through seminary, and (b) I’ve actually been ordained as a pastor. I think of context like this where I’m just like, “Well, if ISIS is wanting to kill me and all I need to do is renounce what I believe in, what do crazy people care.” For me to tell crazy people something to make them stop being crazy, I don’t necessarily know if people can touch where my faith lies in my heart. Now, I may be wrong with that, but I always just think in these incidents where—because they have several people, they show incidents of folks that are willing to try to not to go through the torture just to renounce their faith even though they go back to living their life in faith, and this idea of what your words mean, and this idea of renouncing something. It’s a very strong film that just really deals with these elements of faith, and doubt, and what does it look like when God is silent because we’ve all had those times when God doesn’t answer, where God seems distant, where God doesn’t seem to be a part of what’s going on.
I loved how Scorsese wove in elements that, in a certain sense, that it all at times, for those of us that are trying to follow after God, there are moments where we are like Jesus. There’s other moments, probably more moments [laughter], when we are like Judas. I just felt like, watching through this movie, it was something that really took great endurance of the soul. It just made me just think on just a couple deep levels. These are really just off the cuff in that when our faith—see, this can easily be misconstrued, but our faith needs to make sense to all people. When we’re sending people to go out and be missionaries or whatever around the world, are we bringing them American Christianity, or are we bringing them Jesus? I think that it’s easy to paint this picture in broad strokes when you begin to look at this from the realm of missions work. Even in our own communities, are we still bringing a white Jesus to a Hispanic community or a white Jesus to an African-American community? I don’t know.
This movie’s still ruminating in my soul. It’s something that I will return to again. I think that Scorsese does it in a very eloquent and evenhanded way. It’s not simply that Japanese bad. White Catholics good. It doesn’t really give you those solid answers that most Christian films do, and because of it, I loved it. I loved the torture that it did to my soul. I love how my faith was pulled and pushed within me. For that reason, I would absolutely recommend this. Enough of me in all of this, I think it’s better to be heard in the conversation that Martin Scorsese lays out. What I want to give you, is what I mentioned earlier, is this interview. It is presented by Fuller Studio. Just for you to know that there are more resources for a deeply formed spiritual life that can be found at fuller.edu/studio. This is the interview that Fuller published, produced, and gave us license to be able to use here on the radio. Enjoy.
Well, that’s all we’ve got for this show this week. Thanks again to Fuller. Just a reminder as we end this broadcast, you can always catch us on podcast at www.snarkyfaith.com. Thanks so much for listening. Thanks so much for being a part of the conversation. I’ll catch you again next week. I am out of here.
Transcribed by Miriam Delony
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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