Here’s some AWESOME logic for you.

I’ve been reading a little about the Colorado Catholic school that refused enrollment to the 5-year-old daughter of a lesbian couple. I found this quote in regard to the issue on the website of the priest who made that decision.

“Would that I could wave a magic wand and make all of the present struggle disappear.  I hate the fact that I had to make a choice between being loving and protecting the teachings of the church. As I look around Boulder I recognize that there is ample love all around; but there is a scarcity of discipleship.  I chose to be on the side of what was lacking.  I chose to protect the faith over doing what would have looked like the loving thing to do.”

I’m just fascinated that he makes the distinction between the church’s teaching and a loving action. The funny thing is, I don’t think he even realizes the massive irony in what he’s saying. I’m just trying to imagine the train of thought that could leave someone with such a disconnect between their life’s work as a professional Jesus-follower and “being loving”  in any given situation. At least people like Pat Robertson follow a “logical” train of thought, however flawed (in my opinion) – “God does not accept you, therefore I do not accept you.” This priest, however, clearly knew and identified that the loving thing to do in this situation would be to accept this baby girl into his school – he, instead, chose to uphold the teaching of the Catholic church. He goes on and on in two separate posts about why he made the decision and backs it up quite thoroughly. It all shows he knows exactly why he made the decision, and I’m not going to condemn him for making that choice – this is a free country, and he leads a private institution. I just find it interesting that he also knows full well his actions are not loving, and that he’s perfectly fine with that. Thoughts?

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A Response to the Pat Robertson Fiasco

I’ve been hearing a lot about the hurtful, ignorant words of Pat Robertson in response to the earthquake in Haiti this week. In my opinion, his verbal/theological reaction to this tragedy is sickening, and although I know to expect it from him (and others of his ilk), it still shocks me every time. Now, to be fair, I sent $10 to the Red Cross for Haiti aid through a text message on my phone. Mr. Robertson’s humanitarian organization, on the other hand, has given millions of dollars in aid in the wake of this disaster. He clearly cares about the country and its people, and I’m not going to claim that he doesn’t. But his words about the country being hit with an earthquake because it’s cursed, about the pact with the devil…well, the man has clearly got some underlying psychological issues, and his reaction is just not okay with me as a Christian. Heck, it’s not okay with me as a human living in the 21st century. I thought this editorial in Relevant Magazine by the author Donald Miller had some great points. And while I don’t fully agree with Miller’s comments about us all deserving death, his basic sentiment resonates with me, and I wanted to share it.

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January 13, 2010

Back in the day, the comment Pat Robertson made today would have infuriated me. Robertson essentially blamed the devastation that took place in Haiti on the idea that, generations ago, people in Haiti sold their souls to the Devil and are now paying for it. I’m reminded of a similar comment made in a debate on CNN, in which yet another religious figure blamed the devastation in New Orleans following Katrina on the debauchery that took place in that town. Luckily, or perhaps providentially, Tony Campolo was also on the show and pointed out that the French Quarter was fine, that it was low-income minorities who were devastated, and then asked his fellow guest point blank whether God was angry with low-income minorities. The other guest really didn’t know what to say. Any answer would have painted him a loon.

Regardless, Robertson’s comments further divide people of faith from, well, people of faith. I don’t want to debate the theological ramifications of Robertson’s statements, I only want to point out some perspectives that ease my anger, and instead, cause me to pity him. I consider this a more mature response than I would have had a few years ago. Here are a few perspectives that, hopefully, will keep you from throwing a stapler through a wall:

• Many controlling personalities are drawn to the idea of a severe, vengeance oriented God. Robertson must have read a book about Haiti at one point, but it lacked civility to cite that book and espouse an absurd theological idea on television, without context for both. It was reactionary, and came off as a manifestation of his personality, not his theology. Regardless, it was sadly irresponsible for him to make such a devastatingly shocking statement in the context of great hurt. Can you imagine giving the eulogy at a funeral and starting out by saying “before I tell you about God’s grace, let me make it clear that little Johnny deserved to die because he stole candy from a store.” There is something wrong with a person who would do this. These people are often, themselves, controlling. They are wired to build empires, and in order to build empires you have to get people to do what you say, and if you have God standing behind you threatening hurt and pain, you can motivate people. I’ve heard pastors pray and call other men cowards, get angry from the pulpit, yell, belittle other Christian pastors who don’t agree with them, fire people who will not submit to them, surround themselves with yes men and so on. Sadly, they never point the finger at themselves. It’s always YOU or THEM who are the sinners. When they need God’s grace, they usually confess to studying too hard or caring too much. But compassion comes when you realize, and it doesn’t take long to see it, that this person is afraid that if he gives anybody else a free will, they will use it against them. Their mantra is: If I don’t control people, they won’t love me. Psychologists see control as a response to a perceived threat. Picture an adult with an inner twelve-year old saying “I’ll hurt you before you hurt me. I’m tough. I say tough things. Don’t mess with me again.”  In religion, these leaders often project their way of seeing the world onto God. Please forgive me for painting Robertson with a sweeping brush. It’s not always true of controlling people, and there are often good reasons to be harsh and to take action (for instance, when somebody really is trying to control you!) It’s just that this is one of the understandings that has helped me respond to controlling people with more compassion. Theologically, what we all deserve is death, and Christ paid that for us. We live in the New Testament, not the old. Lets spread God’s unconditional love.

• Another truth that gives me a more grounded perspective on Pat Robertson is that he really doesn’t represent most conservatives. I come from a politically and religiously conservative family, and many, many of my friends are very conservative, and all of them would be in shock at Robertson’s statements. The media would have Robertson represent all Christians, or perhaps all conservatives, but the idea is absurd. It’s also important to let people know we think it’s absurd. So here is what the Devil is really going to try to get you to do: Hate other people. Those conservatives, those Christians, those whoever…I think we’d be wise to watch out for that, and stop it at the point where it starts.

• I’ve also found that the more I trust in Christ’s redemption to be sufficient, the less overtly religious I am. And, quite honestly, the more suspect overtly religious people become to me. When I’m with somebody who talks zealously about faith, about Jesus, about the Bible, after a while, I find myself wondering whether or not their faith is strong at all. For instance, if I were with somebody who kept talking about how much they loved their wife, going on loudly and profusely, intuitively I would wonder whether or not they were struggling in their marriage. I would wonder whether they were trying to convince me they loved their wife, or if they were trying to convince themselves. (Now that I think of it, though, some of my favorite people talk about how much they love their wives, but these are less public proclamations and more sighs of appreciation.) Faith in Christ, for me, is similar. It’s intimate. I’m more comfortable giving quiet prayers, intimate prayers. Often alone, in fact. I speak of faith the way I speak of personal matters. Of course there is a time for proclamations, but that’s the key, isn’t it? There’s a time. Anyway, I love that the New Testament is mostly intimate letters written to small groups of people who met in homes. I like the quiet authenticity of our faith. Robertson’s loudness and shock-jock verbiage seems strange and oddly uncompassionate. It felt like he was trying to tell us how tough he was, not how compassionate God is.

An appropriate response to Haiti:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in..”

An appropriate response to Pat Robertson:

“You seem angry and tired. Christ loves you. He is not impressed with your religious posturing. He really loves you. You don’t have to hide behind anything anymore. The good news really is that good.”

* I understand that many of you will want to comment on the theological truths you’ve found that support Robertson’s comments, and also on the good that Robertson has done. Regarding the latter, this was not a blanket dismissal on Robertson’s life or ministry, it was a response to a comment, regarding the former, it’s a debate I ask you to take somewhere else. Also, this isn’t meant to harshly judge Robertson, it’s meant to calm those who might want to throw a tomato at him, while also trying to understand why somebody could make such an insensitive comment at such a painful time. Lets put our tomatoes down.

* For those thinking this blog was too harsh, please understand that in one passing comment, Pat Robertson painted an entire nation as Godless, and deserving of destruction. Reports from Haiti have stated that many fled into the streets, crying out to Jesus for help. Robertson, by referencing an obscure book of unknown origin chose to prejudice an otherwise ignorant Christian audience of gullible and trusting viewers. I propose, then, this post needed to be written. I only wish more Christian leaders would speak during moments like this.

So God Walks Into a Bar…

I don’t know the protocol on re-posting or linking to other blogs, so I’ll just tell you where I got the post below. I thought it was great (and sadly accurate) and wanted to share it. Check out Peak Oil Hausfrau for some good posts on gardening, environmentalism, and living in the age of approaching peak oil.

http://peakoilhausfrau.blogspot.com/2009/06/so-god-walks-into-bar.html

So God walks into a bar…

God gets back from vacation and He sees that the Earth is in trouble. Forests are burning, animals are going extinct, and the oceans are covered in trash. The temperature is rising, the topsoil is being washed away and humans are poisoning the world with chemicals. Everything seems to be going to pot. God wonders what happened in the last hundred years while He was in the Omega quadrant, so He decides to go down to the Earth in disguise and find out what went wrong.

God walks into a bar and sees a scientist, an economist, and an evangelical Christian. He buys them a few rounds of drinks and then asks the scientist, “Why aren’t humans taking care of the Earth?”

Scientist answers, “Well, you see, very soon we are going to start colonizing space and so we won’t need this old planet any more.”

God thinks, “What a crock!” but decides not to argue since He is just down on the planet doing research. So He asks the economist, “Why do you think you aren’t taking care of the planet?”

Economist answers, “Well, you see, taking care of the planet is not our first priority. We need to grow the economy enough so that everyone is rich and then it won’t matter what shape the planet is in.”

God thinks this is an even bigger crock but holds his peace since there is no point in arguing with morons. So He asks the evangelical Christian, “Surely you want to take care of this beautiful planet God created?”

Evangelical Christian says, “Well, you see, very soon Jesus is returning and taking all the good Christians up to heaven, so we won’t care what happens down here.”

At this, God can’t hold his temper and He exclaims, “Are you kidding? I’ve seen how you trash YOUR home. There’s no WAY you’re moving in with ME!”

Bah dum bump.

For the Bible Tells Me So

ftbposter

I just finished watching a documentary I wanted to share with you! I’ve heard about it for a while, I but I finally got around to watching it. It’s called For the Bible Tells Me So, and it’s about the experiences of American Christian families with gay children. It’s told from the perspectives of the children and the parents. One of the families is that of Gene Robinson, the first openly-gay, Episcopal bishop. Another is the family of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephart, whose gay daughter accompanied him on the campaign trail. There are some powerful images and stories, and it’s both saddening and uplifting.

There are lots of places to go to hear what you want to hear on whichever side of this issue you fall on. And the documentarian in this case clearly believes that homosexuality is no more a sin than being blonde, and that is made clear. But that said, what makes it special, in my opinion, is that it’s not a ranty movie. What I love about it is that it tells some important stories from the inside of the Christian church in a very moving, intelligent and honest way. I grew up in the church, I remain in the church, and I love the church.  I’m also really tired of some Christians using the Bible as an excuse to exercise their prejudice and discomfort. The movie takes the Biblical references, Old and New Testament, to the “abomination” of homosexuality and explains their context, the historical details surrounding the culture and time frame, and debunks every last one of them as an excuse to treat people badly. The interviews are with normal families, as well as very educated people, including Biblical scholars, doctors, pastors, priests, psychologists, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Please put it on your Netflix or Blockbuster queue, watch it, and share it with someone who needs to see it.

http://www.forthebibletellsmeso.org

Hands

An oldie but a goodie. Jewel performing “Hands” in Austin.

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we're all OK
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won't be made useless
I won't be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn't steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn't ever after
We'll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what's right
'Cause where there's a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing
My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
I am never broken
In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
My hands are small I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
We are never broken
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's mind
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's heart
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's eyes
We are God's hands
We are God's hands

A Word on Coexistence

When it comes to my own car, I have never been a big fan of bumper stickers. I have had a small, tasteful Apple computer sticker on in the corner of the back window for many years, because I was so very exuberant and proud about owning my own Mac back in 2003 that I just had to put it on to share my happiness with the world! It wasn’t until last year that I decided (after much hesitation) to make the leap into statement-based bumper stickers with the addition of the “COEXIST” sticker. The letters of the word are made up of religious, gender- and ideologically-related symbols.

coexist

If my car is going to make a statement to the world, I think it’s a simple, straightforward and worthy one: let us all – with our varying opinions, creeds, sexual orientations, political beliefs, and general styles and states of individual existence – find a way to peacefully live alongside each other. It seems quite simple to me, and a sentiment I imagine most of us share on some level. But over the last 6 months or so, I’ve gotten so many derisive reactions and snide comments about it. I have to say that I’m surprised, especially considering the educated, city-dwelling individuals in question.

Now, I’m not a hippie. I went to SMU. My parents are Republicans. I’m not trying to say with this sticker that I agree with everything symbolized here – I don’t. I’m not trying to say that I find them all equally true – I don’t. But what I am saying is that we, in our differences, NEED to find a way to maintain our individual belief structures while peacefully coexisting alongside each other. That’s all. I have beliefs and opinions, many of which are set in the stone of my heart and mind. I also fully recognize that many people I love fully disagree with certain aspects of those beliefs and opinions. AND THAT IS OKAY. You don’t have to agree with me for me to love you or live next door to you or drive you to the hospital or work with you toward a common goal. I’d certainly hope that you are able to have people in your life who disagree with you on issues you hold dear, because although it may be uncomfortable, it can also be such a rich source of blessing. I am a Christian, and I truly, firmly believe that, were Jesus here, he would call for some peaceful coexistence right now – in this city, this country, and this international community. I’m really not trying to get preachy, because I have my own lenses through which I see the Other, and I know that (although I’m working on it). I’m just processing this bumper-sticker issue out loud, because it has taken me by surprise, and I feel like it’s important to talk about these things in order to resolve them.

I heard some of President Obama’s speech to the Turkish Parliament this morning as I was getting ready for work, and his words were such a relief to me. They underscore for me the reason I continue to keep this sticker on my car despite the rude comments, eye rolls and snide remarks. These were his words to a predominantly Muslim, democratic nation:

“Let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.

In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people.

I also want to be clear that America’s relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to terrorism. We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. We will listen carefully, we will bridge misunderstandings, and we will seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree. We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world – including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country – I know, because I am one of them…

…Our focus will be on what we can do, in partnership with people across the Muslim world, to advance our common hopes and our common dreams. And when people look back on this time, let it be said of America that we extended the hand of friendship to all people.”

Book Review: Jesus Would Recycle

I just finished Jesus Would Recycle, by Joe Johnston, and I wanted to share some of my favorite parts. For my non-Christian or atheist friends, I really recommend skimming through these quotes. It’s not your average Christian-living, head-in-the-sand kind of book. It’s probably the best thing I’ve read since Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It’s not the most eloquent prose I’ve ever read, but in content, it has made a huge impact on me.  I have a proclivity to wander around bookstores and see what’s there, and thank goodness that this one jumped out at me!

I’ve never heard of the author before, but I consider him a kindred spirit. Not only does he write about green living, but he talks about salvation, rebirth and the essence of what Jesus said to us in a way that seems revolutionary and, at the same time, one of those things you never knew you always knew.

If you don’t go buy this book, you will be getting it from me for your next birthday or Christmas! Here are some links to order it online and learn more about Joe’s other writings and ventures (he’s also a songwriter, publisher, advertiser, and music producer).

http://www.amazon.com/JWR-Jesus-Recycle-Joe-Johnston/dp/0922067961

http://www.joejohnstonarts.com/

Here are a few of my favorite parts of the book!

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*Joe’s view on salvation as a way of life: “It’s about adopting a lifestyle that will naturally save us in this place. Like everything else in the Bible, Noah’s story is ultimately about our salvation. Salvation not only in the face of sin, but also in the face of floods and whatever else this world throws at us…Everything is saved by living the life intended for it. Jesus said that. We can choose the lifestyle of salvation. We can accept his gift of healthy ways of living that can go on and on without end.”

*”A lot of people don’t realize that Jesus didn’t really talk about salvation. That idea was formulated some time after his life. But he did talk about the way we’re supposed to live our earthly lives. In Luke 10, when a man asked us how we are to live, Jesus tossed the same question back to him. The man answered that we’re supposed to love God, and love our neighbors the same as ourselves. Jesus said that’s right. “Do this and you will live.” ( Luke 10:28 ) He didn’t say you’ll get a robe and crown and walk the golden streets. He said you’ll live, right now, today, in this life. He wants us to live, not only forever, but right now. He said no one comes to the father except by him. In other words, if we’re not living the way he showed us, we’re not living. If we’re aware of our Creator’s presence in all things, we’ll naturally live in a way that will sustain us. We’ll be saved.”

*”The Great Commandment is at the very heart of our role as caretakers of the earth. If we truly love God, love each other, and love ourselves, we will be faithful sustainers of every part of our earthly home.”

*”When Jesus says, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life,’ he isn’t separating, he’s inviting. He’s not talking about himself as a man, but as a way of living and believing. He wasn’t setting himself up as a membership chairman of an exclusive club. He didn’t prescribe a way to worship or select a Bible translation we should use. On the contrary, Jesus wasn’t about methods. He was about faith, heart, intention, and results. So all he really means is that if you don’t get Jesus’ message of love in the flesh, you don’t get God. That was his invitation to the Father, and we just can’t improve on that. So as inhabitants of our shrinking globe, when waste on one side of the world pollutes the other side of the world, we can’t use John 14:6 as an excuse to shun those who don’t worship as we do.”

*”We need things from the world, and the world needs things from us. In traditional, indigenous societies, they make a big deal of giving and receiving with the world. For example, if a person gathers berries or medicinal herbs, that person will first ask permission, then give thanks, and make an offering, perhaps of some tobacco or a piece of bread or fish. So while taking the berries or medicine, that person is giving respect, and in the scientific way, we know that little offering will rot, providing a little nourishment to the plants that aren’t picked that day. This assures good harvests in the future, both in a spiritual way, and in the scientific way. But in our lifestyle, our way is to take. We take without respect for the life of the things we take, nor of the void left behind when we take them. If we pick a handful of wildflowers, that leaves a void in some bumblebee’s lunch plans.”

*”We’ve lost touch with our Mother Earth. We’ve lost touch with the changing of the seasons and flow of life from birth to death. We’ve lost touch with other people. We’ve lost touch with everything we once depended on…Meanwhile, wherever we go, the earth is giving us information and positive feelings. All we have to do is listen, be close, pay attention. Then everything will be better for us and the people who come after us. We’ll gather words and emotions and intuitions. We’ll learn lessons that we need to teach our children. We’ll see who we are and how we’re related to everything. We’ll find our lost community. God will give us what we need and tell us what to do. Funny thing is, people can’t be healed without all of creation being healed. That’s simple natural law. The healing will begin when we acknowledge the interconnectedness of all creation and let that lead us back to God’s universal healing power.”

*”The more oil we pump, the more pollution we create, and the longer we as a society postpone the change to cleaner, more efficient fuels. Everything about oil production is abusive to life on earth, so the only love in the picture is love of money.”

*”The Christian community is in a unique position to unite and motivate people and nations in this, the most basic and pervasive of missions. It has to start in the hearts of individuals, but every church also has a sacred calling to do this work. The church has the people in the pews where they can hear the message. Churches have the buildings for meetings and for organizing action. And the church knows how to unite people and set them into action in important work.”

*”No matter what we do, where we go, what we build, what we think, or what we want, natural laws apply. We suffer to the extent that we ignore these things, and we flourish when we honor them. Everything we have and everything we can make in the future – modern science, medicine, airplanes, computers, food, entertainment, and marvelous things we haven’t even conceived of yet – can all be ours only in concert with all of creation.”

*On the “problem of pain” – this one just made me giggle, and I love it!: “Are we loved? What if we’re not loved, and a flood comes along and drowns us? Thoughts like this have been ruling our lives. We’re repeatedly told that nothing’s ever good enough…But you see, we are loved. And yes, by the way, a flood could come along and drown you. The flood is loved, too. And all of that is perfect.”

*”We’re to understand that natural law continues always in everything, even the things created by humans. We’re to embrace the notion that we are of the natural world. We’re one family with the sunlight and the storm. We share the same life as the grass, the river, and the mountain. Our pain and our healing are two sides of the same gift. Everything that has been here before will be here again, and everything that passes will be reborn.”

*Jesus was flesh and blood in a very different world. He spent a lot of time walking around dry, arid plains, at a time when towns were far apart and almost everybody lived near a body of water. In his era, waste was almost unknown, because everything was so scarce. Most people were just scraping by. So if he were flesh and blood today, in affluent, crowded, fast-paced America, he’d say different things, use different parables, and probably even perform different miracles. After all, ours sheep are raised on corporate farms, and simply don’t get lost. So he’d be talking about the world we know. Not about a cruel Caesar, but about over-consumption. Not about leprosy, but about diabetes. Of course, his basic message, the Great Commandment, would be the same. No matter where or how we live, in every age he asks us to love God and creation. So when we ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’ we don’t mean, ‘What would a wandering rabbi do?’ We’re asking, ‘How does someone exhibit God’s love here, now, in my house, with my spouse, my kids, my friends, my job, my mortgage, rooting for my favorite team, being bombarded by all these media messages?’ The answer is far-reaching. But one thing’s for sure. Jesus would recycle.”