Good Press, Bad Christians

I’m a longtime reader and very occasional contributor to In These Times, the radical magazine out of Chicago. A few years back, I got to profile a man for the publication named Jeff Monson. Monson, an anarchist and an activist, also happens to be a world class mixed martial artist.

While the words anarchist and activist might evoke images of skinny kids wearing black who wouldn’t last a minute in a fight (that’s me), Monson looks like a cartoon ready to pop, a compressed giant of crazy shoulders, massive biceps and meaty forearms. Here’s Monson putting in another typical day at the office:

Despite appearances, during our hour long phone interview, the recipient of a masters degree in psychology spoke like this:

“I’m saying that our economic system, capitalism, is structured so that it only benefits a small percentage of very wealthy people. When I was traveling in Brazil, they had us staying at a really posh hotel. Outside the hotel there was a mom sleeping on the sidewalk with her two kids. That’s when reality hits you. What did that woman ever do? Who did she ever hurt?”

Yes, quite possibly the most intimidating person to ever walk the earth is actually a soft-spoken critical thinker. One of my favorite UFC moments (I’ll admit to being a fan) occurred a few years back, when he entered an arena for a championship fight with John Lennon’s “Imagine” cranking over the sound system. If you’re interested, you can read the entire Monson profile here.

I’m mentioning In These Times because they recently ran an article about Working in the Shadows, available here. It’s the first media about the book since the advance copies were sent out, and hopefully is a sign of much good press to come. Actually, considering how hard it is to get media attention, I’ll even take a bunch of bad press. The worst thing, whether you’re at a dinner party or hustling a new book, isn’t being criticized–it’s being ignored.

****

Moving along. Two different visions for America’s future were on display last week in Houston, Texas. First, the ugly.

The Houston Chronicle discovered that local charities are checking immigration status for children before handing out toys during gift drives. As they reported:

The Salvation Army and a charity affiliated with the Houston Fire Department are among those that consider immigration status, asking for birth certificates or Social Security cards for the children.

Though I’m not a Christian, I did have to sit through a bunch of church services as a child, but must have missed the Bible story where Jesus is about to cure the blind and lame but pushes them to the ground upon learning that the needy are not “legal” human beings.

My many questionable talents include a minimum proficiency with Photoshop, and I was so moved by the Chronicle story that I decided to offer my graphic design services to the Salvation Army. After a few minutes of fumbling around, I’ve designed a new logo to sum up their Christian philosophy, which I hereby permit them to duplicate without charge and incorporate into every aspect of their holiday communication strategy.

Thankfully, all is not awful in Houston. While some “Christian” organizations have incorporated the punishment of children into their agenda, Reverend Harvey Clemons, Jr. of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Houston has a very different view. He recently penned a great op-ed for the Chronicle. My favorite section:

Listen not to false prophets who wrap their politics around the fear of the immigrant. It is not a new song they sing. In fact, it is eerily similar to the songs sung not too long ago. They sang that slavery was God’s way until that song sounded ridiculous. They altered the song and sang segregation was God’s way until that too sounded ridiculous. Now the song of the false prophets paints the immigrant as a threat to, rather than a pillar of, American society; paints undocumented fathers and mothers working from sunrise to sundown as a drain of our nation’s resources rather than a reminder of our heroic beginnings; and paints immigrant children as a national burden rather than our nation’s blessing.

“Listen not to false prophets who wrap their politics around the fear of the immigrant. It is not a new song they sing.”

To that, this agnostic can only say: Amen.

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