Monday, June 29, 2015

Based on WHAT?

I have heard multiple times from multiple sources over the years that one reason I need to change my position on one topic or another is because "the elders" or tradition has spoken and decided the matter. Most recently, I have visited Ed at his reformedreasons blog and asked the oft-asked/rarely answered question: On what basis is your interpretation/opinion about the meaning of a passage or the "correct" position on a particular opinion the one that must be heeded?

As is generally true, Ed has mostly refused to even acknowledge the question was asked, much less provide an answer. When he did acknowledge the question, his response was...

You clearly do not understand that when we say Scripture is its own basis, it is self-authenticating, it is the final authority, that there is no other basis. My opinion has nothing to do with it. Either you accept that Scripture is self-authenticating, binding, and our final authority and that Scripture is its own ground for this position or you do not. You clearly do not.

You demand something more. There is nothing more. There must be a final authority if there is to be any authority at all. Why can't you understand that? We could say "based on who's authority" ad infinitum" you know.

So, what happened there was he repeated that "Scripture is its own basis..." which is not the question I asked. He repeated that it is self-authenticating, it is the "final authority," etc... all of which does not answer my question.

Look, I love, honor, cherish, read and take seriously the teachings in the Bible. I give it plenty of "authority" (I do not give the words in the Bible "final authority" because that belongs to God, and I will not make a god out of the Bible, as doing so is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, not to mention irrational).

The question is not "will we take the Bible seriously," but WHOSE intepretation on various topics/passages is "right" or whether any mortal can state authoritatively, "I hold the One True Interpretation..."

So, when we read Genesis 1 and Ed (or others) say, "This is a literal history..." on what basis is his opinion on the matter any more weighty or authoritative than mine? It's a very reasonable question.


Some topics where there are disagreements, they are relatively simple disagreements. I happen to think that Gen. 1 is told in a more figurative/mythic style and others think it is more literal history. If Ed or anyone else wants to disagree with me, they are welcome to do so. If they insist that I must agree with them, I'll politely decline, as I find their case wanting. I don't think Ed or anyone else is immoral for believing in a 6,000 year old earth, just ridiculously mistaken.

But for other topics - war, how we spend our money, human rights, gay rights, etc - for them to ask or demand that I MUST change my position is asking me to take a stand against morality and rationality. If someone insisted that I, as a Christian, MUST take up arms to fight and kill in wartime, they would be asking me to partake in what I consider to be obviously evil. If someone insists that Christians "must" denounce homosexual marriages, they are asking me to partaken in what I consider to be obviously evil.

So, when someone says, "Here is MY interpretation of various passages as it relates to war or to homosexuality," I hope you can understand how very deadly serious is the question... "On what basis should I abandon what I think is moral in favor of what I believe to be clearly evil?"

The sum total of Ed's argument has been a baseless and irrational appeal to the authority of SOME group of particular believers. Ed said, for instance...

You left a body of elders and sought out a fake group of elders.

My question is ON WHAT BASIS would I know that the first group of "elders" is the "right" group and not the second? Especially when, as far as I can see, the first group of elders is clearly morally and rationally mistaken on the points in question.

If anyone is reading and inclined to answer, I'd welcome them: Regardless of my conclusions, do you recognize the very weightiness of the problem you have when you ask someone to abandon what appears to be Godly and moral and rational in favor of what appears to be immoral, unGodly, unbiblical, irrational and flimsy as hell?

Do you think you should be prepared to answer, "On what basis should I abandon the moral in favor of the immoral?" Or would you counsel me to follow my understanding of God, the Bible, morality as best I can, even if you disagree with my conclusions? Since Ed is not answering these questions, I'm putting it out there for anyone else to take a shot.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Conservative Lamentation About Charleston shooting?

Just wondering: Can anyone find a conservative blog that is lamenting the tragic events in Charleston or offering support for our brothers and sisters at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church or otherwise speaking out about this great evil?

I ask because I've looked around and cannot find any.

If not, why not?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Remembering Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

"It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die
Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky

It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon' come, oh yes it will"

~The Great Sam Cooke

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


A conservative blogger - Stan, over at Winging It -  recently posted about Jesus and judgmentalism. Some liberalish people will point to Jesus' "judge not, lest you be judged..." and proceed to tell people "Jesus said 'don't judge!'"

Many, many conservativish people will jump on that and say, "You're missing the point! Jesus and the church made judgments all the time!" Stan had this to say this time...

"So, which did Jesus do in the John 8 story? They tell me He did neither [judge AGAINST, harshly or judge as in "form an opinion about" -dt]. I disagree.

In John 8:11 He says, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." The question was "Should we stone her?" (John 8:4-6). Stoning would be condemning. Jesus didn't condemn her, didn't sentence her to punishment, didn't judge against her. But He did judge her. He told her, "From now on sin no more." That is, "You have sinned; don't do it anymore."

The world wants us to shut up about sin. They try to point to Jesus for that. It just doesn't work."

Two things:

1. I think these type of conservatives are missing the point. No one is seriously saying "don't make judgments about anything..." We ALL want people to judge harshly that the drunk driver needs to be stopped, the pedophile needs to be stopped, the oppressive tyrant needs to be stopped, the murderer, rapist, molester, abuser NEEDS to be stopped. We have judged these behaviors to be clearly harmful and decided/agreed that they need to be stopped. So, when more conservative people assume that people are saying "don't make judgments about anything," they assume incorrectly, if that's what they're doing.

What people are objecting to is the harsh judgmentalism and condemnation of people's lesser (ie, non-harmful to others) foibles. Whether that's the avid environmentalist/bicyclist who goes around judging harshly all those who drive and condemn them for their choices or the conservative religionist who goes around judging harshly all others' sexual opinions/practices. That sort of judgmentalism is off-putting, arrogant and counter-productive.

We're all in this generally striving together to generally do the right thing. No one wants to embrace a wrong behavior. We all can do better and we all make mistakes, being harshly judgmental about minor foibles (or what WE perceive to be a "sin") is not the way to help people out.

And note: Again, I'm not speaking of overtly harmful behavior. Yes! We should speak out and stop the pedophile, the rapist, the abuser, the drunk driver. And we don't need a line from the Bible or sacred text to tell us to stop those behaviors - they are overtly harmful behaviors that potentially or actually take away people's liberties, health and/or lives. We stop those behaviors precisely because they are harmful to life and liberty.

But how did Jesus handle the woman caught in a sexual "sin..."? Did he judge her harshly? No! Did he condemn her or the supposed sin? No! In fact, he specifically did NOT condemn her. Literally saying, "neither do I condemn you..."

Whose behavior did Jesus chastise? The ones who would have killed a woman for a supposed sin.

The religious zealots were embracing actual harmful behavior to KILL someone who may have been involved in a sexual foible... a non-harmful or less-harmful behavior. Assuming the man involved consented, they were prepared to kill - take away a life - for a consensual act.

THAT harmful behavior was indirectly rebuked in the story cited here, not the supposed "sin" of this woman, who was specifically not condemned.

So, again, the point is people are not saying "don't make judgments about anything!" It is still okay to stop and condemn actually harmful behavior, to save a life and to promote liberty. No, when people say, "don't judge," they are speaking of the harsh, condemning sorts of behavior.

So, where Stan said...

The world wants us to shut up about sin. They try to point to Jesus for that. It just doesn't work."

The point is, NO one - including "the world" - wants us to "shut up" about or give up on stopping actually harmful behavior. PLEASE let us work together to find graceful ways to stop harmful behavior. On the other hand, when you (or I) hold personal opinions about what God may or may not think about non-harmful behavior - what we do or don't do in our bedrooms, for instance - please, keep them to yourselves and/or express your concern in an humble and respectful manner AS a concern, and then only when asked. That's what people are wanting, at least in my experience.

2. The second thing: I don't know that I've ever heard a conservative take up the notion of "Neither do I condemn you..." in this story. This is a woman caught in what was, biblically (taken literally) a capital crime, a "sin" so heinous that the ancients believed that God wanted people killed for this sin. But Jesus quite literally - given a direct chance to do so - did NOT condemn her or her behavior. Given the chance, Jesus did not embrace the OT law literally. He chased away the would-be killers and said, "neither do I condemn you...". He DID go on to say, "Go and sin no more..." but he left it to the woman's judgment as to what that would be.

What I'd like to see our more conservative friends embrace is this "neither do I condemn you" attitude literally from Jesus. If you want to take something literally in the bible, embrace that literally. And if two gay folk get married, in love say (to yourself, preferably, unless asked), "neither do I condemn you..." even if you happen to think it is a wrong thing to do. Or if a child moves in with a partner without marrying, repeat after Jesus (again, to yourself unless asked), "Neither do I condemn you..."
If you're in your sunday school class and someone starts talking about a transgender neighbor and they ask your opinion, say, "Neither do I condemn them!"

It is my opinion that "neither do I condemn you" is another way of saying, Grace. Grace to you. Grace to you in your decisions. You are an adult, I grace-fully respect your right and duty to choose for yourself what is the Right Thing to do.


It's a great attitude to embrace literally, seems to me.

Monday, June 8, 2015

That Is Enough

The perfect, smooth stones beside
the speckled stream told me

we wish to fly,
to leave these riverwashed banks and
sail through the carefree air
if only for a moment

and I told them

I have no powers to make it so
but I can agree with you
and join in the wish
that it might be so

and they told me

that is enough.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Race

Some friends singing at the Jeff St Earth Day service. The song is "The Race" by the Steel Wheels, a great group of Mennonite fellas out of Virginia. The theme of the sermon was about how "they can't take our joy away..." that in spite of pollution, environmental degradation, a sometimes-hopeless uphill climb to change the status quo, we've got something to hang on to that no one can take away.

"The Race" begins...

I’ve gotta hope that never fails me
I’ve gotta song that I’m gonna sing
Tempests turn and the winds are wailing
I’ve gotta race that must be run I’ve gotta race that must be run
I’ve gotta race that must be run I’ve gotta race that must be run


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

State of Grace

The song, State of Grace, by Louisville treasure, Tim Krekel. Played at my church last Sunday by Andy and friends.

"I'm walking in a state of grace
walking in a state of grace
my God has got my hand and I'm singing in the band
I'm walking in a state of grace..."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Go Home, You're Embarrassing Yourselves


Crazy, in the news...

“The country can be no stronger than its families... I really believe if what the Supreme Court is about to do is carried through with, and it looks like it will be, then we’re going to see a general collapse in the next decade or two. I just am convinced of that. So we need to do everything we can to try to hold it back and to preserve the institution of marriage.”

“Talk about a Civil War, we could have another one over this.”

~James Dobson

An Open Letter to the Desperate and Emotionally Fragile Religious Right:

I trace the roots of my faith tradition to the great defenders of religious liberty, the Anabaptists. I trace my family roots to the French Huguenots. Both of these groups faced actual religious oppression.

Because of their religious beliefs, the Huguenots and Anabaptists were jailed, tortured and killed by the tens of thousands by other Christian groups. Actual oppression for their beliefs.

I contrast that with the religious conservatives of today in light of the recent discussion of marriage equity. These conservatives are sounding emotionally desperate and speaking in the most drastic of terms, as if a simple marriage ceremony were the End of Times and the Devil, himself, was out stealing souls and spreading pestilence.

This is NOT religious oppression, people. You are NOT being oppressed for your religious beliefs. You are still free to believe what you wish.

When the Huguenots were told, "Abandon your faith tradition and embrace Catholicism or we will rip out your tongue and burn you alive!" ...that is oppression and a denial of religious liberty. This is not comparable in any way to "If you're in the flower business, you will be expected to sell flowers, even if you disagree with the event or people."

No, we are simply saying that if you are a business owner, we expect you to not discriminate against one bloc of people. That's all. We are not asking you to endorse certain marriages. We are not demanding that you change your religion. We are not demanding that you marry someone you don't want to marry. We're just expecting that business owners should not discriminate, that's all.

Don't want to endorse a loving marriage between two people? Fine, don't endorse it. But if you're in business in the public marketplace, you can't discriminate. IF your religious beliefs demand that you discriminate against some perceived “sinners,” then THAT part of your belief will not be allowed, just like if your religious beliefs demanded that you kill infidels, THAT part would not be allowed. Otherwise, believe as you wish.

Your religious liberty ends where another's rights begins.

This is not oppression or the end of the age. Lighten up. You just sound ridiculous and you are an embarrassment to your faith and the many people who have actually faced oppression and injustice.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rock of Ages

A song played by Donna, Christy and Dan at a recent baptism at my church. "Rock of Ages" - not the well-known traditional hymn, but a traditional-sounding song by Gillian Welch.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hunting Bigfoot with Jesus, 2

As I hiked back down from the mountain
in the center of the forest
in the middle of the night
I crossed paths with Jesus, again 

Long time, no see
I joked
And Jesus smiled like a saint 

So… Jesus,
I said tentatively, nervous as a squirrel

You’re really out here
In Search of Bigfoot
aren’t you? 

And, with a graceful grin upon his face
Jesus shook his head

Wouldn’t it be cool if he really existed?
Like this whole family of beasties that
Have never been discovered before
Were really out here?! 

Jesus was clearly enthused about the subject 

But I don’t understand
I said
You are the Omniscient God
Don’t you already know if Bigfoot exists? 

Jesus nodded 

It is true
Dear Dan
That I am the God who

I nodded, waiting 

Not Everything Can be Known. 

I said.

Sooo… maybe Bigfoot does exist?
I asked 

He said.

I sure hope so.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hunting Bigfoot with Jesus, 1

While walking through a dark forest tonight
Leaves beneath my feet
Guiding my path
I came across Jesus
Sitting on a stump
In the black woods.
I said, a bit surprised,
What are you doing out here?!

He sat quietly

Do you like night hikes, too?
With the moon casting velvet shadows
And the spring peepers
Providing sweet night music?
Jesus said.
That's it.
The quiet beauty of
Creation at rest, and cetera...
It's certainly not because
I'm out looking for
Or anything like that.
There was another awkward pause and
Then he said
Well, enjoy your hike.
Jesus is a funny guy, sometimes.