anti-immigrant

Updating Common Sense: What Christians Really Believe

As a kid I took for granted the fact that popping out of the womb as a male beat the hell out of the alternative. Any girl with half a brain, if given the choice, would obviously opt for checking “male” on the census form.

In fact, so clear was this bit of wisdom, and so desperately did young males my age need it to be true that we used “woman” as a slur: Sissy. Fem. Girly-man.

One time I called my little brother a woman in front of my mom. She said, “You know, woman isn’t a dirty word. There’s no shame in being a woman.”

I said, “Sorry, Mom.” But deep inside I knew she was wrong. Everybody did. The reality of male superiority was woven into the fabric of the universe.

But it wasn’t only women. I also took it as read that being gay made you somehow defective. We used sexual orientation as an epithet, too. You know the ones. I don’t need to repeat them.

We just knew these things, as surely as we knew the earth revolved around the sun, or that the sum of the interior angles of a triangle is 180º, or that Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time.

We didn’t argue that men were superior to women or that gay people had made some shoddy lifestyle choices any more than we argued about gravity or the law of the conservation of matter or entropy. Because, why would you?

That’s what taking something for granted means: You don’t have to argue about it anymore. It’s the way the world is. It’s not even conventional wisdom, because conventional wisdom implies that there might be another side to the story. This stuff is just eye-rollingly obvious.

But then one day that stuff about women and gay people didn’t seem nearly so obvious anymore. I realized that I knew women who were smarter and funnier and more successful than me. I spent time with LGBT folks who seemed much more together, much more empathic, much more generous than I am. Now, a lot of that stuff I once took for granted seems not only laughably false, but something that I should be actively attempting to stand athwart.

We need to take a look at this whole “taken-for-grantedness” thing. We need to update common sense.

I was reading some analysis recently about the HuffPost/YouGov poll that indicates a problem with Americans’ perception of the budget deficit. In short, the deficit has been steadily falling over the last four years -- which you’d never know by asking the average American, 68 percent of whom believe otherwise.

Why the disparity between reality and perception? Because reality changes, while perception very often does not.

People, according to George Lakoff, make sense of reality by relying on a deeply embedded structure of frames. These frames are the taken-for-granted things we use as shortcuts to understand a complex world.

In many ways frames operate as “what-everybody-with-any-sense-knows-to-be-true.” In the worlds they construct and over which they have dominion, these frames are things that no longer even need to be asserted, let alone argued. Everybody just knows.

But we’ve come to understand that some frames are so wrongheaded that we have a moral responsibility to leave them behind -- like the idea that some classes of people are fit for nothing more than slavery, or that women are inherently hysterical and unfit for positions of responsibility outside the home, or that sexual orientation is a choice to be made -- a choice that is open to praise or blame. Obsolete and unchallenged frames can be moral liabilities.

The liability of certain frames is also true when it comes to religion. Christianity, for instance, has long suffered from some popular certainties that need to be shed. The “taken-for-grantedness” of some frames in popular Christianity is no longer just a hidebound inconvenience; it’s an obstacle to faith. But because the fundamentalists who rely on those yell louder than anyone else, their vision of the world sits at the forefront of the public consciousness as “the Christian position.”

Well, some of the frames popularly believed to be “the Christian position” aren’t; they are distortions of what many folks who claim to follow Jesus believe.

So, here is a list of popular Christian frames that come to mind that need to go away:

Christians are credulous dolts, who view science as a threat.

  • In fact, an overwhelming majority of U.S. Catholics and white mainline Protestants take evolution to be the way we got here.

  • Across the board, a significant majority of Christians believe climate change is underway.

  • A majority of Christians (Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, and Catholic) view stem cell research as morally acceptable or as “not a moral issue.”

Christians hate gay people.

Christians are nationalists who hate immigrants.

I’m tired of playing defense against fundamentalism. Fundamentalists don’t occupy “the Christian position,” which requires some kind of special deference, not to mention the expectation of an explanation from those who would deviate. Christianity, in large part, is much more progressive than is popularly taken for granted.

Common sense about what the majority of Christians believe needs an update.

(This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.)

Send the Crowds Away

By Morf Morford

We all know this line as one of the opening scenes of one of Jesus’ most well-known miracles – the feeding of the five thousand.

Most commentators use this verse to highlight the contrast between Jesus and his disciples; the disciples show their lack of faith in God as the provider, while Jesus steps up, fully relying on, and ultimately proving God’s ability, even eagerness to provide – and not just adequately, but with gleeful abundance (Matthew 14:20).

It is one of the central stories of the New Testament – and it’s not a parable.

The scriptures stake Jesus’ identity, and our own identity as ambassadors of the Kingdom, on stories like this.

I, like many Christians I know, sometimes wish I lived in these times to witness miracles like these.

But I forget that, along with the miracles, will be a first, almost reflexive burst of faithlessness.

And I also forget that if the issues, concerns and values of the Bible were ever true, they still are.

And I look in horror and shame at the living, breathing expression of faithlessness on our southern border as my people, using images and quotes from my faith, curse, threaten and spit on desperate, fearful and abandoned children.

Jesus told his disciples to “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16). But somehow, so many, in the name of Jesus, would gladly shut our doors in the frightened faces of refugee children.

How did faith turn into an expression of fear, cowardice and hatred?

I find it fascinating that so many seem so eager to publicly betray their own individual and national beliefs and values. I see them wave their flags as they send our vigilante groups along our border. Could there be anything more contrary to our nation’s most iconic symbol, Statue of Liberty which carries the lines (carved in stone lest we forget): “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of our teeming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And how many of these would call themselves ‘pro-life’ and admit, in a calmer moment perhaps, that every one of us is created in the image of God, and every life is sacred.

But somehow we see personal faith, national identity and even basic human decency trampled and ignored in the spirit of a nameless, fearful frenzy.

I am sure that these people at home, are ‘good people’ who care for their own children, but somehow, like the two ‘good people’ in the parable of the Good Samaritan, they find it easy to turn their backs on their own humanity.

Like the ‘Good Samaritan’ (Luke 10:25-37) our acceptance in God’s eyes has little, or even nothing, to do with our mastery of theological minutia, but everything to do with our direct, specific and peculiarly human response to the always unpredictable and ever-demanding needs of the broken world around us.

But couldn’t we imagine an alternate reality where Christians were the ‘first responders’ not in menace or hostility, but in compassion, welcome and practical assistance?

The heart of the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’ is not so much about being a ‘good neighbor’ or even redefining who one’s ‘neighbor’ is. The core of the story is that being a ‘good neighbor’ is never an abstraction; ‘loving one’s neighbor’ is immediate, practical, difficult and infinitely (literally) rewarding.

It seems to me to come down to a simple equation; are we bearers of the ‘good news’ or willing representatives of even more ‘bad news’?

As Jesus warned us, one way is easy, while the other way will continually challenge us – and those around us.

And perhaps above all, we dare not forget God’s clear priorities; 

The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow
. Psalm 146:9 (NIV)

Anyone who has been in Sunday School in past 30 years knows this song;

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red& yellow, black & white
they're precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
Jesus cares for all the children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They're all precious in His sight
Jesus cares for the children of the world

It’s good to know that Jesus loves all the children of the world, especially when, sometimes, we forget to . . .


Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective. As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.