This has been quite a year for Christians. Actually, it's been more of a year of prominent Christian stereotypes, but they've been entertaining if nothing else. So I thought for my final post of the year that I might share my "favorite" Christian stereotypes of the year.
Not to be mistaken for any typical panhandler, the Glad-Handler actually offers something in return for your generous donation. It might take the form of a prayer cloth, a how-to guide or even seminar, but the Glad-Handling Christian assures you of two things:
1) They have the key to happiness, and;
2) you can too (for a small fee)
Religious hucksterism has been around nearly as long as religion itself, I expect. But with media at our personal disposal these days, it's become its own boutique industry.
Though Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, may be the most notorious book-burning minister of late, he's not the only one. But let's give infamy its due and look at him first.
Technically, Jones' renown began back in 2010, when he planned his "Burn a Koran Day" on September 11th of that year. Though he bowed to public pressure and backed off of his initial plan, he's still the primary Christian figure when one thinks of Muslim opposition. Jones proudly claims authorship of the phrase "Islam is of the Devil," and he produces sermons and web shows on a regular basis proclaiming the supposed demonic underpinnings of the Muslim faith.
In other book-burning news, Republic Missouri made headlines when Christians there planned a book-burning party following vocal objections to certain books in public school libraries and included in curriculum. Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer was one victim, along with Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. A third, Speak, by Laurie Halsey Anderson, was targeted because of its depiction of date rape.
The sarcastic part of me has several witty one-liners in response to this parade of ignorance, so bear with me while I get them out of my system:
1) Rumor has it that Republic, MO churches are now planning Bible-burning parties after finally encountering the scripture about Lot, who threw his daughters to an angry mob to be gang-raped.
2) After burning all the copies of these book they could find, a local teenager informed the adults that kids don't actually read any more, and that there was much worse content found online, free of charge. The Christian Coalition of Republic, MO is now in planning sessions, trying to figure out how exactly one burns down the internet.
3) If only I had known about this event ahead of time, I would have gladly sent them cases of my books to burn. Do you know what an amazing publicity boost it is for an author to have his book burned???
Okay, I'm all better now. Moving on...
This is not specific to 2011 by any means, but with the hoopla about the world coming to an end in 2012 according to the Mayan calendar (who knew the Mayans followed the Christian-based Calendar??), the attention for such predictions has intensified. Though Kirk Cameron is the Left-Behinder poster boy, there are scads of others. The message is essentially the same, too, no matter the source: Know the magic password and secret Christian handshake before it's too late, or you may find yourself mopping up after the biggest farewell party in all of creation.
Personally, my take on the whole "Left Behind" theology is that if they're right, I'm probably screwed anyway. And regardless, I'm thinking their idea of eternity is not something I could handle for more than a week or so anyway, so I'll take my chances.
One need not look any further than the Republican primaries to realize that there's political capital to be gained from playing the "Who Hates Gays the Most" game. It could be because the economy looks to be on a gradual recovery, taking that off the table as a hot-button issue. And there's been as much blow-back on immigration as there has been positive reception.
So when all else fails, hate on the gays. After all, they're beginning to get partner health benefits, have their marriages acknowledged publicly and are able to serve openly in the military. Heck, it's almost like they're human beings or something!
But where there's a human rights cause worth fighting, there's a faithful opposition to keep it from moving forward. Though few would care to admit today they were on the losing side of the Civil Rights struggles of the sixties and seventies, it has yet to become socially toxic to hate gay people. Until that time, it seems that it's a marquis part of the GOP stump speech for some time to come.
For all of those stereotypes I've neglected, I apologize. Better luck next year. Until then, feel free to contemplate the many scriptures in which Jesus sets other sacred texts ablaze, panders for money, scares people into salvation and condemns same-sex consenting relationships. After all, we Christians always begin with the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" Right?