Friday, February 16, 2018

Dear Church, We Gotta Talk: God, Memes and Terrible Theology

Terrible theology is even worse in Comic Sans.


I was going to post this as a regular FB post, but it was too long so I decided a blog post would work better.

Dear Church, I gotta speak out about the recent school shooting at #Stoneman High School. Now, I’m not going to talk about gun control or politics, because that’s not my area. Also, I don't know enough to provide good answers on those topics. HOWEVER, when people post terrible theology in regards to these school shootings, that's where I feel compelled to speak out. It is pretty much in my pastoral vows to speak out against terrible theology and bad behavior by Christians. If this makes you uncomfortable or steps on your toes, because maybe you posted something like this: GOOD. I won't apologize for doing what God has called me to do and what I have promised to do. If you find yourself ashamed to be included, go delete that post and think about what you really want to share about your faith.

The above picture may be the WORST response I’ve seen to the Florida school shootings, the absolute worst y'all. And the sad part is that it’s being posted by Christians. Christians I know and have pastored. I'm personally ashamed of that fact, and I am sorry that I failed to share the Gospel clearly enough that they can believe something like this. I'm saddened that church-going Christians who believe in Jesus and the Bible believe this meme reflects their faith. Now, I have Atheist and Agnostic friends who recognize that this is terrible theology, but church, we all seem to be missing it. So let me assure you, this t-shirt is not good news. It’s anti-biblical, anti-God and literal anti-Christ. Let me elaborate.

1. Do you really believe God can be stopped by school doors? Or the school board? Or anything else? The God who we believe created ALL things, who came to live among us as Jesus Christ, who went through Good Friday, crucifixion, death, Hell. The God who defeated all of that and sin and evil... is stopped cold by a court order, or the lack of public, staff-led prayer? That's what you really believe? I'd invite you to go read Romans 8:31-39 because THAT is the God of Christianity and of scripture. If you believe this meme I think you may be mistaking God for a vampire who has to be invited in.

2. I know a myriad of teachers, administrators, and school staff, just in Bellville, who are faithful Christians and serve both the church and their schools with God-filled hearts. I was going to tag like a dozen of them but since that won't work in a blog post let me just say I counted over 10 in the local school district, a few more in neighboring districts, and another half dozen who work just a little farther out from Bellville, who personally go to St. John. Not to mention all of the other churches (or the 7-8 in my immediate and extended family). You know who they all bring with them when they go to work? God! They and all the other teachers of faith who work in our schools bring their faith to work every day and to every thing they do within those school walls. Just because they don't blare it out over the loud speakers or pray loudly in the middle of the cafeteria, (which if you read the beginning of Matthew 6, Jesus isn't all that keen about) doesn't mean God isn't with them. These are some of the most faithful people I know. God is with them, always, everywhere, period.

3. Repeat the previous point for the dozens of STUDENTS of faith I know just from St. John and the millions and millions more who have Christ walking with them every day when they go to their classes.

4. Do you realize that when you post something like this, you are basically telling children, many of them baptized believers like you and me, that they DESERVED to be shot and killed? You are implying that they deserved to die? Do you understand that you are telling the parents, families, and friends of those kids in Florida: "You know what? Your kid had it coming!" Do you think this brings people closer to Christ? Do you believe they look at this and think "That's a God I want to believe in!"? Do you think your kids and/or grandkids read this and are proud of you and the faith you have tried to pass down to them?

5. Do you believe God looks at this and is proud of your witness? I mean that's ultimately the measure for us as Christians right? Forget the public, other people, and even me as a pastor. What do you believe God sees when looking at memes like this? I can't know the mind of God for sure, but everything I have ever studied, read or been taught about the God I believe in and preach about makes me think that my God would be horrified and saddened. I believe God would be heartbroken by messages like this being sent in His name.

Let me be clear: God was at the school. God was there with the students and teachers working together to survive. God was there with the staff who jumped in front of bullets and died to protect others. You want a biblical witness? Laying down your life for another is straight out of John 15:13. God was there with the parents reunited with their terrified and scarred children. God there with the parents and families whose hearts were broken by the news that their loved ones were killed by an act of pure evil.

Let me be clear: God will continue to be there in the kindness and love those families receive from their friends and community. In the support they receive from their churches and their neighbors. God will be there with the dead, receiving them into eternal love and grace. God will be there in the months and years to come; a light for those who will no doubt be surrounded by the darkness of their loss. God will be in those schools as students keep praying they aren't the next ones to die, as teachers pray for the courage to do what is needed should a gunman ever come to their school. God will be there with the administrators who will be planning more lock-down drills because that's the world we live in now.

You know where God won't be, church? God won't be in memes like the one above. God won't be in the judgmental attitudes of those who send these out. God won't be there just as God was not in the act of violence this young man and too many other people have committed in our schools. That's because our God is not the god of guns, memes or bad theology. Our God is the God of love, the God of creation and the God that is most clearly seen in the violence-rejecting resurrection of Jesus. That God has a lot of work to do to counteract the evil that was done this past Ash Wednesday. And so do I and so do you.

So dear church, can we please PLEASE stop posting memes like this? Can we please stop posting terrible theology? There's hurting people out there and they need you. They need you to be the actual hands and feet of God. They need you to show them a real Christ-like love. They need you to show up, not with judgments and condemnation, but with mercy and grace and love. Let's show up with that church. In short let's show up with the God of love.

92 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Amen! Many folks mean well when they post memes like this, but they clearly haven't thought through the theological implications of this perspective. It either makes God into a vindictive narcissist or something far less than the creator of the cosmos.

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    1. They mean well??? They mean well?!?!?!? The only possible motivation to post something as vile and mean as this meme is to hurt people, sneer at them, and to pat oneself on the back for being the one in the know, the true believer, the one in God’s corner. This “holier than thou” thought and meme clearly reveals that the person who posts it has no holiness at all. That his or her soul is small and ugly and mean. It is this person who is the vindictive narcissist.

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    2. They may think they mean well and really just be a young or lost soul who doesn't understand what I'll refer to as the contents of this blog.

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    3. Not a fan of the meme and I agree God is not a narcissist and He is the creator of the cosmos. However, it is good theology to recognize God hates sin, both individual (like mine) and societal (like my country). Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; but sin is a reproach to any people. Consider how God allowed Israel to suffer when they departed from.His law. Take note I have neither said nor implied that the victims had.it coming or merely got what.they deserved. God loves and He judges. When a society ostracizes God, He removes his favor as a means of corrective discipline. I believe that.is what.happenned here.

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    4. No, Steve, just no. You said you didn’t imply they had it coming or got what they deserved, the turned right around and said God removed his favor ( which is BS) as a means of corrective discipline. Have you read John 3.16? What did these kids do to incur Gods wrath? I would think God would have good enough aim should God choose to take out the troublemakers. Shame on you.

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    5. "I have neither said nor implied that the victims had.it coming or merely got what.they deserved. God loves and He judges. When a society ostracizes God, He removes his favor as a means of corrective discipline. I believe that.is what.happenned here."

      So was it deserved discipline or not? Because if you're saying that it was deserved discipline then you're a pretty despicable person and a worse Christian. If you're saying it was undeserved discipline then you worship an evil and capricious God.

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    6. Steve, The United States is not ancient Israel. Jesus told us to stop thinking this way, Luke 13.1-9. The kingdom of God has arrived and God's favor rests on humankind.After experiencing the love of God through Jesus Christ, how could you even think this way? Do you still want to earn your way to God through doing law?

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    7. OK, GAWD isn't allowed in schools. So why are there mass murders in churches? Wrong GAWD? Wrong issue? Wrong assumptions?

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    8. A meme like the example above translates to me like "Why do *you* allow such evil?" and "Ah. I see. *Now* schools want me back?"

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  3. Amen! Thank you so much, Pastor Andrew!

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  4. Amen thank you for your word, wisdom. i needed to hear that to help understand things,

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  5. Thanks for sharing Andy. Would you be alright if I shared an excerpt of this in my sermon?

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  6. Very well said Pastor Andrew! From Pastor Dave Morrell in Richmond, TX

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  7. Thanks for writing this, sir. My dad shared that image on Facebook yesterday and I was absolutely livid when I scrolled past it. He’s a man who, to my knowledge, doesn’t own a Bible to study, doesn’t pray outside of church, and hasn’t been to church in weeks or months. How can someone who doesn’t even have a relationship with God that extends past an hour on random Sundays feel like this is a good, decent, Christ-like thing to share? Although, I guess the answer is in the question. I’m not even a Christian anymore and I still rage when people misrepresent Christianity and make Christ look like some small, petty entity

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  8. Absolutely agree 100%! This screams grace AND truth - just like our Jesus. God bless you for sharing His heart with the confused and hurting. ❤️

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  9. YES!! Every time I see this picture or one similar, these are my thoughts exactly. God goes with me to school every. single. day. He helps me be a living witness to all 600+ students I may encounter every. single. day.

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  10. Thank you for this! Hopefully we can spread this message to every corner of our country. Every journey starts with one step. You have helped us all to take that first step. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Thank you!

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  11. Thank you for this. I couldn't agree more and would also like permission to share an excerpt in my sermon.

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  12. that's what I said after another shooting asking the question, don't you think God was in the Amish church when the man came in and shot them? Such mistaken thoughts. Just stop. This is well written. Thank you.

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  13. May I quote a portion of this in my sermon tomorrow?

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  14. Let me preface by stating that I am an atheist. Someone shared this article as a reply to this meme, and I have to say:

    This is absolutely beautiful, and this message is wonderful, graceful, and powerful.

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  15. Thanks man. This comment made my night!

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  17. As a non-believer I came across this post. I have to say -THIS- is what I would like to see from Christians and others. This attitude is the right kind to have and I appreciate you taking the time to not only word it well, but call out those who were doing things like this. Kudos sir.

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    1. Exactly. And this IS what you will see from Christians. The problem is that there are a LOT of religious conservatives that call (and may actually think) themselves Christians, but there is a very distinct difference between the two. A religious conservative would post this meme without hesitation, a Christian would have the same reaction as the author.

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  18. Thanks all for the many responses. One commentator named Lauren whose comment I can't find now accused me of saying people believed the kids deserved to die. That's not actually what I wrote. What I wrote is that memes IMPLY the message that the kids deserved to be shot and killed. I doubt anyone who shares this actually believes that to be true, but my point is that someone who read this shirt could certainly believe that they do.

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  19. I love this response so much! Will you please correct the typo in the last line of #1 so I can share it! I wanted to quote that line and share this post but wanted it to be correct.

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  20. I believe, too, that God was working in the gunman as he meticulously carried out his plan. DO NOT misunderstand what I am saying: I am saying that even as the bullets were flying, God was pleading with this 19-year-old boy to stop, to lay down the gun, to surrender, to STOP. I do not know why God's pleas were not heard in Cruz's heart, but I do know that God would have been working desperately to make the carnage stop. Let's not forget that this young man is one of God's children, too. My heart breaks for each and every person burned by the fire of his hatred, but I do believe that God's love is bigger than evil. I detest this meme, by the way. Thank you for your thoughtful, strong and passionate defense of the good news of Jesus Christ.

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    1. Yes, this. God is with/in/present in each moment, whether we acknowledge or not, whether an act is good or evil. Our free will allows us to act contrary to our God of love, but God is there.
      And with that exception, I applaud your entire post. Thank you!

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    2. Indeed. The same God who flung out galaxies and walked the Via Dolorosa and killed Death in a tomb would certainly not abandon us alone in evil. Seems like there is always a "Prodigal Father" sitting on the front porch, waiting for the least turn towards Him, to jump up, run out and meet us on the road.

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  21. Dear Pastor Andrew...I do understand what you are saying about the theology of this meme being incorrect, however, my husband and I disagree with how you have handled it. The creator of this t-shirt obviously had good intentions and did not mean to say that God's power is limited by us or that the people who died deserved it. They should have thought about the wording a little more and simply not put the word "allow" in the first part. They should have said "God, why IS THERE so much violence in our schools?" That would change the meme completely and you could have explained that without reprimanding and shaming ALL CHRISTIANS who posted this meme. And giving more credit to atheists and agnostics over your own congregation and other Christians? Wow. I believe God has called pastors to guide and teach. Not to reprimand and shame. Teach them the way. Show them the way. Remember, we are Christians...not perfect! I would say these same things if you were my pastor. I have no problem with the second part of the meme "I am not allowed in schools." This is not saying that God is not with individuals in school. God has been pushed out of schools more and more: they don't do the pledge anymore, some don't teach God as a part of history anymore, and don't even get me started on public colleges...there you are made to feel as a leper if you say you are a Christian. With the diversity of ethnicity in public schools, one has to be careful when mentioning God in fear of offending non-believers or those who believe in a different god. The media makes Christianity look like a joke and the Bible to be non-credible. Kid's are being influenced by all this 'pushing God out'. I believe this was the intended meaning of the second part of the t-shirt (as feeble as that may be). -Respectfully yours

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    1. J&E - I don’t know what school your kid goes to, but they say the pledge at my kid’s school, and we live in a liberal college town. I know that right-wing media has reported that they’re not saying the pledge, but it’s not true.
      And I’m sorry that you perceive that people are judging you for being a Christian. It’s not a pleasant feeling. Now imagine how the rest of us of different faiths have felt in your “Christian” country. I have been judged as “other” my whole life in this “Christian” country. I am relieved that my child is at least a bit protected from that in school. I know well that being judged for your religion is not comfortable, but I have little sympathy for the Christians who are having to give up a bit of their cultural dominance for the good of a multicultural society. When my religious holidays are recognized by days off from school, and banks closing, then we’ll be getting to equity. We don’t want your tolerance in your “Christian” school. We want equity. I thank God for the laws that protect me from Christians.

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    2. Wow! when were you born? and what other god do you believe in? I believe in the one and only God. I don't understand where you are coming from when you say, you're fine with us giving up some of our cultural dominance to make room for your cultural religion. I remember, as a child pledging to the flag, and then remember, being told we no longer will be pledging. That's great that your kid's school still does, but there are a lot of other schools that don't, in order to, I guess, make room for other mult-icultral acknowledgements. America was founded on the Bible. Her backbone is the Bible.

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    3. America was not founded on the Bible. Most of the Founding Fathers were either deists or agnostics. They truly belived wholeheartedly in the separation of church and state which is why it is in the Constitution. Large portions were modeled on the political organization of the so-called Six Civilized indigenous American tribes. Ancient Greek and Roman ideals from their philosophies were also used.

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    4. To teach and guide sometimes require making people uncomfortable. And as a theologian of the cross I am called to call a thing what it is. This is bad theology and it's a harmful message to share. Intentions are not as important as how the message is received. And this message is never received well by those who are hurting. I do teach, I do guide, I do lead. Sometimes I do that gently, sometimes I do it bluntly and forcefully. I never shamed people though. I shamed their action of sharing such bad theology.

      As for "siding" with agnostic or atheists. I am always gonna side with truth and most of my agnostic friends spoke truth in regards to this meme. They saw it as evil. If you think its wrong to praise non-believers for being righteous, I refer you to Matthew 8:5-11 where Jesus tells the centurion he has more faith than all Israel because he speaks the truth, even if he doesn't belong to the right religious community.

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    5. And as a lover of both history and theology, I agree with Karen. America was not founded on the Bible. I would certainly like more people in America to follow the teachings of Jesus and models his behavior. But history is clear that there is no biblical basis for America's founding. We didn't start telling ourselves otherwise will the 1950's. I would recommend the book "One Nation Under God" by Kevin Kruse which gives a good historical account of how the lie of America being founded as a Christian Nation started.

      As I said, I'm a pastor, I want to help more people have fulfilling and life giving relationship with Christ. But the Founding Fathers didnt care about any of that. They wanted to found a place where people were free to believe or not.

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    6. Thank you. This was a very nice post. As an atheist, I have to say that attitudes like those of J&E were significant in alienating me and ultimately causing me to leave the church. With more people like Pastor Andrew things may have been different.

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    7. I am in accord with jimbow8. I went to a Lutheran school from Kindergarten to seventh grade. I questioned a lot. Ultimately, I had to leave the Christian faith because of a prevalence of attitudes like J & E's. The only reason I stayed as long as I did was because I had some truly enlightened teachers like Pastor Andrew, and I will carry their true understanding of Christ's teaching with me for the rest of my life, no matter how I classify myself spiritually. Thank you, Pastor Andrew, for speaking truth to your own flock, and for being respectful of those of us who chose different paths, but who also seek truth. Peace to you.

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    8. J&E, look at what you just said to me. “I believe in the one true god. Who do you believe in?”

      What other option do I have, then? You’ve already stated that your god is the one true god, so mine is false. And you want me to send my kid to schools run by people who believe, like you do, that our beliefs are invalid? That what I teach my child is unholy? That what my parents taught me is unholy?

      Thank you to the other people in this thread, who help me to remember that not all Christians are like this. As a minority in this country, it helps to know there are Christians who acknowledge that there are other paths to God, and that goodness and morality are not the exclusive rights of Christian teachings.

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    9. I am also one who left the church due to behaviors as presented by J&E. I found that hypocrisy and hatred was ingrained in the church population was standard, and that they were not even trying to "walk the talk", as it were, rendering attendance meaningless other than to pat each other on the back and pretend that they were doing such holy work. I heard such things as a child by what I call "fair weather faithfuls"...
      Additionally, faith may be important, but history is as well. America is a secular nation and was founded as such. Standing outside the church now, I find my friends of other faiths pushed away and constantly reminded that they are unwanted due to their backgrounds and peaceful religions. It seems like I was not the only one alienated by these attitudes. They prevail even today.
      From my perspective, Christianity has never been under attack, but it's mainstream followers have ever been on the attack. How else are these behaviors supposed to be interpreted?

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    10. JnE, people like you also pushed me out of the church. Your brand of faith, as stated by several, helps Satan help people to turn thier backs to Christ. Your behavior leads to people leaving Christ's Devine light. Your behavior, your beliefs, your Christian identity leads others away from Christ. Christ was loving, understanding, forgiving, and inclusive. You are none if these. I thank you for reminding me that "Christians" like you are really the serpent that led lead me into my life as an Athiest.

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    11. Dear Pastor Andrew,

      Your original post, as well as the two replies in this specific thread, are absolutely beautiful. I am an atheist and I love everything you’ve said here. I hope someday everyone—regardless of their beliefs/lack thereof—can be as tolerant, open-minded, and reasonable as you have been here. Please keep up the good work.

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    12. I have engaged in over 30 years of comparative religious study. I GUARANTEE JnE that I have studied his bible more in-depth and just more than he has. Period. I am not a Christian. But I respect ALL religions and I respect the faiths of those who do not use their religion as a bludgeon. JnE is a prime example of the type of person who uses religion as a bludgeon. That activity is worthy of contempt. Period. The author of this blog is the type of person who is pure in his beliefs and also in what he teaches.

      I am teaching my son about many different religions and beliefs. Christianity is but one of the religions he is learning about. He attended Sunday school and Vacation Bible School at his grandmother's Baptist church for as long as HE wanted to go. His Sunday School/VBS teacher made the mistake of telling him 1) she didn't care what his mommy believed SHE insisted he MUST believe in Jesus exactly as she did (including belief in the rapture) and 2) that his mommy was going to hell TO BE TORTURED FOREVER and SO WOULD HE IF HE DID NOT BELIEVE EXACTLY AS SHE DID. He was FIVE, and she was the wife of the Preacher.

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  22. What a well reasoned, insightful and scholarly blog. My concern is that the point of that meme isn't to inspire discussion, it's designed to get an emotional reaction from those who still harbor bad feelings because of the Supreme Court decision that authorities in schools can't force students to pray as those authorities deem they should. There has to be a way to counter that type of emotion. I'm just not sure what it is.

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  23. The T-Shirt also implies a weak God who passively aggressively gets back. I think it says more about who wrote it and who posts it. To think it makes any sense you share its limited qualities. The church is dying because people are tired of churches built around thoughts and actions of this sort. I can only see that inevitable passage as a good thing. Perhaps then, something beautiful and real can happen - vs false doctrine and Pharisees.

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  24. Thank you. I have been trying to find a way to verbalize my feelings Everytime I see these memes. It just make me sick that people, especially kids, are dying and instead of at least trying to show some empathy they are blaming the victims.
    Thank you.

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  25. Two things can be true at the same time: There are some schools in some states that unfairly limit any activities related to God AND God is in the schools anyway (and He did not cause this tragedy as retribution.) The people who post these memes don’t think through the implications of posting them. While God has been “left out of schools” re school prayer and school activities in some places, that doesn’t mean he isn’t there! Ex: I was a sponsor for a kid’s after-school Bible Study at a High School. I was not allowed to teach from the Bible, but students could. The office wouldn’t allow us to hand out plain red and green Christmas ornaments with an invitation to our group (which was named something simple like Builders or Ambassadors). (The invitations did not mention the Bible or Jesus or God.) We couldn’t post flyers, but every other club could. They would not do our group announcements over the P.A. system but would announce for groups focused on black magic, and other “spiritual things.”

    None of that was even legal. (I looked up the laws that related to it.) While there is separation of church and state, elective activities have rights of free speech. Also, because taxpayers pay for schools, the schools can’t unfairly limit a Christian group from renting or using school facilities (after school) any more than they limit any other group. The situation I mentioned occurred in the North; I’ve heard very different stories about High Schools in the South.

    That being said, God is in the hallways of every school, even if uninvited. No man can resist his Spirit. He is there to love, encourage, change people, etc. There may be a time to talk about the discrimination against everything Christian in schools, but it is NOT as a statement in relation to a tragedy...because yes, it makes it sound like this happened as a result of the lawlessness that occurred in the “God-free school zone.” Note: Christians were shot also (as in Columbine). If someone is saying that the people who have God living inside of them were subject to the evil in the “God-free zone,” what sense does that make? There is no God-free zone!

    I call on all believers to show love and compassion for everyone affected by this horrible heart-breaking criminal act! No one deserved it! God didn’t cause it. It was evil (hell on earth)!

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  26. Thank you! Beautifully written & the best thing I've read on the topic. To think anyone would believe that 1. God could be kept our of schools, and 2. that he would punish innocent people like this has not been paying attention to the words of Jesus. Thank you!

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  27. I posted a direct response above, but I wanted to thank you for posting this. There should be more believers like you speaking out and doing the good work. Empathy, caring, compassion for your fellow man, no matter their background or situation, is absolutely critical.

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  28. I agree and have felt the same. I do feel like the point (I guess? ) most people who post stuff like this was not addressed, though. People I know who say things like this usually are making the point that fewer students are hearing messages of God in public schools, and therefore, the perpetrators of evil acts aren't reached by other means. I am not a fan of teaching children religion in public schools, but I understand this point of view from people who were taught in their communities as they grew up. It's not about punishing the innocent, but that the evil wasn't stopped in the first place. I still don't think this meme is helpful at all.

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    1. And P.S. I actually teach in a religious private school, but sent my own kids through the local public school. I believe in respect for others' beliefs and in respecting each person's humanity. Also i wholeheartedly believe that God is with us everywhere, and that no door can stop his presence.

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    2. Great comment, Jenny. I wholeheartedly agree. There is nothing keeping our loving God from anywhere! Bless you for teaching our children!

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  29. People are filled with passion and lack prudence. People are also ignorant of the truth. When calamity strikes, people speak ignorance, and answer in ignorance. This is the predominant cycle we see. We are ALL guilty of letting our emotions win the battle over our spirit, including at times our church leadership. We are instructed to pick up our cross and follow Christ, ever searching for truth, and testing our thoughts and beliefs on fellow believers. This Meme certainly will do that, so it is of benefit to believers. Is our author here testing believers? Or belittling people that accept the reality that school systems(not all school employees) have turned their backs on God? The T-shirt author couldn't write a sermon summarizing mans fall into sin(Cause) creating havoc in society, thus unthinkable (effect) a dreadful reality of young loved ones dying at the hands of an evil act. Yes, I would love to see a Meme or T-shirt that says God Loves you through your struggle and even your death, this incident isn't a punishment, It's the reality man chose for themselves, which God detests. That works in a discussion, NOT a T-shirt. The point of the T-shirt is, Cause and effect are REAL concepts, they are TRUTH, not Anti-Christ(truth). Caution here loved ones! Truth can be very hard to take, for both believer, and certainly non believer. I'm stunned when Christians deny the truth of our circumstances. We should hit our knees daily, and pray earnestly for mercy. If we deny our circumstances, Jesus is not necessary. Be at peace brothers and sisters and carefully consider your words. God Bless.

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  30. I tell you, Pastor, you kinda make me want to go to church. I'll be honest, I probably won't but you inspire the urge. I will say that, though I don't go, I make an effort to live my life by the commandments that I know. Judge not least ye be judged. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Now *those* should be on a shirt!

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  31. The most offensive part of this is what it suggests about God. It is factually incorrect to say that God is not allowed in schools, but much worse is to suggest that He wasn't present with those students and staff. That isn't the God of the Bible and they shouldn't speak for Him as if it is.

    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.
    If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
    even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
    Psalm 139:7-12

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  32. Well said. I've found it a challenge to respond to this horrid theology on social media. Social media requires that we distill ideas into simplifications and good theology is not simple. It's so easy to distort theology in a meme, and so difficult to explain good theology in fewer words than an essay/blog post. Thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful post.

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  33. As Chaplin of the Congress said, "There is NO doubt that the decision to remove public prayer from schools has had an impact." The lie of anti-God has expanded there into even the curriculum. The atmosphere in school and our culture now is anti-Christian and therefore anti-God because of it. Even Apple doesn't have an option of a Christian alternate calendar dates for their phones now but they have Islamic and others. Get ready for He is coming soon for His own. See you there?

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    1. Interesting, since the major Christian holidays are already included in the Holiday calendar. I believe the addition of religion-specific calendars is to fill in what has been missing, not to erase what has already been included.

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    2. Robert Cheeseman Despite your wailing persecution complex, you aren’t being persecuted. There are people in other countries who will DIE just for being Christian. You are just SPITTING on those people and their struggles.

      Second, you aren’t being persecuted, you are losing SPECIAL PRIVILEGES our faith NEVER should have had in the first place. Other faiths are just as valid as ours, as long as nobody is getting hurt. What is happening is that the people Christianity has HURT and OPPRESSED are saying,”ENOUGH! We don’t want you to have this undue influence over our lives! We don’t believe as you do, leave us alone!”

      The Bible calls for us to lift people out of bondage, NOT shackle them in the name of “Christianity.”

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  34. For Christians, gun violence is the elephant in the room - and its getting bigger and fatter with every politician bought by the NRA. Will we love God and neighbor or idolize gun culture????

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  35. Thanks. I agree and have seen both the posts and comments by various clergy. I wonder too how much this relates to "bad theology" so out there both online and other. I was a religious studies major as an undergrad and unfortunately the finance was never very well navigated to continue. My next choice was to work in schools which I continue in. I was pretty deep in the religious studies though. This conflict though extends beyond just memes as personally I must say that if I met some after college who had better theology that my continuation to possibly seminary would have been smoother. I also know some younger pastors (former) who have struggled with the vocation as there is much "bad theology" out there. I spend more time than anything just online although I found a good pastor now I can get together with in person more. I realize Romans 8:28 although never looked at it deeply in context or anything. But, as we seem to look at the diversity of voices I think too we sometimes need more to realize that "bad theology" is a reality. (never been to seminary but more of an academic undergrad background).

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  36. Pastor, i'm an atheist, but i just want to say thank you for this. In past instances, i've debated friends, family, and strangers about it.

    I ask them, if god is all powerful, what, exactly, is stopping him from being in that school? I rather think God is alive and well in schools, especially here in the south, where i live. And, as you said, Pastor, no court order or lack of staff led prayer should stop him from being there. You and your kids are certainly allowed to pray there, if you feel the need, and if you believe in the God in the bible (or at least the bible i grew up reading), then you should believe he can enter the school if he pleases.

    The only other reason, as you said, is if it were some form of punishment. If he sees all the faithful calling for him, i should think he would answer.

    And as for why the tragic event happened, you, yourselves, say, "I cannot understand God's will." If you believe in him and that he has a plan, and this was part of it, there is no other reason for posting these than to attempt to pass judgement on others. And in a rather smug manner, i must say.

    I may not believe any of this, but you do. And i wish more believed the way you do, Pastor.

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  37. God is everywhere and he made everything. We are just not powerful enough to kick him out. Besides, we really didn't kick God out. We asked for tolerance because the United States of America should be a place that is welcoming to all belief systems. God wants us to rise above intolerance and offer each other kindness instead. Take care of His people and in case you wondered who His people are . . . we all are. Every single living breathing human that walks this earth are His people and he wants us to take care of them with kindness and understanding. His grace descends upon us and moves through us and we are blessed. How we chose to use that free will He gave us has been getting us into trouble since before we started measuring time. Thanks for putting into words the way that meme and others has been making me feel. You rock Pastor Andrew!!

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  38. Bad and inaccurate meme... God (if such a thing exists) IS allowed in schools, though it's not like we would have any control over that anyway. But precisely because we have to say "if such a thing exists" the TEACHING of God as an unassailable fact is not allowed. This meme is called spin.

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  39. Thank you for this! I have no words that can express how grateful I am to read this today. You have put in to words what my soul has ached to express as I have cringed at seeing memes like this or hearing rants about the lack of prayer/God in school. I have lacked an intelligible response to these things until now, thank you. I would sit there and think "I know God is in the schools. I ask him to go there with my children, to watch over them, to guide them to open their minds to learning and their hearts to others, to let them be a witness to others through their actions. So why are you telling me he is not there? I don't understand." Thank you for these veracious words that remind me who my God is, powerful and faithful, present and loving.

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  40. Spot on! We have to get past this kind of blatantly political use of religion!

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  41. Thank you for this! I've seen this going around this week and it's been bothering me a lot. If we want to truly reach people for Christ, these kinds of messages won't help.

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  42. Well done. After engaging with people like The Activist Mommy, it's refreshing to see posts like this.
    Much respect.

    Signed,
    An ex-Christian.

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  43. Look at the rest of the world Christians are being lined up 100 1000 murdered or enslaved and there countrys have all turned away from Jesus God loves and He judges. When a society ostracizes God, He removes his favor as a means of corrective discipline. why would a good God not let America a pass on judgement for turning our backs on him like the rest of the world? Are we so much better than the rest of the World?

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    1. Assuming you are American, Why do you feel persecuted? You can still go to church, can still pray. God hasn’t gone ANYWHERE. Non-Christians are just having THEIR rights respected for the first time.

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  44. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  45. Personally, I see this comment as political rather than theological. A slam against the laws about religion in schools.

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  46. Thank you, Rev. Andrew. I'm a Unitarian Universalist and also identify myself as Christian through my upbringing in a protestant church. This is a beautiful response to an uninformed, hateful reaction to a terrible tragedy. I also second the many comments that mention the shooter -- and even the creator of this t-shirt -- as in need of compassion and understanding. I think you've made very good and necessary points that people who post this meme without question need to hear. Thank you for contributing to the well of love and light that I believe runs through all of us, whether we choose to dip into it or not. Blessed be.

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  47. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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  48. Wasn't it one of Billy Graham's (God rest his soul) daughters who first took this approach several years ago on the Today Show? Heb 12:14 [NIV]
    Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." Please forgive me Lord for agreeing with it back then, for having the same feeling emerge today when I read this blog, and for thinking this author of this blog lost an opportunity to really be holy and communicate the love of God to Christians. I am a sinner and without You I am nothing. Help me to show Your love to everyone, even those who may think You are saying something else.

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  49. Let me be straightforward. I am not a christian. I am not particularly religious of any kind.

    Your words have done more to lead me in the direction of religion than anything I have heard in a long time. While I am certain we would disagree on many issues covering many subjects, you are a person I would be happy to discuss it with over a meal, and I would be happy to pay for that meal.

    As a person who stands across a divide from you on at least a few issues, the world could use more like you. Thank you.

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  50. As a Christian who espouses respect towards other faiths and understands the need for separation of church and state, I would also like to point how INCREDIBLY DISRESPECTFUL this meme is to non-Christians. “If only you had prayed to OUR god, little Billy wouldn’t have gotten his head blown off.”

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  51. As a Christian who tries to afford respect to non-Christians, I would also like to point out how INCREDIBLY DISRESPECTFUL this meme is to people of other faiths. “If only you had prayed to OUR God, Little Billy wouldn’t have died.” It’s really insensitive.

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    1. Well, duh, because if Christianity is true, then there are no other gods... Duh.

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