Saturday, July 5, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Widow Skimmer


She is a Grandeur
a Widow bathed in scintillation
and softly clothed in coruscation
a Glimmer and a Wink and a Glow

And when she flies
oh,
how she flies
with finesse
with grace
with elegance and lace
and the Joy she shares
as she tarries there
none other can ever know.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Over the years, I've heard many discuss the rational problems with the evangelical version of salvation and eternal punishment. One large complaint about their approach has to do with justice. Briefly, the approach I'm speaking of is this:

You must accept Jesus as Lord, confess your sins and embrace a pretty specific understanding of ideas about God, Jesus, salvation, forgiveness and a vague list of other ideals/opinions and if you don't, you will be condemned to an eternity in suffering and torment.

For some, it's not enough to even generally embrace the ideas of an eternal Creator God, God's son Jesus as a man who literally lived on earth, died and rose from the dead, the need of salvation by Grace and several other ideas, but you have to hold a specific understanding of these ideas. If you deviate too far from one specific understanding of these ideas, then you may not be saved. Even if you disagree with the "right" opinion in good faith and it turns out you were mistaken, then you might not be saved, just for simple flawed understanding.

The problem with this is the problem of God's nature as we understand it. Christians and many others accept the notion that God is perfectly loving and perfectly just and fair. But this other version of God and salvation is an affront to justice. How is it fair to punish someone who believed the right general ideas, but misunderstood some of the finer points? How is it reasonable, fair and proportionate to not only punish this person, but to do so for an eternity of suffering in hell for simple misunderstanding?

Or what of the person who heard Christians speaking of God in ways such as this and rejected that version of God as being unjust and irrational? Those people never "accepted Jesus," never confessed their sins, maybe never believed that Jesus was an actual historical character. And some of those people will live lives of relative decency. They'll never once kill, rape, abuse or rob anyone. They will, of course, commit thousands of "sins..." they'll be jealous, gossip, tell some lies, maybe cut some corners on paying their taxes, pollute, maybe have extramarital sex... they will absolutely be imperfect. Humans ARE imperfect, that is our nature, the way we've been made, if you look at it that way.

And so, for this person, they will be punished for a lifetime of these sins which don't rise to the level of human crimes. And, to be fair, they'll also do good deeds - help the poor, feed the hungry, give to good causes, help a neighbor, be good parents and good children to their parents. They'll be just regular, imperfect schmucks, with some good and some bad.

Now, if a nation were to say, "Juan Smith, we know that you've committed 10,000 of these smaller 'sins.' You don't deny it, they clearly happened. Therefore, the nation of Blarbistan is going to punish you to a lifetime in a prison..."

If a nation did that, there would be an outcry. "That is unjust!" people would complain, and rightly so. Yes, sure, these people committed those sins and we may agree that they were bad things to do. But, the punishment is disproportionate to the crime, and that makes the punishment unjust, unfair and unreasonable, as well as those doling out the punishment.

Does anyone dispute this?

Then, if we agree that this would be unjust for a nation to do it for a single lifetime, what of a god who would punish someone for an eternity... and NOT just in a human prison, but in a place of "eternal torment, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth..."? And where there is no chance of pardon or parole... HOW is that a Just punishment? How is that not whimsical, irrational and horribly unjust?

The response you hear all the time... "God's ways are not our ways..."

As someone recently put it at another blog, that God punishes...

...based on HIS notion of love and justice, not ours. He doesn’t think like us and His way is not our way.

So then, in that theory, God isn’t talking about justice, as commonly understood in the English language, meaning “agreeing with what is considered morally right or good; treating people in a way that is considered morally right; reasonable or proper…” but it means this Other Thing, let’s call it “Blarb.”

So, when people like this picture God and God’s justice, they do not appear to be talking about the English language word, Justice, at all. They appear to be speaking about Blarb. And Blarb‘s definition is, what, exactly?

If I were to give a shot at what they seem to be describing, I’d say it’s something like this:

Blarb: adj. according to some in the Christian tradition, this is “agreeing with a rather whimsical and unjust notion of adhering perfectly to some subset of God’s rules, rules which we can not know or understand perfectly, and yet, being held accountable to them as if we could understand them perfectly. This may include a wildly out-of-proportion-to-the-”crime” set of punishments that are neither just, reasonable, consistent or fair, but are “blarb-ish.”

But that’s just my guess based on what they have said (and, to be clear, what I would have agreed with at one time).

If anyone is interested who believes in this Other notion of "god's justice," which is different than the word Justice in the English language, how would you define this Other Idea, the one that isn’t justice as we understand it in the English language, but is “blarb…”?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Who is repeating a falsehood?


Okay, just as I did for Bubba, I'm posting a new post just for the benefit of another of my detractors, Craig. He says that I have lied, that I have demonstrated myself as a liar, that there is no other conclusion he can reach.

Of course, as they often do, he did this on a post where the subject was not "Is Dan a Liar," and thus, made an off topic, ad hom attack, rather than dealing with my points on the post.

So, rather than chasing that off topic ad hom false report at that place, I'm giving Craig all the room he needs to make his case and where I can respond to him, hopefully clearing up his clear misunderstanding.

It is, of course, a clear misunderstanding, because while I am always capable of making a mistake, I have never deliberately lied in this here blogosphere. So, Brother Craig, here is your chance: Make your case, show where I have stated a falsehood.

If I DID do so, it was, of course, an accident and you will be doing me a favor and I can apologize and clarify my actual intent.

If not, then you can retract your claim and apologize for your mistake.

The ball is in your court.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

To be heretical, or not to be...


I'm creating a post for the sake of Bubba, who oftentimes on other websites, on other topics, he'll go off on a "Dan's a heretic" tangent. Then gets all huffy if I don't want to discuss the off topic ad hom attack on someone else's blog, on some other topic.

NOTE: This is a conversation chance for JUST Bubba and Dan, to see where we might find agreement and disagreement. I'll ask that everyone else (should anyone else want to participate) just hold your horses and save your comments for another day. Or email me, if you must. This one's just for Bubba and Dan. Thanks.

So, Bubba, here's your chance: Raise your questions here and now if you have some real concerns about my faith journey striving by grace to walk in the steps of Jesus. We can take it slowly and deliberately and deal with any questions you may have.

The ball is in your court.

~Dan

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Blessed Easter


"Good is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death.

Victory is ours, through God, who loves us."

~Desmond Tutu

Friday, April 18, 2014

Black Friday


On this black Friday
when we remember the sacrifice paid by Jesus
let us not forget that
black Fridays still continue.

Let us remember those who have been attacked
assaulted
tortured
"disappeared"
abused
raped
and otherwise oppressed

And redouble our efforts to say

in the name of Jesus
- the savior of the oppressed and downtrodden -

"No more!"

and work to make it so.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What Would That Look Like?


Craig recently asked me some questions regarding the "I have come to bring good news to the poor" quote with which Jesus defined and began his ministry. I thought the questions and answers were worth repeating here. Good questions, Craig. Here's my attempt at an answer...
1. You use this quote a lot, but what do you think it means?
 
The easiest and most direct answer I can give is, I don't know specifically what Jesus meant. No one can know. Jesus has not told us.

Jesus never defined the meaning of what he said in this passage  (or when John the Baptist's followers asked Jesus if he was "the One" and Jesus replied, "Tell John, the poor have the gospel preached to them..." or other similar passages).
But taking a crack at a guess, I think Jesus was always speaking of the Gospel of God's Grace and, in his time and context, it was always in contrast to the "gospel" (actually, the "bad news") of salvation by rule-following, by being "favored" by God with power, money and privilege. I think Jesus was always speaking of the Open Door Invitation to ALL to be part of the God Movement, to be part of the great Feast.
I think that - especially in his day, but also now - the poor, the widows, the divorced (women, especially), the foreigners, the sick... these were all part of a group that was societally marginalized and kept OUT of "the holy of holies," both literally and figuratively. They were outcast, poor, starving, struggling, NOT welcome.
Into this context, Jesus came preaching the Good News of God's Kingom where one enters by Grace, not by merit, not by standing, not by wealth, not by one's good name. In this Kingdom, the poor and marginalized are not only tolerated, not only welcome, but they are specifically sought out. This is the Kingdom for all, especially and specifically "the poor," and least of these.
And the good news is this is not just some pie in the sky by and by promise of "One Day," it's God's Realm come, God's Will be done on earth. NOW... as it is in heaven. Society's tendency might be to exclude or, at best, put up with these "least of these," but not God, nor those who will want to follow God. For God's followers, the poor and society's outcasts are specifically wanted, beloved, treasured and cherished. This is THEIR kingdom to be a part of, here and now.
Given all of what the Bible has to say on the topic, that would be my guess. And, of course, not mine alone... many others have pointed this out. For instance, John Wesley, who spoke of not laying up treasures on earth and said...
May not this be another reason why rich men shall so hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven A vast majority of them are under a curse, under the peculiar curse of God; inasmuch as in the general tenor of their lives they are not only robbing God continually, embezzling and wasting their Lord's goods, and by that very means corrupting their own souls; but also robbing the poor, the hungry...
For Wesley and many others, this good news WAS good news specifically to the poor for the sort of reasons I have suggested.
Craig...
2. What, specifically, was the “good news” Jesus preached to the poor?
Again, specifically, we don't know. Jesus did not tell us specifically what he meant. But generally, we see this notion repeated often through the Bible, especially the New Testament. Jesus tells John the Baptist he can rest easy because he - Jesus - IS the One and John can tell this is the case because, in part, the poor have the good news preached to them. This would be a comfort to John the Baptist because John held the same concern for the poor. We see that when John preached repentance to the people, and the people responded, what should we do, specifically...?, John answered...
“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
We see the notion repeated when Jesus tells the parable of the wedding feast, and the rich, privileged and powerful who are invited only to respond by beating up "God's" servants, but the invitation is not only for them (and indeed, their pride and hubris leads to punishment) but specifically for and to the poor and marginalized.
It's an oft-repeated theme throughout the Bible, this notion of a God for the Least of These, a God - and a community - for the poor, the marginalized, the otherwise UN-welcome.
Generally speaking, then, I think it is speaking about the "good news" that God's Realm and community, here and now!, is open to all, and specifically to those who have so little. The idea of a welcoming, sharing, loving community would be good news, indeed.
Craig...
3. What, specifically, does this mean for us?
That, we, too, are to be a community especially for the poor and otherwise marginalized... A place where poor, hungry, disabled people will be GLAD to hear the news of this sort of inclusive community.
Craig...
4. What, specifically, should be happening that is not in order for us to “preach good news to the poor”?
 
Given the biblical example, front to back, the HEAVY emphasis on an open community that reaches out specifically to and WITH the poor and marginalized (and not in a patriarchal, Helper-Helpee sort of way, but truly as equal brother and sisters), I think God's community today should specifically look like that.
Wesley and others were appalled at the notion of extra, extravagant spending when so many are poor and struggling and I think rightly so. So, while our approaches will be different and would and should (given the core value of Grace that is Christianity) be flexible and not legalistic, I would think that would look like...

We'd have fewer "crystal cathedrals" and more simple, Open Door meeting houses.
I would that that we'd have more intentional community and less gated community.
I would think we'd tend to have smaller, localized, neighborhood-based churches and fewer "mega-" "super-sized" churches.
I would think we'd have fewer gilded art galleries and more outsider art.
I would think there'd be more formal and informal "adopting" of children and families in need, more direct friendships and partnerships with poorer folk, more time spent listening to the plight of the poor first hand, one-on-one, at their hovel or tent-site and much less time spent condemning the poor as lazy "cadillac queens..."
It would be more egalitarian and bottom up, rather than authoritarian and top-down.
In short, I'd think we would look more like the example of the early church, where the deacons' job wasn't lording it over the church and being the Deciders and Building managers, but in serving the poor, specifically, in an equitable, helpful manner. Probably not too unlike your work in Haiti (although, of course, I don't know specifcally what that looks like).
Good questions. I hope my answers are not found to be too unreasonable.

I would also point to the example of Jesus and the early church for hints as to what it should look and feel like.

We anabaptists (among others) not only take Jesus' teachings pretty literally, we take the example of the early church pretty literally. It is a good model of what I think the church should look like, in general (again, avoiding the trap of legalistically making the early church a model of Rules to heed to, or else!).
 
From the book of Acts, we see the early church described thusly...
 
They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching
and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles.
All who believed were together and
held everything in common, and
they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need.
Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts,
breaking bread from house to house,
sharing their food with glad and humble hearts,
praising God and having the good will of all the people. 
 
This was a spiritual home that would be literally good news for the literal poor.
 
Continuing from Acts...
 
All the believers were one in heart and mind.
No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own,
but they shared everything they had.
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all
that there were no needy persons ! among them.
For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales
and put it at the apostles’ feet,
and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Wow, right?
 
And when problems arose...
 
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
 
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.
 
Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.
We will turn this responsibility over to them
and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
So, we see some division of roles (and perhaps some condescending remarks about "waiting on tables..." because, after all, the apostles were not perfect) and organized efforts to maintain the practice of sharing to strive to maintain that there were "NO need persons" among them.
I would love to see churches that looked more like this: More intentional communities, more sharing, more tending the needs specifically of the poor, having the goal that there'd be NO needy among them, finding meaningful work and roles for everyone in an egalitarian, communal, Christian life.
 
Those are some of my thoughts on the topic. For what they're worth.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Beware Arrogance







Arrogant words of the day, from Stan Smith's blog's post today. He was speaking of how he could not possibly be wrong on his position about homosexuality or, what the devastating consequences would be IF he was possibly wrong and he said...

"If it is not [ie, what if his understanding is not true], then we have genuine reason to question Scripture, Church history, the abilities of the Holy Spirit to lead His own into the truth, and, consequently, Christianity itself. If it is not true, then the massive failures on God's part are staggering. He failed when He called it an "abomination" in the Old Testament and He failed when Paul was inspired by God to write that no one who practices such things have a part in the kingdom and He failed by sending His Holy Spirit who was to lead His people into all truth."

Now, my leaning is to want to just leave the speaker anonymous, because it's about the idea, not who said it. But when I've done that in the past, I've been criticized for possibly taking something out of context, so, the above is from today's comment section at the birdsoftheair.blogspot.com post. Feel free to read if you so choose.

But look at what he's saying: If people like this are NOT correct in their understanding, then, to them, that indicates a failure on God's part?! What sort of arrogance is that?

Can you imagine the harrumphing and charges of blasphemy if a supposed liberal were to say something like that?

Friends, we can ALL be mistaken. We can ALL be wrong. It is part of the human condition, our collective ability to be mistaken, to be fooled by tradition or by our desires or by our culture. It happens, there's no shame in admitting our human ability to be mistaken. But to equate the slightest chance that WE could be wrong to a "massive failure" on God's part??

And if we, in our glorious human wisdom are mistaken, then we have reason to question everything, even Christianity? What sort of statement is that for a Christian to make?

Wow.

Thank God for grace and forgiveness and long-suffering patience.

======
Note: To be clear, this post is not about homosexuality, it is about arrogance and presuming that for one to be mistaken can only happen if God has failed. If you have comments on that topic, I'll entertain comments with opinions about that. But I'm not discussing homosexuality.

Friday, February 28, 2014