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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


———

Oh, here are those articles I mentioned:


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

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


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

 

Left Behind October 4, 2014

left_BFirst of all, this post is not about the ridiculous books, movie, or the bad theology they represent.
Not mostly, anyway.
This is about things I’ve left behind.
More than that, it’s about some of those things that I’m reaching back to pick up again.

There’s a small group of guys I meet with about once a week.
We are “Comrades.”
We share our life experiences, discuss “spiritual” issues (which means everything in life) and we often are somewhat of a “book club.” Books and audio we’ve delved into so far include, “The Naked Gospel,” “The Misunderstood God,” “The Idolatry of God,” and “Living By The Indwelling Life of Christ.”

roadWe’ve recently started the Brian McLaren book “We Make The Road By Walking.”
This is my ninth book by that author.
Basically, the book is made to be read and discussed one chapter per week for an entire year.
Each chapter also contains some suggested Bible readings.

Now, I used to read the Bible every day. I’ve been through it cover to cover a couple of times, read the New Testament dozens of times, and many passages, well, possibly hundreds of times. I am, after all, a [clears throat] “licensed minister.”
In my spiritual journey out of the cult of right-wing fundamentalist evangelicalism, reading the Bible is one of the things I pretty much left behind.
I also, for the most part, left behind biblical terms like “sin,” “salvation,” “hell,” “redemption” and many others.
Now, I’ve never stopped appreciating the Bible. In fact, I can honestly say I appreciate and respect those holy writings more than ever. A large part of that respect is realizing how disrespectful it is to take it all literately, or as some kind of historical or scientific text book.

Most of the reason for dropping terms like “salvation,” and the others, isn’t because I’ve stopped believing in them. It’s just that I’ve come to better understand them, and how differently they are actually used in the scriptures than I had been taught and believed. The misuse and abuse of those terms, as well as the Bible itself, led me to no longer refer to such because I knew that when I spoke them, what was being heard by others was not what was being said by me. Sadly, that’s still predominately the case.
So I needed a clean break.
A break from that kind of language as well as a break from even reading the Bible. Organized religion has brought so much baggage and destruction that the christ it presents is nothing like the Christ we read of in our holy book. I’m still aware of the limitations of using certain terms in public.
More and more, though, people are seeing that many (maybe even most) who believe in Jesus are not biblical literalists.

With help from authors like Philip Yancey, Peter Rollins, the amazing Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren (along with many others) I’ve been able to rediscover the beauty of The Book, properly understood. I’ve been able to see that terms like sin, salvation, glory, heaven and hell are all valid terms worthy of discussion when understood as the original audience understood them. Which, of course, is not how we’ve heard them used for centuries. Well, not from those most vocal who have falsely claimed to be speaking for God.

I know people often have to set aside things that have been an important part of their lives, re-evaluate, and then see what remains.
I actually missed what we called “worship music,” but so much of it was filled with such bad theology I could no longer listen to it.
Groups like “The Choir,” and “Gungor” have helped with bringing that back into my life.
Music which helps me contemplate The Divine.
Meditate.
I’m now able to pick up some of the things I’ve left behind. But I’m picking them up with the respect they deserve by not making them into something they were never supposed to be. I’m picking them up having shaken off the garbage I was told was inseparable from them.
Still, there’s much that remains behind me as my journey continues.
Some ideologies to which we’ve given birth need to be killed off.
Some babies actually should be thrown out with the bathwater.
Some cherished beliefs and doctrines really should be left behind.
better ahead


 

The Road To 60 September 13, 2014

Overhead-Road-Sign2

My wife, Kathleen, is about to turn 60.
In about 4 months, Lord willing, I will do the same.
The last 12-month stretch of the road to 60 has been, as most of my readers know, a rough one. Next month, October 22nd, will mark one year since Kathleen was diagnosed with breast cancer. The following days, weeks and months were quite intense.
Test after test.
Surgeries.
Chemo, which seemed to damn near kill her.
Radiation.
Pills.

The human mind always tries to make sense of things. That’s just part of what it’s supposed to do. But sometimes, there is no making sense of things. Others try to help you figure it all out with well-meaning but all too often meaningless platitudes.
“Just trust in the Lord.”
“It’s all part of God’s plan.”
If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid hearing anything like “You need more faith,” or “God’s trying to teach you something.”
I may have glanced at it briefly, but I never really went down the path of “Why, God?
I’m not belittling those who go there. It’s a natural place to go. It’s just that in my journey, I’ve learned that’s usually a fruitless endeavor.

People, especially Christians (especially Western Christians) too often seem to think God owes them an easy life.  When trouble hits their world they start questioning God’s “goodness,” or even if there be a “god.”  What many of us, in our comfy little lives, apparently fail to realize is that trouble is always hitting someone’s world.
Someone’s father is dying.
Someone’s sister is going through a divorce.
Someone’s little boy is being kidnapped or murdered.
“Their” bombs are killing our families.
“Our” bombs are killing their innocent children.
The world can be, as those famous prophets “The Temptations” have said, a “Ball of Confusion.”
But, God is still good while all this is going on…
Until it’s “me.”
Until it’s my family.
My life.
Then it’s suddenly “Where is God?!?!?”

The thing is, “The rain falls on everyone.”
That’s religious language for “shit happens.”

Through it all, as one who does still believe in God, I have hope.  I have faith.  (Not that those who don’t believe as I do can’t have hope and faith.)
BUT, it’s a very different hope and faith than I was raised with, or than I adhered to in the past.  It is not a hope or faith that requires life or God to be or act in a certain, narrowly defined pattern.  The Divine (by whatever name)  is not obligated to me because I quote some magical incantation from the writings of Saint Paul in the Bible.  That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped praying.  If anything, I pray more.
I believe Jesus clearly taught, and came to show, that what he referred to then (because of the culture he was born into) as the “kingdom of God” is here and now.  Being in that kingdom is a way of life.  It’s learning to truly be one with God’s good world, rather than planning an escape from it.  In this understanding, many Christians have been “left behind.”

How does that relate to pain and suffering?  Well, I’m not sure I know.  But I do know that even in my deepest dissatisfaction (and I’m one of those who is dissatisfied a great deal of the time) I retain some sense of, well, I guess I’d call it “ultimate peace.”  That peace that I can’t understand or explain.  A peace that’s there even when it’s not.  Yeah.  That makes no sense.  That’s the point.

So, the fact that my wife’s turning 60 this month is a pretty big deal.
Making it to 60, alone, seems to be an accomplishment.  Let alone being a cancer survivor.
She’s seen lots of pain in 60 years. Some of which I have been the direct cause.
But I know she’s had lots of joy and laughter in her life.
Some of which I believe I have also been the direct cause. 🙂
Next month will be a milestone.  We will discover if her system is currently cancer free.
(Yes, your prayers, thoughts and positive energy are requested.)

The road to 60 (or, at this point, almost 60) has taken us to some strange, horrible,
wonderful, awesome unimagined places.
For 35+ years, we’ve went most of those places together.
Whether in this realm or another; in body or spirit, or in some way I’m not yet aware, I’m
looking forward to the next 60 years I spend with Kathleen.
In my faith, in my hope, in my prayers we will be one forever.

RoadTo60
[Photo taken June 19, 2014 while joyfully attending
the wedding of Jean Capler and her wife, Jenny Austin.]

 

The Wisdom of Psychopaths February 25, 2014

psycho

The Wisdom of Psychopaths:
What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success
– Kevin Dutton

A totally fascinating read.
An amazing ride through the human psyche.

When most of us think of psychopaths we think of killers, like Bundy and Dahmer.  We think of the violent and/or seemingly emotionless men (and women) who’ve committed unthinkable atrocities.
But, according to this book, the majority of psychopaths are of the non-violent, “functional” variety, and they occupy our boardrooms, police departments, government leadership and our pulpits.

There’s tons of clinical data here, but it’s couched in interesting stories of real people, and the experiences of our author.  At one point, with the use of Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Mr. Dutton actually experiences being a psychopath.  Fortunately, this is a temporary state!
We look at various diagnostics used to determine the presence of psychopathy.
We discuss moral dilemmas.  We ponder the reality of being “guilty but not to blame.”  We examine “evidence that society is becoming more psychopathic.”  We explore the “‘Primary colors’ of personality” and traits that are, shall we say, high-scorers among psychopaths.

There are lots of interviews with professionals in the field, as well as with bonafide psychopaths.
CEOs, presidents, soldiers, Tibetan Monks; they’re all here.
For me, some of the more striking information was the overlap of characteristics shared by psychopathy and spirituality.
There’s an intriguing section presenting credible evidence that Saint Paul (Apostle Paul / Saul of Tarsus / That dude who wrote a lot of the New Testament) was, in fact, clinically a psychopath.

Being a person of faith, this whole book brings to mind the scripture statement that we are made so “wonderfully complex” (Ps. 139:14 LB). The “wiring.” The chemistry. The whole nature/nurture business. That so much of who we are boils down what switches happen to be thrown I find captivating.
There are, of course, professionals who disagree with Kevin’s basic premise (that psychopathy in moderation can be a good thing). For example, there’s Martha Stout, Ph.D.
She’s certainly not the only one. Obviously, we should always read various viewpoints of any subject matter.
Still, if you’re a psychologist, counselor, pastoral care worker, or just someone interested in the inner workings of the amazing mass we call the brain, this Kevin Dutton book could be an interesting part of your library.

– df

Buy the book. Click HERE.

————-
QUOTES:

– Psychopathy and sainthood share secret neural office space.
– Saul of Tarsus…could today, under the dictates of the Geneva Convention, have been indicted on charges of genocide.
– Psychopaths never procrastinate.
– Is it possible…that the saint and the psychopath somehow constitute two transcendental sides of the same existentialist coin?
– Not all psychopaths are behind bars. The majority, it emerges, are out there in the workplace.
– There will always be a need for risk takers in society, as there will for rule-breakers and heartbreakers.
– In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the experts mind there are few.


Buy the book. Click HERE.

List of the most psychopathic professions:
  1. CEO
  2. Lawyer
  3. Media (TV/Radio)
  4. Salesperson
  5. Surgeon
  6. Journalist
  7. Police Officer
  8. Clergyperson
  9. Chef
10. Civil Servant

The book also includes a list of least psychopathic professions.


Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

Heroes And Monsters. January 12, 2014

heroes and monsters
Heroes And Monsters
– Josh James Riebock

Yet another book recommended to me by my daughter-in-law.

This is a memoir like no memoir I’ve ever read.  It is, as the author states, “A true story… except for the parts that aren’t.”  That’s because like “Walter Mitty,”  “Ally McBeal,” and “The Life of PI” the author expresses many of  life’s realities through fanciful renderings.  The result is a sad, funny, tragic, triumphant journey of life in the real world.

The writing exposes how we all have the potential for both good and bad.  We are simultaneously “heroes and monsters, both arsonists and architects at the corner of the damned and the divine”.
It’s also about relationships: With God, with others, and with ourselves.
(Some of the material came at a very good time for what life is throwing at my wife and I right now.)

This book is published by a “Christian” publishing house, but expresses the author’s spiritual journey in a way that I find somewhat universal.  It’s a very engaging and encouraging read without being “heavy-handed.”
If you like memoirs, I think you’ll really, really enjoy “Heroes and Monsters.”  If you’ve not been into memoirs in the past, this one is a great piece with which to start.

Read more comments and reviews by clicking HERE.

“A beautiful book…Josh tells his life story with lively prose that explores the paradox of human splendor and wretchedness while dangling hints of redemption…For Josh, the road traveled with God is twisting, bumpy, potholed…and well worth the ride.”
–Drew Dyck

A Few Quotes:

– We hold each other. Sometimes, that’s all we can do.
– For a human, discovering that their perceived reality is inaccurate sends a tremor through their soul.
– A dream is a piano without keys. Fear calls everyone a friend. But dreamers, well, fear cozies up to them the most.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Yes, I knew that life could be cruel to people, but I never knew it could be this cruel to me.
– Flawed people I don’t mind; it’s the perfect ones who scare me.
– For the first time in my life, my dad isn’t a hero or a monster to me. Just a man trying to find his way.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– A friend isn’t someone who lets us be ourselves. A friend is someone who will die to keep us from becoming anyone else.
– Here in eternity, death has been exposed as the greatest hoax in history.
– All good things must come to a beginning.
Buy the book.  Click HERE.



 

Don’t Ask. Don’t Sell. February 27, 2012

I had a “conversation” with a Greg McCaw, a former CCM insider (he was “no longer needed” after he came out). He estimates that as many as 35% of those in the Christian Music industry are closeted gay.
Based on his experience, Mr. McCaw suspects most who work alongside them within the industry know of their orientation. Just not the general public.
So in reality, people like Marsha Stevens-Pino (For Those Tears I Died), Clay Aiken, Jenifer Knapp, Tonéx, Ray Boltz, et al, were not outsted from the industry because they were gay, but because they admitted publicly they were gay.

According to Greg, “It is OK to be LGBT privately, as long as you don’t say that you’re LGBT.  This is especially true if you have a talent that is quite marketable.”
Privately pro-LGBT thinkers keep quiet because they know most of their buyers are fundies.  It’s easy to become victims of the hypocrisy of religion.

There are many who make their living from selling “Christian goods” who are sincere believers that do valid ministry.  But, as Greg also says, Christian events and “the Christian music industry and the Christian publishing industry… are not primarily about ministry, they are primarily about sales.”

That’s all good and fine, I suppose.  Most of us probably already know that anyway.  But when people become less than who they are, or must be somewhat decietful concerning their views just to ensure their paycheck…
well, that’s not very Christian at all.
Making your money “off the gospel” is usually a dangerous thing.  It’s easy to end up being an ear-tickler.  Especially, I believe, in fundamentalist circles.

You can justify your cowardice because, in the words of Frank Schaeffer, “there are bills to be paid, because you are booked up for a year, because this is what you do.”

Yes, the livelihood of many gay Christians, as well as their straight allies, is tied to the CCM industry’s “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” policy.
Thank God, the tide of public opinion is turning, brought about in part, by the many Christians and denominations who are taking a stand for equality, consequences be damned.  This has happened time and time again throughout history, in relationship to various issues of human rights.
These people are those to whom, in my opinion, true ministry is more important than the Christian Money Machine.

-df

 

A New Kind Of Christian January 28, 2010

Some Excerpts from “A New Kind Of Christian” by Brian McLaren

To buy “A New Kind Of Christian,” click HERE.

You can’t talk about this sort of thing with just anybody.  People worry about you.  They may think you’re changing sides, turning traitor.  They may talk about you as if you came down with some communicable disease.  So you keep this sort of thing like a dirty secret, this doubt that is not really a doubt about God or Jesus or faith, but about our take on God, our version of Jesus, our way of faith.
Maybe there’s a better way.  Maybe there’s a new way of being a Christian.  Not a new Spirit, but a new spirituality.  Not a new Christ, but a new Christian.

To buy “A New Kind Of Christian,” click HERE.

——————–

Conservative Christians in the United States just 150 years ago used the Bible to defend slavery.  How can you be sure that some of your ironclad interpretations today aren’t similarly fueling injustice?

If you have an infallible text, but all your interpretations of it are admittedly fallible, then you at least have to always be open to being corrected about your interpretations.

So the authoritative text is never what I say about the text or even what I understand the text to say but rather what God means the text to say.  So The real authority does not reside in the text itself, which is always open to misinterpretation.  The real authority lies in God, who is there behind the text or beyond it or above it.  Our interpretations reveal less about God or the Bible than they do about ourselves.  They reveal what we want to defend, what we want to attach, what we want to ignore, what we’re willing to question.  Conservatives look at the Bible the same way medieval Catholics looked at the church and pope: infallible, inerrant, absolutely authoritative.  What if the issue isn’t a book that we can misinterpret with amazing creativity but rather the will of God, the intent of God, the desire of God, the wisdom of God – maybe we could say the kingdom of God.

The whole notion of authority as so many people conceive it is thoroughly modern.  Second Timothy doesn’t say, ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is authoritative.’  It says that scripture is inspired and useful.  That’s a very different job description than we want to give it.  We want it to be God’s encyclopedia, God’s rule book, God’s answer book, God’s scientific text, God’s easy-steps instruction book, God’s little book of morals for all occasions.  The only people in Jesus’ day who would have had anything close to these expectations of the Bible would have been the scribes and Pharisees.

When we let go of the Bible as God’s answer book, we get it back as something so much better.  It becomes the family story; a cosmic history, a book that tells us who we are and what story we find ourselves in so that we know what to do and how to live.

Think of a math book.  Is it valuable because it has the answers in the back?  No, it’s valuable because by working through it , by doing the problems, by struggling with it, you become a wiser person.

To buy “A New Kind Of Christian,” click HERE.
Here’s a little more.

“…LET’S SAY

[we] send you back into the fifteenth century.  Nobody could possibly believe that you could be Christians…

If you told them you didn’t believe in the pope and you didn’t accept that kings ruled by divine right and you didn’t believe that God created a universe consisting of concentric spheres of ascending perfection, and if you let it slip that you agreed with Copernicus that the earth rotated around the sun, you would surely be tried as heretics and perhaps burned at the stake…

To the Christian culture of medieval Europe, none of you today could be considered real Christians.   True, you might say that you believe in Jesus and that you follow the Bible — but that would sound like nonsense to them if at the same time you denied what to them was essential for any reasonable person to accept:  the medieval worldview, which was the context for their faith.

That brings me to an important question for you to think about:  Is it possible that we as moderns have similarly intertwined a different but equally contingent worldview with our eternal faith?  And another question:  What if we live at the end of the modern period, at a time when out modern worldview is crumbling, just as the medieval one began to do in the sixteenth century?”

— Brian McLaren in “A New Kind Of Christian”

To buy “A New Kind Of Christian,” click HERE.

 

 
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