When Christians Go Bad
Last week I questioned the educational background of Eric Porterfield, the Trump-loving, MAGA hat-wearing, WV State Delegate who made national headlines for railing against the LGBTQ community. The information I found through my “sleuthing” (aka Googling) wasn’t impressive. In fact, I was left wondering whether Porterfield actually had a legitimate post high school education.
This week, he revealed a bit more about his educational background.
In a Charleston Gazette Mail by Jake Zuckerman, (How Porterfield Went Blind in a Bar Fight,) Porterfield said he earned his divinity degree at Hyles-Anderson College in Indiana. Since the article was about how Porterfield was blinded in a bar fight after leaving a strip club, I doubt most people paid much attention to that nugget of information.
But I did, and it inspired me to do some more sleuthing. (In other words, I did some more Googling. Writing is my hobby, not my profession, so please don’t judge me.)
At first glance, Hyles-Anderson College may seem more legitimate than taking a correspondence course from Belle Meadow Baptist College. However, on further research, it raised numerous red flags.
Hyles-Anderson College is operated by the First Baptist Church of Hammonds, Indiana, which has a sketchy history of sex abuse (Let Us Prey ) and misogyny (Video of Anti Women Sermon) as well as accusations of investment schemes (Lawsuit against First Baptist Church).
Interestingly, despite all this, now Vice President and Former Indiana Governor Mike Pence has visited there on more than one occasion. (Mike Pence visits First Baptist Church in Hammond)
I spent some time looking into the non-accredited Hyles-Anderson College, and I wasn’t impressed. But my opinion about the school isn’t as relevant as my concern about how such schools and their affiliated churches are creating a version of Christianity that people like Eric Porterfield embrace and want to force onto others.
It’s a type of Christianity I don’t recognize.
I was taught that Jesus wanted us to love each other not to condemn people who think or live differently than we do. He wanted us to help the weak not to prey on them. He wanted us appreciate the importance of people rather than money and material possessions. He wanted us to welcome the stranger instead of build walls, care for the sick rather than decide who is worthy of care, and to turn the other cheek rather than instigate fights.
When Christians go bad, they don’t work to create Christ’s vision of a community of acceptance and peace.
Thankfully, many Christians still do.
I reflected about this Saturday night when a friend invited me to go to the Spanish Mass at a local Catholic Church, I’m not Catholic and my Spanish is limited, but I was literally welcomed there with open arms. My white skin and poor language skills went unnoticed, or at least unmentioned. Instead of feeling like I didn’t belong, I felt like people cared that I was there.
And that’s exactly how everyone should feel both in church and in America.
365 Reasons to Smile – Day 304
I realized I’d been wallowing in anger and frustration when someone told me I needed to watch the movie Frozen again.
I immediately knew what she meant: “Let it go.”
She was right. I needed to.
I can’t control when people lie about my professionalism in order to make themselves feel better or justify their inability to achieve what they had hoped.
I may not be able to change the minds of people who want to believe the worst about me.
And I certainly can’t prove I didn’t utter words that someone else says I did.
But I can hold my head high. I can feel self-assured that I would never create drama – not my thing at all. And I can continue to treat people with respect even though I’m accused of rudeness.
In other words, I will never be able to control what other people say or believe about me. But I can control how I react to such behavior.
Even more importantly, I can forgive.
Forgiveness will always be more powerful than anger.
And knowing that will always make me smile.
Day 304: The Power to Forgive Day 303: Marrying Someone Who Always Knows How to Make Me Smile Day 302: People Who Sport the Breaking Bad Car Magnet Day 301: The song of the whippoorwill Day 300: Coming Home Day 299: Clean Water Day 298: Blue Bells Day 297: Listening to Books When Driving Long Distances Day 296: Walking in the Woods Day 295: The Warm Sun on My Face Day 294: Turning Loud Shoes into a Conversation Item Day 293: Seeing Something New in the Every Day Day 292: Dreams Day 291: “What a Wonderful World” Day 290: Softly Falling Petals During Spring Day 289: Home Cooking with Love Day 288: Coloring Easter Eggs Day 287: The View From Above Day 286: The Wisdom of Mr. Rogers Day 285: The Princess Bride Day 284: All Creatures Great and Small Day 283: The Legend of the Dogwood Day 282: Sleeping with the Windows Open Day 281: Four Significant Birthdays in One Year Day 280: Discovering Great Music Day 279: Funny Names for Wi-Fi connections Day 278: Sad Cat Diary Day 277: The Smiling Cow Day 276: Celebrating 16 years of motherhood Day 275: Seeing Potential in Our Children Day 274: Stained Glass Day 273: Naturalization Ceremonies Day 272: “Let It Be” by the Beatles Day 271: Sharing Meals with Great Friends Day 270: Daffodils Day 269: April Fool’s Day Day 268: Acoustic Music Day 267: Country Roads Day 266: Sunsets on Pamlico Sound Day 265: The Sound and Smell of the Ocean Day 264: Crossing the Bonner Bridge Day 263: Mark Twain Quotes Day 262: Old-fashion Fun Day 261: The Far Side Cartoons by Gary Larson Day 260: Nostalgic Theme Songs Day 259: Appreciating Life’s Rewards Day 258: Awkward Conversations With Strangers Day 257: The arrival of Spring Day 256: Being Saved by Buffy the Vampire Slayer Day 255: Thoughtful Husbands Day 254: The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean Day 252: Conversations in Cars Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect Phrase Day 243: Little Girls With AttitudeDay 242: The Soup Nazi Day 241: Contagious Smiles Day 240: Oklahoma Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check Day 237: Only 28 days in February Day 236: Genuine Signatures Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234: The Words “Happy Birthday” Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents Day 232: “Morning Has Broken”Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys Day 228: Having a DreamDay 227: Mispronunciations Day 226: Awkward Animal MomentsDay 225: Shaking Hands With Scott HamiltonDay 224: Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated Day 212: “The Soul” Quote Day 211: Rubber Ducky Day 210: Tracks in the Snow Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days Day 206: Dogs Playing in the Snow Day 205: Descriptive Phrases Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help Day 200: Boys and Their Toys Day 199: The Most Important Person Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children Day 196: Being Told I’m Young Day 195: Good News Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be Day 191: Matt Groening Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work Day 187: Funny Phone Calls Day 186: Healthy Lungs Day 185: Reality Checks Day 184: Coincidence Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories Day 180: A soak in a bathtub Day 179: Optimism Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes Day 173: Family Acceptance Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song Day 170: Positive People Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids Day 168: Jealous Pets Day 167: Family Christmas Recipes Day 166: Church BellsDay 165: School Holiday 164: Unexpected Grace Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control Day 162: Anticipating a good story Day 161: Hope Day 160: When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment Day 159: Surprises in the Mail Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial Day 157: A Garage on Winter Days Day 156: Real Christmas Trees Day 155: Being a Parent Day 154: Selfless People Day 153: Nelson Mandela Day 152: Memorable Road Trips Day 151: Great Neighbors Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself Day 149: Love Letters Day 148: The first day of Advent Day 147: The Breakfast Club Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude Day 144: Watching My Dog Play Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met Day 142: When Our Children Become Role Models Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness Day 140; People Watching Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage Day 136: Postcards from Heaven Day 135: Mickey Mouse Day 134: Generous Souls Day 133: I’m Moving On Day 132: A Family That is Really Family Day 131: A Personal Motto Day 130: Mork and Mindy Day 129: The Bears’ House Day 128: Veterans Day 127: Doppelgangers Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky Day 124: When History Repeats Itself Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122: Helen Keller Day 121: The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song Day 120: Sheldon Cooper Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends Day 117: Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season Day 115; Life Experience Day 114: Changes Day 113: The Wooly Bear Caterpillar Day 112: The National Anthem Day 111: Parents Who Care Day 110: Good Friends Day 109: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss Day 108: A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades Day 105: The Peanuts Gang Dancing Day 104: Sharing a Secret Language Day 103: The Electric Company Day 102: Doing the Right Thing Day 101: When Siblings Agree Day 100: Being Optimistic Day 99: Trying Something New Day 98: The Sound of Children on a Playground Day97: Good Advice Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy Day 95: The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94: Accepting Change Day 93: True Love Day 92: Camera Phones Day 91: Bicycle Brakes Day 90: HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square Day 88: The Grand Canyon Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human Day 84: Captain Underpants Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Day 80: The Outsiders Day 79: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives Day 76: The Rewards of Parenting Day 75: Improvements Day 74: Family Traditions Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 72: Live Music Day 71: Sleeping In Day 70: Grover Day 69: A Good Hair Day Day 68: A Sense of Community Day 67: Kindness Day 66: Living in a Place You Love Day 65: Gifts from the Heart Day 64: The Arrival of Fall Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird Day 62: Green LightsDay 61: My Canine Friends Day 60: Differences Day 59: A New Box of Crayons Day 58: Bookworms Day 57: Being Oblivious Day 56: Three-day Weekends Day 55: A Cat Purring Day 54: Being a Unique Individual Day 53: Children’s Artwork Day 52: Lefties Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer Day 50: Campfires Day 49: Childhood Crushes Day 48: The Words “Miss You” Day 47: Birthday Stories Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us Day 45: Play-Doh Day 44: First Day of School Pictures Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes Day 42: Appreciative Readers Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote Day 40: Being Silly Day 39: Being Happy Exactly Where You Are Day 38: Proud Grandparents Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Day 34: Accepting the Fog Day 33: I See the Moon Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap Day 31: Perspective Day 30: Unlikely Friendships Day 29: Good Samaritans Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads Day 25: When Harry Met Sally Day 24: Hibiscus Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck Day 22: The Wonderful World of Disney Day 21: Puppy love Day 20 Personal Theme Songs Day 19: Summer Clouds Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of HayDay 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street
Giving Up On Lent
I have no idea what our pastor said that caused my daughter a moment of panic in church last Sunday, but he obviously said something that triggered her concern. She looked stricken then leaned over and whispered, “When, exactly, does Lent start?”
I pointed to an announcement in the bulletin about Ash Wednesday services, and she breathed a sigh of relief. That afternoon, she asked me what she should give up for Lent. I told her that was a personal choice.
Days later, she announced she was giving up playing the game Flappy Bird. I must have sighed because she asked, “What’s wrong with that? I like Flappy Bird.”
She may like Flappy Bird, but I don’t think she’s making any great sacrifice by giving it up. She downloaded it on my phone, not hers. In other words, she only plays the game when her phone battery is running low and she is looking for something to do when we are out running errands.
My daughter’s decision reminds me of a student who lived in my dorm during college. I’d always considered the young woman superficial. My assessment of her proved right when she announced that for Lent she was “giving up eating junk food after getting drunk.”
She was missing the point of Lent, and I think my daughter might be too. She can certainly spout the reasons Christians give up something during Lent, but I’m not sure she has fully embraced the concept of spiritual growth.
Sometimes, I wonder if I have either.
That’s why I’m not giving anything up this year. Instead, I’m taking on something, and I already know it’s going to be much harder than giving up caffeine or chocolate.
I know it’s going to be challenging because I’ve been practicing. At least, I’ve been trying to practice, and I’ve been failing miserably.
I’m taking on praying daily for people I don’t like or who have hurt me. And the purpose of those prayers isn’t about my relationship with these individuals or my hopes that they will change their behavior. My prayers are simple: that they find peace and happiness. My emotions aren’t as simple. Letting go of anger is difficult and embracing forgiveness is tough.
As Lent begins this week, I hope I find the strength for both.
Keeping It Simple
Since I started working for Catholic Charities West Virginia, people are always asking what I think about Pope Francis. I don’t mind them asking. In fact, I appreciate the opportunity to share my opinion about the Pope: I think he’s fantastic.
As a meeting was wrapping up on Saturday, I was once again asked about my job and about the Pope.
“My job and Pope Francis are both awesome,” I said.
“Did you see the cover of The New Yorker where he is making a snow angel?” one woman asked.
“That’s perfect,” I replied. “I think his messages are right on target.”
“Yes, but will he be able to change church doctrine?” another woman asked.
I didn’t have a reply to that because I didn’t think her question was relevant. I may have spent most of my adult life being an advocate for social change, but Pope Francis puts everything in perspective: keep it simple by caring about other people more than anything else. That message speaks to all people no matter what their faith or whether they agree or disagree with any parts of Catholic Doctrine.
In a world when many of us spend too much time and energy worrying about what kind of car we drive, whether our children’s achievements are sufficient, how high our tax bill or health insurance premium will be or whether we will have enough money for retirement, Pope Francis reminds us what’s really important: using our time on earth wisely by making it a better place for our fellow humans.
That’s pretty much it.
The reason I am such a fan of Pope Francis is that he rises above the issues of doctrine and politics. His message really is simple:
- Care about other people-all other people regardless of race or religion or nationality or sexual orientation.
- Help meet the needs of other people, whether those needs are physical or spiritual.
- Don’t judge other people. Period.
That’s pretty much it.
And yes, I am fully aware that life in the real world can get complicated. But when it does get complicated, that’s when we most need the reminder to “keep it simple.”
I’m pretty sure that’s a message a guy who was born in Bethlehem about 2000 years ago also shared.
Here’s hoping the world starts listening.
I’m Tired of Walking the Tightrope
I’m walking a tightrope in my life. The tightrope may not be physically dangerous, but it’s dangerous none the less. And the only thing that prevents me from making that one deadly misstep is the realization that letting go requires perfect timing. Otherwise, the results can be unpleasant at best and horrific at worst.
The tightrope I’m talking about is one of convention – – of not calling people out when they speak with authority that their religious beliefs make them more moral than or superior to people of a different faith.
As I write this, I’m pretty sure my balance is getting very, very shaky. But that’s nothing new for me.
In fact, I came very close to stepping off that tight rope the other day. A meeting was wrapping up when the conversation turned toward politics. That led to a discussion about the nation’s morals and values. Or rather, the values and morals of the American public.
I was already standing up and collecting my things when the woman who had been sitting quietly next to me during the entire meeting stood up and proclaimed, “I’m a Christian. It’s so sad that so many people in our country aren’t.”
It took all of my willpower not to turn to her and say, “So, what you’re saying is because I’m Jewish, I don’t have any morals or values?”
(For the record, I’m not Jewish. I’m Lutheran. And faith plays a very important role in my life. I just don’t think that my version of faith is the only one God smiles upon.)
Instead of confronting the woman, I said nothing. But her comment bothered me –mostly because I’ve been hearing different versions of it for years. People are holding Christianity up as though it were membership card to a club that scorns non-members. It’s almost as though their club is actively recruiting new members while holding its nose up at those who choose to join a different club instead.
To me, this behavior is in direct opposition to what Jesus taught. He preached acceptance and love of everyone. Period. And I’m pretty sure his message was primarily about how we treat each other rather than what we call ourselves.
I say this because I have friends of a different faith, or even of no faith, who behave more like Christ than a lot of people who call themselves “Christians.” They help without judgement. They give without expectations. They accept without an agenda. Most importantly, they simply care about other people.
I recognize there are people of non-Christian faiths who have committed horrible acts in the name of their religion. But, if you look at history, a lot of Christians have done the same.
At the same time, there are many, many, many more people who have committed acts of compassion in the name of religion – all types of religion.
Faith is a beautiful gift. But giving to others – regardless of faith – is also a beautiful gift.
As my friend Holly so eloquently stated, “If a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jew and an atheist all working together on a Habitat for Humanity House, what’s the end result? The house gets built and a family that didn’t have its own home now has one.”
To me, that’s the value that America needs: the value of appreciating our differences while working together to care for everyone – the poor in resources and the poor in spirit. It’s a value of judging less and caring more.
What America doesn’t need are people proclaiming that there is only one religion with the right values and/or that only Christians are moral.
So, there you go.
If I haven’t fallen off my tightrope by now, I’m pretty sure there’s someone who wants or is willing to push me.
But, just so you know, I’m going to get right back up.
Reality Shows, Sports Competitions and Really Confused “Christians”
Either I’m really confused, or a lot of other people are really confused.
Not surprisingly, my sensibilities and my ego lean toward the latter.
Because even though I’m far from being a Biblical scholar, I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. And based on everything I’ve read and been taught, being a Christian means believing and following the teachings of Christ.
But there seem to be a lot of people who think that being a Christian doesn’t have as much to do with what you do, but instead has everything to do with what you profess to believe. On top of that, these same people seem to think that calling themselves Christian means God will give them what they want based on this “badge of honor” they proudly wear.
While this seems completely off base to me, there are a lot of people who believe the concept.
Just watch reality TV or sports competitions.
I’m not particularly proud of the fact, but being the dork that I am, I’m a fan of the television shows “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race.”
(As a disclaimer, I watch these shows because I’m fascinated by the personal dynamics and contestant interactions. In other words I’m simply doing research for the book I’m going to write someday. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
But in watching these shows, I’ve also noticed a trend: every season, there are contestants who not only proclaim that they are Christian, but believe that because of this, they’ve got some kind of upper hand in the competition. In subsequent episodes, they continue to pray and claim that God is on their side and, therefore, they have the advantage.
Call me a cynic, but I’m pretty sure God’s top priorities have nothing to do with who wins a reality TV show.
I’m beginning to wonder if I’m in the minority, though, since a lot of people are buying into this whole “Christians have the upper hand in pretty much pointless competitions” theory.
I’ve seen it time and time again in sports. Athletes describe themselves as “a Christian,” and because of that, they claim God is on their side.
For some reason, I seriously doubt that God is spending precious time ensuring that the team that prays the most or has the most self-proclaimed Christians is THE team that wins a championship.
Instead, I’m thinking that God’s top priorities have something to do with how we treat and care for each other.
But then again, maybe I’m interpreting Jesus’ message differently. Because I completely buy into the simplified version shared by a friend the other day: “Love God and love each other.”
I don’t think that winning a competition for money or fame falls under either of these commands. I also don’t think prayers are intended to be wish lists for everything we want in life.
As my mother once told me “Don’t pray for what you want. Pray that God gives you the strength, the skills and the direction to deal with the situations you are handed.”
Makes perfect sense to me.
But then, I’m not trying to win a reality TV show or a major sports competition.
I’m just stumbling through life trying to figure out how to spend less time irritated with people and more time doing what I think Jesus meant by “being Christian.”
It’s hard, but on those days when I feel like I’ve made a bit of progress, I feel like a winner.
And that’s the kind of winner I think God is hoping we strive to be.