Monday, September 18, 2017

Born Anew

From a sermon from my pastor this weekend...

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’
Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.
‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’
Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’
‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked.
~John 3:1-9

I started to do a search on the internet, but after seeing that the first page of googling didn’t reveal my answer, I gave up. I’m not a very patient googler. It doesn’t really matter, anyway. What I was searching for was, “must be born again craze.” I was wondering when that began. Well, it really began with Jesus, of course, because he’s the one who said it. But when was it that it became such a huge thing in American religious culture? I think it had to do with Jimmy Carter, and that was when I was a teenager. I don’t remember exactly when, but what I do remember is that it was very confusing to me. You must be born again, preachers would say, meaning, you must become someone else. You must become someone else. That’s how I remember them preaching it, anyway. And that was hard for me to integrate, as it probably was for some of you. “Are you a Christian?” Yes… “Have you been born again?” Well, not really. I’m still just me.

And I think that’s why my heart sang when I heard John Philip Newell talk about this passage at Lake Junaluska this summer.

Because he said that Jesus wasn’t saying that we need to become someone else. He said that Jesus, in saying that we must be born again, or anew, was saying that we need to be born into our true selves. We need to be born into our true selves.

He pointed out something that we already knew, which is that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. He wasn’t a Christian, and so he didn’t adhere to the Christian doctrine of original sin.

The idea of original sin, for those of us who might not be familiar with the term, is one that, whether we’re familiar with it our not, pervades our lives. When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, after having sinned, all of humanity was put in a state of separation from God, and it’s only through Jesus that we are reconnected. That’s the idea that many of us grew up with. You might remember the little picture that we sometimes used when we were trying to “save” someone. There are two cliffs with a great gulf in-between. God is on one side. Humankind on the other. And then you draw a cross in-between to connect the two? Does anyone remember that? Used to be an evangelical tool that we would use to share the “good news” of Jesus Christ. But Jesus Christ didn’t preach that kind of good news. Jesus didn’t preach about how we are disconnected from God. Jesus preached about how God is within us…

The concept of original sin didn’t come from Jesus. 

Newell said that he was on an interfaith panel with some other religious leaders awhile back, and someone asked them to comment on original sin, and the Jewish rabbi on the panel said that when someone Jewish hears the term “original sin,” they are prone to think, now that was really an original sin! In other words, original sin wasn’t, and isn’t a Jewish concept, but rather came around years after Jesus’ death. It was first alluded to in the second century by Iraneus, Bishop of Lyon, and was later developed by St. Augustine. It retained its popularity through church reformers such as John Calvin and Martin Luther, and is very popular to this day. One of the founders of Celtic Christianity, Pelagius, was kicked out of Rome, first, and later, Italy, largely because he refused to accept the concept of original sin, by the way.

We spend a lot of time as Christians, not in this church, maybe not enough in this church, confessing our sin. We are bad, bad, bad. We were born in sin. But as Newell points out, what would it look like if we acted that way in one of our most important relationships? What if we were constantly apologizing and feeling guilty and less than? It would be totally unhealthy. And yet, that’s so often the way that people view their relationship with God. You must be born again. You must become someone else. Because who you are is never good enough...

You must be born again, Jesus says, calling us back to our true selves. You must be born from above. You must be born anew. Born anew into that of you which is the essence of God, the essence of your true self...

Now, I’m not an artist, and I can’t draw it. But I can tell you that I saw a very clear picture of this on Wednesday when our Diane - our homeless/hospitality minister - told me about what had happened at the Hospitality Program the day before. It was a busy day, she said, and in the middle of all of the busi-ness, a man brought in a woman in a bathrobe. He had found her a few blocks away. She was wandering around, lost and confused. She didn’t know her name, and, said the man, she was (made a motion with his finger to indicate craziness). Diane had the woman sit down with Kari, who talked with her and kept her calm while Diane made some phone calls. It took about an hour for the police to get there, and when they did, they confirmed that the woman was on the missing persons list. Her son had been looking for her. She had parked her car and left her keys and her purse and her i.d. somewhere, and they tried to find it, and they contacted her son, and they eventually took her to the hospital, where we are hoping that she received the care she needed.

It’s a sad story, but a precious one. I hate to think what might have happened had that man not have found her. 

And here’s the thing that touched me most deeply about the story: The man who brought her in, said Diane, was drunker than anyone she’d ever seen. And note: this is our homeless minister talking. He was drunker than anyone she’d ever seen! 

And yet, this man, as drunk as he was, was able to connect with the very essence of God within, with the love-longings of God, to share with this woman that there is a place where you can go where they will help you, and not just to share that with her, but to accompany her, stumbling alongside her until he had delivered into Diane’s care.

And in that experience, I believe that that man was born anew, not in the way we used to talk about, becoming someone else, but in that, even in the midst of his brokenness, he reconnected with the very essence of God. You must be born anew, says Jesus.

I am reminded of the voice that we hear in “The Help,” the voice of Abileen, a family maid, who babysits little Mae Mobley. Mae’s mother usually ignores her, and whenever she pays her any attention, she criticizes her. So Abilene sits her down everyday and says, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

The heart of God is beating within each of us. May we listen for it, may we hear it, may we be renewed in its rhythm. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Rest of the World Statement

We affirm that people are complex and God is not known, completely.

We deny that some humans are the spokesmouths for God, even though they may act as if they are.

We affirm that love is good and that hate is bad.

We deny that those who'd take away rights and choice and liberty from others are acting in the common good.

We affirm that women, gay folk, transgender folk and, well, folk in general are wonderful, strong, kick ass and live well, if imperfectly.

We deny that seeking to disempower and marginalize people for being who they are is a good thing.

We affirm that those racists and oppressors who, once upon a time and even in the name of God, sought to say "This person should not marry THAT person. God forbids it!..." that such attitudes have been cast upon the dustbin of history and recognized far and wide as wrong-headed and arrogant. Any who would, today, seek to go back to these devalued and antiquated values (i.e., bad values) would be ignored and rightly so.

Similarly, we affirm that most of us have likewise moved past the days of trying to demonize and marginalize women, gay and transgender folk or deny them their basic human liberties. Those who seek to do this will soon, like the "anti-miscegenists" of old, be summarily dismissed as crackpots and holding on to backwards, immoral and irrational ideas.

We deny that those who would promote anti-women, anti-LGBTQ attitudes speak for God, for the good, or for reason.


The "Nashville" types have lost this argument. They just have. It's all over but the fighting.

There will be much kicking and ranting on their part as they increasingly realize that they are the ones viewed as immoral and irrational, but this is just the way it is. They have lost and their numbers will increasingly diminish and their "arguments" (which amount to not much more than, "But I'm telling you, GOD doesn't want it! GOD agrees with me!") increasingly be ignored.

Within a generation or two, churches will continue meeting, lives will continue to be lived and LGBTQ folk and women will live empowered lives. The matter won't be broached any more in 99% of churches - at least in the US, any more than the "anti-miscegenationists" have any serious traction any more. Those who oppose gay marriage will simply be ignored until, by the end of the century, they will be, for all practical purposes, gone.

The few who remain will rant and gnash their teeth, insisting that God's Way is narrow and THEY are the few who remain faithful. They will deny even other Christians but no one will care, any more than we care about what the "anti-miscegenationists" say. The reason? No one cares what irrational, immoral cranks say.

I am at least almost a little sorry that these anti-gay folk, anti-women folk will feel so oppressed and ignored, but not really. They've brought it upon themselves and their arrogance does nothing to help build any bridges worth crossing.

They have been eclipsed by a more rational, more moral and, I think, more Godly way, and ultimately, that is a very good thing.

Friday, August 25, 2017

When I was a God

When I was a God
I could do no wrong and my
humility was supreme

but now

I have been cast down
and I walk with all creatures
alongside the stream

in peace

Friday, August 18, 2017

On Antifa...

There's just so much happening, I didn't want to miss the chance to post this so I'm doing it now while I'm thinking about it.

Anyone who knows me, knows I find Trump and his ardent supporters (in contrast, at least a little, to those who reluctantly tolerate him) to be morally and rationally and societally repulsive. I vomit a bit in my mouth anytime I think about him.

And his defense of "some" nazis and racists ("some were nice guys," or whatever) is atrocious, as is his false moral equivalency of Nazis and racists to the counter protestors. The man is a pig.
That being said, I have problems with the antifa movement. And I'm not the only one (amongst progressive and rational types). I'll post an article that goes into it some more, but in brief, here is my problem:

* They are anarchists, not liberals.

* They place themselves above the law, appointing themselves judge, jury and judgment against those THEY think deserve it. If they THINK you are a Nazi or sympathize too much with Nazis (again, in their head, not necessarily in reality), then they have been known to act against you.

* I hear that they even attacked some in the press this last weekend in their anarchic and self-appointed vigilantism against "the enemy."

I certainly sympathize with the notion of being against fascists and racists, but we do that within some boundaries. It's not every man (and mostly, I believe we are talking about men) for himself, everyone deciding who needs to be punched and who doesn't.

For one thing, it is counterproductive. It gives the idiots and racists like Trump some room for doing just what he has done. It undermines our efforts to stop fascism and racism, rather than supporting it.
But also, it is illiberal. It is not progressive to live outside the laws and make yourself the One True Decider for everyone else.

This is not to say that they are in anyway comparable to the actual fascists, but just to note that they are troubling and need to rein themselves in (and we need to help them rein in).

Read the article. Important stuff...

One excerpt:

"for all of antifa’s supposed anti-authoritarianism, there’s something fundamentally authoritarian about its claim that its activists—who no one elected—can decide whose views are too odious to be publicly expressed. That kind of undemocratic, illegitimate power corrupts. "

"We do not feel safe..."

Just because these stories need to be heard... from a Latino family/friend's Facebook page:

"Last night I had to comfort my youngest who has heard enough about recent events to be terrified that someone may target his father for being Latino.....he no longer wants his father to [go to work] for fear that he will be attacked or arrested. He kept asking me what we will do if his papa doesn't come home one night........and I don't know what to say. I don't know what we will do. I don't want to think about it, and yet, we have to.

Many members of our own family voted for, and still openly defend and support, Trump. My son does not feel safe. He stays awake worrying, crying, begging for all of this to stop.

I am at a loss for how to protect my children when even those who love us cannot see how much hatred is being stoked by the president they voted for, and continue to defend him.

I am not calling out people by names, and my anxiety runs high even as I write this. But if you love us, if you love my children and husband, then now is the time to help us feel loved, safe, and supported. Because even if you do not mean for your politics to be personal or include us, it IS very personal when it means that my kids do not know who they can trust, and that they might be hurt for being Latino, or. even for not fitting the traditional "male" stereotype with their long hair and preferences for artsy or sparkly things.

I am not interested in fighting.....I just want folks to know where we stand, how we feel, and how my heart breaks with this reality. If you need to unfollow me or unfriend me, feel free."

And for those who worry about shit like this, this is a "documented" family. This is how team Trump is making regular citizens of these United States feel, how they're terrorizing children and families. Shit like that's got to make you feel like a Big Man, right?

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Let's pretend:

I'm going to start a group: The Neo-Ted Bundians! It will be based upon the wit and wisdom of famous serial killer, child murderer, rapist and corpse molester, Ted Bundy.

But please, understand, I am only talking about the positive parts of what Ted Bundy stood for, not any of the negative stuff...

...What do you think of that notion? Do we offer sympathy and understanding for this person starting this "fan club," or do we recognize the horror involved in the suggestion?

I think the latter. Of course. (Why does it even need to be said?)

Look, these "neo-nazis" and "KKK" people don't need understanding. We understand just fine.

I understand that they are just regular guys (white guys, to be sure). That they have their concerns and reasons.

However, they have made a fatal flaw if they wanted to be treated as just regular guys: They deliberately chose to self-identify with some of the worst killers, rapists, racists and general awful people in history.

If they just wanted to celebrate "southern culture," they could have started a club about Sweet Tea and Cornbread. They could have started a "Friends of Alabama" support group. But no, they deliberately chose to identify with historical monsters. Of course, Nazis and KKK members were just regular guys, too, with some concerns that they no doubt thought were legitimate. I have no problems with legitimate concerns. BUT, there is a line that must be drawn.

That line is harm, oppression, killing, abuse, terrorism, spreading fear. Those embracing these tactics must be opposed.

Why? (Seems to be a stupid question, but okay, I'll play).

Because just as they might have some concerns, the rest of the world has concerns about justice and safety for all, about human rights. Because we value human rights, good people everywhere must stand opposed to those opposed to human rights. We can be inclusive as hell (or heaven, if you prefer), but IF you have a concern for human rights, then yes, that means we will exclude those who are opposed to human rights.

It's like all these conservatives who try to mock those who value tolerance for being intolerant towards some. But who are we being intolerant towards? The intolerant. IF you are supportive of tolerance, then by definition, you will oppose those advocating intolerance. It's nothing to be mocked, it's just rational.

These people are not imbeciles. They are not unaware of history. They know what the Nazis stood for. They know what the KKK stands for. They understand. And so do we.

That's the problem.

They are seeking to trade in on the horror and fear and oppression of these established groups. These are impotent white boys who are seeking some status and some borrowed power, so they're turning to monsters to try to access it. The thing is, IF you're going to choose to start a white boy's social club and you choose to identify with monsters, you can't ask us for "understanding." At that point, it's your time to understand and understand well:

Good and moral people must always stand opposed to oppressors. Those who choose the tools and symbols of oppressors will be lumped in with them and opposed.

You want to be understood in a moral flattering light? Begin by losing the oppressor, killer, rapist, destroyer identification. Abandon the monster, then we can talk.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

De-Criminalize Seeking Safety

Reflections on immigration, in three parts

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God...

You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt..."

~God, in Exodus

Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

~God, in Malachi

Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.

~God, in Deuteronomy

For IF you truly amend your ways and your deeds, 
IF you truly execute justice one with another, 
if you do not oppress the sojourner,
the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place... 

THEN, I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.

~God, in Jeremiah

etc, etc, etc, etc, on and on and on, in the Bible.



"What's the "illegal" part of being an illegal immigrant? Is it a crime to simply be an undocumented immigrant residing in the United States? What about sneaking across the border?

The confusion lies in the legal difference between improper entry and unlawful presence. Here's what you need to know:

Improper Entry Is a Crime [a misdemeanor, Dan]

To be clear, the most common crime associated with illegal immigration is likely improper entry.

Under federal criminal law, it is misdemeanor for an alien (i.e., a non-citizen) to:
  • Enter or attempt to enter the United States at any time or place other than designated by immigration officers;
  • Elude examination or inspection by immigration officers; or
  • Attempt to enter or obtain entry to the United States by willfully concealing, falsifying, or misrepresenting material facts."

So, to be clear, crossing the border without proper permission is, in the US, a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor is defined: 

"A misdemeanor is considered a crime of low seriousness, and a felony, one of high seriousness. A principle of the rationale for the degree of punishment meted out is that the punishment should fit the crime."

A crime of low seriousness

The punishment should fit the crime.

What has happened a great deal of the time when someone commits the "crime" of crossing an imaginary line illegally? A good deal of the time, an immigrant and/or his family is...

* In danger
* Being oppressed
* At risk of starving or just barely surviving

...when they leave their usually beloved homes, families and friends to come to the US to stop the threat. That is, they choose to engage in a victimless misdemeanor to avoid starving, death and oppression. Generally speaking, they don't want to leave their homes. They would much rather stay, but sometimes the threat is too great!

How serious is that "crime..."? Is it serious at all? Is it even rationally called a "crime..."?

Or is it only reasonable, moral and prudent?

What would you do if you were being oppressed or your family was starving where you were and there was not a good chance of changing it there... what would you do IF you knew you could escape that threat by committing a minor misdemeanor to save your/your family's life?

Of course, it is a moral and appropriate answer to violate that misdemeanor law to save lives!

Of course it is. If you disagree, then do us a favor: Go to a nation where you will be oppressed, threatened and starved and take the place of someone there, surrender your citizenship to them. THEN, tell us how you'd stay where your life/your children's lives were threatened.

Until then, I don't think anyone who says it is an actual "crime" to cross an imaginary line can be taken seriously.

Also, of course, any law that makes a crime of the victimless action of merely crossing an imaginary line to try to stay alive is an immoral, wrong and irrational (and, if you care about the Biblical examples easily found, unbiblical) law.


Unlawful Presence

"Some may assume that all immigrants who are in the United States without legal status must have committed improper entry. This simply isn't the case. Many foreign nationals legally enter the country on a valid work or travel visa, but fail to exit before their visa expires for a variety of reasons.

But mere unlawful presence in the country is not a crime. It is a violation of federal immigration law to remain in the country without legal authorization, but this violation is punishable by civil penalties, not criminal."


Read it and understand.

And how often is it the case that we're talking about unlawful presence, as opposed to the misdemeanor of improper entry?

In fact, a 2006 study showed that roughly 45% of undocumented immigrants originally entered the US legally, but then remained in the country without authorization after their visas had expired.

Nearly HALF of what are popularly called "illegal immigrants" are NOT "illegal." Overstaying a visa is a civil infraction, like parking in the wrong place, not even a misdemeanor.

And of course, it should not be a crime.

What sort of monsters criminalize people for a victimless crime of crossing an imaginary line in order to stay alive/not be oppressed?

The time has come to recognize that crossing a line to try to stay alive is in no reasonable way a crime. The time has come to stop calling it a crime.

In fact, the only moral crime is in criminalizing people who are merely trying to stay alive. This is something we all should be able to agree with and work towards.

By all means, let's keep it regulated, let's watch out for bad actors and those who would cause harm. I'm not saying let's have an entirely "open" border. BUT, the notion of criminalizing merely trying to stay safe and alive must end.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Okay, so I'm going to be more removed from my computer for a week or so, but I am interested in questions of honesty. Or, put another way, my honesty has been questioned on a blog post that is older and more difficult to reach, so I'm starting this new blog post to give a chance to address it.

The charge has been made that I've "lied," or, if not lied, presented myself in a "dishonest" manner in my blog posts and interactions with commenters. Now, of course, I am not a perfect man and of course I make mistakes. But I can honestly say that, at least in the blogosphere, I have never intentionally lied. I've never intentionally made a claim that I knew to be false in hopes of, whatever, making my case "stronger..." (Who would do that? I don't get it... I don't think I'm unique in this regards... I suspect that most people who are arguing a point or defending a belief in formats like this are, of course, trying to tell you honestly and without lies what they believe and why. Again, who would do that?)

If not lies, then the charge has been that I've been "dishonest" in presenting myself or answering questions (or something, it's still not clear to me).

Given that it's not clear to me what in the world the charge is and given that I of course, do not wish to even appear dishonest, I've requested these gentlemen to present ONE SPECIFIC charge and defend it as to why they think what I've said MUST be a lie, or MUST be dishonest. Make your case. As a point of fact, I have never intentionally done or said anything on the blogs that was intentionally dishonest or less than factual (short of jokes and rants, of course).

So, fellas, this is your chance to briefly present ONE instance of me lying that you can prove I said something intentionally dishonest, or of me being dishonest somehow in something I've said. Present the words and why it must be the case that I'm intentionally being dishonest or lying, as opposed to simply disagreeing with your hunches or hold another view than you do or another interpretation.

For example, I think that reasonable people across the spectrum can look at Trump's words and see that he has repeatedly made false claims. Abundantly and foolishly made false claims in unprecedented numbers. There are records of these claims on line.

Now, whether or not he is lying or just ignorantly making the false claims or doing so because he simply doesn't care about truth and may not recognize the difference (I fear the latter may be the case), the point is, he has made an unprecedented number of false claims.

Now, this is not a lie. It has been documented. Google it, I won't do your work on something so obvious. It's not a lie that I've pointed to this reality. Now you may disagree with this opinion and say, "Well, it's not documented but Clinton made more lies and bigger lies!" and you are welcome to your opinion, but I'm speaking of what is documented. There is nothing dishonest in my claim. You may ultimately disagree with the opinion, but it is not dishonest.

So, I'm asking you to provide, briefly and clearly, one instance of me actually being dishonest and then prove it.

If you can't do so, then admit it. If you can prove it, then I won't have any choice but to admit that I can see how that at least appears dishonest, but only if you can prove it.

What I suspect is that Bubba, at least, is speaking of me not answering questions in a timely enough (to his feelings) or clear enough (to his tastes) manner and that this is "evidence" of dishonesty. As opposed to a simple misunderstanding/difference of opinion, which is how I would describe such problems/disagreements.

After all, I have routinely experienced people not answering the question I'm asking and instead, taking the conversation off in a different direction or answering a different question... or just not answering it at all. And yet, I would never suggest the many, many (dozens?) of conservatives who have done this are arguing dishonestly or in bad faith. Just that they're either not understanding the question or are unable (for whatever reason) to answer the actual question asked of them. Now, I could certainly start calling all these conservatives dishonest, I just don't think that's a reasonable or fair guess as to their motivations.

Don't abuse this and load up dozens of comments please. I'm asking for brevity and clarity and hard data, not hunches based on wild interpretations of what I've written (as opposed to what I've actually written). I'll answer as I get a chance.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fall to Grace

Before she crashed to the Earth below
the stars caught her mid-fall
and eased her softly to the ground

Monday, May 29, 2017


I've heard some concerns raised by some on the more conservative side of things about the Left "abandoning" its values. By way of example, they offer the rioting and protesting that has happened in places like colleges when conservative figures have arrived to speak.

For instance, those graduates who walked out rather than listen to Mike Pence address a graduation ceremony.

First of all, I would just say that I share some concerns about actions like rioting by those on the left and trying to block conservative speakers. Liberalism is about free speech, amongst other things and we need to be careful to not appear to quash that which we support... even when that speech is used to advocate detestable values or by rather repugnant people.

On the other hand, one can value and hold dear the right to free speech AND at the same time say, "But I have no interest in hearing this person speak and you can't make me listen to them..." especially when that person (Trump, for instance) has committed horrible acts or promoted atrocious policies. It can be an act of resistance to refuse to even listen to what that person has to say.

For instance, until such time as Trump admits his sexual predatory behavior and apologizes for that behavior (indicating recognition of the actual wrong he has done), and repents and turns away from that behavior, I have zero interest in listening to what he says. He is a sexual predator and pervert and that's enough.

[And I say that as someone who, in my real life, does have to deal with sexual predators and can do so with some good grace. But there is a difference between dealing with the marginalized and down and out on their road to recovery and giving a pass to a sexual predator who has ascended to the most powerful office in the land.]

At any rate, all of that is to say that valuing free speech does not mean that we should not resist, at times, listening to what an oppressor has to say. One person's right to free speech is not an indication that others have to listen to their speech. Only an actual snowflake would insist that they must be heard.

Still, there are lines that are being crossed by some very few on the Left that I disagree with. Your right to refuse to listen to someone does not mean that you have the right to deny others the opportunity to listen.

And, on the other hand again, that isn't to say that people don't have the right to protest, for instance, a candidate that shows up to give a speech.

Free speech all around. That IS a liberal value and we should be wary about crossing that line. For the most part, I do not see this as a problem on the left, but there are some few instances where lines have been crossed and, to the degree that it has happened, those few liberals are forsaking the ideal of free speech in seeking to balance resistance and supporting free speech. Be aware.

Now, having said all of that(!) I get to the point of the article linked above.  There is serious concern that conservatives are being way too silent about those on their side who are abandoning basic decent values.

Trump IS a pervert and a sexual predator. By his own repeated admissions and boasting. Not a pervert in the sense of "ew! he does things my religion does not approve of...!" but a pervert in the sense of oppressor, of one who ogles teen aged girls who are half or all naked and then boasts and laughs about it publicly... in the sense of grabbing women by the pussy and boasting and bragging about what he can get away with because of his position of power. That is serious deviant and oppressive behavior. That shit should have been not a slight red flag, but a deal breaker. There should have been a line in the sand that so-called "family values" conservatives should not be willing to cross and, by and large, they did. Not just a few outliers, but in sufficient numbers to score an electoral win.

Beyond that, there is this common cause amongst some conservatives - including Trump and those in power - with those who are amongst our most serious threats. Several studies and reports from law enforcement types say that our greatest threats of violence comes from the Right Wing extremist types discussed in the article above. These are people who have been told (by Trump et al - now "main stream" conservatives), that the media is "the enemy!" that they tell "lies" and that those dark and foreign people - Muslims, Mexicans, black urban folk - are a threat to our way of life. As are "liberals" and the gays.

Mainstream conservatives are forsaking traditional values of humanity and liberty and truth-telling. This is a great concern and I hope to see, at some point, conservatives to start to speak out against it. Thanks to folks like John McCain and, at least temporarily, even Al Mohler, who have done so to some degree. May their tribe increase.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hard Questions... Reasonable Questions

I like reading conservative Christian commentary. Call me crazy, but I do. It helps me to think through positions and invariably raises questions. I sometimes ask Stan at the Winging It blog some questions and, even though he doesn't post my questions and says that he doesn't read my questions any more, nonetheless, he regularly answers them, often in a second blog post. Good for him.

He recently did this in his post, "Hard Sayings, Give to the One Who Asks..."

In an earlier post, he raised questions about taking the Bible's teachings literally. I asked him if he took Jesus' command literally, "Give to EVERYONE who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back." and, if so, I would like to ask him for $500, please and thank you.

In his post and his answer to my question, he gave a very good and correct answer, I think. He said...

You may say you believe that all this stuff is woodenly literally true, but what you believe is always displayed in what you do.

No, this can't be taken that way.

Jesus was making broad statements to provide principles. What we need to do is discover the principles He was trying to provide. That's much easier, much clearer, much more reasonable. We are not to hate. We are not to lust. We are supposed to have integrity. These aren't that hard to figure out.

On the question at hand -- "Give to everyone that asks" -- what is the principle? It is unavoidable that the principle is compassion and generosity.

So, Stan is saying that the rules/commands/teachings in the Bible need not always be taken woodenly literally. Even Jesus' commands to his followers are not to be taken woodenly literally. These are more of guidelines, Stan says, not woodenly literal rules.

Well done, I applaud Stan's answer and thank him for answering the question. I followed up with another question, something along the lines of, "Why then, take so many of the more 'sexual teachings' woodenly literally? There are two lines in the OT that say, "Men shall not lie with men. If they do, kill them." and Stan takes that teaching (the first half, anyway) woodenly literally. THAT, he says, is a hard rule for all times and all people. Why does he think that rule should be taken woodenly literally (and indeed, extrapolate out to clarify that this means gay and lesbian people can't marry those they're attracted to, even though that is not a literal rule anywhere in the Bible), but not Jesus' command about money?

And to Stan's credit, he answered that question, too, saying,

The point is not "Don't take it woodenly literal." The point is "Take it as intended. Historical when historical, poetic when poetic, parable when parable, analogy when analogy, hyperbole when hyperbole, doctrinal when doctrinal." Those who take it in a woodenly literal fashion every time make as much of a mistake as those who never take it at face value.

Fair enough. Thanks again for the answer. But then, this begs another question... and that is the point of my raising the initial question and this question remains unanswered:

So, who decides which lines in the Bible ARE to be taken woodenly literally and which are not? Is it not the case that you, Stan, are using your reasoning and making your best judgement to decide if something is literal? And that is certainly what I'm doing.

So, if we are both using our human judgement to make this call, even if you disagree with me, can you not respect that I, too, am seeking the good and the right and God's way? And can you not agree that you have no rational or biblical basis to say, "MY human opinion (and those who agree with me) are authoritatively, objectively correct and those who disagree with us are objectively wrong..."?

The thing is, humility.

We all have our opinions when we read the Bible (or Koran, or Huck Finn, etc) and reach conclusions on truths and opinions. But they are human opinions, God has not told Stan or me what God intended, or what Matthew or Luke intended, when they wrote what they wrote. Except for things that are demonstrable (Israel was an actual nation is provable, Jonah was an actual man is not provable), we can't prove our opinions. They are human opinions and thus, it is not rational or fair for some to say that they are the ones who speak authoritatively for what God intends.

In all things, humility, this is a reasonable opinion on unprovable matters and, I'd say, consistent with biblical teachings.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

~St Paul. Probably.