Kissing Fish… Gross! or Oh. So. Needed! ?

Via Roger Wolsey
on Jan 21, 2011
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OnMartin Luther King, Jr., Day, the day that the retired dermatologist and Southern Baptist deacon was sworn into office as the new governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley uttered these words in the church where MLK used to preach,

“There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,” Bentley said. ”But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.”

He added, ”Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

Governor Bentley was later informed by his staff that his speech didn’t go over so well. Aside from implying (actually saying) that only Christians are his brothers and sisters, Bentley may well have violated the separation of Church & State.  Though he was in a church, it wasn’t for a worship service, it was on a Monday to honor a public holiday.  He effectively gave an altar call – and that dog won’t hunt for an elected official. People’s jaws dropped. They were shocked and dismayed. Some were pissed. Some just rolled their eyes and said, “Only in Alabama.”  The next day, his handlers created a meeting with leaders of other faiths in his new office. Describing that meeting, Bentley told reporters,

“If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way.”

I suspect that Gov. Bentley meant well by issuing that quasi-apology. I don’t think he’s denying that he’s part of the wider brother/sisterhood of humanity. He has a narrow theology – and it has consequences.

It seems that he’s simply so entrenched in Christian dominionism (assuming that being Christian is the “normal” status quo and that most everyone else is a fellow Christian) that he’s completely oblivious to the fact that there are many people in his state (and around the country) who don’t think or believe as he does.

I think he was utterly dumbfounded by people being offended by his remarks.  So foreign to him was this notion that his words were offensive, he couldn’t even acknowledge the offense.  He voiced his apology in the hypothetical – “If anyone… felt… if I offended anyone…”

The thing is, he did offend people – even to the point of making them wonder if their newly elected leader would work for their interests.

To the extent that I’m a representative of Christianity and the Church, I am sorry for those offensive remarks. I apologize that we Christians haven’t been doing enough to educate ourselves about other religious traditions and get to know people who practice them. I apologize for our tendency to think that God only works through our religion and that the rest of you are going to hell. I apologize for our tendency as American Christians to make others feel (and be treated) as second class citizens. I apologize for our tendency to be hypocrites.  And I am sorry that so many of us claim that we are “a Christian” nation while waging so many wars, not ensuring that there is health care for all of our citizens, and spending more on our military than nearly all of the other nations in the world do on theirs – combined.

For what it’s worth, I (and a lot of others) have been repenting from that way of being Christian.  There are a growing number of us who don’t believe that non-Christians don’t already have the Holy Spirit working within them.  There are a growing number of us who don’t even believe that everyone has to believe that there is a God or a Holy Spirit; and who don’t believe that everyone has to be a Christian, or that all Christians have to be “born-again” ones, or believe exactly the same things in exactly the same way.  And, believe it or not, there are a growing number of us who don’t have problems with yoga, homosexuality, or the insights of modern science.

We are progressive Christians.

Those of you who have been reading my blogs on Elephant over the past year may be aware that I’ve been writing a book on progressive Christianity. I am pleased to formally announce that Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity is finally done and available!

I want to thank my Elephriends for your support in helping me hone my writing and my thoughts – even those of you who don’t care for them.  Indeed, I am most grateful for the dissenting voices who spoke their truths.  “Iron sharpens iron.”

You can learn more about Kissing Fish here and you can order it if you like here.

It’s available in hardcover, paperpack, and ebook forms.  If finances are tight, and you live nearby and are willing to have a cup of tea with me and chat about life, I may well give you a copy based on my availability (and my finances).

I suspect that many of the people who enjoy Elephant Journal will enjoy this book too.  I realize that many, if not most, of the people who will come across this blog are not Christians, but let me say,

Namaste, peace, and blessings to you brothers and sisters,


p.s. to be fair to Bentley, if he were to be judged by 1950’s standards, his remarks were actually somewhat “progressive” in that he was a white man in a black church and calling them brothers and sisters.  I feel called to help the Church to be considered progressive (welcoming, nonjudgmental, non-excluding, and unconditionally loving) in the 21st Century.


About Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus. He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He's recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity


12 Responses to “Kissing Fish… Gross! or Oh. So. Needed! ?”

  1. Thanks Roger – I'll be your brother anytime!

  2. Cynthia says:

    Roger, this is an excellent introduction to your wonderful book. Thank you and congratulations!!!!!

  3. Ken Silva says:

    "There are a growing number of us who don’t believe that non-Christians don’t already have the Holy Spirit working within them. There are a growing number of us who don’t even believe that everyone has to believe that there is a God or a Holy Spirit; and who don’t believe that everyone has to be a Christian, or that all Christians have to be “born-again” ones, or believe exactly the same things in exactly the same way. And, believe it or not, there are a growing number of us who don’t have problems with yoga, homosexuality or the insights of modern science."

    Yeah, who needs that stuffy old Bible, which contradicts virtually everything you just said.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike Morrell and Lisa Anthony, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Kissing Fish… Gross! or Oh. So. Needed! ? […]

  5. Ben_Ralston says:

    Ah Ken, it's true that you can find passages in the Bible that contradict this but go on – admit it – you have to dig pretty deep top find them don't you?
    On the other hand, almost everything Jesus said supports in this passage. And the bits that don't are usually down to mis-translation from Aramaic to Greek to English… by those stuffy Bible scholars.

  6. Ben_Ralston says:

    Congratulations Roger.

  7. Roger Wolsey says:

    A reply from Ken Silva? I seem to have hit the motherload of free advertising! I invite you to please review a copy of my book and post it on your blog for the world to see. The more attention that you can draw to my book the better. Feel free to order a copy and by so doing, contribute to the cause via the royalty that I will earn which I will then donate to a progressive Christian cause in your honor. Or, if finances are tight, I'd be happy to mail you a complimentary copy. Bless you Ken for your work in helping promote this book and the open-minded ideas within it. ((hug))

  8. Ken Silva says:


    O please, Romans 3 and 8 alone refutes this universal dream.

  9. Roger Wolsey says:

    Here's some scriptures that support that dream,

  10. jiminboulder says:

    Roger, universalism is a non-Christian heresy. You're aware of that. This is Jesus on the subject of the Holy Spirit—

    "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:15-17)

    You need to love these dear Buddhist and Hindu people more by telling them the truth about Jesus.

  11. jiminboulder says:

    No, you don't have to dig deep at all. Try looking.

  12. BrotherRog says:

    Jim, I'm aware that you seem to have a limited understanding of Christianity. Glad your form is working for you. I encourage you to allow a fresh way for the Spirit to speak to those who are put off by your form. Peace.