Russell Brand and the Westboro Baptist Church, point-by-point (Part 2)

If you haven’t read part 1 of this little duology yet, read it here first (otherwise this part won’t make a lot of sense): https://bengarry.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/russell-brand-and-the-westboro-baptist-church-point-by-point-part-1/

And if you haven’t watched the official video of the interview, you can do so here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBA6qlHW8po

The main introduction to this point-by-point post is in part 1, so I’ll let you read it there if you haven’t done so already. Without further ado, let’s dive into part 2.

Timothy: “You don’t have any stinking power of your own, Russell…if God doesn’t move in you to do a thing, you don’t do it!” (5:12) – The point that Timothy is trying to make here is that no one can do anything without God willing it. In fact, it seems as if he’s trying to say that not only does God will everything that people do, he makes them do it by their own will! Well if that were the case (and I don’t believe it is), then Christianity is certainly a flawed religion with a cruel, sadistic deity. The logical conclusion from this idea is that God makes people sin so that he can punish them. I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. It’s logically silly and there is no Biblical reason to believe this. Clearly, God was angered when Adam and Eve first sinned, he was angered by the sin of Noah’s world, he was angered (and saddened) by the Israelites time and again. If everything happens because God makes it happen, then why bother sending Jesus to die in such a painful way to save us? No, the way that God is presented in the Bible is as a sovereign person who gave his human creations free will (I talked about this a bit in part 1). Yes, he has the power to make us do something, but he chooses not to. The only way we can have a genuine relationship with God is to choose it. The flip-side of that, of course, is that we can choose not to. Therefore, we do have some power of our own. If nothing else, we have a responsibility to make our own choices.

Russell: “Sex stuff…I just think it’s such a low priority” (5:22) – Yes and no. Clearly, God’s priority for the human race is salvation, that’s why Jesus came to Earth the first time around. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what sins we’ve committed because the grace and blood of Jesus is enough to save us (1 John 1:7). But on the other hand, sexual immorality is a serious sin; it’s one of the specific sins attached to people outside of Heaven (Rev. 22:15). However, anyone who reads that list will see that it probably covers everyone who’s ever lived. You may not have practised magic before, but have you ever told a lie? By Jesus’ standards from Matthew 5, a lot of us are murders because we’ve wanted to kill someone, even if we haven’t. That list is scary; none of us make the grade for Heaven. That’s where Jesus comes in. So it boils down to this, ‘sex stuff’ in the sense that Russell means it is a serious sin, you can’t get around that, but it is not beyond the grace of Jesus to forgive and in that sense it is no more serious than any other sin (still pretty serious though!).

Russell: “What do you reckon God thinks about the ecological disaster and the growing power of corporations don’t you think he’s worried about that, more than the bumming” (5:25) – If you’re expecting me to tell you what God thinks about the ecological disaster and the growing power of corporations, then I’ll have to disappoint you. Who can fathom the mind of God? These weren’t really problems in the 1st century AD so they don’t come into the New Testament much and there’s even less about them in the Old Testament. Some people interpret some of Revelation to relate to environmental disasters (such as Rev. 16:3) which would mean that they’re used as a judgment on humans but to be honest, we don’t know the truth about these things until they happen or until we can ask God face to face (if we can still think of a question when seeing his face, that is!). So my answer to Russell’s question is that I can’t answer it because I’m not God.

THE WESTBORO BAPTIST HEAVEN OR HELL HEAVEN OR HELL GAME – I won’t analyse each person individually, let me just say this: the Biblical standard that we must reach to be saved is utter sinlessness – perfection. We, as fallen humans, cannot attain that. Therefore, we require Jesus’ sacrifice to save us. If you reject that sacrifice, there is no way that you can be saved (John 14:6; Rom. 10:9). If Madonna, Tom Hanks and Gandhi did not accept this sacrifice, then they cannot have a relationship with God for eternity. This may seem unfair, but remember this: the sacrifice was made for all therefore all have the ability to accept it. Furthermore, to put it bluntly, if Jesus really did die and rise again as the Scriptures say, this is true whether you like it or not. I know that I didn’t write this especially tactfully (something I’ve criticised the WBC for) but I don’t want to dress it up in any way other than the way the Bible presents it. If you don’t believe me, read the gospels because Jesus makes it clear (yes, the Jesus of tolerance and peace).

Steve: “Anybody who has a considerable platform…and you don’t give God the glory…” (6:12) – Unfortunately, Steve is cut off by Russell giving glory to a powerful cosmic entity who wants us all to exist in love and harmony here, so we’ll never know what he was going to say to finish. Guessing where his point is going though, I think, as a Christian, that it is important to give God the glory in all things. If you don’t it could lead to pride or idolatry, both of which are sins. I agree largely with the essence of what Steve is saying here, anyone who claims to believe in God should give him the glory, it’s only natural as, as Steve points out, he is our maker! In this point, I can’t differ from the Westboro Baptists too much. If you want my thoughts on Russell’s loving cosmic entity, I wrote a bit about it towards the end of the part 1.

Russell: “There’s good old bloody Krishna here, dancing on the head of evil, to acknowledge that everything belongs to God.” Steve: “It’s an idol.” (6:20) – This might upset some people who believe in complete tolerance and acceptance of other’s beliefs, but I have to agree with Steve again. This all comes down to the objective truth of Christianity (again). Christianity is not compatible with other religions (except Old Testament Judaism, obviously), therefore, I cannot be a Christian and accept that a belief in Krishna or whoever is a valid belief that is true for whoever holds it. I appreciate that this is not always a popular stance to take in cosmopolitan Britain, but I’m not ashamed to say it. I believe that there is one God, the triune Father, Son and Holy Spirit (the trinity is a concept for a whole other post!) and that all other Gods are idols. Wow, I’m being a bit blunt in this post.

Steve: “Gandhi put out that lie [God loves the sinner and hates the sin] well before Billy Graham, and it is a lie” (7:07) – Fantastic, I’m going to have to tackle this head on. I’m also not going to take the easy way out and say that God loves everyone unconditionally. I’ve copied out every single verse about God’s love in the Bible and I can assure you that nowhere does it say that God’s love is unconditional. So what is God’s love like? Does he love the sinner and hate the sin? I’m going to zoom in on Jesus for this, because he is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus never said that he loved everyone, in fact, when he spoke about love it seemed rather conditional (John 15:10; John 14:21). What Jesus did do was this: he showed compassion on whoever needed it and he forgave people of their sins, culminating in his death on the cross. Jesus healed the sick, cleansed lepers and discharged debtors. If someone had a need, he met that need, but he did not ignore the sin. He healed the man lowered through the roof but he also forgave his sins (Matt. 9:1-8). A book that I read on the subject explained it like this: even if God doesn’t unconditionally love everyone, his death on the cross was an act of love towards everyone. He was meeting the needs of the Earth by providing the great invitation into the entirety of God’s love (John 3:14-16). That’s my King.

Steve: “I don’t know” (7:25) – I think Steve makes the right response here. Russell is trying to bait him by asking about the eternal destiny of two members of the audience and he rightly says that he doesn’t know. How can anyone know what the spiritual state of someone else is? I don’t know if someone’s accepted Jesus or not. Fair play.

Sisi (I’m not sure on the spelling) “Openly gay…and a Christian.” Timothy “No he’s not, he’s a filthy pervert!”. (8:37) – I cannot agree with Timothy here. I’ll admit now that I have not studied the debate about whether or not being gay stops you being a true Christian because it’s my belief that a person’s salvation is between them and God, so only God can know whether someone is saved or not. I’m wary of wading too far into this because of my lack of knowledge. I can say a couple of things though. The first is that it is unacceptable for Timothy to insult someone like that without knowing anything about their relationship with God, how does that help anything? The second thing relates to an earlier point by the Westboro Baptists and it emphasises their logical inconsistencies. According to Steve, no one can do anything that God doesn’t make them do, therefore, all gay people are gay because God made them to be gay. If that is your belief, then how can you condemn gay people on such terms? It doesn’t make sense; I think the Baptists need to go home and sort out what it is they actually believe.

Sisi: “I’m an openly gay man and I’m a Christian because God is love and his love is for everybody” (8:44) – God is love (1 John 4:8), though that may be more to do with him being a three-part being with the three parts in love with one another than his emotional state. However, the invitation of the cross is certainly for everyone, regardless of sexuality, race, gender, history or whatever. Jesus died for the whole world (John 3:16).

Timothy: “Unless you repent of that sin, you’re going to Hell” (8:55) – STOP SAYING WHO’S GOING TO HELL! How on Earth can Timothy know if the relationship between Sisi and God is genuine or not? I would warn him to be a bit more careful in his judgments, because as Jesus said, the measure you use against someone will be used against you (Matt. 7:1-2).

Steve: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind, it is an abomination – that’s in the Bible that you say you believe” (9:00) – This is taken from Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be ignored. As I said, I don’t know enough about this debate to really weigh in with a valid opinion. I know that some Christians take this literally whilst others do not think that God condemns homosexuality if you look at the verses in all their context etc. I will say this: the Old Testament should not be ignored, but it should be read in light of the New Testament, in light of the message of grace. If you’re worried about the issue of homosexuality and whether or not it is a sin, then I urge you to talk about it with other Christians, read the passages for yourself, pray to God and work it out like that. Don’t just accept what others tell you about it.

Russell: “To follow the ‘you mustn’t lay with men’ bit, you’ve got to ignore the tolerance and love bit” (9:15) – Well this isn’t necessarily true, and there isn’t actually a ‘tolerance and love’ bit in the way that I think Russell means, but really, the most important thing in the gospel message is that we know that we can accept Jesus’ invitation into the fulness of God’s love. If we do that, God will sort us out and we can go from there. We do not have the insight to judge others who claim to have that salvation, only God can do that.

Russell: “I don’t even think they meant that bit” (9:25) – Well that depends on how far you think the Bible is divinely inspired. I believe that nothing in the Bible is unintentional, however I do think that you always need to be aware of the context when you read it and it really helps if you think about what you’ve read and pray about it.

Timothy (to Cher, one of the gay men): “You’re a hypocrite” – I’m not really sure what Cher’s done that’s hypocritical. Again, I can’t help but think of this verse: ‘How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye’. – Luke 6:42

Russell: “I just feel that our first duty as human beings must be to be loving and tolerant with one another and I think we’re facing so much crisis and difficulty at this time on our planet that we can’t focus on people’s privacy” (10:10) – You know what, I’m not going to argue with Russell here. Yes, there are little bits that I could pick apart, but I’ll just leave you with this:

Mark 12:28-34 – One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Well that’s about it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this because it’s certainly been an interesting challenge for me to write! I’d just like to emphasise the importance of checking out what I’ve said for yourself if you don’t agree with me, because I believe that it’s vitally important that we don’t just accept things at face value.

Thanks for reading!

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