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Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Deleterious Effects of Man Made Religion: The Spirit of AntiChrist

I am telling this story to make a point, not to elicit praise or criticism for myself. A little over a week ago it was brought to my attention that a young coworker of mine had just moved into a new apartment with some of his buddies and didn't have any money left to buy food (his friends were in the same circumstance). I knew this young man attended church and was very conscientious about wanting to live within God's will. As a consequence, one day after work, I took him to shop for just enough groceries to tide him and his friends over until the next payday.

When payday finally arrived, I asked him how he and his buddies were getting along. "OK, but I've only got $60 left from my paycheck to buy groceries!" he replied. "How can that be?" I asked. "After I pay my tithes and my back tithes where I fell behind, there just isn't much left," he answered. "You do realize that God wants you to take care of yourself and your friends before you contribute to the Church don't you?" I demanded. "Well, God's supposed to get his ten percent regardless of my personal circumstances!" he replied with that glassy-eyed look I remembered from my days as a member of the Worldwide Church of God.

It is abhorrent to me that ministers use the members of their congregation in this fashion, and I can't think of a single good justification for this young man's situation. If the minister is unaware of his circumstances, then shame on him for not being more familiar with his flock! If he is aware of those circumstances, then shame on him for allowing this young man to be in this predicament! According to Scripture, the minister's primary concern and responsibility should be for the care and welfare of his flock - especially those individuals who are the most vulnerable.

It seems to me that tithing and church governance are probably the two most severely abused doctrines extant within the Christian community. Instead of fulfilling their God given duties to shepherd the flock within their care, many ministers seem bent on milking every penny from them that they can get their money-grubbing hands on! Likewise, many ministers seem to be more concerned with preserving the prerogatives, perks, authority and respect that they feel is due to them than in fulfilling any supposed responsibilities their position might entail.

They conveniently fail to point out to their parishioners that tithing was given anciently to the agrarian and theistic society of the Israelites. Under this system, it was assumed that the people would contribute ten percent of their increase or profit to God's service (and God's service was not defined so narrowly as it is today - i.e. supporting the church). In other words, an Israelite farmer was expected to set aside ten percent of the calves or kids that his herds/flocks produced that year (or ten percent of the crops that his fields yielded that year) to enable him and his family to attend the annual religious festivals specified in the Law of Moses and to support the Levites in the Temple at Jerusalem and to support the Levites and poor who were scattered across the country every third year. Hence, it was assumed that the farmer already had a home, lands, herds/flocks and seed before anything was set aside for the Lord.

There is another common misconception about tithing that people have used to great effect against the poor and disadvantaged. In modern times, tithing has been equated with a flat tax (a system whereby everyone, rich and poor, pay the same rate). Sorry, a thorough reading of Scripture destroys such an understanding! Christ's story of the widow's mite directly contradicts any such notion. The poor widow gave out of her want, but the rich man gave out of his abundance. The principle is clear: Ten percent of a person's wages who is currently living below the poverty level (the minimum amount of income required to live within our society) is seen as more in God's eyes than twenty percent of a wealthy person's income.

Ministers would also do well to consider Christ's explicit instructions to his own apostles regarding the exercise of leadership among his people. Christ said: "You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave." --Matthew 20:25-27, NLT Likewise, Peter instructed the elders of the church to: "Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly-not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example." --I Peter 5:2-3, NLT Maybe Peter was remembering Christ's instructions to him to "Take care of my sheep?" --John 21:15-17, NLT

Do any of today's pastors compare to Apollos or Paul in importance and spiritual authority? Yet, when Paul was faced with the factions extant within the Corinthian Church, he wrote: "After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God's servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It's not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What's important is that God makes the seed grow." --I Corinthians 3:5-7, NLT

For those Christians who believe that we are in "the time of the end" and are looking for that spirit that is contrary to the Spirit of Christ, I submit the current understanding of much of Christendom with regard to tithing and church governance for your consideration! Perhaps it's time that Christians and their pastors go back to the Bible they profess to hold so dear and reacquaint themselves with what it actually teaches about these subjects? I think that they will find that a little humility, compassion and common sense will go a long way toward fulfilling God's directives in these areas and making themselves harmonious with God's will.

An alternative to a literal understanding of the Genesis account of creation

In previous posts, I have attacked a literal understanding of the Genesis account of creation. So, what's the alternative? If you propose a metaphorical/allegorical interpretation of these stories, where do you draw the line? Is there any way to reconcile these stories with what follows them? Good questions, that deserve some attention!

First, I think that it is essential to have some awareness of the other creation mythologies of the ancient world and how those may have influenced the writing of the Hebrew Scriptures. Various scholars have compared the Egyptian and Babylonian mythologies to the Genesis accounts and have noted both similarities and differences in explaining what is written there. Although some scholars have chosen to emphasize one tradition over another, I think that it is reasonable for any serious student of the subject to acknowledge that both traditions (Egyptian and Babylonian) had a profound influence on what ended up in the first few chapters of Genesis. After all, the history of the peoples of the Levant must be understood in terms of the almost constant efforts of these civilizations to dominate the region.

Hence, I believe that some of Tony Shetter's observations in his "Genesis 1-2 In Light of Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths" (https://bible.org/article/genesis-1-2-light-ancient-egyptian-creation-myths) offer some reasonable suggestions for the interpretation of the Genesis account of creation. Shetter points out that there are three characteristics that are common to all of the Egyptian creation stories: "a primordial ocean, a primeval hill, and the deification of nature." He goes on to propose that the presence of two distinctly different creation stories in the Hebrew Bible seems to take into account the different notions inherent within Egyptian creation mythology regarding the methodology employed by the gods in their creative work. YHWH speaks things into existence (chapter one) and fashions things into existence (chapter two). Shetter also points out that this is suggestive of the Egyptian view that the creation of the world and the creation of man were separate stories.

Even more significantly, Shetter implies that much of the Genesis creation account is written as a polemic against the gods of Egypt. He points out that the Genesis account makes God the author/source of light, not the sun god. By making the creation of the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day, the Genesis account is clearly downplaying the importance of these objects. This is further reinforced by the fact that the Genesis account fails to even name the sun and moon. Instead, they are referred to as "the greater light" and "the lesser light." The implication is clear that they are inanimate objects that YHWH has created to serve a purpose ("to give light upon the earth"). By their very nature, these writings also imply the superiority of the One True God to the many gods of the Egyptians.

In similar fashion, Bruce A. Robinson's observations in his "Comparing two creation stories: One from Genesis and the other from Babylonian pagan sources" (http://www.religioustolerance.org/com_geba.htm) point out parallels between the Biblical and Babylonian creation mythologies. Like Shetter, Robinson implies that much of the Genesis account is written in the form of a polemic against the Babylonian narrative. The author suggests that many of the characters (God, Adam, Eve, the Serpent) are the same, but their characters and roles have been significantly altered by the author(s) of the Hebrew scriptures. Once again, the objective is to demonstrate YHWH's superiority over the Babylonian deities. Robinson also provides an impressive chart within the text of the article demonstrating the agreement between the two creation chronologies (the order of the creative acts in Genesis compared to the Enuma Elish).

If we accept that the Hebrew creation story is based at least in part on the earlier Egyptian and Babylonian narratives, we should also note that most scholars recognize that these narratives were in turn based on even more ancient traditions. Hence, in a real sense, the Hebrew story is a reaction/response to everything that the cultures who had proceeded them had offered on the subject.

In terms of the relation of the first three chapters of Genesis to the rest of the Bible, it is apparent that certain elements of the story had achieved something approaching an accepted or universal understanding among Jews by the time of the writing of the New Testament. Among these, I would characterize the most important notions as: 1) that the seven day week was inextricably related to YHWH's creation of the earth and everything else, 2) that God was the Master Potter who had fashioned mankind to be like "Him," 3) that the Garden of Eden was representative of an initial state of perfection which mankind was given access to and 4) that mankind had rebelled against his maker and had consequently fallen into a state of imperfection/uncleanness. Christians further refined these understandings to include two important elements relating to their narrative about God's plan to redeem mankind from his fallen state: 1) that the Serpent was representative of Satan the Devil and 2) that the account of the Serpent's punishment should be interpreted as representing a prophecy about Jesus Christ and his ultimate triumph over Satan. Finally, the Gospel of John (along with some of the writings attributed to Paul) insert Jesus Christ into the creation narrative (which also has significant implications for the redemption narrative) and seek to more closely identify him with YHWH.

All of these considerations have led me to state in previous posts that I consider the Genesis creation account to be an emphatic statement that YHWH is the Creator God. When I read the first three chapters of the Bible, the other considerations outlined here inform my understanding of these scriptures. Thus, not only do I reject a literal understanding of these scriptures, I believe that history and the Bible itself provide a framework for understanding them that makes sense and offers a clear alternative to the interpretation of the literalists.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Is the universe organized to produce life?

A friend recently sent me an article entitled "The Man Who May One-Up Darwin" by Meghan Walsh for OZY (http://www.ozy.com/rising-stars-and-provocateurs/the-man-who-may-one-up-darwin/39217.article). It is about a young physicist named Jeremy England who has proposed a new theory about what may be behind the formation of life (the title of the piece is a little misleading - England accepts Darwinian Evolution). Walsh explains England's theory this way: "The 101 version of his big idea is this: Under the right conditions, a random group of atoms will self-organize, unbidden, to more effectively use energy. Over time and with just the right amount of, say, sunlight, a cluster of atoms could come remarkably close to what we call life. In fact, here’s a thought: Some things we consider inanimate actually may already be 'alive.' It all depends on how we define life, something England’s work might prompt us to reconsider. 'People think of the origin of life as being a rare process,' says Vijay Pande, a Stanford chemistry professor. 'Jeremy’s proposal makes life a consequence of physical laws, not something random.'”

Natalie Wolchover also wrote a piece about Jeremy and his theory for Quanta in January of 2014 entitled "A New Physics Theory of Life" (https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/). Ms. Wolchover wrote: "From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat." Continuing, she said that England "has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life." As Wolchover points out, England's thesis is centered on the Second Law of Thermodynamics (or The Law of Increasing Entropy). For those of a more scientific/technical bent, Jeremy's original paper (complete with mathematical equations) entitled "Statistical physics of self-replication" and published in the American Institute of Physics' The Journal of Chemical Physics can be accessed at the following address: http://www.englandlab.com/uploads/7/8/0/3/7803054/2013jcpsrep.pdf

What does all of this have to do with God? Interestingly, Walsh reveals in her article that England strongly identifies with the Jewish religion of his mother. She goes on to point out that Judaism (unlike most Evangelical/Fundamentalist sects of Christianity) does not necessarily believe that the theory of evolution is incompatible with a belief in God. The bottom line: England apparently believes that there is a place for God in all of this. I can see that: If the universe is organized to produce life, isn't it reasonable to suggest that Someone designed it to do so? From my perspective, England's theory has the potential to upend our notions about what it means to be the Creator.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

There's Only One Way To See This Stuff!

Chris Sosa wrote a post for the Huffington Post "Gay Voices" blog today entitled "Fellow Liberals, Please Stop Claiming Jesus Accepts LGBT People" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-sosa/stop-claiming-jesus-accep_b_7051550.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices). In the piece, he chastises liberals for accusing right-wing Christians of not understanding their own religion. Mr. Sosa stated: "Paul condemns queer folks. And there isn't a shred of evidence that Jesus was a fan either, assuming he existed." He continued: "When Christians tell you that their book calls you an 'abomination,' they're more right than wrong. Despite how infrequently it occurs, clobber passages are there." A little later Mr. Sosa reveals the thing that is really irritating him: "if we bother arguing that the Bible supports us, we're conceding its validity as a moral text."

Mr. Sosa and others may not like it, but the reality is that there are a number of different ways to interpret the passages in Scripture which refer to homosexuality. Personally, I agree with the "right-wingers" and Mr. Sosa - I think that Scripture is very explicit in its condemnation of homosexual behavior in a number of passages (e.g. Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13). However, I also believe that Scripture has numerous factual errors and contradictions. As a consequence, I have rejected the doctrines of inerrancy and Sola Scriptura. Hence, I feel comfortable in stating that the Bible is just wrong in the places where it condemns homosexual behavior. It is my opinion that most of the folks who interpret these passages in a way that does not condemn homosexuality are attempting to provide a framework for this topic that enables them (and their supporters) to continue to support the doctrines of inerrancy and Sola Scriptura. This is not the way that I have chosen to attack the issue, but I respect their right to see it differently than I do.

Unfortunately, many of the folks who adopt my approach (including apparently Mr. Sosa) feel justified in completely dismissing the Bible's "validity as a moral text." Having demonstrated to their own satisfaction that Scripture is full of errors and contradictions, they simply cannot see any value in continuing to consult the book or concede that it has the potential to make any meaningful contribution to our dialogue about morality. The Bible is a big book, and it presents a lot of information and viewpoints on a lot of different subjects. To me, it seems just as ridiculous to reject the whole thing as it does to accept it all without reservation.

When my father (or someone else) tells me that the Bible condemns homosexuality, I don't have any problem saying "You're right. And I, along with millions of open and affirming people across this great country, do not care." I can say that because I don't see the Bible in the same way that he does, but he is entitled to see it differently than I do. Moreover, from where I'm sitting, I don't think that my father is any worse off than Mr. Sosa. Sorry sir, I'm still going to say that Jesus accepts LGBT people (I believe that the weight of the evidence from Scripture, science/reason and the world around us points to the conclusion that God and Jesus love and accept gay folks).

Monday, April 13, 2015

What do the writings of Paul tell us about Jesus?

Dr. Barrie Wilson made a presentation to the International Conference on the Arts and Humanities in 2008 entitled "If We Only Had Paul, What Would We Know of Jesus?" (http://www.barriewilson.com/pdf/If-We-Only-Had-Paul.pdf) He wrote: "It is concluded that there is only a slim connection between the teachings of Paul and those of the Jesus of history. Either the life and teachings and teachings of the historical Jesus were not of interest to Paul or else they were simply not known." Likewise, a post by Bob Seidensticker appeared on the blog Patheos in December of 2012 entitled "What Did Paul Know About Jesus? Not Much." (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/12/what-did-paul-know-about-jesus-not-much/) Both men point out that the epistles of Paul are the earliest Christian writings that we have (written before the Gospel narratives). However, both men conclude that Paul revealed very little about the person and/or life of Jesus.

The purpose of this post is to underscore some of the things that Paul's writings reveal about Jesus and allow my readers to reach their own conclusions in this regard. For the purposes of this post, we will confine ourselves to the undisputed (by Biblical scholars) epistles of Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians and I Thessalonians. In doing so, we will avoid subjecting ourselves to any charges of mining questionable sources to discredit the conclusions referenced above. Once again, the reader is left to reach his/her own conclusions about the extent of the information that Paul's writings provide about Jesus and his life and teachings.

According to Paul, Jesus was:

1) born of a woman and had brothers. (Galatians 4:4 and I Corinthians 9:5)
2) an Israelite and a descendant of King David. (Romans 1:3 and 9:5)
3) sent to this earth from heaven by God. (I Corinthians 15:47 and Galatians 4:4)
4) the Son of God. (Romans 1:4 and Galatians 2:20)
5) righteous, and his righteousness is what reconciles us to God. (Romans 5:18-19)
6) surrounded by twelve apostles, one named Cephas (Peter) and another named James. (I Corinthians 15:5, 7)
7) the "anointed one" or Messiah. (as evidenced by Paul's repeated use of the Greek word Christos)
8) the one who instituted the symbols of the bread and the wine on the evening prior to his death. (I Corinthians 11:23-25)
9) betrayed. (I Corinthians 11:23)
10) crucified on a cross. (Romans 6:6; I Corinthians 1:17-18 and 23, 2:2 and 8; II Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 2:20, 3:1, 6:12, 14)
11) killed for us. (Romans 5:6-11 and I Corinthians 15:3)
12) the Passover lamb who was sacrificed for us and our sins (Romans 3:25, I Corinthians 5:7)
13) buried after his death. (Romans 6:4, I Corinthians 15:4)
14) dead for three days. (I Corinthians 15:4)
15) resurrected from the dead. (Romans 1:4, 7:4, 8:11; I Corinthians 15:20)
16) appeared to his apostles and disciples after he was resurrected. (I Corinthians 15:5-7)
17) is now immortal and seated at the right hand of God. (Romans 6:9, 8:34, 14:9)
18) will return to this earth from heaven and meet his followers in the air. (I Thessalonians 4:14-17)

In addition to these points, I believe that most folks would agree that it is reasonable to state that Paul's teachings about love (Romans 12, 13 and I Corinthians 13) are in harmony with Christ's teachings on the subject (John 13 and 15). Likewise, Paul's insistence that "miracles" are part of the Christian experience of his day (I Corinthians 12:10, 28-29 and Galatians 3:5) is highly suggestive of the fact that they were part of the ministry of their religion's founder. It also appears to this writer that the entire focus of Paul's ministry (as outlined in these writings) was to suggest that Jesus Christ was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). That seems like a pretty substantial amount of information to me. What do you think?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tweaking or Overhauling Our Beliefs?

Gavin Rumney has posted a brilliant bit of commentary over at Otagosh entitled "On babies, screw-drivers and deck chairs" (http://otagosh.blogspot.com/2015/04/on-babies-screw-drivers-and-deck-chairs.html). He asks the question: "What do you do when long-held beliefs suddenly start to crumble under the impact of fresh information?" Mr. Rumney then proceeds to characterize three strategies that folks have employed to deal with challenges to their belief system: 1) Denial and digging in , 2) Making adjustments and 3) Throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I think that anyone whose belief system has faced a significant challenge can relate to the points made in this post. Growth is painful and usually involves a great deal of hard work and study. Most of us can also relate to the fact that Option 1 folks tend to forestall the consideration or adoption of their views by other folks (petulance isn't very attractive). Moreover, I can understand someone listening to a Ted Cruz or a Ken Ham and wanting to chuck the entire belief system!

However, I do believe that characterizing the folks who choose Option 2 (where Mr. Rumney and this blogger place themselves) as finessing or making a few adjustments with a screw driver does a disservice to what these folks have actually done with their belief system. From my perspective, Options 1 and 3 require a lot less work and thought than Option 2.

Google defines tweaking as the process whereby one makes "fine adjustments" to something. Likewise, this same source defines overhauling as a process whereby one takes something apart "in order to examine it and repair it if necessary." I cannot speak for Mr. Rumney, but overhauling seems like a much better fit for the process that I went through relative to my own beliefs. A defensive posture or one that totally rejects something as being worthless seems a bit reflexive and effortless to me.

When I compare what I believed as a member of the Worldwide Church of God to what I believe today, I am struck by just how much my views have evolved and changed since then. I am also reminded of the intensive soul-searching that went into those changes. Yes, I guess I can sympathize with the folks who have chosen the other two options; but I don't think that most of the people in those circumstances have truly confronted the question of why they believe/d what they believe/d. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What's wrong with this statement?

"I believe that people who don't want to provide their services for a gay wedding because of their religious scruples should be protected from any repercussions for refusing to do so."

Does that mean that I could refuse to cater a wedding for:

-someone who uses statues, icons and/or relics in their worship services? (Could I refuse service to a Catholic or Orthodox Christian?)

-marines and sailors who habitually take the Lord's name in vain?

-people who have anger management issues (isn't that the equivalent of murder)?

-people who have been divorced or married more than once?

-someone who has been promiscuous?

-a person who has truthfulness issues?

-someone who is obsessed with material possessions?

-someone who is preoccupied with keeping up with the Joneses?

-people who have cheated on their income tax?

-electricians who take wire and tools home from their workplace without permission to do so?

-folks who are unforgiving or judgmental of others?

-folks who believe/don't believe in the Trinity?

-instructors/professors who accept and teach evolution?

A few other questions:

Was the couple at the center of the wedding in Cana of Galilee in perfect harmony with Jesus Christ and his teachings?

Is a person who sells guns culpable when one of his customers decides to break into an elementary school and murder a bunch of children?

If I rent a house to someone, does that act imply that I condone their behavior or give my stamp of approval to the way that they choose to live their lives behind closed doors?

If a minister baptizes a person, does that make the minister responsible for that person's subsequent behavior and beliefs?

Can a policeman refuse to save the life of a drunk driver who has been involved in a traffic accident because of his religious beliefs about the sinfulness of drinking alcohol?

Can a doctor refuse to prescribe medications to a homosexual with AIDS?

Does the minister unite two people in marriage or does God do it?

What do you think?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Parameters of Our Faith: What It Means To Be A Christian!

Another good friend of mine sent me a link to a very interesting post on The Christian Left blog. The post is titled "The Big Four - Agree with Us Or You're Not A Christian" (http://www.thechristianleftblog.org/blog-home/the-big-four-agree-with-us-or-youre-not-a-christian). The thesis of the article is that Evangelical Christianity has evolved into something that resembles a cult (authoritarian leadership, exclusivity, isolationism, an aversion to independent thinking and various fear tactics which are employed to keep members in check. Membership within this community is limited to those individuals who believe that: 1) abortion is murder, 2) homosexuality is always a sin, 3) evolution is an absurdity and 4) global warming and environmental protections are stupid notions designed to undermine man's God-given dominion over this planet. It is also noted that a few additional parameters have been added over the last few years to the criteria which most Evangelicals use to define membership within their community (e.g. you can't be a liberal, you can't be a Democrat, you can't support President Obama on anything and you can't believe that Islam is a valid religious faith).

Of course, all of these beliefs are underscored by a literal interpretation of Scripture that doesn't allow for any error, mistakes or contradictions. The post underscores how these views have influenced/motivated both religious and political ideology/discourse in the United States. The article concludes with a call to action for Christians who happen to find themselves outside of the acceptable parameters of Evangelical Christianity: "It's beyond time for the followers of Jesus to speak up. The extremists have taken over the camp and they're running the show, and the nation. It is no longer Christianity. It's a cult. Now what are we going to do about it?" My answer to that question: We must continue to point out that God is bigger than their notions about "Him" and that you can have different views on these topics and continue to be a "good" Christian. What do you think?

I'm on God's side, and I'm going to show you that I'm on God's side!

In response to my last post, a friend sent me a link to an article entitled "A call for sanity in the matter of Memories Pizza vs. the Internet" by Caitlin Dewey (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/04/02/a-call-for-sanity-in-the-matter-of-memories-pizza-vs-the-internet/). In the article, Ms. Dewey reproved the folks on the Internet who attacked an Indiana restaurant owner who stated that she would not cater a hypothetical gay wedding. As a consequence of the attacks on the small-town business, the owner was forced to close her doors after serving pizza to the community for nine years. She wrote: "Vigilantes on Twitter and Reddit want to frame the downfall of Memories Pizza as some kind of win in the culture war, but the people defacing O’Connor’s Yelp page and parodying her on fake Web sites have not righted the scales of justice or struck some heroic blow for gay rights. For one thing, they’re not changing anyone’s mind. For another, all they’ve done is sat at a computer — and wrecked a stranger’s life."

In reading through this article, I must admit that I was filled with conflicting emotions and spent several days pondering how to respond to the points raised in it. People who supported my position on the Indiana religious freedom law had engaged in trolling that was designed to punish the owner of this small "mom and pop" business. The justification for this behavior was supposedly a position of moral superiority (the business owner was a bigot). Yeah, this got the old wheels turning in a lot of different directions.

First, for those Christians who participated in the trolling campaign against this business, shame on you! Remember the golden rule: "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12, NLT) Is purposefully destroying someone's business based on the principles of love and compassion? Is it right to employ a defense of moral superiority to justify oneself for engaging in such behavior? "How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:4) In other words, was this trolling reflective of Christian behavior? No, clearly, it was not.

What about the folks who support my position on the Indiana law who are not Christians? As my atheistic friends are quick to point out, one doesn't have to be a Christian to have a moral compass. Remember the Platinum Rule: "Treat others the way they would like to be treated." As I've said before, self-righteousness is not an attractive trait in Atheists or Christians.

So why did it take me so long to write this post? If there is such moral clarity about this trolling behavior, what were the other considerations that prevented a quick response to Ms. Dewey's article?

I must admit that it was hard for me to summon a little compassion and empathy for someone who had voluntarily offered what I considered to be a hateful statement to the press/public (i.e. "if a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say 'No…We’re a Christian establishment.'") Isn't there something in Scripture about those who suffer for wrongdoing as opposed to those who are suffering for righteousness sake (I Peter 2:19-20)? Please allow me to explain: After the Civil War, many of my Southern ancestors were devastated financially - some of them lost their small farms. The loss of a handful of slaves (generally, anywhere from one to five) represented a substantial loss (in both labor and currency) for these folks. Was slavery wrong? Yes. Were these folks Christians? I think so. Do I feel sympathy and compassion for their loss? No, their loss was a consequence of bad choices on their part. I'm glad and thankful that they were able to rebuild their lives on a better foundation (and not just from the perspective of my own obvious self-interest in being a descendant of theirs - but also from the perspective of a Christian who is supposed to love his brother/sister at all times and in all circumstances).

We are all free to harbor whatever petty prejudices and bigotries we've decided that God wants us to incorporate within the kingdoms of our own minds. BUT why must we insist on imposing those views on others and causing them pain, inconvenience or suffering? If you believe that abortion is wrong, don't get an abortion! If you believe that homosexual behavior is abominable and sinful, then don't engage in that behavior! Why do some of us insist on publicly registering our disapproval or displeasure with certain behaviors by doing things (or saying things) that are designed to interfere with the choices which others have made? Ok, I get that we think that they're bad choices; but the fact remains that they are someone else's choices - not ours! Why do we feel compelled to interfere with someone else's personal choices? Why can't we all just be content to trust in God (or, if you prefer, fate) for the outcome? If you're confident that you are in the right, what have YOU got to worry about?