The King Is Coming

The biblical illiteracy in America is astonishing.

Nowhere in the Christian scriptures, dogmas, teachings or the example of Jesus do we find a directive to make non-Christians obey the peculiar religious instructions of a Christian denomination. (And by “peculiar” I am echoing the words from the book of 1 Peter, of course.)

No one can speak for all Christians in saying that “Christians believe that a certain behavior is required of all people, Christian or not.” These demands are made as if a spokesperson represents all Christians, or all members of a denomination, or even all members of a certain church, but it is a completely false statement. The best that can be said is “I think this is a requirement for behavior acceptable to my God and my belief in my God.”

The thing we are told that marks us as Christians is our behavior. Anyone can say they’re Christian.

The mark of being a Christian is what we do as Christians. Are we kind? Are we merciful? Are we restorative? Are we a blessing? Are we servants? Are we healers? Are we bringing about the kingdom of God (which is the rule of Christ in our hearts) by our actions?

A political kingdom of God is simply not warranted in Scripture, and forcing others to do what we want is not enjoined in Scripture.

We should be very careful when we demand that others obey what we think are requirements for Christians. At some point, others who have strong beliefs that don’t match ours (including Christians with different interpretations of what is “pleasing to God) might take that very power and apply it against us.

And then where will our arguments be? We said we wanted this kind of enforcement of doctrine, and when it is applied to us, we will have no leg to stand on in any objection.

And yeah, this does apply to Palm Sunday, in which Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth to Jerusalem, a king of those who choose him as king.

Which Party Is the “Party of Civil Rights”?

There is a canard circulating that the “Republicans are the party of civil rights and the Democrats are the party against civil rights,” based upon an gross misunderstanding of what happened in 1964, an incompetent search for the facts, and a malicious desire to change history for partisan advantage.

You need to know the facts so you can shut that conversation right down.

Let’s go back to 1964 and look at the vote counts in the United States Congress with regards to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

First of all, the actual breakdown of votes for the final bill in the House and Senate is easily discoverable in Wikipedia —

Here is the summary:

By party

Original House version
House: 152-96 (D) or 61-39%
Senate: 138-34 (R) or 80-20%

Cloture in the Senate
44-23 (D) or 66-34%
27-6 (R) or 82-18%

Final Senate vote
46-21 (D) or 69-31%
27-6 (R) or 82-18%

Senate version, voted on by the House:
153-91 (D) or 63-27%
136-35 (R) or 80-20%

Which is impressive. There was a significant majority on both sides of the aisle, Democratic and Republican, for the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Looks like there was a move to be decent to American citizens for the simple exercise of their civil rights.

But what is much more interesting is to look at the breakdown by region, and not by party.

Comparing the Representatives and Senators from the Old Confederacy states, here’s the breakdown (“Aye” is the first number, “Nay” is the second):

In the House
Southern Democrats: 7-87 (7-93%)
Southern Republicans:  0-10 (0-100%)

Northern Democrats: 145-9 (94-6%)
Northern Republicans: 138-24 (85-15%)

In the Senate:
Southern Democrats: 1-20 (5-95%)
Southern Republicans: 0-1 (0-100%)

Northern Democrats: 45-1 (98-2%)
Northern Republicans: 27-5 (85-16%)

The significant difference here is NOT the party. Both parties in toto supported the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights bill.

The significant difference here is that the elected officials from the states of the Old Confederacy, in both parties, voted massively against civil rights, and the elected officials from the states of the Union voted massively for civil rights.

Only the fact that the North, Midwest, and West (the states of the Union) voted overwhelmingly for civil rights counterbalanced the overwhelming opposition to civil rights for the citizens in the very states these men represented.

This canard that the “Republicans passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act” needs to be dispensed with. It is easily refuted by the facts of history. Repeating the false claims after being informed of the facts is a greater error of fact, and a shameful mark against character.


The South/Confederacy The North/Union
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Vote by Region / Party


Vote by Region / Party (Combined)


Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle

I just preordered this book “Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle

Two things about this fascinate me:
1) The movement to close down whites-only public schools rather than integrate them in the 50s and 60s came from conservative white Christians who would rather harm themselves, their children, and their society rather than admit that their prejudices were wrong.
2) There is a similar movement today to close down public marriage licenses rather than allow same-sex couples to get marriage licenses, a movement again coming from white Christian conservatives.

There is a pattern here among my own tribe of Christians that we do terrible things which seem right at the time and then later our children and grandchildren must fix.

We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of our past. But it seems like we’re about to.

What Malcolm X Taught Me

50 years ago tonight Malcolm X was shot to death. He was both opposed and dismissed by many, perhaps loved and admired by some, but in all that he was he was a voice of a man speaking up for himself.

I read his autobiography a few years ago, and while I had to return to the 50s and 60s to understand his world, it did bring back to mind what it was like to live in that America where there was a complacent ruling class and a voiceless, powerless underclass.

He said some awful, violent things, no more violent nor awful than his opponents said about him and those like him, but he also said some truly great things about being a person who stands for yourself, for discovering who you are, warnings about going along with what you’re told, and frustrations with how even people with the best intentions and thoughtful words could take you right back into another form of oppression.

I think we focus on the violence in some of his speech, but fail to understand that he was neither uninformed nor unthoughtful. He was awake and aware of his times and his place in his culture, and given what he was seeing and the lack of power and change, he struggled to break through the silence and reach people.

When we are satisfied with our lives and full of achievement, we can forget what he was attempting to bring about. And when we are listening only to ourselves and to those who offer their approval of ourselves and our achievements, we are letting the circumstances slide right back to what they were when Malcolm X attempted to be the voice of the voiceless and a force for change in a world that did not want change. If we cannot listen to his voice and if we try to suppress the calls for change, we are setting up, again, a world where people see violence as the only remaining method to use to bring about change and justice.

We Are None of Us Pharisees

We none of us are Pharisees, you know. We read the text of the New Testament and we are both entertained and appalled at the rigid self-righteousness of the Pharisees, their comical inability to see the wisdom and truth of the sayings of Our Lord, their unbelievable lack of self-awareness about their status in the eyes of each other, in their own eyes, and in the eyes of Our Lord.

We laugh at how easily they are consumed with righteous anger at the smallest and most trivial of things such as seeds and sand and salt. How could _anyone_ not get the point, that when Jesus is with us it is a feast, a party, a returning, a celebration, a joyous family reunion? How could anyone not see the love that Jesus spoke about being displayed in his actions, and becoming displayed in the lives of his disciples? How could they miss the compassion, the sacrifice, the service, the giving, the wonderful, wonderful joy?

Indeed, how is it possible for the Pharisees to be so close to the Kingdom of Heaven, and yet so completely unable to enter in and enjoy it?

But yet I wonder…maybe there is just a little bit of the Pharisee about us…

The Incompetent Historical Understanding of White Supremacists

Recently someone wrote elsewhere that white privilege is a myth, and that as a white male he was certainly not privileged in his lifestyle.

He wrote this before the events in Ferguson which occurred after the grand jury failed to indict Officer Wilson, but recent events apparently have not changed his mind.

I do not know what kind of history is taught at the University of Virginia, but it is an incompetent one if it fails to teach a history of America that includes the experiences of black Americans, specifically the experience of capture, chattel slavery, Jim Crow, and even the continuing de facto segregation of black Americans from full, equal and non-confrontational participation in all of American life.

One of the key things a school should do, in my opinion, is not merely expose students to new facts—a school’s curriculum should also expose students to the way other people think, feel, and live. A well-rounded educational experience should include more than just a longer list of memorized facts to support an already confirmed position. A school – especially one that claims to be a world-class university – should help students open their minds to the larger world around them.

It is simply impossible to get an education in a modern American university and still believe that white privilege does not exist. It is simply ignorance, and it is ignorance that is deliberately chosen by the student.

While it can be difficult for white Americans to include friendships and relationships with people of color, it can be done – and it should be possible at a university, especially one such as the University of Virginia, to not only be exposed to the presence of people of color, but also to build relationships and come to an understanding of the lives of these mysterious people around white people that some white students apparently know nothing about.

Can We Listen to Imperfect People?

I wish there were a perfect victim of violence done by the hand of the state, one who did not have a checkered past. I wish there was a perfect spokesman to make the case for better stronger laws to reign in violence done in the name of the state. But we do not have that.

We have flawed people being shot and beaten and killed. We have flawed people speaking out. We have flawed protesters. We have flawed events and marches and actions, flawed and misleading reporting, flawed responses made in bad faith, flawed attempts to hijack voices of protest for personal and political advancement.

Wave that all away. It’s noise. It’s theatre. Focus on this: there are consistent, urgent voices telling us something.

We need to listen with our heads and our hearts. Not with what others are telling us to hear.

Our fellow humans, our fellow Americans, our brothers and sisters are telling us something hugely important.

Stop waving it away. Stop being distracted.


When Black Lives Matter

Some people are telling me that if black people just obeyed the police they wouldn’t be harrassed, beaten, and arrested so much. Here are the stories police officers tell–of being harrassed, beaten, and arrested by their fellow officers–because they are black.

The stories you are hearing, the protests you are seeing, are coming from somewhere: they are coming from the very real lives of people in America who are treated as suspects, as thugs, as criminals simply because they are black. When we say “‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬” it is because it is a hope, not yet a reality.

The way to fix the problem isn’t to tell the protesters to stop protesting. The way to fix it is to get at the root: to make it a reality that #BlackLivesMatter.