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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.


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


———

Oh, here are those articles I mentioned:


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

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


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

 

Picture This May 18, 2014

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WHY? October 27, 2013



So often, when tragedy strikes in the life of a Christian (well, and many others, I guess) the first response is “why?”
“Why God?
Why is this happening to me/us/them?
There’s also “What?”
What is God trying to teach us?
What did we do to deserve this?”

I look back at when I was in the “Charismatic” movement. Everything was cut and dry. Life, even “life in Christ” often boiled down to the reasons why. Tragedy almost always was the result of a lack of faith, God’s punishment, or even demons in the pictures on your wall. [Yes, folks. We actually taught that.]

I am thankful for my faith in Christ, and I’m thankful that although it may not seem as comforting as my former theology, I find it much more real and grounded. I thank God for so many of the “stirrings” and teachings that led to, and have continued since, leaving institutional religion. Not the least of these is no longer focusing on “Why?”
I’ve said in the past, often the answer to “why?” is simply “sometimes life sucks.”
Good things happen to “bad” people.
Bad things happen to “good” people.
I don’t get it.
But, not focusing on “why?” helps move us on to “What now?”
For sure, that doesn’t keep you from being sick with worry. It can, however, keep you from wasting time on a question that likely has no answer. Certainly no discernible one.

I hate that bad things happen to good people; things they certainly don’t deserve.
I hate that life can be so fucked-up, bat-shit crazy.
I get mad at God. Terribly terribly mad.
And still, I pray to the very God I’m angry with.
The very God whom I’m not sure will grant my request.
And I believe that God is perfectly OK with that. I don’t need to feel guilty for some purported lack of faith.
Without some form of faith, I wouldn’t be talking to God in the first place.
People, I guess, mean well. But when someone is struggling, the last thing they need is pat answers, platitudes, and a handful of scripture quotes.
“Why” is a natural question.
It’s an honest question.
But in sorrow or tragedy, it’s not a very useful one.
I know it’s not useful for me.
I don’t care why.
I need to know “What now, God?”

 

INSURRECTION November 20, 2011

INSURRECTION
– Peter Rollins

Wow. What a book.

In the introduction our author speaks of “reactionary movements that seek to return to the early Church,” but proclaims that one of the shortcomings of such philosophies is that “they fail to go back far enough.”
And so we begin the journey to bring to light the ways “Crucifixion and Resurrection open up a different reality” altogether.  A reality that has been predominantly absent from “church” as we know it.

The first 4 chapters make up “Part1: Crucifixion.”

Chapter One begins with a humorous story about a lying pastor, his golf  game, and God’s teaching technique.
This story is used to springboard into a discussion about desire.  We look at the desire behind desire.  Or maybe, the desire within desire.  We view different reasons for affirming God, as well as religious control and manipulation.  We examine faith, doubt, and the positive aspects of what the author calls a “journey into darkness.”

Chapter Two takes us deep, deep into the Crucifixion, and into participating in Christ’s death.  We see how it has often been rendered rather meaningless by a religion that glosses over it to get to the Resurrection.  We begin to understand that “The Crucifixion signals an experience in which all that grounds us and gives us meaning collapses.”
Those of you who, like me, are “youth challenged” may remember a 60’s TV show called “The Prisoner” staring Patrick McGoohan.  Our author gives us a synopsis of that show, and then draws some very interesting parallels to religion and it’s systems that imprison us.  This is the kind of chapter for which I would have paid full book price.

Chapter Three is called– “I’m Not Religious” and Other Religious Sayings. —
This had quite the ring of truth for me.  Some of the most religiously legalistic people I know are quite found of stating that “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.”  Their attitudes and actions prove their statements to be much less than an experienced reality.  We see how having only mental assent to a particular truth can itself insulate us from actually experiencing that truth.  This is a phenomena we see often among those who love to speak of grace while still trapped in and perpetuating the exact opposite.
“Cartoon physics” is also addressed: “that self-conscious beings will not fall until they look down.”  This has to do with facing the inconsistencies between our stated religious beliefs and reality.
We also observe how “communication involves both a stated message and a hidden one.”  “In fundamentalism, we witness a type of psychotic relation to language in that there is an attempt to banish the hidden message from discourse.”

Our next chapter is partially about the cost of no longer pretending to be ignorant.  It’s about letting go of the religious machinery that “protect us from facing up to the anxieties of our existence.”  We look at the marketability of certainty, and its use by the religion industry.
There’s a small section on Mother Teresa.  Although “she never stopped believing in God…she lived beneath the shadow of a profound sense of God’s absence.”
The whole of part one serves to show us the crucifixion in ways modern Christianity (as opposed to post-modern) usually avoids.
Without properly addressing the truth of Crucifixion, Resurrection is robbed of it’s truth as well.

Now we start “Part 2: Resurrection.”

In Chapter Five, Mr. Rollins maintains that “We hide every day behind a mask that is a Photoshopped version of ourselves.”   Some of the sections in this chapter are:  “I Wear a Mask That Looks like Me,” “On Avoiding the Truth of Who We Are,” and “Maintaining the Gap between Perception and Reality.”
We read some very interesting insights into people like Hitler and John “Junior” Gotti.  We uncover how we can hide the monster we may truly be, even from, or rather especially from, ourselves.  Ultimately we learn here that “Our practices do not fall short of our beliefs;  They Are Our Beliefs.”

We take a close look at grace and how “it is in experiencing the license of grace rather than the legalism of prohibition that real transformation becomes possible.”

Chapter 6 is titled “We Are Destiny.” We are given the proclamation that “Eternal life is thus fundamentally a transformation in the very way that we exist in the present.” We learn about what it means to participate in Resurrection. This is a recurring theme in the works of Rob Bell, and a number of other good authors. A theme which, if taken to heart, could bring about some rather radical, much needed change among those who name the name of Christ.
A brief analysis of “Chick tracts” is given. Most readers are probably familiar with these miniature graphic horror stories. If not, let me tell you they twist the gospel, and pervert the character of God beyond recognition. At the same time, they “merely reflect what we find in most churches today.”
We also explore the deeper meaning of loving God, religionless faith, how we participate in the creation of eternity, and “the proper Christian answer to the question of what God’s will is for my life.” Wile E. Coyote also supplies some theological insight.

The Seventh Chapter dives into the “Violence of Resurrection.” Not “the type of violence we witness in fundamentalism;” which is usually one directed at people, but “a violence against those systems that would oppress, destroy, and bring death.”
This chapter also mines real-world applications of truth from the movies “The Dark Knight,” “Collateral,” and “The Matrix.” Through these we recognize how we may be feeding the very systems we say we oppose, and how some of our “supposedly ethical acts come to resemble the exercise of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
Chapter Seven also provided me with one of those wonderful “Wow” moments where you finally see something that has been in plain sight all along. It has to do with the ripping of the temple veil at the Crucifixion. It was one of those times where I saw how my religious training had blinded me to a very obvious truth.

Our final chapter unpacks Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
These divisions were considered the divinely mandated “natural order.” “Paul is here describing here how Christianity cuts across all political, cultural and biological divisions, rendering them null.
There’s also some interesting information about the difference between traditional Western fairy tales, and those from other cultures.

This is a very interesting, wonderful, and I thought, unique book.
In his comments on this book, Rob Bell says that Pete takes you to the edge of a cliff, and then pushes you off.
That’s a pretty accurate description of reading this book. It’s a fall I would highly encourage you to take.
—–

Buy the book (and read some other short reviews).  Click HERE.

SOME QUOTES:

– We must not be afraid to burn our sacred temples in order to discover what, if anything, remains.

– To truly unplug from the god of religion, with all the anxieties and distress this involves, takes courage.
Indeed, one could say that it takes God.

– The felt experience of God’s absence [is] the fundamental way of entering into the presence of God.

– There will always be an army of Job’s comforters who attempt to save our mythologies, and like Job, we must resist them.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– By allowing the Church to believe on our behalf… we remain firmly embedded in a religious worldview while denying it.

– [We need to bring] radical doubt, ambiguity, mystery, and complexity into the very heart of the liturgical structure itself.

– The foot of the cross is the graveyard where religion is buried.

– The “heart” in the biblical sense in not the inner life, but the whole man in relation to God.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Religious experience cannot be properly approached as an experience at all. Rather, God is that which transforms how we experience everything.

– The claim “I believe in God” is nothing but a lie if it is not manifest in our lives, because one only believes in God insofar as one loves.

– [Concerning many fundamentalists] Their often sexist, homophobic, and racist rhetoric is aimed frimly at maintaining their position of power and thus is designed specifically to prevent change.

– “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.”
Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Faith is about this life. Faith is lived out in love of the world.

– Resurrection is not something one argues for, but is is the name we give to a mode of living.

– It can be so hard to give up on easy answers and face up to our feeling of finitude, meaninglessness, and guilt.

– You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave not free, male nor female, black nor white, rich nor poor, Republican nor Democrat, liberal nor conservative, orthodox nor heretic, citizen nor alien, gay nor straight, Israel nor Palestine, American nor Iraqi, Christian nor non-Christian, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

Evolving In Monkey Town September 5, 2010

When I first heard of
“Evolving In Monkey Town: How A Girl Who Knew All The Answers Learned To Ask The Questions,”
I wasn’t sure I was going to read it. I’d read four Donald Miller books and two by Anne Lamott.
“Do I really need another memoir about postmodernism, questioning traditional faith, and rethinking our relationship with God and man?” I wondered.

Apparently, I did.
And I’m glad I did.


Certainly, this book covers some familiar ground, but it also covers enough different ground that it is well worth adding to your queue. More than new material, Rachel looks at things with her own particular perspective. She add insights and conversation that only she can add.  Many can relate to her experience, but everyone’s journey is just unique enough that we can all learn from each other.  I think this would be a good companion piece to one of my all-time favorites, “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell.

Ms. Evans is a not-quite-thirty year old, who was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical environment. She took great delight in winning her school’s “Best Christian Attitude” award 4 years running.  Like all the best writing, Rachel leaves the truth of her less-than-perfect-being plainly exposed.  Concerning those giving her the award, she says,
“It means they have no idea that beneath it all, I’m a complete fraud.”

I totally loved her take on “why” she was a Christian.  She talks of how the answer to that question kept changing through various periods of her life.  The answer she settles on as being the “most truthful” is not a very good answer for an evangelical.  It is however, possibly the most perfect answer I have ever read.  You’ll find it in the section: “When Believers Ask.”

Like many of us, she was taught to “always have an answer,” and that “knowing facts” is of the utmost importance. Especially when you must gain the upper-hand in a debate or argument. We do, after all, need to prove to the skeptics and unbelievers that we are smarter than they are. She grew up in a time when apologetic prowess was nearly worshiped. Questions, doubt, or just saying “I don’t know,” were simply not acceptable.

I’m not sure why “I don’t know” is so hard for evangelicals. It’s still hard for many of my fundamentalist friends.  It seems, if they don’t have the perfect answer to those suffering or questioning, they fear their faith is lacking.  I think, for many, their faith is in their belief system, rather than truly in the Person of Christ.

The author finally began to see (or maybe began to admit to seeing), all the mental gymnastics, sidesteps, games and just plain foolishness it takes to reconcile all the contradictions and pseudo-logic used to defend much of evangelical fundamentalism.
“The problem with fundamentalism,” she says, “is that it can’t adapt to change.  When you count each one of your beliefs as absolutely essential, change is never an option.”

There’s a chapter called “God Things.”  After reading just the first section of that chapter, I had to sit there for awhile before I could move on.  It’s a touching, sad story of eight-year old Kanakaraja that helps us see just how narrow and self-centered our vision can be.

I always highlight when I read, so I can go back and just read those portions. I’ve highlighted a lot in this book. There are some absolutely wonderful portions that deserve much, repeated meditation.  There are also those parts that bring to me recollections of a past life of religion that make me shake my head in shame. There’s so much I was once a part of; so much I thought dear to my faith, that I now clearly see as anything but Christ-like.
Rachel has reminded me, again, there are many on this journey; even if I have very few nearby who are on a similar path.
I just wish I had realized all this at her age, instead of at such a late stage in my life.
This really is a wonderful book.

Buy the book HERE.

————————–

From the Back Cover
Eighty years after the Scopes Monkey Trial made a spectacle of Christian fundamentalism and brought national attention to her hometown, Rachel Held Evans faced a trial of her own when she began to have doubts about her faith. Growing up in a culture obsessed with apologetics, Evans asks questions she never thought she would ask. She learns that in order for her faith to survive in a postmodern context, it must adapt to change and evolve. Using as an illustration her own spiritual journey from certainty, through doubt, to faith, Evans adds a unique perspective to the ongoing dialogue about postmodernism and the church that has so captivated the Christian community in recent years. In a changing cultural environment where new ideas threaten the safety and security of the faith, Evolving in Monkey Town is a fearlessly honest story of survival.

About the Author
Rachel Held Evans is an award-winning writer whose articles have appeared in local and national publications. She lives in Dayton, Tennessee, with her husband, Dan. Find out more at rachelheldevans.com

Other Reviews
“Rachel’s humorous yet humble memoir of growing up in the evangelical world serves as an encouraging guide for anyone looking to navigate through that particular subculture. The story told here is both faith and doubt affirming, a beautiful reflection of a heart earnestly seeking to follow God fully.”
— Julie Clawson, author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices

“This book is an argument–Rachel argues with herself, God, the Bible, and Southern fundamentalism. Somehow, though, we are the winners in this argument because we learn and watch as a young woman emerges into a maturing faith that lets the kingdom vision of Jesus reshape her life. I found myself cheering her on.”
— Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

[My favorite] “That Evans wrote a remarkable debut at such a young age makes me want to slap her, bless her heart.” – Karen Spears Zacharias

Buy the book HERE.

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Some Quotes

“I consider myself an evolutionist — not necessarily of the scientific variety but of the faith variety.”  “I believe the best way to reclaim the gospel in times of change is not to cling more tightly to our convictions but to hold them with an open hand.”

“I’m pretty sure that by the time I asked Jesus into my heart, he’d already been living there for a while.”

“I grew increasingly uncomfortable with how verses were lifted from the Bible to support political positions like gun rights, strong national defense, capital punishment, and limited intervention in the free market.  These seemed more like Republican values than biblical values to me.”

Buy the book HERE.

“To fight the good fight, the most important weapon was the sword of absolute truth, and the goal of the Christian life was to learn how to use it.”

“Jesus responded more with questions than answers.  He preferred story to exposition.”  “You can’t get too far into the Gospels without noticing that Jesus made a pretty lousy apologist.”

‘I always wanted a gay friend.  But, as embarrassing as the is to admit, I wanted the sort of gay friend who would give me fashion advice [and] make me look edgy and open-minded, not the kind who would actually challenge my thinking or stereotypes.”

“This time, I wasn’t asking these questions rhetorically or in preparation for an imaginary debate with a skeptic.  I was asking them because I didn’t know.  This time, I was the skeptic.”

[I really like this one]  “The longer our lists of rules and regulations, the more likely it is that God himself will break one.  The more committed we are to certain theological absolutes, the more likely we are to discount the work of the Spirit when it doesn’t conform to our presuppositions.”

Buy the book HERE.

 

 
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