Monday, May 16, 2016

I speak evangelical. The Babylon Bee is NOT all fun and games.

A church sanctuary. Image source.
I am not a fan of the Christian Humor site The Babylon Bee, which has been described as "the Onion for Christians." I grew up evangelical, and I know the way we judged people who didn't agree with us, the little eupehmisms and jokes we used to mock them. We kept it indirect and coded in church-y language so it didn't sound so bad, but it had a rotten core of arrogance and hate, which we called "love."

That's what The Babylon Bee is.

Let's take a look. I'm writing this on Sunday, May 15, and the first article on the front page is Armed With Just His Personal Relationship With Jesus, Man Invents Several New Heresies. Hmm, reading this title, I'm not totally sure which direction this article is going. Obviously it will make fun of people who like to talk about their "personal relationship with God"- which is a concept I have some problems with- but the "invents several new heresies" bit is very ominous. Is this going to be mocking the idea of thinking for yourself, rather than just following what the church tells you?

And... unfortunately, yes.

"His theology, though vague, seems to be a strange mix of Arianism, semi-Nestorianism, and what commentators have identified as teachings from the Teletubbies and Dora the Explorer."

Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa. Hold up there.

Because I used to live in that world. I know the types of beliefs that we compared to children's cartoons. Specifically, the beliefs that I now hold. Specifically, the beliefs about love and acceptance and getting along with other people. And the ones about self-esteem and feeling good about yourself. All the beliefs that conflict with the evangelical teaching about sin, about hell, about how we're all terrible sinners who never deserve anything good. And all that stuff they're teaching kids these days about accepting yourself- no, we shouldn't accept ourselves, because we're crap. And that stuff about accepting people who are different from us- no, we shouldn't accept people who believe differently, that's the worst thing we can do, we have to convince them to agree with us, so they don't go to hell.

That's what we believed. We even used to mock the word "love." "Oh but we love each other, so it's okay," church people would say in an unnaturally high voice.

For real though. If you find God in Dora the Explorer, than good for you. Didn't the psalmist say, "Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." I'm pretty sure if you're watching Dora the Explorer, God is there too.

I find God in Star Trek. In Star Wars. In writing fan fiction about the bible. I find God in my own life, in my experiences with phobias and depression. And I love to read about diverse interpretations of the bible, how people from different backgrounds see their own lives reflected in the stories. From liberation theology to queer readings of Scripture, and so many more. I don't think of it in terms of "is this the correct interpretation or not"; it doesn't have to be right or wrong, and you shouldn't take it too seriously. They're just interpretations made by imperfect people- very useful and interesting, but not "absolute truth." And it's beautiful to me how so many different people can find so much meaning in the bible. This creativity is a core component of what it means to be made in the image of God.

And this last line from the Babylon Bee article: "Pershing is also reportedly beginning work on a new book chronicling his journey out of the institutional church and into a stronger relationship with Jesus, which is rumored to contain a systematic rejection of systematic theology." Okay, really? It's mocking Christians who write about leaving the church and rediscovering their faith? Like me?

What this "humor" article is really saying is this: "How dare anyone think about Jesus in ways other than those that have been approved by the church."

I am not okay with that.

And over and over, that is the punch line to so many Babylon Bee articles. "lololol look how silly people are, who don't believe the correct Christian things that we believe!" You want more examples? I got more examples:

Pastor Packs Sermon With Record-Setting 78 Euphemisms For Sin. Allow me to translate from evangelical-ese. What this article is really saying is: "Isn't it terrible how a lot of pastors don't talk enough about sin nowadays? They really need to emphasize how disgusting and worthless we are, and how we deserve God's wrath. How come Christians hardly ever talk about God's wrath?"

Target Announces Senior Discount For Anyone Who Self-Identifies As Age 60 Or Older. Translation: "LOL being transgender is clearly not a real thing!"

LGBT Advocacy Group Launches Center For Advanced Ad Hominems. WTF is this? As if conservatives are the victims, demonized by LGBT advocates. Tell me, which side is it that claims the other side is wrong about their very identity (and also probably all child molesters)?

Jesus Was A Socialist Deconstructionist Feminist, Claims Socialist Deconstructionist Feminist Scholar. Translation: "Isn't it terrible that people have opinions about Jesus other than the correct church-approved opinions that I hold?"

Yes, there are a few articles that I am fine with- they point out some of the same problems with Christian culture that I see too. Everything Local Man Feels Led To Do He Coincidentally Really Likes, for example. Some of the articles are harmless, or even a little funny. But running through most of them is judgment for people who are doing Christianity "wrong." And I know that, according to the writers of this site, I am one of those people doing Christianity "wrong."

It's not funny. It's triggering as hell. I speak their language, and I know what they're really saying.

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