Piss-Poor Pastor an Example to the Rest of Us

I’m busy teaching a course on exegesis as a pre-term booster for our senior students. The whole push of the course is encouragement to pay careful, rigorous attention to the text, so as to responsibly discharge our duties as servants of the Word entrusted to us. As I reminded our students, if we were merely orators-for-hire, no one would make a trip to come and listen to us. Hardly any of us are interesting enough to draw a crowd. We’re only valuable in so far as we throw light on God’s message.

I serendipitously happened across a pastor who managed to get himself featured on TodaysBigThing.com for noteworthy badness. He provided a wonderful example of what happens when study is sidelined. I recount the horrors here not to rub in the ridicule of this guy, but as a mostly serious call for all preachers to catch a wake up. Misunderstanding scripture and abusing the grave responsibility that the preacher undertakes is not actually a laughing matter. We have more, better resources for study than any generation to date. Can we really justify their obvious, widespread neglect?

The video can be viewed here:

http://www.todaysbigthing.com/2009/11/10

For the rest, below is the transcript of the featured clip, for your masochistic pleasure. The bracketed comments are mine, in case you’re confused.

I’m going to close with one thing. I was reading my Bible this week, and I kept seeing this phrase jumping out at me in the Bible.

And you’re not going to like this, but you haven’t liked the sermon up ‘til now, so why would I try to please you now? You’re going to be mad no matter what. [I like this bit, because it clearly falls prey to the fallacy that goes something like: ‘the congregation’s non-enjoyment of one’s sermon = not teaching what itching ears want to hear = being courageously faithful to the hard and unpopular truths of the Bible’. It’s very much like the fallacy that goes: ‘People hate me. Pharisees hated Jesus. Therefore I am like Jesus, and my detractors are Pharisees’. But I digress].

But I was reading the Bible and I kept seeing this phrase, and I studied this phrase in the Bible, and it’s used six times, and its used by God. It’s used out of the mouth of God, and it’s when the prophet was preaching to the king of Israel, Jeroboam the son of Nebat. He says, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ he said, ‘I will destroy from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall.’ Have you ever seen that phrase in the Bible? Him that pisseth against the wall? You see that in the Bible. Its used six times in the Bible.

And, you know, six is a significant number in the Bible. It’s the number of a man. You know there are different numbers that represent different things in the Bible. Like seven is the number of completion. Five is the number of death, and you’ll see that all throughout the Bible. People being killed under their fifth rib. Genesis 5:5. Acts 5:5. On and on. You’ll see different numbers and significance in numbers, and six times this phrase is used in the Bible. And you’ll say, ‘Aw, I can’t believe you speak that way, it’s vile’. Well, I’m sorry, but the Bible says that the words of Jesus Christ are wholesome words, and the Bible says every word of God is pure, so don’t accuse me of using bad language. That’s what the Bible says. He said, ‘I will destroy him that pisseth against the wall.’

Now did you ever stop to think, ‘What did God mean by that?’ Does he mean, ‘Well…’. What did he mean? Obviously what is he talking about? All the men, right? He said I am going to kill all the men that come from Jeroboam. Because there’s a difference berween men and women. Only men piss against the wall. Women don’t. OK.

And so God said… He used that language, He used that expression… And by the way, that expression is only used in the King James Bible. The New King James eliminates it. This is what the New King James says. [Adopts effeminate nasal tone] ‘Males’. ‘All the males’. And, you know, the guys who made it, they are males. They’re not men. And God said, a man [emphatically now] is somebody who pisses against the wall.

Did you know this? When I was in Germany, and you’re not even going to believe this… See, ‘Why are you preaching this?’ Because it’s in the Bible [emphatically again].

OK. I was in Germany, and I went to use the restroom in Germany, in several different peoples’ houses, I mean, totally different people. And even in public places they had a sign that prohibited a man from peeing standing up! I’m not kidding! I mean, you can ask… my wife is from Germany, and I was there for three and a half months. They had a sign in peoples’ houses… they had a sign in a public restroom [spitting the words now] that prohibited… it had kind of a circle with a line through it, and it’s… ‘no… peeing standing up’. And I asked my wife, and I said… I thought it was like a joke… I was like, ‘Is that a joke? It’s kind of a crude joke.’ She said, ‘It’s not a joke.’ She said, ‘No man in Germany pees standing up’.

[Long, long pause.]

That’s where we’re headed in this country, my friend! We’ve got a bunch of pastors who pee sitting down! And we’ve got a bunch of… and you say, ‘Oh, you’re being vile’. I’m n… Hey! Then God’s being vile! God’s the one that wrote the Bible, my friend! We’ve got pastors who pee sitting down. We’ve got a president of the United States probably pees sitting down. We got a bunch of preachers, we’ve got a bunch of leaders who don’t stand up and piss against the wall like a man.

And I’m going to tell you something. That’s what’s wrong with America. You don’t like it? You don’t like an old fashioned Bible that tells you what being a man is all about? Because it’s called the King James Bible. And if you don’t like that term ‘piss against the wall’, then you know what? Go to the bookstore this afternoon and buy a New King James. It’ll take out that word, it’ll take out the word ‘damnation’, it’ll take out the word ‘hell’ about half the time, it’ll take out the word ‘Jehovah’, the name of God. It’ll take out anything in the Bible that has any power to it! It’ll take out anything that tells you how things are supposed to be [getting quite worked up now]! But 400 years ago, pastors used to stand up and preach that [shouting] a man needs to be a man!! … Not a male [homosexual impression again]…. Not the males… It’s because the editors of the NIV pee sitting down. It’s because the editors of the New King James, they all pee sitting down… I’m going to tell you something, I’m not going to pee sitting down. I don’t care if it’s Germany… I’m going to Germany in about a month. You’d better know I’m going to stand up everywhere I go.

I’m sure the Bible backs me up somewhere…

Pat Robertson is cluelessWhen I see the lips on the public faces of American Christianity begin to move, I’m usually about to be deeply ashamed. Pat Robertson has done it again.

Haiti deserved it.
CNN reports that Pat has blamed the recent horror in Haiti on a probably-fictional pact with the Devil that Haitians of yesteryear made in order to free themselves of French tyranny.

Even if the Devil were listed in the Yellow Pages, how does Pat justify theologically the idea that the Devil is somehow sovereign over the rise and fall of nations?

Even if the Devil was contactable and the man for the job, why would God now be punishing the Haitians for a pact of centuries ago, when God specifically denies that his judgments are capricious in this way (Ezekiel 18; Jer 31:29-30)?

Even if God did punish nations for their naughty ancestry, Pat justifies his ridiculous and revolting opinions on judgment with the verse in the Old Testament about God vomiting rebellious people from his land. How do people still fail to see that America is not God’s Holy Land? God made a special covenant with his people in Canaan in the BC years. In the New Covenant, we belong to ‘another country’, to be sure, but it’s not America!!! The ‘New Jerusalem’, the City of God, is heavenly country, and it will only be our inheritance (in the terms of Revelation) when it descends from Heaven upon the New Earth. As the New Testament says time and time again, our citizenship is in Heaven, and we are aliens and strangers in the world. It would be forgivable if this were an obscure teaching derived from theological gymnastics, but this is the absolute basics. It’s theology for kids. Yet Pat gets it disgustingly, callously wrong for an international audience. Lovely.

Finally, Pat could even stick to the much loved teachings of Jesus in the Gospels and still find himself blatantly contradicted. Luke 13:1-5 provides a case study for the connection between judgment and disaster. Two disasters are cited (one a human injustice, and another a natural disaster), and Pat’s statement comes in question form. ‘Did these people suffer such a fate because they were worse sinners?’ The answer from Jesus is no! Jesus simply says, ‘Unless you repent, you will likewise perish’. Death and disaster still exists because the world is full of sin and remains unfixed. So everyone (yes you, Pat) needs to take warning from any disaster, because it reminds us all that death is the consequence of our own sin.

The people in Haiti died because the world is broken and in unrest. They did not die because of some ancient pact with Davy Jones. Using their pain as an opportunity to show that God hates bad people (so you’d better be good!) is just cold.

Will the non-crazy Christians please stand up?
Now, maybe Pat is genuinely insane. Maybe he’s just phenomenally ignorant about the faith that he publicly represents because he’s always had rubbish ministers. Perhaps he has a vitamin deficiency. I can understand that one person can be devastatingly wrong.

What I can’t understand is that America is packed to the rafters with doctored theologians. It’s chock full of intelligent, Bible-reading folk of all levels of study. It’s a country that willingly seeks out the opinions of Christians. Yet when Christians shame the rest of us with this kind of horrible theology, the good theologians and the well-known-and-respected evangelicals are never to be seen. Where are the John Pipers, the Rick Warrens, the Bill Hybels, the Don Carsons? Does the media refuse to publish their opinions, or are they just silent when they’re supposed to be saying something?

___________________________

Note: Robertson’s people have released a statement to say that he didn’t mean that the earthquake was God’s wrath (http://www.cbn.com/about/pressrelease_patrobertson_haiti.aspx). Apparently they’re just cursed. Oh.

Homophobia is a Sin

Twice in one day, I was confronted with the unfortunate-but-completely-warranted complaint that Christianity is homophobic. And not just homophobic; violently so.

The first comes from a link to a blog in which the author rails against a Baptist pastor who says the following:

You want to know who the biggest hypocrite in the world is? The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers and not for homosexuals. Hypocrite. The same God who instituted the death penalty for murderers is the same God who instituted the death penalty for rapists and for homosexuals – sodomites, queers! That’s what it was instituted for, okay? That’s God, he hasn’t changed. ‘Oh, God doesn’t feel that way in the New Testament’ … God never “felt” anything about it, He commanded it and said they should be taken out and killed. (Reverend Steven L. Anderson)

‘Let not many of you presume to be teachers,’ says James. Paul says, ‘They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.’ I suspect that Reverend Anderson falls foul of such verses.

One of the comments gets even worse. ‘Kill All Gays’ says:

Hey f*** all homosexuals once the revolution is near I will go on a rampage killing those worthless homosexuals they don’t deserve to live nasty filthy pieces of sh** they shouldn’t be allowed to vote, make porn hell they shouldn’t be allowed to eat or sleep all faggots deserve to burn in hell or be put into death camps. Nuff said.

Who knows whether this person thinks he’s Christian or not. I don’t know what the ‘revolution’ is, nor how religious his concept of hell is. Just in case he is Christian, I responded by pointing out that Jesus warns against judgment that fails to start with self-judgment, and that Jesus mixed quite freely and lovingly with the sinners of his day. A more measured soul retorted with the following:

Of course it is biblical! the bible clearly states that if a man lies with another man as he would a woman they have committed an abomination and would/should be put to death. Lev. 20:13. Before you try to lay “the old laws were done away with when Jesus came.” you might want to direct your attention to Matthew 5:17 where Jesus tells folks “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”

Having said that, I am not a Christian, I am an atheist. I often wonder why Christians complain about a nutcase saying things like this [i.e. ‘Kill all Gays’ guy], yes, he is clearly batsh** crazy! But it IS in the bible, if you read your bible thoroughly and study it carefully in the original languages, I think it would scare the crap out of you at how crazy the bible is itself! If we tried to uphold the laws set forth by a mythological god of the bible, or Qu’ran, we would be in prison, women would be property, and there would be no children at all!

I’m going through all of this in the hope that perhaps the pertinent part of my response to her would be a help to others, especially Christians who like to justify their sick hatred from the Old Testament. I said:

There is a reason why the OT is the way it is. The law is not without context. Israel was God’s Holy Land in which he promised to live among his Holy People. The Israelites were covenanted to God in this relationship with a blood-pledge. Thus, the OT law is there to govern life in God’s presence. This does NOT equate in the slightest to civil law anywhere on earth now, not even Israel (although some Jews might fight me on that). Atheists have no covenant with God. There is no land in which God dwells by covenant and in a designated Holy Place. In other words, the Old Testament laws may be applied (mutatis mutandis) spiritually to the church, but not to broader society at all (or at least not without massive care and wisdom). Civil society has the same relationship to the OT law that the gentile nations did in OT times (i.e. virtually none). Consequently, homosexuality is sin, and as such it is ‘illegal’ in the church. It is also true that, if God is there, such sin will incur judgment from God even for non-Christians (as all sin will). But Christians have no right to insist that homosexuality in non-Christian society deserves its OT penalty when non-Christian society does not exist in remotely comparable circumstances to OT Israel.

Christians might as well be frothing at the mouth about the death penalty for Sabbath breakers, because it has as much to do with the non-Christian judiciary as the Levitical death-penalty for homosexuality does.

Anti-Gayrations

The second case of Christian bigotry involves our most popular local soap-opera Generations. The show includes one gay main character, whose presence has apparently spawned a Christian opposition-group called Anti-Gayrations (a clumsy play on the title of the show).

A FaceBook friend reported the following complaint:

S.A. television. Senzo [the gay character] was beaten half to death by “real men”. there were no facebook protests. i suppose that no “christian values” were offended by that scene. bloody hypocrites. i guess that explains why it is less “confusing” to children to watch a man being brutalized for being gay, than it is to watch him kiss another man.

He goes on to say that this group uses scripture ‘to justify why they hate faggots’. I would dearly love someone of influence in the Christian world to make proper public distinction between Christianity and homophobia. I don’t hear anyone vowing to stop watching soap operas when the hetero folk hop into bed with one another, or when someone kills someone else, yet those are also ‘mortal sins’ punishable by death in the OT. Calling homosexuality morally wrong is Christian. But hating homosexuals is ALSO morally wrong and NOT Christian.

If only we’d follow our Lord in loving and reaching out to sinners, rather than approving of their persecution and advocating their deaths.

‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’, says the Lord. ‘Go out and make disciples’, he says to us. We’re seemingly far happier going out and making enemies. We are hypocrites.

Tall Tales

VeggieTales brings together produce-aisle cabaret characters with Sunday-school favourites to create fantastically loveable and annoying Christian kids education. While there is much that is commendable about these episodes (leaving aside their flagrant use of two of my least favourite pronunciations: ‘Gaad’ and ‘Izreel’), they occasionally fail to understand the stories that they’re teaching. My four-year-old watched The Toy that Saved Christmas a handful of times this season — an episode aimed at teaching the true meaning of Christmas — and concluded that it’s all about giving. Um…

So they mucked up the Greatest Story Ever Told a little bit. They really managed to befoul the Sunday-schoolest story of them all, David and Goliath.

There is some indication in scripture that David may have been small. He was the youngest of however many brothers, and possibly not as immediately obvious a warrior as some of them. He also eventually gets to try on Saul’s armour, but decides against it, because he was ‘not used to it’. We usually conclude from this that he was a little chap, but this is far from obvious (and even if it was because the armour was too big, Saul was said to be a head taller than anyone else). Being the youngest, David was the ‘herd-boy’, but he had also managed to kill a bear and a lion. He soon became commander of the army. He was a far cry from the quavering, pre-pubescent little broccoli guy on VeggieTales (he seems pre-pubescent, but I have no way of ageing anthropomorphised vegetables).

We tend to fall so in love with the little-underdog-who-could aspect of the story, that we miss the larger point. VeggieTales did this beautifully. The message that they taught from the David and Goliath story was that you can overcome, no matter how small and insignificant you may be. They make the all-too-common mistake of allegorising Goliath into a symbol of personal trouble, and we then become ‘David’, the faithful battler against adversity. How do we manage to take such a magnificent story of God’s deliverance, and then make it all about us?

David himself goes to great pains to point out that there is no reason to fear Goliath seeing as God is the warrior who fights for Israel. An untrained, unprotected, virtually unarmed boy comes out against the world’s best and wins with a single shot not because David was a bit of a ‘trier’, and not even because he was especially faithful. It’s because ‘the battle is the Lord’s’. If we want to identify with someone in the story, it’s the chicken-hearted, undeserving Israelites on the sidelines who can’t help themselves and who have stand and watch while the Lord’s anointed — the Messiah — does all the work for them.