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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Cult Of Ignorance: Take 2 June 20, 2016

 

kierkegaard

 

I recently read a really great, and very important article by Ray Williams titled,
The cult of ignorance in the United States: Anti-intellectualism and the ‘dumbing down’ of America.”
You really should make it required reading for yourself, and then spread it around as much as possible.

One statement the author makes is
“There has been a long tradition of anti-intellectualism in America.”
He gives various reasons, statistics and (sadly) continuing trends that contribute to this “dumbing down.”
There are a couple of items (prompted by a friend’s response)  I’d like to briefly expound on here.

 

1st, there’s the Hate and Fear Factor.
Misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. rely on willful ignorance.  They insist on broad stereotypes, and a very strong “us vs. them” mentality.  This mentality must remain immune to facts, understanding or any friendly, intentional interaction with the “other.”  You
can’t get to know “them” as people.  They must remain a concept. An evil, “they will destroy me” idea, rather than human beings.
Hate and fear are powerful motivators that must suppress reasonable thought.
They are great tools of manipulation, frequently employed by politicians and religious leaders.

Which brings me to my second point: Religion.
Let me start with something positive.  There have been many, many people who, because of their “faith,” have stood on the right side of history.  They have stood for social justice, equality and freedom.  But, these voices have almost always been opposed by the power structures of their very own religion.
Heretics, tortured for believing that the earth revolves around the sun.  Innocents, burned as witches.  Slaves, deemed to be animals, rather than people.  Women, considered “lesser” than men.  LGBT people, labeled as “hated by God.”  Each and every case, backed up by the Bible and the bold declaration, “It’s not me.  It’s God!”
That, of course, continues to be the case today.
I, myself, used to promote willful ignorance.  I remember I used to be taught (and taught others) “If science disagrees with the Bible, then the science is wrong.”  Which, of course, is why people were killed for saying the earth revolves around the sun.
In essence, we were saying,
“Look.  I don’t care what facts you put in my face.  If it doesn’t match my limited understanding and interpretation of some cherished ancient text, then I’m going to willfully ignore those facts in favor of maintaining my “belief system.”

And, in case you’re thinking I’m just picking on Christianity, I’m not.  The same goes for most religions and “sacred” texts.


Some turn to Atheism in order to maintain intellectual integrity.  That’s a valid choice, but it is not mine.  I wish to be a part of the long, but often suppressed, tradition of voices that state, “I believe in God, and I believe in reason.”  I know some who do not believe that is possible, but I do.
But here’s the thing; I must never allow my belief in God to justify any of the ills previously mentioned.  I must never allow my belief to suppress other beliefs, unless those  beliefs cause harm to others, or seek to keep them from the same rights I enjoy.  
You can certainly believe as you wish.  Ultimately, it’s your actions that matter to me.  
If following your God requires you to keep women from voting, African Americans from freedom, gay people from getting married, or foreigners from entering our Country, then your god isn’t worth following.  And to repeat my intentionally controversial statement, “That god can go to hell!”
If your first response to scientific facts or basic human rights is “No, because my Bible says…” you are choosing willful ignorance.   Please stop thinking that could somehow be pleasing to any Creator.

NOW, mix the political “hate and fear” with the “religion” element. Well, history has repeatedly shown us how that plays out. Unless, of course, we choose willful ignorance.

 

 

Just Sayin’ June 11, 2016

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The Zimzum of Love December 7, 2015

zimzumThe Zimzum of Love:
A New Way of Understanding Marriage
– Rob and Kristen Bell

My wife and I have been through counseling.
We’ve also had training to “do” counseling.
We have, in fact, provided counseling.
And we have 36 years (more or less) of marriage.
Just saying, I know a little bit about marriage and counseling.
From that stance, I can highly recommend this book.

This is a pretty short, easy read.  Yet, there are some great truths and principles here.  There’s a lot in these pages that is relatively standard marriage counseling, as well as some new ideas.  All of it, of course, has that trademark “Bell-style” way of looking at life; a style I very much enjoy.


stickAnd, you get stick-figure drawings!
Who doesn’t like stick-figure drawings?!?!

We are given, of course, an explanation of zimzum (originally tzimtzum, a Hebrew word), and how that concept relates to marriage. Chapters 2 through 5 expound on how marriage is Responsive, Dynamic, Exclusive and Sacred.
“The Zimzum of Love” is highly anecdotal. There is a lot of back-and-forth between Rob and Kristen.
Every marriage is unique, but a book like this helps us see how universal many of our experiences are. Just about whatever you may be going through, rest assured you are not alone.

This book is written from a Christian perspective, and thus incorporates a lot of spiritual language and understanding.  The associated actions could be easily adapted by non-Christians, as well.  I can’t imagine anyone not receiving some benefit from reading this book.  I think this would be a good hand-out for premarital counseling, as well as for those already married.
I’ve only done a few wedding ceremonies, but for future ones I’m asked to officiate I will be offering this book to the couple.

Marriage has been at the forefront of recent national discussion.
Some see marriage as a meaningless social construct, and think we’d all be better off without the legal commitment and ceremonial form.  Many of us, including Rob and Kristen, believe marriage is much deeper than that.  We believe that there’s more going on than meets the eye.    More than biology.  More than just synaptic brain activity.   More, even, than what it means for the 2 people who are married.  That marriage means “more” for our entire society.

“The Zimzum of Love” takes an in-depth look at this “more.”

– dave

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some thoughts from other readers:

“The Bells wield their heartfelt words and honest voices to cheer on couples of all kinds. . . . This is a ‘feel good’ book, not because it skirts the issues, but precisely because it delves so deeply into them. . . . Married or not, read this book.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“After having stood on the cliff of divorce, I sure wish that our marriage counselor would have had a resource like this to share with us.” – Roger

“This is a book about how to people partner in life and create a special space between them–they zimzum. I’ve got a fantastic marriage, but I learned new things about my wife as we read this together.” – Mike

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

A few QUOTES:

– There are moments in marriage when you realize that some of the most profound truths of the universe are lying next to you in bed.

– Great marriages have an ease about them, a back-and-forth nonreactive, non-defensive, open, and ongoing flow in which you never stop talking and figuring it out together.

– Life never stops changing. It’s inevitable that these changes will affect the space between you.,br.

– Any thought – however trivial or fleeting it is – about who or what you aren’t takes directly away from who and what you are.

– Home is whenever I’m with you. [Recently stated by me to my wife during our recent move, before reading the book.]

– Out of 7 billion people on the planet, you decided to say yes to just one of them.

– Learn to see things from their perspective. When in doubt, assume that they are seeing something that you don’t.

– Few triggers are more explosive than the phrase “You always do that.”

– One of the primary ways you strengthen this bond is through shared experiences.

– Marriage -gay and straight – is a gift to the world because the world needs more – not less – love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice.

– It’s easy to divide your experiences in marriage into the good ones and the bad ones. We are invited to transcend those binaries, becoming aware of the divine presence in all of life.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

List December 6, 2015

This is not one of those online-generated mimes.
This is an actual church sign here in Fort Wayne.
(Only the name has been blured to protect the, well, I’m not sure.)

list

I couldn’t help but think, “What an anemic, petty and pathetic little god.
A narcissistic entity no better than (actually worse than) that fellow who flies around in a sleigh.
He’s actually quite selfish and immature, much like the omnipotent “Q” from Star Trek.

I do not believe this at all represents The Divine that Jesus spoke of.
I can tell you one thing:  This is not a god I’d have any desire to show up at 10:00 am on a Sunday morning to worship.

—————————

Q
“Q” as portrayed by the talented and quirky John de Lancie.

 

Rock Beats Paper August 3, 2015

rock-beats-paper


A friend of mine recently expressed concern over some passages in Romans, Chapter 1, that many say condemn loving, same-sex relationships.
There are similar passages of concern in 1st Corinthians, chapter 6.
I thought I’d use part of my response to him as a blog post.
Much of this I’ve said in various places, but this will make a decent summary of those spread-out statements.

1st, rather than go into those passages, questionable translations, and various interpretations, I’ll refer you to Matthew Vines, The Gay Christian Network, Mel White, and others who have all addressed the “clobber scriptures” a number of times.
A lot of that is nicely expounded upon in Justin R. Cannon’s book The Bible, Christianity, & Homosexuality.

If you’re someone who is interested in Biblical interpretations that do not condemn same-sex relationships, you can find them. Others will argue you’re wrong, but disagreeing over the meaning of Bible passages is a long-standing church tradition.  And there is, of course, no one understanding across Christianity.
(Hey, ever notice how when you bring up a scripture that goes against someone’s current belief, they always say “You can make the Bible say anything,” but when they are the one quoting verses, it’s always “God clearly says…”
Hmmm.)

INSTEAD of biblical exegesis, there’s another approach which, for me, covers it all.
To start,  I know you’ve heard the “slavery example,” but in a nutshell:
      The “church” condoned and practiced it!
      The church used “chapter and verse” to defend it.
      And (this is important) The Bible never says slavery is wrong!
In fact…

“The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner, about owning his Christian slave.
And Paul doesn’t say, ‘Christians don’t own people.’  Paul talks about how Christians own people.
We ignore what the Bible says about slavery because the Bible got slavery wrong.
If the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong, what are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong?”
Dan Savage

Yep. Now I’ve ventured into heretic territory.

Look, I’ve read the Bible cover to cover repeatedly.
I’ve read many portions dozens of time, and some hundreds of times (or more).
And I’ll tell ya, there is no BIBLICAL basis for believing the Bible is an inerrant, infallible morality reference for all of human history.
The Bible never claims those traits for itself. In fact, there’s plenty of Biblical evidence to the contrary.
If you’ve read “Velvet Elvis,”
If you’ve read “A New Kind Of Christianity,”
or if you’ve just had that “Duh!” moment on your own,
then you know, as wonderful as it is, the Bible isn’t “that kind” of a book.
It’s a divine library, written by many people with many perspectives over many, many years.

SO, in the end, the bottom line for me is (keeping in mind the Bible’s stance on slavery, subjugation of women, etc.)
even if the Bible clearly said “All gays go to hell,” my response would be (this could get me crucified) : “So What!”
“Doing the right thing” trumps the Bible.
Jesus trumps the Bible.  (In this case, Rock beats paper.)
God trumps the Bible.
And, as a final nail in my coffin, “Truth trumps the Bible.”

Contrary to what some may accuse me of, I’m not disrespecting the Bible.
If anything, I respect the Bible too much to take it all literally.
I respect the Bible too much to pretend it’s a single, cohesive, non-contradictory narrative.
And, I respect the Bible too much to place expectations on it that I have no reason to believe God intended.
I still read the Bible, discuss the Bible, and wrestle with its passages.
I gather with others and we sometimes do this together.
I still believe it to be a divinely inspired book, from which (when properly approached) much wisdom can be gained.
But many things, as stated above, trump the Bible.
Treating others justly with grace and human dignity trumps the Bible.
So, I’m all for digging into the Bible responsibly.
But there’s a lot of stuff in that book that keeps bringing me back to this:
When in contradiction with love,
Love trumps the Bible.
Once again, Love Wins.

——————————————-

More Info:
http://www.gaychurch.org/homosexuality-and-the-bible/the-bible-christianity-and-homosexuality/
http://www.believeoutloud.com/
http://www.wegiveadamn.org/issues/faith/
https://lifewalkblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/tribbles-arent-the-trouble-labels-are/

 

“They can’t all be true” April 16, 2015



OK. I don’t usually just post a link to another blog.
BUT, here’s an exception for a REALLY GOOD article by Roger Wolsey:


4no3

Perspective

 

 

Three For The Journey December 29, 2014

This is very unusual for me, but I’m currently reading three books at the same time.
Three authors.  Three different general topics.  Three points of view (at least).
Yet, the way the messages of these books compliment each other, and even overlap at times is amazing.
I’ve not finished any of them yet.  Still, I can already recommend each one.
The three books are:
Brian McLaren’s “We Make The Road By Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation,”
Peter Enns’ “The Bible Tells Me So… – Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It,” and
Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power Of NOW: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment.”

walking

First up, the McLaren offering.  I briefly mentioned this is a previous post, “Left Behind.”  My ninth McLaren book, this is a “devotional” of sorts, meant to be read at the rate of one chapter per week.  It has suggested scripture readings to accompany each chapter, as well as discussion questions and ways to “activate” the principles discussed.  It’s great for an individual, but it’s even better for a small group. (We have 4 guys in our discussion group.)  If you don’t identify as a “Christian,” or you’re not really into reading the Bible, you may still enjoy the practical, real-world life lessons found here.  In fact, Christian or not, Brian’s book will help you see the Bible in a way you may never have before. These are discussions that have the potential to change the world we live in by changing the individuals reading the book.
I’ve just finished chapter 13, which concludes the first section “Alive In The Story Of Creation.”  The material just keeps getting better and better. So far, we’ve dealt with mostly Old Testament material.  We’ve looked at the stories, when and why they were written, what the authors were trying to convey, and how these stories can provide meaning for us today.  We see how, through time, the biblical authors express an evolving understanding of God. This explains so much as we see them move from a previous view of many gods, to a view of one “tribal” god, to the God Jesus spoke of (who was very different from what many OT writers thought!). Our group has had some really good chats, complete with some disagreements.  I’m certainly the most, well, “left-leaning” of our group.  We have some really different conclusions we’ve drawn, and can disagree very, very strongly sometimes. But we generally take the approach so wonderfully stated by Rob Bell:
“You can hold something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief, and yet, in the exact same moment say, ‘I could be wrong.’”
Find out more about “We Make The Road…” Click HERE.

bible

I purchased “The Bible Tells Me So” based on a recommendation by Rob Bell.  Many people, usually non-Christians, think the Bible is a really, really awful book.  I totally get that.  But, as Peter Enns points out, the Bible isn’t the problem.  People not knowing how to read the Bible: That’s a BIG problem.  I love the Bible.  It’s a wonderful book.  But I believe with all my heart, many “christians” need their Bibles taken away.
Yes.
I said that.
And I mean it!
They simply do not know how to read the book.  And that one but powerful truth has been the source of untold tragedy, suffering, violence, hatred, prejudice, injustice  and death.  With scholarly adeptness, spiritual respect, and no small dose of humor, Mr. Enns offers a gold-mine of biblical information that is sorely needed.  Again, this is a great read for anyone wishing insight and understanding for what is arguably the most famous, and most misunderstood book in all of history.  If I was king of the world, I would decree that no one reads the Bible without reading “The Bible Tells Me So…” as a companion piece.  Of course, the Catholic tradition already has books in their Bible that Protestants do not.  So, maybe we could just stick Peter’s book right in between the Old and New Testaments.  (No, I didn’t think that would fly.)
It’s clear through the parables of Jesus, but we actually see through the entire Bible that “God likes stories.”  There’s a reason the Bible doesn’t lay out everything in bullet points.  A story does not need to be 100% historically accurate to be “true.”
The Bible has often been wielded as an object of terror. When approached and read responsibly, the Bible is truly an awesome book!
Mr. Enns helps us to quit jumping through all the hoops, trying to make the Bible “behave.”  We learn to accept the Bible on its own terms.  Part of that is admitting there are blatant contradictions.  And that’s fine, because we can also clearly see that each writer had their own viewpoint as well as their own agenda.  One of the strong take-a-ways (which many Christians acknowledge verbally, but certainly not in practice) is that “Jesus is bigger than the Bible.” The material here is fascinating, educational and entertaining.  Put this on you “Must Read” list.
Get more info on “The Bible Tells Me So.”  Click HERE.

now

The 3rd entry here is one I’m reading due to the impact Barry McGuire said it had on him.  It’s had a similar impact on many others.
I recently reviewed a book called “Notes From (Over) The Edge.”  I’ve little doubt that the author of that book has read “The Power Of NOW.”  A lot of information in that book could have come directly from this one.

The message/theme of this book is one I’ve been hearing many places, from many sources; Christian, Buddhist, and others.  It is a message that Christ also proclaimed.
Essentially: Life is Now.”
We spend (waste) so much time reflecting on the past, or projecting into the future that we truly miss life.
It’s not just that life is now, but also that “God” is now.  Any relationship I have with the Divine is now.  It’s in this moment.  It’s in this breath.
Eckhart Tolle helps us connect to that breath.  That breath that is now.  We learn to “listen” to our bodies.  We are taught the benefits, and limitation of our “minds.”  We become able to step outside our conscious thoughts and look at them objectively.  We start “watching the thinker.”  We  recognize that we are not just our thoughts.  There is a “true self,” an authentic self that is beyond the mind.  “All the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind.”  We can start to observe our thoughts without judgment or commentary.  This higher dimension of consciousness is what the author calls “presence.”
These are also principles my wife and I were taught in our recent meditation classes.  Accessing the power of now is said to be seen in the words of St. Paul, “Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light.”
I believe there is a “oneness” to all that is.  If “all” came from one God, then all must inherently be connected to that single Divine… well, Divinity.  At least part of living out our oneness with all else that is one is accessing the power of now.

I’m writing these thoughts and reviews right now from the hospital.
My wife is currently in surgery.   A little over a year ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Today, we hope that will all be soon behind us, as she is having her “port” removed. (You can Google info on that, if you don’t know what it is.) She’ll be out of commission for a few weeks, and there will be pain, but it’s still a step forward.
Anyway, it’s been a rough ride at times.  Though some may belittle our faith, and others may think we’ve lost it, I can’t imagine going through this without it.

Books like the ones listed here, or rather the paths to which they’ve led, have been an integral, sustaining, life-affirming part of the journey.  The platitudes and somewhat blind devotion of my religious past would have been hard-pressed to sustain me through these times.  I’ve often seen them fail people while the people they failed engaged in some major cognitive dissonance trying to maintain what they falsely perceived as “faith.”
I thank God for those who are able to put their thoughts and insights to paper, including the ones mentioned here.  I’m thankful for my friends and associates, of various faith traditions, with whom I can have the “hard” conversations without feeling we’re in competition or trying to convert each other.
My biggest “thank-you” going out to Divinity is for my wife.  We can’t choose how long we’ll be around for each other, but we have each other NOW.  And whether we’re living in “this” now, or a now in some other form of eternity, the truth is Now is all we ever really have.

Buy “We Make The Road…” Click HERE.
Buy “The Bible Tells Me So.”  Click HERE.
Buy “The Power Of Now.”  Click HERE.

Quotes from all three books, intermixed, more of which will be added later:

– We are in the early stages of a new moment of emergence, pulsing with danger and promise.

– Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.

– Canaanite genocide is par of Israel’s story of the past – not a historical account of something God did.

– I believe that the Spirit of God works everywhere to bring and restore aliveness.  Sometimes institutions welcomed this nonviolent spiritual movement and were strengthened by it.  Sometimes they co-opted, smothered, squelched, frustrated, corrupted, or betrayed it.

– Before Christianity was a rich and powerful religion, it claimed that everyone, not just a select few, had God-given gifts to use for the common good.  It exposed a system based on domination, privilege, and violence and proclaimed in it place a vision of mutual service, mutual responsibility, and peaceable neighborliness.

– Christians today have an obligation not to “follow the Bible” here.  For Christians, Jesus, not the Bible, has the final word.  The story of God’s people has moved on, and so must we.

– Eventually, through the biblical library, we find a beautiful new vision of God being revealed.  God desires justice for all, not just for us.  God is leading both us and them out of injustice and violence into a new way of reconciliation and peace.

– Jesus was living by a different interpretation of the old stories.  He freed [people] from both passive, pious complacency and desperate, violent action [for] something better: faithful, peaceful action.

– God comes off as a bit touchy.  When provoked, God wasn’t bashful about killing or plaguing his own people.  If we read this anywhere else, we would call it genocide.

– You believe this mind-made fiction is who you are. You would rather be in pain than risk losing the familiar unhappy self.

– Sweating bullets to line up the Bible with our exhausting expectations isn’t a pious act of faith.  It’s actually thinly masked far of losing control and certainty… a warning signal that deep down we do not really trust God at all.

– Shifting my thinking on the Bible did not mean I was losing my faith.  In fact, I had the growing sense that God was inviting me down this path, encouraging it even.

– Enlightenment means rising above thought. You still use your thinking mind when needed, but you are free of the involuntary internal dialogue.

– My decision to go through door number three would eventually come to make me an outsider in my own community.

– I gained a Bible – and a God- I was free to converse with… disagree with.. [instead of a god] like an abusive, drunken father you don’t want to wake from his nap.

 

Buy “We Make The Road…” Click HERE.
Buy “The Bible Tells Me So.”  Click HERE.
Buy “The Power Of Now.”  Click HERE.

 

 
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