LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Apology Accepted, But… April 24, 2019

“I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that.  I shouldn’t have treated you that way.
I really thought I was doing the “Christian” thing.
Truth is, you acted more Christ-like than I did.
I was sure I was right. I thought that’s what the Bible taught.
Again, I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

I’ve said those, or similar, words in the past. More than once. I’ve also had them said to me. Apologies are a part of life.  If they’re not a part of your life, then you’re not being genuine. No one is so perfect as to never need to apologize. You were wrong, Erich. Love almost always means having to say you’re sorry.
Still, an apology is not always enough.

Apologies usually focus on an act.  A behavior. A specific event. But if we don’t look deeper, we will sooner than later be right back in the same situation, offering a similar apology.
“I’m sorry I owned you as a slave.  I know now that was wrong, even though I thought God was OK with it. Of course, you’ll still need to drink from your own fountain.”
Time passes.
“I’m sorry I made you drink from your own fountain. I know now that was wrong, even though I thought God was OK with it. Of course, you’d still better not marry a white woman.”
Time passes.
“I’m sorry I said you couldn’t marry a white woman. I know now that was wrong, even though I thought God was OK with it. Of course…”

So, I finally realize a specific act was wrong.  I even acknowledge that the reason for my act was a false belief. It was a sincerely held belief. It was a belief I defended with holy writ. But like false beliefs defended by holy writ for centuries past, it was wrong.
Thankfully, I now know I was wrong, and I truly, humbly apologize.

And then it happens again.

It totally amazes me how many times someone can realize a sincerely held belief was wrong, and still be so very blind to the fact that there’s every likelihood they are right now doing the same thing with one or more of their current beliefs! How can a person repeatedly admittedly be wrong, and not acknowledge the possibility of still being wrong?!?!?

I’ll tell you how.  In a word: Certainty.

When I was a part of institutional religion, we were very fond of saying we had “a relationship, not a religion.” We would then allow almost every word of our mouths to prove us liars. What we really had was a very dogmatic system of beliefs. Our true faith was not so much in Christ, but in whether or not we believed the “right” things.  We had to be right, and we had to be Certain! More than once when I strayed outside the accepted parameters of belief, I was made to feel lesser.  And I’m 100% sure I did the same to many others.
“You can’t have that picture.  You can’t wear that shirt.  You can’t listen to that music. You can’t believe this. You can’t believe that.”
“Don’t. Don’t! DON’T!!”
“Here’s what you need to know. And then, you need to know that you know that you know. Yes, I believe in science.  But if science contradicts the Bible, then science is wrong.”
Translation: If science contradicts my very limited understanding and application of some ancient text, then science is wrong.
Deeper Translation: If facts interfere with my beliefs, I’ll ignore (and even fight against) the facts.

Now, back to the apology thing.
I’ve apologized for my act, based on a false belief.  Hell, I’ve even apologized for the belief itself.
And, GOOD NEWS, in this case, I’ve Even Changed My Belief!
The problem is:  I Haven’t Changed The WAY I Believe!
All those many, many times I’ve been sincerely wrong have never been allowed to teach me the root of the problem!
WHY?!?!?

In a word, Fear.

Fear that if I acknowledge some particular truth, my entire belief system may come crashing down. All my beliefs are part and parcel of the fabric of my religion. If so much as one thread unravels, I could lose it all!
Fear that if I let go of certainty, I’ll wander aimlessly with nothing of value to hold on to.  And for fundie Christians, the very unhealthy kind of “the fear of God.”

Look, if facts destroy your belief system, I’ve got news for you: It needed destroyed!  If having a wrong belief about God, about eternity, about Jesus; if any of that pisses off God that much, you need a better, bigger God!
Also the fear of your peers. I know people who are so afraid of what their peers will think, they avoid acknowledging truth if it comes from the “wrong” source. God forbid someone should think I agree with “that” person.  I don’t want anyone to think I’d lead them astray!

Certainty is the enemy of faith. And changing what you believe, without changing how you hold those beliefs, is of very limited benefit. And by the way, the basics of what I’m saying here doesn’t just apply to right-wingers, or just to Christians. It goes for Muslims, Atheists, Jews… EVERYONE.

I know, I know; I use this quote a lot.
But it’s just so damn good! And honestly, learning this important lesson can, I believe, even transform many strained relationships.  It’s from “What We Talk About When We Talk About God.”  And I’ll end this post with it now.

“You can believe something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief,
and yet in the same moment
you can also say, ‘I could be wrong…’
This is because conviction and humility, like faith and doubt, are not opposites; they’re dance partners. It’s possible to hold your faith with open hands, living with great conviction and yet at the same time humbly admitting that your knowledge and perspective will always be limited.” – Rob Bell

 

What Is The Bible (Book Review) June 9, 2017

what
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
More than once.
I’ve read much of it dozens of times, and some of it hundreds of times.
I’ve studied it.  Meditated on it. Dissected it.  Taught it.  Preached it.
Made it much the focus of my life.
Eventually, to some degree, I discarded it.  Dismissed it.
I’ve considered that it may be a book to be banned.
(OK.  Not really. The book shouldn’t be banned.  But many people should be banned from owning a copy until they learn some responsibility.)

How I wish I had had the eyes to see, and the ears to hear the kinds of wisdom, insight, approach, and understanding that is represented in Rob Bell’s profound book “What Is The Bible?

 

A lot of the basic understanding here is understanding I’ve had for awhile now.  Some of this was addressed in Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” But, the specific perception of various individual passages that are discussed here are really, really eye-opening.
You’ll revisit stories with which you thought you were well acquainted.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham and his son.
Jonah and the big fish.
The parable of The Good Samaritan.
The “take-away” on these stories has (at least in my tradition) almost always strayed from the real point. But, they will take on a breath of fresh air as you understand them the way the original audience would have understood them.  And we find out why Americans often miss the major themes of the Bible!

There are stories we look at and think, “How backwards and barbaric!” And a lot of it was backwards and barbaric!  But, looking closer, in the midst of this we can see actual steps forward in the evolving understanding of God.
We go through lots of passages, Old Testament and New.   We get into all the violence that causes some to pronounce “There is no God,” and others to just accept it (or even appropriate it, so to speak) and use it as a justification for their own hate.  There’s a chapter titled “What’s the Worst Question to Ask When You’re Reading the Bible?”
It’s a question that believers and atheists both ask!

One portion discusses the word and concept of “sin.”  It’s become, for many of us, a cringe-worthy word.  Here you’ll find what may be the best material on the subject I’ve ever seen.
Rob also addresses many of the standard questions he gets, like “Did Jesus have to die?” “What about all that wrath?” and (concerning Abraham) “What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?”  I LOVED the answer to that one!
The last chapter, “A Note on Growing and Changing,” has some great advise for those of us with family and friends who don’t see things the way we do.  (And who doesn’t fit that category?!?!)

I once suggested a book to someone thinking he might enjoy the unique perspective.   He didn’t read it (which is fine) But, what he did do was “analyze” the book based solely on it’s title, and then proudly proclaim “Book solved!”  I remember thinking, “WTF?”
“What Is The Bible” is not a book to be solved.
This is a book to be eaten.
Chewed slowly.
Swished about like a fine wine.
Will you agree with everything in it?  Not likely.  Can you find (or make up) reasons to tear it apart?  Of course you can.
Can you be inspired, encouraged, educated and entertained?
I sure was.  There is just so much here!

I wish every atheist and fundamentalist evangelical would read this book (and, well, everyone else).
It’s been my experience that both tend to approach the Bible in the exact same way.  But, as is often the case, many who could benefit the most will shun this book as either heresy or fantasy.  Religion has a long history of calling truth heresy, and intellectuals have a long history of dismissing anything “spiritual.”
Still, for those who let it, it can be another compelling part of their journey.  With lots of “ah-ha” moments.

I suppose once you’ve read “What Is The Bible”, that you can leave the experience unchanged.
But I can’t see how.

 

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

Some Quotes:

  • It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you by appealing to your religious convictions.  (Read the story of Peter in Acts, chapter 10!)
  • You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.
  • The deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
  • I’ve heard people say that they read it literally.  As if that’s the best way to understand the Bible.  It’s not.  We read it literately.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • [In the story of Jonah] the dude who sees himself as us is furious because of how chummy God and them have become.  He’s so furious he’d rather die than live with the tension.
  • I would often hear people say, We need to get back to how they did it in the early church.  But reading the Bible, you learn that it’s not about trying to be something you’re not.   We open our eyes to the divine invitation right here, right now in this [world].
  • When people debate faith vs. science they’ve already missed the point.  Faith is about embracing truth wherever it’s found, and that of course includes science.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • To make broad dismissals of the scriptures as having nothing to say to the modern world about what it means to be human is absurd and naïve.  These are radical, progressive, open, expansive, extraordinary stories… told from the perspective of actual people living in space and time.
  • The divine is always at work.

And, a few golden oldies:
“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.
This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
― Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians

“Eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God.
Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
― Rob Bell, Love Wins


Critical Praise for “What Is The Bible”

“Rob Bell is at it again. Love him or loathe him, the theological provacateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.”  — Relevant

“With pastoral prodding, Rob Bell helps us see that scripture is a masterpiece of penetrating subtleties crafted by ancient authors with a transformative vision for humanity. Bell reminds us that the Bible is neither simple nor mundane, but worthy of our full attention.” — Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty

“To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at times.” — Robert

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

 

Tired Of All The Negativity February 20, 2017

So, I keep seeing social media posts from people talking about how tired they are of hearing all the political rhetoric and negativity concerning our current administration.  Here’s the thing: Most of these posts, not all but most, are from older white Protestant males.  I, too, am an older white Protestant male. So I have no problem talking about this group. [Most of the younger ones are white males, as well.  And many of the ones from females are still also white Protestant.]

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being white, or Protestant, or male.  BUT, this is the group of people that are the least negatively affected by our “Nightmare  on Pennsylvania Avenue.”  It’s like when I hear white folks say “Yes, racism is an issue, but now we’ve gone too far the other way.”
Really?  After years, decades, centuries of being the oppressor; of being the privileged class, we’ve gone too far the other way because other people are finally standing up for themselves?  They’ve endured all these many many years, and you can stand the heat for barely a second.  Even when “the heat” is not being able to discriminate against others.

It’s so damn easy to say “move on” when you’re not the one whose marriage is being threatened. When you’re not the one who’s being told what to do with their body. When you’re not the one whose families are being torn apart because of deportation!

Instead of being tired of the political posts and so-called negativity, you should be a part of it!  Because, it’s not negativity.  It’s social justice activism!
If you have a decent bone in your body, you should be standing with total outrage against all the insanity that is currently going on in the White House. Vocally, actively  standing!

By now you’ve probably seen the post that goes something like this:
“People  say, ‘If I was alive back then I would have…’
Well, you’re alive now. And what you’re doing is what you would have done!”

I’m especially tired of the group that most vocally claims to speak for God also being the group that is the least like Jesus. They’ve pretty much lost all claim to credibility or godliness.

So, yeah, you’re tired of this. You’d like us all to just get over it.
It’s nice to have that luxury, isn’t it?

 

Are You Pro-Life, Or Just Anti-Abortion? November 16, 2016

I know that a great many people voted for Trump based predominately on the fact that Hillary Clinton “supports abortion.”
But,  I’ve heard Ms. Clinton clearly state that she is personally against abortion, but remains pro-choice.  Actually, that’s how most of the pro-choice people I know view themselves.
That’s how I view myself.
If you believe that being pro-choice is the same as being pro-abortion, you are gravely mistaken.

Also, if you have true concern for lowering the abortion rates, there are a couple of articles at the bottom of this post with information you should seriously consider.
You want to reduce abortions?  Well, for one thing, get over your supposed moral objection to sex-education and contraceptives.  Abstinence?  Fine.  Teach that, too.  But I’ve seen time and time again, in churches I’ve attended, children who were raised with “abstinence only” education ending up pregnant. They likely would not have if someone had taught them to use contraceptives.  No, that’s not condoning premarital sex.  It’s just preparing them for life.

Many I know who are anti-abortion, show through the other issues they support that they are clearly not pro-life.  Just like being pro-choice doesn’t mean you’re pro-abortion, being anti-abortion in no way means you are pro-life.  I, too, used to have this single-issue mentality, and it completely blinded me to the bigger picture of reality.  The more I looked at the issues, the more I realized that just making sure babies are born isn’t necessarily the most moral choice. You can’t just overlook a slew of major moral issues, ignore racism, misogyny, incited violence, homophobia, xenophobia and more in a candidate,  vote because they oppose abortion, and then say you’ve made the best moral choice.  Well, not and be consistent with your professed “faith.”

Side Rant:
I really find it odd that old friends and family explain their fundamentalist positions like I’ve never heard them.  Folks, I understand those arguments.  I taught those ideas.  I’ve been through the Jesus movement which for the most part transitioned to the Religious Right.  I’ve been a Sunday school teacher.  An elder.  A lay-counselor. A worship leader.  A co-pastor.  “Ordained” a few times.  Sure, I can learn from you, but with these issues I already know just about any point you wish to make.  I held those beliefs for most of my life.  I ate, drank, slept and lived that.  I also know that we were trained well in apologetics.  We never really considered that some of our beliefs were wrong.  And the only understanding of other beliefs we had were superficial.  We wanted to know  about “them” only to the degree we could shut them down, and “prove” how wrong they were.  There was sadly very little desire to truly listen and learn.  We knew that maybe we could have some non-Christian friends, but those few weren’t so much friends as they were projects.  People targeted for conversion.
Look back.  If you’re honest, you know for the most part that’s how it was.  So yes, I already understand your position.  Do you truly understand those you disagree with?  Have you actually, really considered their views, or just tried to find ways to prove them wrong?

OK.  Back to “Choice.”
I know women who have had an abortion. I’ve know women who’ve, after standing against abortion, seriously considered having one during an unwanted pregnancy.  Some go through with that procedure.  Some I know, after much thought and soul-searching, chose to not have an abortion.  But, for those who were in turmoil, and eventually chose to have a baby, the key remains the same:  They Chose!
They didn’t have some government mandate telling them they had to remain pregnant.  They didn’t have a bunch of old white guys deciding they would be legally punished (as Trump has stated they should be) if they chose to end the pregnancy!

Making that decision should always, always be the woman’s choice.  You may think it’s an awful choice.  Fine.  You have every right to think that.  You don’t have any right to impose that on a woman who’s going through that.  ESPECIALLY if you claim to be a follower of Christ.  (Quadrupedal if you’re a male!)
Imagine, for a moment, if you  had no choice; if the law required you to have an abortion even if you didn’t want one!
No choice.
That’s the law.
Well, that’s exactly what you are doing to others.
And no, as one dear friend suggested, this isn’t like a law requiring you to wear a seat-belt.  It’s just not.


———

Oh, here are those articles I mentioned:


The Republican and Religious Right’s focus on criminalization and overturning Roe may makes proponents feel good, but it does not help the unborn.

The states where public opinion is pro-life are already the states with lower abortion rates.
those conscientiously concerned about reducing abortion should not view support or opposition of Roe v. Wade as the only — or even the best — measure of one’s concern on life issues.
————–


Another side note:
I know you think you’re standing up for the unborn.  But (and you’ll hate this) the Bible doesn’t teach that life begins in the womb.  I already know the verses you’ll piece together, but they just don’t teach that.  I’ll come back later and post a link discussing that.  Even if that were true, that does NOT negate anything said here.

 

Now, Can’t We All Just Get Along? November 8, 2016

“No.  We can’t.”

As many others have said, this election cycle has brought out the worst in people.  It’s exposed an underbelly of America that we’ve long been told was no longer a big issue.
I can still love friends and family with whom I disagree.  That doesn’t mean I can respect their beliefs.  It doesn’t mean I can agree to disagree.

Yes, I’m talking about Trump voters.
Especially “Christian” Trump voters.
This man’s campaign was based on, and filled with racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and unadulterated hate.  A straight, white, protestant male will be largely unaffected by a Trump presidency.  But all kinds of minorities will suffer dearly.
How am I supposed to agree to disagree with that.  We can’t just “move on.”  It would be like watching a man beat his slave, and have him tell me, “Well, we just have to agree to disagree.”
It would be like seeing a public servant refuse to do her job of issuing marriage licences, putting loving couples through the ringer, and saying, “She’s just following her convictions.”
No.  I can’t do that.
She can follow her convictions by resigning from a job she refuses to do!

And let me just say that not tolerating intolerance is not being intolerant.
JESUS didn’t practice or advocate forcing your convictions on others. That’s not something his followers do. That’s what Pharisees do.

Christian slave owners were just following their convictions.  Men who didn’t want women to vote were just following their convictions.  Many who’ve inflicted torture in the name of God were just following their convictions.
I’ve had friends tell me that the only people it’s OK to be intolerant of is “Christians.”  What I actually see is that Christians are one of, if not THE most privileged groups in America.  In fact, they’ve been so privileged for so long that to them, not being allowed to discriminate feels like discrimination.  Not being able to legislate their beliefs, and force them on others, to them feels like oppression.   It’s not enough for them to live by their convictions.  They want the rest of us forced to do the same.  Trying to show them they’ve been used and manipulated, of course, doesn’t do any good.  Thank God, their are millions of Christians who are not part of the “religious right.”

So how do you just get along with racist, religiously intolerant, homophobic, xenophobic, “good-old-boys?”  Frankly, you don’t. “Agree to disagree” is not something I can do in cases of social injustice.

We can not come together as a Nation at the expense of the marginalized; the ones I believe Jesus would have stood up for.  (His greatest enemies were the “Religious Right” of his day.)
You may be my friend.  You may be a family member.  And I may love you dearly.  But if you’re a part of the problems I’ve mentioned (inherent with voting for Trump), I will fight what you stand for, legally, socially and non-violently, with every fiber of my being.
I do want unity and peace as a Nation. But sadly, as long as these age-old attitudes of oppression are alive and well, we can’t, actually, just all get along.

—————

 

Just Sayin’ November 3, 2016

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Good Christian Sex August 30, 2016

good

Good Christian Sex
Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option – And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex

OK.  As soon as some see “Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option,” they will stop reading and dismiss this book.  That will be their loss.  This is an interesting, challenging, thought provoking book.  At the same time, it is in many ways very traditional.

There is a lot of ground covered in these pages.  We explore the connection between our bodies, soul and spirit.  We look at romance novels, the “Disneyfication of our cultures ideas about love,” chemistry, desire, vulnerability, celibacy, knowing God, and social conformity.  We discuss Harry Potter, Plato, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Jerome and Carol King.

Lest you think the author is promoting meaningless promiscuous hook-ups, or “cheating,” let me first mention Chapter 8: Be Faithful.  This section is all about fidelity.  We do look at some erroneous ideas concerning fidelity.  Especially those shoved on us by religion.  Ms. McCleneghan states, similar to what I said in my “Tribbles” article, that there is a difference between lust and “appreciating someone’s God-given hotness.”  (That’s a great phrase!) We are sensual beings, and that is not in opposition to fidelity.  We look at what fidelity is not, as well as what it is.

The 1st topic after the introduction is masturbation, or as Bromleigh likes to call it, “self-stimulation.”  Despite the cultural baggage, our author states that it’s “normal to touch your sex organs for pleasure.”  Here we’re told that such activity is a “premoral good,” and “a gift from God.”  We have addressed the oft misused Biblical story of Onan, as found in the 38th chapter of Genesis.  There’s also a good quote from Caitlin Moran about masturbation being a perfect hobby:  “It doesn’t cost anything, I don’t have to leave the house, and it isn’t making me fat.”

Chapter 2 talks about desire, and how desire is “love trying to happen.”
The Bible’s “Song of Solomon” enters here.  When we stop jumping through hoops trying to pass that writing off as a metaphor of God and The Church, we can see it is a very, very racy love story.  Here’s where probably the most controversial premise of this book is stated as “Some Christians like to claim that all sexual intimacy outside of marriage will necessarily feel cheap and damaging, but many of us know that that’s simply not true.”
So there’s the main premise that’s stated on the cover.  Chastity isn’t the only option outside of marriage.
Here I have to interject.
Many of us had grandparents who told our parents to wait to have sex until after they were married, even though they themselves hadn’t waited.  Then many of us had parents who told us to wait, even though they didn’t.  Then many of us told our children to wait, even though we didn’t.  And many of our children will tell their kids to wait, even though they didn’t.  It’s like some false standard we feel bound to keep passing on, even though we know it’s not usually the norm.  What we need is good  sex education where abstinence is an option, but not a hypocritical mandate.
     Now back to the book.
“Jesus came that we might have life, even pleasure, and have it abundantly (John 10:10)”

[Buy the book.  Click HERE.]

Chapter 3 gets into ethics, and why it’s not good to keep “banging everyone we possibly can from the moment puberty starts.”
That “sexual sin is less about particular acts…than the way partners treat each other; sexual sin is about a lack of mutuality, reciprocity, and love.”  We also look at some of the differences between the teachings of mainline Protestantism, and the fundamentalist evangelical religious right that I was a part of.  (There are many “Christianities.”)  There’s some great discussion of the supposed “clear and knowable will of God,” and we look at the books of Exodus and Luke in regards to that.

The fourth chapter talks about, among other things, being single.  “God is not a jerk” is a great quote from this section.  We’re also told “If celibacy starts to stand in the way of abundant life for singles, they can rightly let it go.  Straight, gay, bi, trans, intersex: we are beloved.”

“Naked” is the title of chapter 5, and tells us a lot about being real and vulnerable.  As in chapter 1, there’s also some sexist fundamental assumptions we need to discard.  On the heels of vulnerability, the sixth chapter speaks of Intimacy.  “Through sex we can practice attention, invitation, hospitality, and the means of grace.”

In chapter 7 we look at how to deal with our sexual history, and that “there’s no such thing as a perfect life lived with no hard lessons.”  (Chapter 8 we covered 1st.) The 9th chapter is about the theology of leaving and staying.  Some relationships last.  Some don’t.  Sometimes you need to leave.  And not just for “infidelity.”

McCleneghan closes the book with “The Nature of Love.”  God is love.  Love is God.  “Sex marks us; love changes us.  So does God.”  A great quote here is “I do wish…that religious people, if they must speak of sex, would cease and desist in the propagation of terrible theology and bigotry.”

I’ve barely skimmed the surface of the material here.  I do have one small complaint.  It’s one I’ve had with other books.  The title.  I hate the title.  And that’s not because I can’t say it without hearing it in the voice of Dr. Ruth.  Maybe (as is some other cases) it was the publisher’s mandate.  Of course, a small matter.

I fear that some who may need this the most will resist reading it.  There are many others who will find great hope in these pages.  I don’t know that I agree with everything here, but that’s no big deal.  And any book that kindly speaks of the great Anne Lamott has already gained some degree of my approval.

[Buy the book.  Click HERE.]

Note:  I’ll add some more quotes later, but I’m barely meeting my deadline, so…

 

 
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