Saturday, April 5, 2014

An Embarrassed Christian

In my book “Fed Up with Fundamentalism” there is a short section titled “An Embarrassed Southern Baptist.” Since then my embarrassment has expanded somewhat, so now in many ways I have become an embarrassed Christian.

The primary problem is that the media mainly reports on the outlandish actions of “Christians.” And there is certainly a lot of that kind of stuff to report on. I have written about some of that on my blog postings this year. For example,
    * In my 2/4 blog article, I wrote about Christians seeking in the name of religious freedom to be exempt from providing insurance coverage from their employees. I am embarrassed when I think of Christians like the CEO of Hobby Lobby and those who support him.
    * My 2/18 posting was about Westboro Baptist Church and about some states seeking to legislate discrimination against gays/lesbians in the name of religious freedom. Westboro’s founder pastor Fred Phelps has since died, but the hateful protests of that church continue.
    * On 2/28 my blog article was about racism in Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage of religious people (mostly Christians) in the U.S. (And just two days ago an anti-gay discrimination bill was passed in Mississippi—and that action was praised by the Miss. Baptist Convention.)
Then not long ago there was segment on TRMS about the anti-scientific attitudes of national politicians—such as U.S Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.). In an address in August 2012 at a banquet organized by Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga., Broun said, “All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.”
Rep. Broun, a medical doctor by training, serves on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. That is troubling, for a few years ago he received a round of applause from GOP colleagues when he claimed that man-made global warming is a “hoax” with “no scientific consensus.”
Of course, in many other ways I am certainly not embarrassed to be a Christian. For example, I am not embarrassed to be a part of the Christian group north of the Missouri River in greater Kansas City known as Northland Faith Voices. I was happy to be a part of that group as they planned and a rally for economic justice and dignity on Feb. 27.
Although I am not personally involved in their fine service activities, I certainly not embarrassed by the 8,600 churches, including a number of local churches, who are an active part of Love INC (In the Name of Christ).
Similarly, there are also many Christians serving others through the In As Much Ministry, a food and clothes pantry that serves the Liberty area where I live.
I am also not at all embarrassed when I hear outstanding Christian scholars/activists such as those I have heard in the past couple of weeks: Anglican N. T. (Tom) Wright, Mennonite J. Denny Weaver, and Catholic John Dear (who is not a tractor but a detractor of the nation’s weapons of war!).
There are Christian organizations like these, and outstanding scholars/activists like these, all across the country (and world). But they seldom make the news. The general non-Christian public rarely has a chance to hear about the kind of Christians who are lovingly serving people in need and propounding a thoughtful interpretation and implementation of Christianity.
And that’s a shame.
If there were more coverage of the positive and true things Christians do and say, I (we) wouldn’t have to be so embarrassed.


  1. I once considered applying the Ichthys (fish symbol) to my car’s bumper to indicate that I identify with Christianity. However, from observation of how it was being used I soon perceived that it is generally understood to indicate support of creationism.

    1. Clif, I know what you mean.

      As another embarrassing thing I thought about mentioning was the creationism of the recent Bill Nye / Ken Ham debate.

      That was embarrassing as because of his Christian beliefs, according to Wikipedia, "Ham dates the age of the universe to about 6,000 years, and states that Noah's flood occurred about 4,500 years ago in the year 2348 BC."

  2. Indeed, it is a shame. And it's true not only for Christianity but also the other major religions of the world, including Islam. If religion had the advertising budget that for-profit corporations do, we would feel like we're living in a very different world.

    1. Yes, Anton, I'm sure there are many devout Muslims in this country (and elsewhere) who are embarrassed as Muslims because of all the bad press given to the Islamists.

  3. Just a few weeks back there was a news report on a church where the pastor held a drawing for an AK-15 semi-automatic rifle, and he preached a sermon on "Protecting our Second-Amendment Rights." (Look that up in your concordance.) The news station (Channel 41) reported it without challenge and almost in a supportive light. This pastor held this give-away to "pack the pews," the reporter said with a big smile. The pictures did not appear to support that the gimmick had met its goal. That church's pews were roughly half-full (which may have been good for that congregation, but did not support the news copy, which was probably taken from the church's press release, and went unchallenged).

    It seems the news media need to be educated on how to challenge religious claims and where to get alternative quotes in such instances. Moreover, when they fail, they need to be pressured to do their jobs. Is CRES still active following Vern Barnett's retirement? What might be our mechanism if not that organization?

    1. Debra, thanks for writing and for mentioning another embarrassment for us Christians who believe in nonviolence.

      Yes, I think that CRES is still active--and Vern is still around. I think the Kansas City Star was unhelpful to the Christian cause when it stopped publishing the weekly columns of Vern and also of Bill Tammeus.

      But there are still good groups, and commentators, around. They just need more publicity.

  4. Dennis BoatrightApril 5, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    While I started this comment as a blame the media, I decided they are only serving up what their customers want. I see requests for more positive stories, but I feel this is the minority. Television news is the worst, focusing on negative stories in detail while slipping in one or two 30-second spots on positive news (assuming you do not count sports and weather that can go either way).

    I think the news media are plenty educated, but that just means they know what sells.

    1. Dennis, good to hear from you again.

      I think you make a good point: the media plays to their audience, doing what sells. And outlandish actions/statements gain more attention than good things that are more mundane.

  5. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson sent the following comments (and gave permission for my posting them here):

    "Thank you for sharing your embarrassments and an alternative perspective. I agree with you that the media need to give a more balanced picture. I was thinking the other day that news items too often report the spectacular and neglect some of the genuinely commendable things.

    "For example, most articles on the ACA have majored on failures in its implementation and done little to call attention to ways in which it changes lives. Something similar happens to Christian actions. The media have taken little notice of the way churches in the Louisville area have enabled Karens from Myanmar (Burma) to make the painful transition from their homeland to a safe environment, to learn English, and to find housing, jobs, etc."

  6. Thinking Friend Temp Sparkman, who was the featured subject of my 3/25 posting, wrote:

    "Leroy, add Franklin Graham's embarrassing piece in Saturday's 'Star.'

    "As to what to do, promote the churches that offer a liberating religion (Progressive Judaism, Unitarian Universalist, Christian (Disciples, Congregational), Presbyterian, Baptist (Alliance, some CBF), Mennonite Urban."

    1. Graham's comments in today's Kansas City Star's "Quotable Quotes" came from the March 2014 issue of "Decision" magazine. In that article Franklin praised Russian President Putin's opposition to gays/lesbians and criticized the U.S. President's position. Yes, I find that embarrassing also.

      Franklin Graham's remarks (in part):

      "Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue—protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda—Russia’s standard is higher than our own?

      "In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues. Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.

      "Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration’s lead. This is shameful."

  7. I read two other blogs yesterday with similar tacks. Opposite sides. Both regretted the vicious vision of the other side and pondered unity.
    The consensus opinion was that outside of a “belief” in Christ, there is no functional definition of what “Christian” or “Church” means anymore – all are anathema. Both sides were appealing for unity, but neither expected that to happen. Very cynical. Each has Biblical support for their positions, and notes that the other side can only point to a few decades or centuries of tradition. In other words, none who claim to be “Christian” or of the “Church” really are because the polarity has caused all to leave 3 of the 4 love commandments of Christ. They may be right. I have seen the “Christian” civil wars most of my life (some quite deadly), including from the vantage of two “missions” that claimed to work with all Christians and churches – and actually tried to. Only once have I seen the Church actually function in a unified manor. There are none righteous. Good reason for cynicism.