129. appertain

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appertainverb: To belong as a part, right, possession or attribute.

It’s days like this that it seems entirely possible to make a career just out of covering the insane things that John Piper says and does. Because if the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church isn’t hating on gays, he’s hating on disaster victims:

screenshot from Desiring God artice

It wasn’t all that long ago that Piper, in his officious capacity as proxy head of the Baptist General Conference (the Protestant Pope, if you will), was ascribing blame for a tornado that struck downtown Minneapolis on 19 August 2009 to a gathering of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America that was voting to allow openly gay pastors to serve. (They voted in the affirmative.) Here are a few choice words from what he had to say that day:

  • “The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith.”
  • “The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin.”
  • “Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture.”
  • “Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality.”

The very notion that Piper thinks he has the god-given right to chime in on every matter, that people actually listen to him, and that he thinks that people should listen to him (on pain of excommunication, or the Protestant equivalent thereof) is offensive enough. It’s as obnoxious as the tendency for actors and other celebrities to take to the media to share with everyone their important opinions on everything from politics to the horrors of genocide.

Tell ya what: When you live in a regular house like the rest of us instead of your McMansion or McCondo because you give the lion’s share of your multi-million dollar fortune that comes from pretending for a living, then maybe your opinion will be worth something.

Now, to be fair, more recently there have been actors who participate in and support charity work—and not just for the sake of humblebragging either.

Brad Pitt (an outspoken atheist), for example, actively supports local and global charities (including the ONE Campaign, Alliance for the Lost Boys and the Mineseeker Foundation), worked to build housing for New Orleans hurricane victims, and is on the forefront of promoting green and sustainable housing (because he’s actually somewhat knowledgeable about architecture). He’s also vocal about promoting fact-based scientific education, advancing medical research (including research into embryonic stem-cells), and curtailing religious propagandizing.

Ellen DeGeneres has used her visibility as a talk show host and comedian to promote gay rights, and supports organizations such as Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest), Malaria No More, and Project Zambi, a foundation that provides support for African children orphaned by AIDS. She was recently made spokesperson for JC Penny, which prompted the formation of the group One Million Moms (a subsidiary of the homophobic and ironically-named American Family Association), who threatened to boycott the store (yes, all 40,000 of them) but succeeded only in bringing more visibility to the issue of gay rights and homophobia. Thanks! The group recently attacked the Archie comic and Toys R Us for a comic featuring a gay marriage, and just yesterday launched a boycott campaign going after Hardee’s for a “sleazy” ad that they call “an affront to all decent men, women and children!”

You know what I call an affront (aside from actively promoting hate, homophobia and bigotry)? Preaching at victims of a natural disaster.

In his most recent blog posting, John Piper had the following things to say to us, and to the people of Maryville and Henryville:

  • “If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.”
  • “Perhaps God chose Job for that deadly wind because only the likes of Job would respond: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
  • “This is a word to those of us who sit safely in Minneapolis or Hollywood and survey the desolation of Maryville and Henryville. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Every deadly wind in any town is a divine warning to every town.”
  • “God’s will for America under his mighty hand, is that every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every person of every religion or non-religion, turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus rules the wind. The tornadoes were his.”

And lest Piper come off too judgmental (if such a thing were possible):

  •  “But before Jesus took any life in rural America, he gave his own on the rugged cross. Come to me, he says, to America — to the devastated and to the smugly self-sufficient.”

Did you catch that? “Before Jesus took any life in rural America.” Then he has the effrontery to defend his homicidal Jesus for killing 40 people in Indiana—including a 15-month-old infant who was sucked up into the tornado as it killed her parents and two siblings.

This is the consequence of having a toxic worldview, let alone a toxic theology: Namely, that we are all wretched, disgusting sinners in the hands (and at the mercy) of an angry god. And if you’re on the “right side” of this god (which comes at the cost of opposing science, human rights, and apparently human decency), you have the privilege of telling everyone else how terrible they are and that they need to “get right with god.” And Piper and others like him (my entire family included) thinks they’re doing the human race a favor by “proclaiming the Truth” (yes, capital “T”) and the “good news” of Salvation for all of us rebellious, profligate degenerates.

It’s like they’re trying to make atheists of us all.

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2 thoughts on “129. appertain

  1. Brent

    Your perspective is TOTALLY off. Piper wasn’t saying “those nasty people that died in the Tornado deserved it.” ALthough, that’s how you project it. Piper was saying, Everything is in God’s hands. EVERYTHING. Do you suppose that you could control the weather? You and I don’t have that power. Only God. And as a side note, Piper doesn’t live in some obscenely large home. He DOES give most of the money that comes in to the ministry back out to minister even more. Why don’t you do some research before you start spewing hate.
    God loves all creation, even those that hate him. The message is not of a “hateful” God that is waiting to strike you down, but of a perfect God of Love AND Justice alike. He provided a way for your wrong to be paid for. He did it Himself. Will you reject yourself and receive Him? This is what Piper was saying to gain from this.

    • David

      Oh Brent, Brent, Brent, you happy little Piperite, you. For your information, if you cared to peruse my earlier blog posts, I used to attend Bethlehem Baptist Church back when I was a Christian. I know where John Piper lives, what neighborhood he chose to be in and why (and I do find his reasons admirable). I know that he gives most of his income back to ministry. I sat in his downtown congregation for three years before I finally began to actually listen to what he was saying with my critical thinking turned on. I now look at what he says and the harmful effect that his words have.

      Do I think that Piper is malicious? Of course not. I think he genuinely believes he’s loving people for god. But when you have any locus other than humans as the center of your worldview; when you are more concerned about what an imaginary god thinks and wants you to do than about human rights; when you believe the human body is an instrument of evil because of a mythical sin purported to have been committed by a mythical First Couple in a mythical paradise however many millenia ago you Young Earth Creationists think it was; then you can justify any amount of suffering, pain and injustice if it’s in the name of Jesus.

      When I hear a man who has the audacity to tell people who have just lost their entire lives and even loved ones in a storm that god willed that tragedy on them or that they were sinful and that this was god’s judgement, then I hear hate speech, whether the speaker is hateful or not. If Piper would stop listening to the sound of his own voice for a moment, he might recognize his own tone as belonging to the first thirty-one chapters of Job, and to the vain speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, characters so drunk on their own egos that they couldn’t see the travesty they were visiting on their stricken friend. If you think you’re doing someone whose home has just been destroyed a favor by telling them to repent, then I have to wonder what other areas of your ethics and morality are suspect.

      Additionally, Brent, if you would read books other than your bible or conservative religious literature, you might have known that the people I was referring to, who live in McMansions, are the movie stars and celebrities. Not Piper.

      And if you would’ve bothered to do a little more reading on my blog, you’d also know that you don’t want to engage me in a debate on whether or not your god is a god of love and justice; because I likely know your bible better than you do. Otherwise, I’m always happy to intellectually eviscerate a Christian. Your move.

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