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Theocrats in the Tennessee Legislature seem hell-bent on making the Bible the “official state book of Tennessee.”

Their proposal to “officialize” the Holy Bible would place the sacred book as a symbol among such other symbols as–(no kidding):


— the raccoon (Tennessee’s state wild animal);

— the tomato (Tennessee’s official state fruit);

— the Large Mouth Bass (the state’s official fish);

— and the Barrett M82 (Tennessee’s recently adopted official state rifle–a .50-caliber sniper rifle and for more on its power and background see here).

So what’s wrong with this proposed law? Why should anyone care?

I’m glad you asked, because God spoke to me and deputized me to be your Answer Man on this nonsense today.

So praise Elvis and pass the grits while I explain.

By a vote of 19 to 8, the state senate has passed a bill that originated in the state House of Reps. It would simply “make the Holy Bible the official state book.” (See here for details and make note of this quote: “In solidly Republican Tennessee, heavy doses of God and guns are considered reliable election-year politics. The Bible bill came to a vote just days before the candidate filing deadline, giving lawmakers pause about being portrayed by political rivals as being opposed to the Bible if they voted against the bill..)

Supporters (including a handful of Democrats) say the measure recognizes the book’s unique role in American history.

Opponents, including some sensible Republicans and many of the state’s churches, church leaders and other religious bodies, say the move could make people of other faiths feel slighted.

Never mind how it would make people of no faith feel in a country where one is free, thank God, not to believe in God or put faith in the Bible.

Even Jesus was a free-will kind of guy.

Conservatives in Tennessee, who are all about Government over-reach, want to make this a state symbol alongside symbols like the state raccoon and state sniper rifle. Why didn't Texas think of this????

Conservatives in Tennessee, who are all about Government over-reach, want to make this a state symbol alongside symbols like the state raccoon and state sniper rifle. Why didn’t Texas think of this????

Even Tennessee’s very Republican Gov. Bill Haslam opposes this bill. The hitch is–he hasn’t said whether he’ll veto it.

“The Bible is the most important book in my life, and I think in the world,” Gov. Haslam told reporters last week. “But that’s very different than being the state’s official book.”

(NOTE TO GOV. HASLAM: I, for one, happen agree with your position wholeheartedly! So be a leader and just say you’ll veto it and then, veto it.)

One sensible Republican in clear opposition, state Sen. Ferrell Haile, is quoted as saying, “The Bible is a book of history, but it’s not a history book to be placed on a shelf. It’s to be lived out in the lives of believers.”

Again–this is a Republican conservative I agree with. Yet unlike the governor, he didn’t waffle in fighting it. Picture me giving him two big thumbs up. (Barry Goldwater, the great American freedom fighter and conservative icon who once said Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition could go to hell together, would be proud, I’m sure.)

As Sen. Haile points out, the Bible’s having a place in world and American history does not mean it’s a history book anymore than it’s a science book (and it is definitely not that either). It’s a HOLY book, a FAITH book, meant to be lived out (thank you again Sen. Haile for saying it!) by people of faith, not to be used for scoring political points from hypocrites in office who preach “family values” at every turn.

Hypocrites like the family-values governor of Alabama, currently fighting for his political life because of yet another political sex scandal. (Honestly, I take no delight in pointing out such hypocrisy. But it’s just astounding how frequently the guilty dogs always preach family values the loudest, isn’t it?)

Opponents say the proposed Bible law also raises a lot of questions, like which translation of so many translations would be the official one? Catholics use a version of the Bible that is a far cry from the old King James version that so many Protestants in the Bible Belt seem to think was writ by Jesus. (A Catholic bishop is among those state religious leaders is not happy about this bill, btw. See here for one reason why.)

And while supporters say they have Jewish friends who have no problem with this kind of junk legislation, their few Jewish friends are hardly representative of most Jews and Jewish leaders in Tennessee and across the country. As in, not representative of any practicing Jews of any significant number.

Of course, nobody cares what peace-loving American Muslims among us might think, except those of us who love and cherish American freedom and liberty and don’t believe God, the Bible or Christianity need protection from the Tennessee Government against Muslims, Jews who don’t believe Christ is the Messiah, non-believers or, for that matter, me.

I’m not a resident of Tennessee but if I were I wouldn’t need the state’s Big, over-reaching Government diddling with my religion and the constitution.

* * *

What I hope is obvious to most Americans is that the proposed law is unconstitutional on the face of it. But ultra-right conservative leaders in so many of America’s state capitols, not to mention in the nation’s capitol, are all for the Constitution—except when they’re against it.

When it comes to guns and God, they’re always plenty willing and ready to play loose with it.

Seriously, my friends.

I am opposed, and passionately so (in case you didn’t pick up on that), to this nonsense, if only because I love and cherish God’s word and don’t want it cheapened and trivialized like it’s some some kind of state raccoon, fruit, fish or rifle by the kind of people who think St. Augustine is a kind of grass that makes for pretty lawns in Southern Living magazine.

I just hope and pray that the theocrats leading the state of Texas these days don’t follow the lead of Tennessee–which honestly is one of my favorite of all American states–that gave us the infamous monkey trials back in one of American history’s Darker Ages.

Tennessee's state rifle. (Capitol City Arms Supply owner Steve Swartz shows off a Barrett .50-caliber rifle in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File, taken from The Washington Post)

Tennessee’s state rifle. (Capitol City Arms Supply owner Steve Swartz shows off a Barrett .50-caliber rifle in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File, taken from The Washington Post)

Merle

Merle

Cash. Dolly. Willie. Waylon. Loretta. Merle.

Some names in country music conjure up instant images of larger-than-life legends.

Merle, dead at 79, insisted in keeping it real and if you didn’t like it . . . well.

It was still real.

May he rest in perfect peace, perfect peace.

I don’t know about you, but I just need some comic relief.

Sebastian Maniscalo is one of the laugh-out-loud funniest–and it seems to me most under-rated–comedians in the biz.

Here’s some of his bits, starting with some intensely emotional nipple-tattoo humor.

The sort of humor that makes you wonder, “What’s WRONG with people?”

So what does this picture say to you?

If you’re an American (and not all who read this blog are), what is the story you imagine when you look at it and reflect on it?

If you’re a Christian, what is the story you imagine when you mull on it? If you’re a devout Christian (and what American isn’t that), does it bring any scriptures to mind?

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What about this picture which I’ve posted here before of you-know-who with his daughter back in the day in you-know-who’s home?

What does it say to you?

What does it say about American culture today? What does it say about American Christian culture today that so many Christians still make excuses for you-know-who?

CaDwN5zWQAE-qvW.jpg-small

Finally, what do you suppose Jesus would say about this interesting meme?

Finally, what do you suppose Jesus would say about this interesting meme?

A large community church in Plano, TX (suburban Dallas) hired a helicopter to drop Easter Eggs in a stunt that crashed as church money burned.

The failed Easter event left all Christians and churches looking idiotic in the eyes of people who think all Christians and churches fall a few thousand miles short of being legitimate.

The fact that a church that is part of the (very imperfect) body of Christ (look up 1 Corinthians 12: 12-28) would spend church money and resources on such an expensive event in the first place is embarrassing to me and many others who are Christians.

Let’s break down the story a bit as reported in The Dallas Morning News:

    Tossing Easter eggs from a helicopter sounds like a nice, fun, family-friendly event, until news about it goes viral and your staff can’t control a 10,000-person crowd.

    LifePoint Church in Plano planned to drop Easter eggs Saturday from a helicopter into a field next to the church.

    “When we thought about a fun Easter event for the community, we thought tossing Easter eggs from a helicopter seemed like a good idea. We didn’t expect our event to go viral across blogs, event websites, Facebook,” the church said in a prepared statement Sunday.

    However, controlling the egg-loving crowd, which the church estimated at 10,000 people, proved too much, and no eggs were delivered.

The use of the chopper and related costs had to be a huge sum that could have been better spent doing something so much more (as the late-night TV star and devout Christian Steve Colbert would say) “Christian-y.”

A helicopter, hired by Community Life Church, makes the third of four drops at one-of-a-kind Easter event in McKinney Saturday April 23,2011. The 30,000 eggs were dropped four times, by Epic Helicopters of Fort Worth, for the children who gathered the eggs in four different age groups. (Ron Baselice/The Dallas morning News) 04242011xMETRO

IN THIS PHOTO FROM 2011: A helicopter, hired by Community Life Church, makes the third of four drops at one-of-a-kind Easter event in McKinney Saturday April 23,2011. The 30,000 eggs were dropped four times, by Epic Helicopters of Fort Worth, for the children who gathered the eggs in four different age groups. The same kind of spectacle sponsored by another Plano Church crashed.(Ron Baselice/The Dallas morning News)

Such as, maybe having a traditional Easter Egg hunt and spending all that extra money on something like, say, needy kids to have Easter Baskets and maybe a meal as a bonus treat.

Something more Christian-y like that actually does service to God and the have-nots among us–the needy folk that a church has a primary duty to provide for.

Apparently this Plano church has money to burn, and burns it on stuff like helicopters for ludicrous stunts that in no way measure up to good stewardship of church money and resources.

But according to the full story, this kind of spectacle was not the first of its kind. You can read the whole story here and see that such helicopter drops have been held by churches before.

This one just happened to get out of control.

Picture me with my head spinning like chopper rudders.

Philosophy works out the cost of the bill for the meal called life.

“Religion offers you the meal itself.”

— William James

Caravaggio’s "Supper at Emmaus," 1601

Caravaggio’s “Supper at Emmaus,” 1601

I’m not so sure that any and every old religion offers you an actual meal called life, but Christianity absolutely offers you the bread and wine of life.

And nourishing fish as well.

Remember that Christians for something like the first 300 years didn’t even use the cross as their symbol. Their symbol (or “brand”–to borrow a modern secular term that I suppose means “image”) was a fish. They used the Greek word for “fish” as an anagram/acronym for “Jesus Christ God’s Son, Savior.” (*See link below for details about that extremely elaborate and functional Christian symbol–functional in the context and under the circumstances of their persecution, that is.)

Our New and Old Testaments–from the Passover meal to the Eucharist and beyond–are shot-through with the language and symbols of sustenance from food and drink. Page after page of The Word–especially our Christian gospels–reference some feast or banquet.

The living Christ himself, for gosh sake, embodies the bread that gives new life and well being in mind, body and spirit to all who partake.

Christ has died.

Christ has risen.

Christ will come again.

Happy Easter.

(*See here for the symbolism of the fish in early Christianity.)

Jesus looks into our hearts and minds from the vantage point of the cross--that should humble us in our views of Judgment. Watercolor by Christian artist James Tissot (1836-1902).

One of my favorite quotes ever is from Aldous Huxley of “Brave New World” fame: “There is no such thing as Judgment Day. Every day is Judgment Day.” I believe that wholeheartedly. Jesus looks into our hearts and minds from the vantage point of the cross every day–that should humble us in our views of Judgment. Watercolor by Christian artist James Tissot (1836-1902).

In all our conceit we think that we are somehow such good Jesus lovers that we are measuring up just fine to God’s standard of judgment, and will measure up when we take our last breath.

It’s always someone else who’s going to be in trouble on a final, mythical Judgment Day.

Think about who you think is going to pay when he or she meets the Maker.

What makes you so surefire certain Jesus is going to flunk THAT sinner and give you an A-grade for the life you’re living?

Really–nothing in this life or in the divine realm can be so certain, can it?

The Good News of the Gospel is not a gloomy news editorial about who’s going to be in and who’s or going to burn forever and ever and ever in some literal lake of fire in Revelation, a book that was written almost entirely for the purpose of giving the suffering, persecuted Christians hope in the Lamb of God. It was written as the last word on the first word that was the Book of Genesis.

So the Good News of the Gospel is more like Henri Nouwen’s “news editorial”:

jesus-christ-crucifixion-150

When we say “Christ has died” we express the truth that all human suffering in all times and places has been suffered by the Son of God.

There is no suffering — no guilt, shame, loneliness, hunger, oppression, or exploitation, no torture, imprisonment or murder, no violence or nuclear threat — that has not been suffered by God.

There can be no human beings who are completely alone in their sufferings since God, in and through Jesus, has become Emmanuel, God with us.

The Good News of the Gospel, therefore, is not that God came to take our suffering away, but that God wanted to become part of it.

http://www.henrinouwen.org/About_Henri/About_Henri.aspx”>Henri Nouwen, from Christ of the Americas

Have a good Good Friday.