trump and getting to heaven

I hear this a lot. I mean, really a lot. “I really don’t understand this thing Christians have for Donald Trump. How can they support this guy? It doesn’t make sense.”

The thing is, it sorta kinda does make sense. At least it makes a sort of sense for a couple of different kinds of Christians. The thing is, when most of us think of Christians we think of folks who are trying to live by the principles laid down by Jesus. You know, love one another, judge not, forgive others who have wronged you, the truth shall set you free, the meek shall inherit, all that. Those Christians would have a really hard time supporting a sociopathic serial liar like Donald Trump.

But there are a lot of other sorts of Christians who have different priorities, and those priorities make it possible — even necessary — for them to support a guy like Trump. For example, abortion absolutists. If the main (or only) issue you’re concerned about is overturning Roe v. Wade, then Comrade Trump is your guy. He’s said many times he’ll only nominate appellate court judges who are opposed to Roe, so there’s that.

Worst petting zoo ever.

Personally, I don’t think Donald Trump cares about abortion one way or another. I’d be willing to bet my paycheck (if I had a paycheck) that he’s coughed up some coin to put an end to more than a few unwelcome pregnancies. But if ending abortion gets him applause and support (and money), then he’ll be willing to say he’s against abortion. It’s not religious or philosophical for him; it’s transactional. Still, these Christians will pray for him.

There’s another reason some Christians support Trump. They believe the End Times are just around the corner and it’s time to start making plans for The Rapture. Just a week ago, Pat Robertson, the televangelist, revealed to his audience that god told him “Donald Trump will be reelected…and his reelection will bring about start of the End Times.” These Christians see that as good news. They believe a whole bunch of stuff has to happen before Jesus returns and kicks Evil to the curb. First up, dead true believers will be resurrected, then the living true believers and the resurrected dead will rise up bodily to the clouds to meet god and Jesus. While all this cloud-based business is happening, everything on Earth is going Oh Shit. We’re talking war and calamities and all manner of horrible stuff. Then after a period of time, everybody who was raptured away will get to return to Earth like Jesus’ sidekicks and destroy Evil. I may have gotten some that wrong, and the chronology might be a tad off. But there are a LOT of different interpretations about what’s supposed to happen…but my point, if you can call it that, is that IF you believe somebody like Trump is necessary in order to get to that returning-with-Jesus-to-kick-Evil’s-ass moment, then you’d be all ‘Yay, Trump!’

Farmers and shepherds getting raptured away, and sinners getting stuck with the resulting mess.

So there you go. That’s why some Christians continue to support Comrade Trump. They’re either all about the fetus or they’re working on an appointment with Jesus in the clouds. Or else they’re just racist, women-hating assholes who call themselves Christians.

The thing is, these Christians may not give a rat’s ass about you or your values or your beliefs, but they vote. And they’ll vote for Trump. So unless you want to see forced pregnancies and/or everything on Earth going Oh Shit while some Christians have tea with Jesus in the clouds, you need to vote too.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a Christian, though I was raised as a sort of half-assed Southern Baptist with a little Lutheran side-eye. Just so you know.

i stand with oreo-eating lesbians

I’m not what you’d call an Oreo cookie fan. As commercial cookies go, they’re okay. I buy Oreos maybe once or twice a year. I’ll be noodling through the market and I’ll see a display of some new ‘Limited Edition’ flavor of Oreo. Lemon Meringue Oreos, Red Velvet Oreos, Chocolate & Peanut Butter Oreos, Tiramisu Oreos, Carrot Cake Oreos, Mint Oreos. And I’ll say to myself, “What the hell is that about?” and buy a package. Because why the hell not?

Today, I’ll go buy some Oreos deliberately. Well, maybe not today. I mean, it’s Saturday and the market will probably be busy. I prefer to do my grocery shopping during the week, when all the decent employed people are at work. So let’s say Monday. On Monday I’ll go buy some Oreos. Rainbow Oreos, if they have them. Why?

Because of OneMillionMoms (which I’m just going to call OMM because it’s easier). OMM is a division of the American Family Association, which describes itself as “a Christian organization promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on television and other media.” OMM says its goal is “to stop the exploitation of our children, especially by the entertainment media (TV, music, movies, etc.).”

Let me just say upfront that I wasn’t entirely sure what a ‘biblical ethic of decency’ means. So I Googled it and was directed to a Bible verse. Matthew 22:39, which I also Googled. It’s about the second of two commandments on which ‘hang all the law and the prophets’. The first is about loving god. Here’s the second (in the King James version, which I think rumbles so much better than any of the newer versions):

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

That seems like a pretty solid foundation for decency. But what does that have to do with Oreo cookies? OMM and AFA are organizing a boycott of Oreos cookies because the company that makes them are “attempting to normalize the LGBTQ lifestyle.” How? By “using their commercials, such as the most recent Oreo ad featuring a lesbian couple, to brainwash children and adults alike by desensitizing audiences.”

I don’t watch much commercial television, so I was completely unfamiliar with an advert that featured Oreo-loving lesbians. But my interest was definitely piqued. This is how OMM describes the advert:

The ad has a daughter going home to see her family and brings her lesbian lover with her. The commercial focuses on the mother approving of her daughter’s girlfriend, but the father is hesitant and has reservations. He later has a change of heart and even displays his acceptance of her lifestyle by painting his picket fence in rainbow colors to further show his approval. The advertisement ends with: “A loving world starts with a loving home.”

Well, that sounded okay to me. I mean, it’s all about family and acceptance and a loving home, right? But according to OMM, “It is obvious they are going after our children.” So I figured I should probably track down the actual advert and watch it. I didn’t want to unfairly decide that OneMillionMoms were homophobic assholes without seeing the advert. Besides, I figured Oreo-loving lesbians would be good television.

Here’s the actual brainwashing commercial:

I didn’t see any children in the commercial. I barely saw any Oreos. I guess we’re supposed to assume the Oreo-based brainwashing took place prior to the events in the advert. I guess we’re supposed to be interpreting the relationship between the two young women and the parents as some form of post-Oreo trauma. It’s not clear.

What IS clear, though, is OMM’s belief that LGBTQ people are somehow fundamentally wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated. Their point seems to be that parents shouldn’t accept their LBGTQ children, even if the children are young adults who are making an effort to be accepted. Their point seems to be that buying Oreo cookies is putting children and young adults at risk of…of being accepted? At risk of being loved by their parents?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing something. But this isn’t the first time right-wing Christians have boycotted Oreos. I wrote about this almost exactly eight years ago, during the Great Hydrox Cookie Rebellion of 2012, when right-wing Christian groups tried to bring Oreo to its metaphorical knees by boycotting their cookies.

In their defense, if we’d listened to right-wing Christian groups back in 2012, we wouldn’t be subjects to Maple Creme Oreos. Or Gingerbread Oreos. Or Pumpkin Spice Oreos (which I’m inclined to agree is an abomination in the eyes of the gods).

I’m not convinced that buying Oreos as an expression of LGBTQ support is any less stupid than refusing to buy them as a form of homphobia. But I’m going to buy them anyway. I’m okay with being stupid in a good cause. And I firmly believe that being stupid WITH cookies is better than being stupid WITHOUT cookies. Even if they’re store-bought corporate cookies like Oreos.

I’m here to say I’ll even eat a goddamn Pumpkin Spice Oreo in support of any parent who loves their child without reservation, who believes a loving world begins with a loving home. I stand with Oreo-eating lesbians. And their parents.

the lord knoweth them that are his

If you’re anything like me (and yeah, the odds are against it), when you hear people like Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of the River Tampa Bay Church in Florida, you almost immediately think of Arnaud Amalric, the Abbot of Cîteaux.

Since you’re probably not like me, you’re probably thinking, “Greg, old sock, these names are completely unfamiliar to me. Who, pray tell, are these people?” First, stop calling me ‘old sock’. Second, they’re both what I like to call ‘providentialist fuckwits’. True, they’re separated by about 830 years, but they share some astonishingly stupid approaches to their religious practices.

Here’s Pastor Rodney just a few days ago:

“If you cannot be saved in church, you in serious trouble. I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church is closed is when the Rapture is taking place. If you don’t believe God, and trust God, you will not make it in the days coming. God will protect our people. And if you die to be with Jesus, so what’s the problem?”

This is some seriously old school providentialism that…wait, some of you might be thinking, “Greg, old sock, what do you mean by ‘providentialism’?” Okay, we’ve already discussed the ‘old sock’ issue. Providentialism is the belief that all events on Earth, including the fates of individuals and/or nations, are determined by god, who will take care of the true believers, obv.

This is Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, providentialist fuckwit.

Basically, in its purest and most idiotic form, it’s an abdication of personal responsibility. ‘If I get sick and die, that’s god’s will. If I expose a few dozen other people who get sick and die, that’s up to god. It’s not me but god, who is responsible for everything that happens. God will sort it out.’

And that brings me to Abbot Arnaud Amalic, who was a big hat in the Albigensian Crusade. In the summer of 1209, our boy Arnaud had led his crusader army to the town of Béziers, which was considered a stronghold of the Cathars. He…okay, okay, now you’re probably thinking, “Whoa, Greg old so…uh, what is this albiwhatsit crusade and who or what are Cathars?”

The guy on the left with the halo? That’s Abbot Arnaud Amalric, providentialist fuckwit. I’m not saying there’s a family resemblance to Pastor Rodney, but….

Yeah, good questions. Understand, this is a really quick and dirty explanation of a really complex and fascinating sociological thingy. With that warning in mind, Cathars were a religious sect, many of whom lived in the town of Albi, which is why they were called Albigensians. The Cathars were vegetarian Christians who believed in reincarnation, gender equality, and non-procreative sex (basically any form of sexual activity that wouldn’t lead to pregnancy — yeah, that’s right, any form). They also thought the pope was corrupt as fuck (SPOILER: despite taking the name Innocent III, he was really pretty corrupt). None of that was acceptable to the Church. The pope decided the Cathars were NOT Christians at all, and therefore they had to be converted. Or killed. Pick one.

Remember, from about 1099 to 1272, Christian Europe did a LOT of crusading. This involved traveling a couple of thousand miles to the Middle East in order to kill non-Christians and take their property. A crusade against non-Christians in the south of France was a LOT easier, a lot more time-effective, you didn’t have to deal with all that foreign food, and you still got to kill folks and take their stuff. That made this a very very popular crusade.

Right, back to our boy Arnaud Amalric. He took his crusader army from northern France into southern France, stopping at the town of Béziers. Another tangent: this wasn’t an army in the way we think of armies today. Crusader armies were largely led by knights (privileged guys who expected to get richer through plunder), but the bulk of the fighting was done by peasant foot soldiers (who expected to get some of the riches the knights missed) and mercenary bands (who expected to get paid by the Church and also get rich from plundering), as well as a contingent of religious pilgrims who just wanted the chance to kill non-Christians (and maybe pick up some extra coin while they were at it).

Christian v. Cathars (The guys doing all the stabbing? They’re the Christians.)

So Arnaud’s boys pull up to Béziers, which basically locked their doors (which they could do since the city was behind walls). Arnaud began to set up a siege. Some townsfolk decided to slide out of the city and whack a few mercenaries before the siege was firmly established. Big mistake. The mercenaries not only whacked the townsfolk, they were able to get in the gate. Where they started killing folks.

Siege warfare at that time was pretty routine. You pick away at the walls until you can send in some mercenaries and foot soldiers and peasants to get gloriously slaughtered while opening a gate or a big enough breach in the wall. Then the knights come flouncing in on their horses, allow the people of the town to get semi-slaughtered until the mercenaries reached the part of town where the richest folks lived. Then the knights would move in, stop the slaughter and the plundering, and take the best stuff. Like Jesus intended.

But in Béziers, the knights were still sitting in their tents drinking wine when the mercenaries broke into the city and started the slaughtering and plundering. Somebody found our boy Arnaud and said, “Dude, they’re killing everybody in town, Christians and Cathars alike, women and children, everybody, what do we do?” There’s some dispute whether the concern was about the slaughtering or about the fact that the peasants and mercenaries were getting all the best plunder. In any event, Arnaud is reported to have said this:

“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.”

This often gets translated as “Kill them all, let god sort them out.” A more accurate translation is, “Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are his own.” The more accurate translation is important, because it cites the Bible (Paul’s second epistle to Timothy) as the source for the killing.

“[T]he foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.”

In the end, Arnaud wrote to the pope to let him know they’d taken Béziers. He wrote, “Our men spared no one, irrespective of rank, sex or age, and put to the sword almost twenty thousand people. After this great slaughter the whole city was despoiled and burnt.” But hey, we all make mistakes, and surely god knew which of those twenty thousand were good Christians. So there’s that.

“The Lord knoweth them that are his.”

Basically Arnaud’s take on the situation was largely the same as Pastor Rodney’s. “If you die to be with Jesus, what’s the problem?” Of course, it sounds more sober and religious if you say it in Latin. Si morietur cum ad Jesum, quid est forsit?

The problem, of course, is there are folks who’d just as soon not die. They’d prefer to have a choice in the matter. They’d rather not be put to the sword or infected with a disease simply because some folks believe god will take care of everything in the end, and everybody will get what they deserve.

Let me be clear about this. I have no beef with religion as a social institution. A lot of folks find comfort and solace in their beliefs. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. But I do have a problem with the sort of religious stupidity that puts folks with a different belief system at risk because believers think in the end god will take care of his own team.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to tell those providentialist fuckwits to go fuck themselves. That would probably sound better in Latin.

a thin sheet of hate

It was explained to me, in very polite terms I should note, that I was completely wrong when I said modern evangelicals supporting Trump were promoting “a gospel of white supremacist rage and victimhood.” The evidence that I was wrong?

If you look at the Evangelicals For Trump website, you’ll see a number of African-American and Latino models sporting Trump products specifically designed for African-American and Latino supporters.

I’m willing to be convinced that I might be wrong. I’ve been wrong a LOT in my long, semi-wicked life, so I’m open to the possibility that I might be wrong about this. I did as I was asked to do. I looked at the Evangelicals for Trump website.

Okay, granted, the landing page (is that what it’s called?) shows a sea of white faces with one singularly Aryan-looking kid. But that’s just one photo. And besides, the proof I was told I’d find was about the products being sold. And hey, right there in the upper right hand corner is a ‘SHOP’ button. So I clicked on it.

Sure enough, a couple of pages in you can find black and Latinx models dressed in Trumpwear with slogans like ‘Black Voices for Trump’ or ‘Latinos for Trump’. There were also Trump straws (pack of 10 for US$15) and ‘Get Over It’ t-shirts and camouflage dog bandanas and Trump/Pence snowflake wrapping paper and ‘Women for Trump’ ball caps and Trump/Pence playing cards and Space Force bumper stickers and…

Wait. Snowflake wrapping paper? Space Force bumper stickers? How does any of that fit into evangelism? Trump plastic straws? I don’t get the religious angle here. So I went back to the landing page and read this description of the site:

Evangelicals for Trump will engage the Christian community to help re-elect President Donald J. Trump in 2020. Through re-affirming support for President Trump, evangelicals across the country will work to deliver a second term – ensuring that pro-life initiatives, religious freedom, and the appointment of conservative judges are kept as a top priority for four more years.

Well, okay. I know that ‘pro-life’ is code for ‘anti-abortion’ so I can see the religious angle in that, even if I don’t agree with it and think it’s hypocritical. I’m also aware that ‘religious freedom’ as it’s commonly used by evangelicals means the promotion of a specific style of Christianity along with the quiet, indirect suppression of non-Christian religions. I don’t think that’s very Christian, but it’s certainly ‘religious’. But conservative judges? That’s entirely political.

Why, on a website devoted to evangelical supporters, isn’t there any mention of more traditional Christian values? Why don’t we see anything about “Love your neighbor as yourself” or “If a man strikes you on one cheek, turn the other cheek” or “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? Those are pretty fundamental tenets of Christianity.

Evangelical Christians claim they are called to spread the gospel — the teachings of a person who called on them to care about the poor, the suffering, and the outcast. Yet there’s no mention of the poor, the suffering and the outcast here. There’s no mention of morality or civic virtue. There’s only merchandise to be moved.

Why is this site promoting Trump rather than evangelicalism or Christianity? The answer is found in the small print.

This website, mobile application or other digital or online application or service is operated by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.

Evangelicals for Trump isn’t a religious site; it’s a political site. It’s got nothing to do with Christianity or evangelicalism; it’s only about raising campaign money. Yes, there are black and Latino models wearing Trumpwear, just as my critic claimed. But they’re not included because modern evangelism supports diversity. They’re included because Trump will sell anything to anybody if he can make a profit off it.

Here’s a sad, ugly truth: Donald Trump corrupts everything he touches. He’s corrupted the Republican Party; he’s corrupted the Christian evangelist movement. There’s no better metaphor for that than Trump/Pence Snowflake wrapping paper.

Trump claims he made it safe for Christians to say ‘merry Christmas’ which is a lie on a massive scale. His followers insult liberals by calling them ‘snowflakes’ to suggest they’re delicate. The only reason this wrapping paper exists is so Trump supporters can believe in the illusion that they’re somehow ‘winning’ by insulting liberals. That’s about as far from the spirit of Christmas as you can possibly get — which makes it perfectly on brand for both Trump and modern evangelicalism.

Wrap religion in a thin sheet of hate and sell it to the gullible. There it is.

MAGA evangelism at the uttermost parts

Okay, what I’m about to say is going to sound a tad crazy, but bear with me. Ready? Here it is: modern US evangelism is, in some very real ways, a lot like early Christian evangelism.

I should also include a disclaimer. I’m not a Christian. I was raised by a Southern Baptist momma and a sort of lapsed Lutheran father, and I’ve actually read the Bible and some history…but the religion never took so yeah, I’m not a Christian. Just so you know.

Now, here’s some Bible stuff. King James version, because it rumbles so much better than the modern works.

“[A]nd ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

There it is, right there: the foundation of early Christian evangelism. Be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the world. Go spread the gospel, the good news. That’s from the Book of Acts of the Apostles. The Book of Acts is basically an explanation of how and why the Jewish followers of the Jewish guy who was said to be the messiah of the Jews ended up not converting Jews in the Middle East but instead created a European church by converting pagans.

Without going into all the historical detail (which is really fascinating stuff and y’all should look into it if you’ve any interest in the sociology of religion), this is basically what happened. The followers of Jesus tried spreading the ‘good news’ to their fellow Jews in Jerusalem but didn’t have much success. So they looked for a more receptive audience among the pagan Romans. Christianity gained some serious traction about 300 years later when Constantine converted. About 50 years later, the Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica, which made Nicene Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Emperor Constantine the Great

That meant if you wanted to succeed in the Roman military or government, you became Christian. At least in name, if not in belief. It was sort of like joining the golf club where your boss plays. And since the Roman army occupied those uttermost ends of the earth, western Europe became Christianfied.

My point is this: the early Christians began as a small group of Jews who were ignored and victimized by the larger Jewish community who just wasn’t interested in their ‘good news’. So evangelists took their news to folks who were more receptive. In the same way, Trump Republicans felt ignored and victimized by the larger Republican ‘elite’ who weren’t interested in the ‘good news’ of a corrupt, failed businessman who was a braggart, a racist, and an inveterate liar who’d been married three times and unfaithful to each of his wives. So MAGA evangelists took their ‘good news’ to a more receptive audience. White supremacists.

Comrade Trump the Not So Great

If somebody were to write a modern Book of Acts it would be an explanation of how and why the followers of a rich, privileged, boorish New Yorker used working class racists to convert the leaders of the Republican Party to the cause of white supremacy. 

Because that’s what’s happened. Where early Christian evangelicals spread the gospel of Jesus, MAGA evangelicals are spreading the gospel of Trump, which is a gospel of white supremacist rage and victimhood. Where early Christian evangelists converted Roman leaders, who shaped the beliefs and behavior of their subordinates, MAGA evangelists converted the Republican base, who have shaped the beliefs and behavior of their leaders. And just like a lot of the early Christian converts, many of the converts among the Republican ‘elite’ probably don’t actually share the beliefs of Trump’s gospel. But in order to get ahead and stay in authority they’ll join his golf club.

Had it not been for Constantine, Christians might have remained a small religious sect in the Middle East. Had it not been for Trump, Republicans might have remained a respectable political party. We have Constantine and Christian evangelists to thank for the spread of early Christianity. We have Trump and MAGA evangelists to thank for the spread of modern white supremacy.

he that soweth discord

I declare, it’s like Comrade Donald Trump is a complete stranger to himself. He can say (or tweet) stuff that’s so absolutely contradictory to who he is that you’d wonder if he was being ironic — if you didn’t already know he was incapable of deliberate irony. Yesterday he tweeted this gem:

Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!

Great! Here’s a little Bible literacy lesson for the preznet. (I’ma use the King James Version of the Bible on account of I like the way the language rumbles; it’s so much more rich than the anemic New International Version.) From Proverbs 6:16-19:

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

In Trump’s favor, I don’t think his feet runneth all that swift, even toward mischief. But those other things? The proud look, the lying tongue, all that discord sowing? Comrade Trump is solid there. And that heart that deviseth wicked imaginations? Dude, just wrap your head around his ‘bound and gagged women in the backs of vans’ fantasy.

I believe this is where liars and sinners are supposed to end up.

While we’re doing this Biblical bit, let’s take a look at that deadliest of chapters, Leviticus. Leviticus doesn’t mess around; it flat out tells a person what to do and what NOT to do. Some of which Comrade Trump has totally done. Leviticus 19:13, ya’ll:

Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.

I’m not suggesting Trump defrauded his neighbors. I’m not sure he even has neighbors in his Trump Tower penthouse. But Lord knows (see what I did there?) he certainly defrauded lots of folks with a free hand. What I’m just focusing on, though, is that bit about wages. I think we can safely say ‘the wages of him that is hired’ abided with Trump for 35 nights and mornings during the government shutdown.

But here’s the kicker: Trump went all wage-abiding in pursuit of another violation of Leviticus. I’m talking Leviticus 19:33-34 here:

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Comrade Trump was seriously vexing the holy shit out of strangers attempting to sojourn into the US with his wall. And all those strangers that dwelleth in the US under DACA? They are surely not as one born among Trump. He wants to toss their brown asses out, and he was willing to abide all night with federal employee wages to get that done.

I should note, if it wasn’t already apparent, that I’m not a Christian. Neither is Comrade Trump, for that matter. But only one of us is pretending.

 

endop, you guys!

You guys! Did you know today, May 3rd, is the National Day of Prayer? Me neither! I’d no idea the U.S. even had an official National Day of Prayer, let alone that it was today. But it is.

We’ve apparently had an official National Day of Prayer since 1952. According to the National Day of Prayer Task Force (you guys! we have a National Day of Prayer Task Force!), the National Day of Prayer created “by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.” That’s good old ‘Give ’em Hell, Harry’ Truman, you guys. He knew the value of prayer. He even had a favorite prayer:

Help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right; make me truthful, honest and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellowmen – help me to understand their motives and their shortcomings — even as Thou understandest mine!

Intellectually honest! Truthful, patient, charitable, forgiving! Now, that’s a prayer, right there.

Yes, of course, I’ll pray for your recovery…but intellectual honesty requires me to acknowledge that prayer won’t do much to heal your broken bones. Would you like a pinch of snuff?

If you’re anything like me (and, okay, you’re probably not, but IF you are) then you’re probably asking yourself why we have an official National Day of Prayer (okay, I’m just going to call it NDoP because it takes too long to write ‘National Day of Prayer’ over and over, and besides if you pronounce NDoP as ‘endop’ it’s more fun). The NDoPTF (TF for Task Force, obv.) says the NDoP is  all about 

[I]nviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation.

Okay. Thanks, NDoP, for the invitation! We appreciate it. And, if it’s not too much to ask, what’s the purpose of the NDoPTF?

NDoPTF “exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families. The Task Force represents a Judeo-Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.”

Okay, then. But what about folks who aren’t, you know, Christian? Wait, what am I saying? This is probably just an oversight, right? Maybe sloppy copy editing. I mean, the ‘en’ of ‘endop’ is for ‘national’, right?

And yay, the NDoPTF comes through with an explanation! You guys, NDoPTF assures us that the NDoP “belongs to all Americans. It is a day that transcends differences, bringing together citizens from all backgrounds.” ALL Americans, you guys! And guess what the theme for the 2018 NDoP is! It’s UNITY!

In 2018, our theme will be Pray for America – UNITY, based upon Ephesians 4:3 which challenges us to mobilize unified public prayer for America.

Unity, you guys! Unity based upon a Bible verse to mobilize prayer for…wait, what?  A Bible verse? That mentions America? Uh, NDoPTF, are you sure you’re doing this right? I mean, I’m no historian, but I’m fairly confident that Paul, who was locked in a Roman jail writing to a Greek city in what’s now Turkey, didn’t know dick about America. Maybe if I looked a the actual verse in Ephesians?

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Uh, NDoPTF, I’m beginning to see a problem here. I mean, I’m totally down with the ‘forbearing one another in love’ business, but I feel the need to point out that there are a lot of us here in These United States that don’t fall into that ‘one lord, one faith, one baptism” bit.

But c’mon, you guys! Let’s not nitpick, right! Probably the actual official 2018 National Prayer (we have an actual official national prayer for 2018!) written by the President (no, not that president, c’mon) of the NDoPTF will be more inclusive, right? Probably? I mean, the NDoPTF itself said the NDoP was about inviting ‘all faiths’ to pray, right?

So lets just take a quick look at the actual P of the NDoP and see if it will be more…well, gosh darn it.

Our Dear Heavenly Father, while we come to You in complete humility, we also come to You with boldness in the authoritative name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In Jesus’ name, fill us now with Your Holy Spirit and lead us as we pray in Jesus’ name for America.

I dunno. Seems like there’s an awful lot of Jeebus in the first of the ten paragraphs of the NDoP’s P. But hey, you guys, there’s still this: the White House has announced that President Comrade Trump is going to introduce the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative this afternoon. It’s “intended to signal to religious groups that they have a voice in the government.”

Religious groups, you guys! It just says ‘groups’! So probably this afternoon groups of Wiccans and Buddhists and Jews and Hindus and Druids and Muslims will be included. Probably. Right?

Please, Jeebus, bless my lawyer so that he may be smarter than her lawyer.

Also today? President Comrade Trump said, okay, maybe he did sorta kinda know that his lawyer paid US$130 thou “to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by” an adult entertainment actor that she got horizontal with Trump while his third wife (with whom he’d cheated on his second wife, with whom he’d cheated on his first wife) was sitting home in their luxury apartment with a new-born baby — BUT “money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction.” No roll. Praise Jeebus and pass the spell-checker.

Also too, this: you can get your NDoP merch here.

i got your parable right here

A number of folks, after the recent mass murder at a Baptist church in Texas (which took place during the service), questioned the efficacy of thoughts and prayers as a defense against multiple rounds of .223 caliber bullets. This, naturally, upset some Christian conservatives.

[S]ome prominent left-wing voices have taken the opportunity to politicize the incident. Some on the left have used the shooting to mock the concept of prayer and Christianity.

In an effort to be transparent, I should probably repeat the fact that I’m not a Christian and I don’t believe in a supreme being. I don’t object to the notion of prayer, and I’d never mock folks who resort to it. But I have to say I don’t think it’s a good substitute for action. I do, however, enjoy a good parable.

Here’s one you’ve almost certainly heard before. Devout Christian hears a weather forecast warning of heavy rains and flooding. He stays in his house by the river. The river rises, the man’s house begins to flood, he prays. Sheriff comes by, suggests he evacuate the area. Guy says God will protect him. Flooding continues, the guy climbs on his roof. Rescuer in a boat comes by, offers to take him to safety. Guy says God will protect him. Waters rise, guy is stranded. Helicopter arrives, offers to airlift the guy to safety. Guy says God will protect him. Guy drowns. Shows up at the gate to heaven, asks God why he didn’t answer his prayers. God says he did — sent a warning, sent a messenger, sent a boat, sent a helo — but the guy just didn’t listen.

What? Naw, this is fine.

The parable stops at that point, and most folks seems content with that. Me, I find myself wondering what else God told the guy. I mean, does God say “Dude, you are too stupid and stubborn to enter heaven”? Or “Dude, you ignored every sign I sent you, but hey I’m feeling generous, come on in anyway”? Or what?

Still, as parables go, that one is pretty sweet. Maybe religious folk should take it to heart. If there’s a God, maybe he/she/it is saying “Dude, seriously? I let them shoot up a McDonalds. I let them shoot up a college campus. I even let them shoot up a bunch of six-year-old kids. Then I let them shoot up a church. Why aren’t you paying attention?”

Maybe? Possibly? What do I know? I don’t understand this ‘moves in a mysterious way’ business. But IF there’s some supernatural agent at work here leaving a coded message to his followers, the code really doesn’t seem that difficult to break.

NOTE: That ‘mysterious way’ business? It ain’t from the Bible. It’s from a hymn written by William Cowper in the late 18th century. Not long after he wrote that hymn, Cowper attempted suicide. By drowning. Just saying.