Monday, October 25, 2010


Lower Signpost
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
As many of you know (or have experienced yourselves), many blogs who self-identify as more conservative will ban or screen the comments of many whom they consider "too liberal." And it's their blog, they can do as they want no matter how cowardly or lacking in intellectual honesty that might seem to others of us. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure they do so because they don't want to "pollute" their website with what they consider heretical comments from people they reject as wolves in sheep's clothing.

Their blog, their rules.

Nonetheless, sometimes I find myself wanting to respond to such folk and that's what I'm doing today. I'll leave names out to protect their privacy and just address their comments which I find problematic.

So, this person recently wrote a blog about "progressives" and what's wrong with their thinking. They said...

the progressive mindset is that the way to do it is to move away from what we are doing to something new, and the conservative mindset is to do what we are doing better...

What, exactly, is "progressive"? Well, the term refers to the idea of continual improvement. The concept is one of making things better. That, of course, is somewhat misleading when it comes to "conservative" versus "liberal" because the conservative notion is that by moving back we can make things better -- progress. The idea there is that by returning to what works, things will get better. "Progressive", then, can be misleading on its own.

And therein lies the problem, at least for me. Today's progressives have in mind the idea of "progress", of moving forward to make things better, as if movement alone is good.

The problem is, of course, that "progressives" don't want to move away from anything we're currently doing to something different for the sake of doing something different. Progressives don't want to "move forward" and just blindly trust that "moving forward" will result in a moral good.

"Progressives" want to see something that works. If an old Salvation Army program works and helps, then of course progressives support this. If a new school based Family Resource Center helps, then we support that.

Progressives (not unlike good conservatives) want to see something that works in the real world. I would not denigrate a conservative program or agenda simply because it is conservative, IF it was being effective. Heck, I probably wouldn't denigrate it even if it wasn't being effective, as long as it wasn't doing harm and was a private effort.

So, if some conservatives want to have, for instance, a prison ministry program and the result is convicts having some peace of mind and some comfort in their time of trial, then God bless whoever has done that work. I don't care if they're "conservatives" trying to save the prisoner's souls or if they're "progressives" trying to decrease recidivism. Good on folk trying to make a positive difference.

In the real world, if we set politics aside (and quit making goofy assumptions about what "those evil conservatives" or "those socialist progressives" think), we could agree on a lot, since we all have some similar starting points. We ALL want to see children warm and fed, what can we agree to work on to help meet that common goal?

Don't start with the assumption that it's "us vs them" and you won't find so much to disagree with. That would be my suggestion. Also, you don't come across as stupid for making asinine suggestions about strawman boogermen who mostly don't exist in the real world.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Our conservative friend, Craig, made some comments about some of my comments at another blog. This is a blog that picks and chooses which of my comments to post and so, I have been left unable to address Craig's questions/comments. So, I've brought them over here.

I do so because Craig holds a misunderstanding of my positions and so, this is my attempt to clarify. These comments were generally on the topic of grace and when ought we be more confronting of Christians with whom we disagree and when we should "live and let live" on disagreements.

Craig said...

This is not the first time I have seen Dan play the "what if someone doesn't know something is a sin" card.

No "card" intended to be played. Just a reasonable question. The question (in my understanding) is "What if we have researched a behavior, we've prayerfully and carefully sought God's will, reading the Bible, taking into consideration others' view points and tradition and being open to the leading of God, and, at the end of that, we have decided that this behavior is NOT sinful?

What, then, if we discover upon "Judgment Day" that this action actually WAS a sin? Are we doomed because we were sincerely mistaken on a sin?"

My position has been that we are saved by God's grace. If, therefore, we are mistaken on a point, then we are STILL saved by God's grace. If we "lose" our salvation by being mistaken about a sin, then it is not grace which saves us, but works.

So it seems to me to be an entirely reasonable question and, further, I believe I come down on the side of Christian orthodoxy. I don't believe you, Craig, come down against grace on this point, do you?


Well, one of the scriptures for this morning was from Ecclesiastes 12, where we find this.

"...Fear God and keep His commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man. "

My question is this, why would the prophet (who is presumably speaking for God) command people to do something that (if we accept Dan's premise) is impossible?

We OUGHT to strive to keep God's commandments, as best we understand them. BUT, we won't always perfectly understand everything.

Do you think, Craig, that the Bible teaches we will and do have a "perfect understanding" on each and every action/potential sin? That would seem to be an extraordinary position to hold.


How can we "keep His commandments", if there is doubt or ambiguity aver what those commandments are?

As best we can, by God's grace, right?


It does seem that God has made His commands pretty clear, and that we are called to obey them. I guess where it gets cloudy is when we interpose our interpretation (think Jewish law) over God's commands. I still don't think God would command us to do obey a command that cannot be discerned as in Dan's example.

We all do. Those things that we think we understand about God, we think are pretty clear. But from one person to the next, in the details, we don't always agree.


Dan has argued in the past that simply not knowing whether something is a sin is sufficient for one to not be accountable for the sin. I think most of the rest of us would disagree...

Dan has argued that when, due to our own human shortcomings, we don't always know the "sin nature" of each and every action and we sin unaware, that God's grace covers our lack of perfect understanding.

Is it the case that you think we will have perfect understanding?

Do you not think that God's grace covers our lack of perfect understanding?

Craig quoted me and continued...

"That's my point - we ALL have many many opinions about what is and isn't greedy, what is and isn't sexually appropriate, what is and isn't sin."

This isn't the best example of Dan's contention, but it makes my point. As long as our opinion of what is sin is the controlling factor then one can do what one wishes. Even if one has arrived at that position by study of scripture and prayer. My counter to that would be God defines sin, and God will judge us based on His definition, not ours. So even if we "don't know" that lying is a sin, we still sin when we lie.

1. ? Our opinion of what is sin IS the controlling factor (for us) in what we do. IF we study, pray and contemplate over an action and prayerfully/carefully reach the conclusion that X is a sin, that dictates to us (in our better moments) how we should behave.

If our opinion isn't the controlling factor in how you behave, what is?

2. Before you say, "The Bible," first acknowledge that if you read a passage and reach THE OPINION that it condemns behavior X, you are still talking about your opinion of biblical teaching. Yes, yes, God is who we believers look to in order to try to find God's will, but we ultimately are relying upon our opinions, our thoughts about what is and isn't right.

3. I don't know that that's the best way to put it, "God defines sin." Sin is. It's that which breaks relationships, it's the missing of the mark, it's the rejection of God's way in favor of our way. But perhaps that's just semantics.

4. Yes, yes, of course if we lie without knowing that lying is a sin, it remains a sin. I never said otherwise.

All I have said is that IF we sin in ignorance, then God's grace covers our ignorance.

Do you disagree?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cross posted at my church blog

Karen Preaching
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Excerpts from a recent sermon at Jeff St by our dear sister, Karen...

...My professor and friend Roberta Bondi says: when it comes to prayer, the most important thing is to show up. But it's not as easy as it might sound, is it? Many of us would much prefer to have a shiny, cleaned-up version of our selves to present to God (and other church types).

The challenge then, is indeed, to show up as we are, to try to be as real as we can, as honest as we can be about who we are and be those true selves before God, however, whoever, we understand God to be – being as honest as we can there, too. There's a whole lot of ambiguity therein, requiring all manner of muddling, I think.

One thing I love about this church is that it is a place that gives us permission to show up and muddle through together with brothers and sisters, which is what we are doing this morning.

I chose the Prodigal Son as our gospel reading today, because it was already on my mind...

You know what prodigal really means, right? It means “excessive, lavish, extravagant”. And we attach this adjective with derision to the lost son. But the most prodigal character in this story is not that younger brother, you know, but, rather, the father.

If the son breaks the norms of society in acting prodigally, the father shatters those norms by his own prodigal behavior: his extravagant forgiveness, his lavish love, his excessive grace.. His son who has shamed him and the entire family should be dead to him. His honor, that commodity which was all-important socially, had been offended.

But the father who should have been nursing his wounded pride, was, instead, waiting and watching for the return of his son – like a Mama who cannot forget her baby... So when his boy finally did show up on the horizon, though he was still a long way off, Jesus says, this father spotted his son – even with that cataract in his left eye he knew his boy's walk, and, abandoning all pretense of dignity, he ran, yes ran (which dignified men did NOT do) he ran like a crazy old woman, kicking up enough dust to get his pristine white jellaba dirty, he RAN to meet his son and wrapped him in his arms.

By the time we get to the end of the story, we are not surprised to find that the Father's lavish, extravagant, embarassingly motherly prodigal love extends to his other son as well – the one who feels no need for grace, who doesn't realize that he needs forgiveness in his life, who doesn't realize how much is broken and unwell in his soul or in his family because he has worked so blastedly hard to keep things together on the farm that, by God, things better be in order or there'll be hell to pay in the morning. We see that the father does not condemn the older son for his hardness of heart any more than he condemned the younger one for his wantonness.

Rather, the father invites them both into the joy of relationship with him as his beloved children, bound together by a healing, “wholing” flow of grace.

The sparse language of the two sons in the parable makes the words they say telling. The younger son believes he is not worthy to be a son, and so will ask to simply be a servant/a slave – doulos (same word in Greek).

The older son spitefully reminds his father that he has worked like a slave for him all these years which ought to be worth something. But the father makes it plain to both of them that he does not want slaves, worthy or unworthy of their keep. He wants his own beloved children, just as they are, to show up, to come back to him, to join him in the circle of love and joy that is their true birthright as family...

To choose sonship, daughtership, our heritage of belovedness, is to let ourselves be caught up in the flow of God's prodigal love, to go with the flow, and trust it to keep flowing. And in the life of Jesus, we are invited to trust that the flow of grace will indeed keep on saving us from ourselves, that nothing will stop it – not even bony death.

For God is not some remote man upstairs who might quietly slip away and abandon us, but the Mother/Father who doesn't just promise to show up if we'll show up, but runs to meet us at every turn. In life, in death, and beyond death. Our loving God pours out forgiveness and grace upon our every breath, our every atom of being. God washes us with saving grace, and promises to hold us in love for eternity.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


fall Leaves 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I sometimes practice walking
without making noise
through a leaf-carpeted ground
and find I cannot.

I cannot walk silently.
Quiet but not silent,
soft but not missing,
and I wonder if that's enough.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My New Hero

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
My new hero is Chris Armstrong. Armstrong is the college kid who has been targeted for harassment by an Assistant District Attorney in Michigan. Turns out this jerk, named Shirvell (my new favorite creep) doesn't approve of Armstrong being the student body president at his alma mater because Armstrong is gay and is pushing "a radical gay agenda." Whatever that is.

And, with that excuse, Shirvell has gone on a one-man crusade against this college kid. He's established a "Chris Armstrong Watch" blog, where he rants against this young man, calling his a racist and a liar. He's posted swastikas on photos of Armstrong, suggesting he's a Nazi. He's protested outside student council meetings and outside Armstrong's residence!!

Armstrong, for his part, appears to have dealt with this creep with as much dignity as possible, ignoring him for the most part, it sounds like.

Armstrong spoke about this on CNN last night...

Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan's first openly gay student body president, said the recent rash of headlines about gay teens who have committed suicide led him to break his silence about his own hurtful experience of being targeted online and in high school.

"It's hard not to say something," Armstrong told CNN's Anderson Cooper on "AC360" Wednesday night.

Shirvell is a disgrace and I can only wonder how long before his life self-destructs.

God be with you, Chris Armstrong.