Bring Your Bible (Funmentionables) to School Day™

B-fun2SchoolIt is a twisted logic that some Bible thumpers’ idea of religious liberty includes demanding that the government send out e-mails to promote their religion. Case in point: Folsom Cordova Unified School District in Northern California recently e-mailed parents notifying them of a “Bring Your Bible to School Day” (a.k.a. “Spit on the Constitution Day”). The public school district says it’s totally cool because they added a disclaimer saying it’s not their program, plus their lawyer said it was okay.

Their lawyer has admitted being worried about litigation from the group Focus on the Family if the district refused to send out the e-mail. Religious groups can threaten their own with eternal punishment, but they have to resort to lawsuits when dealing with the government.

Of course, when the e-mail goes out announcing “Bring Your Koran to School Day” or “Bring Bertrand Russell’s ‘Why I Am Not a Christian’ to School Day,” Focus on the Family will be the first to complain. Do I have to remind Focus on the Family that Jesus really hated hypocrites, especially spice tithers:

Woe to you…hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin. —Matthew 23:23

It’s particularly exasperating when the people responsible for educating our youth show such inability to think through situations like these, where it is their duty to keep church and state separate. Now instead of showing you how un-Washingtonian or how un-Jeffersonian the public school district is being, let’s change things up and give some of the less-renowned Presidents their overdue moment in the spotlight:

“Thank God, under our Constitution there was no connection between Church and State.” —James Polk

 

“In my view Church and State should be separate.”
—Millard Fillmore

 

“Keep Church and State forever separate.”
—Ulysses S. Grant

 

“The divorce between Church and State ought to be absolute.” —James Garfield

Polk gets extra credit for the “Thank God” intro.

The school district’s legal minds may not quite match our Commanders-in-Chief (dare I call them un-Polkian), but there is also another Commander whose law about making a public display of your religion is being violated:

When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men…but when you make your prayer, go into your private room.
—Matthew 6:5-6

It is a shame that Focus on the Family is so thoroughly ignorant of that Bible quote. To keep today’s youth from being just as ignorant, I present “Bring Your ‘Bible Funmentionables’ to School Day.™”

Screen shot 2015-10-09 at 6.16.04 PMThat’s right; In a spirit of fairness, I have submitted my request to the Folsom Cordova Unified School District that they promote my first annual “Bring Your ‘Bible Funmentionables’ to School Day™” scheduled for October 30, 2015. Since my event is equally legal to Focus on the Family’s, I’m sure they’ll be just as eager to spread the word. Or face the threat of eternal damnation! (It’s cheaper than legal counsel.)

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

SCOTUS’s Big FU to JC

SupremeandSupremeIt’s not every day that the US Supreme Court gets an amicus brief from their Lord and Savior. Even more surprising is that conservative Christian justices would ignore Jesus’ opinion so completely, as was the case in their Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway decision of May 2014.

My strong suspicion is that Jesus has no immediate plans of coming back to Earth, otherwise he couldn’t have picked a better time to appear as a surprise witness at the Supreme Court reminding the “Christians” that Christian public prayer is an oxymoron, the very definition of “UN-Christian.”

When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. —Matthew 6:5

But wait, Jesus isn’t done yet:

But when you make your prayer, go into your private room, and, shutting the door, say a prayer to your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward. —Matthew 6:6

Pretty clearly the Son of God and King of Kings says only pray in “your private room” where you’re not “seen by men.”

But if Jesus says you can’t pray at your city council meeting, where else could you possibly pray? This time Jesus leads by example:

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. —Luke 5:16

In every gospel, Jesus heads off to the desert or the mountain to pray. That’s fine for him, but he never quite imagined his followers would eventually number in the billions. It really is impractical to start your governmental meeting with a quick trip to the desert.

The “Ceremonial” Argument

The 5-4 decision, by and for conservative Christians, claims that these prayers are acceptable since they are “ceremonial” and “part of the Nation’s heritage and tradition.”

As is often the case, these religious prayers or governmental references to God are claimed to be harmlessly “ceremonial” or “patriotic.” But yet at the same time the prayers are fiercely defended by the religious majority. So which is it? Are they negligibly religious or deeply meaningful and important to the believers?

It is just way too convenient that on this one issue these prayers and phrases are decreed to perfectly straddle the line between meaningful and meaningless. Meaningful enough to continue, but not meaningful enough for non-believers to complain about.

To get a sense of how “ceremonial” the Greece, NY prayers were, here are a few quotes from the prayers that were featured in Justice Kagan’s dissent:

Prayers evoking “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross,” “the plan of redemption that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ,” “the life and death, resurrection and ascension of the Savior Jesus Christ,” the workings of the Holy Spirit, the events of Pentecost, and the belief that God “has raised up the Lord Jesus” and “will raise us, in our turn, and put us by His side.”

The amicus brief from the Freedom from Religion Foundation reminds us that the American “traditions” of miscegenation and sodomy laws had been on the books for a ling time, but that “a longstanding practice can simply be a longstanding violation.”

“We do it that way because we’ve always done it that way” leads to this reasoning from Warren Burger’s 1986 (!) Bowers v. Hardwick opinion:

[H]omosexual conduct ha[s] been subject to state intervention throughout the history of Western civilization. Condemnation of those practices is firmly rooted in Judeao-Christian moral and ethical standards. . . . To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.

Religious Lack of Empathy

Why then are so many (though definitely not all!) Christians unwilling or unable to imagine how it would feel to be a religious outsider when public prayers are being said?

With any religion, just like with any sports team, there is an in-group who shares your core beliefs, and an out-group who doesn’t. What always amazes me is the callous attitude some believers have about the effect of their public prayers on their fellow citizens who don’t share their religious beliefs. What kind of religion does not teach and foster empathy, the ability and willingness to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective? Either that message just does not get through to some congregants, or some churches don’t see it as a priority.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled this month that the phrase “under God” could stay in the Pledge of Allegiance when public school students are told to recite it. Again, their attitude toward these children is fairly callous: “Participation is entirely voluntary,” as if to assume there is no downside for a child who sits out the Pledge of Allegiance on religious or constitutional grounds.

Which brings us to Bible Funmentionables’ Core Principle #3: If your religion makes you a better person—more empathetic, understanding and accepting of others—then great! If your religion allows or encourages you to be hateful, self-righteous, and intolerant of your fellow human beings who are just trying to get along on this planet, you may have missed the point of your religion entirely.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

Would Jesus Tebow?

Tim Tebow sporting a brand new eye black tract (artist’s rendering).*

To take a knee and pray, in a public place, ideally with cameras rolling, (Tebowing as it’s known), is easily the most colorful Christian craze of 2011.

Mimicking the sideline prayer-time stance of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has caught the imagination of some sports/Jesus fans, but it begs the pressing biblical question: Would Jesus, in fact, Tebow?

While we can only speculate on how a miracle worker like Jesus would perform on the football field, we do know who would NOT be on the sidelines before the game, saying a prayer for all to see: Jesus!

How do we know that Jesus would be the first to throw a spiritual flag at Tim Tebow and friends? We have Jesus’ own words:

When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you make your prayer, go into your private room, and, shutting the door, say a prayer to your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward. –Matthew 6:5-6

Not only would Jesus look on disappointedly, he’d instruct you to “Get a room!”

You have to understand how extraordinary it is to have Jesus comment directly on a current hot-button issue. Too often, Jesus and the Bible are brought in as authorities on a debate topic that is never specifically addressed in the Bible. In arguing over abortion issues, for example, people tend to interpret loosely related passages in order to support their pre-existing biases and ideologies. But here we have Jesus weighing in specifically on the issue of public prayer. Not only did he preach this, but he also lived it:

And in the morning, rising a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. –Mark 1:35

Just imagine if Jesus had taught that only people of OTHER faiths should not pray in public. I could imagine certain of his followers fervently enforcing that teaching. Why those Christians think that Jesus’ “Get a room” admonition doesn’t apply to them is puzzling. Publicly praying to the guy who said don’t pray in public is like punting when the coach just called for a 2-point conversion.

Keep in mind that not all Christians say “Amen” to Tim Tebow’s actions. There are countless Christians in the NFL who don’t make a show of their faith. So why have some Christians thrilled to the sight of this gridiron genuflection? There are three main reasons:

1. Success on the Field

Tim Tebow prayed and then won, prayed and then won, prayed and then won, (except when he prayed and lost). So any Christian who is eager to believe in the power of prayer would be thrilled by that record of success.

2. A Victimhood Mentality

American Christians have been trained to think of themselves as victims of religious persecution. Our country has incredible religious freedom, but it draws the line when it comes to the government choosing a side in all things religious. Conservative Christians despise government interference, yet somehow trust our government to help promote THEIR religion.

3. Biblical Illiteracy

Your average Christians don’t know their own Bible. Passages like Matthew 6:6 don’t get airtime in churches like the easier to preach passages do. In my book, Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve Never Been Told, I detail all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your preacher has left behind. By hearing everything the Bible has to say, including the parts that tend to make a believer cringe, we develop a deeper understanding of what the Bible is all about.

It’s not just the pleasant verses heard on Sunday. It’s not just Jesus talking about loving others. It can be amusingly outdated, disturbingly violent, stunningly unholy, and at times absolutely contradictory.

For example, the best contradiction to Jesus’ warning to only pray indoors comes from the New Testament:

I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing. —1 Timothy 2:8

So maybe we should show some understanding to Tebowers around the world. There’s a chance they’re just taking a little time out in silent reflection to try to make sense of the many contradictory, confusing, and comical commands found within the pages of their very own Good Book.

* The passage from Luke 14:26 in the photo above reads — “And turning round, Jesus said to them, ‘If any man comes to me and has not hate for his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even for his life, he may not be my disciple.’”