LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Beyond The Burden July 28, 2017

I’m going to take a huge hit on my taxes for this year.
Why?
In a word: Obamacare.

This past February I lost the insurance that I had had through my employer do to a change in employment status.  I failed to find/afford health care within the allowed 3-month period following.
Now I’m gonna owe.
The Affordable Care Act has not yet been of personal benefit.
It’s actually a bit of a burden.

This morning, after 7 years of railing against Obamacare, the Republicans again failed to repeal and replace.
And guess what.
I rejoiced!
I have actively done my part by sending emails, making phone calls and sharing info on social media.
Obamacare is going to cost me, and I still rejoice in its continued success (and much-needed fixes).

Why?
Because I know this isn’t just about me!

Good-Samaritan-croppedThe Christian Bible says
“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4 (NASB)
The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying
“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others, and if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

I know millions would have lost their coverage if this repeal and falsely touted “replace” would have gone through.  I know of those who would not have received coverage without the ACA.  There are those who know they likely would have died without Obamacare.
I rejoiced in this morning’s decision because it’s the right thing to do whether I, at this point, am benefited by it or not.

It was already clear for those willing to see, but now is pretty much undeniable:  The Republicans never intended on the “replace” part.  Only the repeal.  That’s why, after all these years, they still don’t have a workable plan.  Because, as they’ve proven, they don’t care about health care as much as they care about destroying the legacy of America’s 1st African-American President.
I believe this with every fiber of my being.

So yes.  For me right now, the ACA is a burden.  It’s going to cost me.
That’s OK.
I also pay taxes to support the school system while having no school-age children.  I pay for roads on which I’ll never travel.  The list goes on.
Yes, it’s a burden.  But I’m looking beyond the burden in the hopes that we can move forward and improve health care.
Not just destroy it.

 

[Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2]

[“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi]

[“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” – MLK]

 

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 that dont see things the way we do.  (And who doesn’t fit that catagory?!?!)

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 arrogantly proclaim “Book solved!”  I remember thinking, “WTF?”

This 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.)

 

Bono’s Message (And My Comments) May 24, 2017

[Top section is from a Huffington Post article by Carol Kuruvilla.  My comments follow.]

U2 musician Bono has spent years reading and learning from the poetry of the Psalms, a book of the Bible that contains ancient hymns.
If there’s one thing Bono has realized from [studying the Psalms], it’s that art always requires honesty.
“I would really like this conversation to unlock some artists,” the singer, a devout Christian, said. “Because I think there are trapped artists and I’d like them to be untrapped.”
[Bono] found modern-day praise music to be sorely lacking. He argued that some contemporary worship music lacks the range of raw emotions that’s contained within the Psalms.

He also critiqued the impulse to label music as “Christian,” or not Christian.
“Creation screams God’s name. So you don’t have to stick a sign on every tree,” Bono said, suggesting that just because a song isn’t explicitly called a “Christian” song, that doesn’t mean it isn’t spiritual in nature.
“This has really, really got to stop,” he said. “I want to hear a song about the breakdown in your marriage, I want to hear songs of justice, I want to hear rage at injustice and I want to hear a song so good that it makes people want to do something about the subject.”
“I want to argue the case for artists or potential artists who might be listening in on our conversation and are not giving expression to what’s really going on in their lives because they feel it will give the wrong impression of them. We don’t have to please God in any other way than to be brutally honest.”




— MY COMMENTS:

AMEN & AMEN.
I remember listening to music and being bombarded with questions like “Is that a Christian song?  Is that a Christian group? Is that a Christian record?  Is that a Christian record needle?”
I also remember things like being given a shirt by my sister that wasn’t allowed in my shared apartment because it had “Capricorn” on it. There were other completely innocent items that weren’t allowed in people’s homes.
We talked a good game when it came to grace, but bottom line is we were elitist and judgmental! And I say “weincluding myself. We thought we were so progressive with our long hair and Christian rock.
As someone else stated, either we were co-opted by, or morphed into the Religious Right.

I’m not really being negative.
We were where we were. The past is the past. It was all a part of our journey.

I AM saying we need to recognize the many ways we may still do those very same things.
And the point isn’t just whether or not we’ve changed this view or that view. The question is “Have we changed the way we approach our faith, so as to help eliminate those things from happening in the first place?”  Have we learned we can love the Bible, and still approach it in a more responsible, realistic and intellegent way? Do we have the humility, as our past should surely have provided by now, to say:
“I totally believe this, but I could be wrong.”
Sure, hold fast to the truth. But it’s time we realize and acknowledge that so much of what we held fast to was never true to begin with.


 

I’m Too Old For That November 11, 2016

My wife recently expressed concern for my safety and well-being.
You see, I’ve decided (for a while at least) to leave my “Hillary” magnet on my vehicle.
Kathleen believes that in this time of Trump-sanctioned acts of violence, I may be inviting hate-crimes against myself or my property.
She’s right, of course.
And I have considered removing it for just that reason.  Seriously, I really don’t want to get beaten up or spat on.  In my younger days I did take a number of beatings (many from my younger brother. 🙂 ).  But my bones weren’t nearly as brittle then.  Now, I don’t know that I could survive such an incident.  I’m too old for that shit.

Still, I’m leaving the magnet on my truck.  Yes, I have a little fear in doing so, but I will not be ruled by that.  Now is not the time to go into hiding.  Now is certainly not the time for anyone to stay in their closet (unless they’re praying).
No, now is the time to stand.
To stand tall, vigilant and proud.
I will display my support for social justice on my vehicle, my clothing, and any other way I can.  I will be more bold than ever.
Hate-crimes are increasing by those who believe they have the government’s blessings.
We need to stand up for ourselves, and whenever possible, intercede on behalf of anyone we see being harassed, belittled or abused.
We’ll all have to give more to the causes of social justice.  Time, or money.  Both when possible.  We need to keep our camera phones ready to record when needed.  We must be unafraid to speak out against discrimination and hate.  Especially hate that comes from those claiming to stand for God.  Yes, that’s hard to do if you fear for your safety.  It’s been hard in every civil rights movement of the past, and it will often be hard now.

We may not be using swords, rifled-muskets or breech loaders, but we are in a civil war. Hillary won the popular vote (by quite a lot, really), but Donald won the electoral college.  Either way, This was a tight race. We are living in the Divided States of America, and we can’t just all get along.  The opposition will often use physical violence.  We MUST use what author and activist Mel White calls “The Practice of Relentless Nonviolent Resistance.”  Love still trumps hate.  It sounds trite.  It’s not what I want to hear or say right now.  But it has to be.  It just has to.

Yes.  Hate won.
Hate won this battle, but the war for justice and equality goes on.
And by the grace of God, I will stand.
As of yet, I’m not too old for that.

– dave


I don’t know who put this together, but I like it:

if-you

 

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.

—————

 

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…

 

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.

 

 

 
%d bloggers like this: