Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Da Vinci and Eyman: Deconstructionists at Work

This morning’s Seattle Times, completes the cycle of how I’ve encountered deconstructionists over the past week. Just about a week ago I finished reading the Da Vinci code, and have been intrigued by those scholars who would suggest that there is a whole different Jesus out there, unlike the one portrayed in the 4 gospels. This other Jesus has a wife, makes no claims about his own divinity, and probably didn’t rise from the dead.

Conservatives are in an uproar. I won’t go into all the details right now, but while I disagree with much of the rationale behind conservative fears, I agree with most of the conservative scholarship. Postmodernism tends to view history through a deeply skeptical eye, but then, interestingly, comes up with their own versions of ‘true’ history (or they default to the common nihilist posture of Tom Hanks in the movie’s conclusion, where he says that since we can’t know anything with certainty, it doesn’t really matter what we believe, as long as we’re happy).

Meanwhile though, many of those same conservatives are doing a deconstructing of their own. Under the banner of Sound the Alarm, and Faith and Freedom Network, there are a host of churches in my beautiful state that have discovered yet another gospel; not the gospel of Thomas, or the gospel of Mary, but the gospel of Tim Eyman. According to this gospel, Jesus provided an example for us by wandering through the Roman empire, inciting petition drives to lower taxes, so that the poor could fend for themselves entirely. And then, when Jesus was done overhauling the tax structure through divine petition, he went to work on gays, making certain that they had no opportunities for secure housing and employment.

If the gospels of Thomas and Mary are dubious (and they are), the gospel of Eyman is most certainly false, as its ethic directly contradicts the heart of Christ. And yet, here we go again – somehow thinking that we’re following Christ and embodying His heart when we try to endorse the right to discriminate. While I disagree with my homosexual friends on some theological conclusions regarding sexual expression, they are still my friends. Only by hearing their stories can you know what persecutions and humiliations they suffer ‘in the name of Jesus’ This, it seems to me, is not in keeping with heart of the gospel, as our Lord seemed well able to relate to the widest spectrum of humanity possible, loving them unconditionally, whether they be Roman soldiers or Jewish zealots, men or women, children or adults, rich or poor, etc. etc. If we behave like Jesus we’ll love our neighbors, gay or straight, not kick them out of the neighborhood. I’m tired of the gospel of Eyman, but even more tired of Christians picking and choosing which extra-biblical books to reject. If the Gospel of Thomas is out – let’s toss the Gospel of Eyman too!


At 24/5/06 11:16, Blogger Celestino. said...

And each person will view things from different perspectives.

At 25/5/06 10:03, Anonymous said...

It's very possible that I missed something as I navigated to 'Sound the Alarm' and perused the links the Call, Vision and Strategy, finding an impetus for the church to unite in prayer. Prayer for the congregation to get its house in order and prayer that a spiritual awakening will arise in our where's the beef?

Second, since when does the government efficiently appropriate our taxes in a way that provides actual benefit to the poor?

I find this post a little comical, mostly hypocritical. I'm neither defending nor supporting this Eyman fellow but aren't you “sounding the alarm” against those poor oppressing, gay bashing conservatives? It's easy to speak in generalizations and platitudes, painting people as haters and oppressors. The challenge is to engage the argument with an open mind and strong convictions, intent on finding a viable solution. But hey, who needs to work together to solve problems when we can stand on either side of an issue and highlight our opponents’ foolishness.

The attributes of grace and truth equally define our Heavenly Father. The church, like children picking teams, chooses sides. Having chosen a side we set about proving the other teams is far from God because they lack the attribute we chose. As a local church we’ll be continually ineffective (and irrelevant) until we come together to sound the alarm that in our community grace and truth abound.

At 25/5/06 10:49, Anonymous Lisa Page said...

There's nothing wrong with the church calling itself to prayer and unity. There is something wrong with the church uniting under the banner of discrimination, especially when such actions are largely the result of manipulative fear mongering and the promotion of hatred. This act, this face that the church is putting on, serves to further alienate a community which desperately needs us to reach out to them with loving, not divisive, hands. This past weekend did nothing to further the glory of God, quite the contrary, it only reinforced, and rightfully so, the notion that Christians can be a hateful, self-righteous, judgemental, greedy group of self-serving zealots. All this instead of the loving example of Christ that we are called to be. Will they really know we are Christians by our love?

At 25/5/06 11:09, Anonymous Penny said...

One of the supporters of Sound the Alarm has said, "This [anti-discrimination legislation] is about intolerance of the Christian world view. It's about codifying into law the acceptance of a behavior so that we cannot say it is wrong. That is what we're objecting to," he said.

I take issue with the "acceptance of a behavior so that we cannot say it is wrong" for two reasons.

1) Since when is the ability of the church to speak out circumscribed by the state/feds/law? Christians can, and always will, be able to speak and bear witness to their views. It is up to us to do so in a way that embodies Christ's love, compassion, justice, and his Holiness. And we must trust that God's spirit is much more able to bear witness to himself that some man-made laws that are written on destructible paper.

2) What Christians should not do is prohihbit others from the same legal rights that all human beings, created in God's image, deserve. If we believe that we should have the right to visit our child in the hospital when s/he is sick, we should certainly think that everyone else does, unless we subscribe to the belief that others are somehow less 'human' than we are. And if this is our belief, I fear for our understanding of who Christ is, what that means for our witness in the world.

As Richard always puts so well, Jesus NEVER said that we should ally ourselves with any allegiance but His kingdom. If we think being able to codify OUR views into law, but no one else's is the solution to the "moral decay" that so many Christians fear is ruining our "great nation" I fear that we have missed the point of Christ's message.

I want Christ to be seen IN us and THROUGH us, and I try to be a witness of hope and mercy and love to people who I may not agree with or who are 'lost.' The last thing people need who don't agree with us on issues of faith is to have their ability to enjoy the same rights as we do stripped away by people who claim to bear Christ's message of hope, liberation, and freedom from ALL oppression, including tyranny of the majority.

At 25/5/06 11:27, Anonymous said...

Like I said above, I'm not supporting this group but I am confused by the response to the group. Maybe I wasn't clear in my previous post so I'll try again.

Like Richard though I disagree with my homosexual friends on some theological conclusions regarding sexual expression, they are still my friends. I think he sets a good example of being gracious and loving in disagreement. My point then becomes why can't we engage Eyman-like believers in the same way?

Why do we have to blast them as hate mongers, oppressors and zealots because we disagree on an issue? We rightfully engage homosexuals as friends while kicking our Christian brethren to the curb? To paraphrase Richard “If we behave like Jesus we’ll love our neighbors, gay, straight or Christian petitioners, not kick them out of the neighborhood”. Who wants to join a family that behaves as such? I’m just suggesting that we try and treat fellow believers with grace even if we don’t agree with some of the conclusions they have come to. Hailing invective and condemnation on them isn’t the way.

At 25/5/06 12:14, Anonymous Penny said...

Hey K. I really appreciate your response. I don't want to bash other believers, either. I'd prefer to have a dialogue with them, but there aren't really very many forums to do that in where you can actually have a discussion. Why is it that Christians are so prone to yell at or over eachother rather than genuinely listen to what that person has to say? I think we watch too much hardball...

Ok, so the real point is that I do indeed get angry when Christ is used as the justification for discriminating against others. Maybe I need a more tempered view. You have a great point that we should be engaging rather than rejecting one another. I think that needs to start here. I ask in all sincerity, would you like to sit down and have a face-to-face conversation with me? And would you help me to form some group where we can actually talk to others who are trying to codify discrimination in the name of Christ? If you do, drop me a line:

I look forward to hearing from you and anyone else you want to bring along-- i really do!

At 25/5/06 12:27, Anonymous Lisa Page said...

I believe that we need to reclaim the vocabulary of our faith, not let the loudest mouthpieces define to the rest of society what it means to be a Christian. And it's important to speak up when part of our community, behaving as a block, is not exemplifying the love of Christ. To call them out when they are serving to divide, isolate, and push people further away from the truth of a loving God. I want a forum to engage those I disagree with in real conversation. I want more than hurling anonymous insults. I've stuck my neck out in an effort to engage. The unfortunate thing is that even when I'm willing to consider an alternate point of view, to accept another's perspective, I rarely find another also willing to honestly engage.

At 25/5/06 13:42, Anonymous said...

I agree with you Lisa. Penny posted an e-mail address and I responded. Shoot her a quick e-mail and maybe we could all get together and brainstorm some ideas for a forum where people can come together and work thru differences of opinion.

At 25/5/06 16:02, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

I'd like to echo Penny in saying that I appreciate K's response - particularly the point that the sin of objectifying people and judging them without listening can cut both ways. My intention isn't to lob generalities from behind the safe fence of a blog, but rather, to ponder aloud, musing on what is going on in my own life and the Christian community. Such musings make no claim towards pure objectivity, but are intended to perhaps be a springboard towards thinking, diaologue, and discernment - elements which seem important to our continuned growth in Christ. If some sort of discussion group is forming here around this subject, let me know... I'd hope to be able to participate.

At 25/5/06 16:29, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

Just a couple of thoughts K, in response to your question regarding our taxes and the poor:

1. A recent stroll through HarborView Medical center reminded me that our taxes are responsible for some access to medical care.

2. Subsidized housing enables countless working poor to be able to afford rent - as the locations where jobs exist are generally the same locations where rent is high.

3. There are numerous food subsidy programs that provide mothers with infants both nutritional education, and access to expensive high protein products, such as milk, cheese, and eggs.

These things are real help to real people, and are of value in our culture because not everyone has the resources (mental, physical, economic) to make it!

At 26/5/06 00:06, Anonymous graham said...

First of all, I've enjoyed the thoughtful comments by each of you and would encourage your forum. Here is my warning... create space for the type of focus and listening that would rival what exists right here. We are able to read and process eachothers thoughts fully before we have a chance to talk over one another:)... if that can't be done, then we can just post our pictures on this blog and consider that face to face.

Now, after reading your first comment I found myself being like, yeah, maybe, Richard is being a bit hypocritical because I too watched the sound the alarm video and I too have nothing against cleaning up the mess inside the church through prayer and that message was being unfairly attacked.
However, I hear Richard continually exhort us (almost weekly) to do that very thing so I don't presume that that is what Richard was contending with. (Of course Richard doesn't need my defense, I'm just relaying how I experienced his latest blog.) I know for myself, that my skepticism of the Sound the Alarm video was not unprovoked. The three main parts of that video were as follows:
Praise the accomplishment of the anti-gay marriage campaign; clean up the christian church on morality issues through prayer; and the create a christian phone network the can respond immediately according to the issue of the day.
or in other words think of a sandwich:
Anti-gay marriage +solid, unrefutable, message on repentance+ phone army activation with line "if not this issue then what"= skepticism for me.

I also thought it was interesting the that examples of "church impacting culture" he used were instances when inclusive/liberating legislation was passed, not discriminatory. Not to mention that the church was equally responsible for the existence of slavery (which has only gotten more sophisticated, not abolished) as it credits itself for abolishing it.

So thats what I thought of the video, now back to Richards blog.... which as I read it was not really about this video at all.
The point with the "gospel of Eyman" and the DaVinci code is this: Look at Christ... did you see him writing initiatives, lobbying roman leaders to crack down on the abuses of the religious authority, petitioning for lower taxes for people who believed in the resurrection of the body.... No. Petitioning under a banner of "this is our mandate" is simply not true according to what we see Jesus actually doing in our written accounts. Just like we the church don't make it our mandate to run around whispering the secret things of God into peoples ears in cryptic ways like the mentioned unrecognized gospel of Thomas depicts. (someone correct me if I confusing Jesus' behavior in this gospel with a different book).

Yes, the unified voice of the church can be a powerful thing, but what is it we are saying. The most recent "unified" communication our nation has heard and assimilated is the church says "George Bush is the Man!".... lets not let the WA hear the church say "Gays are sub-human!".....

At 26/5/06 11:22, Anonymous said...

Thanks Richard for clarifying the purpose of the blog “My intention isn't to lob generalities from behind the safe fence of a blog, but rather, to ponder aloud, musing on what is going on in my own life and the Christian community”. That statement changed the way I read your posts…I appreciate it.

In response to your subsequent post, I agree that our taxes do provide positive things in the community. My gripe is against the efficiency and efficacy related to the use of the money. I happily pay taxes to support the infrastructures of our society, it’s just that I think our tax dollars could go a lot further if managed better (Dem’s & Repub’s are both to blame).

Graham, I’ve read several of your posts on previous topics and really appreciate most of your insights. I agree with everything you posted here re: the Eyman group but remember I’m not supporting them or their cause; I was commenting on what I felt was a miss alignment regarding the respond to different groups.

I agree, President Bush is not the man, but he's not the devil either. I paraphrase John Adams because I think he put it best as he departed the Constitutional Convention "brothers, we have arguably fashioned the finest form of governance know to history. It is with great regret that I depart and entrust it into the hands of mortal men."

At 26/5/06 20:59, Blogger Jim Underhill said...

My main concern with the churches' strategy is the alliance with Tim Eyeman. He has worked outside of the normal discourse of politics to cause harm to many citizens. Worse yet is that he is not accountable to anyone for the results and consequences, which to me is a key requirement for participating in political action; be accountable!

And let's not forget that Tim was the front man for a gambling initiative this last election. With great twistings of logic and language, he tried to convince everyone that the gambling industry's request was good for us all, even the addicted.

Finally, we must remember that our courts found this fella guilty of misuse of funds given by citizens. He presented himself one way, but came out a plain ol' crook.

And now I see well-known churches partnering with Eyeman, and just scratch my head. If there's a kingdom strategy and presentation to the public, it's now muddled by this worrisome partnership.

At 27/5/06 12:49, Anonymous graham said...

K.Sale, I agree, G.W. isn't the devil, neither are conservatives... even Pat Robertson. Being skeptical... disagreeing...even voicing frustration is not an attack on the person... merely ideologies, choices and and or processes. I guess I felt like it was a quick jump to defensiveness. Whether or not we always like the truths we hear in eachothers speaking/writing, the first courageous act is to state it... and only then are we able to converge on and continue with the dialogue that is/was initiated.

At 31/5/06 21:58, Anonymous Kristin Brown said...

A good friend of mine has just accepted the position of development director for Washington Won't Discriminate. This is an organization that has formed to oppose the Eyman initiative. They have a great, informative website, where you can read the entire House Bill passed in January, as well as the Eyman initiatives. You can also, if you so choose, give of your time or resources. I plan on spending some of my summer vacation volunteering for the organization. Check it out at


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