Thursday, September 28, 2017

Is the GOP Embarrassed, Yet?

Ashamed? Disturbed?

What will it take for the GOP to draw back from the ugly, racist, bigoted, hateful, oppressive, ignorant paths they are sending themselves down?

Roy Moore doesn't know who Dreamers are or what DACA is, in this day and season.

He has advocated criminalizing homosexual behavior. He has called it akin to bestiality.

He has spewed overtly racist commentary.

He has opposed Muslims being elected.

(Enough with the links, anyone can look them up.)

He holds to anti-American, ugly theocratic ideals.

He is so bigoted, hateful, ignorant and distasteful that even Donald Trump wouldn't endorse him!

Think about that!

Man, what the GOP is tailspinning itself into is an embarrassment to the world and our nation, and frankly, all of humanity.

When will God save those people?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Why Draw the Attention...?

Over at Stan's blog recently, he took on the conservative boob who said the two most important things to him are "the Constitution and Boobs." [Clay Travis, who said to a reporter, who happened to be a woman (not that it really matters), "I believe in only two things completely. The First Amendment, and boobs."] Stan criticized the guy for being in the wrong. Stan said, "She (and I) thought it was rude for him to say it."

Okay, as far as it goes. But, Stan didn't leave it there. He added a BUT. "But," he said, "I do wonder why women who rightly are offended when men are that rude continue to wear outfits clearly intended to accentuate the features men are not supposed to comment on..."

Stan (and his commenters, with him) rightly found Travis in the wrong (although, I'm not sure that merely calling his comment "rude" is the right way to identify his error...), they also shared some blame towards women who dress "wrong..." meaning, of course, wrong, by their measure...

Oh, they assured and reassured us that it was entirely the man who was wrong or, in the case of a rapist "aroused" by women dressing "wrong," the rapist who was wrong... BUT... why would the women dress "that way..."?

Craig put it this way...

"Why would anyone assume that they won't run into one of them [rapists], and be dressed in a way that draws attention?"

Stan clarified it this way (speaking in the voice of those who defend women dressing, you know, how they want)...

"Women should be allowed to ... nay, celebrated for dressing as slutty as they wish..."

So, allow me to try to clarify what seems like it would be obvious...

Craig, consider these questions:

1. Why would anyone assume that they won't run into one of them [rapists], and be dressed in a way that draws attention?

2. Why would anyone assume that they won't run into one of them [robbers], and be dressed in a way that draws attention (i.e., dressing as if you had money)?

3. Why would anyone assume that they won't run into one of them [killer atheists], and be dressed in a way that draws attention (i.e., wearing a cross necklace and carrying a bible, for instance)?

With those extra questions, do you see the problem with your approach?

Let me spell it out for you:

3. Christians wear what they want because it is their choice to do so and they should not be intimidated to wear something else because it might draw the attention of killer atheists.

2. Wealthy people wear what they want because it is their choice to do so and they should not be intimidated to wear something else because it might draw the attention of robbers.

1. Women wear what they want because it is their choice to do so and they should not be intimidated to wear something else because it might draw the attention of rapists.

It's our human liberty to wear what we wish and we are not wrong for wearing that, nor should the reality of bad people who might be "aroused" by what we wear cause people to opt for other clothes. Are you suggesting that Christians should NOT wear things that identify them as Christians to avoid any conflict? Or would you bristle at that suggestion?

You of course don't need to comment here, Craig, but if you choose to reply to this post, please begin with an answer to that question. Thanks.

Stan, I am sure you were truly thinking you were defending women and only attacking this guy, but you sure (and if not you, some of your commenters) didn't sound like you were defending women. You sounded sexist and a bit perverse.

You see, you all are saying, "Yes, it is the MAN who is wrong for saying 'boobs' matter most to him... BUT, why do women..." and "Yes, it is the MAN who is wrong for raping women... BUT, why would women..."

And when pushed on it, you said you "got" it, what the complaint was... you'd encourage women to dress to a degree that you would call "modest," and if they weren't dressed "modestly enough," then they might be sort of asking for it... of course, it's the MAN's fault... BUT...

It's the "BUT" that is getting you off track. The correct answer is, "It's the man's fault for making sexist comments." PERIOD. "It is the MAN's fault for assaulting a woman." PERIOD.

And end it there. Don't pause and then go on to sorta blame the woman just a little bit, too. Because she was "dressed wrong." Or, as you put it, she could be dressed as slutty as she wished. The commenters at this blog kept suggesting that there was a line that is crossed and by crossing that line, women could expect to be abused, maligned and raped. "Not that it's right," you clarify, but still...

I asked you if you agree with the Muslim extremist measure of wearing a burka. You all balked at the comparison. "Well, well, bu... well, NO! No, of course we don't believe in making women wear burkas..." BUT. But they should be dressed modestly, for their own sake, because you're gentlemen, in your minds and you don't want these poor women to be subjected to a possible rapist (which is a crime of power, not sexuality, you should know) or perverse treatment by perverse men.

No, you don't advocate a burka. Not full blown. BUT...

That But is the problem.

It's not that you disagree with Muslim extremists, it's just that you draw the line at some point differently than they do. But you still draw a line, because you know what's best for these women, presumably.

And that's sexist.

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.