Beer With Dad

June 24, 2016
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Hey, it’s time for my annual post over here!

Beer With Dad Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with my biological dad Don via Facebook. A bit of backstory, for those of you who don’t know. My mom and dad were married relatively young and as a result, I came into the world. For reasons I won’t go into, mainly because they don’t matter to anyone reading this, they went their separate ways. Mom got custody, and I didn’t hear from him.

Over the intervening years, I made several attempts to find him and he me. As a result of my step dad adopting me, the name change prevented Don’s finding me. The fact that his name is apparently very common made it hard for me to find him. Only once I tried Facebook, did my efforts pay off.

That out of the way, on to the purpose of this post. Don and I chatted via texts and Facebook, had a nice phone call, and eventually he came to stay with me overnight. That was all good, and we both wanted to see more of each other and for me to meet the rest of my new (to me) family. He invited me and mine to come out to Pigeon Forge and spend a couple of days so I could at least meet his wife.

I’m sure that we were all, to varying degrees, nervous about the prospect. It turns out there was no reason to be. We all got along famously. I can’t tell you how many times some variation of the phrase “so that’s where Scott gets it from” was uttered. While I don’t believe that good taste in beer or Hawaiian shirts is genetic, we do have an awful lot in common. That comforts me deeply.

See, for four decades I was Fatherless. Sure, I had several step dads. Mom was married a total of four times. There were men in my life. None of them showed me a picture of me. I longed to know where my receding hairline or cheek bones came from. I was desperate to see if I had his smile or his cracked wit. Was he a family man? Did he write? I’m beginning to get answers to all of these questions.

A lot of Christians will have you believe that our idea of what God is like comes from the picture our father gave us. If dad was overbearing then it’s likely we’ll see God as controlling. If he’s nurturing and loving, so’s the Creator. I knew enough about God and little enough about my dad to know nothing about whether that comparison is apt. One thing I was certain of, my step dad Paul was nothing like my image of God.

I sat down to dinner and beer with Don more than once over the few days we had in Tennessee. It was a dream I’d had without knowing it. Pieces began to click into place. While I don’t think the burgeoning relationship we have will effect my relationship with God, I do carry a few things from the experience when it comes to my theology.

Never stop looking for God. You never know when he’ll show up, and it may be in the most unusual places.

Understand that the men in your life are not God. He’s going to be so unlike and so much better than the humans you deal with on a day to day basis.

When you finally sit down to beer with your heavenly father (a thing I believe will happen), things will click into place. You’ll understand things about yourself and about him that were mysteries up till that point.

There are more, I’m certain, but I fear if I go too much further down this road, it will just get silly.

Theology aside, I’m grateful we found each other and hopeful this reunion will lead to connecting with my siblings, nieces/nephews, and other relatives I have on that side. I’m glad for the time we shared and look forward to more beers with him.

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Updating Our Myths

December 15, 2014
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movies-exodus-gods-and-kings-poster-01I’ve watched a couple of movies over the last two weeks that have given very different views of the myths that they’re based on. The first one is Noah. The second is Exodus: Gods and Kings. If you haven’t seen either, suffice to say that they take large liberties with the Bible stories that they’re based upon.

In the case of Noah, we get a sort of environmentalist message. He is charged with re-booting the world, since mankind has despoiled it with rapacious consumption and pollution. We also get to see a weird, but interesting version of the Nephilim. Then there’s the issue of wives for each of the sons and a stowaway that’s never talked about in the original account.

Exodus picks up with Moses as a grown man and a general in the pharaoh’s army. He and the man he was raised with fight side by side, until a prophecy brings a sense of unease to their brotherhood. Moses becomes an outcast in a slightly different way, and finds a new life in the wilderness. He’s called back to Egypt by a childlike messenger, though it could be the result of a concussion. There, he sees what’s been done to his people and becomes a guerrilla leader. That’s not part of the plan though and God’s messenger rains a series of plagues down. Most of these are given naturalistic explanations by a seer. Ultimately, pharaoh lets his people go and they cross over the Red Sea in a sequence that would make Charleton Heston/Cecil B. Demille proud.

Neither of these movies bothered me in the liberties they took. Both of them used the Judeo-Christian myths to tell interesting stories. It brought to mind a question, though. Is there spiritual danger in updating our myths like this? Various denominations have done it with Christ, giving him far different aspects than perhaps he did traditionally (a blond haired and blue eyed Jew for example). Then there are books that have re-told the Gospels through a historical fiction lens and others that have brought Jesus into a modern setting (The Shack). Whether it’s done on purpose or simply due to the fact that we are a far different culture than the one in Palestine over two-thousand years ago, we think differently now than our Christian and Jewish forefathers did about what the Bible has to say. How do we acknowledge that without doing harm to the message underneath (and how do we even know what that message is given the differences in cultures then and now)?

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Non-secular Humanist

July 30, 2014

So, I took this quiz, and like most quizzes on the internet it’s something we SHOULD TAKE SERIOUSLY AND DIE OVER!! take with a grain of salt. But it’s interesting. I seem to be somewhat more “humanist” than this quiz likes religious people to be. I hear a lot about secular humanism, but not much about religious humanism.

I’m generally an optimist. I believe that people can be “good” (for large quantities of good) without being religious. Some of the nicest and most caring people I know are not just areligious but anti-religious. I’ve met some right bastards who are more “Christian” than I am. And it goes without saying, vice versa. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t believe that we’re all sinners in the eyes of God. We are. But to me that doesn’t mean you can’t be a moral person and be non-religious.

Christianity should be linked with the process of “sanctification”. That’s a churchy word for getting “better”. Your character becomes closer to that of Christ. We never arrive at that highest point, but I suppose as it is with the notion of Enlightenment some of us can get closer than others. Regardless we should never stop striving.

I guess my question for those that care to comment is, if you’re a believer where do you think this notion that people can’t be moral/good to a meaningful extent comes from? Is it Biblical? I know that Christ said that no man should be called good, but surely that means only in relation to the Father?

If you don’t believe in religion of any sort, how much “better” do you think man has the capacity to get and does religion actively interfere?

The Religious Identity Test
Your Result: Somewhat humanistic, with some supernaturalism
You have a generally humanistic outlook, though you tend to be open to some ideas that would be considered supernaturalistic. Hence, you probably reject most of the dogma and creed of traditional religion, and you probably consider most organized religions outdated in today’s world. You value reason, but an attachment to supernaturalism lingers in you. Describing yourself as Christian would not be accurate, as your general outlook is more humanistic than Christian.

Christian

Humanist

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Re-crucifying Christ

June 24, 2014
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Marco_palmezzano,_crocifissione_degli_Uffizi There’s this show you may have heard of, Game of Thrones? It’s heavy on the violence and character death and by all accounts there’s also a fair amount of nudity. I’ve only seen a few episodes, but I can testify to both.

Pastor John Piper was asked two questions:

“Pastor John, do you believe there is a difference between film nudity versus pornography? I know many Christians who are against porn, but they have no issue watching movies or TV shows that show graphic nudity.”
and
“Pastor John, what would you say to a Christian who watches the cable TV show Game of Thrones?”

He had a lengthy reply, but a couple of things jumped out at me. One, he said, “If we choose to endorse or embrace or enjoy or pursue impurity, we take a spear and ram it into Jesus’s side every time we do. He suffered to set us free from impurity.” This quote fell under the question “1. Am I Recrucifying Christ?” And under the question “3. When Will I Tear Out My Eye, If Not Now?” he said “Seeing naked women — or seeing naked men — causes a man or woman to sin with their minds and their desires”.

These two responses bother me quite a bit. Hebews 4: says:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt

So in essence he seems to be saying that by watching a show like GoT we risk becoming apostate or that it is as bad as becoming apostate. He also says unequivocally that seeing a naked man or woman automatically makes you sin. While we can certainly argue about whether or not the latter is true in all cases (it’s not, in my opinion), I can’t say that I agree with the former sentiment at all. We all continue to sin. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t resist sin, and if seeing someone nude does cause you in particular to sin, then you should avoid it. It doesn’t mean that by doing something that someone else sees as a sin in their lives that we are necessarily risking falling out of God’s grace.

The thing that interests me about this is how little he touches on the violent aspect of the show. This is a show were we unflinchingly get to see someone pout molten gold over another man’s head. He does say:

Nudity is not like murder and violence on the screen. Violence on a screen is make-believe; nobody really gets killed. But nudity is not make-believe. These actresses are really naked in front of the camera, doing exactly what the director says to do with their legs and their hands and their breasts. And they are naked in front of millions of people to see.

Here’s the thing though. Being naked isn’t a sin. Looking at a naked person isn’t a sin. These men and women aren’t actually having sex (which would be a sin outside of marriage according to Christian doctrine). They’re faking it. Just like they’re faking murder. Sex on screen is make-believe; nobody really gets f***ed. If the reality of the act is what causes the actors and actresses to sin then this doesn’t qualify (unless you can prove that showing the human form is a sin).

Now, he does raise one point that I do find interesting and that I potentially agree with:

11. Am I Craving Acceptance?

Christians do not watch nudity with a view to maximizing holiness. That is not what keeps them coming back to the shows. They know deep down that these television shows or these movies are shot through with the commendation and exaltation of attitudes and actions that are utterly out of step with the death to self and out of step with exaltation of Christ.

No, what keeps those Christians coming back is the fear that if they take Christ at his word and make holiness as serious as I am saying it is, they would have to stop seeing so many television shows and so many movies, and they would be viewed as freakish. And that today is the worst evil of all. To be seen as freakish is a much greater evil than to be unholy.

This is something I will admit to struggling with. I’ve done things that I shouldn’t have, merely to gain acceptance. I won’t for a second pretend to speak for other people’s motives for watching this. I can imagine Christians watching this show for the story telling and the character development. The acting is apparently top notch. I think it’s possible to watch shows like this for perfectly pure and genuine reasons. I also think it’s possible to watch shows or do things that you feel run contrary to your conscience for reasons of gaining acceptance. I would want anyone to do that. Be who you are and remain true to what your conscience tells you to do. I think people will see that and it will speak more to people who disagree with you than any kind of faking it would.

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Gray Areas

August 7, 2013

I posted a question to Facebook recently that asked “What “gray area” of morality do you cross to save money?” (inspiration http://ow.ly/nDkRq) The answers that I got were interesting, from what meat you bought to charitable giving.

On a slightly different note, it seems like the way many folks practice Christianity would indicate that there are no gray areas. When you read large chunks of the Old Testament you see that the laws get very specific. There’s even some repetition to drive the point home. When you get to the New Testament, Jesus takes some of the laws and “expands” them,

MT 5:21“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

He also said:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

The Pharisees put Jesus to the test more than once, challenging him on tithing, working on the Sabbath, and other thorny issues. Each time he would talk about the law and how it’s more important to look at the law’s intent and into your own heart/motivation. So when it comes to morality it seems that it’s more about the motivation, than it is about what you do.

When we hit areas that there are disagreements on (drinking alcohol, watching “inappropriate” television, whether it’s “alright” to be gay), I think it’s important to take a step back and look at the hearts of the people involved. We need to engage one another with love. That’s not an attempt on my part to give people an excuse to sin. If there’s harm being done, either to one’s own body/mind/spirit or to another person, then some frank talk is in order. Jumping immediately to condemnation isn’t the way to go, though. That’s as clear to me as black and white.

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Revenge Is The Lord’s

August 1, 2013

I’m continuing to read the Bible in the mornings before work. I started with 1 Thessalonians and have moved on to the “sequel”. I ran across this verse:

2 Thessalonians 1:6-9
New International Version (NIV)
6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.

This is a picture of Jesus that I’m not particularly taken with. I’m not very interested in him paying back the trouble others have caused me.

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The Sleep Of Death

July 30, 2013

I’m trying to get back to a regular Bible reading regimen. I chose to start with 1 Thessalonians, for no particular reason. It’s been a good read. I’m reading through it a couple of times over the course of two weeks. One thing jumped out at me.

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. – 1 Thess. 4

One thing I often hear bandied about at funerals is “Oh, (s)he’s in Heaven with Jesus now.” If I interpret this scripture right, though, that’s not the case. You don’t get to Heaven until we all do. I’m guessing that the Jewish/Early Christian take on this would be that we all hang out in Sheol/the grave not really knowing what’s going on, until the resurrection.

When I was talking to Leigh about it, she mentioned Luke 23:43. “Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.””. I told her that that depends on where you put the comma, something the original language didn’t have. Put it on the other side of today, and you’ve got Jesus saying “What I’m telling you, at this moment, is that eventually you’ll be with me in paradise.” versus “When we kick off, the very next moment we’ll be together in heaven.”

Personally, I don’t think it matters a whole lot. But what are your thoughts on this and why?

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Man’s Law Vs. God’s Law

November 9, 2012
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One of the topics I disagree with my right leaning Christian brethren on when it comes to political matters is the role of morality when it comes to making laws. The older I get the more libertarian I get (if I understand the way they approach laws). We shouldn’t need the government to make rules about every little thing. Sadly, we make them anyway. In the making of them we are informed by our various moral beliefs. That’s something that’s probably unavoidable, even if we did want to avoid them.

Conservatively political Christians, it seems to me, want the laws of our land to reflect the Biblical codes. This is problematic for a number of reasons. First, you have to decide which Biblical laws should apply to our current society. The law that many of them wish to enact is making abortion illegal across the board. Life is sacred and it begins at conception (a view that’s apparently new to the evangelical community it seems). The problem is, that isn’t a biblical law per se. I don’t recall anything in the Bible saying that you shouldn’t abort your child. Now there is a payment that you would have to make if a child were killed in its mother’s womb in an act of violence. There are also a whole host of cases in which God commanded babies and pregnant women to be killed. But, they say, life is sacred and the taking of life, especially an innocent life, is immoral. Let’s accept that as a given for the moment.

As I have often said, if you want to make abortion illegal because it’s not biblically moral, then you have to wonder about making it legal to say, stone our children. That’s perfectly moral in the society of the Old Testament. As one of those Conservative Christians pointed out, we don’t live in Old Testament times and aren’t subject to their laws, so the stoning thing is off the table. The argument, it would seem, is more about reflecting God’s character in our laws than about any specific law. I suppose that’s an okay argument. The God I believe in loves the world and everyone in it. So I think that our law should reflect that. I think if you love someone then the law should allow you to marry that person. Because marriage is a contract that relationship should be entered into only by those able to legally enter into contracts, but otherwise we should stay out of it. But that means homosexuals can marry and that’s against the Bible!

Well let’s look at marriages in the Bible. We have a whole host of interesting marriages. We’ve got people marrying their relatives. We have numerous polygamist marriages. Then there’s that whole notion of woman as chattel. I’m pretty sure there are instances where people of what would now be considered unmarriageable ages get hitched. How old was Mary? Of course most of that is in the Old Testament. Paul is pretty anti-marriage. He seems to think that it’s better if we all just do what he did, stay single and spread the Gospel. If that proves too much for our heated loins to handle, then we should get married. So don’t get married for love’s sake, get married for appropriate sexual release. Jesus, so far as we know, didn’t get married. The apostles left any relationships they had and went on the road. I won’t say that there aren’t plenty of good words in the New Testament about marriage that I apply to my own. There are. Thing is, marriage as it’s displayed in the Bible is at best an argument for how believers are supposed to act when they’re in union. Treat each other with respect. Love sacrificially. If you can’t handle more than one wife, don’t marry more than one woman. None of that can really be legislated though. So why should we get so caught up in codifying modern marriages after a set of ancient traditions that most people now would find untenable? If you believe that the Bible has the perfect blueprint for marriage then by all means, live it!

If you want to use the ten commandments as the basis for modern law (as some would argue that we already do) that seems to be harmless enough. I mean it’s got don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t steal. Those are all excellent things not to do. We can most of us agree that making laws around that is okay. Then it begins to become problematic. Should we still have blue laws where business aren’t allowed to operate on a Saturday/Sunday (depending on how you feel about the Sabbath and where it falls)? Or should that be left to individuals? Should we let that Indian restaurant down the block have their little shrine to Ganesha? Or should that be illegal? Should it be illegal to disrespect your Mom and Dad? I don’t think we can codify those things.

Jesus said that all of the law and prophets boil down to two things: love your God and love your neighbor. I can totally get behind that. What I can’t abide is making laws requiring us to do either. Those are things that need to be left up to the individual. You can’t build that into law, except for maybe the last one and only then in the crudest/broadest strokes. You can provide for and protect your neighbor and those sentiments certainly have their place in our legal system. It isn’t unique to Christianity though. People of all backgrounds and traditions have come together to figure out how to make that happen and we’re still trying. That’s what a democracy is.

So, I’ve said my piece for now. What place do you think God’s law has in our modern day legal system? Any? A lot? None? Sound off!

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Psalm 1

August 13, 2012

Psalm 1

The Two Ways

1 How happy is the man
who does not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path of sinners
or join a group of mockers!
2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted beside streams of water
that bears its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
4 The wicked are not like this;
instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment,
and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

Our new pastor preached on this passage yesterday. It was a good first sermon choice I think as what he taught said a lot about him. One of the things that popped out of his sermon was that this is not an excuse to engage in an Us vs. Them mentality. He admits that a poem this reductionist can and certainly does lead to black and white thinking. He encouraged us though to remember that the Gospel is not an excuse to gloat or to talk about how much more righteous we are than the Other.

This poem leads me instead to think about my own “chaff-ness” and how far I have to journey (and have journeyed) in my relationship with God towards becoming a tree and bearing life giving fruit. The reader still needs to deal with the first verse though. When it come to relationships with those who disagree with us, and in some cases are actively in opposition to what we believe, I think this urges caution.

Without question, we are to pursue relationships with non-believers. I have a lot of acquaintances and a few dear friends who think that the concept of religion in general and Christianity in particular are harmful at worst and wacky at best. Still, I seek out time with them. I don’t believe for a second that I’ll “convert” them. I’m not sure that’s my job. I do want to love them and bless them. Clearly I’m commanded to do those things (not that that’s why I do them), and so I do. There’s something sweet though in fellowship with believers. We can talk about things from a place of mutual understanding/benefit. And I know when I’m studying scripture, not just to prove a point or write a blog post, there’s healing that can happen and some serious thought provoking time.

This passage also talks about consequences, ultimate ones. It’s here where I will freely admit to being in uncomfortable territory. Whether this is talking about temporal or eternal repercussions for your beliefs, it’s not something I like to dwell on. On the one hand I suppose it could lead to gratitude for being in the tree category. We haven’t earned our “tree-ness”. The flip side of that in my mind is that likewise, the “chaff” haven’t earned their status either. They’re just being what the world made them to be. And yet there are severe costs if they don’t make it. I would have liked to hear Giorgio talk more about that as he winds his way through the Psalms, especially in light of our Assurance this week:

1 John 2:2 My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. 2 He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.

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In a Pickle About Chick-Fil-A

July 23, 2012

This is old news, but I feel the need to write something about this. Chick-Fil-A is “anti gay marriage”. They’ve given millions of dollars to anti-gay organizations. As a “Christian” organization or at least a business that operates on biblical principles (we can and probably should talk about what that means), that shouldn’t be terribly surprising.

My quandary is should I as a person hand my ducats over to a company that actively pursues an “agenda” (a word I’m coming to hate) that I disagree with, setting aside the question of whether or not I should disagree with it. Plenty of people are boycotting them. I don’t go there often and when I do it’s usually to take advantage of a free night, but they do get my money on occasion.

Personally, I don’t care as much about what a company does with its profits, as I do about what they do to their employees. If I spent time looking into what companies did with their gains, I’d likely find something reprehensible in almost every case. That’s probably cynical, isn’t it? Still, it’s what I believe. In this case though, I don’t have to go looking. It’s right there in black and white and I do care, so what to do?

Okay, okay, let’s set all of that aside for a minute. The thing that disturbs me most is the digging they do into their operators’ lives. It’s absolutely their right to do so, apparently. But this bothers the Hell out of me:

Chick-fil-A, the corporate parent, has been sued at least 12 times since 1988 on charges of employment discrimination, according to records in U.S. District Courts. Aziz Latif, a former Chick-fil-A restaurant manager in Houston, sued the company in 2002 after Latif, a Muslim, says he was fired a day after he didn’t participate in a group prayer to Jesus Christ at a company training program in 2000. The suit was settled on undisclosed terms.

They make chicken sandwiches… They do it for the glory of the Lord, I guess, but come on. Seriously? I can understand if your primary focus is religious training/indoctrination. But the idea that if someone is single, or Muslim, or moonlights at a strip club should have zero bearing on their ability to do a good job for you. Who know, hiring them and treating them like human beings could have that “positive influence on all that come in contact with Chick-fil-A” that they expressly want.

And what does it mean to operate on Biblical principles? In this case it seems to mean making sure that your own personal business “diaconate” passes the scrutiny that Paul demands. Does it mean forgetting that all have sinned or that we’re supposed to love our neighbor to the point where we won’t hire them so that we don’t risk endorsing their sin? I would think that a Biblical principal that we’d need to include would be not to mistreat or oppress a foreigner (non-Jew) and moving beyond that we should make sure that they are fed and have the things they need. What better way to do that than to give them a job? We should bless those who persecute us. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. When did God say “Blessed are those that persecute, for they shall make great fricking chicken.”?

It’s this that would make me take a step towards boycotting this business. But would that make me a chicken plucking hypocrite? Should I “persecute” Chick-fil-a for being what they almost can’t help being? We live in a church culture that wants to alienate those who disagree with us. We have set ourselves up as judge and jury. “It’s in the word of God! They are vile sinners and we must show them the depth of their corruption. We must not let that corruption taint our Godly pursuits. They must not join our non-religious groups. We must not let them lead the lives they want, controlling them to prevent them from sinning further.”

CFA will get rewarded by believers for these actions. My dollars, drop in the bucket that they are, will only serve to further allow them to push their (in my opinion) non-Christian agenda. For now I suppose I’ll continue eating the occasional spicy chicken sandwich and pray for the sinners at the top to see their way clear to loving the rest of us poor sinners down here.

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