Why Do Christian Artists Need To Lie?

Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying

[Word count: 577. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]

Billboard reports that Timothy Lambesis, lead singer of Grammy-nominated Christian metal band As I Lay Dying, now admits his band faked Christianity to sell records. Lambesis, who became agnostic while in college, says the ruse is not uncommon. “In 12 years of touring with As I Lay Dying, I would say maybe one in 10 Christian bands we toured with were actually Christian bands.”

How did no one notice? I suspect a familiar naïveté helped this to happen. Worship leader Michael Gungor described it in a viral blog post:

We really want the people on the stage…to have it together more than we do. Because we are messed up, we need them to be a sort of savior and hope for us. The result of this is…the people who are really good at pretending that they have it all together…make it to the stage and the book or album cover and the radio stations…

Rather than just being honest about where we are at and what we all struggle with…we look to our gatekeepers to…live morally vicariously for us.”

If you were to ask why Christian artists need to lie, the answer would be because Christians require it. When a believer asks you if you believe too, a plaintive puppy-dog-eyed “please say you do” is always implied.

The What Not To Say section of SuicideIsPreventable.org warns you not to ask questions in a way that indicates which answer you want to hear. It nearly invites dishonesty to say, “You’re not thinking about committing suicide, are you?” You might as well say, “This is what I want to hear. Please don’t tell me anything else, even if it’s true.” These are the things we like Christian artists to say… Continue reading

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Saints Betta Have My Money

[Word count: 695. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]

ODB_GotYourMoneyMy first car was a rust-colored super-oxidized ‘89 Pontiac. My papa got it for me the year before he passed. I loved that car, and drove it everywhere ‘til one day on the 405, the inevitable happened. It grabbed its chest and kneeled in pain as white plumes of smoke rolled from under the hood. Blown head gasket. My car was done.

I took the nearest exit, rolled down to a stop light, and got out to ponder my next move. Just then, a middle-aged Black woman pulls up next to me nodding her head, her larger-than-life church lady hat rocking back and forth in agreement. As she draws closer, I realize she’s talking to me.

Yep. Yep. See? That’s what you get. You should’ve paid your tithes.

But I did pay them. I stood, perplexed, expressionless, enraged, my temperature rivaling the overheated engine in my dearly departed car. So much I couldn’t understand. Is she saying this because of the Jesus fish emblem on the back of my deceased car? And why is this happening now? It’s the middle of the week. Who wears a hat that big this close to Hump Day? While driving. How can she see out of the rear view mirror? She must be a professional church lady. Continue reading

Maya Angelou Taught Me Too

[Word count: 429. Approximate read time: 2 minutes]

master-class-maya-angelou

“I bring everyone who has ever been kind to me with me. Black, White, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American, gay, straight, everybody. I say, ‘Come with me. I’m going on the stage. Come with me. I need you now.’ Long dead, you see? So, I don’t ever feel I have no help.

I’ve had rainbows in my clouds. And the thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so that you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you, may not call God the same name you call God, if they call God at all!  You see? And may not eat the same dishes prepared the way you do. May not dance your dances. Or speak your language. But be a blessing… to somebody. That’s what I think.”

—Dr. Maya Angelou
(April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)

Continue reading

Am I Still a Christian?

[Word count: 561. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you— unless indeed you fail the test.” —2 Corinthians 13:3-5

Remember when I told my mom I wasn’t going to church or looking for a new one, and she asked, “Are you still a Christian?” I was annoyed at the question, but I need to revisit it. My adopted grandma says, “You don’t have to go to my church, but you do have to go to my god.” So I ask: Have I gone to God recently? Is my heart still there? Is there a Google Maps app that can tell you how far away you are from God? (First person to say The Bible gets punched in the face.)

From what I told you I believe, things get cold sometimes. Things get dry. But the relationship is not dead. Living things have been frozen solid, but cold does not mean dead. Anyone who didn’t know my background might look at my relationship… frosted, unmoving, and deathly still… and deduce with good reason that it is dead.

If my mom sees someone call themselves a Christian while living below the expected standard, she’ll say, “But they’re not a real Christian though.” Ma might snatch that membership card away quick if you don’t pay your dues. Continue reading

Low Self-Esteem and One Other Option

Neo in The Matrix Revolutions
[Word count: 597. Approximate read time: 3 minutes]

Having low self-esteem isn’t so bad. It’s no worse than sharing a bedroom with your worst enemy. If you don’t mind a sadistic killer trying to dissolve you from the inside all day long with acidic mind chatter, it’s a fine life. I had a minor disagreement with co-workers over where to have lunch and here’s what happened.

The negative voice started out slight:

  • “They don’t like you.”
  • “They don’t want you around.”
  • “You’re so difficult.”
  • “Why can’t you go with the flow?”

But if left unchecked, that trickles to a flood of:

  • “You’re always the problem.”
  • “Nobody wants you.”
  • “Nobody likes you.”
  • “That’s why your girl left you.”
  • “Who could love you when you act like that?”
  • “You’re going to be alone for the rest of your life. And that’s what you deserve.”

Isn’t that a little over the top? In fact, it’s ridiculous. But that’s what I’m dealing with—a constant stream of hateration and holleration in my dancerie. The problem is… it’s not all untrue. Sometimes I am difficult. And I usually won’t just go with the flow. The voice isn’t a total liar, but—like a tabloid—it exaggerates so much, I don’t know WHAT to believe. Continue reading

World, Are You About To End?

[Word count: 551. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]

Blood moon during lunar eclipse.

“Is this the cycle recorded in the pages of history?
World, are you about to end?” —The Clark Sisters, “World?

On St. Patrick’s Day this year, there was an earthquake centered near the area of Los Angeles where I live. People jokingly called it the Shamrock Shake, but for those 10 seconds, nothing was funny. It was the closest and strongest quake I’d ever felt as a lifelong Californian. And it was enough to scare the piss out of Chris Schauble on live TV.

A 4.4 on the Richter scale is hardly enough to cause significant damage, but it can make you evaluate what you really believe. When the ground started shaking, I reverted to my training, which is to get under a desk… and then pray like my mother taught me. When I was young, she outlined what the Bible says about events that would occur before Jesus returned. It included scriptures like these: Continue reading

Question: What is the Crucifixion About?

This post is not a collection of my usually organized thoughts, witticisms, and musings. It is an open cry for help. There is a language barrier with the Bible. There are so many phrases that are said in Christianity. They are familiar, so people usually nod agreeably, but I am stopping today to raise my hand to scream, “I do not understand. Please help me.

All I ever wanted was for Christianity to make sense. And it doesn’t. If you say it does, then you don’t understand what “make sense” means.

make sense

Idioms
25. make sense, to be reasonable or comprehensible: His attitude doesn’t make sense.

As part of my quest to put back the pieces of my wrecked faith, I’m reading Ray Comfort’s How To Know God Exists. For the most part, I like the book. It sticks to the facts and rarely proselytizes. In stating the facts, the book has poked sizable holes in Darwin’s theory of evolution. [That theory, by the way, has never been proven, it’s just popular. And that only gets you so far.] But in gushing ecstatically about the value and importance of the gift of Jesus’s death on the cross, my ability to process what was being said started to falter. It was as if the words were written in another language whose words I’ve never learned. Continue reading

Let Them Eat Cake: How to Fail at Christianity

MinistryFail
[Word count: 651. Approximate read time: 3-4 minutes]

“Alone in a room
It’s just me and you
I feel so lost
’Cause I don’t know what to do…”

Initially, when my mom heard this opening line from Yolanda Adams’ “Open My Heart,” it turned her off. Apparently Yolanda’s confession wasn’t positive enough. Having weathered enough trouble for two lifetimes, I understand the aversion. But I disagree with dismissing someone’s truth as “negativity.”

“So I need to talk to You
And ask You for your guidance…
That’s why I open up my heart to You.”

Had she stuck around for the rest, she would’ve noticed ministry happening. But it didn’t sound positive, so it got passed up. The preoccupation with positive confessions is a byproduct of the Word of Faith doctrine, which since its 1980’s prominence has come under fire. I’d like to fire a couple rounds into it myself. Continue reading

On Feminism, Veganism, Christianity, and Hesitation

[Word count: 670. Approximate read time: 4 minutes]

I want to be a better person. But that’s a lot of work. I once told someone, “You know the right thing to do if you really want to solve your problem. But you LIKE your problem.” I hate when my own words ricochet on me.

juno-plaster-sculptures-5

On feminism

I prize intelligence. And I’ve noticed some of the smartest men and women I know ascribe to feminism. I had a passionate dialogue with one recently, and what I took away from conversation with her was that (1) I am a misogynistic, sexist jackass, and (2) …well, the rest of the details escape me. But the gist is, I fail as a feminist ally.

As is typical, I withdrew into myself to consider whether she was right. And I have failed to come to the defense of women burdened by patriarchal demands. Their agency is systematically threatened by those who feel they “own” women. It’s mentioned enough that I want to get educated and stop being part of the problem.

So I looked over a list of “101 Everyday Ways for Men to be Allies to Women” and my eyes started to glaze over before I got to double digits. So many things you have to do in order to be right. It seems too much. Maybe White racists felt like this when the civil rights movement said Blacks and other minorities were legitimate human beings. If so, then too much is still not enough. Continue reading

The Devil Made You Do It?

[Word count: 589. Approximate read time: 3 minutes]

kronk-shoulder-devil

My family attended a COGIC church when I was young. One Sunday morning, I saw an old man with peculiar features. Darkish gray, wiry hair that radiated upward like flames leaping from fire. His eyebrows were rugged, metallic and sort of mounded up. He had angular features and a browned, narrow, stern face. He probably didn’t like children. I was about 5 at the time, but I leaned over to the woman next to me and asked, “Is that guy The Devil?”

She laughed heartily. It was an earnest question though. He fit the description, only missing a pitchfork and horns. Maybe Sunday was his day off and he decided to come to church. “The devil is busy.” “Ain’t nobody mad but the devil.” “The devil don’t want me to sing this song.” If that was him, he was sitting in the place where he gets talked about the most.

Who stole the cookie?

Once I was at a family gathering, playing games and we decided to do something for the kids and sing “Who Stole The Cookie From The Cookie Jar?” You sit in a circle, point at someone and accuse jokingly, “You stole the cookie from the cookie jar!” They respond “Who? Me?” “Yes, you!” They say “Couldn’t be!” We shout back “Then who?” and the song starts over again.

We go around the circle singing, smiling, and laughing, and then we get to the littlest baby girl and sing “Crystal stole the cookie from the cookie jar!” Crystal came completely out of the song. She saw 13 people pointing their fingers and accusing her. So she just cried.

No one likes to be at fault. Usually when confronted with wrongdoing, our first instinct is to lie and deny it or accuse someone else. That’s where the devil comes in. Everyone agrees the devil is bad. So if you say he did it, people will believe you and the police will stop dusting your house for fingerprints. Continue reading