(Positive) Signs Of The Times

One of the multiple newsletters that hit my inbox comes from Religion News Service. (Given the influence of religion–especially Christianity–on American policy, it has always seemed prudent for this very irreligious observer to keep tabs on what’s happening to and among the purportedly pious…)

Recent reports have signaled a welcome–if belated–effort by those I consider to be genuinely religious to respond to the ugly perversions that excuse bigotries of various kinds as exercises in “sincere” religious belief. I’ve previously shared statements from “Christians Against Christian Nationalism.” Here are a couple of other examples:

Within the last two years, students at religious schools across the country have made headlines pushing back against university policies regarding LGBTQ students or staff.

They’ve staged a monthlong sit-in at Seattle Pacific University, a private school associated with the Free Methodist Church, against a policy that forbids the hiring of LGBTQ people. They’ve called on Baylor University, that affirms marriage between a man and a woman as the “biblical norm,” to officially recognize an LGBTQ student advocacy group. They’ve protested at Brigham Young University after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which operates the school, said same-sex romantic behavior was “not compatible” with university rules, despite the removal of the “homosexual behavior” section from its Honor Code, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The article reports that students at more than 100 campuses staged a walk out on Oct. 11–coming out day– to protest religious exemptions to Title IX, “carve-outs”  that allow discrimination against LGBTQ students by the presumably devout.

One university observer was quoted as saying that students “are done being told that in order to be a good Christian, that means you must be a white, straight Christian, or embrace white, straight Christian values.”

An equally intriguing story involved a massive ad  campaign. Dubbed the “He Gets Us” campaign, it is a $100 million effort to “redeem Jesus’ brand from the damage done by his followers, especially those who say one thing and then do another.”

The campaign, funded by the Signatry, a Christian foundation based in Kansas, will expand in the next few months, with an updated website, an online store where people can get free gear if they forgive someone or welcome a stranger, and an outreach program for churches, all leading up to a Super Bowl ad.

Lee said organizers also want to start a movement of people who want to tell a better story about Jesus and act like him.

Our goal is to give voice to the pent-up energy of like-minded Jesus followers, those who are in the pews and the ones that aren’t, who are ready to reclaim the name of Jesus from those who abuse it to judge, harm and divide people,” Lee said.

Jason Vanderground, president of Haven, a branding firm based in Grand Haven, Michigan, said the movement hopes to bridge the gap between the story of Jesus and the public perception of his followers. The campaign has done extensive market research and found that, while many Americans like Jesus, they are skeptical of his followers.

That last observation reminded me of a bumper sticker I’ve seen a couple of times, proclaiming something along the lines of  “Jesus–Protect Me From Your Followers.” It also reminded me of that quote from Mahatma Gandhi–“I like your Christ, but not your Christianity.”

The president of the marketing firm handling the campaign said Christians see their faith as a great love story, while increasing numbers of others see Christians as a hate group.

“Jesus said people are going to know my followers by the way they love each other and the way they interact with each other,” he said. “I think when we look at American Christianity now, we don’t see nearly as much of that — and that concerns a lot of people.”

We certainly haven’t been seeing much loving-kindness from the loudest, ostentatiously pious, self-identified Christians–or for that matter, from the fundamentalists of most religions.

Religion and philosophy can assist people in finding meaning, in dealing with the complexities of life and  wrestling with its inevitable moral ambiguities. To appropriate another observation, religion can be used as a shield or a sword. When people find comfort in their beliefs, using those beliefs to shield them from life’s “arrows,” it serves a defensible purpose. When it becomes a sword with which to label and attack unbelievers, dissenters, and various “others,” it is no longer defensible.

Apparently, a lot of genuinely religious folks are fed up with the hypocrisy and hatefulness of their sword-brandishing brethren. I’d call that a positive sign.


  1. Well, sure. Some people have actually read the books of Matthew and Luke. Good for them. It’s rewarding to my tortured old head to see people push back against bigotry and mindlessness. Of course, those who still live in Fantasyland will continue to entrench themselves in their made-up stories and cherry-picked refutations of the truth.

    When people have nothing rational or real to offer, they are compelled to attack those not of their tribe/philosophy/cult. It’s just another spin-off of all the tribalism being discussed on this blog. Finally, since there isn’t a shred of evidence that any of the Christian stuff – or Christ himself, for that matter – exists or existed except in the minds of men bent on power and control, it stands that the cult leaders will do anything and everything to hold on to power. Sound familiar?

  2. Now Pat, what’s wrong with having friends from the spiritual realm? My body decays, but what about that sparkle in my eye?

    Science hasn’t narrowed it all down. There are still some missing fragments.

    However, the point of all religions is to find relationships in all things. We are all created from the same stuff; therefore all connected. Anything meant to divide us comes from human fears. We have lots of fears to get over.

    Hopefully, the good Christians will figure it out so they can help those wandering around in the desert looking for their way. 😉

  3. If we are going to be reunited with all of our loved ones in Heaven; what about all of our loved ones other loved ones who had other loved ones and on and on and on. Here on earth, some of my loved ones have loved ones I would rather not have to deal with again; and I’m sure there are those who feel the same about me. It also sounds like quite a crowd, with the extended connections between our loved ones and their loved ones and on and on and on; we will find ourselves back in the same overcrowded situation we live in today with no way out as we have already used our death ticket to leave it all behind.

    The Book of Revelation supposedly describes the end of it all here on earth; none of it sounds like a family reunion or a gathering of friends to share memories and stories of times past. Some lyrics from a popular song a few years ago; “Is that all there is, is that all there is? If that’s all there is, then let’s keep dancing.” We need to be doing our best to get the best out of or change what is wrong in the present time we have at hand.

  4. RNS is quite good, but I became tired of the haters who are taking over the comments and the failure of RNS to reign them in.

    As to who you will see once you get to Heaven or what ever you call the afterlife I had one Episcopal Priest who believed in Universal Salvation, in other words everyone gets a “free pass card”. My mind says yes, but my heart says no due to the number of hate mongers such as Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, DJT, etc, etc. If I was as good of a Christian as I’d like to be I too could believe in Universal Salvation.

    As to Gandhi, I have a button on my Vietnam Veteran ball cap with that very same quote. Love to use it on “Christian” Nationalists.

  5. The good religious folks are clearly in the minority to the “drunk with fear” ones and the ones too busy having fun. Not to mention the huge growth in the non-religious whose belief system is built around ME instead of GOD.

  6. It’s good to see signs of pushback. Mayor Pete said as he began his campaign for President in 2019 that the Christians on the left needed to make their presence known. He was right. Maybe we can start a movement called “Christianity (no the real thing)”.

  7. theology. study,be led,or interpret,as you feel. does liberty U sell a mind set,or does it allow for its flock to believe as they interpret it? if the pulpit is used for betterment,whos betterment. ill rally with Pat, but i have explored in my younger years different types of congregations. one was next to my low income rental, hell why not? as they prayed for my soul as the preacher held my forehead saying i should become, i just walked away.. i had already studied prior and talked with religious people of different sects, i just dont buy it. i was raised a catholic,aunt was a nun, and granfolks devout. today i hear hypocrisy in the trumpers i talk with, they all god guts and guns,but would kill blacks and others for sport if it was legal(they actually brag about it).and that isnt a secret its out loud and agreed with. if one is to love thy neighbor, they have become the anti-neighbor. they like to believe its all good to hate as they smile and pat ya on the back. driving out here in NoDak the passing by of homes where a trump flag is waving high with a American flag and a cross next to the front door. evangelicals and others have sure done a bang up job promoting hate and making their flock believe thats cool.. (king geo bush)and they get tax breaks for destroying democracy.. one should question where their donations go,and for what reason. im sure we all believe its for good,somewhere in some third world nation? the fact we see the likes of swaggart flyin jets to hungry for a discussion should set off a clue,as the likes of U.S.republicans follow. face it,its dark money.and this is a crusade against anyone but them..

  8. Thanks so much for sharing this – and on a Sunday to boot. The more highly educated and much less judgmental and bigoted younger generation cannot take control of our nation soon enough to suit me.

  9. The non-religious that I know do not have a belief system built on Me nor on God. Their belief system is based on what is good For all.

  10. Nancy – “The more highly educated and much less judgmental and bigoted younger generation cannot take control of our nation soon enough to suit me.” Don’t hold your breath. They are also the most ME-centered, uninterested in governing/politics (issues, yes, doing the hard work to fix them, no) and having fun folks of any age group. Don’t get blue in the face…

  11. I just researched The Signatry and am very sceptical about its vision and work. It is a nonprofit donor advisory firm that uses wealthy clients’ donations to do what they claim is solving the world’s problems. One of it’s most wealthy clients is the Green family that owns Hobby Lobby. You may recall how they sued the govt over the ACA’s requirement for employer health insurance to cover birth control for employees – they won. That case opened the door for other employers to also refuse birth control coverage.

    The man that founded the Signatry was raised within the Southern Baptist denomination. That denomination, in my opinion, is the most dangerous anti-Christ religious sect that exists in our country. His tax free organization helps “religious” people use their money to support ‘their’ beliefs and to avoid paying taxes while doing so.

  12. In re Lester’s note > I am pleased to see young voters who have no fear of the term socialism and who appear to be determined to vote for more liberal candidates for office, but I hear little from them in re just what form of nuanced government they will support if successful, and given that today’s youth is tomorrow’s polity I think we should hear from them on that far broader set of issues today. There are single issue youth galore (school shootings, race, sex etc.), but just how do they propose to run the country? It is not enough to merely be opposed to something, youth; what are you for, comprehensively?

  13. “Do not go beyond the things that are written, in order that you may not be puffed up individually in favor of the one against the other. For whom makes you to differ from another? Indeed, what do you have that you did not receive? If, now, you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” 1st Corinthians 4:6,7…….

    So the companion scriptures to 1st Corinthians 4:6 and 7, are, Romans 12:13 which reads, “for through the undeserved kindness given to me, I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think, but to think so as to have a sound mind, each one as God has given to him a measure of Faith.”

    2nd Corinthians 12: 20 reads, “for I am afraid that somehow when I arrive, I may not find you as I wish, and I may not be as you wish, but instead there may be strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, dissension, backbiting, whispering, being puffed up with pride, and disorder.”

    And 3rd John 9 reads, “I wrote something to the congregation, but Diotrephes who likes to have the first place among them, does not accept anything from us with respect.”

    Everyone desires to attach themselves to something that allows them to do and be whatever they desire. Those individuals and organizations going beyond the things written are exactly what the apostle Paul had Timothy write millennia ago. 2 Timothy 4:2 – 4 reads, “for there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth.”

    As flawed humans many of us have convinced ourselves in our own minds, and, by the diatribes of the ignorant, to find something that conforms to you and not you conform to it. In other words, that you are the God and the religion conforms to you not you conform to the law.

    How would it work with the secular authorities, if everyone wrote their own laws on how they conduct themselves? And, those that would not conform would write laws that they desire! And so on, and so forth. Soon you would have thousands or even millions of laws trying to govern the same issue. So you’d have anarchy, you would have polarized and paralyzed government. Everything would be interpreted towards everyone’s particular thought process and desire.

    A microcosm would be the Second amendment which clearly does not allow every individual to own military grade weapons unless it is provided by the congress. And, why does this country need militia forces anyway? But the interpretation and manipulation of the law allow individuals with a certain mindset to do what they desire, is not a functional part of Democracy. It’s not even Autocracy, it’s Anarchy!

    In secular constitutions and laws, and in religion by specific original Dogmas, writings and teachings, there is a written structure of conduct, but those who desire something different manipulate all of it to their own leanings. And, therefore, there is no cohesion, and soon, it will reach a catastrophic level that has not been witnessed on this planet in its history! And that’s too bad.

    We are free moral agents and have been given free will for a reason, the heart will show a person good or bad, that means their conduct and how they live their lives.

  14. If “…the point of all religions is to find relatinships in all things,” I’ve never seen evidence of that. It has always seemed that
    religions tend to treat non-believers this way: if “you” don’t believe as “I” do, “you” are, somehow, less than “me,” and, therefore,
    “I” do not wish to be connected to “you.!” Heck, I might even be moved to kill you, infidel! Maybe it would be all the more noticeable,
    that we are ALL connected if the divisive religions were to evaporate; just a thought.
    Yes, we are all connected, stars go supernova, blowing the heavier atoms they developed into space, which eventually make up
    the organic compounds of which life forms are made, including us and the life forms that nourish us, “Starstuff,” as Carl Sagan
    Right, we do not need imaginary friends in some imaginary heaven, whose imagined presence helps us to deal with the fear that
    when we die, we end.
    But, the recently noted trends toward secularism, and, now, the calling out of hypocrisy within religious entities is hopeful.

  15. If you don’t believe as I do,you are less than me.

    It’s the same as party politics. Politics is being sold in the U.S. as if it were a religion. Perhaps it has become one?

  16. Secular Outlooks: Welcome aboard. As to your comment…that’s precisely where we are at the present time.

    All: Eyes wide open on The Signatry, OK?

    We ditched several local branches of large companies for obvious reasons. They don’t get a red cent from us: Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A, Papa John’s, the My Pillow guy, and one more that escapes me at the moment.

  17. Well, ya got Sorg and his SorgHum, Gandhi the Bigot on Christianity, and even some Nones.
    Smekens with his sparkly eyes w/sunglasses…
    On boxes: I check “human”for race and “No,thanks!” on Faith.

  18. While being perfect like Jesus is impossible, we can still strive to be like him which is to love rather than hate others. But that’s very difficult with some folks. Lord, help me.

  19. I am one of those Christians who is totally appalled at the hate being spewed by so-called Christians. I am thankful to be a member of a church whose members try hard to actually follow Jesus’s teachings. We have an active social ministry program that provides fellowship and a hot meal for seniors and homeless every Saturday. We run a women’s shelter for six months of the year. We have a group who walks through our neighborhood distributing lunches to homeless twice a week. We are far from perfect, but we strive to be true followers of Christ. We also welcome LGBTQ with open arms. Our pastor is gay, and this Saturday is marrying his fiancé, who is Jewish, under a chuppah in our Lutheran church. I am sure if the “Christian” leaders you refer to in you blog knew of our celebration this week, they would send picketers to proclaim we are damned. I believe Jesus would ignore them and come in to celebrate our newlyweds’ love. After all, love is what He is all about.

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