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If My People April 29, 2020

 

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
– 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

Back when I was still in institutionalized religion this verse got quoted a lot. It didn’t get practiced a lot, but it got quoted a lot.  Sadly, what’s practiced today, and has been for some time now, is an alternate translation that goes something like this:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will exult themselves and scream, seek to control other peoples bodies and sex organs, and turn to the NRA, then from the White House will I hear, ignore all of MY sin, and take this land.”

For all the talk of a so-called “personal savior” (not in the Bible, FYI) this particular religious sect is often more interested in controlling “persons” other than themselves. More often it’s “YOU can’t do that,” than “I can’t do that.”
In my somewhat promiscuous life, I’ve rarely been with people more sex-obsessed than some of the right-wing fundamentalist evangelicals I know.
Moving on.

With COVID-19, as with almost every bad thing that happens, the psychos like Pat Robertson are blaming it on gays and abortion1.  But if the previously quoted verse is at all relevant, and if these folks will ever practice what they preach, it’s way past time for them to re-focus.
Chronicles is the final book in the Hebrew Bible2. But, the basic message of this passage is stated by Jesus in the New Testament.
He’s approached by a disciple who, in a nutshell is saying, “HEY! What about THAT guy?!?!”  To which Jesus replies, “What concern is that of yours? You follow me!” – John 21:22 (NET)

Oh what a better place the world would be if these folks could just get that one principle right! You don’t like abortion, DON’T GET ONE! You’re against gay marriage? DON’T GET GAY MARRIED!

“If MY people will humble themselves, and turn from their wicked ways…”
Now, to be clear, not right-wing fundamentalist evangelicals, not the Christian Left, not any religion has the corner on the god-market. But for those who believe they are “God’s people,” (and for those who believe in no god at all) this “YOU do the right thing” is, I believe, a good start. A kind of “do no harm” mentality where we can let others make decisions about their bodies and their love-life, while holding them accountable if their actions (like NOT wearing a mask during a friggin’ pandemic) are harmful to others.

The religious right is big on saying this Country needs repentance.
They are correct!
“If MY people will turn from their wicked ways.”
If those who are hell-bent on telling the rest of us how to live would…
Turn from the wickedness of trying to take away a woman’s right to choose…
Turn from the “sin” of keeping two consenting adults who love each other from getting married…
Forsake the anti-Christ practice of enabling a known lying, misogynistic, homophobic, frankly stupid narcissist,  simply so they can gain political power and marry church and state…
If they would value truth, facts and science. If they’d fight against putting kids in cages. If they’d stand for the poor and the outcast. If they would side with victims of gun violence instead of against them.  If they could possibly get it through their heads that “YOU follow me,” means Them, and if they would be more interested in actually following the example of Jesus than following their power-hungry quasi-Christian leaders (Graham, Falwell, Robertson, et al),
Then maybe our land could actually begin to heal.
It couldn’t hurt.

Now, let me acknowledge there are those who hold many right-wing fundamentalist attitudes who are otherwise good people. (I know. The whole “otherwise” good people can be used to defend a lot of ugliness, but…) And I don’t for one single second believe that COVID-19, or any other natural disaster, plague etc. is God’s punishment for anything, EVER! (And if this WAS God’s doing, and part of some end-time plan, why the hell would they be fighting against what they say they believe must happen, and what they’re praying for. Sheesh!)

Still. I keep hoping and praying for their repentance. That or their eventual complete insignificance.
I really do.
And, I know a lot of Christians around the world who are not a part of this very vocal group I’m talking about, are also hoping and praying for that kind of “revival”.  I so want to see some of these folks awaken from delusion, acknowledge the wicked ways I’ve talked about, and repent of trusting religious doctrine and “correct” beliefs over valuing this world and its inhabitants.
You know, like Jesus did.
I really believe, as the title of a Rob Bell book states, “Jesus Wants To Save Christians.”
If only they’d let him.

  1. This political association was a very intentional way to control evangelical voters. You can read a lot about the creation of the religious right in the Frank Schaeffer book, “Crazy For God.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_of_Chronicles


    And now, here’s Derek Webb (formerly of Caedmon’s Call) with “What Matters More” (Lyrics below video)


    You say you always treat people like you’d like to be
    I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
    You love when people put words in your mouth
    About what you believe, make you sound like a freak

    ‘Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
    You wouldn’t be so damn reckless with the words you speak
    Wouldn’t silence your concern when the liars speak
    Denying all the dying of the remedy

    Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

    If I can tell what’s in your heart by what comes out of your mouth
    Then it sure looks to me like being straights is all it’s all about
    Yeah, it looks like being hated for all the wrong things
    And chasing the wind while the pendulum swings

    We can talk and debate it till we’re blue in the face
    About the language and tradition that He’s coming to save
    Meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a shit
    About fifty-thousand people who are dying today

    Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

    Brother, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

    Tell me, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?

 

Beyond The Burden July 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

AL FRANKEN, GIANT of the SENATE July 10, 2017





Intelligent and knowledgeable, funny and insightful, and still a pretty good looking guy.

But enough about me.
Let’s talk about Al Franken and his latest book.

This is my 4th read by Franken.  It does not disappoint.  In fact, there’s something in its tone that, to me, seems to make it more accessible than his previous books.
It’s a memoir.  It’s humorous.  It’s a scathing expose. It’s an explanation of the mechanics of government. And, ultimately, a book of hope.

We shown portions of Al’s childhood, we go through the years of his SNL involvement, and are brought up to date with his experience as a Senator from Minnesota.
And there are a lot of cool photographs.
One of his previous book titles can really be applied to all of his books: “The Truth (with Jokes).”  All of his books are filled with researched, notated, verifiable facts.  They also have many laughs (and some occasional groans). It’s hard to find reading that both entertains and educates as much as a book by Al Franken

[Although many of them are short, there are 47 chapters here.  So I won’t be doing a chapter-by-chapter review (as I have for some books).]

Early on Franken tells us “Why I’m a Democrat.”  “Civil rights, our parents taught us, are about basic justice.  And when the news would be full of southern shefiffs truning firehoses, dogs, and nightsticks on demonstrators, my dad would point to the TV and [say] ‘No Jew can be for that!’ Opportunity is supposed to be for everyone.  And that’s why I’m a Democrat.”

Later, of course, we get into Al’s run for Senate.  An excruciating election that resulted in a 8-month (plus) recount!
Then we gain a whole lot of information about the inner workings of our government.

“My Republican Friends” is an interesting chapter.  Al actually has many friends who are Republicans. And he has some positive things to say about Republicans in general. Part of his job is “looking for opportunities to find common ground.”  But, being a Senator means having to make friends with people you’re fighting against, and fighting “with every fiber of your being” against people you are friends with.

We also learn of Al’s relationship to addiction.  Al managed to never become an addict. “There but for the grace of God go I” he says. But he had to deal with his wife’s alcohol addiction, his best friend’s chemical addiction, as well addictions of celebrity friends like Belushi and Farley.  “Addiction can take an unimaginable toll on the people who love addicts.”

The 3 chapters about SNL also discuss Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and a show Al did called “Indecision ’92.”  And were brought to face the fact that “comedy broadcasts” are often one of the most reliable sources for truth in news.  This is also the time-frame where “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations” is written, and “shot to number one on the New York Times bestseller list.”

There’s a chapter on healthcare.  The lies, misinformation and obstruction from the Republicans on this issue is amazing.  They fought and fought to stop it.  Once it became law they’ve fought and fought to repeal it.  Sadly, it’s looking like they may have a chance now.  “Republicans have voted more than sixty times to repeal the law.  They had offered zero plans to replace it.”  And of course the “plans” they have offered recently haven’t even met with approval from their own party.  That’s because, for all their talk, they’ve never been interested in the “replace” part.  Just repealing any progress made by President Obama.

Another chapter discusses education.  Which, with DeVos running the department, our children are in genuine trouble.  But before Betsy, once again, “Even as we were finding ourselves in agreement on what we needed to do, Republican leadere were working to prevent us from actually doing it.  McConnell’s goal was almost always to stop Obama and Senate Democrats from getting thing done, to prevent us from having achievements we could point to.”

In addition to health care and education, there’s a discussion on climate change. “Virtually everyone in the world believes that climate change is real and is caused by human beings, except Republicans. [They] know that if they concede that global warming is real, the Koch brothers will spend money against them.

“The Angel and the Devil” looks at the very important topic of discrimination. “Growing up, my kids read in history books about a time in our country when it was perfectly legal to fire somebody or refuse to hire somebody because they were black or a woman.  For them it was a concept they couldn’t understand.  I hope that my future grandkids will only read about when it was legal to fire someone because they’re gay or transgender.”

Ted Cruz gets an entire chapter devoted to him.  “Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz.  I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz.  And I hate Ted Cruz.”

On Trump: [He] quickly showed that he had no knowledge about the details of public policy… no interest in learning the details of public policy… [and] actively scornful of learning.  “I know more that the generals,” he would say.  No, idiot – you don’t.

We have insights and stories about McConnell, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, The horribly insanely greedy and uncaring Koch brothers, Perry Mason (?!?) and more.
Franken has a lot of stories about learning how to be a Senator and about how important all his staff are: The research, the guidance and critiques they offer.  Switching careers from comedy writer (excuse me, “satire” writer) to serving as a Senator had a huge learning curve.  He allowed his staff to gently let him know if he was crossing the line, such as the time when one staffer slipped him a subtle note: “You’re being an asshole.”  So, Al’s humor often takes aim at Al, as well as others.  And he give his wife, Franni, credit for saving his campaign.  “There is no question that I would have lost the election if Franni had not [did what she did].”

As humorous and entertaining as this book is, the seriousness of the issues is intense.
This is information every American needs to have. The future of your children and grandchildren is literally in jeopardy right now!
If you vote, you need to read this book!  (And if you don’t vote, well…)

 

 

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

  • Between 25 to 40 percent of Americans have a severely distorted view of how government and politics are supposed to work.
  • We all do better when we all do better
  • My wife and I have a division of labor.  Basically it’s this: Franni’s in charge.
  • McConnell and his friends constantly blamed Obama for the partisanship of the Obama years, managing to suppress their giggles all the while.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

  • Until John Belushi’s death, we at SNL didn’t really understand that drugs can kill you.  But by the time Chris Farley got in trouble, we at the show understood all too well.
  • Abortion services make up (only!) 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. [Planned Parenthood, through many of their services, does more to prevent abortions than anything those against it have ever come up with!!!  Just sayin’.]
  • Half of all bankruptcies in America were tied to a medical problem.
  • Under Trump, we should probably prepare for the worst.  This is going to suck for a while.  But not forever.
  • Just because we’re out of power doesn’t mean we abdicate our responsibility to try to improve people’s lives.  That’s what makes us Democrats.  It’s what makes us worth electing in the 1st place.

Also read: “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”


NOTE: If you are a right-wing friend or family member, and would be willing to read this book, even if it’s to “find fault,” let me know and I will (as finances allow) try to get a copy to you!

 

What Is The Bible (Book Review) June 9, 2017

what
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
More than once.
I’ve read much of it dozens of times, and some of it hundreds of times.
I’ve studied it.  Meditated on it. Dissected it.  Taught it.  Preached it.
Made it much the focus of my life.
Eventually, to some degree, I discarded it.  Dismissed it.
I’ve considered that it may be a book to be banned.
(OK.  Not really. The book shouldn’t be banned.  But many people should be banned from owning a copy until they learn some responsibility.)

How I wish I had had the eyes to see, and the ears to hear the kinds of wisdom, insight, approach, and understanding that is represented in Rob Bell’s profound book “What Is The Bible?

 

A lot of the basic understanding here is understanding I’ve had for awhile now.  Some of this was addressed in Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” But, the specific perception of various individual passages that are discussed here are really, really eye-opening.
You’ll revisit stories with which you thought you were well acquainted.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham and his son.
Jonah and the big fish.
The parable of The Good Samaritan.
The “take-away” on these stories has (at least in my tradition) almost always strayed from the real point. But, they will take on a breath of fresh air as you understand them the way the original audience would have understood them.  And we find out why Americans often miss the major themes of the Bible!

There are stories we look at and think, “How backwards and barbaric!” And a lot of it was backwards and barbaric!  But, looking closer, in the midst of this we can see actual steps forward in the evolving understanding of God.
We go through lots of passages, Old Testament and New.   We get into all the violence that causes some to pronounce “There is no God,” and others to just accept it (or even appropriate it, so to speak) and use it as a justification for their own hate.  There’s a chapter titled “What’s the Worst Question to Ask When You’re Reading the Bible?”
It’s a question that believers and atheists both ask!

One portion discusses the word and concept of “sin.”  It’s become, for many of us, a cringe-worthy word.  Here you’ll find what may be the best material on the subject I’ve ever seen.
Rob also addresses many of the standard questions he gets, like “Did Jesus have to die?” “What about all that wrath?” and (concerning Abraham) “What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?”  I LOVED the answer to that one!
The last chapter, “A Note on Growing and Changing,” has some great advise for those of us with family and friends who don’t see things the way we do.  (And who doesn’t fit that category?!?!)

I once suggested a book to someone thinking he might enjoy the unique perspective.   He didn’t read it (which is fine) But, what he did do was “analyze” the book based solely on it’s title, and then proudly proclaim “Book solved!”  I remember thinking, “WTF?”
“What Is The Bible” is not a book to be solved.
This is a book to be eaten.
Chewed slowly.
Swished about like a fine wine.
Will you agree with everything in it?  Not likely.  Can you find (or make up) reasons to tear it apart?  Of course you can.
Can you be inspired, encouraged, educated and entertained?
I sure was.  There is just so much here!

I wish every atheist and fundamentalist evangelical would read this book (and, well, everyone else).
It’s been my experience that both tend to approach the Bible in the exact same way.  But, as is often the case, many who could benefit the most will shun this book as either heresy or fantasy.  Religion has a long history of calling truth heresy, and intellectuals have a long history of dismissing anything “spiritual.”
Still, for those who let it, it can be another compelling part of their journey.  With lots of “ah-ha” moments.

I suppose once you’ve read “What Is The Bible”, that you can leave the experience unchanged.
But I can’t see how.

 

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

Some Quotes:

  • It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you by appealing to your religious convictions.  (Read the story of Peter in Acts, chapter 10!)
  • You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.
  • The deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
  • I’ve heard people say that they read it literally.  As if that’s the best way to understand the Bible.  It’s not.  We read it literately.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • [In the story of Jonah] the dude who sees himself as us is furious because of how chummy God and them have become.  He’s so furious he’d rather die than live with the tension.
  • I would often hear people say, We need to get back to how they did it in the early church.  But reading the Bible, you learn that it’s not about trying to be something you’re not.   We open our eyes to the divine invitation right here, right now in this [world].
  • When people debate faith vs. science they’ve already missed the point.  Faith is about embracing truth wherever it’s found, and that of course includes science.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • To make broad dismissals of the scriptures as having nothing to say to the modern world about what it means to be human is absurd and naïve.  These are radical, progressive, open, expansive, extraordinary stories… told from the perspective of actual people living in space and time.
  • The divine is always at work.

And, a few golden oldies:
“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.
This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
― Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians

“Eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God.
Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
― Rob Bell, Love Wins


Critical Praise for “What Is The Bible”

“Rob Bell is at it again. Love him or loathe him, the theological provacateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.”  — Relevant

“With pastoral prodding, Rob Bell helps us see that scripture is a masterpiece of penetrating subtleties crafted by ancient authors with a transformative vision for humanity. Bell reminds us that the Bible is neither simple nor mundane, but worthy of our full attention.” — Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty

“To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at times.” — Robert

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

 

Tired Of All The Negativity February 20, 2017

So, I keep seeing social media posts from people talking about how tired they are of hearing all the political rhetoric and negativity concerning our current administration.  Here’s the thing: Most of these posts, not all but most, are from older white Protestant males.  I, too, am an older white Protestant male. So I have no problem talking about this group. [Most of the younger ones are white males, as well.  And many of the ones from females are still also white Protestant.]

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being white, or Protestant, or male.  BUT, this is the group of people that are the least negatively affected by our “Nightmare  on Pennsylvania Avenue.”  It’s like when I hear white folks say “Yes, racism is an issue, but now we’ve gone too far the other way.”
Really?  After years, decades, centuries of being the oppressor; of being the privileged class, we’ve gone too far the other way because other people are finally standing up for themselves?  They’ve endured all these many many years, and you can stand the heat for barely a second.  Even when “the heat” is not being able to discriminate against others.

It’s so damn easy to say “move on” when you’re not the one whose marriage is being threatened. When you’re not the one who’s being told what to do with their body. When you’re not the one whose families are being torn apart because of deportation!

Instead of being tired of the political posts and so-called negativity, you should be a part of it!  Because, it’s not negativity.  It’s social justice activism!
If you have a decent bone in your body, you should be standing with total outrage against all the insanity that is currently going on in the White House. Vocally, actively  standing!

By now you’ve probably seen the post that goes something like this:
“People  say, ‘If I was alive back then I would have…’
Well, you’re alive now. And what you’re doing is what you would have done!”

I’m especially tired of the group that most vocally claims to speak for God also being the group that is the least like Jesus. They’ve pretty much lost all claim to credibility or godliness.

So, yeah, you’re tired of this. You’d like us all to just get over it.
It’s nice to have that luxury, isn’t it?

 

I’m Too Old For That November 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

– dave


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

if-you

 

Dear God (The Good Wife) October 8, 2014

good wife logo

If you watch “The Good Wife” you already know why the show and cast have won so many awards. It’s just a very well written, very well acted show.
The most recent episode “Dear God” (air date 10/05/2014), is no exception. (If you’ve not seen it, you can watch it on CBS.com or stream it via Amazon.)

There were a number of great turns by lots of guest stars (Linda Lavin, Michael Cerveris, Richard Thomas, Robert Sean Leonard and Gloria Steinem), as well as the top notch performances by the regulars including the always interesting Alan Cumming.

In this episode, there was a lot about God, religion and Christianity.
Some scenes exposed a few of the fallacies of Christianity, and some showed the good.
Pretty balanced, all in all.
I quite enjoyed “secular” lawyers employing the bad, bad practice of proof-texting the Bible in exactly the same way many Christians do. You really can spend hours spouting opposing scripture quotes at each other trying to prove your point.
It’s odd how so many people use “Well, you can make the Bible say anything” when they disagree with you, never realizing they themselves are, in that moment, doing that very thing. It’s always “someone else” who’s using it wrongly.

One of the moments I enjoyed most this outing was between our Atheist lead, Alicia Florrick (Portrayed by the amazing Julianna Margulies), and her Christian daughter, Grace (Makenzie Vega).
When Alicia asks Grace if she really believes all the stuff in the Bible, Grace responds beautifully:

“I don’t know if it’s all historically accurate, but I think it can be true in another way.
You know, like poetry; it can still be true even if it’s not accurate.
Look, if I wanted you to remember that God created everything, I’d probably tell you a story about it happening in seven days.
But that doesn’t mean it actually happened in seven days.
It just means that I wanted you to remember that God created everything.”


An intelligent response by a person of faith.
You don’t frequently see that on prime-time television.

Knowing, of course, that the opening of Genesis is, in fact, a poem helps Grace’s point sink in.
I could be wrong, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that if you look in Grace Florrick’s library, you’ll find copies of “A New Kind of Christianity,” “The Orthodox Heretic,” and most likely, “Velvet Elvis.”

 

Everything Must Change September 11, 2014

EMC

Everything Must Change
(When The World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide)
– Brian D. McLaren

This is not a quick and easy read. At least it wasn’t for me. But this is potentially one of the most important books you may ever read. The is one of 4 or 5 books I would like to see in everyone’s library.
More importantly, I’d like to see it in the hands of every “young” person between 18 and 30. I totally believe the future of the world as we know it depends on the issues addressed in this book.

“Everything Must Change” is written by a Christian, predominately to a Christian audience (although many fundamentalists doubt this target audience is “Christian” to begin with). But, the issues and principles here apply to every human on the face of the planet.  And they effect every human and non-human on the face of the planet.

Some issues covered are:

* The Prosperity Crisis – Environmental breakdown caused by our unsustainable global economy.  One that does not respect environmental limits, while creating great wealth for about one third of the world’s population.

* The Equity Crisis – There’s a growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor, most of whom are growing in envy, resentment and hate of the rich.  The rich become fearful and angry as they seek to protect their wealth.

* The Security Crisis – The danger of war arising from resentment between the groups at opposite ends of the economic spectrum.

* The Spirituality Crisis – This is the failure of the world’s religions (especially Christianity and Islam) to provide a framing story that could bring healing or at least reduction to, the previous three crises.

This is another book that will help readers see how we’ve misconstrued so many of Jesus’ teachings.  Brian helps us to hear Jesus’ words more in alignment with how his first listeners heard them.  We see that we have a “framing story” that desperately needs changed.  So we revisit “the essential message of Jesus.”  In doing so, we re-examine metaphors like “The Kingdom of God.”  We consider our human situation in connection with the message and purpose of Jesus

In one section, Mr. Mclaren likens our past religious attempts at understanding to those of someone piecing together a puzzle.  We’re trying to fit it all together according to the picture on the lid.  The problem is, we have the wrong lid!

In chapter 4, a young man from Khayelitsha, South Africa, delivers a very weighty message to a group of pastors and evangelists from America.  It is a message every pastor and evangelist needs to hear.  If you’re a “missionary,” please read this chapter.  Even if you don’t want to buy the book, borrow it from the library.  Borrow it from me.  Just read this chapter.

It seems many people shy away from politics and religion.  As Brian states, “A lot of us are very happy to go through life knowing as little as possible about economics, politics, and ecology.”  The thing is, these are both the problem, and part of the solution.  For me personally, my politics are intrinsically tied to my faith in Christ.  Yes, we pray.  But then we help bring God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven” by taking action: Action that can help bring about equality, justice, and environmental responsibility.  I believe a proper look at the teachings of Jesus will reveal that very thing.

This was my 9th Brian McLaren book.  My “Comrades” and I are getting ready, as a group, to read Brian’s latest, “We Make The Road By Walking.”

If you’re someone who cares about the future of your children, your children’s children, and so on; I would suggest you read “Everything Must Change” and seriously consider the message it contains.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Quotes:

– Not only am I often unsatisfied with conventional answers, but even worst, I’ve consistently been unsatisfied with conventional questions.

– Part of what it means to be “a new kind of Christian” is to discover or rediscover what the essential message of Jesus is about.

– Many of our religious institutions have taught us to see no horizon for the message of Jesus beyond the soul of the individual.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The way of the kingdom of God calls people to a higher concern than self- or national interest: namely, concern for the common good.

– We can no longer deal with global problems as discrete unrelated issues.

– Jesus bursts on the scene with this scandalous message: The time has come!  Rethink everything!  A radically new kind of empire is available.

– Theocapitalists have tended to see the rich as morally good and the poor as morally culpable for their own poverty.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Many of our current eschatologies, intoxicated by dubious interpretations of John’s Apocalypse, are not only ignorant and wrong, but dangerous and immoral.

– We don’t have a violent “Second Coming” Jesus who finishes what the gentle “First Coming” Jesus failed to do, but we have a poetic description of the way the gentle First Coming Jesus powerfully overcomes through his nonviolent “weakness”, a prince of peace whose word of reconciliation is truly mightier than Caesar’s sword.
Buy the book. Click HERE.



 

 

Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed July 7, 2013

faith_doubt

FAITH, DOUBT, AND OTHER LINES I’VE CROSSED:
        WALKING WITH THE UNKNOWN GOD
– Jay Bakker with Andy Meisenheimer

———

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book.  Very readable.  Both thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

This is my second read from Jay Bakker, my first being “Fall to Grace.”  (You can read that review by clicking Here.

This new book, written with Andy Meisenheimer, is such a huge encouragement.  It’s what I’d call a very “real” writing.  And for me, it’s easily relatable on so many counts.
There’s a lot discussed here; doubt, God, the Bible, heaven and hell, atonement, love, grace, relationships, society, church, theology.
We look at faith vs. certainty, reading the Bible differently, getting a new take on dying and rising with Christ, recasting eternity, rediscovering grace, standing for the oppressed, a self-centered view of God, and so much more. This is one of those books that, if taken seriously, has life-changing potential.

One of my favorite parts is in chapter one where we read about Paul in the book of Acts.  This is when he’s in Athens, and finds an alter with the inscription, “To an unknown god.”  Paul goes on to tell them that this unknown god is the God that Jesus came to tell us about.  Many Christians are familiar with this story, and the kinds of expositions usually given.  Here, our minds are expanded to a new possible understanding of this incident.  In part 12 (each chapter has numbered parts) we’re hit with what I found to be a beautiful revelation.  I won’t spoil it here.
Also in this chapter, I’m reminded of the times when what we read in our scriptures are quotes from other sources, as is the case with “in God we live and move and have out being.”  Here, Paul was quoting a Cretan philosopher named Epimenides.

In chapter two, we look at “Doubting Faith.”  Paul Tillich “believes that fanaticism and pharisaism are the symptoms of repressed doubt,” and that “doubt is overcome not by repression, but by the courage to embrace it.”  Jay says, as have I many times, “The more you find out, the less you know.”  “They don’t prepare you for this when you’re a Christian kid.”

The 3rd chapter is about reading the Bible.  It brings me memories of “Velvet Elvis,” and “A New Kind of Christianity.”  We read that “when we turn the Bible into an answer book, we miss out on the real story, the depth of all that the Bible has to offer.”  There’s a good bit on the writings of Paul, some material by Peter Rollins, and some quotes from Rob Bell.  We see that, for many, an “illiterate reading of scripture becomes God’s truth.”

Part of what we discover in chapter four is “Jesus’ version of fulfilling the law, in practice.”  Often, he “fulfilled the law by breaking it.”  There’s more insights into the “torn curtain” of the temple, during the crucifixion.  This is really good!
We also look at atonement theories, somewhat in the vein of Wm. P. Young, and some quotes from Sharon Baker’s book “Razing Hell.”  When we look at some of the teachings we grew up with, we have to ask “Does God practice what Jesus teaches?”  If so, we’ve gotten a lot of things wrong.

Chapter 5 is about eternity, and it opens with a Pete Rollins quote.  We also hear from Martin Luther King Jr., as well as James, Paul and Jesus.  In this chapter, concerning his alcoholism, Mr. Bakker says, “That’s when I finally got sober.  After I found out that I was accepted.”
I can so relate to that statement.  It was in the middle of a drug-induced stupor, when I was dangerously sexually promiscuous, possibly at the most irresponsible point I’ve ever been in my life, when I somehow realized that right there, right then, with or without any change in my life, I was totally accepted by God.  That doesn’t mean my actions were approved, but I, as I was, was both loved AND accepted by God.  No fear of rejection by God. Not even fear of death! THAT’S when things in my life started to turn around.
Yes, Jay Bakker, I really do get it.
Admittedly, there certainly was fear of the mortal consequences of my actions, here in this life. But I realized that would not be God “punishing” me. It would just be “sowing and reaping.” I thank the Lord that karma isn’t always the bitch she’s made out to be. 🙂
It’s truly a miracle (or multiple miracles) that I’m not dead or back in prison.
[And now, back to our review.]
There’s also some interesting material about when Jesus was reading Isaiah’s “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” scripture.  What Jesus doesn’t say speaks volumes.

In chapter six we look at grace:  Wild, outrageous, vulgar grace.  We see how “we cheapen grace when we make it temporary, a ticket to an afterlife.”   “When we really understand it, we will always find grace offensive.”

The seventh chapter has us “Speaking Up for the Marginalized.”  We see, as many are painfully aware, how the “church” has so often been on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of civil liberties, and the wrong side of… well, just the wrong side all around.  We’re told that it wasn’t until 1967 that a non-white person could marry a white person in every state.  Much of “christianity” believed, as Bob Jones preached, that “segregation was preserving God’s plan for the different races according to the Bible.”  We look to the Bible to see how the church in Antioch was treating the “minority,” and how one believer (Paul) had to confront another believer (Peter) over his two-faced hypocrisy.
Here’s a good quote from this chapter:
“Separate but equal.  Remaining a pure people.  Not mixing seeds.  We look back now and think, That’s crazy.  Who could support that?  Who could possible think the Bible could be used to justify a ban on interracial dating?
The answer is – we did.
Christians.
Are we doing the same thing now?”
So, yes, we discuss LGBTQ equality in this chapter.

We re-discover some of the Bible’s parables in chapter 8.  The lost coin.  The lost sheep.  The lost son. Here again, of course, we step back and see things from a new perspective.  This is good stuff, people!

In the ninth chapter we look at what we call “the church service.”  Jay purposes that this is “an unnatural experience of God, just like the art gallery is an unnatural experience of art.”  “It’s amazing how quickly you lose touch if you’re always in a Bible study and everybody’s always talking about Jesus and Christianity.  When we hear mega-church preachers say something that seems out of touch with reality, we have to understand that they don’t live in the real world.  Christians live in a false world, one without the people that Jesus cared about.”

M. Night Shyamalan offers up some great food for thought in chapter 10.  We also learn from the example of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as the 18th chapter of Matthew.

Chapter 11 addresses, among other things, death, suffering, grief, hope and hopelessness.  I think of all the cliches and platitudes that are frequently offered to those experiencing grief.  I know people may be trying to be helpful, but  “Death is a tragedy.  It’s important to walk through that grief without being bombarded with assurances that everything is okay.”  It’s important to say “This is horrible and awful.  It wasn’t God’s plan or God’s opportunity to make something good.  It was simply a tragedy.”

“Losing Belief, Finding Faith” is the title of chapter 12.  Here we compare and contrast faith and belief.  We discuss the “appeal of certainty.”  It’s easy to see why so many fall for fundamentalism.  But “certainty helps us cover up our brokenness and fears.”  It “allows God to become our alibi for hate and judgement.”  It causes “theologians and pastors [to] become lawyers, arguing nuances and loopholes that the original writers would never have imagined.”
“The freedom to have faith instead of beliefs is, to me, one of the most beautiful things about following Christ.”
We also look at the dangerous idea of “all or nothing.”  This is an idea that I’ve found destructive in most areas of life. (Check out “Do One Green Thing,” by Mindy Pennybacker.)

In the conclusion, we read the familiar story of Mary and Martha, again gaining a fresh perspective.  We take another look at bibliolatry, and the anti-Christ damage it continues to cause.
Then Jay wraps up this outing by looking at that which is of “infinite, ultimate concern,” and how our lives can truly be transformed.

In these pages, we walk with Jay as he discovers “something deeper and more lasting than the evangelical framework [he] inherited from [his] family and church.”  The story is both universal, and quite personal.  We touch on his relationship with his famous parents, including the deep pain of losing his mother at the end of her 11-year battle with cancer.

This really is an amazing read.  Interesting stories, and life-giving perceptions.
Don’t pass on this one.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

—————–

Seriously, you should read this book, wherever you are on the spectrum of belief or unbelief. Give it to friends and family. Start conversations around it. Then, tell Jay how much you love it. As a real shepherd of real people, Jay needs our encouragement.
– Rob Davis: an atheist’s review of Jay Bakker’s new book

—————–

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Doubt keeps me from thinking I’ve got a handle on God.

* I’ve found peace in the mystery.

* That any of us act like moral giants is pretty insane. We all add to suffering, and we ignore it. We know that our chocolate is picked by child laborers, diamonds are mined for slave wages, iPhones are assembled in inhumane working conditions. We can ignore all that, but we freak out when someone sleeps with their secretary.

* You would think that relationships would be more important than theology.

* The only difference between you and me and the “scandalous outsider” is nothing more than the labels we use to separate us from them.

* The type of inclusion Jesus practiced gets you in trouble.  This type of inclusion gets you killed.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* “I-think-my-God-is-the-God” idolatry.  This is true idolatry.

* Somewhere along the way, we got focused on who does what with their genitals and forgot about love.

* I didn’t want theology to ever become more important than people.

* Our rejection of those who don’t fit without our clear-cut worldview is destroying people. Jesus said we would be known by our love, but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are known by our uncomfortable silence, our fight against their civil right to marry, our moral outrage, our discrimination, and our stereotyping.

* When you don’t know what to say [to a grieving person], cliches are the first things that come to your mind.  It’s our way of saying, “Holy shit, I don’t know what just happened.”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Rather than being humbled and baffled by grace, we draw lines around who is in and who is out. [If we’re going to get angry], let’s get angry at how undiscriminating grace is.

* Jesus talked with all sorts of people without confronting them about their sin and demanding repentance.

* I can see the appeal of certainty. It promises that you’ll never have to rethink things or be confronted with a reality that you can’t understand. With God, you don’t get certainty.

* I’m going to work to free people from hell on earth.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The idea of heaven didn’t work for me when my mom died.  I felt certain she was in heaven… but all I could think about was never being able to see her, call her, talk to her, for the rest of my life.

* “Hope that is seen is not hope,” Paul says.  Hope comes from a place of doubt.

* We need to give people permission to embrace death, tragedy, the meaninglessness of life.

* I am no longer concerned with an afterlife, though I am concerned with eternity.

* I’m not trying to save anyone from hell or win people to Jesus.  I’m just trying to follow Jesus myself, and help people find grace and peace and acceptance in their lives.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Also check out www.JAYBAKKER.com, and www.REVOLUTIONnyc.com

 

SIN July 4, 2013

sin       [From “Faith, Doubt and Other Lines I’ve Crossed,” by Jay Bakker with Andy Meisenheimer]


When people lose their jobs, aren’t promoted, are discriminated against, are treated differently, are described as “gay” as an insult, get kicked out of their churches, and are disowned by their families THAT is Sin!

The non-affirming of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the church is destroying families – at times with surprising violence – all in the name of God and holiness.
That is Sin!

Jesus said we would be known by our love, but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are known by our uncomfortable silence, our fight against their civil right to marry, our moral outrage, our discrimination, and our stereotyping.  A “welcoming-but-not-affirming policy is both self-contradictory and cruel.

________________________________________

The very notion of a “right” is that it places limits on the arbitrary power of the majority.  Equal rights shouldn’t be based on a vote. (via William Stacy Johnson)

The church historically has lagged behind government when it comes to issues of civil liberties.

The church should be on the front lines of the fight for the civil liberties of the oppressed.
The lyrics of the U2 song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” ask, “How long must we sing this song?” How long are we going to cling to outdated notions of homosexuality and refuse to accept LGBTQ people into our midst?

_____________________________

Jay Bakker

Jay’s new book is, so far, fantastic! I’m just in 7 of 12 chapters (14, if you count the introduction and conclusion).
The above post is mostly about marriage equality, but that’s just this chapter. A lot of other issues are covered in these pages. This is my latest “Must Read” that I will be highly recommending to any and every reader, especially those who acknowledge faith in Christ.
[Of course, the “church” has often been the entity which has perpetrated the most vile and unholy sin, all in the name of God, and all while deceiving itself into believing it was the force attempting to eliminate sin.
To be fair, it has also been those of the Church (albeit the non-“fundamentalist” portion) who have fought for, and died for, the dignity, rights, and humanity of the oppressed. Who have, in fact, fought the sin of religious control and intolerance. – df]

For a different topic from the book, see: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vvcr11lancq3see/Paul.docx

Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

 
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