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Does Jesus Really Love Me? March 19, 2013

CHU
Does Jesus Really Love Me?
A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America
– Jeff Chu

This book is an incredible achievement.
It may be Jeff’s pilgrimage, but the stories come from many. At this time in history, this book is über-relevant, and much needed.

In his rather brave journeys, Jeff Chu has talked with/interviewed people across the nation, from various walks of life, with vastly, vastly differing opinions on the subjects of Christian faith and sexual orientation.  From Justin Lee (Gay Christian Network), to Fred Phelps (Westboro Baptist Church), to everyday people who are just trying to figure out life.
His pilgrimage was also to help him understand how people can read the same Bible, and come to such dramatically different conclusions.

Mr. Chu not only shares his story and the stories of others, but he occasionally “steps aside” and just lets people, including John Smid and Ted Haggard, tell their own stories.
Some stories are uplifting.  Some are heartbreaking. Some are damn maddening.

One of the most unusual things for me was Jeff describing the people of WBC as friendly and warm.   Jeff actually went on a protest with them!
Still, they would use words like “fag” and “whore” with the comfort and ease of saying “tall” or “brunet.”
Sounds like they have some major cognitive dissonance going on. But we also see that, except for their trademark acts of extremism, their beliefs are quite similar to most fundamentalist churches.

Of course, there are stories of being rejected by family and friends.  Of being designated as hell-bound abominations by those who should be the ones most loving and supportive.  (How anyone can think that that kind of religiously-induced hatred has anything whatsoever to do with God is beyond me.)
There’s discussion of so-called “ex-gay” organizations. We look at the difference between “hate-based” and “fear-based” anti-gay sentiments.
We learn, too, that in Nashville Tennessee (the “Protestant Vatican”), “You can’t do anything without involving the church.”
We look at mixed-orientation marriages (Chapter 7 is awesome). And we discover the special challenges of being gay in an African-American church.

I was very glad to see a chapter on the Gay Christian Network, as well as an interview with my facebook friend  Michael Bussee. Oh, and Jennifer Knapp. She’s here.

This book isn’t just for straight Christians to understand those of other orientations.  It’s for all of us to understand ourselves. It is also (and I have found this essential) for people of varying orientations to understand each other.  Even though “christianists” have honed it to an art-form, being judgmental isn’t something on which they’ve cornered the market.  I, as a so-called “spousosexual” think Jeff’s book has the potential for helping all of us to better understand the “other.”  Just because people may share the common bond of not being straight doesn’t mean they inherently share much else.  Sometimes we talk about “both sides,” as if there are only two views.  Mr. Chu’s chronicle helps us see otherwise.

Some very misinformed people see LGBT persons as inherently uninterested in the Bible, or issues of faith.  Not true.  Some are, and some are not. I don’t believe that institutional religion is usually a good thing.  So it bothers me, somewhat, that people struggle so hard to be accepted by organizations that I don’t think should exist in the first place.
Still, I understand.
Tradition and religious structure are very important to some.
Wanting love and acceptance is universal.

If I have one disagreement with the author, it’s that America is a Christian nation. I know many people think it is. Many want it to be one. I, as a “Jesus lover,” do not. I get his point, though, when he states that “Christianequse civil religion prevails in America.”

So, “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” To what conclusions did this pilgrimage lead?
Well, I have to say Jeff through me a curve. I really didn’t see some of his comments coming. I’ll just say that I smiled alot during the final chapter.

– df

I had the honor of reading and reviewing this book before it’s release.
Mega-thanks to HarperCollins AND to Jeff Chu.
Buy The Book.  Click HERE
.

Some quotes:

– This issue is about sons and daughters, friends and lovers, our neighbors, ourselves. It is also about our freedom, our faith, perhaps our salvation.
– I doubt. A lot. And yet I can’t not believe in God.
– Christian maturity is partly about living in the tension of not knowing, and it’s okay not to be sure.
– [Here’s one from Andrae Gonzalo that many of us can identify with.] I got saved every night before I went to bed.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Nearly every relationship I had in the church community virtually stopped overnight. It was like I ceased to exist. [John Hauenstein, on coming out to his church “family.”]
– The term Christian means radically different things to different people.
– [Important!] While the anger among those who have suffered because of organizations such as Exodus makes sense, to channel it as they [often] do… helps nothing, heals nothing, and draws nobody closer to God.
– Humans are expert box builders. It’s what we do to make sense of the world.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Christian leaders have a responsibility to do image management and damage control, and that leads them to a natural tendency toward Phariseeism. [Ted Haggard]
– I stopped praying, “God make me straight,” and I started praying, “God, show me what you want me to do.” [Justin Lee]
– …Those moments…when the light is so pure, so clear. It’s as if you’d never seen the world with these eyes before, and once you do, nothing can be the same.
– I run into people all the time who say, “The Bible Says…” They never say “…as it has been translated and interpreted.” There’s no hermeneutical awareness, and you shouldn’t be able to get away with that. We are all interpreting.” [Mark Tidd]
– I searched dozens of congregations in a host of denominations. What I never found was _________. (You’ll have to Buy The Book to finish that quote.)

At the highest level, I want to live a life that pleases God.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

———————

Afterthought:
I must say, I’m not fond of the title.  Yes, ultimately it’s an important question, but it’s too “Sunday school” for the complexity of Jeff’s work here.  And the sub-title…
well, nevermind.
I just think this is a great book, and the title doesn’t come close to conveying that.

———————

Really. Buy this book!

 

The Vega, The Ghost, and the Rambling Old Man January 19, 2013

Well, we’re a few weeks into 2013.
I can’t count the number of times the world was supposed to end by now.
(Of course, this could all be an illusion created to satisfy us while we’re just being used as batteries to keep the machines running.)


I thought I should write something before the first month of the new year is over. Since I don’t have a specific topic in mind I guess I’ll just ramble.
I don’t get how some people blog every single day! I do think I’ll shoot for a couple times a month.
Yeah. Good luck with that.

58
Oh, I just turned 58 this month.
I’ll talk about that.
Ya know, I keep saying that getting older sucks, and many aspects do, indeed, suck.
But there’s plenty to be thankful for, as well.

Man. 58 years on this planet.
Fifty-friggin’-eight years.
That seems like a long time. Simultaneously, it’s like a flash in the pan.
I feel like I’ve lived a number of different lives in that time. I should write a memoir.
I’d need help from a good ghost-writer. But I know some of the things I’d include.
I’ll give a very, very small sampling.

So many experiences.
Experiences I shouldn’t even still be alive to…
well, experience.

I’ve lost track of how many wrecks I’ve been in.
Crashed into a tree. Into a bridge.
Rolled a car in front of a moving semi.
Flipped a motorcycle.  Just to name a few.

Hey! Ya wanna ride?


When I was younger, growing up on a farm, we used to play “pitchfork toss.” We’d see
how close we could get without actually impaling each other.
We really knew how to have fun, didn’t we?
I don’t know how the hell I survived childhood, let alone live to 58!

I got beat up a lot. (Something to do with having a “smart mouth,” I think.)
Still, they never shut me up.
There! I showed them, huh?

I’ve been threatened at gunpoint. That’ll get the heart pumping.

I had a rather odd (and not much fun) trip to the Grand Canyon.
(And, if I recall, the Painted Desert, Petrified Forrest, Royal Gorge, and the Rockies.)
Four people, camping gear, and a couple weeks on the road…chevrolet-vega-1
all in a Vega.
Yeah. A Vega.

It wasn’t my friends fault that I had a bad time.  It was just a personal thing.

I used to go camping. (OK. Sometimes that was fun. A little.)
I went spelunking once.  The kind where you start by slithering through a
hole you wouldn’t make your dog go through.  I can’t say that I recommend spelunking.
Sure, it had some interesting aspects. Just not enough bang for the buck from my perspective.


Fun Experiences:
White-water rafting. Para-sailing. Flying in a helicopter. Flying in little 2-seater planes.
Trips to the ocean. Trips to lakes. Multiple times sailing and other boating trips. Lots of trips to amusement parks. Trips to Las Vegas.
And many enjoyable memories of concerts (from Alice Cooper to The Monkees, to Marvin Hamlisch) and live theater performances (Like “Les Mis ”, “Cats”, “The Lion King” and “Wicked”.)

I’ve written, produced and recorded two CDs with my wife.
I’ve written (and been paid for) some articles for a magazine.
I was so happy to play a small part in bringing the movie “Blue Like Jazz”  to the screen, and be listed in the ending credits.


Changes.
A less than stable first five years of life.
Then adopted.
Loved, but grossly miscast as a farm boy. Not a lot of friends.
Got in lots of trouble.
Lots of trouble.
Seriously, I was ADHD long before they knew what that was.

I had a number of teenage crushes, and at least one long-term teenage love.
High-school dropout.
Convicted, incarcerated felon.
Late-teen/early twenties evangelical. Pentecostal/Charismatic Jesus-freak.
Right-wing. “Mostly” Republican.
Got Married.
Became a stepfather.

I’ve worked in a lot of factories. I really need to get back to that kind of work.

More changes.
Marriage troubles (mostly my fault.)
Divorced.
“Post mid-life” crisis.
Coke-snorting, multiple drug-taking, party-boy.
Trying hard to find my place.
Trying to distinguish what I know about myself from what I’ve thought I should be.
Trying to distinguish God from what I’ve been taught about God.

Grace.
Lots and lots of grace.
Re-married (same woman).
Became a grandparent.  Twice.
Co-pastor. Elder. Sunday-school teacher. Worship leader. Counselor.
Ex-co-pastor. Ex-elder. Ex-Sunday-school teacher. etc.
(Still a pastor and a counselor in a more “real-world,” organic kind of way.)
Ex-member of institutional religion.
Left-wing. “Mostly” Democrat.

Speaking of leaving the IC:
I tried hard to maintain some of the relationships I had there. Sadly, no one was really interested. Religion can so entwine some people that, to them, leaving a man-made organization constitutes leaving the friendship.
There was one man at the institution I used to attend who, I have no doubt, would have remained a close friend to this day, had he not already transitioned to the next part of eternity.

So, I went a few years without much positive social interaction. Recently that changed when I associated myself with a group called “Lifetree Café.” It’s a conversation cafe, which I’ve hosted a number of times.
We’re currently on hiatus.
A few friendships evolved out of that, as well as a 4-man discussion group/book club.

58 years.
So many changes.

Philosophical.
  World-view.
    Religious.
      Spiritual.
        Social.
          Political.

All of those areas of my life have seen more change in the last 3 to 8 years than I would have imagined or thought possible.
good-newsI’ve been freed of much of the horrible theology I used to accept and promote.
I learned that the “Good News” really is good.
I was pretty young in life when I was “born-again/saved/converted/came to know Christ,” or whatever you wish to call that form of spiritual awakening. I used to think that during all of the “troubles” I’ve mentioned that I somehow lost that “salvation.” A couple of the more important revelations in my life were, first of all “salvation” is not primarily about what happens after this life, and secondly, I couldn’t disconnect from God if I wanted to.
Ignore God; live out of selfishness and greed; Yes. But be separated from God; never.

2012 saw me more politically engaged than I have ever been, financially and actively.
This engagement was, for me, simply an extension of my faith and of my love for God.
I won’t go into much detail here because I’ve explored many of those issues throughout this blog.


Sexual/Spiritual healing.
I’ve learned to accept myself the way I am wired as a sexual being.
(If you haven’t already done so, you can read more about that aspect in my “Tribbles” article.)
I’ve learned to reconcile my sexuality with my faith, and with my life as a happily married man, without having to deny, dislike, or fight that inner part of my soul.

My wife, Kathy, is truly the best part of my life. I don’t recommend divorce as an avenue for making your marriage better, but it seemed to help us. I’ve now spent much more of my life with her than without her. Neither of us, of course, are the people we originally said “I do” with. We’ve grown together, and evolved together in amazing and unbelievable ways.
Sidelight: I can’t imagine spending all those years together – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, and all the in between – while being told that our love wasn’t worthy of being called a marriage just because it was looked down upon by someone else.
Tragic.

Onward.
58 years, so far.
Sometimes I wish I knew how much time is left on my clock. Sometimes I’m glad I don’t know.
Some nights I call it a draw.”
One day at a time. Despite what we may try to believe, there’s really no other option. (That doesn’t seem to stop me from often borrowing tomorrow’s troubles.)

Kathy and I are discussing our retirement plans. We know we won’t be living high-on-the-hog, but we figure we should be modestly financially stable. We may still need part-time jobs, unless we retire in another country. That’s a real possibility.

I hope, in retirement, to spend more time volunteering for causes I support.
I have a deep desire to do at least one more CD.
I’d like more opportunities to put my multiple counseling studies to good use as I continue to “pastor.”
And maybe someday, I’ll connect with that ghost-writer.

– df
.                                                                             .  ghost-writer

 

TORN November 23, 2012

Image


TORN
Rescuing The Gospel From The Gays-Vs-Christians Debate.
– Justin Lee

I’ve read a number of books and articles concerning “gays-vs-Christians.”  (I found Mel White’s “Holy Terror” to be very informative.)

Anyway, when I heard that Justin Lee was writing a book about the subject, I thought “Well. That’s nice.”

I figured it would be an OK book.  I mean, I’m a fan and promoter of his ministry. Still, with all I’ve read, I didn’t really expect anything, well, “special.”

Let me say now, this book is special.

I read one reviewer who said that, much of the time, it was like he was reading his own story.  There are strong marked differences between Justin’s story and mine.  Still, there is much here to which I can relate.

This is an incredibly intimate, raw, real testimony of an amazing young man (nicknamed “Godboy” as a youth) who’s heart for God is primary to his being. [The Force is strong in this one.]

“Torn” is a memoir, but it’s more than that.  It’s also an expose on misinformation.  And, it’s a call, not to arms, but to peace.  It’s written, not with animosity, but with truth spoken in love.  Love towards those whom, greatly due to a lack of understanding, continue to cause damage, oppression, and heartache to God’s LGBT children.

We’re told many personal stories.  If this were a work of fiction, the first chapters of “Torn” would be considered “character development ”  It’s like we really get to know Justin.  He tells us of his realization of being gay, coming out to family and friends, the rejection and hostility from those who should be providing help and support, and later, his experience with the ex-gay movement ( a movement with which I also have first-hand knowledge.)

Speaking of which…

If I have one “fault” to find in “Torn,” it’s that, while discussing the “ex-gay” myth, Justin more than once mentions gay men stuck in “straight” marriages they are not happy with.
That’s fine.  It’s a common occurrence.
But he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there are those who,  while reconciled with and accepting of their same-sex attractions, are happily married and genuinely sexually attracted to their opposite-sex spouse, with that spouse being the only opposite-sex attraction.  [Many may fall into the EXex-gay category.]  Yes, these are a minority within a minority, but I’m finding there are more than one might expect.

Moving on.

In the 5th chapter, “Why Are People Gay,” the theories, research and science of why people are gay is addressed.  If you’ve never really looked at the facts that we have (and what we don’t have) this is good introductory material.

In the mid 70’s, someone in our youth group would jokingly say to another, “You know the way you are?  Quit being that way!”
In the chapter “South Park Christians” we examine the reality of that flawed philosophy.  We see that all too often, Christians end up imitating Job’s “comforters” rather that Christ.  Sometimes, sadly, a Christian friend is the last person you can trust.  Well-meaning people, generally loving people, can sow seeds of discord and hate when they think they know things that they really don’t know.

At one point, Justin discovers “The Other Side,” and gets to see what the “party” life is like for many gays.  The thing is, gay or straight, that kind of life is a dangerous road.  It’s a life that Justin knows simply doesn’t mesh with his belief system.

In “Back to the Bible,” we examine the historical, cultural, and “translational” context of the so-called “clobber passages” which some Christians are so anxious to quote (misquote).  Mr. Lee is by no means the first to offer this study, but I must say his presentation is one of the best I’ve read.  Again, his love of God and commitment to truth shine through.

We glean truth from “The Princess Bride, and later from “Fiddler On The Roof.”   Justin quotes from Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” which is a book I also highly recommend.  (Actually, I used that to teach a Sunday School class years ago.  It was that book that provided one of the first steps that led to my “coming out” of right-wing fundamentalism.)
Justin is also honest enough to show that he, too, is not immune to stereotyping the “other.”

There are many insights that Justin gives on how to relate gay friends and family members; material very much needed in the evangelical community.
We’re given suggestions on how to create a better world and “see the church become what God has called her to be.”

One very important factor to remember here is that Justin was not sexually active.  He was not looking for any justification of his actions.  He did and does believe in committed, monogamous relationships.  He was seeking God for whatever God wanted of him, no matter where that would lead.   You’ll be hard pressed to find a more “Bible-based,” Christ-centered approach to the subject matter than you’ll find in “Torn.”

As you read “Torn,” and as Mr. Lee shares from his heart and life, one of two things, I think, will happen:
Either your heart will soften, or it will harden.  I can’t imagine it would remain unchanged.

I check my blog stats often, so I know I have had hundreds of readers from all over the globe.  Most of them, of course, I’ve never met.  Many are now facebook “friends.”  I’ve no idea how many “non-virtual” friends or family members read my writings.  But to all reading now, near and far, known and unknown, if you ever considered reading a book I recommend, make “Torn” that book.
Wherever you stand on gay equality, or the Christian/gay “debate,” if you’ve the slightest interest in having an informedrational discussion of the subject, if you honestly seek understanding, if you want to be a part of reconciliation instead of alienation, you owe it to yourself, and really, to the gay and lesbian friends and family you may not even know you have, to read “Torn.”
I ask you, I encourage you, I implore you, please, read this book.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


“The most important book I’ve read in years.” – Rachel Held Evans

“This is the book that every Evangelical, Charismatic, and Roman Catholic Christian should read on the question of homosexuality.” – Brian D. McLaren

“This book is full of three things that are not always much in evidence in our debates on sexuality; fresh air, common sense and manifest love of Christ.” – Dr. Rowan Wilson, Archbishop of Canterbury

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


A few quotes:


– Though none of them knew it, they were talking about me.  Laughing at me.  condemning me.  And it was getting to me.

– Dialogue means we must set aside our own prejudices and language preferences for the sake of communication…
gracious dialogue is hard for a lot of people.  It feels wishy-washy to them.

– The church’s “antihomosexual” reputation isn’t just a reputation for opposing gay sex or gay marriage; it’s a reputation for hostility to gay people.

– Because of the way Jesus read and applied Scripture, I could no longer justify condemning a loving, committed, Christ-centered relationship based solely on gender.

– More than anything in the world, I wanted to represent my God well, and I prayed every day for the opportunities to do so.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Some parents have kicked their kids out, disowned them, and written them out of their wills.  Some have even told their kids they wished they were dead.

– Gay…straight…bi-sexual…These words don’t tell us anything about the person’s behaviors, beliefs, or plans for the future; they only tell us to whom the person is generally attracted.

– I believe our goal should be truth, not ideology.

– Outsiders say our hostility toward gays–not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals–has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith. (Kinnaman/Lyons in “unChristian”)

– I knew things were going to be okay.  And God was going to be with me.  The church, however, was another matter.

– A little information can alter our entire understanding of a situation.

– No one wanted to wait tables on Sundays…[Christians were] usually the most demanding, and they’re always the worst tippers…
if you see your table praying before a meal, you can mentally subtract a third from your tip.  [To see how this relates to the subject matter, Buy the book.  Click HERE.]

– So when Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, it was a big deal.  Here he was, claiming to represent God, and yet he wasn’t even following one of the most important of all God’s commandments.

– The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ.  Christ did not come to lead us to the law…
everything in the Bible points to Jesus.

– What if we were turning people away from God by misapplying the Bible?

– It is possible to live in loving, Christian community in the midst of significant theological disagreements.

– Stephen Covey reminds us…”seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  We can’t skip the first step in order to get to the second.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Related Links:

Through My Eyes

GCN Online Teaching Videos

For The Bible Tells Me So

A Time To Embrace

Fall To Grace

Give A Damn: Faith

For some of my related experience, read

Tribbles

and

Here I Am

 

The Secret Message of Jesus September 28, 2012



“What if the core message of Jesus has been unintentionally misunderstood or intentionally distorted”


The Secret Message of Jesus:
Uncovering The Truth That Could Change Everything



Yet another powerhouse of insights from Brian McLaren!
Reading books like this make one amazed at how far off track “Christianity” really has become.
Reading books like this also give one hope for getting back on track.
Of course, we’ve lost much of what the original audience understood, but there was a lot that they didn’t readily understand either.
Jesus predominantly taught in parables, rather than outlines and bullet-points. And he almost always answered a question with a question. Not the best choice if your goal is to communicate facts.  It is, however, the perfect choice if the goal is interactive relationship.

I’m not going to give a chapter by chapter review here, but I will tell you about a few of them.

Let me start toward the end with a “bonus chapter” called “The Prayer of the Kingdom.”
This is a wonderful exploration of what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  It really puts the words of Jesus into context, giving then a fresh vitality, and making them as relevant as ever.  It frees this prayer from being just a repetitive tradition, and helps us see its truly revolutionary nature.  Understanding the proper applications of this prayer, we see it as a crucial part of Jesus’ “secret” message.

Chapters 19 and 20 view “The Future of the Kingdom,” and “The Harvest of the Kingdom.”  We find out the true purpose of the “warnings and promises” of the prophets.  There’s talk of the book of Revelation, and how “neither the Bible nor the teachings of Jesus are intended to give us a timeline of the future.”  We also gain a new perspective of the “harvest” metaphor which Jesus employed.

Early on, we look at “The Political Message of Jesus.”  So much of Jesus’ speech used terminology to directly address and refer to the political (and religious) structure of his day.”  Brian believes that the message of Jesus “has  everything to do with public matters in general and politics in particular.”  One of the interesting tidbits here is that Roman emperors would send out messengers to announce their “good news,” and proclaim that “Cesar is Lord.”  Again, we miss so many of the pertinent references that Jesus’ audience readily understood.  We also realize that “the Jewish people probably felt about their occupiers the way Palestinians generally feel today about the Israelis.”

“The Jewish Message of Jesus” reminds us that Jesus was a Jew.  To understand his message, we must understand the Jewishness of his message.  The Jewish people said very little about any kind of afterlife.  Their concern was how we act in this life.
They did expect the Messiah to set up a kingdom here and now, in this life.  They just were not aware of the kind of kingdom he was going to establish.  It wasn’t the dominionist theocracy of church and state they expected.
Another way He tried to set them free from many of their misconceptions was through his “You’ve heard it said…But I say to you” speech.

In “The Medium of the Message” we see the power of the parable.

“The Open Secret” shows us how “the message of the Christian church became a different message entirely from the message of Jesus.”  This chapter also looks at “Christianity” vs. “Paulianity,” and whether or not there really is any substantial conflict between the two.

With “The Language of the Kingdom” we discover the urgent political, religious, and cultural electricity that charged the language Jesus spoke with.  It was then “contemporary and relevant; today, it is outdated and distant… If Jesus were alive today, I am quite certain he wouldn’t use the language of kingdom at all.”

Elsewhere in McLaren’s book we rethink the meaning of “repent.”
We observe the “sad adventure in missing the point” that the church has taken.
We learn to “abandon the bad idea that some people are ‘clergy’ and others are ‘laity.'”

All in all, the secret message of Jesus wasn’t intended to be kept secret.  It has been lost, suppressed, distorted, and misunderstood for (as we read in appendix 1) a variety of reasons.

Ultimately, we are challenged with what kind of lives shall we then live.
Will we keep the secret, or be part of the reality it was meant to bring about?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

——

From the product description:

In The Secret Message of Jesus you’ll find what’s at the center of Brian’s critique of conventional Christianity, and what’s at the heart of his expanding vision. In the process, you’ll meet a Jesus who may be altogether new to you, a Jesus who is…

Not the crusading conqueror of religious broadcasting;
Not the religious mascot of partisan religion;
Not heaven’s ticket-checker, whose words have been commandeered by the church to include and exclude, judge and stigmatize, pacify and domesticate.
——

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

SOME QUOTES:

– Each of us not only prays, “May your kingdom come,” but we also become part of the answer to that prayer in our sphere of influence.

– The secret message of Jesus has far-reaching implications for the widest range of subjects — from racism to ecology, from weapons proliferation to terrorism, from interreligious conflict to destructive entertainment, from education to economics, from sexuality to art, from politics to technology, from liturgy to contemplation.

– We are invited to begin living now the way everyone will someday live in the resurrection, in the world made new…[a future] that has in some way, through Christ’s resurrection, been made present and available now.

– God’s ultimate dream: Not the destruction of this creation, but the destruction of dominating powers that ruin creation.

– What if Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion–but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– What’s crazy is thinking, after all these millennia, that hate can conquer hate, war cure war, pride overcome pride, violence end violence, revenge stop revenge, and exclusion create cohesion.  The kingdom of God never advances by or through war or violence.
(For a really good example of the futility of revenge, and the myth of redemptive violence,  Check out “The Hatfields and McCoys.”  One top-notch mini-series.)

– The [prophet’s] purpose is not to tell the future but to change it.

– Trying to read [Revelation] without understanding its genre (Jewish apocalyptic) would be like watching Star Trek thinking it was a historical documentary.

– I think of Jesus in his parables.  He seems more interested in stirring curiosity than in completely satisfying it.

– This idea — that the kingdom of God is about our daily lives, about our way of life — may lie behind the tension people feel between the words religious and spiritual.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The Greek phrase John uses for “eternal life” literally means “life of the ages… a higher life that is centered in an interactive relationship with God and with Jesus.

– But the kingdom of God raises the level of discourse to a higher plane entirely.

– Faith that counts, then, is not the absence of doubt; it’s the presence of action.

– Church and state with their sacred theologies and ideologies, like all other human structures of this world, will – given the chance – execute God so they can run their own petty kingdoms.

– The church no longer saw the demonic as lodged in the empire, but in the empire’s enemies.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There has to be a third way that is different from permissive, naive inclusiveness and hostile, distrustful exclusion.
Purposeful inclusion [is when the kingdom of God] seeks to include all who want to participate in and contribute to it’s purpose, but it cannot include those who oppose it’s purpose. To be truly inclusive, the kingdom must exclude exclusive people; to be truly reconciling, the kingdom must not reconcile with those who refuse reconciliation, to achieve its purpose of gathering people, it must not gather those who scatter.Buy the book.  Click HERE.


 

Here I Am August 2, 2012

[“This post is now part of the July 2015 synchroblog that invited bloggers to write about “Gay Marriage”.]

Never. Never in a million years would I have imagined being anything resembling a gay-rights activist. Never a God-worshiping, Jesus-loving gay-rights activist. Yet, here I am.

If we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that religious fundamentalists have rather consistently opposed the heart of God. From the crucifixion, to the stoning of the saints. From the crusades, to the Salem witch-hunts, to slavery and racism, to the oppression of women, to the opposition of marriage equality and gay rights.
The organized church has repeatedly been on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of truth.
Yet the lessons go unheeded, and history continues to repeat itself. The unimaginable cruelty, torture, oppression, and even bloodshed and death have always been justified with “Chapter and Verse.” The Bible and a bloody sword, one in each hand. Using the name of God, but being farther from God than the east is from the west. No matter how much people recognize that the Bible has been falsely used in the past, it’s always “Well, we’re not doing that this time.”
Yeah.
That’s what “they” said.

There is a civil war in this country. I don’t use those words lightly. We were once split between slave owners, and those who sought equality for all. We are again split in fight for equality.  And once more, sadly, it is brother against brother, and sister against sister. Often with both sides praying to God for victory.
Despite the rhetoric, this has nothing to do with “free speech,” anymore than having separate drinking fountains was a matter of free speech.  This is a matter of equality in a multi-culture, multi-religion nation.
To paraphrase Senator Jamie Raskin, “People put their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution.  They don’t put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.” I fear the horrors that await if those who believe this is a “Christian” nation have their way. So, here I am. Taking my stand for marriage equality, and LGBT equality in general.

I’m one of those who, as a former fundamentalist, knows the issue from multiple viewpoints.  I know the faulty arguments and misuse of scripture because I used to preach and teach them.
Some friends have been lost.  Some bridges burned.
Accusations of deceiving and being deceived.
I’m sure there will be more of the same. (As an Ex ex-gay, in a mixed-orientation marriage, I get flack from “fundamentalists” on both sides of the isle.)

Mel White has said “Becoming an activist is simply a matter of putting love into action.”  For me, that’s easier said than done.  But being silent is not an option. I’m surprised at where life has taken me; at where the journey has led.  But it is what it is.  By the grace of God and the strength of Christ, I will continue to speak out against this religiously induced injustice.  I will make my small contribution.

Standing with my LGBT brothers and sisters, Here I am.

—————— Additional resources:
More About My Journey           The Gay Christian Network    / Fair Talk /
          Freedom Indiana   /   Give A Damn / Indiana Equality   /   Holy Terror / Human Rights Campaign /   Crazy For God / A Time To Embrace / Fall To Grace   / For The Bible Tells Me So / Through My Eyes /

 

Holy Terror July 14, 2012


“Becoming an activist is simply a matter of putting love into action.”

Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tells Us to Deny Gay Equality
– Mel White
———–

Essential Reading!
This is another “I-wish-I-could-make-everyone-read-it” book.

“Holy Terror” contains vital recent past history, chronicling  and exposing the war on America by the religious right.  The material here isn’t conjecture, or hyped partial-truths.  This book is written by an “insider.”
Mr. White was a significant player in fundamentalist evangelical circles.  And for a time, he bought into the lies.
He knew, and worked with people like Billy Graham,  Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and Pat Robertson.

Mel White knows of what he speaks!  And what he speaks of is some very, very scary stuff!
We learn of secret meetings, political agendas, manipulation of the masses, and very “un-Christ-like” power-plays of this sect that wishes to control and conform the entirety of America into their own image.

There’s a story of how Mel was hired to ghost-write a book for Pat Roberston, and Pat wouldn’t even take the time to read it. Yet, there he was at a book signing, autographing a book with his name on it, not knowing what was actually in it.

There’s also information about how President Bush actually sought approval from James Dobson on who to appoint to office!!

Part of the book descriptions have this to say:

—-
“The Reverend Mel White, a deeply religious man who sees fundamentalism as “evangelical Christian orthodoxy gone cultic,” believes that it is not a stretch to say that the true goal of today’s fundamentalists is to break down the wall that separates church and state, superimpose their “moral values” on the U.S. Constitution, replace democracy with theocratic rule, and ultimately create a new “Christian America” in their image. White’s new book, Holy Terror, is a wake-up call to all of us to take heed.

White is singularly qualified to write this exposé of the Christian Right because he himself was a true believer who served the evangelical movement as pastor, professor, filmmaker, television producer, author, and ghostwriter. As he writes, “These are not just Neocons dressed in religious drag. These men see themselves as gurus called by God to rescue America from unrighteousness. They believe this is a Christian nation that must be returned forcibly to its Christian roots.”
—-

The section “Idolatry:  The Religion Of Fundamentalism”  should be a “must-read” for Christians everywhere.
It covers “God As Idol” (some GREAT insights here), “The Bible As Idol” (which I’ve covered in a number of other posts), “The Family As Idol” (focus on the Dobson), and “The Nation As Idol” (also see “The Myth of a Christian Nation).

Later we look at “Fascism: The Politics Of Fundamentalism.”  We’re shown the frightening similarities between what’s going on in America, and the way religion and the Bible were used by Hitler to deceive the masses and rally the troops. The “14 identifying characteristics of fascism” are disturbingly similar to fundamentalist Christianity!

Then, in Part Four of the book, we discuss ways to resist fundamentalism. Chapter’s 8 and 9 analyze how to reclaim our progressive political and moral values.
In the section on moral values, we look at the Old Testament prophets and the teachings of Jesus. There’s lots of scripture in this section. We see again how fundamentalists, like the Pharisees, major on the minors, while ignoring or dismissing the real meat of the Bible and of Jesus’ teachings.
While fundamentalists want to “reclaim America,” what’s really needed is to reclaim Christianity from the fundamentalists.

Finally, there’s “Discovering Soul Force.” We look at the examples of Martin Luther King Jr., and Ghandi as we discover the power of non-violent resistance (also known as “Christian Love”) which Jesus taught and lived. It can be, or rather is, very hard to not hate the haters. I see a lot of hater hating these days. It is understandable. But this portion of Mel’s book really helped me remember that love conquers hate. We also see that loving one’s enemies doesn’t mean rolling over and playing dead. It’s not violence or passivity. It is a third way.
[In relationship to that, check out the last paragraph of this previous post: Click HERE. ]

As a gay Christian, Mr. White does focus on the dangers of the religious right in their war against homosexuals, BUT these dangers are a threat to us ALL! History has has shown us the horrific results of the marriage between church and state.
The torture.
The intimidation.
The outright murder.
All in the name of God. That is the direction to which many fundamentalists are trying to take us.
As the famous phrase goes, “The Christian right is often neither.”

The original version of this book came out (pun intended) in 2006, and we’ve seen this disease of religious control and manipulation spread even more since the book was written. Some of our current politicians think that their interpretation of the Bible should be the literal rule of the land for all of our blessedly diverse culture.

I echo the previous statement that this book sounds the alarm, and should be a wake-up call for those who value all American’s rights.

– df

[“Holy Terror is the paperback version of the previously released hard-cover “Religion Gone Bad.”  This book does have some new material, and is a great book to buy multiple copies of, and pass on to others!]

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Check out the organization SOULFORCE. Click HERE.

—-

Read another review at Canyonwalker Connections. Click HERE.

“I strongly encourage Christians who are befuddled as to why we seem to have lost the message of the Gospel and have witnessed the Good News twisted into a Declaration of War to read ‘Holy Terror.’”
– Kathy Baldock

“Many anti-gay Christians I know are good people. But too often good people do bad things. I think in the end we are in a fast-moving world. Just read Mel White’s “Holy Terror” and you’ll get a quick, full understanding what is really going on under the sugar coated veneers of the Tony Perkins/Maggie Gallagher’s smiles.”
– Mitchell Gold

“I think this may be one of the most important books I have ever read.”
– Sharon

“A demanding and documented account of what happens when fanatical religion and fascistic politics merge an provide religion that simply can only be called terrorism.”
– Ric

—-


QUOTES FROM “HOLY TERROR”:

– The Bible is not a book of magic. It’s a book of mystery. You can’t just quote verses that support your prejudices or guarantee your health, wealth, and happiness and demand that God “follow through” as promised. God is not limited to the words of Scripture. God is still speaking.

– Fundamentalist Christians are my sisters and brothers, my family and friends, my oldest colleagues and coworkers. But I fear their love for the nation has become an obsession to reshape it in their own image.

– Like the people of Israel who created a golden calf to represent God while Moses was away, fundamentalist Christians have built their own idols to represent God until Jesus returns.
The religion of fundamentalism is idolatry.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Fundamentalist Christianity is not just a threat to lesbians and gays, but to all Americans who cherish democracy and the rights and protections guaranteed us by the U.S. constitution.

– When Sally Williams asked her son Matthew why he killed “the two homos,” his answer was recorded by prison officials: “I had to obey God’s law rather than man’s law. I didn’t want to do this. I have followed a higher law. [I was] cleansing a sick society. I just plan to defend myself from the Scriptures.”

– “Fundamentalists are not happy when facts challenge their understanding. For biblical literalists, there is always an enemy to be defeated in mortal combat.” – John Shelby Spong [Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalists]

– Jerry Falwell turned gay bashing into a very successful art form. [He is] the first fundamentalist to exploit the fear and loathing of homosexuals to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and add millions of new donors to his mailing list.

– It’s beginning to feel like there is no room in America for anyone who is not a fundamentalist Christian.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Although He is regularly asked to do so, God does not take sides in American politics.” – Senator George Mitchell

– Gary Nixon and I have had a loving, committed, faithful relationship for twenty-five years (now over 30) yet we are denied more than a thousand rights and protections that go automatically with marriage.

– It would be catastrophic if one day these fundamentalists Christians gain enough political power to enforce their literal understanding of Mosaic Law.

– The Roman Catholic Church is without doubt the original source of suffering for gay and lesbian people.

– Because of their excessive commitment to a literal Bible, fundamentalist Christians have fallen into the trap of biblioltry.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Doing justice, loving mercy, seeking truth…these are the issues [the Bible] is clear on.

– There were families made up of Jewish soldiers and female prisoners of war; female rape victims forced by law to marry their attackers; and male slaves assigned to female slaves by their master. Jesus condemned divorce but did not condemn any of the family types common to his day.

– I am convinced that Christian fundamentalism is a far greater threat to this country than Muslim terrorists could ever be.

– “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”
[Article 11. Treaty of Tripoli. Signed into law by President John Adams. 1797.]

– The words “God is love” conclude a biblical warning, not a warm and fuzzy slogan. “He who doesn’t love [his neighbor] doesn’t love God, for God is love.”
Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– My commitment to the Bible [is my] source of progressive values.

– Although I claim to be a Christian, I live at a moment in time when the Christian faith is being defined by fundamentalists who have dishonored Christ and are in the process of destroying His church. I refuse to wear the “Christian” label without redefining it.

– Without faith in God, man can have faith neither in himself nor in others. The finite cannot be understood unless we know it is rooted in the Infinite. – Gandhi

– When you stand with the outcasts, you stand with Jesus, and when you despise the outcast, you despise Jesus, as well. Becoming an activist is simply a matter of putting love into action.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Check out the organization SOULFORCE. Click HERE.

And be sure to check out Al Franken’s book,
“Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” Click HERE.

 

Journeys of the Heart: Mary’s Story July 5, 2012


Journeys of the Heart: Mary’s Story
– Tom Gale

In this work of fact-based fiction, we explore the issue of sexual abuse.  We delve into repressed memories, relationships, and brokenness.
But, mainly, we examine the heart; how to connect with our “hidden” parts and truly love ourselves.  And, of course, to know more deeply the wonder that is the Love of God.


In addition to Mary, we meet many interesting characters along the way.  We see how dealing with our own issues can affect those around us.

The chapters “Where The Hell Is God,” and “Do I Have To Forgive The Jerk” were a couple of my favorites.
We also look briefly at what “church” is, and what it isn’t, and we see how literalizing some teachings, like those on divorce, can cause great harm and work against what God would really want for His children.

This isn’t just Mary’s story.  It is the story of thousands of women (and men).
This edition of the “Journeys of the Heart” series could be a significant step towards wholeness for someone who has suffered sexual abuse.
It is also a resource for those called to help by walking alongside those who have suffered in this way.


Here’s a little of what others are saying about it:

– Mary’s Story is engaging. It draws the reader into a very personal story in a way that is not offensive yet does not skirt reality and the hard truths. It tells a story that needs to be told. This book is a wake up call to a church that marginalizes the broken.
Sandie BrockCincinnati, OH

– My honest thoughts and feelings were that I really wanted to keep reading to see what happened next, to see how Papa was going to work.  The journey is really, really, about the heart. Everything else is just, well, just everything else.
Doug from Wisconsin

– This book takes a look at the depth of evil that exists in the world but then focuses more on the immense power of love that can heal even the worst wounds.
MaryAnne from Illinois

Buy The Book.  CLICK HERE.

– None of us have been left unscathed by the brokenness of our world and unique experiences.  I recommend this book to any and all who desire to hear or have already sensed the desperate cries of their own heart wanting recognition, love and acceptance.
Jan from Virginia

– The gentle, relational descriptions of the healing process even spoke to traumatized places in my own heart.
I thank God for revealing a remedy for our brokenness which is all at once; simplistic, effective and respectful.

Matthew Bradley, North Carolina

Buy The Book.  CLICK HERE.

 

 
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