Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS
– By Elton John
While there is certainly some very interesting autobiographical material here, this is not primarily an autobiography. It is a book about AIDS.
Elton looks at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and then brings us up to date. From the science to societal reaction we’re given the facts, as well as many stories of lives directly impacted by AIDS. Of course, all our lives are impacted by AIDS.
We start with a story of a small town in Indiana called Kokomo, as we look at the life of Ryan White. Ryan was a teenage hemophiliac who became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment. We see, as Elton John states, that Ryan and his family were “true Christians.” The story also reveals the very non-Christian actions and attitudes of many of the church-goers and residents of Kokomo at that time. The majority of the townsfolk ostracize this afflicted boy and his family. “It seemed like a modern-day witch hunt, and Ryan was to be burned at the stake.” Adults were worse than the kids who teased and tormented him. His entire family suffered. This is some sad, sad commentary on the nature of fear, religion, and those who propose to represent God. But even through being shunned by the town, his classmates and his “church,” Ryan said “There’s always hope with the Lord. I have a lot of trust in God.”
Eventually, Ryan and his family did have to leave town so Ryan wouldn’t have to be buried in such a place of evil hatred. The town he moved to, only miles away, welcomed him with open arms. In the end, Ryan reached the entire nation.
The faith, love, and Christ-likeness of Ryan and his mother forever changed the life of Elton John. Elton is very honest about how his addictions, anger and ego were in control of his life. “You can’t imagine how selfish I was at the time, what an asshole I had become.” Seeing Ryan give out so much love in the face of so much hate helped E.J. face his own demons. Elton entered rehab in 1990 and has been sober ever since. His interactions and friendship with Ryan White also led to the creation of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Elton shares stories of personal loss, as so many of his friends and acquaintances were suffering and dying from this pandemic. There are stories of people like Rock Hudson and Freddie Mercury.
We also see AIDS on more of a national level. This, of course, includes people like Jerry Falwell, again on their religious high-horses proclaiming AIDS victims are just getting what they deserve. Even some government leaders help spread the hate, fear, and misinformation that ads fuel to the fire of an already devastating crisis.
And we look at AIDS from a global perspective.
Over in Africa, we see that in addition to an extremely bad AIDS situation, there is also an epidemic of rape. Someone is raped every 26 seconds. The men and leaders seem to think this is normal behavior, and punish the women who attempt to report being raped. These unreported atrocities give tremendous momentum to the spread of the disease.
Another disgusting story is about how the Bayer pharmaceutical company knowingly sold tainted, AIDS transmitting medication to other countries so they wouldn’t have to throw them out and lose money.
Throughout this book, we’re shown the many faces of AIDS. The involvement of some famous warriors against this disease, like President Bill Clinton, Paul Michael Glaser, Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, and many others is discussed. We examine what has been done, and where we need to go from here.
I would be remiss as a reviewer if I did not mention the book’s shortcomings. They can be summed up by saying “Elton John is not an author.” The writing stumbles from time to time, and there is much redundancy.
Having said that, the stories are far too interesting, and the information far too vital to miss reading “Love Is The Cure.”
I’ve always enjoyed Elton’s music. At the same time, I sensed that he was pretty much a jerk. Reading this book has helped me see a different side of Elton John:
A loving, helpful, mellowed-by-age-and-experience, redeemed Elton John. When he speaks of his drug use, party-life, and “unprotected” multiple sexual encounters he says that it’s a “miracle” he never contracted AIDS. I feel he does not use that word lightly.
His miracle is one with which I can totally identify.
“Love Is The Cure” is truly an eye-opener, and I thank God that Elton John has written it.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
[For years, now, my wife and I have been involved in raising funds for our local AIDS Task Force here in Fort Wayne, Indiana through their annual “AIDS Walk.” This year’s walk is over, but you can still donate.
If you’d like to do so, click: www.Aids-Walk.info.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– The bottom line is, we’re all human, and we all deserve to be helped and to be loved.
– I was consumed by cocaine, booze, and who knows what else. I apparently never got the memo that the “Me” Decade ended in 1979. The Elton ego train kept rolling right through the ‘8Os.
– Ryan White inspired a nation, changed the course of a deadly epidemic, and helped save millions of lives.
– As a child with hemophilia, Ryan had been treated with compassion. As a child with AIDS, many treated him with contempt.
– Many religious institutions, governments, and the general public sent an unmistakable message to people with AIDS: We do not care about you.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– Falwell and his ilk helped guarantee the AIDS epidemic would get far worse.
– It still stings to recall the pure, unadulterated hatred that was spewed at gays and AIDS sufferers.
– What makes AIDS so frightening, so very lethal, is that it takes advantage of more than our biological weaknesses. It take advantage of our social weaknesses.
– Conservative religious and political leaders continue to stand in the way of implementing what we know for a hard fact will save millions upon millions of lives.
– Fighting stigma is difficult work. Instead of directing our animosity and fear at someone’s disease, we direct it at the person who is sick.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– The discrimination that the LGBT community [in Haiti] faced after the earthquake is hard to stomach.
– Like many people, I deeply regretted much of what [George W. Bush] did in office, but [his] decision to take aggressive action [with his [President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] saved millions of lives.
– There are 2.5 million people infected with HIV in India, and their government has said essentially, “We don’t care about any of you because some of you are gay.”
– We certainly can’t do it without religious institutions on our side. Their power is too great, their influence too far-reaching. There is no excuse for furthering pain and injustice in the name of any god.
– For a small fraction of what was spent on the war in Iraq, America would forever be heralded as the country that won the war against AIDS.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– The cure for AIDS is a matter of changing hearts and educating minds.
– The fight against AIDS comes down to compassion.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
Love Is The Cure June 20, 2013
Tags: Africa, Aids, AIDS Crisis, AIDS victims, Aids Walk, Bayer, Bayer pharmaceutical company, booze, Christian Life, Christian spirituality, Christianity, cocaine, drug use, Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Faith, fort wayne aids walk, Freddie Mercury, Gay, George W Bush, God, governments, Grace, hatred, hemophiliac, HIV, HIV AIDS, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, injustice, Jerry Falwell, Jesus, justice, Kokomo, Kokomo Indiana, love, Love Is The Cure, Loving God, Mercy, miracle, Northeast Indiana AIDS Task Force, party-life, Paul Michael Glaser, Politics, President Bill Clinton, President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Princess Diana, rape, rehab, religious institutions, Rock Hudson, science, sex, Sex & Sexuality, sexual encounters, social awareness, social issues, stigma, Theology, Truth
The Sacredness Of Questioning Everything May 30, 2013
Tags: African, Antichrist Television Blues, Bono, Book, books, Buddhist, C. S. Lewis, Chico Marx, Christian, Christian Life, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, Confucian, conversation, David Dark, eschatology, eternity, evangelical, excommunication, Faith, freedom, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ghandhi, God, gospel, Gospels, Grace, Hell, hellfire, Islamic, Jana Riess, Jesus, Jesus Christ, kingdom of God, Leonard Cohen, life, love, Loving God, Michael Scott, MLK, Native American, No Country for Old Men, Nobodaddy, Questioning God, Quotes, Relating to God, Religion, religious bondage, REM, Revelation, Revelations, Salvation, Scripture, Shakespeare, South Park, Stephen Colbert, The Bible, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, Theology, Thomas Aquinas, Tolstoy, Truth, U2, Uncle Ben, violence, Ziggy Marley
The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
– David Dark
“This book is for everyone who quietly suspects that God is
a whole lot bigger than the church would have us believe.”
– Jana Riess
This is a powerful read. Just powerful.
I’m often challenged. I’m often stretched. This book did both, but it did something else as well. It “convicted” me. I don’t much care for that word in the religious sense, but I can’t think of a better way to put it. It made me more deeply consider the ramifications of some of my actions and attitudes. That’s pretty much always a good thing.
So, yes, this is a book about questions. It’s a book of questions. Mostly, it’s a book about the very act of questioning. We know that, according to the New Testament Gospels, Jesus very frequently answered a question with a question. He could have always given simple, straight-forward answers, but he knew that “words in tablets of stone” (the preferred method of Pharisees) was not the way to go. He knew the question itself, was sacred.
David Dark takes us on a wonderful journey as we sacredly question things that many would consider unquestionable.
In chapter one, we dive right into the thick of it with “Questioning God.”
We start with a fictional story of “a tiny town with a tight-knit community,” as we’re introduced to a patriarch, of sorts, named “Uncle Ben.” Everyone talks about how wonderful Uncle Ben is, but beyond their words, something is definitely off-kilter.
Of course, what we’re really questioning in this chapter is our perception of God, and how that affects everything in our lives. We see that “any God who is nervous, defensive, or angry in the face of questions is a false god.” “We mus resist, in word and deed, this God (Nobodaddy) who is no God at all.”
From questioning God, we move to questioning religion. We gain information from a variety of sources, including REM, C.S. Lewis, Michael Scott, and the children of South Park. Chapter two helps us understand that “when religion won’t tolerate questions, objections, or differences of opinion and all it can do is threaten excommunication, violence, and hellfire, it has an unfortunate habit of producing some of the most hateful people to ever walk the earth.”
Chapter three questions our offendedness.
Thomas Aquinas, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Stephen Colbert are some of the voices adding to this section.
I remember “back in the day” as they say, how we would frequently use verses from I Corinthians 8, and Romans 14 “against” each other. “You shouldn’t do that, because that offends me!” Talk about a misuse of scripture. Of course, we’d give a passing glance to the passages telling us NOT to be easily offended. But the focus was on controlling the behavior of others. “If you’re more opposed, for instance, to what we take to be ‘bad language’ and nude scenes and films about gay people than we are to people being blown up, starved to death, deprived of life-saving medicine, or tortured, our offendedness is out of whack. We have yet to understand the nature of real perversion.”
Questioning our passions in chapter 4, there’s talk of wasting our emotions, and how our affections can become “merely theoretical.” We look at what real perversion is, and how most of us engage in it. There’s a nice section on “Antichrist Television Blues,” that tackles “Christian” TV, and “the bad news that sells itself as the good news of escaping the weakness of the failure of your fellow humans by believing the right things and grabbing your copy of hell insurance.” And we get some advise on how to “discern the difference between the voice in my head and the voice of God.”
Chico Marx helps kick off “Questioning Media” in chapter 5. The author speaks of “manufactured realities,” and how, “fundamentally, you control the media.” Very interesting.
The sixth chapter has up questioning language. “Words fail to do justice to the irreducible complexity of whatever it is we think we’re talking about.” “There’s nothing that you can say that will mean the same thing once it’s repeated.”
Close on the heals of Questioning Language, is Questioning Interpretations. “I want to break through the mind-forged manacles that render us incapable of seeing truthfully for fear we might let in the wrong information.” If someone can’t admit that everything(?) they see, read, hear, etc. is automatically interpreted by them, there’s not much chance of having a real, fruitful conversation. “Jesus often refused what was in his time the reigning interpretation of scripture.”
Chapter 8: Questioning History. I’m amazed at how much our history was “sanitized” and “Americanized” when I went to school. I’ve heard it said that history is written by the winners. That, itself, helps explain much of the perspective in the Old Testament. In this chapter we read about, among other things, “Crimes against humanity undertaken in the name of Christ and Manifest Destiny.” It truly is overwhelming “to try to want to know what I don’t want to know,” rather than being “blissfully ignorant.” This, of course, isn’t just true of Christians. It’s true of the “Islamic, Buddhist, Native American, African or Confucian.”
As we, in chapter 9, question governments we discuss faith, violence, civil disobedience, infinite justice, self-justification, war, bloodshed, illegals, enemy combatants, and power structures. Jesus, Leonard Cohen, Ziggy Marley, Ghandhi, Tolstoy, MLK, and U2 help us open our eyes to the realities of our “allegiance.” I really like the quote, “Iraqi Christians… publicly pray that American Christians might consider more deeply their understanding of the body of Christ.”
Finally, we question the future. We look at patriotism, Shakespeare, “No Country for Old Men,” Bono, and (obligatorily) the Biblical book of Revelation.
We come full-circle and again consider the one referred to early in the book as “Nobodaddy.” “The false god who authorized and underwrites environmental devastation, antipersonnel weapons, and cutthroat economies.
“The Sacredness of Questioning Everything” is packed solid, cover to cover, with valid and, dare I say, vital information. There’s a lot to think about here. Not in a scratch-your-head, stare-into-space, let me figure this out kind of way that a book by, oh… say Peter Rollins has. (A comparison like that is really an “apples to oranges” kind of thing anyway.) David Dark’s work here is more of a “stare-into-your-own-heart” thing. This book will help put you on a track deep into your own soul.
Buy The Book. Click HERE.
– People sometimes try to make the Bible seem like a book full of easy answers, but it isn’t. It’s a bunch of voices from the past that ask us a lot of questions.
– What the pundits call wishy-washiness, the Bible calls repentance.
– We’re mad to think we’ve got hold of truth like nobody else or that we want it more or that our relationship to the Almighty trumps everyone else’s.
– Proclaiming the kingdom of God does not include shouting down anyone who finds your proclamation unconvincing.
Buy The Book. Click HERE.
– When we think of a person primarily as a problem… we’re reducing them to the tiny sphere of our stunted attention span. There’s always more to a person than we know.”
– Of absolute truth, none of us are knowers. And we often aren’t especially good with the truth we do know.
– God is not made angry and insecure by an archaeological dig, a scientific discovery, an ancient manuscript, or a good film about homosexual cowboys.
– To label entire populations — or even sections of the globe — as “enemy” is bad theology, and no government that does so can claim to be operating in any mindful way “under” God.
– Your eschatology is what you’re waiting for and where you’re headed or think you’re headed. It cuts to the heart of politics, your religion, your sense of what matters.
– The word of the living God is never less than an ethical summons, a call to take care, to gather up and strengthen the life that remains, to reorder, redeem and remember.
Buy The Book. Click HERE.
What We Talk About When We Talk About God April 10, 2013
Tags: Bell, Bible, Christian, Christian Life, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, Emergent, eternity, evangelical, Faith, freedom, God, Grace, Hell, heretic, Hypocrisy, Jesus, kingdom of God, law, left behind, legalism, life, love, Loving God, Oldmobile, peace, prophet, Relating to God, Religion, religious bondage, Rob Bell, Salvation, saved, Scripture, The Bible, Theology, Truth, What we talk about when we talk about God
“There’s something in the air, we’re in the midst of a massive rethink. A moment in history is in the making. An entire mode of understanding and talking about God [is] dying as something new is being birthed.”
– Rob Bell
“This is a book by Rob Bell.”
That’s probably all I really need to say. (But I’ll go on.)
By now, everyone who actually reads books about Christianity and/or Spirituality has heard of Rob Bell.
Many who don’t read such books have still heard of Rob Bell.
For the most part, people either really, really like his work, or they think he’s a heretic.
They think of him as a prophet, or a demon.
In case you don’t already know,
This particular book is my favorite of Rob’s since the potentially life-changing “Velvet Elvis.” Mr. Bell is one of the handful of authors that have forever changed my life.
In this new work, Rob incorporates bits and pieces from some of his other works (both written and video). That makes this book a great read for those who have not read his previous writings. It can be a quick read, or a very slow one. As someone else has said, Rob’s writings are as simple or as deep as you want them to be.
“With,” “Ahead,” “Open,” and “For” are just some of the chapter titles.
Mr. Bell has us look at our language. At how it both helps and hinders us. We see very easily that, even within Christianity, people can be using the same word, “God,” and be talking about radically different things. (We also saw this on Jeff Chu’s cross-country journeys in “Does Jesus Really Love Me“.). Of course, how we think about our God directly affects everything else in our lives, not the least of which is the way we deal with and treat others and our environment.
The chapter “Open” is filled with scientific musings. There’s talk of the universe, the big-bang, neutron stars, the elasticity of time, matter, energy, atoms, sub-atomic particles, bosons, leptons, quarks and quantum theory (which “is responsible for everything from X-rays and MRI machines, to fiber optics and transistors). We consider that “the line between matter and spirit may not be a line at all.”
As is often the case, talking about what it is we talk about when we talk about God leads to looking at “the church,” and the Bible. Here we get more of a Rob Bell standard I so much enjoy: Looking at scripture in the cultural and historical context in which it was written. We examine “the arc, the story” of this wonderful library of holy writ. We begin to understand how “radically progressive” the books of the Bible were; that they were “ahead of their time.” Unfortunately, “it’s possible to take something that was a step forward at one point and still be clinging to it later on in the story, to the point where it becomes a step backward.”
“What We Talk About When We Talk About God” moves us, drawing us to (and into) the very Divine that we’re talking about.
We look at a God that is with us, for us, and calling us ahead.
What are the consequences of our talk of God?
What does it mean in the real flesh-and-blood world we live in?
How does my “faith” interact with others and with all of creation?
These and other issues are wonderfully explored within the pages of this very thought-provoking book.
At the end, after the “Acknowledgements” and the rest of the “End Notes,” Rob Bell does something that is just so,
so Rob Bell that when I told my wife, we both laughed out loud.
When you’re reading a Bell book, never stop at “The End.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– First, I’m a Christian, and so Jesus is how I understand God.
– How you believe and what you believe are two different things.
– What I experienced, over a long period of time, was a gradual awakening to new perspectives on God — specifically, the God Jesus talked about. [Yeah. Me, too. – df]
– We are waking up in new ways to the God who’s been here the whole time.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– Words and images point us to God; they help us understand the divine, but they are not God.
– Imagine that — religious people quoting the Bible to defend actions that were the exact opposite of the intent and purpose of those very same scriptures. [e.g. “an eye for an eye.”]
– Fundamentalism shouldn’t surprise us. Certainty is easier, faster, [and] awesome for fundraising.
– Choosing to trust that this life matters and we’re all connected and this is all headed somewhere has made my life way, way better.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– Science does an excellent job of telling me why I don’t have a tail, but it can’t explain why I find that interesting.
– When we talk about God, we often find ourselves in the middle of one paradox after another.
– What we say about God always rests within the larger reality of what we can’t say.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– Like a mirror, God appears to be more and more a reflection of whoever it is that happens to be talking about God at the moment.
– Love and care and compassion shown to others is love for [God].
– It’s one thing to stand there in a lab coat with a clipboard, recording data about lips. It’s another thing to be kissed.
– the ruach of God.
– the reverence humming in us.
– the entire ball of God wax
Buy the book. Click HERE.
Here’s the video promo.
Does Jesus Really Love Me? March 19, 2013
Tags: 3. Christian Life, 8. Sex, Bible, Christian, Christian America, Christian nation, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, Does Jesus Really Love Me, evangelical, ex-gay, Exodus, Exodus International, Faith, Fred Phelps, freedom, Gay, Gay Christian Network, gay Christians, GCN, God, Grace, Hell, Homosexual, Homosexuality, Jeff Chu, Jennifer Knapp, Jesus, John Smid, journey, Justin Lee, kingdom of God, legalism, life, love, Loving God, michael bussee, mixed-orientation marriage, peace, pilgrimage, Relating to God, Religion, Salvation, Scripture, sexual orientation, spousosexual, Ted Haggard, The Bible, Theology, Truth, WBC, Westboro Baptist Church
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.
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.
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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
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…
I just think this is a great book, and the title doesn’t come close to conveying that.
The Idolatry of God February 14, 2013
Tags: 3. Christian Life, addiction, addiction to certainty and satisfaction, Alfred Hitchcock, Bible, certainty, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, cross, evangelical, Faith, female, free, free thinker, free thinking, freedom, Gentile, God, Grace, idolatry, Jesus, Jew, kingdom of God, life, love, Loving God, MacGuffin, male, Miami Vice, Mission Impossible, original sin, Peter Rollins, Relating to God, Religion, religious bondage, Rollins, Salvation, satisfaction, Scripture, sin, slave, The Bible, the Cross, The Idolatry Of God, the new collective, the new creation, the old creation, The Walking Dead, Theology, Truth, two births, zombie apocalypse
– The Apocalypse isn’t Coming, It has Already Arrived. –
Thus the adventure begins.
They say that (especially for those of us who are “youth-challenged”) one of the best ways to help prevent the decline of mental capacities is to actively use the brain by learning new things.
Simply put: THINK. And think new thoughts.
In that context, a Rollins book is just what the doctor ordered. Reading “The Idolatry of God” is spiritual LASIK. Here, however, the surgery is never finished. Even if we don’t see everything the way Peter does, the adjustment continues to change the very nature of our spiritual vision.
The sub-title to this book is “Breaking Our Addiction To Certainty and Satisfaction.” I think it could also have been sub-titled, “Insurrection: Part Deux.” A number of the ideas expounded upon here were initially raised in “Insurrection.” While each book stands on it’s own merit, thy make a lovely couple.
It may be hard for some to conceive as to how one can “idolize” God. Nevertheless, this book declares that’s predominantly just what “Christianity” has done.
“We have turned God into just another product to provide for our personal satisfaction. A cosmic vending machine that promises answers and an escape from eternal suffering.”
The truth is, no matter what our vision of God is, that vision is never God.
There are three sections to “The Idolatry Of God:”
The Old Creation, The New Creation, and The New Collective.
Early on, we read about how infants undergo two births. The second of these is where “the infant begins to identify as existing in separation from her surroundings and slowly begins to experience herself as an individual.”
This information becomes important in the discussion of our sense of separation, and in turn, our feelings of being incomplete.
I love how Peter finds truth wherever truth can be found. He references works like “Austin Powers,” “Mission Impossible III,” and “The Walking Dead.” In chapter one Mr. Rollins discusses a phrase made popular by Alfred Hitchcock: The “MacGuffin“. A MacGuffin can be anything, and the point is not what it is, but that it has some assigned value, and it is wanted and desired, even if what it is is not known. OK, that may not make much sense on it’s own, but within the pages of this book, it initiates some amazing thought processes.
This leads to a discussion of “Original Sin.”
Finally, after 58 years, I’ve read an approach to Original sin that makes sense. The church often says “sin simply means separation from God,” but then turns to endless discussions of “sins” instead of “sin.” The focus is on what is and isn’t a “sin.” This, of course, would vary from person to person, church to church, decade to decade. It all became an issue of what one could or couldn’t do, and still “remain” a Christian. I now find all of that laughably ridiculous, and simultaneously quite sad. The end result is a “sin management” system, and any meaningful concept of Original sin is lost.
Chapter two has a visual recreation of the standard line drawing used in many evangelical tracts. It’s the one with the stick figure on one side of a chasm, and GOD on the other. You’ll know it when you see it. We see why this entire approach to understanding our reality misses the point entirely. “Instead of seeing Christ as the apocalyptic destruction of this whole approach…these diagrams obscure the truth by calling the Idol ‘God.'”
Chapter three reaps wisdom from the 23rd chapter of Matthew, and from “Miami Vice.” We expand on a concept introduced in “Insurrection:” I wear a mask that looks like me. We look at the masks we “are,” and the mythologies (political, cultural, religious) that create and feed our life stories. The church, in large part, does not confront these mythologies, but rather blesses them.
Chapter four brings us the “Zombie Apocalypse,” the “radical message of the cross,” and great insight into the Temple curtain being torn during the Crucifixion. I loved the revelation of “what’s behind the curtain.” This is good stuff!
One of my favorite parts was chapter 5, “Trash of the World.”
We explore how a Christian “identity” is actually the setting aside of all identities.
We look at divisions that were thought to be a “natural” part of the world during Paul’s life:
Religious identity (Jew/Gentile),
Political identity (slave/free), and
Biological identity (male/female).
We then look at how the “sword” Christ says he brings divides those who may, in fact, believe the same things, while bringing unity to those who’s beliefs may be markedly different. A person’s enemies are now those of their own tribe. The graphics in the book help clarify the new division of non-division.
Chapter Six covers material like “renewing of your mind,” “freedom from the obsessive drive for that which we (falsely) believe will make us complete,” “Christ as Fully God,” and more insights into the Crucifixion.
Chapters Seven through Nine.
We’re shown some new ways of being church. Ways of facing our addiction to certainty. Ways of interacting with the “other.” And, of great importance, seeing ourselves the way others see us.
There are some really good ideas here. These ideas are not just theory, but ones that have been put into practice by the author and/or people he knows.
I would participate in these practices, but I don’t know that I would initiate them. Whether or not you use these ideas, they can spur you on to come up with your own ideas. These certainly are some unique methods of encounter.
We also look at how, sadly, the existing “church” does not confront or challenge the Idolatry spoken of in these pages. Rather, the church reinforces the Idolatry. Actually, it thrives on it. The modern church would, to a great degree, not exist without it. Not in it’s current form.
(I like the title of Chapter Eight: “Destroying Christianity and other Christian Acts.”)
Oh. Also in chapter 7, Peter critiques the “Confessional” scene in “Blue Like Jazz.” I understand him, and for the most part agree with his criticism. However, I still believe the realizations made through that type of process are powerful, and for many (most?) Christians, a necessary point at which to arrive before being able to move on. It’s like not being able to get from A to H without going through E. (And personally, I still love the movie. Not everyone will.)
I tell ya, one sure-fire way to know that a book, author, singer, poet, etc. has something the church probably needs to hear is if those who claim to speak for the church call it heresy. [Challenge power, and power pushes back.]
This book is no exception. Peter (like Rob, Brian, Anne, Spencer, Phyllis, and others) is, in my estimation, a modern day prophet. Not in some weird, supernatural concept of the word, but in a real-life, get-back-to-basics, kind of way.
A way that calls us out of the Babylon of Christianity, and back to the way of Christ.
Buy The Book. Click HERE.
– What if Christ does not fill the empty cup we bring to him but rather smashes it to pieces, bringing freedom, not from our darkness and dissatisfaction, but freedom from our felt need to escape them?
– All our religious narratives are but ash before the all-consuming fire of divine mystery.
– [Holing on to the] Idolatrous form of faith, [you] will be tempted to embrace that huge industry dedicated to conferences, worship concerts, and traveling apologists.
– The Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.
Buy The Book. Click HERE.
– Instead of God being that which fills the gap at the core of our being, the God testified to in Christianity exposes the gap for what it is, obliterates it, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the Idol.
– [Paul] understood that the prohibition of the law does not cause one to renounce an object, but rather fuels a self-destructive drive for it.
– People tend to think that the Law and sin existed on opposite ends of a spectrum… they actually are intertwined and exist on the same side.
Buy The Book. Click HERE.
– All the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have a fictional quality.
– Religious leaders are actually lying, first and foremost, to themselves.
– We are all tempted to fall into the same trap as these religious teachers whom Jesus chastised.
– Love fulfills the law…by raising us into a different register where we live beyond the prohibition.
… while not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible.
[This revelation to me, long before reading this book, was a wonderful breakthrough. I am no longer obsessed with what things are “sins,” and what are not. I now ask myself, “Is this the smart thing to do? Is this the best path to travel? Is this beneficial?” So the writing here, as so often seems to happen, confirmed a work already being accomplished within me.]
Buy The Book. Click HERE.
– Original Sin and the Law are obliterated and the Idol they create dissolves into thin air.
– [This is very good.] More often than not, the reasons we reject another arise after the actual rejection.
– Christianity is not a singular, monolithic, unchanging belief system but a fluid tradition that is always interrogating itself.
– Love is the crazy, mad, and perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life.
Buy The Book. Click HERE.
Another Conversation With Barry February 3, 2013
Tags: 3. Christian Life, 6. Politics, Barry McGuire, Bible, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, eternity, evangelical, Faith, freedom, God, Grace, Jesus, Jesus music, Jesus People, kingdom of God, life, love, Loving God, Music, Quotes, Relating to God, Religion, religious bondage, Scripture, The Bible, Theology, Truth
[Following is a portion of a recent email I sent Barry McGuire, and
portions of his reply. My few interactions with him have been
I was part of the “Jesus People” crowd back in the 70’s and 80’s.
Over the last 5 to 10 years, I’ve become a very different person, spiritually.
My wife and I left “institutional religion” about 5 years ago. I was a co-Pastor, Elder, Worship leader, Sunday school teacher, ect., ect.
Now, when I look back, I can see, IMHO, how the Jesus movement seemed to eventually be co-opted by conservative, right-wing, Republican “christianity.” I’ve also noticed, as I never did then, that the “Christian” music industry, book industry, ect., also is pretty much controlled by the religious right. (I didn’t believe that the Christian left even existed.)
Anyway,now when I listen to some of the old songs by certain artists like yourself, I hear a more radical tone than I ever noticed back then.
I hear implications that we’re all connected. I hear concern for our planet, and actual love and relationship with those of other religions. All things I have come to believe in.
I’m at a very different place spiritually than I ever would have imagined even a decade ago. It’s a different place, but it’s the best and most honest place I’ve been in that regard.
Have you had any major shift in your spirituality since the Jesus People days? Were you just always more “left” (if I can use that term) than most of us realized?
Anyway, thanks for all the years of great entertaining and thought-provoking music.
Keep it up!
Well, good for you my friend. I recently received an email asking me if I was still walking WITH Jesus and I had to tell the enquirer, that “No, I no longer walked WITH Christ, I now actually walk IN Christ.” All the difference in the world.
I can tell by your email that you are sinking deep unto deep. Recently a pastor in So Cal expressed that he’d heard that I’d gone off the deep end. My response was, “Praise God, yes, I’m tired of the wading pool. It’s deep unto deep for me.”
Someone asked my wife recently what church we went to. Her response was, “You’ve asked the wrong question…
She told that person, “We are the church, you and I are the living stones in the Body of Christ.” She went onto say that we belong to the church of Two or More. Wherever two or more are gathered in His name, there He is in our midst.
We could spend hours talking, at least I know I could. It’s been a long journey, but for me I’ve discovered that fundamental Christianity just doesn’t work. I’ve written a few blogs you might want to read on my personal www.barrymcguire.com website although it’s been a long time since I’ve read them myself, and I know my outlook on reality has changed since then. What we believe to be true today, with additional information, will change what we believe to be true tomorrow.
Just sink into your heart my friend, all the answers live there and ultimately it’s Christ WITHIN us that will prevail.
Blessings on you my friend, get stubborn in your surrender to reality,
[Bold and underscores added my me. – df]
Some other quotes from Mr. McGuire:
We have never known such peace, such assurance, we have never been filled with such expectancy, such hope, such knowing, that Christ IS living WITHIN every heart.
My world view changes from day to day. The truth of it is, we can know 99% about all there is to know, but the 1% we don’t know will totally change our understanding of the 99% that we did know……”His mercies are new every morning as our Spirit is renewed daily.” I’m not the same person today that I was yesterday, and I’ll not be the same person tomorrow that I am today.
Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance.
Ghandi had the right idea. He was assassinated. Anwar Sadat was a man of peace. He was assassinated. Martin Luther King spoke of the brotherhood of man. He was assassinated. John Kennedy wanted to get us out of Vietnam. He was assassinated. Jesus Christ gave us a message of forgiveness and love. He was assassinated. Socrates apparently did all he could to get people to think for themselves and not let others tell them what to do. He was assassinated. That’s why I take an a-political stand in this world I find myself living in.
How dare I judge ANYONE that Christ gave His life to forgive! I don’t care if they’re gay [or] straight.
Well, I don’t know about Christ’s soon physical returning. People have been thinking He’s going to be coming back any minute for the last two thousand years. For me, and Mari, He’s already come back!
Our constant goal is to stay focused on this present moment, and to pour one hundred percent of our energy and attention into the demands and requirements of each moment we experience.
TORN November 23, 2012
Tags: 3. Christian Life, 6. Politics, 8. Sex, Bible, Christ, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, culture wars, equality, evangelical, Faith, following Jesus, Gay, gay and Christian, gay Christian, Gay Christian Network, gay Christians, God, Grace, Homosexual, Homosexuality, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Justin Lee, kingdom of God, legalism, life, love, Loving God, loving Jesus, marriage equality, Relating to God, Religion, Salvation, Scripture, social issues, The Bible, Theology, Torn, Truth
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 EX–ex-gay category.] Yes, these are a minority within a minority, but I’m finding there are more than one might expect.
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 informed, rational 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.
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.
For some of my related experience, read