• First, Christians didn’t want to bake wedding cakes for LGBTQ couples, but now a right-wing pastor, Lance Wallnau, is claiming that an ‘anointed cake’ freed a man from homosexuality. What’s next, donuts that cure heresy? Wait, I may need a dozen of those. Either way, this is Pat Robertson level craaaaazy. [JMG]
• An Alabama church wants to have their own armed police force. I thought the Bible was supposed to be the sword of the spirit, but apparently, someone’s been watching a little too much John Wick. This is what happens when the non-violent Jesus isn’t sexy enough and the church feels that all of this trusting in God business is way easier when you’re packing heat. Who would Jesus Shoot – WWJS [Huff Po]
• Enough of all the bad, want to hear a story about how the government is actually working together to make a positive change? Full Frontal with Samantha Bee aired a segment about the passing of a bill that will allow thousands of rape kits to be tested. This renewed my faith (briefly) in humanity and government.
• We’ve got Nerf darts all over our house, but I’ve never once picked one up and thought, “I bet this can break the sound barrier.” Apparently, I was wrong. So much for being soft and safe. [Uproxx]
If you see any snark-worthy news that’s either good or bad, feel free to send it us: email@example.com. Have a great week!
• Everyone beware the dastardly anarchists of Portland! They’re sticking it to the man and creating havoc by… fixing potholes on the city streets? Yep, you read that right and Portland is having nothing of it. Join the resistance and fix something that helps the greater good. [Huff Po]
• A rabbi, a priest, and an atheist smoke weed together and talk about religion. Yep, it sounds like a joke, but it’s a beautiful picture of different viewpoints bonding (and bong-ing) around a common table. How about giving up preconceived notions for Lent. Anyone with me?
• We can’t have all good on the list this week with Trump’s new proposed budget torpedoing everything left in the government that was compassionate and beneficial. With planned cuts to the EPA, the Endowment of the Arts and even Meals on Wheels in [NPR] & [Huff Po]
• So guess what? While the governmental good gets the ax, the military and the wall get funded? Yeah, that’s a bad as bad can get. [ProPublica]
• Need some palate (or soul) cleansing after those last few points, how about some Bonhoeffer? Read about how Dietrich Bonhoeffer can speak to life in the Trump age. It’s an outstanding reminder of how we can (and should) learn from history and those that came before us. [Englewood Press]
If you see any snark-worthy news that’s either good or bad, feel free to send it us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great week!
Ever wonder what a conversation would look like between Jesus and President Donald Trump? Well, wait no longer. Here’s the Snarky Faith interpretation of a hypothetical interaction between the heavy-weight savior and the orange-light-weight POTUS. If you didn’t catch this on our show, here’s the dramatic reading of Karl Giberson’s satire “Jesus at Trump Tower.”
You can find Karl’s original piece here: [Huff Po]
Join us for our conversation with activist and founder of Unchained at Last, Fraidy Reiss. Unchained At Last is the only nonprofit in the US dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged/forced marriages and rebuild their lives. Unchained also is the only nonprofit in the US dedicated to creating social, policy and legal change to end forced marriage in America. Fraidy has a powerful message about this unseen epidemic in America. We’ve also got What’s Good // What’s Bad chronicling the interweb’s best and worst of the week and a rant about Christians and boycotting.
Buckle up for a wild ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.
[showhide type=”pressrelease” more_text=”Click for Full Show Transcript” less_text=”Hide Show Transcript” hidden=”yes”]
Well, good afternoon, and welcome to another round of Snarky Faith Radio. I am your host, Stuart Delony. As you’re out there listening this week, you may say, “Who is this guy? He sounds different.” Well, it’s because I got a haircut. I just wanted you guys to know I got a haircut, so I may sound a little different on the radio. Just a heads up, so no one gets confused. This week on the show, we have an interview with Fraidy Reiss who is the founder of Unchained At Last. It’s an organization that helps women get out of forced marriages. It’s a great talk, and we will get to that in a little bit. Before that, you know what it’s time for? It’s time for “What’s good // What’s bad”. Just a reminder, if you want to see all the videos and all the links that we’re talking about here, you can find it on our website www.snarkyfaith.com.
Over this past week, since we’ve talked, since we’ve hung out, since we’ve been around one another, did you catch the Oscar flub that was heard around the world? I’m pretty sure everybody knows about it where Pricewaterhouse gave Warren Beatty the wrong card. He read out the wrong Best Picture winner, which was super awkward, super embarrassing, but the thing I loved most about this was I love that confused look on Warren Beatty’s face when he looked at the card. He starred at it. He looked at it. He wasn’t sure what to do with it, and he was just like, “Uh.” It was one of those things that reminds me of what it looks like when my mom is trying to figure out how to take a picture with her iPhone. She’s just like, “Uh. Why is it on my face? Why can’t I—?” Yeah. It was one of those classic moments, which is almost as laughable as the fact, if you heard in the news that, uh oh, Mike Pence used to use a private email account, not a private email server, but a private email account that, in the past, got hacked. What I love about that story is that, as governor, he was still using his own private account, which was an AOL account. I didn’t even realize AOL accounts were still a thing. [Laughter] I remember it back from in my teens when you would get AOL. You could dial in and hop on to the internet. Oh my gosh. How far we’ve come, but it’s just funny that people still use AOL accounts. I didn’t know that was a thing.
Onward and upward into “What’s good // What’s bad”. Here’s the first thing we’ve got. First off, sticking to politics, did anyone read—this comes from the Washington Post—information was recently taken down from the Iowa Senate Republican websites. This guy’s name is Mark Chelgren, and apparently, on his website, he had some incorrect information because it said that he formally held a business degree. As folks went to dig into, really, what degree this was, where it from, actually, he had taken a management course at Sizzler years before. No, but this is real. This is a real thing. The dude was touting that he had a bachelor’s degree in business and it was simply just, I think, a one-time management course for Sizzler, the restaurant, like when people would say, “I went to McDonald’s University.” Same idea. Yeah.
Many of you know we are in that period of time called Lent, which marks the days that march us towards Easter. As part of a Lent tradition, you’ve seen this in the stores. You don’t even have to be religious go follow this Lent tradition because we’ve seen them everywhere. The Peeps. They start happening. You see them in your grocery stores. You see them at the Walmarts and Targets of the world. Yes. Those little, squishy, marshmallow things that kind of represent chicks that are simply just a sugar bomb in your mouth. Well, if those weren’t good enough or sweet enough for you, this year, they’re running a limited time edition Oreo Peep. You’ve got the Oreo cookie on the outside and squishy, little Peeps on the inside. The only problem, as people have noted across social media is (a) your tongue turns completely pink when you eat them. The scarier part is on the other side, like after your body has digested and processed it, when it’s ready to make its triumphant exit, yeah, it’s turning everybody’s poop pink. It’s freaking people out. Thanks, Peeps. Thanks, Peeps and Oreo for turning our poop pink as that’s a great meditation reminding us of the coming of the resurrection of Christ for Easter. [Sarcasm] Right. Whoever thought about that? You could, actually, literally give up normal colored poop for Lent and say, “I’m good. I’m doing this. I’m going to commit to 40 days of eating Peep Oreos.” Delicious. [Sarcasm]
Moving away from poop and getting back to Easter, we’ve got a video. I don’t know if you’ve caught it. I love it. It’s really funny. There was a guy dressed up (I believe this was in Europe) as Jesus walking around as an art piece, a guy dressed as Jesus, walking around, carrying his cross with him. I don’t know if this is an airport or a subway station, he’s coming out the other end of an escalator. Well, apparently, there wasn’t enough clearance in the ceiling, and his cross gets jammed up and jacks up the ceiling. All we can say was, “One of those Jesus party fouls.” Really, if you’re Jesus and carrying a cross around everywhere, you’re bound to come into some mishaps, sometime.
Next, on a slight tangent from talking about Jesus, let’s talk about zombies because, in certain circles, and depending upon your definition of The Walking Dead, it could be argued that Jesus, in fact, was a zombie. He was dead, and then became reanimated again. Let’s talk about fake zombie breakouts. The Randolph County, which is Randolph County is in Indiana, their sheriff’s department ended up having to list this service announcement this week on Facebook. [Laughter] It said this. It said:
“Local alerts from WZZY 98.3 FM regarding the zombie attack and disease outbreak from deceased bodies is a result of the radio station’s alert system being hacked. There’s no local emergency. We have contacted the radio station and notified the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Again, there’s no emergency or disease outbreak in Randolph County.”
What had happened was someone had actually hacked in to the radio station’s alert system and began to broadcast out an alert that there was a disease that was spreading, that people were dying, but then becoming reanimated like zombies, and people needed to hide and take cover. This is what happens when we have to wait an entire week until the next Walking Dead episode. [Sarcasm] Come on AMC. When Netflix drops a new show, they drop them all at once. They don’t tease us. They don’t make us excruciatingly walk out to figure out what’s happening to Rick and everybody else. Come on. All seriousness, I can’t imagine that this caused a panic, but apparently, it did cause a bit of a panic because you never know what could happen in Indiana. Wasn’t that where Stranger Things was filmed? Hmm.
Next. This next thing started off as a “What’s good // What’s bad”. What I’ll do is I scour stuff out on the interwebs for you guys and find interesting stuff that’s been going on. The Washington Post had posted a piece entitled “Why Can 12-Year-Old Girls Still Get Married in the United States.” It was one of those things that would’ve been in the “What’s good // What’s bad” category as bad. It just blew my mind. It blew my mind that we still have forced marriage issues in our country, that we still have child brides in our country, that this is still happening. This is the kind of thing that you always read about when we think about human trafficking and stuff that goes on in third world countries. We get appalled about it like, “How can this happen?” This stuff is happening under our noses in this country all the time. I read through this article. I did some more research on this article. It, actually, led me to Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained At Last. This whole idea that this continues on in this country is blowing my mind right now. I wonder if she would take time out of her busy schedule to talk to us, to inform us, to educate us about the problem that we have going on in this country. After a few emails, Fraidy decided that this may be a good platform for her to be able to share her story. I felt like it was a good platform to educate you guys, my beloved audience, about this problem that’s going on. That led into the interview with Fraidy Reiss from Unchained At Last. Here it is.
[Begin Audio Clip of Interview with Fraidy Reiss]
Stuart: Today, I’m sitting here with Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained At Last. Unchained is the only nonprofit in the United States dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged or forced marriages and rebuild their lives. Unchained, also, is the only nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated in creating social, policy, and legal change to end forced marriage in America. Fraidy, thank you so much for being on this today.
Fraidy Reiss: Thank you for shining a spotlight on this really important issue.
Stuart: When I was doing the pre-interview research and questionnaire, there’s terms that get thrown around when talking about this a lot. You’ll hear arranged marriages. You’ll hear child marriages. You’ll hear forced marriages. Can you give us some definitions, so we have a working definition in this conversation?
Fraidy: Yeah. That’s a really good place to start. First, people have, like you said, some confusion about what is an arranged marriage. What’s forced marriage? How are they different, and how are they the same? My answer to that is that a forced marriage is one in which one or both parties does not give full, free, informed consent. In many situations, a family or community will call it an arranged marriage, but calling it that, doesn’t make it that. If both parties are not giving full, free, informed consent, then that’s still a forced marriage. The question of child marriage is—by the way, we can go back and talk about the problem with differentiating between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage is that there’s such a fine line between consent and coercion. If somebody says yes but only after experiencing extreme duress, threats, whether they’re implicit or explicit, or fraud, coercion, bribery, then it becomes a question of was that yes actual consent or was that coercion. It’s very difficult, many times, to differentiate between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage. We let survivors tell us. Did you feel that you had the chance to say yes? Did you feel that you were able to consent to the marriage? The question of child marriage, not all child marriages are forced. A child marriage is one in which one or both parties is under the age of 18. Not every child marriage is a forced marriage because some children enter into a marriage willingly. Not every forced marriage is a child marriage because somebody can be forced into a marriage or pressured, or coerced, or bribed, or threatened, whatever it is, at any age.
Stuart: Gotcha. All this starts with your story in this. You were raised, what I’ve read here, is in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community where you were pushed into an arranged marriage.
Fraidy: Yeah, and again, there goes the wording. You’re calling it an arranged marriage. In the community that I come from, they don’t call it arranged or forced marriage. They just call it marriage. You have to look at what was actually happening as opposed to the label that a family chooses to put on it. Yeah. In my situation, I was raised in a very insular, ultra-Orthodox, Jewish community where I was taught from when I was a toddler that my goal in life was to marry young in an arranged marriage and to be a wife and a mother. Soon after I graduated from high school, my family arranged my marriage. I never really had an option. The question of whether I was going to marry was not asked. That was told to me. The question of when was not asked. It’s after you graduate from high school. The question of whom, well, the matchmaker brought me somebody. I had a matter of hours over a period of a few weeks to decide whether I wanted to marry him, never being allowed to be alone in the room with him or have any physical contact and with tremendous pressure on me to say yes.
Stuart: When did it start going wrong for you, or how soon did you start seeing that there was a problem?
Fraidy: Well, I knew him for only a total of three months when we were married because we had a few weeks to, so called, date and then a six-week engagement. He was still a stranger to me when we married. It was only one week after our wedding that he first showed himself to be violent, and soon after that, that he first threatened to kill me.
Stuart: Oh my gosh. When you started seeing that there was problems here, that there was major problems here, where did you go to look for help in your community?
Fraidy: I went to the places that I had been told I was supposed to go for help. I went to my family, his family, and the rabbis in the community. Wherever I went, there were no offers of help. There was, you chose this guy. Even though this marriage was arranged, I had said yes. I was told, you chose this guy. Marriage is forever. Here’s another thing that’s important to understand is that a forced marriage is, not only at the point of entry that one or both parties doesn’t give full, free, and informed consent, if one or both parties is forced to stay in the marriage, then that, then, becomes a forced marriage. As little choices I had entering the marriage, I had even less in terms of leaving it. Under Orthodox Jewish law, I did not have the right to divorce my husband. Only a man is allowed to divorce his wife under religious law. I did not have reproductive rights. I wasn’t allowed to use birth control, so I gave birth 11 months after my wedding. Soon, I had two children. I, also, had no financial rights. I wasn’t allowed to work, have a bank account, or a credit card in my own name. I was completely, financially dependent on my husband for myself and my kids. With a family that wouldn’t help me, there was just no way out.
Stuart: How did you get out?
Fraidy: Finally, at age 32, managed to leave because I became the first person in my family to go to college. It was really frowned upon. The high school that I went to, the all-girls, ultra-Orthodox Jewish school that I went to, we actually had to sign a paper in high school promising that we would not take SATs or driver’s ed, by the way. That’s how concerned the school was. That’s how concerned the community was about people going to college. I became, at age 27, the first person in my family to go to college over the arguments of my husband and my family. I insisted on going, and graduated at 32, and became financially independent even before I was financially independent. As soon as I graduated, I changed the locks and filed for the divorce. My family and community shunned me. They consider me dead, but I rebuilt my life with my two daughters.
Stuart: How was that? How was that process of rebuilding?
Fraidy: Horrifying, terrifying and joyful and liberating at the same time. I was escaping, not only from an abusive marriage but also, leaving a very insular, religious community where I didn’t have a television, a radio, newspaper, very little contact with the outside world. I knew nothing about the outside world and had to learn that hamburgers are not made out of ham and that the Beatles are, actually, a group, a band. Just basic things like that, and what size I am in jeans.
Stuart: That is incredible, especially when you’re talking about how insolated life was to, then, begin to leave that. It’s like you have to relearn everything.
Fraidy: Yes, literally. Not relearn, learn everything.
Fraidy: I was 32 years old learning, for the first time in my life, about what the world is like out there. Terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
Stuart: When we start to talk about these forced marriages, especially in the realm of child marriage, can we talk about stats when we’re looking at how prevalent this is in the U.S.? I think, oftentimes, there’s this common assumption that this kind of thing only happens elsewhere in the world. How prevalent is this?
Fraidy: You’re absolutely right about that assumption. I get that a lot. If I meet people, for the first time, who already know my story, they say, “Oh, but you’re white. This doesn’t happen to white people,” or when people hear my story, they’ll ask me, “Oh, so you’re from Iran, right?” I say, “No, I’m from Brooklyn. I grew up in Brooklyn. I’m very American.” The statistics on forced marriage, simply, aren’t there because so little research has been done on this. There was one nationwide survey of forced marriage that was done in 2011 by the Tahirih Justice Center that looked at a two-year period leading up to 2011. It found that during that period, there were up to 3,000 known or suspected cases of forced marriage in the United States. Child marriage, also, the statistics just were not there until we, at Unchained At Last, undertook this huge nationwide research project. We went state by state. We went to all 50 states plus Washington D.C., and we asked for marriage license data going back to 2000. We were able to get that data from 38 states. Twelve states and Washington D.C. don’t track the data. From the other 38 states, what we found, from analyzing the data that we retrieved, is that more than 167,000 children, as young as 12, were married just between 2000 and 2010, in those 38 states. For the 12 states and D.C., because we didn’t have the data, we came up with a formula to estimate how many children were married because there was a strong correlation we identified between state population and the number of children married. Including the actual numbers and the estimate for the states that don’t track the data, we determined that nearly a quarter million children were married in America between 2000 and 2010. Again, from the data we do have, we know they were mostly girls married to adult men, and they were as young as 12 years old.
Stuart: That is absolutely frightening to hear that, especially as a father of two girls. For me, that’s just mind blowing. I’ve read that Unchained At Last is fighting to have all 50 states adopt legislation that would change the marriage age to 18 with no or very few exceptions. What kind of pushback are you seeing in the work that you guys are doing of changing legislation?
Fraidy: So far, there’s been no public outcry against the bill. The pushback really, if there is any, more and more states are introducing legislation that eliminate the exceptions to the minimum marriage age of 18, which, currently in all 50 states, allow children to marry. If I could just go back and say that again. Currently, the minimum marriage age in almost all 50 states is 18, but every state allows exceptions under which children can marry. The legislation that we’re pushing to introduce would eliminate those exceptions state by state and reserve marriage, which is a serious, legal contract, for those who have reached the age of majority, which, usually, is age 18. In states where the age of majority is higher, then we’re pushing for an age of marriage that’s higher. More and more states are looking at this now. Legislation that would end all marriage before 18 without exceptions is, now, advancing in New Jersey where it’s close to passing. It’s, also, pending in Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and about to be introduced in Pennsylvania. Then, legislation that would, at least, cut down on child marriage, although not completely eliminate it, is pending in New York, Missouri, New Hampshire, and more and more states are starting to look at that.
If there’s been any pushback, it’s been from legislators who are just shocked when they learn about this issue. They have a lot of questions. “Well, is that really your problem here?” I can show them, yes, it is. We have the data showing that this is a significant problem in your state and across the United States. Then, some legislators have questions about, “So, is this violating anybody’s religious freedom?” No, it is not because U.S. Supreme Court has upheld legislation that incidentally forbids an act acquired by religion if the legislation does not target religion, which this bill does not. Besides, most major religions tend to view marriage as an important, holy union between two willing partners. I talked about the U.S. Supreme Court having upheld legislation that incidentally forbids an act required by religion if the legislation doesn’t target religion. Also, most major religions tend to view marriage as an important, holy union between two willing partners. That’s, not at all, where child marriage is. Child marriage, often, is forced, and child marriage almost always ends in failure. Between 70 and 80 percent chance of marriage ending in divorce if there’s marriage before age 18. Really, this bill is entirely consistent with modern religious views.
Stuart: Well, I’ll ask you this, and this is more of an off-the-cuff question to this. I was reading in the Huffington Post today. It was an article about some legislation that was trying to move forward in Mississippi. They were trying to push forward a bill that would add domestic violence to the list of legal reasons a person can get a divorce in Mississippi. The problem is, that it died in the House Committee on Tuesday after its chairman, Representative Andy Gibson, said that it could open up the floodgates to divorce. I know. [Laughter] Legislation like this is still on the periphery of what you guys are dealing with. I don’t know if this is simply an issue of too many men running things from a standpoint or what it actually is, but when I read this, I’m just like, “Oh my gosh. What is wrong with you?”
Fraidy: First, excuse me while I vomit on the floor. I can’t even believe you just said that. That’s just horrifying. So far, we haven’t come across anything as terrible as that. There are some legislators who have said along the lines of what you just said. A girl gets pregnant. She needs to get married. There are, unfortunately, legislators who have said that. That’s just absolutely horrifying, even getting past the whole sexist notion of that. Actually, studies show that pregnant girls or teenage mothers who stay single have better long-term outcomes than those who marry. Also, in states that have a pregnancy exception to the minimum marriage age, they’ve, often, been shown to be used to cover up a rape and to force a girl to marry her rapist. States have been moving away from pregnancy exceptions to the minimum marriage age because they’re terrible public policy. We are getting, in a limited way, some of that pushback from legislators, but, for the most part, it’s a matter of educating them and explaining to them you’re not helping a pregnant girl or a teenage girl by marrying her off. You’re actually working against her. By showing that this is why, other states have moved away from it. Only nine states still have a pregnancy exception. In fact, there are several states that specify in their law that pregnancy is not enough of a reason for a girl to get married.
Stuart: Looking at this on more of a global scale, I think, and I believe, from what I was reading, but you would be more of an expert to answer this. What countries are handling this problem of forced marriage better, and how are they doing it?
Fraidy: Are you asking about forced marriage or child marriage? There are a lot of countries that are handling forced marriage better than we are. In terms of child marriage, it’s very difficult to determine which countries are handling child marriage better than we are because, like in most U.S. states, they set 18 as the minimum marriage age. If you were just looking at it quickly, it looks like we’re doing a great job, but it’s those exceptions that are the problem. A lot of countries have the same situation. More than half of all countries allow girls to marry under a parental consent exception, and that’s, specifically, girls. Most countries have more protections for boys than for girls, which is really upsetting. In terms of child marriage, it’s really hard to say. I’ve read so many different studies that have shown the topic so differently about different countries. It’s hard to know what’s, actually, happening in those other countries. In terms of forced marriage, I can say that the U.S. lags behind many other countries in acknowledging and responding to forced marriage. I often use the example of the UK where they’ve longed acknowledged that forced marriage is a problem, and for that reason, there’s a national hotline that people can call to ask for help if they’re facing or already in a forced marriage. There is a task force that responds to individuals who are in need, even if somebody was taken overseas. If a UK citizen was taken overseas to be forced into marriage, this task force will respond, and rescue that individual, and bring the person back to safety. There was always a civil protection order that those facing a forced marriage could use to gain safety and protection. Then, a couple of years ago, the UK also criminalized forced marriage, so there’s, now, an actual, statute that criminalizes forced marriage in the UK. We don’t have any of this in the U.S.
Stuart: From your experience and the experience of those that you’ve been helping to get out of these situations, how do you see that religion plays into this problem in both child marriages and forced marriages? Also, just in that same regard, how do these religious communities that we’re seeing here allow, condone, or turn a blind eye to things that are happening within these marriages?
Fraidy: Before I answer that, by the way, I just want to add to what I said before. There are ten U.S. states or territories where there are laws on the books that can be used to prevent or punish a forced marriage. That’s a very small percentage. Also, those laws appear to be written for completely different reasons, not to prevent or punish a forced marriage. An answer your question about religion, so there are four main reasons that we’ve seen that parents will force their child, whether it’s a minor or an adult, into a marriage. The first one is tradition. That could be cultural or religious. It’s not always in a religious context that a forced marriage happens or a child marriage happens. Girls, often, will say to us, my parents were never religious, but all of a sudden, when it came to marriage, this was just something that was deeply ingrained in them. The second one is money. Sometimes, there’s a bride price or dowry that changes hands. Related to that is immigration. A girl is, sometimes, forced to marry a man overseas so that he can apply for his U.S. visa. Again, in many of those contexts, there’s no religion involved at all. Then, another big one is control. Parents will use marriage as a way to control a child’s behavior or sexuality. If a child comes out as LGBTQ, a girl gets pregnant, parents find out their child is dating or dating the wrong person, and they don’t like that, they’ll sometimes use marriage as a way to control that. Again, that could be completely outside of a religious context.
Stuart: Take me through the steps of how Unchained At Last helps someone. Someone reaches out to you, what are the things that you guys do to be able to help them?
Fraidy: If it’s an adult, what we do is we help the person. Most of the people we help are girls or women. If it’s an adult woman, we help her to leave home. That can be very tricky. We implement an escape plan. Sometimes, she’s being held against her will. Sometimes, she’s even been taken overseas to be forced into a marriage. We have to work with the state department to bring her back, and then get her into a shelter. Then, help her to rebuild her life. Often, that means getting her free, legal representation, so she can get a restraining order against whoever it is who’s threatening her or abusing her, or filing for divorce if the marriage has already happened. Sometimes, there’s a nasty custody battle because some of the women we help have been married many years and have multiple children. Then, anything we can do to help this woman become financially and emotionally independent. That’s always for free. We don’t charge for any of our services, so that’s psychotherapy. If she escaped with just what’s she’s wearing, we’ll get her a whole new wardrobe. If she’s transitioning from a shelter to her own home, we’ll help her get pots and pans, and dishes, and a couch, and beds for her kids, and for herself. Anything she needs whether it’s ESL classes or getting her GED, so that she can move on and get an education. Sometimes, there are other legal needs that she has like immigration. If she was brought from overseas, she needs legal representation to get her legal immigration status. It’s whatever we can do on a case by case. No two cases are the same.
Unfortunately, when it’s child under the age of 18, even one day before age 18, our hands are tied, and we’re blindfolded. There’s very little that we can do. Those girls, often, end up just giving up. They stop reaching out to us, and we cannot reach out to them without putting them danger. Some of them just decide to go along with the marriage because they realize that anything else is just too difficult. Some of them turn to self-harm or suicide attempts because they’re so devastated by what’s happening to them. We see clients from so many different backgrounds, and so many different stories, every socioeconomic level, but the one constant in almost all of these cases is the betrayal. This is something that I can relate to from my own story. The perpetrators in these situations is their own parents. It’s their own family members. It’s really traumatic for these girls and women to realize that the worst trauma of their life is happening, and it’s their own family that’s doing it.
Stuart: For any of our listeners out there that may be caught in a similar situation like to the ones that you’re describing here, how should they go about contacting you? What would you tell them? Can you speak directly to them if they’re caught in a situation like this?
Fraidy: If you are in a forced marriage situation whether that means facing an impending forced marriage or you’re already in a forced marriage, I urge you to reach out to us at Unchained At Last, so that we can help you. You can call us or email us if you’re unable to make a phone call safely. We will do whatever we can to help you. It’s just important to get the help and not try to figure out the situation on your own. Unfortunately, what some people do is they’ll try to get help from—especially someone young in high school or in college, they’ll often go to a teacher for help or go to a friend. In many situations, somebody who doesn’t have experience with this is very well meaning and tries to help but reacts in the wrong ways and that can, often, exacerbate a bad situation. We’ve had situations where a girl approaches a teacher, for example, and said, “Please help me. My parents are trying to force me into a marriage.” Then, the teacher, very well meaning, will say, “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll call your parents.” That, of course, often leads to a bad outcome. Many times, parents will pull the girl out of school, and then she disappears. There’s no way to help her. We’ve, also, had situations, unfortunately, where a girl approaches somebody and asks for help and gets turned down because a teacher doesn’t understand the situation. Even the police will say, “Well, this is just an argument between you and your parents. You can work this out,” and dismisses it. If somebody has dismissed your concerns, please don’t think that that means that you deserve to be forced into a marriage. You don’t.
Stuart: What about folks that hear this and want to get involved or support Unchained At Last? What are avenues they can get involved?
Fraidy: We’re a really small organization, almost all volunteer. We have two staffers, me and one other person, a social worker. Beyond that, we’re almost an all-volunteer organization, and we rely on the kindness and generosity of people like you. If you want to get involved, go to our website. You can make a donation. That, of course, is always helpful. Because we’re a very small organization with low overhead, your money goes directly to helping women and girls. There are different opportunities on our website for ways to volunteer. Depending on which state you’re in, if legislation is pending in your state, you can send an email to your legislators and your governor saying, “I support this legislation because it happens.” You can read about upcoming events. We organize periodic chain-ins. It’s these political protests where wear bridal gowns, and veils, and chain our arms and tape our mouths to protest forced and child marriage. We provide the bridal gowns and the chains. It’s quite an experience, so I urge everyone to join an upcoming chain-in. It’s an experience you’ll remember forever.
Stuart: On that, topic of chain-ins and upcoming events, what’s on the horizon for you guys, right now?
Fraidy: Our last chain-in was just last week in Albany. We don’t have any chain-ins currently scheduled, but we’re looking to do another one coming up soon in New York City. We hope to do one in Massachusetts in the spring. Then, looking to do, perhaps, in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut. Go to our website to learn more about those chain-ins. Other events for those of you who are in New Jersey—do you have any listeners in New Jersey? We have an event coming up next Thursday at the Bloomingdale’s in Short Hills. Bloomingdale’s are holding a fashion event, where 20 percent of the proceeds goes to Unchained At Last. We have our annual dinner coming up in September. We’re doing a dinner cruise for anyone who wants a cruise on the Hudson River with an open bar and a DJ, so it’s good times and all to benefit a really good cause. This is your opportunity.
Stuart: We’ve heard about your work. We’ve heard about all that you’re doing. For you personally, what inspires you the most to keep going, to keep doing this great courageous work?
Fraidy: For me, it’s so personal. I couldn’t do anything else at this point. I’m so dedicated to this because I know what it’s like to be in a forced marriage and unable to leave. Then, the women and girls who call and ask for our help, they are our daily inspiration and a reminder to me about how important this work is. It’s only with us survivors telling our stories, and making noise, and attempting these chain-ins that we can make Americans aware this is a problem. Forced marriage is a problem here in America. Child marriage is a problem here in America. That’s the only way we’re going to see change.
Stuart: Well, Fraidy, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you so much for your work and all that you’re doing to make a difference in this world. It is such a noble, honorable cause that you’re going after. I just wish you the best, but I really just do appreciate the time that you gave here today for the show.
Fraidy: Well, thank you. I really appreciate your taking the time to, again, shine a spotlight on us because we need more people talking about this and being aware of this.
Stuart: Thank you so much.
[End Audio Clip]
Again, my thanks to Fraidy Reiss. You can go to www.unchainedatlast.org for more information. The thing I love about the work that she’s doing is that it is an absolutely, worthy cause. You know what’s not a worthy cause, Christian’s boycotting Beauty and the Beast. Yes. The new Beauty and the Beast movie that I know little kids out there are all excited about happening. Of course, as this movie rolls forward and is about to come out, leave it to the religious right to start trying to find something to boycott, something to get angry about, something to stand against. Who’s at the epicenter of all of this? It’s none other than my anti-man crush, Franklin Graham. Yes, thank you, Franklin. Thank you so much for highlighting this huge problem that we have here in America and especially, the America church. [Sarcasm] It’s one that I would probably put under #whitepeopleproblems, #firstworldissues. Yeah, if the biggest thing that you as a mouthpiece or a supposed mouthpiece that Christianity can get up and rally the troops around is the fact that there’s a side character in Beauty and the Beast that happens to be gay. Really? Don’t you run a humanitarian organization, Franklin? Don’t you run an organization that’s trying to help the problems in this world with hunger, with people that have a lack of clean water, a lack of access to healthcare? Those are big problems. Those are problems that I wish Christians were known for being about, for known for trying to fix in this world, not this kind of crap that you’re pulling, not this kind of crap again where we have nothing better to do than boycott issues of entertainment. I mean, really. Let’s talk about having your eyes on the prize or completely missing the point, which is what’s happening right now.
For the sake of context, I will read to you this post that Franklin Graham sent out over Facebook last week. He said:
“Disney has aired a cartoon with same-sex couples kissing. It has also been announced that their new movie “Beauty and the Beast” will feature a gay character in an attempt to normalize this lifestyle. They’re trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children—watch out! Disney has the right to make their cartoons. It’s a free country. But as Christians, we also have the right not to support their company. I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney. I met Walt Disney when I was a young boy. He was very gracious to me, my father, Billy Graham, and my younger brother when we visited. He would be shocked at what has happened to the company that he started.”
Then, he goes on to say, “If you agree, comment below and share this with others. Let Disney know how you feel.” I swear, this stuff has been going on forever in the Christian community. It’s one of these huge, white, American, privilege problems that we like to do this. We like to say, “I don’t like the content that you’re making. We will boycott this.” At the same time, I just want to highlight the absolute hypocrisy behind this. If you want to ask me, as the guy with a radio show called Snarky Faith, I mean, seriously, that you’re worried about a side character being gay in this. Come on. The whole core of this movie is, essentially, bestiality. It’s, apparently, normalizing bestiality for our young children. [Sarcasm] Come on. You totally missed the point here, Franklin. If you want to boycott something that you can say is pretty definitive in the Bible, let’s go after bestiality. This movie’s about bestiality. [Sarcasm] No, I digress from that. I’m just kidding, but this is the problem. This is the problem that we have with Christianity in America today. It’s the fact that we do not know what it means to be a Christian. If we think being a Christian is going out and policing culture, taking the “moral” high ground in all of these issues, setting up straw man arguments, doing all this in our own echo chamber of followers, when we do that, we, actually, accomplish nothing besides just puffing ourselves up. We use these issues as platforms to, hopefully, stoke popularity amongst our legions of followers that we have in the midst of this. None of this has anything to do with making the world a better place. None of this has to do with feeding those who are in need, helping those who are hurting.
If you read the core teachings of Jesus, if you read that, it’s simply about loving those around us, providing help for those who are in need, and being a good friend and not being an ass at every turn, which is, somehow, the American, Christian complex. For those mouthpieces out there, they have defaulted to, somehow, just being an ass because they feel like they have the moral high ground to do it. Is this what Jesus was here for? Did Jesus die on a cross so that we can police movies, that we can boycott things, and scream about our preferences not being made? The only one thing that I will say was true about his statement is that this is a free country, and people can make whatever kind of movies they want to make. The idea that you are wasting efforts, that you are wasting time, that you are wasting people’s attention on trivial matters like this, things that don’t matter, things that show that you are so out of touch and have no idea, really, what God is calling us to do in this country.
You see, I believe that we should be about bringing walls down, not building them. I think we need to be about dialogue. I think we need to be about peace. I think we need to be about the good things that we want to follow after instead of trying to tear down culture at every turn. You don’t create culture by tearing down everybody else’s culture. That just makes you a critic. Critics don’t get anything done. Now, we need them because, otherwise, it be completely hypocritical of myself [laughter] who’s in the middle of criticizing this to say that we don’t need critics. We do. We, also, need tangible action. I’m not talking about boycotts. I’m not talking about Facebook posts. I’m talking about, actually, getting your hands dirty while helping others, putting yourself out there in a vulnerable position to be able to love others. You see, we had heard about Unchained At Last. These are people that are doing tangible things. They’re trying to help people get out of horrible situations. When we just sit here, and like to kick back, and just criticize culture, and try to rouse up folks against things like that, it simply and only comes from a place of privilege. It costs nothing to do it. You’ll get Facebook likes. You’ll get Facebook shares. You’ll get all of those things that tend to make yourself feel good. Oh, yes, I’m on the right end of this argument because look at this. [Sarcasm] Look at this. All these people that agree with everything that I say, continue to agree with everything I say. I go back to the place that we are at right now in a country where we are very divided, where we can’t even hear the other side anymore. The idea of attacking and tearing down only continues to polarize us and push us further and further apart. Where’s the humility in all this? Where’s the grace?
No, I haven’t seen the Beauty ad the Beast movie, and I, probably, will rent it at Redbox when it comes out because I have two daughters. Have you watched the movie? Are there themes of redemption and grace in it? I’m guessing there are. When we highlight what is good in the world today instead of only having a lens to look at what we don’t like, or what we disagree with, or what we think is bad because if you claim to have a faith in Jesus and a walk with a Savior that is redemptive, that loves, that wants healing and wholeness for all, you’ve really missed the boat. I don’t think that the pursuit of Christianity is being able to point out sins of others. I don’t think it’s about being a cultural critic. I think it’s about loving others. I think it’s about making a real, tangible difference in the world. We get caught up in these stupid and pointless Facebook, and Twitter, and social media political arguments where we are just playing to our side. We are doing nothing at all. Actually, let me correct that. We are doing something. We’re, actually, just creating a divide, and we’re making it to where our voice will no longer be heard. You see, if you’re against everything, it’s really hard to ever see about what you’re for. If you’re against everything, that’s all you’re going to be known for being. We have to be a people that want to create change, that want to create change that doesn’t exclude people. We want to be able to create a change where people have the space and have the place where they can hear messages of hope that things can get better, where we can begin to see what is good in the others around us. Now, I’m not saying we have to agree with everybody, but the moment where we can cease to see the humanity on the other side of the aisle, when we cease to see them as people, as creations in God’s own image, when we cease to see their humanity, we’ve become monsters. We’ve become monsters that little resemble the Savior that we so loudly like to proclaim.
The problem with Christianity in America today is the fact that it’s forgotten why it exists. It’s become consumed with the fact that it has lost power. Now, I’m not talking about spiritual power. I’m not talking about anything transcendent. No, it’s, mainly, about political power or cultural power. See, any time Christianity falls into the ranks of power grabs, and hierarchy, and being a mouthpiece for all of these kinds of things, it’s lost its way. It becomes something that it’s not. That is a sad thing. If only we can return to our roots, if only we can learn mercy and we can follow justice, and we can learn empathy, we can practice compassion, we can begin to see folks that aren’t like us, we can begin to see them as something beautifully and wonderfully created. If we spend our careers, if we spend our passions, if we spend our lifetimes tearing people down, we’re just simply monsters. Again, I read the Bible. I’ve read the Gospels. Jesus does not call us to be monsters. Jesus calls us to take out monsters, the monsters that prevent others from being able to see the light. If we’re so busy building walls, if we’re so busy insolating ourselves from everybody else, how can you spread the thing that you claim to be as Good News? When good news becomes a weapon, it is not good news. It may be good news to you that’s holding that weapon, but it, certainly, isn’t good news to those that you are slashing with it. For faith that proclaims something that we call Good News that Good News needs to be good news for everybody.
That’s all I’ve got this week. I will back again with you next week. Just a reminder as we end this broadcast, you can always catch this episode and all past episodes on podcast at www.snarkyfaith.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Just look up Snarky Faith. Again, thank you for journeying with us through this last hour. Without you, we wouldn’t be here. Without you, I’m just sitting in front of a microphone talking to myself. I do, I appreciate you, our listeners. I appreciate you for being a part of the journey. If you want to give us feedback, ask questions or anything else like that, just remember you can email us at email@example.com. If you also go to our website www.snarkyfaith.com, you can sign up to be on our mailing list where we are going to start doing, once a month, live episodes online where you can tune in. You can ask questions. You can interact with Ben and I. You can be a part of the entire journey and conversation. Thanks so much. You guys have a great week. I’m outta here.
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.
[showhide type=”pressrelease” more_text=”Click for Full Show Transcript” less_text=”Hide Show Transcript” hidden=”yes”]
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.
[Begin Audio Clip]
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.
[showhide type=”pressrelease” more_text=”Click for Full Show Transcript” less_text=”Hide Show Transcript” hidden=”yes”]
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
A rundown of all you need to know about protesting. Did the Women’s March on Washington accomplish anything? What do you do after the protests are over? We’ll delve into those topics and more as we look into the anatomy of a protest and also how people of faith should respond. 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: After Protest
Episode: # 137
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. What a week we’ve had. We made it through the inauguration. Then, we had some protests, and then some more protests, and then, some more protests. We’ll get to all that a little bit later on the show when we break down the anatomy of a protest. First, we have your weekly, “What’s good // What’s bad.” Just a reminder, you can actually catch all the links from this over on our website at www.snarkyfaith.com. It’s a great place to be able to catch past podcasts. It’s a great place to be able to catch up on some of our writings and stuff that we put out there as well. A reminder that if you sign up over on our website to get our weekly emails, you can actually be a part of a live show that Dr. Ben and I will be doing in the near future.
Let’s get on to “What’s good // What’s bad.” Let’s start this off on a little bit of a lighter note. This is really a softball start to “What’s good // What’s bad.” Did you guys hear the news? McDonald’s. Huh? New stuff coming out. That’s right. They are going to be testing two new sizes of the Big Mac. If you don’t have diabetes, this a way you can fast track that, if you’re ever feeling left out in the process. No, what they’re going to be doing is they’re going to test out in different markets, the Mac Jr., so you’re going to have the smaller Big Mac. Then, you saw the regular Big Mac size. Then, they’re going to have the Grand Mac, which is more meat, more cholesterol, and more artery-clogging goodness. Yes, you’re going to have Mac Jr., regular, and Grand Mac, which is really the equivalent of the half ass, the full ass, and the big ass. You can get all of it stuffed directly into your ass. Thank you, McDonald’s. [sarcasm] Thank you for giving us these options because nobody was asking for them.
Next. Do any of you out there feel like you’re losing your mind with the alternative world that we’re living in right now? We’re in the bizarro world if you’re coming at this from a comic book standard, and we’re really just stuck in a place where you kind of feel like you’re losing your mind. Well, fear not because I’ve said many of times, I’m losing my marbles right now. Guess what? There was a truck carrying 38,000 pounds of marbles, and the truck lost its trailer in Indianapolis on Saturday. That’s right, 38,000 pounds of marbles spewing onto the highway. It’s a beautiful sight. You should check it out. It makes you feel, “Hey, if my day’s going bad, this guy’s day is a lot worse.” So, you’re right. You may be feeling like you’re losing your marbles because they’ve already been lost. At least, that’s the story I’m sticking to for our new alternative universe that we’re living in here.
Next. When I started off the show today, I made a little promise to myself, just on the inside. I just said, “Hey, we can do this. We can make it. We can, at least, make it, maybe, ten minutes or so into the show,” I told myself, “without talking about the inauguration.” I need to apologize to you, my dear listeners, and to myself for breaking that promise because, as I check my watch, we’re only about three minutes into the show. Yes, we’re going to talk about the inauguration. In the segment that we’re doing here, the “What’s good // What’s bad,” all of it was bad. If you listened to the speech, geez, did that get a bit dark? Geez, did that get a bit post-apocalyptic, and violent languagy, and whatever else you can think about? The Don delivered, and he was, pretty much, true to his message, true to sticking to his guns, and true to, hopefully, making America great again in his own image. It ends up feeling like sometimes you wish he was able to use a thesaurus. Oftentimes, I want to say, “I think the word great doesn’t mean what you think it means.” I think your definition of great is much different from my definition of great. Man, oh man, was that an awkward inauguration.
What I want to do for you in this is that I’m going to give you guys a few links to be able to go through to help you process through this inauguration through what just happened, and what just went down. The first of which is the British comedian, Jonathan Pie. Part of his shtick is he’s kind of a fake news castor. He posts videos online. He also does stand-up and stuff. Really intelligent. Really, really funny guy. He did an inauguration recap of the speech and of all really that went on there, that I’ll include the link here. Not here, but here on our website. He’s what I want to tell you. This is absolutely not a safe-for-work video for you to be able to watch. The language is quite salty. It says, pretty much, everything that I’d love to say, but can’t, due to the FCC regulations here on the air. If you can put on your big-boy pants, and go over to www.snarkyfaith.com, I think you would find that really interesting.
Also, there is an interview that CNN did with Zizek. Zizek is one of our favorite curious philosophers out there. I’m not saying I agree with everything, but I will tell you he’s an interesting dude. If you can listen—a lot of times, you have to listen to cut through his thick accent. Zizek is a Marxist, and he lays out why he would have voted for Trump. It’s not exactly why you think it is. I think it is a brilliant idea, and it’s also one of those—have you ever been in those situations where two people are talking, and one person is way, way more intelligent than the other one, and they keep trying to talk? They kind of end up talking past each other. Yes, the interview is interesting on two different levels from being able to watch a philosopher try to talk to a guy who’s just facts and numbers, and those two conversations don’t actually mesh at all.
I think it’s really interesting what Zizek has to say, and why he says it, and why he says he would stick with Trump in this. I’ll give you a little bit of a sneak peak to why. He sees electing Trump as a way for us to be able to reinvent the political system, a way to be able to reinvent the way we do politics, not because what Trump is doing is a good thing. Really, it’s because what he’s doing is a horrible thing. It should force us to really go back to the drawing board to change the way that we think about politics. It’s an interesting interview, and I think you’ll like it.
Now, if listening to a Slovenian philosopher isn’t your cup of tea, and you’re still looking for some escapism, what I’d recommend is checking out Aziz Ansari’s SNL’s opening monolog. It was about the inauguration. It was about race. It was about America, and it was very, very on point, and beautiful. I would recommend you going and check that out.
Lastly, before we move on from the entire inauguration talk, we have to talk about how the country’s going down the crapper. Right? Did you hear about the porta potties at the inauguration, the ones from the company called Don’s John? Get it? Don’s Johns. The Don and potties. Maybe it’s just me that likes potty humor. Yes, you had thousands and thousands of Don’s Johns porta potties lining everywhere around the inauguration. That would be funny in itself, besides the fact that, mysteriously during the week, they started to get taped up. That’s right. The signs, the advertising signs on the side of the porta potties, mysteriously started getting taped up. Does somebody have an ego problem? Anyone? Anyone in Washington have an ego problem? Come on. Can’t Trump take a joke, or is he always too busy being the punch line of a joke? Geez.
Moving on from that and hopping directly into the main topic of the day. I want to talk about protesting. This last weekend, we’ve seen it. People were out with the Million Woman March with crowds that made the inauguration look like a small dinner party for only our closest friends. With cities across the nation and across the world, you had people out protesting our new president. It’s a beautiful sign of solidarity for people that are all about that cause, but my bigger question is what happens on Monday? What happens on Tuesday? Sure, it’s great to get together, and protest, and come together to speak out against evil that is happening in the world. I think that is absolutely essential. What I wanted to do is spend some time asking questions about the nature of protesting. What does it accomplish? What does it actually do? What should we look forward to for the next four years in regards to protesting, and advocacy, and social justice, and all of those things? I want to hop into.
We’re going to be going through several different articles, for the remainder of our show, talking about the very nature of protesting. It was Henry David Thoreau who said, “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.” We find ourselves in a time in history when a lot of stuff is messed up because that has never happened before in all of history. I’m kidding, but we find ourselves at this place where we see injustice everywhere. I’m not just talking about the fact that the Patriots made it back into the Super Bowl. I’m not talking about that kind of injustice. No, I’m talking about racism. I’m talking about misogyny. I’m talking about xenophobia. I’m talking about homophobia. I’m talking about Islamophobia. I’m talking about ignorance, and bigotry, and hatred. Those are things that we are raging against right now. Those are the things that are staring us in the face, immediately, right now.
I know the president is barely even in office yet, but I will tell you, collectively, we the people are very worried. We the people are very scared. We the people do not know what is going to happen. That unknown and that mystery that we are living in—mystery sounds way sexier—that uncertainty that we’re living in right now is terrifying. It may not be terrifying to you, particularly, but maybe, it’s terrifying to your neighbor or one of your loved ones. When we begin to talk about the injustice that’s happening around us, the natural response that we’ve seen is to get out and protest.
Before you grab your poster board and markers and decide to head out to a rally somewhere, we have to, first, start off by looking inside ourselves. What I mean by that is simply this, you, most probably, did not vote for Trump. I’m making that assumption if you’re listening to the show that you probably didn’t vote for Trump. I didn’t. I didn’t vote for Hilary either. We have to begin to ask ourselves, how did we create this situation? What role have we had in creating a situation where you have a person like Trump that scares the bejesus out of half the population in our country? How did we allow something like this to happen? Now, I’m asking this question, not asking it in the realm of politics because yes, you can say, “Of course, Stuart, people ran for office.” Well, yes, I know that’s how people run for office. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m not talking about those kinds of simple, finite, little brass tacks to how did he get here, or how did he win. I’m not even talking about that. What I am talking about is how did we get to a place in our country where things like this are happening, where messages, like Trump’s, make sense to people?
I think it’s far too easy for us to point fingers at folks that don’t vote like us. When we do that, we start to become the bigoted ones as well. We start to become the thing that we hate about the other side. The last thing that we want to do is become the things that we hate. I read this somewhere a while back, and I’m not really exactly sure where it came from. I jotted it down on one of my journals. It goes like this. It says, “Passivists become militants. Freedom fighters become tyrants. Blessings become curses. Help becomes hindrance, and more becomes less.” I mean, it’s easy for that to happen. We see peaceful protests that turn violent. We see looting going on. None of these, none of these are the hallmarks of what we are trying to protest. Those are even the bigger-scale issues. The ones I’m even more concerned with, the ones I care about deeply, are what happens inside our hearts as we are going through the motions? What happens inside our hearts as we are reading news articles and watching our social media feeds happen? What happens in our hearts when we take the anger of many other bigoted people and we turn it into an anger that’s inside of us? I know we can say that it’s righteous anger. I know we can say that we do it righteously, but anger is anger. If our desire is for a world that is loving, that is kind, that is considerate, that gives voice to the voiceless, that gives dignity to those that have no dignity, we have to be very careful.
It really goes back to the idea that somehow that we can have just wars, that somehow violence plus violence will equal peace. I’m really worried about us in this time that this anger that we have that is brewing below the surface, this anger at the other, becomes something that starts to own us. We just have to be careful as we protest that we don’t become like those that we’re protesting against. It’s not simply about those who have power. We’ve seen this in the country. We will have the Republican’s who will be—they’ll control power for a while. Then, it will flip-flop. The Democrat’s will control power for a while. All that is, is that we are caught in this nice little linear back and forth power structure. Now, if we are really about creating a world that we want our kids to grow up in, if we’re really about doing the hard work that it takes to create a new ethic for living, one that has kindness, and grace, and joy, and patience, if we are about those things, we have to begin to go about these things in a different way.
Now, all of that to be said, I simply am just mentioning this as a primer for our discussions about protesting. I am not saying that protesting is wrong. I am not saying any of the things that are going on right now are necessarily good or bad. They just are. What I am saying is that in the midst of all this, in the midst of this bizarro world that we find ourselves in, in the midst of this time where we have three different options when we want a Big Mac, we need to make sure that we are guarding our hearts (and our cholesterol), for that matter. I just don’t want us to become an angry, divided country because we’ve seen this. We’ve seen how the Alt-right moves. It becomes uglier, and it becomes nastier, and it becomes hateful. I would hate to see this opposition that is going on right now become angry and hateful. Anger and hate are really what’s occupying the White House right now.
We see this time and time again when you begin to read through scripture. Looking at the Old Testament, there’s this repeating pattern where you have the Children of Israel. They will really turn from the ways of God. Then, what you see is a foreign invader comes in, takes them over, treats them poorly. The Children of Israel cry out to God. God delivers them. They get in power, and then they start treating those that they are in power over poorly. Then, eventually, they fall our of power. You just see this rhythm. I just want us to begin—before we, actually, begin to hop in to talk further about protesting, I just want us to be very, very careful for how we move forward, for how we protest, for why we protest, and how it should transform us when we stand in those places to call out the things that are wrong with the world today.
Speaking at this through the lens of faith, this isn’t really an issue of should Christians protest. I think it should be more one of when should Christians protest. I found this. I’m not saying I agree completely with this, but Canon John of the Philo Trust, came up with these six suggested principles for protesting. I think he has some really good points in this, and I’ll read through these. The first one says, “We should protest on behalf of others rather than ourselves. Our duty to love our neighbors may involve us in protesting for them.” I think that’s a huge thing right there to start us off. I think that the protest doesn’t necessarily need to be about me. Like, “My side lost. I’m upset. I’m mad. I don’t like what’s happening.” I think when we stand out to protest, if we’re doing this through the lens of our own faith, I think and I believe, that this needs to be about somebody else. When we look at the protesting that’s going on today, I do think, I think a lot of these are us standing in the gap for people that need a voice, for people that need to know that they’re not forgotten, for people to need to know that they’re not going to simply just get kicked out of this country like they’re worthless garbage. Yes, I do believe that we need to stand in the gap for those that do not have a voice.
This next one on the list, I think, is rather curious and interesting. I want to unpack it some. Number two on the list was, “All other means of influencing the government powers should have been exhausting. Protests should always be the last resort.” Now, what I found interesting—and this is going to be my own little aside, which I guess, this entire show is an aside for my opinion. One of the things that I found as I was being flooded through social media, as I was being flooded through Twitter, and Instagram, and Facebook, and through the news was all the celebrities that were out there getting their pictures taken, getting selfies, while they’re out protesting. Part of me feels like—this is the jerk part of me that may or may not be 50 percent of me. The jerk part of me wants to say, “Really. Are you out there doing anything that is really costing yourself anything? Are you out there doing something to forward your own image or your own brand?” Being able to circle back to number one on this list, are we doing this for others rather than ourselves? I’m really just mainly just speaking in that realm of celebrity. I think celebrities get out there to do this because it’s the popular thing to do right now, and it’s good press for them.
When we’re engaging, especially in the second point here, this idea of have all other means been exhausted. Now, I’m going to take what he’s saying and twist it into a different angle. You see, we have these huge marches going on. We have these huge shows of protests that are happening. While that is good, it’s only the start. I firmly believe that after all the heat of this, after all of the excitement of all of this dies down, what happens next? Usually, if you’re going to follow the American system of doing things, what we simply do is that we put up our protest signs, we hang up our jackets. Then, we go home and sit on our hands for another four years. You see, that’s the problem. We get excited when it’s time to vote. We get mad when the vote doesn’t go our way. We get mad when those in elected office do things that we feel are immoral and hurt other people. What we need to do is let these moments be the beginning point for momentum to cause good and lasting change in our country. You can’t simply go out and protest, and show pictures of this on your social media, go home and sit on your hands, and wait for the next time you have to cast your vote during an election period.
See, the work that needs to be done, the important work, the lasting work, is what starts on the Monday after the protest. What are we doing now? How are we stopping these atrocities from moving forward? If there are unjust things that are going on, are you involving yourselves in community groups? Are you involving yourselves in nonprofit organizations? Are you involving yourselves in areas where we can get real change happening? We have to consistently come back to that. We have to continue to remind ourselves, while these things are good, they are only the starting point.
Number three that he has on his list, The Six Principles for Protesting, number three is, “We must be assured that our protests do more good than harm.” I think this is a question that, oftentimes, we don’t ask ourselves. Are these protests doing more good than harm? Are these protests merely about pointing fingers and calling people names, or are they, actually, doing real lasting good? I don’t have an answer for that especially for this Million Woman March that went on. I don’t have a judgment call on that, but I think this is a question that we have to consistently ask ourselves. Is this the best use of my time to make positive change? If it is, go and do that. But, but, but, but I think we have to make sure that these protests are also doing no harm.
I know during the inauguration, I know there were folks protesting in D.C., and violence broke out, and there was vandalism, and there was all sorts of other stuff going on. We have to remember that when those things happen—and I understand it comes from this deep unrest, this feeling that you are powerless, and you want to be able to inflict that feeling of powerlessness back on to the problem. The problem that happens when we see violence occur in these situations is that it ends up negating the reason for why the protests began in the first place. See, we have to be able to say this. If the police are going to be violent, the police can be violent, but we will not do that.
Number four on the list was, “There must be a clearly defined and widely understood aim for the protest. Without a firm goal, it’s all too easy for protests to denigrate into heated expressions of anger and dislike.” Now, I’m not saying that is what was happening over this past weekend. I think that was happening for some people over this last weekend. I’m going to, again, continue to point out celebrities that were up there, that were really just calling out Trump, calling him names and everything else. Hey, we’ve spent plenty of time doing that on the show, so I’m not saying, “Hey, check our the speck in your eye,” while there’s a log in my own eye. I know that. I think what needs to happen—because if can look back over this, if we all remember the Occupy Wall street Movement, it brought a lot of information and spotlighted a problem that was going on. Ultimately, at the end of the day, once the protests stopped, in many ways, the entire desire to change stopped. The momentum of the movement met with a grinding halt within that. If we’re doing something just because that we’re angry or that we dislike something, and our whole goal in all of this is simply just tearing whatever “it” is down, that’s not actually painting a way, that’s not actually painting vision to where you want to move dial towards.
I’ll give you an example. This is years ago. I was working for a church plant. I was doing a lot of the marketing and advertising, and video work for them. In the process of really starting up that church plant, the whole goal was we need to be something that’s different. Again, this is 20 years ago. I was in a place where I’d grown up Southern Baptist and was pretty anti-ridged Baptistness in all of its way, shapes, and forms. The pastor I was working with on creating this, we created this narrative, within all the advertising, that we’re different. This is before—I know every church now is, “Oh, we’re different.” We’re painting all these reasons for why this was, through video and other mediums. We’re not this. We’re not this. We’re not this. There was all this list of things that we weren’t. We attracted people. We attracted people to come and be a part of this. The problem was we spent so much time saying what we weren’t; we didn’t spend enough time saying what we were. Because it’s easy to rage against the problems. It’s hard to find solutions and chart a new course.
Ultimately, what happened with that, which I believe was the undoing of that church plant that lived for about two years, the undoing of that was you rallied people around a negative. You didn’t point them towards a positive. You have a bunch of people that come together that are like, “Yeah. I don’t like this, that, and the other.” Other people are like, “Well, I don’t like this, that, and the other.” They were all in agreement for what they didn’t like, but they weren’t together for a common cause. That was one of our failings in the message that we were pushing out for this. You unite people that don’t like things, but the only way to move them forward is under a collective idea, is under a collective vision for where this going. As we go out and have these marches, as we go out and have these rallies, really all we’ve done so far in this is to begin to say, “We don’t like Donald Trump. We don’t like his policy. We don’t like where this is going.”
Now, again, if you’re going to sit and whiteboard this whole thing, so how do we find a solution to this problem? Well, we don’t like this guy. We don’t like what he’s doing. We don’t like the people he’s surrounding himself with, and we don’t like the implications of where this is could go because it’s going to hurt other people. Great. That’s your starting point. That’s your, why are we here. The next step (and I think this is the key to all of this), the next step isn’t simply, “Ah, we’re mad. We want someone else to be our elected leader. This is a corrupt system.” No, again, you have to begin to more towards where do you want to go. Okay.
I mentioned earlier we have issues of misogyny and bigotry. We have issues of xenophobia and homophobia. We have all of these things that we’re saying, “All of these things are bad.” Nobody’s arguing with them. Well, some people maybe. I’m not arguing with that. What I am arguing with that fact is, where do you want this to go? If you don’t like these things, are we putting all of our hope into one basket? Meaning, all of our hope gets surrounded in the office of the presidency or elected officials. We expect them to do the right thing because that’s always worked because politicians usually do the right thing. [sarcasm] If we have this energy and you have this sense of injustice that’s going on, how do you rope this together to do something positive in your own communities, and make sure people are not being hurt, or marginalized, or pushed to the wayside. You see, I think those are the constructive questions that we have to begin to ask ourselves.
It’s easy to mad about something. It’s hard to make a change about that something that you’re mad about. I will say this again. The change that we are looking for in America today is not going to happen by an elected official. It’s going to happen when we begin to collect these people that have this common angst together, and push them in a direction where they can have a common vision for a new way to live, a common vision for the future. Then, you begin to lay forward tangible steps for how to get there. Much like that—what is his name again?—much like Cannon John is saying here in this is, “There must be clearly defined and wildly understood aim for this protest.” See, I think ultimately, we want to know what is the endgame for this. Is the endgame a huge temper tantrum that says, “Nah. I don’t like Donald Trump.” Well, that’s easy. That’s like saying, “I don’t like the smell of poo.” You can get tons of people together to say they don’t like the smell of poo. Are you going to move into a new direction? Are you going to change your diets? [Laughter] I mean, what are you going to do? It’s something that doesn’t move towards change.
One thing that we can see that Bernie Sanders did right was that he actually laid out clear things. I want to do this. I want to do this. He rallied people around this, not simply just in a Washington-go-out-and-vote type of a way, but also in how do we create grassroots change on the local levels. I think he had that right. If we have all this energy, if we have all of this angst that we can turn into energy, what are we going to do next? I think that is the question that we need to all be wrestling with right now. I think that is more important than us being upset that we have an orange guy in the White House.
Alright. Number five on this list: “The limits of protests must be set beforehand.” He’s doing this from the realm of how do people of faith protest. He says, “Christians can have nothing to do with words of hatred or even worse, acts of violence.” I know we said this a little bit earlier too, but I think that when we begin—I think this is even more so. I was going to say when our actions and our speech, in certain ways, sound like those that we are rallying against, we know we’ve gone wrong. I think this even goes back to a tone when we talk about these things, not even simply in protest. When we talk about these things in and amongst our own networks of people, or if we’re dialoguing with other people who may believe differently than us, I think tone is a huge thing. Because if our tone is angry, if our tone is hateful, if our tone is nasty in the midst of this, I just feel like those are still the seeds for becoming exactly what we hate. I think we have to be very careful. I think we have to be very cautious about the language that we use and the mediums that we use to express our angst.
Number six on this list was, “Any protests must have a reasonable chance of being successful.” He goes on to say, “That if turnout counts, if there’s more press than protesters, those against whom we are protesting are likely to be comforted rather than be challenged.” I think we have to begin to ask ourselves, what is success? I was mentioning before, what is our point? What is our end goal? Also, I think we need to begin to ask ourselves, how do we gauge success? How do we begin to say, “We’re making progress”? How do we begin to say, “This is what change looks like”? I think a lot of these things need to be wrestled through. They need to be wrestled through before we protest. I think they need to be wrestled through after we protest because it’s one thing to collectively get together and yell, and scream, and vent our anger. It’s another thing for us to sit down across the table with other people and begin to wrestle this out. Also, begin to dream about what could be. You see, what we’re moving towards, is more important than what we’re raging against. We have to remember that. We have to remember that what we’re moving towards is more important than what we’re raging against.
To put this in different terms, I want to quote from an article in the Atlantic from Mosies Neiem, where he is talking about why street protests don’t work, ultimately. The point he’s really trying to get at is the point that I’ve been trying to get at the entire hour is that without a plan, these are all a bunch of energy and action without any activism. He puts it this way. He says:
Social media can both facilitate and undermine the formation of more effective political parties. We’re familiar of the power of social media to identify, recruit, mobilize, and coordinate supporters, as well as to fundraise, but we also know that clicktavism and slacktavism undermine real political work by creating a feel-good illusion that clicking “Like” on Facebook page or tweeting a message from the comfort of one’s computer or smartphone, is the equivalent to activism that affects change. What we’ve witnessed in recent years is the popularization of street marches without a plan for what happens next, and how to keep protestors engaged and integrated in the political process. It’s just the latest manifestation of the dangerous illusion that it is possible to have Democracy without political parties, and that street protests based more on social media than sustained political organizing is the way to change society.
So, I want to move towards what’s next. This is back me. [Laughter] This is not the quote anymore. I want to move towards what to do the Monday after protests. Well, I’ll begin by circling back to Henry David Thoreau that I mentioned earlier in the show. In his works, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays, he says this,
If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go. Let it go. Perchance, it will wear smooth. Certainly, the machine will wear out, but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong with which I condemn.
Do we have injustice? Yes. Are there problems? Yes. What now? What do we do with it? We’ve seen this happen before where you get a ton of energy out for movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. The peculiar problem that we stand at right now after these protests comes with the fact that there is not one unifying cause that is uniting all of the people that are protesting besides the fact that they don’t like Trump and what he stands for. In the past, we’ve had the Vietnam War, we’ve had civil rights, we’ve had government bailouts, we’ve had other problems that had a cohesive structure to them. This is the problem we have. This is what we’re trying to fix. If you look at all the signs and all the protesters that we had over the weekend, there are a myriad of different groups being displayed here. That spells trouble for being able to organize. Are we about reproductive rights? Are we about the environment? Are we about immigration and trying to figure out how to fix the problem that we have there? What are we about? Up until this point, all we can say is we’re just simply anti-Trump.
Now, if you go and read the Women’s March on Washington, if you look at their document that has the guiding vision and defining principles that would argue with what I’m actually trying to say here. They would say that this isn’t about Trump. This is about women’s rights. I’ll read you just the beginning of it just to give you a flavor or an idea of what it looks like. It says:
The Women’s March on Washington is a women-lead movement bringing together people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations, and backgrounds in our nation’s capital on January 21, 2017, to affirm our shared humanity, and pronounce our bold message of resistance and self-determination recognizing that women have intersecting identities, and there are, therefore, impacted by a multitude of social justice and human rights issues. We have outlined a representative vision for a government that is based on the principles of liberty and justice for all. As Dr. King said, “We cannot walk alone.” As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. Liberations is bound in each other. The Women’s March on Washington includes leaders of organizations in communities that have been building the foundation for social progress for generations. We welcome vibrant collaborators and honor the legacy of movements before us, the suffragists, the abolitionists, the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, the American Indian Movement, the Occupy Wall Street Movement, Marriage Equality, Black Lives Matter, and more by employing a decentralized, leaderful structure and focusing on ambitious, fundamental, and comprehensive agendas.
Now, what I get out of that is we all want a little bit of everything. Even if you did this—because they laid out this whole list of other movements that they’re echoing and championing, like the Civil Rights movements. There were specific objectives that they were going after. Occupy Wall Street, eh, kind of the specific they were going after. Marriage Equality, specific. Black Lives Matter, more or less specific. You see these specific movements, and now you end of up with the broad mosaic of folks from different backgrounds and different belief systems coming together under a common vague cause. This is funny because I would tell you that I’m an advocate of people coming together. I’m an advocate of diversity. I’m an advocate of different views coming to a table to be able to discuss what needs to be done. Let me just, first of all, say, I am all for this approach in the appropriate scenes, circles, and scenarios that you find yourself within. When you begin to do this, this ends of being this mixed hat of different agendas all coming together. The problem with that is, like we’ve said before already, it’s great for having a march. It is bad for having a movement. You can bring all these folks together that have vaguely similar desires, but in the end, if we were to all turn and get people together to begin to have a collective vision of where we want to move, I think that’s where it will begin to break down.
Again, I am not attacking in any way just the heart and the desires that they have in this, I’m just actually really attacking how effect and efficient is this for inciting real change. If you continue to go down through this guiding vision and definition of principles in this statement, they have stuff about we believe in women’s rights, we believe in human rights, gender justice, all economic justice, and these are all stuff, which is funny, these are all stuff that I agree with. I’m not going to be arguing any of these particular issues. We’d be like, “Mmm. No. I totally disagree with police brutality. I think we need more police brutality.” [sarcasm] No, I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is, you are going to end up getting yourself involved with a mixed bag, with mixed trajectories, and mixed visions. That will not sustain you as you try to transition this into a movement that makes real and effective change.
Is it great to have a party? Is it great to have a rally with all these folks coming together? Absolutely. Can we all have a beer together? Certainly. Are their points and ideas valid in and amongst all this in this document? Absolutely. This isn’t simply coming out against this saying you’re wrong. What I’m trying to say is you are right if you want to have a march that gets millions of people out there. You’re wrong if you’re trying to pivot this into being something that has lasting change.
Let me say this. Here’s what you have to do. Something brought you to the table. There’s some cause that brought you here to be a part of a movement like this. Right? There’s going to be some cause that you have great passion for. Maybe it’s gender equality. Maybe it is ending police brutality. Maybe it is something about reproductive freedom in all those things. You’re going to have what you would say—it’s probably not the way you’d say it—you have a pet passion. You have this thing that when you hear about it, when people talk about it, you get very passionate about it. You go and read up on it because you care deeply about this fill-in-the-blank issue.
Here’s just my advice for what to do on Monday morning after the march. Take your issue. Is it gender justice? Is it LGBTQIA rights? Is it human rights? Is it equal pay rights? Is it climate change? Is it whatever? Whatever that thing is for you, my advice for you is this. Take that pet project and find somewhere in your local community that you can join others in making affective change. Find a place that you can go and invest your time and money in to make that change happen. If you care about climate change, get involved with an organization. If you care about workers’ rights, or minimum wage, or living wage, get involved with a group that will help to make change for that.
The problem is this. Actually, what I’m saying is, it’s almost like you get too much good all at once. Like, I like ice cream. I like pizza. I like beer, but I don’t like them all together. Does that make sense? If I was to pile them all together and try to taste it, it would probably be pretty awful. If I take a bite of this, if I take a bite of this, and I take a swig of this, I can enjoy them in their own rights. What I’m just trying to get at within this, whatever that you feel passionate about, whatever drove you out to the streets, whatever you were making and writing down on your sign before you marched, decide now to go invest locally in that.
Forget the politics of all of this because that will probably come from whatever organization that you’re working with. Again, we have to remember this. Politicians in Washington will not bring about the change that we care about. It’s a corrupt system of politicians that, ultimately, only care about two things: getting more power and staying in power. It’s a very self-fulfilling act that they do. Elect me, and I will do this for you. No, no, no. If we were honest about this, most politicians are saying, “Elect me so I can do bigger and greater things. Elect me so I can get wealthier. Elect me so I can make a name for myself.” After you leave the voting booth, little is really done. My advice for all of this is get involved, but get involved and stay focused. I feel like good intentions are great. They also say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If we end up running around just investing ourselves in minor areas and stretching ourselves way too thin, we’re never going to really impact any kind of movement and any kind of change in our country.
If you’re a person of faith, this stands for you as well. I’m not even talking about which side of the aisle that you would be on, whether it be right or whether it be left. If you believe in the right for babies to not be aborted, then go and invest yourself. I use this example all the time. Don’t go and invest yourself in a cheap way. Don’t go out and picket abortion clinics. Don’t go and do that. Go and try to invest in the lives of these young women that are finding themselves in a crisis scenario. Invest in their lives. The problem with this and the problem with simple and cheap advocacy is that it requires very little of us. If you are going to go invest, invest greatly in these areas. Invest in a way that costs something from you.
That’s why when they talk about slacktavism and simply just being able to push your thoughts, push your agendas over Facebook. For you to create a post or to share a post, it requires very, very little of you. Guess what? Everybody else who’s doing that requires very little of them. At the end of the day, we all know somewhere deep in the recesses of our minds, that posting and doing things in that manner, really don’t do anything. You kind of half-ass it. I’ll half-ass it. We all half-ass it, and then we get Donald Trump. I know I’m oversimplifying things. What I’m saying is, what your guiding principles are, what your guiding vision is for this country, regardless of where you stand on this (and I’m speaking outside of party lines), go and invest where you can make positive change.
Arguing with people that don’t believe like you is not positive change. Going out and picketing, and screaming at people, and shaming people, is not positive change. Positive change comes when you invest yourself deeply in a cause. Those causes should be something that, hopefully, move towards making things better for humanity collectively in your community, in your state, in your country, and around the world. If you’re a person of faith, your faith should guide you towards being a healing factor in this world, not a dividing factor. We have to ask ourselves, are our words and our actions, are they creating healing or are they creating greater division? It’s very easy to demonize Donald Trump. By no means am I sticking up for him. He is just a result of a system that is corrupt that we’re living within. I know he’ll paint himself as the outsider, but he’s an insider. He’s part of a corrupt system that will continue to work in its corrupt ways unless we choose to invest ourselves and our lives very deeply in the things that matter.
That’s all we’ve got for the show today. Thank you for listening. I really just appreciate it. If you have feedback, if you have ideas, if you want to call me out, feel free. You can email us at email@example.com. Just a reminder as we end this broadcast, you can always find us on podcast at www.snarkyfaith.com. Catch us on Twitter. Catch us on Facebook. We love to hear feedback. If you want to be a part of “What’s good // What’s bad,” send me links. Send me great stuff that we can rip on.
That’s all I’ve got this week. Thank you so much for joining us. I will catch you again next week.
A rundown of all you need to know about the new normal including Trump’s inauguration, Christian’s obsession with Israel and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for America. We’ve also added a new segment called 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”]
Well, good afternoon, and welcome to another round of Snarky Faith Radio. I’m your host, Stuart Delony. As a matter of housekeeping, I just wanted to give a shout out to you guys, our dear listeners, from the airwaves. Also, for those of you listening to us via Internetlandtopia, “What’s up? Hey. How’s it going?” More importantly, I just to thank you guys for tuning in week after week being a part of this show as it continues to grow and get more traction. We can’t do it without you, so much appreciation to all of you.
If you’re looking to connect with us more and more, you can find us on www.snarkyfaith.com. You can go on Facebook/SnarkyFaith. It’s just that easy, or you can find us on Twitter, same idea, Twitter/ — what is it again? Huh? Huh? What is it? That’s right it’s SnarkyFaith. That was an easy pop quiz to start off the show.
What I wanted to do is give you a little snapshot of where we were going to be going over this next hour taking this from the perspective of, hey, we’ve got the shallow end. You know the area where you like to dip those toesies in and it progresses all the way to the deep-end-type conversations. Remember, I will have no running on the side of the pool. We may have to pull out the lifeguard whistle if that’s going on. No tomfoolery around here whatsoever especially on the show called Snarky Faith. [laughs] [sarcasm]
Some of the shallow end, which you may laugh at even the mention of this being the shallow end, would be our nightmare scenario that happens this coming Friday otherwise know as the presidential inauguration. We’ll dip our toes into that just a little bit. As we start to get into the deeper dive, we’ll hop in to a little topic.
To be honest, it’s something that’s baffled me in my faith walk, ever since I was a kid, was this one thing. You’d hear people talk about it. You hear people going on and on about it, support this one area. I just found it to be incredibly bizarre. As our deeper end segment that we’ll get into may be one of those things that may create a little bit of ire amongst some of you out there. I invite the conversation.
Through the course of this, my whole goal would be, really, to ask more questions than to, actually, prove a point or to say this is right or wrong. That topic being, that I want to hop in with, will be what is Christian’s obsession with Israel? This whole “We’re a Christian nation. We have to stand behind Israel for whatever the heck they want to do.” It doesn’t make sense. What’s the history behind it? All that kind of good stuff. We’ll hop into that, and then, we’ll find ourselves landing off that diving board at the end talking a little bit about Dr. Martin Luther King. How’s that sound for you, boys and girls? How’s that sound for a show setup? I think it’s a good one. Let’s just go ahead and hop in.
Starting off the show, I wanted to start this off with a new segment that we’re going to be bringing here to the show. Here’s how it’s going to work. The new segment is going to be called — I guess, if I’m giving it to you now, it’s not going to be called anything. It actually is this. We’re going to have this segment recurring on the website and also, here on the radio, called, “What’s good? What’s bad?”
It’s really going to chronicle things that have occurred out there in the interwebs over the past week, some of them good, some of them bad, mainly, stuff in the vein that you would expect from this show, mainly, in the vein in the things that we shall call, “Very Snarky.” Some of them will make you go, “Huh.” Some of them will make you go, “Aha.” That’s really the goal for it. What we’ll do is that I will give an overview of them here on the show, but you can find all the links, all the transcriptions, from a broader base on our website at www.snarkyfaith.com. How’s that sound? Here we have it, “What’s good? What’s bad?” from the past week.
The first up on the list, we have Martin Shkreli. If anybody knows him, they pretty much hate him or want to punch him in the face. He’s the guy also known as the “Pharma bro”, the dude that took over a pharmaceutical company, jacked up the prices just to make a bunch of profit. He’s super creepy, super smug. Like I said before, he kind of has one of those faces that just begs to be punched.
The first one we’re having here in the “What’s good? What’s bad?” is good for me. It’s probably bad for Martin. They had a video [laughs] where he was being interviewed and, of all things, somebody pelted him with dog poo on the face. It’s a beautiful moment. [sarcasm] Just makes me smile. Moving on.
Next, we have what I would say is pretty beautiful on many different fronts, where you actually have a comic book artist that has turned Donald Trump’s most controversial quotes into comic book covers from comics that we know and we love. It’s as amazing as you can think. It’s really just one of those things that I personally feel is just escapism, ways to survive the coming apocalypse of our dear Führer, the Don.
Then, stepping into the realm of the absurd because there’s only one way to think of this situation as absurd. There was a guy who, apparently, had nothing better to do. His YouTuber name is Mr. Beast. Apparently, as we all do, we have dumb ideas from time to time. No, no, no. Mr. Beast said, “My dumb idea needs to be transitioned into YouTube gold.” He, literally, counted to 100,000 on video for no good reason. It took him 40 hours on YouTube to count that high.
Hey, if any of you are listening to this right now and feeling like you are pretty lazy and that you’re wasting time by not being productive enough in January because January is all about resolutions and being productive and making our life grand [sarcasm], just think of Mr. Beast, a dude who killed 40 hours on camera simply counting to 100,000. Well done, buddy. [sarcasm] We can all do it. We just don’t choose to do it because it’s a tremendous waste of time.
Lastly, I give you something that’s good but something that’s pretty horrible at the same time for you. Taco Bell has released the fact that they are going to be rolling out the Naked Chicken Chalupa. That sounds decent enough, right? Taco Bell. Chicken chalupa. Uh-huh. [sarcasm] No, no. Here’s where it goes wrong. The entire taco shell is made out of fried chicken. It ends up feeling like one of those things you’d find at a carnival where they deep fry Snickers, or sticks of butter, or things of that realm of whatever you want to call it, of disgustingness.
I guess it’s one way for you to, somehow, be able to block out the coming apocalypse that happens this Friday called the inauguration. So, yeah, go ahead eat up however many god-forsaken calories that is going to be contained in that thing that is absolutely disgusting. Again, thanks, Taco Bell. You know how to procure wonderful delights that, pretty much, only makes sense to potheads late at night. Well done. Well done because this somehow topped your Cheeto chalupa and your Dorito taco. I didn’t think you could top it, but you proved me wrong once again. [sarcasm]
To the last two items on our list of “What’s good? What’s bad” for this week, the first one of those two comes from Martin E. Marty, who writes an article called “The Metaphysical Moment.” It really began to tap into to something that I found very interesting lately. If any of you out there have been watching HBO’s Westworld or Netflix’s The OA, both of which, are quite interesting. What Martin, here, is getting out is that we’re hitting this pop culture moment, this pop culture metaphysical moment, where we’re beginning to look at these weird interchanges between what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to have knowledge? What does it mean to be a part of some sort of a faith community?
If you haven’t seen either of those, one of those that I would recommend more than the other — I enjoyed Westworld and I’m really still curious what is going to happen next. Watching Westworld, I had that feeling the entire time through the series. This is really interesting. I’m really enjoying this. There’s not a whole lot for me to hook my claws into while I’m watching this, but I just kept waiting for something more to happen. Every episode left you with this, “I’m waiting for something more to happen.”
Of those two, the first one I mentioned was OA, which is over on Netflix that my wife and I totally binge-watched through. I’m not even sure what the past tense of binge-watched is. OA, it is a fascinating, ambiguous, mysterious bit of television that is going out there that I was engaged with the entire time. There was larger questions of the afterlife, larger questions of existence and connection, and what does it mean to be part of a community? I found the show quite beautiful and was left with a cliffhanger at the end of it going, “Oh my gosh. When is season two going to happen? Is it going to happen? When is it going to happen? It can’t happen soon enough.” I really, really enjoyed that.
I, also, enjoyed Martin’s article, too, on that. I think you will find really interesting because I think he’s tapping into something that — we’re hitting this weird moment where, for the longest time in our culture, there was science. There was religion, and never the two shall meet. The two, science and religion, will, oftentimes, seem to be enemies of one another. I think through the realms of story and storytelling, mini-series and TV, we’re beginning to see these larger questions that are being asked that, honestly, I wish were being asked in faith communities, that I wish were being asked in churches, but are not.
Martin’s article begins to scratch the surface of something that I felt has been going on that, maybe, science and religion are not mutually exclusive. Maybe, they can be something that informs one another, and this divide that we’ve drawn needs to be erased so that voices from both sides can begin to talk, and to listen, and to learn from one another.
On that, my last item for our “What’s good? What’s bad?” of the week is from none other than Russell Brand. I know. I know. Some of you love him. Some of you hate him. It seems like more people out there hate him, but I will tell you this, that dude can ask some interesting questions here and there when he’s not being overtly crass.
He published an article this week — not an article. He published a video this week of him talking through what led us to where we are at here right now to where, somehow, to most of the country, where Trump made sense, or across the pond over in England where Brexit made sense. Instead of him attacking where we are at, which, hey, I do it. [laughs] Many of us do it. I call it a coping mechanism. It’s the only way I survive by being snarky and attacking these things.
What I love that Brand does in this video that you can find on our website, is that he begins just to ask the deeper questions of what brought us here and why did those two huge decisions that impact each of our nations, that will impact many more than just our two nations. Why were we at a place where this, somehow, made sense to a lot of people, where these options made too much sense? I think his voice is one that we need to listen to, to hold on to, and to wrestle through. I would just go ahead and tell you it is definitely worth a listen. You should hop on over there.
That brings us to the end of this segment. I would love it if you guys see stuff that’s good and bad, that’s interesting, and aha-type moments, if you could send them to us. We could include them on the show, include them on the website. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or just interact with us on Facebook and Twitter. Now, we’re going to move on from there.
I mentioned this earlier as we began our show, the first talking points that we’re going to delve into for this show segment is the impending doom of the inauguration that happens this Friday. I know that many of us are having a hard time dealing with this. There’s a lot of protests going on. There is a lot of activity over social media and through the news. It’s like a bad dream that is found its way into reality.
Oftentimes, when we have these bad dreams, we wake up and go, “Oh my gosh. Yes, it was only a dream.” We’re now at this critical mass moment of going, “Oh my gosh. It was only a dream. Wait. No. It’s not.” This is our new normal. This is our new reality. We are going to have Donald Trump as president. For how long? We’re not sure. He will probably do that on his own if there’s going to be something along the lines of an impeachment pending forward. He’ll dig his own grave with that one.
Oftentimes, I felt that being able to watch Saturday Night Live or different late-night comedy hosts is the laugher that is medicine that we need. We need to be able to laugh our way through this insane place that we find ourselves in this moment of history where, most certainly, if the world lasts years into the future, that I believe historians will find great interest in being able to dissect what led to all of these things happening.
What I want to tell you is this, the new buzzword that we have out across the news, across social media, is the “fake news” that is going on. It was last week, I believe, when Trump was even declaring that CNN was fake news. It’s become this thing that has creeped into our lexicon. Instead of sitting there, because that’s kind of low hanging fruit being able to pick through the fake news, what I want to be able to do is to pick through the real news.
If you watch news, if you pay attention to your Facebook feed, if you digest the news online or watch it on TV, one thing that I’ve noticed overwhelming over the last while, is that we will get caught up in these bizarre news cycles much like — let me pause for this. Does anybody remember back in the day when we had Weekly World News? Do you remember that? You were in the checkout line in the grocery store and they would have these ridiculous headlines about Batboy being found or Elvis still being alive. I will tell you that I love those guys.
I was taking a speech class in college and we had to come up with a persuasive speech, a speech where we were taking a topic where most people would disagree with. We had to give a speech that would convince our audience otherwise. Me being snarky even back in my younger days, I decided to take on the fact that I wanted to prove that Elvis was still alive, really, because it amused me. For my backing sources, I ended up writing them a letter. This is not pre-email but things weren’t as online as they are nowadays. I ended up, literally, handwriting an email to the Weekly World News down in Florida. They were gracious enough and sent me an entire packet of all of the crazy and insane news that they had curated over the years about Elvis being alive. Long story short, I got an “A” on the project. I was one of the few persuasive speakers in that class that was able to win over a bunch of people on a topic as ridiculous as whether or not Elvis is alive.
My point being, we used to have those tabloid-driven news, which we still have today in the checkout lines and we have them online as well. It feels like the mainstream media — and I know, I know me saying this makes my skin crawl because I feel like it makes me end up sounding like Sarah Palin. That is one person you never want to sound like unless you’re probably doing drunk karaoke. One thing I want us to begin to do is to become very attuned listeners to when we digest news that is coming our way.
I can think of this last week, half of it was the fake news that came out about Trump, and having Russian prostitutes, and having them pee on a bed because what else do you do with Russian prostitutes besides have them pee on a bed. [sarcasm] This thing was given way too much traction. It was given way too much time, and the news continued to run with it because (a) it’s absurd, (b) it gets people’s interest because it’s ridiculous. It could be true which makes it even more ridiculous, but most likely, it’s not true. I think that we need to become a people that are discerning listeners, people that aren’t sharing crazy crap unless it’s in a “What’s good? What’s bad?” section on our show.
I think as we move into what it looks like a Trump presidency, I think that we need to learn how to listen better. I think that we need to learn how to digest the things that we’re talking about, and we’re Tweeting about, and blogging about, and, hey, on my own time, what I’m yelling on the radio about. I think we need to move back towards what it would mean to be reasonable.
I know it feels like we are in a time right now where nothing is reasonable and everyone is our enemy, that there are so many crazy people out there whether they be — hey, if you’re a conservative, the liberals are crazy. If you’re a liberal, the conservatives are crazy. We’ve just moved to a place where we can’t even have a reasonable conversation anymore with one another. If there’s anything that is good that we can bring out of this insanity that is the Trump presidency, it should be that we need to return towards being people that are thoughtful, people that pause before we answer, people that think about how our words are going to impact others, and at the end of day, people that are worried about the greater good.
I know a lot of times we get caught up in the fact that we want to be able to rant about stuff. I do it. I have a radio show and I do it, so I’m as guilty as anybody. I think that instead of us ranting on things, I think that we need to learn to be able to pause, to take a deep breath, and to have a deeper introspection towards how we engage with the world around us because, really, what’s happened lately is that everything seems to just spiral out of control. News stories spiral out of control. We get more interested by just the insidious nature of humanity through the news to where the news has become, pretty much, like the Weekly World News used to be. That’s not good.
When we begin to consume things that turn us on our neighbor, when we begin to consume things that make us worried about the other in our culture, we’ve brought ourselves to a point where we are not people that are understanding of other people’s stories. We begin to get hyper-judgmental about stuff. We don’t give people the benefit of the doubt. I think we need to learn how to play nice all over again. I will tell you, this is not an easy road. I will tell you that this is going to take time, this is going to take patience, and it is going to take some sort of fortitude that we have to draw from deep within ourselves in order to take that deep breath and not lash back at the other when they are making crazy allegations or causing crazy names of us.
As we look towards this Trump inauguration, I would hope that we can move closer towards sanity and further away from insanity because the way things are rolling, things are just going to get more and more crazy if we continue on this path. I think it brings us to this point where we need to be able to say, “Enough is enough.” I want to restore sanity. I want to restore humanity. I want to end up being a good neighbor. I want to end up being a person that is thoughtful, that is kind, that can put a stop to all of this vitriol that keeps rolling around social media, the news, and even within common conversations that we’re having with others.
My advice to you moving forward is to learn to take a deep breath, learn to let certain comments just move on, but have the posture that you want to make things better. Look in your community, in your own spheres, how you can change things positively, how you can make a difference. That is the only way that we are going to be able to make any kind of positive change moving forward in the midst of all of this insanity.
Moving on to the topic of Christianity’s absolute obsession with the nation-state of Israel. I will begin this conversation with the end of a speech by Susan Michael that is from the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem. She ends this prayer breakfast speech with these words, and I think we can use some of these words to be able to frame the conversation that is surrounding Christianity’s obsession with nation-state of Israel.
She ends up by saying this, “To summarize, we stand with Israel and her claim to Jerusalem because we share the same biblical and historical connection. We honor the unique national and spiritual connection that the Jewish people and the Jewish nation have for the City of Jerusalem. We trust Israel to maintain the safety and freedom of worship for everyone throughout Jerusalem, and lastly, we believe that just as you cannot separate Christianity from its Jewish roots, you cannot separate Jerusalem from its Jewish history. It is an eternal, spiritual, and historical reality.”
I mentioned this earlier when I was prefacing the whole show, but one of these weird things that I’ve had within Christianity is this insistence — I’ve heard it preached through pulpits. I’ve read it on blog posts. I’ve seen it on social media posts about this insistence that Christianity support the nation-state of Israel.
If you’ve noticed the fact that I continue to say the word nation-state before Israel is because I think that we have gotten things, oftentimes, confused. I think, oftentimes, in Christianity, we see the Children of Israel, we see this kinship that we have towards the Children of Israel throughout scripture, and we say we must continue to protect the Children of Israel.
My issue has always come from the fact that I believe that we get mixed up when we begin to look at things through geo-political borders, and we mix them with spiritual truths that we have grown up with. Oftentimes, I see this throughout culture, and it’s something that I like to point out, usually in private with my wife later after I’ve had interactions with very enthusiastic Christians about things. There’s a statement that I continue say oftentimes is that I know the words that they are using but the way that they define those words are not the way that I define those words.
For example, off topic of Israel, oftentimes, people will begin to talk about the Good News of Christianity. It’s a buzzword within these circles. We talk about the Good News. We need to give people the Good News. What is the Good News that we are giving them? First and foremost is that they are going to hell. In my short life that I have had here, which I can say short life because it makes me feel better — Yes, in my almost 40 years of being on this planet, typically, good news is not prefaced with bad news. Oftentimes, when I hear Christians talk about the Good News, you’re all sinners and you’re destined for hell, but the Good News is, apparently, that we had a rageaholic god [sarcasm] that, somehow, Jesus came and lived a sinless life, and died in our place on the cross. People would say that’s the Gospel.
The Good News is the fact that we all suck, that God has anger issues [sarcasm], but, thankfully, Jesus came and died for all of us, and that’s really the Good News. Because the Good News is we get a “Get Out of Hell Free” card to be able to move forward. To me, starting out with calling people dirt and saying that they’re crap, and mentioning that God is good but, at the same time, he’s a rageaholic. That doesn’t sound, to me, like good news. Oftentimes, we throw around these terms where you may use them in one way. I may use them in a different way, but we end up using the same words.
I get into this argument a lot of times where I will say this, that I don’t necessarily believe the institutional church, the way the church exists now and probably has for a long while. People will say, “Oh, no, no. You’re supposed to. We have to believe in the church.” I think that the word “church” has gotten messed up too. The church is simply supposed to be a group of people that are believers that live life with a different ethic, that live life in a way that they are here to offer healing to those that hurt, that are here to offer wholeness for those that feel broken. Oftentimes when we see church, we see large buildings. We see money flowing in and out of different ministries and ways that do not seem to be about the teachings of Jesus. In that aspect, I feel like we get the words up.
In this aspect, when we were talking about Israel, I think we get the words mixed up. I think there’s a spiritual people of God that follow after God, and then, I think there’s a nation-state that we, somehow, give a free pass to simply because we like to claim we are a Christian nation.
This whole issue of the American church giving a blank check to Israel for whatever they do because we support them because this area that wasn’t established until — what was it? — until the late ‘40’s, that this area, somehow, holds a spiritual connection to us that we must, somehow, defend it blindly. Yes, I do understand that when we talk about Israel, we talk about Jerusalem, we talk about the summit of holy places for many different religions whether it be Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam. This ends up being a highly debated area. When begin to think about the politics of the Middle East, it gets even more and more dicey. I wanted to throw into this — really, I don’t have answers. I just have lots of questions.
There was a post that was done recently by Christy Thomas. She is the author ofThe Thoughtful Pastor. She was offering her thoughts on the way that Christians and Christianity hold onto Israel. I really like some of her words and I’ll read a few of them here.
She begins in her article by giving us a little bit of a historical context for all of this. When we begin to figure out what is our ties, especially, within the Christian faith to Israel, it comes from Genesis 12:1-3, and it says this. It says, “The Lord said to Abraham, leave your land, your family, and your father’s household, for the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse, and all the families on Earth will be blessed because of you.”
We begin to understand these roots come from the Old Testament, and we begin to understand this tie to the descendants of Abraham. She summarizes her article in this, and I’ll just read this verbatim. Her words are better than my words. It comes from the subtitle of “The Danger of Religious Mandates to Rule.”
She says, “As a person of faith it grieves me to write this, however, anytime some secular rule claims a religious mandate to the rule, that result will always be oppression coupled with evil actions towards those who do not fit that particular religious structure. It doesn’t matter whether the religious power is Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Orthodox, or any other faith community. The original Abrahamic covenant springs from the idea that God uniquely chose to bless Abraham. Then, Abraham along with his decedents passed that blessing on to everyone else. They are blessed to be a blessing. That part of the covenant must be honored.”
She, then, goes on to ask these questions. “So do I support Israel? Of course. Should the U.S.? Of course, Israel is a sovereign nation with rights to exist.” Then, she counters it with saying this, “But should that support mean a blind approval for systematic mistreatment of others? No, neither Israel nor any other nation gets a bye when it comes to the basic ethics and morality. No, neither Israel nor any other nation gets a bye when it comes to the basic ethics and morality.”
When I begin to think back just over my upbringing and being around just Christianity, I always had that question. Why? I had questions where the Children of Israel in the Bible, these spiritual children that followed after God, are they the same things as the nation-state that exists now, that is embroiled in a ton of nastiness? Nastiness is putting it very lightly when it comes to the whole Israeli, Palestinian conflict that continues on. My question for those of faith that begin to walk it out really comes in the fact of should we question a lot of these precepts that we’ve held onto? Should we question about these human rights violations that are happening? Does Israel deserve a blank check simply because I believe that we’ve misunderstood God’s blessing onto a group of people?
Those are questions. If you guys have other questions, if you have other comments, I would love to hear them, but as our time is running down, I want to move on to our final segment.
Lastly, I want to leave us in this show on somewhat of a higher note, on a higher note that I say in a way that I mean that I want something for us to aspire to, to aspire to be something better than where we are at right now. I want us to aspire to be a better country. I want us to aspire to be a better people and being a people that have values, that have principles, that have a guiding light for what we want to become, for where we want to go, and for what type of future we want to leave for our children.
On that note, especially, since yesterday was Martin Luther King Day, I want us to remember his sacrifice. I want us to remember his words. I want us to not just remember him as a great man who many sacrifices, who made many strides towards bringing equality to our nation, but he is a man that had a significant dream, a dream that was not a fantasy, but a dream that is something that we can strive towards, that we still need to strive towards, about a future that we want to have, a future that we need to have.
I’ll leave you with this. This is his speech, his famous “I Have a Dream” speech that was performed at Morehouse College a few years back with a myriad of voices from different backgrounds as seen in this beautiful mosaic, the dream that he had. I’ll leave you with that today because I think it’s a beautiful rendition, but I also think that Martin Luther King paints a beautiful picture of the future that we could have and the future that we should have.
There are many things that we are not happy with that are going on in the world today. I think that those things can lead us to be cynical and bitter. Those things can lead us to entrench ourselves, those things lead us to begin to not see the humanity in other people. In the events that have been going on recently, here and abroad, I think that we need to continue to dream about a better tomorrow. We need to continue to dream about a world that we want to see our children raised in, a future that isn’t driven by fear and hate but one where the love of each other is a driving force.
You’re listening to this show, and it’s called Snarky Faith, and more often than not, we’ll continue to push this idea that the ways and the teachings of Jesus lead us to supreme change, and those ways led Dr. King on a trajectory where he gave his whole self, his whole life to an idea that future can be better. Here’s that speech and I will let it close out the show. We will catch you again next week.
[Begin Audio Clip of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech read by multiple people
Female Voice 1: I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of our nation. Five score years ago, a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.
Male Voice 1: One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
Male Voice 2: In a sense, we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Female Voice 2: It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vault of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
Male Voice 3: We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s people.
Female Voice 3: It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
Female Voice 4: But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
Male Voice 4: We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
Female Voice 5: And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
Male Voice 5: We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Female Voice 6: I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
Male Voice 6: I say to you today, my friends. So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Female Voice 7: I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Female Voice 8: I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
Female Voice 9: This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
Female Voice 10: And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
Female Voice 11: And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!