LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Dear God (The Good Wife) October 8, 2014

good wife logo

If you watch “The Good Wife” you already know why the show and cast have won so many awards. It’s just a very well written, very well acted show.
The most recent episode “Dear God” (air date 10/05/2014), is no exception. (If you’ve not seen it, you can watch it on CBS.com or stream it via Amazon.)

There were a number of great turns by lots of guest stars (Linda Lavin, Michael Cerveris, Richard Thomas, Robert Sean Leonard and Gloria Steinem), as well as the top notch performances by the regulars including the always interesting Alan Cumming.

In this episode, there was a lot about God, religion and Christianity.
Some scenes exposed a few of the fallacies of Christianity, and some showed the good.
Pretty balanced, all in all.
I quite enjoyed “secular” lawyers employing the bad, bad practice of proof-texting the Bible in exactly the same way many Christians do. You really can spend hours spouting opposing scripture quotes at each other trying to prove your point.
It’s odd how so many people use “Well, you can make the Bible say anything” when they disagree with you, never realizing they themselves are, in that moment, doing that very thing. It’s always “someone else” who’s using it wrongly.

One of the moments I enjoyed most this outing was between our Atheist lead, Alicia Florrick (Portrayed by the amazing Julianna Margulies), and her Christian daughter, Grace (Makenzie Vega).
When Alicia asks Grace if she really believes all the stuff in the Bible, Grace responds beautifully:

“I don’t know if it’s all historically accurate, but I think it can be true in another way.
You know, like poetry; it can still be true even if it’s not accurate.
Look, if I wanted you to remember that God created everything, I’d probably tell you a story about it happening in seven days.
But that doesn’t mean it actually happened in seven days.
It just means that I wanted you to remember that God created everything.”


An intelligent response by a person of faith.
You don’t frequently see that on prime-time television.

Knowing, of course, that the opening of Genesis is, in fact, a poem helps Grace’s point sink in.
I could be wrong, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that if you look in Grace Florrick’s library, you’ll find copies of “A New Kind of Christianity,” “The Orthodox Heretic,” and most likely, “Velvet Elvis.”

 

Left Behind October 4, 2014

left_BFirst of all, this post is not about the ridiculous books, movie, or the bad theology they represent.
Not mostly, anyway.
This is about things I’ve left behind.
More than that, it’s about some of those things that I’m reaching back to pick up again.

There’s a small group of guys I meet with about once a week.
We are “Comrades.”
We share our life experiences, discuss “spiritual” issues (which means everything in life) and we often are somewhat of a “book club.” Books and audio we’ve delved into so far include, “The Naked Gospel,” “The Misunderstood God,” “The Idolatry of God,” and “Living By The Indwelling Life of Christ.”

roadWe’ve recently started the Brian McLaren book “We Make The Road By Walking.”
This is my ninth book by that author.
Basically, the book is made to be read and discussed one chapter per week for an entire year.
Each chapter also contains some suggested Bible readings.

Now, I used to read the Bible every day. I’ve been through it cover to cover a couple of times, read the New Testament dozens of times, and many passages, well, possibly hundreds of times. I am, after all, a [clears throat] “licensed minister.”
In my spiritual journey out of the cult of right-wing fundamentalist evangelicalism, reading the Bible is one of the things I pretty much left behind.
I also, for the most part, left behind biblical terms like “sin,” “salvation,” “hell,” “redemption” and many others.
Now, I’ve never stopped appreciating the Bible. In fact, I can honestly say I appreciate and respect those holy writings more than ever. A large part of that respect is realizing how disrespectful it is to take it all literately, or as some kind of historical or scientific text book.

Most of the reason for dropping terms like “salvation,” and the others, isn’t because I’ve stopped believing in them. It’s just that I’ve come to better understand them, and how differently they are actually used in the scriptures than I had been taught and believed. The misuse and abuse of those terms, as well as the Bible itself, led me to no longer refer to such because I knew that when I spoke them, what was being heard by others was not what was being said by me. Sadly, that’s still predominately the case.
So I needed a clean break.
A break from that kind of language as well as a break from even reading the Bible. Organized religion has brought so much baggage and destruction that the christ it presents is nothing like the Christ we read of in our holy book. I’m still aware of the limitations of using certain terms in public.
More and more, though, people are seeing that many (maybe even most) who believe in Jesus are not biblical literalists.

With help from authors like Philip Yancey, Peter Rollins, the amazing Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren (along with many others) I’ve been able to rediscover the beauty of The Book, properly understood. I’ve been able to see that terms like sin, salvation, glory, heaven and hell are all valid terms worthy of discussion when understood as the original audience understood them. Which, of course, is not how we’ve heard them used for centuries. Well, not from those most vocal who have falsely claimed to be speaking for God.

I know people often have to set aside things that have been an important part of their lives, re-evaluate, and then see what remains.
I actually missed what we called “worship music,” but so much of it was filled with such bad theology I could no longer listen to it.
Groups like “The Choir,” and “Gungor” have helped with bringing that back into my life.
Music which helps me contemplate The Divine.
Meditate.
I’m now able to pick up some of the things I’ve left behind. But I’m picking them up with the respect they deserve by not making them into something they were never supposed to be. I’m picking them up having shaken off the garbage I was told was inseparable from them.
Still, there’s much that remains behind me as my journey continues.
Some ideologies to which we’ve given birth need to be killed off.
Some babies actually should be thrown out with the bathwater.
Some cherished beliefs and doctrines really should be left behind.
better ahead


 

The Road To 60 September 13, 2014

Overhead-Road-Sign2

My wife, Kathleen, is about to turn 60.
In about 4 months, Lord willing, I will do the same.
The last 12-month stretch of the road to 60 has been, as most of my readers know, a rough one. Next month, October 22nd, will mark one year since Kathleen was diagnosed with breast cancer. The following days, weeks and months were quite intense.
Test after test.
Surgeries.
Chemo, which seemed to damn near kill her.
Radiation.
Pills.

The human mind always tries to make sense of things. That’s just part of what it’s supposed to do. But sometimes, there is no making sense of things. Others try to help you figure it all out with well-meaning but all too often meaningless platitudes.
“Just trust in the Lord.”
“It’s all part of God’s plan.”
If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid hearing anything like “You need more faith,” or “God’s trying to teach you something.”
I may have glanced at it briefly, but I never really went down the path of “Why, God?
I’m not belittling those who go there. It’s a natural place to go. It’s just that in my journey, I’ve learned that’s usually a fruitless endeavor.

People, especially Christians (especially Western Christians) too often seem to think God owes them an easy life.  When trouble hits their world they start questioning God’s “goodness,” or even if there be a “god.”  What many of us, in our comfy little lives, apparently fail to realize is that trouble is always hitting someone’s world.
Someone’s father is dying.
Someone’s sister is going through a divorce.
Someone’s little boy is being kidnapped or murdered.
“Their” bombs are killing our families.
“Our” bombs are killing their innocent children.
The world can be, as those famous prophets “The Temptations” have said, a “Ball of Confusion.”
But, God is still good while all this is going on…
Until it’s “me.”
Until it’s my family.
My life.
Then it’s suddenly “Where is God?!?!?”

The thing is, “The rain falls on everyone.”
That’s religious language for “shit happens.”

Through it all, as one who does still believe in God, I have hope.  I have faith.  (Not that those who don’t believe as I do can’t have hope and faith.)
BUT, it’s a very different hope and faith than I was raised with, or than I adhered to in the past.  It is not a hope or faith that requires life or God to be or act in a certain, narrowly defined pattern.  The Divine (by whatever name)  is not obligated to me because I quote some magical incantation from the writings of Saint Paul in the Bible.  That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped praying.  If anything, I pray more.
I believe Jesus clearly taught, and came to show, that what he referred to then (because of the culture he was born into) as the “kingdom of God” is here and now.  Being in that kingdom is a way of life.  It’s learning to truly be one with God’s good world, rather than planning an escape from it.  In this understanding, many Christians have been “left behind.”

How does that relate to pain and suffering?  Well, I’m not sure I know.  But I do know that even in my deepest dissatisfaction (and I’m one of those who is dissatisfied a great deal of the time) I retain some sense of, well, I guess I’d call it “ultimate peace.”  That peace that I can’t understand or explain.  A peace that’s there even when it’s not.  Yeah.  That makes no sense.  That’s the point.

So, the fact that my wife’s turning 60 this month is a pretty big deal.
Making it to 60, alone, seems to be an accomplishment.  Let alone being a cancer survivor.
She’s seen lots of pain in 60 years. Some of which I have been the direct cause.
But I know she’s had lots of joy and laughter in her life.
Some of which I believe I have also been the direct cause. :-)
Next month will be a milestone.  We will discover if her system is currently cancer free.
(Yes, your prayers, thoughts and positive energy are requested.)

The road to 60 (or, at this point, almost 60) has taken us to some strange, horrible,
wonderful, awesome unimagined places.
For 35+ years, we’ve went most of those places together.
Whether in this realm or another; in body or spirit, or in some way I’m not yet aware, I’m
looking forward to the next 60 years I spend with Kathleen.
In my faith, in my hope, in my prayers we will be one forever.

RoadTo60
[Photo taken June 19, 2014 while joyfully attending
the wedding of Jean Capler and her wife, Jenny Austin.]

 

Everything Must Change September 11, 2014

EMC

Everything Must Change
(When The World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide)
– Brian D. McLaren

This is not a quick and easy read. At least it wasn’t for me. But this is potentially one of the most important books you may ever read. The is one of 4 or 5 books I would like to see in everyone’s library.
More importantly, I’d like to see it in the hands of every “young” person between 18 and 30. I totally believe the future of the world as we know it depends on the issues addressed in this book.

“Everything Must Change” is written by a Christian, predominately to a Christian audience (although many fundamentalists doubt this target audience is “Christian” to begin with). But, the issues and principles here apply to every human on the face of the planet.  And they effect every human and non-human on the face of the planet.

Some issues covered are:

* The Prosperity Crisis – Environmental breakdown caused by our unsustainable global economy.  One that does not respect environmental limits, while creating great wealth for about one third of the world’s population.

* The Equity Crisis – There’s a growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor, most of whom are growing in envy, resentment and hate of the rich.  The rich become fearful and angry as they seek to protect their wealth.

* The Security Crisis – The danger of war arising from resentment between the groups at opposite ends of the economic spectrum.

* The Spirituality Crisis – This is the failure of the world’s religions (especially Christianity and Islam) to provide a framing story that could bring healing or at least reduction to, the previous three crises.

This is another book that will help readers see how we’ve misconstrued so many of Jesus’ teachings.  Brian helps us to hear Jesus’ words more in alignment with how his first listeners heard them.  We see that we have a “framing story” that desperately needs changed.  So we revisit “the essential message of Jesus.”  In doing so, we re-examine metaphors like “The Kingdom of God.”  We consider our human situation in connection with the message and purpose of Jesus

In one section, Mr. Mclaren likens our past religious attempts at understanding to those of someone piecing together a puzzle.  We’re trying to fit it all together according to the picture on the lid.  The problem is, we have the wrong lid!

In chapter 4, a young man from Khayelitsha, South Africa, delivers a very weighty message to a group of pastors and evangelists from America.  It is a message every pastor and evangelist needs to hear.  If you’re a “missionary,” please read this chapter.  Even if you don’t want to buy the book, borrow it from the library.  Borrow it from me.  Just read this chapter.

It seems many people shy away from politics and religion.  As Brian states, “A lot of us are very happy to go through life knowing as little as possible about economics, politics, and ecology.”  The thing is, these are both the problem, and part of the solution.  For me personally, my politics are intrinsically tied to my faith in Christ.  Yes, we pray.  But then we help bring God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven” by taking action: Action that can help bring about equality, justice, and environmental responsibility.  I believe a proper look at the teachings of Jesus will reveal that very thing.

This was my 9th Brian McLaren book.  My “Comrades” and I are getting ready, as a group, to read Brian’s latest, “We Make The Road By Walking.”

If you’re someone who cares about the future of your children, your children’s children, and so on; I would suggest you read “Everything Must Change” and seriously consider the message it contains.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Quotes:

- Not only am I often unsatisfied with conventional answers, but even worst, I’ve consistently been unsatisfied with conventional questions.

- Part of what it means to be “a new kind of Christian” is to discover or rediscover what the essential message of Jesus is about.

- Many of our religious institutions have taught us to see no horizon for the message of Jesus beyond the soul of the individual.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The way of the kingdom of God calls people to a higher concern than self- or national interest: namely, concern for the common good.

- We can no longer deal with global problems as discrete unrelated issues.

- Jesus bursts on the scene with this scandalous message: The time has come!  Rethink everything!  A radically new kind of empire is available.

- Theocapitalists have tended to see the rich as morally good and the poor as morally culpable for their own poverty.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Many of our current eschatologies, intoxicated by dubious interpretations of John’s Apocalypse, are not only ignorant and wrong, but dangerous and immoral.

- We don’t have a violent “Second Coming” Jesus who finishes what the gentle “First Coming” Jesus failed to do, but we have a poetic description of the way the gentle First Coming Jesus powerfully overcomes through his nonviolent “weakness”, a prince of peace whose word of reconciliation is truly mightier than Caesar’s sword.
Buy the book. Click HERE.



 

 

Recommended Reading August 16, 2014

Filed under: 2. Books,3. Christian Life,4. Marriage Equality,5. Culture,6. Politics,7. Science,8. Sex,AIDS,Church,Entertainment,Following Jesus,Green,Health,Heaven & Hell,Humor,Relating to God,Religion,Scripture,Sexuality,Social Issues,Suffering,The End Times,Tithing — lifewalkblog @ 12:16 pm
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Every so often, I re-post this list for my new readers. So…

These are just some of the books that have helped me SO much on my journey.
They have challenged me in ways I could have never imagined!
I believe they can truly help change the way we live.
(CLICK ON ANY BOOK image for a few quotes, or a brief review.)


Velvet Elvis He Loves Me The Shack

If Grace Is True Blue Like Jazz

Holy Terror Insurrection Fall To Grace

Lies
(And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them)

Torn Image Grace (Eventually)



A New Kind
Of Christianity

A Heretic’s Guide To Eternity Love Wins Love Wins

The Myth Of A Christian NationThe Year Of Living Biblically

Rejecting Religion. Embracing Grace
(Hey, I’m mentioned in this book!)

The Misunderstood God Evolving In Monkey Town


There are so many more; Like Bert Gary’s “Jesus Unplugged,” and Jim Palmer’s “Divine Nobodies.”
There’s “The Orthodox Heretic,” by Peter Rollins, and “Crazy For God,” by Frank Schaeffer


Happy reading. Have a good life.


CHU
Oh. Recently, I was contacted by publishing house HarperColins. They asked me if I would read and review a new book they were getting ready to release. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a “legit” email. Turns out, it was. I was very honored.
The book is “Does Jesus Really Love Me?
A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America
,”
by Jeff Chu





What? You’re still here?!?!?
OK then, here’s a list of some MORE books:

The Naked Gospel

A Time To Embrace

Do One Green Thing

What’s Wrong With Homosexuality?

Jesus Wants To Save Christians

 

Persecuted? June 11, 2014

Great.
I just watched a trailer for a new film about “christians” being persecuted in America.
It’s imaginatively titled “Persecuted.”
As a person of faith in Jesus, I grow weary of this self-induced paranoia.

These extremist groups keep crying “Religious Freedom,” when that’s the last thing they want!
Most right-wing fundamentalist evangelicals have made it abundantly clear that they only want freedom for THEIR religious views.
They don’t want everyone to be saying Buddhist prayers in our schools.
They don’t want people swearing on the Quran in our courts.
They don’t want homage paid to Shiva during our sporting events.
They don’t even want to acknowledge the millions of Christians who disagree with them.
So let’s call their cry for religious freedom what it is:
Bullshit!
They’re not talking about freedom. They’re talking about privilege.
Privilege for a particular segment of a particular form of a particular religion.
What they actually want is a Dark Ages system of Church/State control and forced religious compliance.
They are as far from the heart of God as were the Pharisees.
There are Christians that suffer real persecution (including torture and death) for their faith, and these prophets-of-doom extremists are an insult to those truly suffering.

Michael Bussee puts things in perspective this way:

“I hear they won’t let Christians get married. And that gay bakers won’t make them cakes. And that they have special programs that can cure them of being Christians. And that there are lots of homeless Christian kids in America because their gay parents reject them when they come out as Christian…”

Movies like this cater to the lowest common denominators of elitism, religious superiority, quasi-faith and simple fear.
They are desperate calls to rally the troops of a dwindling and hopefully soon dead cultist belief system that’s scratching and clawing for it’s final breath.

persecutedThe makers of this celluloid dung should be ashamed of themselves for feeding these fires of self-importance, delusion, and devotion to a false and dangerous view of God. A view that is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Jesus.

Sadly, this ear-tickling movie will probably do well at the box office.  We can only hope and pray that more and more people of faith will speak out against this kind on nonsense, and toss it in the garbage along with the “Left Behind” movies and the propaganda of the Westboro Baptists.
– df



long_war

 

The Great Emergence May 20, 2014

thegreatemergenceThe Great Emergence
– Phyllis Tickle

“Every five hundred years, the church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale. Well, not exactly. But according to Phyllis Tickle, this is an accurate summary of the church’s massive transitions over time. According to the pattern, we are living in such a time of change right now.” [From the back cover.]

The subtitle is “How Christianity Is Changing and Why.”  This book originally came out in 2008, six years ago.  But, when you’re discussing events in time spans of 500 years, six years doesn’t mean the material is “dated.”  In fact, this book is extremely relevant.  I’ve seen the name Phyllis Tickle pop up again and again in other writer’s materials.  I’ve wanted to read something of hers for some time now.  I’m very glad I finally have.

Phyllis takes us back to 1st century Christianity, through The Dark Ages, The Great Schism, the time of Luther and The Great Reformation, and up to today.  She shows us the constant influence of religion on society, and society on religion.  We’re shown how the automobile radically changed community and consensual illusion.
We see the influence of Karl Marx, Einstein, Oriental Christianity, Darwinism, Gutenberg, Wycliffe, nanotechnology, family, the birth control pill, Buddhism, theology, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, orthonomy, Alcoholics Anonymous and a whole lot more.
Chapter 5 may be my favorite, and it include a great section on “Rosie the Riveter.”

This book is, for one thing, a history of the Christian church.  When you hear someone espouse a particular belief and say “Christianity has always believed this,” please, check your facts!  Truth is, there are and have been many Christianities, and Phyllis helps us sort through much of Christianity’s evolutions.  There are some nice diagrams involving the quadrants of “Liturgicals,” “Social Justice Christians,” “Renewalists,” & “Conservatives.”

Central to the whole discussion here is the question “Where now is the authority?”  The change of the base of authority has repeatedly caused great acts of violence and horror from the religious powers that be.  At one time, religious authority was in the monasteries and convents.  Roman Catholicism placed the authority in the papal system.  Luther told us the authority was not the Pope, but in sola scriptura.  Pentecostalism and Charismatic renewal, while keeping scripture as it’s base, said the authority was the “Holy Spirit” (personal experience).
Many people I know freak out at the thought of realizing the Bible is not the “end-all” in understanding God, but the real fear, the one that is always there during one of these 500 year rummage sales, is “Where now is the authority?”

Ms. Tickle takes us far into the past, brings us to where we are today, and then looks at where we are likely headed.  “The Great Emergence” is informative, entertaining and truly a delight to read.

– df

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

– Whenever there is so cataclysmic a break as is the rupture between modernity and postmodernity… there is inevitably a backlash.  Dramatic change is perceived as a threat to the status quo, primarily because it is.

- Every time the incrustations of an overly established Christianity have been broken open, the faith has spread.

- Pentecostalism’s demonstration of a Church of all classes and races and both genders became a kind of living proof text that first horrified, then unsettled, then convicted, and ultimately helped change congregational structure in the United Stats, regardless of denomination.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– No one of the member parts or connecting networks has the whole or entire “truth” of anything.

- Albert Einstein dominates every part of the twentieth century including, and more or less directly, religion.

- The question of “Where now is our authority?” is the fundamental or foundational question of all human existence.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– How can we live responsibly as devout and faithful adherents of one religion in a world of many religions? [Check out Brian McLaren's "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?"]

- One always picks up a bit of whatever it is that one opposes simply by virtue of wrestling with it.

- Thousands and thousands of godly and devout Christians fought for the practice of slavery as being biblically permitted and accepted.

- Life on the margins has always been the most difficult and, at the same time, the one most imaginatively lived.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

- [Alcoholics Anonymous] opened the floodgates to spirituality by removing the confines of organized religion.

- Eventually free time will lead most of us to increasing awareness of our internal experience.

- The case had been clearly made that the journey of the spirit did not require the baggage of religion to be a worthy and rewarding trek.

- In the hands of emergents, Christianity has grown exponentially, not only in geographic base and numbers, but also in passion and in an effecting belief in the Christian call to the brotherhood of all peoples.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

 
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