The Other Thing We Aren’t Supposed to Talk About at Dinner

They say that, in polite conversation, one shouldn’t talk about religion or politics. Over the past few years, I’ve talked about politics. Whatever made me think a July Fourth Sunday was a good day to talk about religion?

I’ve tried writing something like this before, and stopped. I know there are folks who read my blog that will think I’m specifically talking about them. Some will think I’ve abandoned God. There may be others who think I’ve gone off the deep end.

If you find yourself thinking along these lines, I would like you to listen to this podcast I recorded last year.

First, let’s talk about the fact that it is a Sunday July Fourth. Across America, there will be churches conducting “patriotic services” complete with “patriotic hymns”, the pledge of Allegiance, and overall glorification of America.

Let me be clear: I think there is absolutely zero space for the American flag in church, ever. I am convinced there is no such thing as a “patriotic service” that succeeds in worshiping God rather than idolizing country.

Confession: for years I skipped church (or tried to, if the Fourth fell during the week) because of my convictions. And yet, I also felt guilty for skipping church.

This is the first year I don’t feel guilty; last year doesn’t count because no one was attending church in-person that day.

Because over the several years I’ve been re-evaluating what I believe and why I believe it. I don’t claim to have definite answers to those questions, but I have come to realize that religious abuse exits, and that I have been the victim of it.

Here’s where folks might think I’m throwing shade or talking – in a roundabout way – about them. Trust me, I’m not going to name names, either of persons, pastors, or churches. But I am going to give examples, not because I want to do so, but because I know some of you won’t believe me.

  • When I showed by primary texts that certain aspects of church history and/or theology were not as they were being taught, I was told I was a tool of Satan and responsible for leading people into hell.
  • When I questioned the reasons and wisdom behind certain COVID-era protocols, I was told I was a agent of the radical left bent on destroying American Christianity.
  • I received messages from church officials implying it were better I were dead than to speak historical truth or offering alternate, yet legitimate, readings of Scripture.
  • When I began blocking folks, I received the same messages from what I assume were burner accounts, now saying that my actions were indicative of pride and rebellion.

Now, again, I’m not naming names. I received the above from multiple people. There are other specific examples I could give, but they apply to specific individuals.

So if you think I’m talking about you, it says much more about your conscience than it says about me.

Speaking the truth is not a sin.

But the truth is often difficult to speak in certain American churches. Take, for example, the following post. I was scrolling through social media when I saw someone post this favorably, and it caused such anxiety that I went to Twitter to ask for cat pictures (which many folks were more than happy to help me with):

There’s so much wrong here . . .

First, it starts with the assumption that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is something negative. I say this because the way the verse is presented implies that race doesn’t matter.

It gets CRT drastically wrong, as most (but not all) right-leaning reactionaries have done, in assuming that it causes division when it is, in fact, an examination of the divisions in society through the lens of race – one of the many valid lenses of historiography.

That right there will cause some of you to stop reading, if you haven’t already. If I said the above in a classroom, it would be illegal in about 15 states.

Second, the verse itself says nothing of CRT. At best, it’s implying that race doesn’t matter. At worst, it implying that if we all just “stayed in our lanes” we wouldn’t have trouble. This is the same argument – and the very same scripture – used to defend colonization, slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and most other forms of racial oppression throughout American history (since I’m talking about the American church).

Better verses would be those verses about how we ought to treat the foreigner, the immigrant, and the oppressed. But even assuming this verse was meant in the best possible light, is it not an indication of how far the church in America has fallen short?

But one wouldn’t see that unless they thought critically about race, now would they?

Finally, there is the unspoken implication that if you disagree with this, then you disagree with the Bible, and to disagree with the Bible is to disagree with God, and to disagree with God is to sin. Therefore, to argue against this would mean one is defending sin.

That’s the kind of spiritual and emotional abuse I’ve been talking about.

Not the thing you might want to read on Independence Day, but something we need to reckon with – to say nothing of our continued shameful treatment of marginalized groups, including but not limited to First Nations/First Peoples, and the occupation of the “American Territories”.

This Independence Day, let’s boldly face our wrongs, and vow to work toward a better future.

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