God is Good, God is Better…

If I believed that we were born in total depravity, then I would have to believe that I am more mature than God. That is a horrific thought. No — I believe — I must believe that God is greater than I am, that God is more mature, wiser, kinder, gentler, more patient, and better in every way than I am. After all, I do believe that I am made, that we are all made, in God’s image. No, I don’t believe in a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation stories, but I do believe that we are made in God’s image, that we carry God’s Divine spark, the ruach – the Divine wind, within us.

But being made in God’s image does not make us God. We are not the original. We are the copies. We are not as good. We are striving to be.

So I do not believe that we are born in total depravity. I am a Universalist. A capital U Universalist and a lower-case U universalist.  I believe that God never gives up on us. Never. Not ever. Which already makes God better than me.

Because right now – and a lot lately, I find that I am just this close to giving up on humanity.  It’s not just this election, or any election. It’s the general level of nastiness that we are showing one another.  The rape culture that is being condoned and excused. Rush Limbaugh, the poster boy for the total depravity argument, on 12 October, 2016, allowed as how those on the left would call any sexual contact that didn’t include consent as rape. Um…yes. By definition! That’s exactly what rape is! You can read his statement here if you haven’t just eaten.

A man thought it would be appropriate to dress his son in blackface as a Black Lives Matter activist for Halloween. Because his son wanted to go as something stupid. And then he posted the photo proudly on Facebook. I weep for this child – for the way he is being brought up.

A seven-year-old was beaten up by other children on his school bus in North Carolina. Because he is Muslim. On his school bus. Where an adult is present, driving the bus. The family is now moving back to Pakistan, because they don’t feel safe in the U.S. Let that sink in for a moment. They are moving back to Pakistan, where they feel safer.

And today, on the 287th day of the year, as I write this, 843 people have been killed by police so far in the U.S. this year.  That’s just about three people every single day. Every. Single. Day. And yes, police do get killed in the line of duty. They aren’t all killed by people, but police do die in the line of duty. So far, in 2016, 99 police officers have died in the line of duty.  And there were 130 police deaths in 2015, and 146 in 2014, so fortunately, that number is trending down. (The average daily death toll for civilians killed by police in 2015 was about the same as it appears to be trending now).

So I see all these things, and many more things, and I get discouraged. I say “Black Lives Matter,” and someone says, “well, I think all lives matter!” And I get tired of explaining that all lives can’t matter if we’re erasing the black lives.

I take a stand against rape culture, and someone says, “can’t you take a joke?” I can take a joke. Having agency over my body isn’t a joke. And I get tired of explaining to men, and sometimes even to other women that my body isn’t here for your amusement.

I say that I want to learn about other faiths, that my way isn’t the only way it is one way, and someone says, “but they can’t be trusted, they could be terrorists.” And I get tired of pointing out that terrorists abound in every flavor, and that while we sit and cower in the corner about terrorists, the poor are still poor, the hungry are still  hungry, many people still don’t have adequate healthcare or education, and so much more.

We spend so much time looking for ways to hate each other. We spend so much time looking for the things that divide us.  If you don’t love the way I do, you must be broken. If you don’t eat, worship, think, look the way I do, you must be broken/wrong/inferior.

So I think that God must have infinite patience. I think there must be so much more that we are capable of. Because I cannot bear to believe that we are totally depraved. This is my prayer. That God grant me the strength to continue the work. That we will come to know how to be better humans. That we will continue to build the kingdom. To repair the world. It is the only way. God must be greater than all of us. Let us find our way to God.

That’s my mite. It’s all I’ve got.



Brock Turner is an Over-Privileged Rapist, Not a Victim

Let’s be clear about a few things, shall we? Rape isn’t sexual promiscuity. It’s an act of violence. A consensual sexual relationship requires…I’m betting you know this one…yes, that’s right, it requires consent! If an individual does not give consent, or for any reason is incapable of giving consent, then any sexual acts performed with or upon that person are rape.  There is no such thing as a ten-year-old who “wanted it.” An adult who engages in sexual intercourse with a ten-year-old is committing rape. End of discussion. A young woman who is drunk and incoherent is incapable of giving consent. It is not illegal to be drunk. It might not be a wise decision to get drunk, but it is not illegal. It IS illegal to rape a woman who is drunk. And her being drunk is not a mitigating circumstance. Rather, one might consider that others have a duty of care for those who are incapacitated.

Brock Turner raped a young woman who was drunk. He tried to say that it was consensual. A jury saw through that and convicted him. A jury didn’t care that he was a star athlete at Stanford University (although the press seemed to think that this was relevant when they first reported the rape. Were the reporters expecting that rapists, like the villains in Dick Tracy, are all career criminals who “look the part?”).

Once Turner was convicted, he cried his crocodile tears and said that he regretted his actions. He said that he wanted to do good work and teach about the dangers of alcohol. Alcohol didn’t make Turner into a rapist. He was already a rapist when he went out that night. He just hadn’t had the opportunity before.  Oh, to be sure, alcohol works as a disinhibitor. But plenty of people have been drunk and haven’t committed crimes. Plenty of people have had too much to drink and then didn’t get behind the wheel of a car. Plenty of people have had too much to drink and then didn’t kill anyone. Plenty of people have had too much to drink and then didn’t rape anyone. Alcohol didn’t rape the young woman. Brock Turner did.

Dan Turner, Brock’s father, wrote a letter to the judge, detailing all the reasons that his highly privileged son, who has been given everything in life, shouldn’t spend time in prison for his violent crime of raping another human being.  In the letter, Dan Turner makes his son out to be the victim! He talks about how depressed his son has been, yet he never once mentions the life-altering effect his sons actions have had on his victim. He says, “This is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action…” and then goes on to say that Brock could do so much good by educating other about the consequences of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity. Sexual promiscuity?

There are people who are sexually promiscuous who have never ever raped anyone. Brock Turner’s issue isn’t sexual promiscuity. It’s that he’s a rapist.  And until he and his father recognize that, they will never be any good to anyone.  This is what rape culture does.

Brock Turner learned that he had the privilege of raping women somewhere. I suspect he learned it from his father, who seems to think that his son is the victim in all this, and that he made a mistake related to alcohol and sexual promiscuity.  This is the very embodiment of white male privilege. It’s not about the devastating effects on the actual victim, it’s about how it’s ruined this promising young man’s future. Please! Spare me!

But this is what happens when we continue to promote a culture of rape in our society. So let’s be clear — Bathsheba didn’t seduce King David. King David raped Bathsheba.  Brock Turner didn’t make a 20-minute mistake. He’s a rapist. He deserves to be treated as the criminal he is. No one ruined his life but he.

A judge sentenced Brock Turner to six months in the county jail and probation. The judge thought prison might be unpleasant for poor, sensitive, Brock Turner.  Funny, but I thought the point of prison was that it was supposed to be unpleasant. It’s punishment. For serious crimes. I guess that the crushing sentence that Brock imposed upon his victim doesn’t count. This is how rape culture plays out. This is why only 3 out of 100 rapists ever see any prison time, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

I’m a pastor. I believe in universal salvation. I do believe there’s hope for everyone. But I don’t believe in cheap Grace. Until Brock Turner, Dan Turner, and the judge can admit their grievous sins, they will be like the rich man who, in death, still sees Lazarus as a servant. They will never have peace. Perhaps the rest of us aren’t so thick.

That’s my mite. That’s all I’ve got.

Update:  Under pressure, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office has finally released Brock Turner’s mugshot. Today. A year after the fact. Note well in the article on Jezebel that mugshots are often released right away. When the suspect is black.