A Man’s Man or Everybody’s Jesus? The Problem of Re-Masculinizing Christ

I follow a lot of religion-related accounts on Twitter. Huffington Post Religion, Oxford Press American Religious History, American Academy of Religion, and so on. I recently began following OnFaith, and an article they tweeted this morning had got me thinking about gender and Christianity (Disclaimer: my Church History class this week is focusing on gender and sexuality, so I’ve had this topic on the brain…Okay, full disclaimer: I am going to write my Master’s thesis on sex and Christianity, so I have this topic on the brain all the time).

Back to OnFaith. John McDougall wrote a piece titled, “7 Arguments Against a Pretty-Boy Jesus.” Before engaging the content, I want to point to the language used just in the title. The phrase “pretty-boy” is clearly negatively used here, which indicates that McDougall is about the throw it down and argue that Jesus is a “real man.” McDougall’s opening paragraph is this:

Picture the Jesus of most Sunday School lessons. What do you see? Chances are, you envision someone a lot like Mister Rogers — kind, gentle, and compassionate. A bearded therapist who pats Timmy on the head and tells him to be “a good little boy.” A handsome prince with perfect hair and impeccable manners. A preppy pacifist who always did what was expected and was loved by everyone.

This is not the real Jesus, says McDougall. Here are McDougall’s seven arguments of why Jesus is not a pretty-boy, in order:

  1. He grew up in tough circumstances.
  2. He hung out with rough people.
  3. He challenged societal norms.
  4. He picked fights.
  5. He confronted injustice.
  6. He stood up to lynch mobs.
  7. He faced torture without fear.

What is most interesting to me is the identification of these behaviors with hyper-masculinity. Reading this article I have now learned that all these things I thought were characteristic of Christians (standing up to hatred, challenge social norms and structures, confronting injustice) are actually characteristic of a real man. As he articulates each point, McDougall repeatedly uses the image of a preppy, clean-cut, peaceful man in stark contrast to the rugged, tough, country boy Jesus really was. McDougall goes so far as to say, “The meek Messiah is neither accurate, nor effective. We need something more.”

McDougall’s article reads like literature from the nineteenth century efforts to masculinize Christianity: women have femininized the Christian church and Jesus, and those pretty boys are buying in to this flowery faith; Jesus’ masculinity must be redeemed if he is to truly be our Savior. By allowing women and pretty-boys to run our churches, we are emasculating men and creating a culture of pansies. These are the same arguments, only superficially updated.

As a woman and as a friend to many men, I find McDougall incredibly sexist and damaging. To argue for any one image of gender is oppressive to those who do not identify with the “norm,” and when Jesus is made spokesperson of the “real man,” Christianity has closed the doors to millions of men and women. If McDougall took out his gendered language but kept his arguments, this blog post would be very different. Yes, Jesus was all those things McDougall pointed to. Yet why does this make Jesus the model of a real man? Is it really so radical to associate these characteristics with being Christian rather than being male?

Sure, Jesus is a rugged man, a country boy, a warrior; Jesus is also a pretty-boy, clean cut, peaceful; Jesus is also nurturing, caring, loving. Jesus is Jesus, God Incarnate, everybody’s Jesus.

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Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner: Legal Prostitution and the Christian Church

Maybe it’s just me, but I read articles about Christianity and various topics on sexuality all the time. Sex and the body is a point of tension for the Christian Church, an area of human life constantly under scrutiny and attempts at regulation. I think I have heard the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner” in conversations about sex more than in conversations about any other topic.

Last week, NPR published an article about Rome’s plan to create a zone of tolerance for prostitution. The southern neighborhood of EUR, full of parks, buildings, and people with money, has become a hot spot for sex workers; while aiding and abetting prostitution is a crime in Italy, exchanging sex for money is legal. This has led to EUR becoming a popular area for sexual solicitation and neighborhood leaders are attempting to deal with the problem by drawing boundaries. Under the plan, prostitution would be banned near home, schools, churches, parks, and playgrounds, pushing sex workers to the margins of the neighborhood. Along with zones of tolerance the plan “also calls for specially trained social and health workers to assist prostitutes and help women who want to get off the streets” (Rome’s Plan for Prostitutes Upsets Sex Workers And The Catholic ChurchNPR: April 2015). One supporter of the plan, Paolo Lampariello, sees the plan as protecting Rome’s women from the unsavory business of prostitution: “This is not a problem for us men, but women — wives, mothers — should not have to see this,” he lamented. “We now have grandmothers going out on their balconies and looking down at, at, at you know what” (Rome’s prostitutes, church opposes ‘zones of tolerance,’ The Star: March 2015).

Rome’s EUR neighborhood

While the zone of tolerance idea has support from many community members who agree with Lampariello, the Catholic Church has vocalized its opposition to the plan. Many Catholic organizations charge the plan with continuing and legitimizing the exploitation of women, and Father Aldo Buonaluto is quoted saying, “It is shameful that the city of Rome, the cradle of Christianity, can carry out such a proposal, endorsing the sale of the human body” (Rome’s Plan, NPR).

What the zone of tolerance plan highlights is the continual struggle of the Christian Church to reconcile human sexuality. In Rome, the Catholic organizations dedicated to helping women out of prostitution have been some of the most opposed to the zones of tolerance, calling instead for a criminalization of those who seek out sex for money. What I find particularly interesting is that Amsterdam, with its infamous red light district, has not inspired the same kind of criticism in modern media. A Google search for articles about Christianity and prostitution in Amsterdam turned up almost nothing; the most interesting article that popped up was a brief piece from this past February about Christian Democrat city council members proposing a minimum age for prostitutes [21 years old] and more strict licensing rules (Amsterdam city council as pimpDutch News: February 2015). Wikipedia offers a reference to religious efforts in the 20th century to end prostitution in Amsterdam, but it is just a few sentences in the bigger history of the area.

Amsterdam’s Red Light District

There are a number of social and cultural differences between Rome and Amsterdam that may account for the differing religious responses to prostitution, but I am more interested in the tension between Christianity and legal prostitution. Human trafficking is a problem, and women and men who are forced into prostitution certainly deserve assistance to get out, but what about those who willingly engage in legal prostitution? How can the Christian Church support men and women who choose sex work as their profession? Should Christians attempt to stamp out all prostitution, legal and illegal? If this is the chosen response, as is the Catholic Church’s in Rome, there’s got to be support for all those who will lose their jobs. What will the Christian Church do for all the men and women who worked the streets or the brothels?

Rome’s zones of tolerance and the Catholic Church’s opposition demonstrates, to me, a bigger trend in Christianity: often Christians call for the end of a practice – prostitution, capitalism, denominational hierarchy – yet there is rarely a plan for the aftermath. It is not enough to hate the sin and love the sinner: to simply do away with systems of sin or oppression [hate the sin] leaves hundreds and thousands of people with nowhere to go. Is that really loving the sinner? Perhaps it is time to really put away the hate – of the sin, of the sinner, of unsavory businesses – and instead fight against the sin and love everyone, not only those who are given the label of “sinner.”

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Catholic Lent, Minus the Guilt: How Sobriety Made Me Confront My Depression

Happy Easter! It’s been many months since I’ve written for this blog: between grad school, two jobs, and living in the big city of Chicago, Everyday Religion has been pushed to the back burner.

BUT.

I am renewing my commitment to keep this blog updated and post regularly. We’ll begin the new season of blogging with a guest piece from a close college friend of mine. In fact, this piece inspired me to dust off the WordPress link and start writing (for fun!) again. So enjoy this piece by Julia Cook, and check back for new content soon!

Catholic Lent, Minus the Guilt: How Sobriety Made Me Confront My Depression | By Julia Cook

Though they may not remember what happened next, everyone remembers the first time they got drunk. For me, it wasn’t sneaking booze from my Dad’s crystal decanters—though that would have been easy enough—but at the end of high school, when the resident bad boy brought Smirnoff apple ice and forties of Hurricaine to my parents’ house for a fourth of July party. My mother’s reaction, upon finding a few dead soldiers in the trash, sums up just how easy drinking should have been for me:

“The next time you have a party, and we’re not home, and there are boys, and there is drinking, you need to tell your friends that we recycle!

You see, coming from a long line of WASPs I also come from a long line of drinkers—not habitual, beer-with-breakfast types that build up a tolerance over time, but reactionary drinkers. Drinkers for whom Lent is a symptom of Catholic guilt pervasive to the lower classes. Hence, at eighteen I was the perfect storm of terrible drinking habits: a Catholic school student encouraged to drink by her parents, yet surrounded by priggish teachers and classmates for whom coloring outside the lines was unacceptable. That bad boy with the Smirnoff? The only other Protestant in my class.

I started observing Lent half in solidarity with my starving friends and half because I wanted to break a habit—not of drinking, but of slashing myself with a razorblade when I was beset with self-loathing. And at a school where, on one occasion, a teacher told me my prayers didn’t “count,” this happened quite a bit. So, in my own silently rebellious way I used Lent to improve myself, to fit in with my classmates even if they didn’t know the existence of my perverse mortification. My religion teacher, for once, was right: it took 40 days to break the habit.

Since then, to the constant befuddlement of my parents, I’ve observed Lent every year, with sacrifices ranging from healthy (Diet Coke, Facebook) to surprisingly difficult (Peanut Butter), to silly (Fall Out Boy). Each time, I’ve been able to kick the habit. Except peanut butter—still working on that.

But why I decided to give up drinking this year is a lot less interesting than what actually happened. I should say I’m not a huge drinker, but definitely a reactionary one, more prone to binge when emotional events pile up. After getting dumped last summer I crashed a wedding, took someone home, reminded him to step over the cat vomit I’d neglected to clean up earlier, and finally burst into tears when it was over. Really, that was when I should have given up drinking. But going cold turkey makes you process these things—really confront them—without the relative social acceptability of “blowing off steam.”

In the past few weeks I’ve become reclusive, intense, and paranoid. My thoughts started to move at a spiraling pace. At work my numbers were down and around my friends I overanalyzed every interaction to the point where I stopped getting invited to things. And finally, I thought about self-mutilating again, something that hadn’t even come up since I’d gone to college. I’d given up drinking because being drunk made me sad, and instead of uncovering the reason I had just sunk further into it. Finally my boss sent me home. “Don’t come back until you’re 100 percent,” she said. “Have a beer, or get some help.”

Every year I get a Good Friday text from one of my high school classmates. It’s because of the time my car broke down, leaving three of us on the side of the road in Ohio during a downpour of biblical proportions. We spent hours in a pizza parlour making futile calls, waiting for someone—anyone—to pick us up. When three people who used to hate each other sing along to Taylor Swift on the radio it makes you realize that breaking a habit is all about forgiving yourself. It’s okay to say that your problem—whatever it is—is part of who you are. But you can’t let it define you, and it certainly doesn’t determine who you become.

So I did get help, which has made me see that drinking and everything that comes with it does not occur in a vacuum. These things are reactionary, unfortunate by-products of unfortunate feelings. Of course I’m still that misfit teen—focusing on what I dislike about myself rather than what I like—but there’s also a clarity that comes from forty-plus days of thinking. You realize what you’re capable of, even as you peel off the old, forgotten band-aids of your past.

Julia Cook lives in Seattle, where she’s working on her first book. She’s been published in Paste Magazine, Seattle Weekly, and JENESIS, and is a recovering peanut butter addict.

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Three in One: A Heresy-Free Exploration of the Trinity

As I work through my first semester at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, I have neglected this blog (I do a lot of writing in seminary, y’all!). The following post is an academic blog I wrote for my Church History I course on the Trinity in the early church. It’s longer than I normally post and there aren’t any pictures, but someone who I love and respect encouraged me to post it here…and so let’s do it. 

In Christian churches today, one will hear the Trinity invoked – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Protestant, Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox, the Trinity is accepted by virtually all Christians around the world. Yet the doctrine of the Trinity was not always articulated in a way united the Christian church; in reality it emerged over a number of years and through a number of controversies. As the early Church began to develop its identity in the first few centuries, a major issue quickly surfaced that sparked deep discussion about the Trinity: how could Christians reconcile the worship of Jesus with a claim of monotheism? To Jewish eyes, the worship of Jesus looked like the worship of a second god; Christians were pressed to explain Jesus Christ in a way that preserved monotheism. Though the theologian Tertullian would not offer the term Trinitas, or “Trinity” until the early third century, Christian theologians were already beginning to talk of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit as a Trinity in the second century. For example, Theophilus of Antioch talked about God as triados, or “triad,” the first person being God the Father, the second person Son of God or Logos, and the third person the Holy Spirit. The foundation of the doctrine of the Trinity was built early in the Church’s life, and was ready to be expanded upon.

As the church developed an understanding of the Trinity, two extreme understandings emerged that attempted to preserve the “oneness” of God by denying one of the two natures of Jesus Christ. On one side, the adoptionists believed Jesus was just a regular man who managed to be perfectly obedient to God, thus denying Jesus’ divinity. The adoptionists wanted to say that Jesus was not God, that “the only difference between Jesus and the rest of us was that he was able to be perfectly obedient to God, and as a result, God adopted him as Son.” Only with the adoption by God did Jesus obtain any divinity, and even then the divinity Jesus received, as a reward for his obedience, was lesser than the Father’s divinity.

At the other end of the spectrum, the modalists viewed Jesus as the same as the Father, the distinction being in name only and thus denying Jesus’ humanity. The modalists believed that naming God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was actually naming the activities or modes of God, not the nature of God. For the modalists, this preserved the oneness of God; “since ‘Jesus’ was nothing more than another name for the Father,” worshipping Jesus the Son is still worshipping the Father because those are just two names for the same thing.

With the rise of the adoptionists and the modalists, the mainstream church was forced to define an orthodox understanding of the Trinity. It is now, around the turn of the third century, the doctrine of the Trinity begins to become clearer. Just before the beginning of the third century, Irenaeus of Lyons was “the first to say explicitly that the Father and Son are one and the same essence” while also recognizing a hierarchy of authority within the Trinity. Just a few decades later, Tertullian offered the terms Trinitas, persona, or person, and substantia, or substance, to talk about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; using language from Irenaeus and Tertullian, an orthodox articulation of the Trinity is that it is three persons who are all of the same substance, or essence. This refuted adoptionism because the Son, or Jesus, is of the same divine substance as the Father and could not have been merely a man, highlighting the oneness of God; this articulation also countered modalism because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three modes of God but are three persons, emphasizing the threeness of God.

Another third century theologian, Novatian, also offered a significant contribution to the doctrine of the Trinity in a document that stated “in order to experience full humanity, Christ voluntarily and temporarily chose not to exercise these divine attributes;” this concept of kenosis, or emptying, allows for the full humanity of Christ in addition to but not replacing full divinity. Novatian’s treatise on the Trinity is also significant because it begins to articulate eternal generation or eternal begetting of Christ, the concept the Son, though contingent on the Father’s existence, is just as divine and eternal as the Father.

Tertullian and the theologians responding to adoptionism and modalism were attempting to articulate the balance of unity and distinction within the Trinity. Another way to talk about this balance is to use the terms “consubstantial,” “inseparable operation,” and “appropriation.” To say that Trinity is “consubstantial” means that it is one in substance and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of the same divinity. What follows is “inseparable operation,” that all persons of the Trinity are involved in all divine activities. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not off doing three different things, but are three persons each with a few unique qualities. “Appropriation” is another concept that addresses the balance between unity and distinction, and it means that whatever is said about one person of the Trinity can be said about all persons of the Trinity, which a few exceptions. These exceptions are that the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten and incarnate, and the Holy Spirit proceeds. It is important to know that “unbegotten” means not created by anything, while “begotten” in this case does not mean created but generated. This understanding will be clarified by the mainstream church in response to the Arian Controversy, which will be discussed below. With this understanding of appropriation and begotten/unbegotten, it would be orthodox to name the Trinity as Unbegotten, Begotten, and Proceeder but naming the Trinity as Creator, Savior, and Sustainer would be modalism, a heresy, because all three persons are all Creator, Savior, and Sustainer.

Though the mainstream church had begun developing a more detailed doctrine of the Trinity, modalism and adoptionism still had a hold on a number of Christians. The fourth century saw another situation forcing the church to further clarify orthodoxy, and that situation was the Arian Controversy. Arius was a priest in Alexandria who was preaching a form of adoptionism in the early fourth century. Arius taught that because Jesus suffered he could not be divine or eternal in the past, and while the Logos preexists the rest of creation, it was created. For Arius, “begotten” means “created,” the Son of God is only Son by adoption, and there is an ontological separation of the Father and the Son. Arius’ Jesus was perfectly obedient to God and was granted quasi-divinity, acting as an example for all humanity. Thus Arius recognized a hierarchy of divinity and argued the unity in the Trinity as a unity of wills, not substance.

Refuting Arius was Alexander, bishop of Alexandria. Alexander was preaching eternal generation of the Son, meaning the Son is co-eternal with the Father because there was not a moment at which the Son was created. Athanasius of Alexandria, Alexander’s right hand man and future bishop, backed Alexander and offered this mainstream response to Arius: the Son is begotten from the Father, “begotten” meaning the Son was not created but whose existence is contingent on the Father, and only the human nature of Christ suffered, preserving the doctrine of divine immutability. The Son of God is the natural Son of God, of the same substance, and is co-eternal with the Father, which means the hierarchy of the Trinity is one of authority not divinity. Jesus Christ was not simply an example for human obedience but a divine intervention for all humanity. Thus the mainstream church, as represented by Athanasius and Alexander, say the unity of the Trinity is a unity of substance.

This mainstream position against Arianism was presented at a synod, or regional council, in Alexandria and resulted in Arius’ excommunication and banishment from Alexandria. Arius did not give up so easily and appealed to the bishop of Nicomedia, Eusebius, who supported Arius and reconciled Arius at a synod in Nicomedia. With opposing bishops and opposing synods, and no sign of reconciliation from either side, the emperor Constantine called an ecumenical council to deal with the Arians. In 325 CE, the first ecumenical, or world wide, council and the first council called by an emperor was convened in Nicaea.

The Council of Nicaea produced the first version of what is now called the Nicene Creed (the creed as it is known today was not finished until 381 CE at the Council of Constantinople) and was based on the baptismal creed of Caesarea, offered by Eusebius of Caesarea. Eusebius’ creed was orthodox yet vague enough that the Arians could interpret it as supporting their position. Thus there needed to be a statement that emphasized the divinity and eternalness of Jesus Christ so much that the Arians could not possibly agree. This was done by using the Greek word homoousios, which means “one in being” or of the same essence; when homoousios is translated into English via Latin, the result is consubstantial, or same substance. By using the word homoousios in the Creed of Nicaea, the mainstream church solidified the boundaries between what was an orthodox understanding of the Trinity and what was not. The use of homoousios was also significant because it was the first time the Church had to look outside of the Scriptures for interpretation and therefore implying that it was not enough to use only Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Wondering where the Holy Spirit is in all the discussion of the Trinity? In the first few centuries of the Church, the main concern was reconciling the figure of Jesus with the immutability of God while preserving the oneness of God, and that was the main task of the bishops and councils. This does not mean theologians were not talking about the Holy Spirit: Justin Martyr had named the Spirit in the third place of the Trinity and both Tertullian and Novatian had “affirmed the divine personhood of the Holy Spirit” in the third century. Attention does turn to the Holy Spirit after the Council of Nicaea, when a group that comes to be known as the Macedonians used Arius’ arguments to deny divinity to the Spirit. At the Council of Constantinople in 381 CE, this question of the Holy Spirit’s divinity was considered and the orthodox position was that like the Son: the Holy Spirit is equal in divinity and eternity to the Father. By the end of the Council of Constantinople, the Nicene Creed had been expanded to include a more detailed section affirming the divinity of the Holy Spirit and placing the Macedonians outside of the lines of orthodoxy.

As the Church grew and alternative interpretations emerged, the mainstream church was forced to define orthodoxy and set boundaries. The Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was one of the first major theological issues to be dealt with. After many letters, synods, and two ecumenical councils, the early Church’s position on the Trinity was this: there are three persons of the Trinity who share a divine substance and thus the hierarchy of the Trinity is one of authority, not divinity; these three persons of the Trinity are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and anything that is said about one person of the Trinity can be said about all persons of the Trinity with a few exceptions. The doctrine of the Trinity is all about balance, the balance of unity with distinction, of oneness with threeness. Lean too far one way and either the unity or distinction is lost, but stay in the middle and the Trinity will thrive.

Looking to read more? Here are the sources I used in this work:

“The Arian Controversy,” YouTube video, 108:18, posted by “JimPapandrea,” March 26, 2012 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPuBblvDivw].

Papandrea, James L. “First Theologians.” Class lecture, History of Christian Thought and Practice 1 from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL, September 22, 2014.

Papandrea, James L. Reading the Early Church Fathers: from the Didache to Nicaea. New York: Paulist Press, 2012.

Papandrea, James L. Trinity 101: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Liguori, MO: Liguori Publications, 2012.

Tertullian, The Apology.

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Polarization and the church: is a third way possible?

A great read, for conservatives and liberals alike. It is possible to affirm the validity of one’s faith in a way that shows them love without accepting all their beliefs.
Polarization is real and is rampant and hurts people, but thankfully there is a third way, a middle way.

Ben Irwin

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Last week, the Pew Research Center shared their findings from a 20-year study of polarization in American politics. The short version: it’s getting worse. But polarization is not just a political phenomenon. It’s a religious one too.

Polarization is more than just disagreement with someone. It’s the tendency to view that person as your enemy, as a threat to everything you hold dear. In a Christian context, polarization manifests itself in rejecting the validity of someone else’s faith, or by saying things like, “If you accept X, then you’ve undermined the gospel, the Bible, Christianity, etc.”

We don’t have to look far to find those who’ve been impacted by this kind of polarization, whose humanity has been reduced to an abstract “other” so we can more easily marginalize and dismiss them.

Our disagreements aren’t going away anytime soon. The question is, can we have our differences and still…

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Are You a Belieber? The Baptism of Justin Bieber

Over the weekend, the news came out that Justin Bieber was baptized in New York City by Hillsong Church NYC pastor Carl Lentz. Why is this news? Other than the fact that anything celebrities do become headlines, Bieber’s baptism follows a recently leaked video of the pop star telling a racist joke (you can see the clip here – footage filmed during the making of Never Say Never when Bieber was 15). Back in February of 2014, after an X-rated photo with an adult dancer leaked, Bieber was reportedly searching for a private pool to be baptized in but had no luck.

Several months after the leaked video, and a few months after the failed search for a pool, Bieber’s baptism finally came together. Carl Lentz, a long-time friend of Bieber, spent a week doing a Bible study with Bieber and assessed the singer was a believer and was ready to be baptized. Lentz tweeted his support of Bieber and his faith on June 5th: “@carllentzNYC: I hate to see peoples past mistakes cause pain in the present.. I’m proud of @justinbieber, the man he is/is becoming, despite old videos..” And Bieber himself addressed the video, saying,

“As a young man, I didn’t understand the power of certain words and how they can hurt. I thought it was OK to repeat hurtful words and jokes, but didn’t realize at the time that it wasn’t funny and that in fact my actions were continuing the ignorance. I take my friendships with people of all cultures very seriously and I apologize for offending or hurting anyone with my childish and inexcusable mistake. I was a kid then and I am a man now who knows my responsibility to the world and to not make that mistake again.”

Was Bieber sincere in his apology and true in his baptism? Has he realized his actions are in conflict with his faith or is this simply a way to fix the negative PR the video and photo have brought the 20 year old? The conclusion I draw – other than the fact that Justin Bieber’s popularity continues to be a mystery to me – is similar to my thoughts on spontaneous baptisms: who are we to know whether someone’s baptism or repentance is real? Shouldn’t we leave that to the divine? Why does Bieber’s baptism need a news story, and why is his past relevant? There are hundreds of regular people who have told racist jokes, taken inappropriate pictures, committed crimes…and professed faith in God or Allah or Yahweh. How do we know they are true believers?

So let Bieber profess his faith and his baptism. Take his apology and his words at face value. Unless you’re psychic and know his true thoughts (and if you are, I would looove to talk to you), be a Belieber.

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Why Care About Those Trees? They’re All the Way in Israel

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, and I apologize for that. I am experiencing a severe case of “can’t make myself do it”-itis.

This will be short, but I did come across this blog post and it was really intriguing. Ben Irwin tells us that “earlier this week, the Israeli government bulldozed 1,500 fruit trees on a family farm near Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus” (Ben Irwin, May 21 2014). Allegedly the trees were on state land, though the Nassar family – the owners of the land, upon which sits Tent of Nations – argue otherwise. While the Nassars were awaiting a court decision, someone decided to go ahead with the removal and illegally uprooted the more than 1,000 trees. 

Now, the only reason I heard about this happening is because I follow Ben Irwin’s blog and it popped up. However, Irwin believes that if this very situation happened in the United States, everyone would know about it. Why? Because the Nassars and the Tent of Nations farm are evangelical Christians.

Irwin challenges American Christians to think about what exactly the body of Christ means. And though this instance focuses on Christianity, I can imagine the very same reaction (or lack thereof) if this happened to any mainstream religious group. We make lots of noise when someone or their land is threatened because of religious beliefs…but only when it happens at home.

Read Irwin’s post and others he’s written at his blog, benirwin.wordpress.com

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