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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

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.


 

Good Christian Sex August 30, 2016

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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.

 

 

Notes From (Over) The Edge November 21, 2014

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“Jesus basically did only two things – he showed up for life, and he lived authentically and true to his nature.
Guess what?
You can do that too!”

      “Notes From (Over) The Edge
      [Unmasking the truth to end your suffering]
      — Jim Palmer

OK.  First. the negative.
About a third of the way through the book, I almost stopped reading.
Why?
Redundancy.
There’s a lot of that here.  A lot of redundancy.
I’ve made that complaint about one or two other books.
For me, it’s a bit off-putting; the redundancy and all.
To be fair,  this is a book of “Notes,” and many times our thoughts have reoccurring patterns as we re-visit and clarify our own understanding.
FYI, I didn’t stop reading, and neither should you.

The second negative isn’t really a negative.  It’s more of a where-in-the-world-did-this-come-from thing.  There’s a particular idea that Mr. Palmer asserts (and repeats a number of times).  Of course, I’m not against believing something “just because I choose to believe it.” Which, bottom line, pretty much covers most, if not all, of our beliefs.
He does, also, advise the reader to “take everything written here loosely like a breeze or a whisper,” so he’s certainly not claiming to have things “nailed down.” That’s a big sign he’s worth listening to.
I considered mentioning the concept I’m referring to here, but I’ve decided to let you discover it for yourself.

And now, the positive:
“Everything else!”
This is a powerful book filled with powerful concepts.
If “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” then get ready for a boatload of freedom.
This is going to have to find somewhere to fit in my top 5 list of books, which means it will have to knock something else out.
This is not a “Christian” book (as if there were such a thing), though it is certainly about the life and teachings of Jesus. Nor is it exclusively for those of a Judeo-Christian background. If you’re a human, you can benefit from reading this book.

You should know that an “end to you suffering” is not synonymous with an end to pain, misfortune, or other troubles “life” may bring your way.  The suffering Jim is talking about is the kind caused by not accepting life on life’s terms.  It’s always been hard for me to “flow with it” without giving up hope.  There’s an old Steve Taylor song called “Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel A Lot Better.”  There is a lot of truth to that song, and for me, those were the two options:  Struggle with life, holding on to hopes and dreams, or just give up and say “The hell with it.”
“Notes From (Over) The Edge” helped me continue on a path I’d already started, where I can see another option.  An almost hidden (to me), yet painfully obvious option called “living.”
Something I didn’t see (or couldn’t admit) for most of the years I spent in institutional religion was all the baggage.
So much BS.
So much dung passed off as godliness.
So many yokes that were anything but easy.
So many burdens that cannot possibly be considered light.

Jim Palmer, too, was an active, educated, bible-preaching “believer,” who, in many ways like me, lived and taught much he now knows was not just less-than-helpful, but downright damaging.  Damning, if you will, to both the speaker and the hearer.
But we were where we were, and now we are where we are. And life is what life is. And “God and life,” Jim reminds us, are inseparable.

Jim’s understanding, as relayed in this book, seems to incorporate teachings I’ve learned from some Buddhist meditation classes that my wife and I recently attended (which have also been very beneficial to me).  It’s my belief that some other traditions (possibly Ancient Greek thought and/or Islam) are also represented here.  (Jim can correct me if I’m wrong.)
Of course, truth is truth, and all truth is God’s truth.
Truth, as Jim tells us, is simply “the way things really are.”  Much suffering is experienced when we, knowingly or not, fight that truth.

There’s no way I can “review” all the ground covered in this book, but one of the most important for those who have been involved in the Christian religion is section 3: “Christianity’s distortion of the person, message and truth of Jesus.”
I’ve said before, many/most people in Christianity (and the principle is probably similar in other religions) are read to from their scriptures, and at the same time, hand-fed a meaning said to be attached to those passages.
Once that is done, it can be nearly impossible to read those passages differently.  But, if you can detach what you’ve been taught something says from what is actually written, well, it’s like being born again.
“Notes From (Over) The Edge” can assist greatly with that rebirth.

And maybe a certain amount of redundancy isn’t all bad.
Maybe we need to hear truths over and over until they replace the lies in our own minds.
I can only hope more and more of us join Mr. Palmer in going over the edge.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

– You must rethink your entire way of approaching the matter of Truth. Currently you have it framed in the idea of having “correct beliefs.” Correct beliefs are the Booby prize.
– Your mind creates a preference, makes an attachment, constructs an interpretation, offers a response, and each of those responses conditions your way of thinking, acting and being in the world. [But] you are not your mind. You are responsible for managing your mind. The mind doesn’t always get what it wants.
– The “son of man” or “son of Adam” means a human one in solidarity with all human ones.
– We exist within a sea of energy that connects all atoms. Everything we experience has a single interconnected source.
[Doesn’t that line up with the Christian concept of God being “in all and through all?”] – ed.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Repent is another term that is often misunderstood. [It’s not] being sorry for your past wrongs, turning from your wicked ways… “Repent” means a deep and profound shift in perception. It’s like the scales of ignorance fall from your eyes. [It] literally means “beyond the mind.”
– Jesus would have never signed off on the modern and made-up gospel of the Christian religion.
– People knew the reality of God long before there were sacred texts. Enoch “walked with God,” and yet there was no Bible or prescribed set of doctrines to govern his experience of God.
– One does not have to be able to read the Bible, the Koran, the Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, etc. to be enlightened. You can be illiterate and one with God. There is something to learn from this.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Jesus did not launch into heady theological diatribes or pedantic teachings about God. Instead, he invited people to notice the birds of the air and lilies in a field, or told stories about a father and his sons or a hidden treasure.
Instead of accumulating more theological information in your head, return to your regularly scheduled life and start living it as each moment requires — nothing more, nothing less.
– Fundamentalism doesn’t just apply to ultra-conservative, fundy Christians. I’ve met progressive and liberal Christian fundamentalists, Atheist, Agnostic, and Humanistic fundamentalists, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish fundamentalists, and New Age fundamentalists. [They all think] someone has to be “right,” which means someone has to be “wrong.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The “will of God” is simply to be your Self, and to be in the present moment and respond as the situation requires. Just live your life. The fundamental way Jesus lived his life was that he simply did the next thing and responded to situations as they required.
– There was a historical Jesus before institutional Christianity got ahold of him and did their extreme makeover. He was a much better Jesus than the on Christianity produced.

Buy the book. Click HERE.
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Persecuted? June 11, 2014

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

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

Michael Bussee puts things in perspective this way:

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

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

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

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



long_war

 

The Great Emergence May 20, 2014

thegreatemergenceThe Great Emergence
– Phyllis Tickle

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

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

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

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

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

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

– df

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

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

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

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

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

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

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

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

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

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

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

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

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

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

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

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

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

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

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

Picture This May 18, 2014

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irreconcilable

 

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doesn't work

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