Tuesday, October 31, 2006

With all due reverence

I revere the Bible. I love reading scripture. But I don’t worship the book. I worship God alone. Too often it seems that the Bible is worshipped, more so than the one to whom the Bible points. Inerrancy, for example, seems to me to be a doctrine without application. If we could point to the original manuscript, then it might be relevant, but as it is we are stuck with something that doesn’t exist. What we have is a result of translation and editing, redaction and interpolation, and more. But we don’t have anything close to an original manuscript for any of the books of the Bible. And we do have examples of how the passages have been interpreted, rewritten, and recopied with errors.

I approach scripture with all due reverence. It is my guide towards God, to faith and in life. Yet scripture points us in a particular direction. Scripture points us toward God. Scripture is not in and of itself God and should not be made into an idol. The words in scripture are not to be worshipped, but to be read and used to help us find the directions God is giving for our life(ves).

Scripture is my rule for faith and life. But scripture cannot be everything. Scripture is as limited as anything that is not God. Scripture doesn’t speak to science. Scripture doesn’t speak to archaeology, though it has been used to help find archaeological sites. Scripture provides some evidences for a number of different disciplines but should not be confused as defining anything other than Christian theology (and the Old Testament for Jewish theology). I treat scripture with due reverence but don’t pretend that it’s something that it’s not.

Science talks about the how of things. How is this put together? How can we explain these facts? How can we test something? What is the evidence? But Scripture isn’t really concerned with those questions. Scripture wants to ask other questions. How should we live our lives? In whom do should we believe? How do we share our faith? Who made the world and why? Science works on putting facts together, while religion works on the meaning of life. Scripture is not concerned with how the world was created, even in the stories of the world’s creation in Genesis 1 or Genesis 2 the question being answered is who made the world and why rather than details of how God acted.

It is not due reverence to make the Bible something it is not. It is not due reverence to idolize the words of Scripture until they’re thought to be accurate in fields like archaeology, science or anything other than religions. It is not due reverence to hold your interpretation of what Scripture means in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

The God we worship in the Bible says that God is the truth. But pretending that the way we interpret the Bible is the truth when our interpretation is contrary to the facts is to make the one we worship a liar. When we make the Bible something it is not we make lies out of what we believe. Even further we make lies into what we believe.

The Bible is worthy of our reverence, but it is not something we should worship. There were followers of God before there was a Bible. Abraham had neither the Hebrew Testament nor the Greek Testament but was counted worthy of God. When Paul referred to Scripture what he used was what we call the Old or the Hebrew Testament. The gospel message is what comes from the Holy Spirit as we read and understand Scripture. And though we talk of the four gospels, they are such because they contain the gospel message rather than because they are the gospel message.

We are called to approach the Bible with reverence, but we are not to make it our God. Our God cannot be contain4ed in the writings of a single book or even the writings of a whole library. When we force scripture into being our God we try to put God into a box of human understanding. And while God understand humanity in whole neither any one human nor all of humanity can ever fully fathom the depths of God.

So I approach the Bible with all due reverence. I read and study scripture daily. I walk through the day in prayer as I work so that I may more fully come to God whom I worship. But the Bible is my pointer towards God and not God.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is
it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks
the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a
position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but one must take
it simply because it is right." :
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968

Halloween silliness

I'm always a little appalled when I read reports that Halloween is too scary and we should have nicer costumes or that Halloweeen celebrates witches and is a geway into paganism I'm not sure I can remember how many different costumes I wore, but some of them were blood thirsty and some were not and I think I amny of my friends from childhood turned out just fine.. So the Bishop of somehting or other thinks that costumes are too scary, then let him deal with his own children and skip the irrelevant pronouncements to the world. Just let the parents and guardians make their own decisions and let the children have fun.

Camille Paglia

Camille Paglia is one of the people where I appreciate every piece of writing. Even if I disagree it is enriching and expands my understanding. So when I agree I like to make sure other know where to find it. This interview where she discusses the Foley mess is worth reading.

Informed Consent?

I always thought one of the ethical rules in most science and business studies was 'informed consent'. There are several definitions as in clinical drug trials where one may not be informed as to exactly what drug one is receiving (or not), but people are supposed to know what htey're getting into.

I was wrong, according to consumeraffairs.com JetBlue had pilots exceed the FDA limits in order to test their ability to fly fatigued. The passageners weren't informed. I wonder if the management can spell 'Ethical Breach', perhaps write it 1,000 times and turn it in along with a report on ethical standards for business and science?

Dag Hammerskold

Not I, but God in me.

Dag Hammarskold

Monday, October 30, 2006

The fig tree or living in the now but not yet

Matthew 21.17-22 -- The withered fig tree

“Let no fruit grown on you again” is a rather harsh condemnation since, at least as I’ve been told, figs weren’t in season. This is not a gentle Jesus meek and mild, but one who expects things in and out of season. If the people are silent, the very stones will cry out. But this tree didn’t cry out even though the savior of the world was present.

This story isn’t about the tree, but about our call to be ready for the coming of the Messiah. No one knows the day or the hour when the savior comes, but we are to be ready to receive the anointed one when proper moment arrives. The time is not on a schedule we can fix as the seasons go by. The time is when the eternal enters into our schedules.

Greek has two words for time. One of the words “chronos” has to do with scheduling as in the massage of years, seasons, months, weeks and hours. The other word for time “kairos” has to do with the proper moment.

There are parts of life that just can’t be scheduled very well and parts that will fit no schedule. The right moment to tell someone that you love them is not on a printed schedule but in the moments of silence and conversation. The kairos is experienced at the right time rather than placed on a calendar.
The story of the fig tree asks whether we are using a calendar and marking off what we’ve done to be saved, or whether we are working to be ready for salvation when it arrives. Similar questions, but one expects to count the steps and the other lives in the now but not yet.


Life is a journey, not a destination. a poster from the early 70's

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Andrew Sullivan quoted Montaigne in an article called Just for the Record.

"Some impose upon the world beliefs they do not hold; others, more in number, impose beliefs upon themselves, not being able to penetrate into what it really is to believe."

for some reason I like to reference the source.

Buechner from Godric

What's lost is nothing (compared) to what's found, and all the death thateverwas, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.

Frederick Buechner in Godric

As a little child

Luke 9:37-50

Once upon a time a woman told me, “I like the message of Billy Graham but I distrust him. I went through World War II and I saw what that sort of speaking can do. A crowd will get so swept up that they forget to think.” (Or something like that).

The point she was making is that we are to be careful about whom we listen to, and that it is easy to get caught up in the roar of the crowd. But we, who are Christians, are called to be different. And this story illustrates those differences. Jesus doesn’t come close to being a demagogue, though there are stories where he preaches to the crowd. He comes to the people who have needs and heals them. He welcomes the children as quickly as the one with power. Jesus shows us the way to go and it’s not the way of power seeking or privilege.

A man comes to Jesus about his only child. The child is possessed by a demon. Perhaps it is epilepsy, perhaps it is demonic, certainly it is a problem. The boy is healed. And then, there are some words in the midst of those problems about the Child of humanity – the Son of Man – being betrayed. And the disciples don’t understand about the betrayal. Then the disciples start arguing over who will be first in the realm of God. And the answer comes. – the least among you is the greatest – and the disciples again don’t understand and miss the point.

The disciples were so focused on what they could and couldn’t do; they were so focused on who had the privilege and honor that they forgot to listen to the teachings of Jesus. The example of Jesus reaching out to the child was missed. The saying of Jesus that he would be betrayed was misunderstood. The direction of Jesus bringing a child and saying the least would be most honored was ignored.

And today we are like those twelve (and more amongst Jesus’ followers). We ignore the needs of the children by taking money from education. We ignore the needs of the poor by taking money from social services. We ignore the needs of those who are sick by not providing health care. We trust in our own understandings rather than listening to each other and to God.

I was fortunate in that I learned some of this from my parents. It did cause problems though. I once ruined a teacher’s plans. Mr. McCullough asked my class what our parents would do if someone came and asked them for food. Well…. I knew. So I raised my hand and said, “My dad would get them a meal at the local hotel.’ And then, Mr. McCullough tried to make it more difficult, someone rough looking, un-bathed. And since my dad was in charge of the local monies for transient food and lodging I raised my hand again and heard, “Roger, don’t answer my question.” And my twin had the class later that day and heard, “Robert, don’t answer my questions today.” As a child I learned. And I try to keep those lessons in mind today as someone a little older.

My teacher learned a little bit about our family that day. And I had learned before that as my parents had learned from their parents. One of the stories I heard about the depression is that my grandparents always had a hired man or two around the place. As I grew older I realized that this happened because when people turned up on the doorstep my grandparents took care of them. That set of grandparents had nine children. They didn’t really need a hired man, but…

And I wasn’t the only one who learned about taking in the stranger. One of my cousins was working and found out that some day laborers hadn’t been paid on Friday. The boss wanted them back on Saturday, rather than waiting until Monday when they were regularly scheduled. So the checks were held back. That cousin appeared at her parent’s house for dinner with five or six extra people. An extra leaf was put in the table and the people were fed.

We are asked to be those people who welcome the least among us, who cast out demons that harass others among us, to go to the weak, the poor, the prisoner, and more. We are to take up our cross and follow the one whose life led to death on a cross. We can be caught up in the roar of the crowd, in the intensity of a leader, but we follow one who looked beyond the great speakers to the person who was in need.

Henry Ford

Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right.

Henry Ford


Fundies say the darndest things. Go their for a too true picture.

Elijah and Elisha

Some of my favorite stories are those of Elijah and Elisha. In many ways it’s because of how human they are. Yes, both of them work miracles, but they also have a couple of flaw. Elijah works a miracle of calling down fire on water-drenched oxen (I Kings 18) and then goes into the wilderness to complain to God (I Kings 19). This holy man is not a pietistic, uncomplaining example of a goody two-shoes, but a real live breathing human.

Christians, or anyone who seeks to follow God’s will, are not perfect beings, but beings seeking to be perfected. We are training for a race and seeking to run well. We are bits of ore going into the reefing fire. We are clay being shaped by the potters hand. We are not the finished product.

Yet too often we, who call ourselves Christian, act as though we are finished. We believe we know all there is to know about God. Or we act as if the fact that we are in church makes us better than someone else. Or we look down on someone giving thanks that we aren’t as sinful as is that other person in the corner.

The scripture messages is that we are loved and saved as we are. It is that we are works on the way to completion. It is that we are not to judge others. But words about hating the sin, while loving the sinner are voiced rather than acted upon. Our actions speak loudly condemning the one we call sinner and ignoring the sins that we ourselves love. In reading the greek testament I find more passages condemning greed and hypocrisy than all the so-called sexual sins put together. Yet the church, as a whole, seems to forge chains for those caught in the easily seen sexual activities while ignoring the greed that destroy corporations and takes away pensions or the hypocrisy that can claim someone else is a sinner while ignoring their own sin.

Dare I mention the gospel story about ignoring the log in one’s eye to take care of the speck in another person? Or another story that ends with judge not lest you be judged. Or the Romans passage that says when you condemn others you stand condemned yourself. The list of passages goes on.

We should expect each other to be on a journey. And in the journey we may stumble, lose our way, and make other mistakes. Our task is not to yell at the other, but to help pick them up and find their way.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hammar skold

Why torture yourself in order to hurt others? Forgive them instead.

Dag Hammarskold

reDiscovery Institute

For a wonderful spoof of something I preach against way to much.... the reDiscovery Institute.

Freedom and discrimination

Wayne Besen in an article called The Caliphate Cab and the Biblical Bus discusses the problems with allowing religious viewpoints to dictate what someone will do in the public sphere. It reminds me of an example I saw in several books on the dangers of homosexuality where a little old lady wants to rent out a room, but wants to prevent her unmarried tenants from having sex in the room.

There’s really no problem. If you don’t want to deal with passengers who have alcohol in their luggage then don’t drive a cab. Licenses for cabs are granted as part of the public interest in having reliable transportation, but there are many other occupations available where one will not have to drive someone with liquor.

There’s really no problem. If you don’t want to drive a bus that has particular advertisements you can choose to work for another company that doesn’t put advertisements on the bus.

There’s no problem if you don’t want unmarried couples having sex in your rooms then don’t have anyone over, let alone rent to them.

If you open a business one of the ground rules across the U.S.A. is that you can discriminate only on grounds that affect your business. Renting a room in your house or a house is fine. You can examine the financial history of your prospective tenants, you can check up on their history of arrests, you can do many things if they directly impact how your property will be cared for by the tenants and whether you’re likely to have any legal problems. But you can’t decide that two people whether friends or more than friends shouldn’t live in your place because they might be having sex.

You can choose not to participate in a business if it will interfere with your faith, but you can’t pick and choose what parts of the public may use or not use your business on any but business related grounds.

Supporting freedom

As it's getting near the end of the year and some of us are buying calendars this site has a couple of eye-candy collections that help to support our troops. Since I've had someone in my family fight in every war that the U.S.A. has had since the Revolutionary War (sometimes on both sides, but we won't mention that too loudly), I'm for supporting our troops.

I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who first said (during the Mexican American War) that he supported the troops but not the war.

Marriage and civil rights

At Dispatches from the Culture Wars I came across a reference to an article comparing the N.J. decision on gay marriage/civil recognition to Loving vs. Virginia. I commend it to everyone. I don't necessarily agree with everything, but even the stuff with which I find quibble (and no more than that) I find worth my time and thought.

I was blind

I was blind and now I see. I was blind to my sexual orientation, deliberately so. The roots of my blindness came from early childhood when my parents took the best advice of the day for their 'pre-homosexual child.' But I took that in and reinforced those messages with my own denial and willful blindness. It took a voice telling me – waking me up from a sound sleep – that “I love you as you are and you are gay.” for me to see myself as I was.

And while overcoming my blindness meant a great deal of fear and trepidation as I faced telling those around me who I am and have been, it also meant a great deal of joy as pieces of my life sorted into place.

Bartimeus was blind, but there were others who saw but did not see around him. They saw him crying out and warned him not to disturb the peace. But we are called to disturb the peace so that the poor and oppressed, the ill and the prisoner, the widow and the orphan may be given help and redress. The blind may see clearly that they need help when we who see block the vision of what God expects of us.

The blindness resonates with me because of my experience of denying a part of who I am. Certainly a part of my blindness was reinforced by the culture around me. My parents took me to a psychologist when I was five and followed all the best advice for making sure that their pre-homosexual child turned out to be heterosexual (rather than having an incomplete psychosexual development), but that led me into a denial of part of my nature - an important part of anyone's nature - my sexuality.

Those who are like the blind man on the edge of society should imitate Bartimaeus. They are to cry out for help and redress. And those who don’t seem to be on the edges need to ask “Where are our spots of blindness? Where do we need to be listening to the inopportune importuning of those who are ill, the imposition of needs of those who are poverty stricken, and the outpouring of pain of those who are seen as less than able in our lives?” If we want to follow Jesus then we should listen where he listens. Not to the adoring crowd, but to the one in despair, not to the boot-lickers but those crushed underfoot, not to the power hungry but to those who have no power. And we, if those in need don’t see their needs, should be with the blind man shouting out for healing from Jesus and refusing to be shushed by those who are nice.

We are not to be alongside those in power looking for the next thing to manage. We should not be with those of wealth trying to scrounge the next dollar from someone. We should not be like those of prestige claiming the best seat in the room. We are to be those who give voice to the voiceless, who give sight to the blind, who visit the prisoner, who heal the sick, who clothe then naked, who parent the orphan. And, when we are in positions of prestige, wealth, power we shouldn’t be looking for ourselves, but for the least among us.

While the story of Bartimeus from Mark 10:46-52 is the start of my reflection, the challenge of Bartimeus leads us to other points in our journey with Scripture. The question of who knows and doesn’t know Christ at the end-time is part of why the story of Bartimeus is important. “When did we see you, Lord?” – when you did it to the least of these. “When did we ignore you, Lord?” – when you didn’t help those in need.

Unlike Bartimeus I was blind to my own needs. Bartimeus saw what he was missing and asked for help. I didn’t see what I was missing and didn’t really know that I needed it until well after I was clearly sick from denial. But we had in common that we needed help. And just like Bartimeus I received help when I asked for it after I finally recognized that something was wrong.

But we who are in the service of God – that means every Christian – shouldn’t just be waiting for the problems to arise; we should be looking for them before they are jammed into our faces. We need to ask – “who is it that God would have us minister with and to?

Frederick Buechner

Compassion is ... knowing that there can never be any peace and joy for me, until there is peace and joy finally for you too.

Frederick Buechner

What is of real importance

In the story of Martha and Mary from Luke 10 I often feel more sympathetic to Martha than to Mary. I’m a recovering perfectionist and when I entertain I want everything to be just right. The dishes are polished, the food tastes wonderful, there’s never an empty glass during the discussion after the dinner and more. But sometimes I miss the conversation when I do this. And what’s really important, being with my friends or having the perfect service of food?

And this is what the story of Mary and Martha is about. What is nice and what is important?

Martha’s not a bad person and her ideas aren’t that far off. She wants to make things go well for her guests. The problem is she forgets about paying attention to what the guests are saying. Still, I really resonate with her. I keep going, how many times have I done just that, keep going about the tasks. I think, and why can’t I be like Mary paying attention to the relationship.

Yes the needs for food and housing are important. We need people who are gracious hosts, preparing beds and meals and cleaning up and laundry and the multitude of tasks that are part of hospitality, but we need to ask why do we want to be hospitable. We should be asking what is of real importance, what is the better task. If we don't we may miss out.

Luke 10:38-42

[38] Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. [39] She had a sister named Mary who sat at the Lord=92s feet and listened to what he was saying. [40] But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." [41] But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; [42] there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Musgrave and Schaivo

I always thought Musgrave was a woman of convictions even as I disagreed with her beliefs and convictions. From a report about her dealings when face to face with Michael Schiavo my opinion about her having the courage of her convictions is changing. A few years back I was disgusted at some of the ads attacking Musgrave and considered voting for her in opposition to those ads. That's no longer the case.

much of this article did not get transferred and I didn't notice it. I will post the whole thing at a later date. RV

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Poem on Micah 2;1-13

The prophet’s call comes loud and clear
Still there are those who will not hear

The prophet’s voice is strong and bold
Still there are those who can’t be told

That we are called to hear the voice
Of those whose years have lacked a choice

The cries of those in grief and pain
Are when the prophet cries may seem insane

As questions from a heart of care
Embarrass those who will not share

So listen well all those of power
Your days are fleeting as a shower

The judgment day will not be long
for those who do not right what’s wrong

Devise the ways to cheat the poor
Make crooked paths and shut the door

Your day of reckoning will come

Sexual identity and sexual orientation

A recent study in New York City revealed that up to 10% of men self-identifying as heterosexual had had sexual activity with another man in the last year, several of them had only had sex with other men. Identity can be changed. Why some of those men don't identify themselves as gay is a matter for them. Clinically they can be identified as homosexual or bisexual, but how they self-identify is a very different matter. Sexual orientation is about the gender of those with whom you have sexual activity and the gender to whom you are attracted. But one's actions and feelings are not necessarily how one identifies oneself to oneself and others.

In many ways the problem is confusing definitions. It is like the woman who told me that she didn't identify as a feminist but did identify as a sufferigist. She'd heard too many times that feminists were man-haters, but no one had ever told her the same about the ancestral name 'suffragist.' And she didn't realize that feminists want equality between women and men and the word suffragist was about getting equal voting rights. Too many men (and women) identify being homosexual or gay with attitudes or activities with which they disagree, but haven't realized what makes one homosexual or bisexual is attraction to and/or sexual activity with their own gender.

A quote to make one think

The greater that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Kahlil Gibran

Limbaugh and Fox

A better article than I wrote about Limbaugh's attack on Michael J. Fox is at Huffington Post. Check it out.

John F Kennedy

If we can not end our differences, we can at least help make the world safe for diversity.


Byron Percy Shelly

Hope, until hope creates from its own wreck the thing it contemplates.

Byron Percy Shelly

Born again

I realized after my post on not liking questions about 'have you been born again?' or 'when were you saved?' I should mention that I've had a born again experience. But I don't believe that the experience is theologically important. For being saved the importance is in the action of God. My experiences of faith whether in slow growth and gradual recognition or sudden flash of insight or God speaking to me are points along a journey that began when that one who is fully God and fully human lived and died for me about 2,000 years ago. To make the process about my experience is to place myself at the center of salvation when it is God who is at the center of salvation.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

God's gracious pleasure

I don’t like questions such as ‘have you been born again?’ or ‘when were you saved?’ That’s mostly because those questions take the emphasis off of who saves us. We are not saved by an experience, no matter how profound, of being blown away. We are saved by God’s gracious pleasure. We are saved by the actions of one who is both fully God and fully human. Being saved has very little to do with whether we recognize that we have a personal relationship with Jesus. Being saved has to do with Jesus recognizing us as a brother or sister, with God adopting us as a child, with Jesus going to the cross. Being born again may (or may not) help us recognize what God has already done, but it doesn’t save us. Knowing the date we recognized our salvation may pin point a significant moment, but we were saved by a life and death on a cross and not by a particular time when we recognized God speaking to us.

It is not we who save ourselves and that is the import behind ‘have you been born again?’ or ‘when were you saved?’ Those questions put the focus on the human experiencing salvation and that’s not what saves us. Salvation comes from God alone and not our feelings about it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I don't usually put things in full here, but I don't have a link, so...

Pharisee Nation
By John Dear
Common Dreams
Tuesday 15 February 2005
Last September, I spoke to some 2,000 students during their
annual lecture at a Baptist college in Pennsylvania. After a short prayer service
for peace centered on the Beatitudes, I took the stage and got right to the point. "Now let me get this straight," I said. "Jesus says, 'Blessed are the peacemakers," which means he does not say,'Blessed are the warmakers,' which means, the warmakers are notblessed, which means warmakers are cursed, which means, if you want to follow the nonviolent Jesus you have to work for peace, which means, we all have to resist this horrific, evil war on the people of Iraq."
With that, the place exploded, and 500 studentsstormed out. The rest of them then started chanting, "Bush! Bush! Bush!"
So much for my speech. Not to mention the Beatitudes.
I was not at all surprised that George W. Bush was reelected president. As I travel the country speaking out against war, injustice and nuclear weapons, I see many people consciously siding with theculture of war, choosing the path of violence, supporting corporategreed, rampant militarism, and global domination. I see many othersswept up in the raging current of patriotism. Since most of thesepeople, beginning with the president, claim to be Christian, I amashamed and appalled that they support war and systemic injustice, thatthey do it in the name of God, and that they feign fidelity to thenonviolent Jesus who gave his life resisting
I am reminded of Flannery O'Connor's great book, "Wise Blood,"where her outrageous character Hazel Motes is so fed up with Christianhypocrisy that he forms his own church, the "Church of Christ withoutChrist," "where the lame don't walk, the blind don't see, and the deaddon't rise." That's where we are headed today. I used to think these all-American Christians never read theGospel, that they simply
chose not to be authentic disciples of thenonviolent Jesus. Now, alas, I think they have indeed chosendiscipleship, but not to the hero of the Gospels, Jesus. Instead,through their actions, they have become disciples of the devout,religious, ll-powerful, murderous Pharisees who killed him.
A Culture of Pharisees
We have become a culture of Pharisees. Instead of practicing anauthentic spirituality of compassion, nonviolence, love and peace, weas a collective people have become self-righteous, arrogant, powerful,murderous hypocrites who dominate and kill other in the name of God.The Pharisees supported the brutal Roman rulers and
soldiers, and livedoff the comforts of the empire by running an elaborate banking systemwhich charged an exorbitant fee for ordinary people just to worship Godin the Temple. Since they taught that God was present only in theTemple, they were able to control the entire population. If anyoneopposed their power or violated their law, the Pharisees could killthem on the spot, even in the holy sanctuary.
Most North American Christians are now becoming more and more likethese hypocritical Pharisees. We side with the rulers, the bankers, andthe corporate millionaires and billionaires. We run the Pentagon, blessthe bombing raids, support executions, make nuclear weapons and seekglobal domination for America as if that was what the nonviolent Jesuswants. And we dismiss anyone who disagrees with us. We have become a mean, vicious people, what the bible calls"stiff-necked people." And we do it all with the mistaken belief thatwe have the blessing of God.
In the past, empires persecuted religious groups and threatened them into passivity and silence. Now these so-called Christians run theAmericanempire, and teach a subtle spirituality of empire to back uptheir power in the name of God. This spirituality of empire insiststhat violence saves us, might makes right, war is justified, bombingraids are blessed, nuclear weapons offer the only true security fromterrorism, and the good news is not love for our enemies, but theelimination of them. The empire is working hard these days to tell thenation--and the churches--what is moral and immoral, sinful and holy. It denounces certain personal behavior as immoral, in order to distractus from the blatant immorality and mortal sin of the U.S. bombing raidswhich have left 100,000 Iraqis dead, or our ongoing development ofthousands of weapons of mass destruction. Our Pharisee rulers wouldhave us believe that our wars and our weapons are holy and blessed by God.
In the old days, the early Christians had big words for such behavior, such lies. They were called "blasphemous, idolatrous,heretical, hypocritical and sinful." Such words and actions weredenounced as the betrayal, denial and execution of Jesus all over againin the world's poor. But the empire needs the church to bless andsupport its wars, or at least to remain passive and silent. As weChristians go along with the Bush administration and the Americanempire, we betray Jesus, renounce
his teachings, and create a "Churchof Christ without Christ," as Flannery O'Connor foresaw.
Troublemaking Nonviolence, the Measure of the Gospel
The first thing we Christians have to do in this time is not to become good Pharisees. Instead, we have to try all over again to followthe dangerous, nonviolent, troublemaking Jesus. I believe war, weapons,corporate greed and systemic injustice are an abomination in the sight of God. They are the definition of mortal sin. They mock God andthreaten to destroy God's gift of creation. If you want to seek theliving God, you have to pit your entire life against war, weapons, greed and injustice--and their perpetrators. It is as simple as that.
Every religion, including Islam,Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, is rooted in nonviolence, but I submit that the only thing we know forsure about Jesus is that he was nonviolent and so, nonviolence is thehallmark of Christianity and the measure of authentic Christian living.Jesus commands that we love one another, love our neighbors, seek justice, forgive those who hurt us, pray for our persecutors, and be
ascompassionate as God. But at the center of his teaching is the most radical declaration ever uttered: "love your enemies."
If we dare call ourselves Christian, we cannot support war or nuclear weapons or corporate greed or executions or systemic injustice of any kind. If we do, we may well be devout American citizens, but we no longer follow the nonviolent Jesus. We have joined the hypocritesand blasphemers of the land, beginning with their leaders
in the WhiteHouse, the Pentagon and Los Alamos.
Jesus resisted the empire, engaged in nonviolent civil disobediencein the Temple, was arrested by the Pharisees, tried by the Roman governor and executed by Roman soldiers. If we dare follow thisnonviolent revolutionary, we too must resist
empire, engage innonviolent civil disobedience against U.S. warmaking and imperial domination, and risk arrest and imprisonment like the great modern day disciples, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Philip Berrigan.
If we do not want to be part of the Pharisaic culture and do want to follow the nonviolent Jesus, we have to get in trouble just as Jesus was constantly in trouble for speaking the truth, loving the wrong people, worshipping the wrong way, and promoting the wrong things, like justice and peace. We have to resist this new American empire, as well as its false spirituality and all those who claim to be Christian yet support the murder of other human beings. We have to repent of the sinof war, put down the sword, practice Gospel nonviolence, and take up the cross of revolutionary nonviolence by loving our enemies and discovering what the spiritual life is all about.
Just because the culture and the cultural church have joined with the empire and its wars does not mean that we all have to go along with such heresy, or fall into despair as if nothing can be done. It is never too late to try to follow the troublemaking Jesus, to join hispractice of revolutionary nonviolence and become authentic Christians.We may find ourselves in trouble, even at the hands of so-called Christians, just as Jesus was in trouble at the hands of the so-called religious leaders of his day. But this very trouble may lead us back tothose Beatitude blessings.
John Dear is a Jesuit priest and the author/editor of 20 booksincluding most recently, "The Questions of Jesus" and "Living Peace"both published by Doubleday. He lives in New Mexico where he is workingon a campaign to disarm Los Alamos. For info, see: www.johndear.org.

Abraham Lincoln

We cannot have free government without elections.

Abraham Lincoln, 1864

Why I am pro-choice

I came across this story at Scienceblogs.com, but went to the original citation at ABC news. I don't like induced abortions. I think they're always a bad choice, even though sometimes they're the best among bad choices. I believe that the woman involved will have mixed feelings down the years. But a woman shouldn't have to feel that her only option is to shoot herself in the stomach. That's worse than any abortion ever chosen by the woman who is pregnant.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Philip Gulley

"...maturity isn't about doing what pleases us, but bearing with good humor that which annoys us to no end."

Life Goes On, Philip Gulley

Louis L'Amour

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."

from Lonely on the Mountain by Louis L'Amour


I can understand denial. Hey, I lived in denial about my sexual orientation until I was in my thirties. But I also didn’t do anything that would bring that knowledge to my attention. I distracted myself from knowing. But that’s a little different than the denials of Jim Ryun. Oh I didn’t know Foley even though we lived across the street from each other. Oh, I didn’t really know him our block parties just happened to be at the same time. Oh, there’s an invitation from both of us, but we really didn’t know each other. Now that’s a new level of denying the truth.

the source for what Ryun knows is from Thoughts from Kansas.

I do understand not wanting to admit you know someone, but a lot of this is public. I see the same problem with this as I did with Clinton and Lewinsky. Much of it makes very little difference, but the coverup and lying make a huge difference. That Foley and Ryun worked together is not important, that Ryun feels the need to cover it up and lie says a great deal, and none of it positive, about his character.

Bad ideas

It's not a good thing to walk up to people and call them names. Doesn't matter if you don't approve of what they're doing. But to spit on them is even worse. And when they're undercover cops it's doesn't get any better. But someone did just that. And then when he was arrested kept on calling them names. Free speech does come with responsibility. I'd defend the right to call other names, though not in or on my property, but laying hands on someone or doing other things is a bit further than the founding fathers had in mind (or so I suspect).

More Local News Cops Posing as Gay Lovebirds Nab Homo Hater in Union Square
Monday, October 23, 2006
Two cops who posed undercover as a gay couple
strolling through Union Square arrested a man on hate-crime charges last Monday,
The New York Post reported. The officers were sitting on a bench, snuggling,
when Tyrone George, 20, threatened them and spat on them. He called them
"faggots" and yelled that he hated "homos." When the police arrested him, he
complained that he didn’t want faggots touching him, the Post reported. The
policemen, assigned to the Transit Borough Manhattan Task Force, were stationed
in the Union Square park and subway station to look for violence from gangs and
nearby high schools, the Post reported.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten
your aim," -

George Santayana.

Unhealthy faith

Straight but not narrow has a great little article on what constitutes unhealthy faith. I think the first is the most important mistake people make
1. God's love and favor depends on my behavior.

but the others are useful too.

Thomas Jefferson and the Bible

Andrew Sullivan has more of the letter, but....
I forgot to observe, when speaking of the New Testament, that you should read
all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics
have decided for us, to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists.
Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration, as much as the
others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, and not by
the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some,
however, still extant, collected by Fabricius, which I will endeavor to get and
send you," - Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to his nephew, Peter Carr, August 10,

Thomas Jefferson knew of what he spoke. If a faith is based on such things that mean one is scared that it will fail through an exploration of the pseudoepigraphia and other early christian and anti-christian writings, then I have to question whether the faith is build on rock or sand.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Why civil recognition matters

Dispatches from the Culture Wars linked me to this article from Pam's House Blend. Warning there is more profanity than I'd use, but.... it's a good illustration of why civil recognition matters. There are too many examples of having their legal documents and wishes ignored for gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people to be comfortable until there is civil recognition of the marriages and lifetime commitments that are already happening and have happened since the beginning of, well...., marriage.

In the seat of honor

Mark 10:35-45
The story in Mark is so very human. We want to be with Jesus in riches and pomp and don’t want to think about the rags and derision. But the point of this story in Mark is that we shouldn’t be looking for power and prestige but how we may serve each other. And this is the theme that runs through Mark. Matthew, Luke, and John focus on other aspects of Jesus’ ministry, but in Mark the widow, the orphan, the stranger – those who are weak and oppressed – are the important people for Jesus.

There have various attempts to conflate the four gospels. In fact at least one such conflation was discussed as being part of the greek or New Testament when it was being formed. But instead of one or ten pictures the decision was to have four pictures by four different authors. And they each, along with the epistles, present a different Jesus for us to know.

After my mother’s death what I missed was the chance to talk over meetings and conferences with her. But my twin’s moments came when he heard a story that might make our mother laugh. Was my mother as I saw her? Yes. Was my mother as my twin saw her? Also, yes. Was my mother more than either of us saw in her? Again yes, as one of my relatives says – my mother was one of the few people with whom she could talk about her husband’s family and his being a pastor. And my mother was more than all those pictures. And my father missed her in an entirely different way. Yet the separate pictures go to help people understand who my mother was. Just so we have more than one gospel about Jesus so we can understand more fully who is this Jesus that we worship and follow.

The gospels as we have them weren’t written until a number of years after the death of the Christ. And they weren’t collected together until a couple of centuries later. Congregations used a gospel or two that had come down to them for many years until their was a push to have a common source. That push came when Marcion, an early Christian, truncated some of Paul’s letters and dismissed most of the gospels. The church, then, began to discuss what writings really were most important to the church. Marcion wanted a pure gospel. The church ultimately came up with a Testament in Greek that has contradictions and flaws and differing views on some subjects.

Today we still have those who would conflate the gospel to make it pure or without error or some-such nonsense. The gospels are inspired by God, they are my authority, but they are written by humans and as fallible as any human writing. They send us towards God, which is whom we should worship rather than Scripture.

And in this story of James and John (as found in Mark) we see the reason behind most of our conflicts. We want to be the one in the control seat deciding what each other has to believe or understand in order to be saved. We want to be the ones whose names are plastered over the papers and who sit at the best tables even when we don’t have a reservation at the sold-out restaurant. But the call is for us to be somewhat different. We want everything to be cut and dried and labeled down to the last jot and tittle.

Our call is not to worry about who sits in the place of honor, but to honor all whom we meet. And when we are asking for the place of honor we should be looking at the requirements. To drink the drink that Jesus drank, to go to the depths of pain and degradation, to be despised and rejected by all, to be so worn and torn that people pass by on the other side of the road. We are called to be different with our different gifts and to look for the surprises in this world and welcome them. We look to one who came not as a ruler in power and pomp, but as a small child who needed care and diaper changes.

The seat of honor in the realm of God isn’t gained by sucking up to the rich and powerful (nor by ignoring them) but by looking for the human needs and desires, by reaching out to those who feel they are worthless and letting them know that they are worth something.

Now that doesn’t mean getting it right all the time. If we focus on whether we’re doing the thing perfectly, then we miss the point. Our focus is going to where there is need and showing compassion. Our focus is going where there is need and calling people to account. Our focus is on going where there is need and lending a hand. Our focus is walking hand in hand, working side by side, and welcoming those who have nothing as if they had everything.

There are still those in Christianity who want to sit at the right and left sides of Jesus. There are those who think that the honor and power are the place where they are called. But rather we should be those who instead of the pomp go for the poverty, instead of the rihes go for the weakness and instead of glory go to take up our cross daily.

One of the ex-presidents whom I admire, more as an ex-president than as a president does some of this. He taught and attended church school. But as an ex-president he also goes and helps to build houses for people. I suspect that the building houses is more help as a photo shoot and press release than as an actual carpenter, but even with that suspicion there’s a part of him going out and working.

If we are a Christian, then we are called to be more like a Mother Theresa or a Martin Luther King, Jr. rather than a president Bush – Sr. or Jr. (and if they weren’t president I’d mention whoever else was). We are asked to give up wealth and privilege. We are asked to give up our home for a life that is a journey towards something greater than home or family. We are to give up the divisions that keep us apart from other humans, even if it means separating mother from daughter, father from son and putting families against their own relatives. We are called to make sacrifices for our faith, rather than expecting our faith to make us comfortable in our lifestyle.

When I hear on the television preachers saying that Christians are called to glory or will be healed or will find success or any of another nonsensical statements I wonder which Bible they’re reading. Our savior is one who said it is harder for a camel to enter an eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the realm of heaven. (Two alternate explanations are that the particular passage means a rope and a needle or a small gate into the city where camels had to kneel to get through and they are but two examples of ways to make the story less difficult which even if correct correct, still mean that it is a difficult task)

When I see programs where people compete to give the best sweet sixteen party – as on MTV – I watch in fascination, but not admiration. I wonder when I hear, a very few, talk about going to church but also how many people they’re going to invite and about being the center of the celebration. And I think of someone I knew who celebrated his 17th birthday by giving blood for the first time. And I think of another person I knew celebrated a forty-something year by beginning to learn the cello – she’d never learned to read music, let alone an instrument.

We as Christians should be celebrating the changes in our lives by learning to help others. We shouldn’t be asking for the place of honor, the place of privilege. We who claim the name of Christian should be taking up our cross daily rather than placing burdens on another. We who say we’re following Jesus should be willing to walk into persecution and take our place on the left and right of the cross.

Are we willing to drink the cup that Christ drinks? Are we willing to be baptized in the way that Christ is baptized? Then we should look to be betrayed to the religious leaders and condemned to death, we should expect to be mocked, scourged, spat upon and killed. So I ask again. Do you, who claim the name of Christ, plan to drink the cup that Christ drinks? Do you, who use the name of Jesus in your prayers, plan to be baptized in the way of Christ?

The answer is up to each of us – each day – when we either ignore the cross before us or take up our cross and follow.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Fertility clinics, stem cell research and abortions

Fine. You’re against abortions. Then what about the ovums flushed by fertility clinics or stem cell research? The same sorts of procedures are done in those places as in abortion clinics. And spontaneous abortions regularly happen. The problems with abortion aren't as clear cut as many would like to believe.

It is true that I don't like induced abortions. I believe many times they are unnecessary and are always fraught with grave moral consequences. On the other hand I'm never going to be faced with a sexual partner having a problem pregnancy, so I also think I need to stay out of the way of women who are faced with the choice of whether to terminate their pregnancy. Yet the conversation about what is the right choice needs to happen and it's not simple.

Fertility clinics routinely discard ovum and embryo that are damaged or unnecessary, but they do not end up seeing the same protests as to abortion clinics. The discarded tissue matter could be used in stem cell research, some of which suggests that the research could lead to cures or ameleoration of disease. What's the good, what's the harm. It's not going to be found in shouting baby-iillers outside of abortion clinics. We need to sit down and discuss the moral implications with the understanding that there are people of moral courage, conviction and faith on all sides of the issue.


The article that started me on this subject is at Thoughts From Kansas and called "Why do conservatives hate children."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Things I don't understand

From 365gay.com comes a report of a gay bashing. What I don't get is why a man would shout derogatory names such as 'faggot' and then sexually assult the same man. If you're against men who have sex with other men, then wouldn't you skip the sexual assault of another man? But then there have been a number of studies that show the most homophobic reactions come not from those men who are heterosexual, but those who are bisexual or homosexual. So beating up someone and getting off on it seems to be what gay-bashing is all about. At least in this instance. If it weren't for the violence against another person I'd call the gay-bashers pitiful. As it is they just need to be stopped. Violence against someone else just isn't right.

New fish, new problems

Another fossil has been discovered which shows the links between fish and land animals. Good news for science, good news for evolutionary theory and two gaps left. See Red State Rabble for a much better laugh at the explanations that will come from creationist and intelligent design circles.

The thing I don't get is how evolutionary theory doesn't fit with my faith in God and my belief in Jesus, the one who is the Christ, as my Lord and Savior. That God created the world is a given. How God did so is up to God. Trying to pass off something as science to fit God's design into my mold is the problem
Truthout repeats an editorial from the New York Times that says:
The Republicans, unlike most Democrats (Joe Lieberman always excepted),
can’t stop advertising their “family values,” which is why their pitfalls are as
irresistible as a Molière farce.

So true. The problem isn't that one party has cleaner hands or would be less likely to cover up problems, but that one party has claimed values that it doesn't follow. Is welfare for mothers with children supporting family values more than a Defense of Marriage Act? Our actions do speak louder than words. When the Democrats controlled congress I remember stories like that of a stripper in the river and a senator. If I could remember who was whom I'd cite names. There are real rules that would help protect pages from inappropriate behavior and cause situations like taking bribes or using family members as paid staff come to light sooner. Neither party seems willing to do much about them.

And then they wonder why people don't vote.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A memory

I never had much of a problem with differently abled people. But that's because they were part of my family. A cousin was one of the last people to get polio and I remember her going in and out of surgeries. An uncle was partially deaf and - while I though he was strange ibecause of his teasing - his needing to see my fact to hear me seemed normal. And then my grandfather had a cotton ball in his eye socket because he'd lost an eye and then had some more of the socket removed so a glass eye wouldn't work. Sitting in their arms at a young age is one of the reasons that while I notice different abilities, they just seem a part of life

The work of science

I just say a review of a new book called The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. It reminded me once again of what the work of science is about. The roots of cholera were discovered by someone who had a brainstorm, was derided by the scientific community and then worked to show that his supposition fit the evidence. That is so unlike the proponents of Intelligent Design. While they claim there is a controversy that isn't backed up by their work. There are many presentations to lay audiences, but few to their scientific peers. There are many questions of evolutionary theory, but little evidence produced to back up their own so-called theory. A theory in the scientific world can never become fact. A theory explains the facts. But twisting a theory around or redefining what a theory mean (both were done in the Dover, MA trial) just isn't science. And that's o.k. Science doesn't answer a lot of questions. But there are many things that science can do and does within the self-proclaimed limits of science. Figuring out the cause of cholera in the midst of other faulty assumptions is what science is about. Attacking a theory because one doesn't believe their religious views can be accommodated by that theory just isn't science.

Ex-gay course

On-line students are against a course that purports to teach people how to become ex-gay, In defense statements such as:

Responding to criticism of the course, a spokesman from the Universities and
Colleges Christian Fellowship said: "Surely it’s completely reasonable for a
Christian to believe what he or she believes and to say what he or she believes.
I am perfectly happy for LGBT members and the gay community at large to be gay –
I don’t agree with it but I will defend their right to be gay. "Remember that you choose your partner, it is a choice, and Christians should have a right to voice their beliefs and not be labelled homophobic."

were made. I certainly agree that each of us should be able to state our beliefs without being labeled as homophobic. But teaching a course means that we should make statements that are factually correct. To say that a course helps to cure something which is not considered a disease by any major medical or psychological body is to try to cure something which is not a disease. That means that the whole premise is factually incorrect and should not be taught as such. This isn't a matter of defending your right to believe as you wish, it is a matter of whether the coursework rests on facts and science or ritual and belief.

C.S. Lewis

Marriage - is it a civil or a christian ceremony? Andrew Sullivan found a wonderful quote from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. The point is that the reason for civil control of marriages is different from the religious reasons for marriage. When we confuse the two we get religious leaders arguing that an approval of same-sex marriages is religious discrimination.

The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite
different question - how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of
Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the
community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to
think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the
Mohammendans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine.
My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the
British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, and the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought be to quite sharp, so that a man know which couples are married in a Christian sense and which
are not.

Those who are christian view marriage in one (acutally more than one) way but the needs of the Christian are not the same as the needs of society. I'd go further and say that even in a society where everyone is christian, the Christian view ought to be that we provide for those whose view of marriage is different. There are cogent secual arguments against marriage between partners where one is not able to consent because of age or disability. There are cogent arguments against polygamous marriages. There may even be cogent argumetns against gay marriage - though most of the arguments against same-sex marriage (please note that not all of them do this) I've heard boil down to we don't like it and we're going to provide false witness until you don't like it.

If you ask the question "is marriage a civil or religious ceremony?" then any answer is wrong. There are marriages that are one; there are marriages that are the other; there are marriages that are both.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Gay marriage a threat to religious freedom

It seems that some pastors and governemnt leaders believe that their religious freedoms are threatened. And by what? The fact that some people are fighting to expand the definition of marriage in the civil arena. Some inconvenient facts are ignored. There are some Christian denominations and other faiths that do not mind or support same-gender marriages so that religious freedom would mean that those religious groups that support same-gender marriages would have the right to perform such and those religious groups that don't support same-gender marriages wouldn't have to perform such.

What these people are talking about is contrary to religious freedom. They want to impose their religious view and a view of history that is plain wrong on the rest of the nation. That deserves to be called what it is - religious intorlerance and lying. There's a famous satire by Juvenal from when a Roman emperor married another man. But the satire is not about a man marrying a man - that was acceptable. It was about the higher status man taking a lower status role in the ceremony. History, even western history, includes examples of same-sex marriages as part of religion. To say that it's a new thing is contrary ot fact. And to say that such marriages deny religious fredom is also contrary to fact. Those who believe differently are just fooling themselves.

A poem describing some of my depression

When through the dark of night in pain
I wander through the fields of rain
When nothing seems to be worthwhile
Still you are near through all the miles

I walk in sunshine and still the woe
Seems closer than a breath and so
I pace the miles within a room –
The room of mind that’s full of gloom

Yet in that gloom there is a spark
Of unseen hope in midst of dark
A smell that fire again may light
And bring perspective to my sight

A memory left both faint and dim
When I could feel and sing a hymn
Of praise to God and joy in life
Though all I have right now is strife.
Copyright Roger Victoria, 2006

From a sermon

To love your neighbor as yourself.

When I read this passage I remember my mother. One day as she was coming out of a depression she said to me, “I heard this passage for many years and only heard the part about loving my neighbor. Now I’m starting to hear the part about loving myself.” My mother was anything but a failure, but until she valued herself properly she felt like one.

We are created in God’s image. We are children of God. As such, the lowest beggar should feel like the greatest ruler in the world. As such, we should be helping our brothers and sisters over the world

“To love our neighbor as self’ – it sounds like an easy enough task. But is it?

I think it is a task that lasts for a lifetime.

What are the ways in which we delude ourselves into deceiving ourselves about who is our neighbor and whether we love our self? In biblical times Jesus spoke a little bit about the lepers. In our country we called some people children of Cain and rejected them. Today there are still people we label and call names and say ‘they’re less than human’ in our actions if not our words. Who are they? At times we place too much value on our self or other times we place to little value on our self. When are those times?

I mentioned my mother’s depression and her realization about loving herself as it mirrors my own experience with clinical depression. I found that as I denied some of my emotions I could not feel other emotions and in not feeling fell into a self-hatred that led to depression.

Now the above mirror is a little simplistic. Both the depression my mother experienced and the depression I experienced were triggered by events that were traumatic. Ask me later and I might (or might not) tell you about those events, but for this sermon I’ll leave the diagnosis at situationally triggered depression. The steps to a cure included learning to love ourselves as we were. And after we did that we were able to also love our neighbor. Or as we went out and worked on loving our neighbor we began to love ourselves.

The process of loving self and neighbor is not a staircase where one step follows another, it is a process of moving between the two. I can give more hints about how to show love to another, but I suspect that learning to love self is a more individual matter.

We’ve got a lot of hints in scripture as to what it means to love another. Did we give a cup of cold water to someone who was thirsty? Did we visit a prisoner? Did we clothe the naked? Provide food for the hungry? Did we welcome the stranger at the gate? Did we help to heal the sick?

In loving self I can only speak to what a couple of individuals found. My mother needed to accept that she had an identity as herself. She had lived as one of the twins, as a Nash daughter, as Victor’s wife, as the mother, as the pastor’s wife and other roles, but needed to find who Mabel was. What I needed to do was accept that the emotions, which I denied, were a gift from God or to stop denying who I was and am.

In this sermon I’ve talked a bit about both my mother and myself. I suspect in other places my father, or my twin brother, or my younger brother, or a church I’ve served, or someone who’s ministered to me, or an acquaintance, or an event, or something else will be more important.

I can tell you one of the changes since I started loving myself. I’m more of a storyteller. My sermons before depression were more academic and intellectual, since the depression they still have that background, but also another dimension that’s more fun. And story-telling is only a part of that. Since my depression I’ve also done a couple of sermons that were completely in song and you’ll get to hear that one of these days.

The whole of this scripture is about more than just loving self and neighbor. It is also about loving God. And I find that this summation of the law is all tied together. If you love yourself, then you can love your neighbor, if you love your neighbor, then you can love God, if you love God, then you can love yourself. To get better at one, then you need to work on all of them.

I sometimes think this loving is like planting a garden. You don’t just plop the seeds in the ground. First you’ve got to dig, maybe fertilize, then you plant. You pull weeds and try not to get the good growth. Watering and waiting take up some of the time. And with a little bit of work comes time to collect the produce.

So I have some suggestions about loving God, loving neighbor, and loving self.

One of them is to plan some time for each thing. In loving God my parents taught me to take time for prayer and study. In loving neighbor my dad ran a food program and my mother did things like bake Hot Cross buns at Easter for the neighbors. In loving self I’ve learned to take time to do some things that I enjoy just for myself.

From a teacher, R. Akiba, comes the story. “If you do not love yourself, ask Ben Azzai, how can you love someone else? Having penetrated beyond the outer rational capabilities of the human being to his possibly disturbed psychic condition, he proposes his therapy: First, make such a (and every) person aware that he is of ultimate worth because he bears the likeness of God, that regardless of his condition he has the divinely endowed potential to achieve joy and fulfillment in life, and only then, after having learned to love himself, will he be capable of loving others. (1)

How to love God?

Read scripture.

Read a commentary on a biblical book

Spend time in prayer.

Read a prayer book

Sing a hymn

How to love neighbor?

Bake cookies for the people next door.

Help at a food program.

Visit a nursing home

How to love self

Take a walk down the street

Go to a concert or sporting event.

Visit someone who makes you laugh

Rake up the leaves in your yard and then jump into the pile

I suspect that each one of you can come up with some ideas that will work better for you than anything I’ve just suggested. And some of them can certainly be combined. I’ve made cookies for the pleasure of cooking and then delivered them to others so that they aren’t around to tempt me to eat them. I’ve worked with groups in sorting food at a pantry and had fun in the conversation and work while helping a neighbor. I’ve walked alone for my time to be by myself and come back with a sermon (or at least the start of one).

Loving God, loving neighbor, loving self is not a situation where we do one and then the other. It is something where we do them all together in a glorious mixture that becomes a stew in which all the parts together make up a nutritious meal.

And this loving God, loving neighbor, loving self is a process that keeps changing and growing. How I understand the words 'Jesus loves me' now is different than when I was five, and when I was fifteen I understood 'Jesus loves me differently than now or when I was five, and if I live to be one hundred and five I hope that my understanding of 'Jesus loves me' will have continued to change and mature and deepen and broaden and....

Well, … I suspect my point was really made when I read the scripture lesson. Jesus was faced with some people who were rule bound and so intent on doing things correctly that they missed the point, the spirit behind the law, and they went away confounded. I hope you go away encouraged and supported and willing to take some steps towards loving God, loving your neighbor and loving yourself.


(1) Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus: A Book of Ritual and Ethics (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004), p.235.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Capri pants or things I don't like

How many remember the rhyme?

I do not like thee, Mr Fell.
Why that is I cannot tell.
I only know and know full well
I do not like thee Mr. Fell.

It's not new to have likes and dislikes. One of my favorite dislikes is capri pants or three-quarter length pants on men and women. The question is not whether we have likes or dislikes, and some of those are certainly irrational, but whether we recognize when they shouldn't be relevant.

How I treat people shouldn't be based on the type of pants that they wear. It should be based on something more substantial. But I wonder what other prejudices I have, what other likes and dislikes influence my actions without my knowing. I've come to terms with not liking capri pants, but ignoring their presence to deal with the person in front of me, but.... What else is there.

So what are your likes and dislikes that sometime influence your opinion of a person when it really shouldn't matter?

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I was irritable this mornign about the things people miss. I had a report of luggage left behind. It came in after I'd already rented the room. I asked the people in the room if they had an extra suitcase and they said 'no.' So this morning we found the suitcase in the room.

So the original guests didn't see that they'd left a suitcase. The housekeepers didn't see a suitcase that they had to vacuum around. The next people in the room didn't see the suitcase. And now it is found.

But then I also have some blind spots. I spent a good portion of my life in denial. Then I woke up one morning and heard, "You are gay and I love you as you are." That day was one of the most hilarious of all my life. I'd be doing something and suddenly a memory would come and the shoe would drop and I'd think how could I have not noticed! And I laughed at how blind I'd been.

For some people that sort of born again experience is one of gut wrenching sorrow. In my case that voice gave me gut wrenching laughter. And the memories that fell into place were not just those past my puberty, but from some of my earliest years. I had been blind and I began to see. I thank God daily for that gift.


I don't always get some Christians. There are protests against a new exhibit in Oslo. The reason - some of the animals are depicted in same-gender relationships. If we as Christians are following someone whom we call the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then we need not be concerned about the truth. Same sex relationships, mating, life-bonds have been observed in many different animal species. Why should a display that indicates such be grounds for protest?

But the problem is that some Christians want to deny what is factual in deference to their beliefs about what is in Scripture. And homosexuality is found throughout nature. But some have the belief that homosexuality is unnatural. In fact homosexuality is natural, part of the natural and found throughout nature and such has been demonstrated in observations over and over again. Christians and those of other faiths who want to argue that homosexuality is against nature just plain need to find other grounds on which to denigrate homosexuality, to do otherwise is to go against the truth.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

More valuable than rubies

I'm going to miss one of my employees. Today was just another of a long series of reasons why. She came in to see about geting a discounted rate at another motel - we have a friends and family program that is very reasonable for our employees - and as I was filling out the information and making the reservation and all the other things she disappeared. I looked around and she'd taken out the trash, finished washing the breakfast dishes, sorted the laundry, and she wasn't supposed to be working. She's leaving us to go traveling with her husband as both finish their years of paid employment. I'm not going to say 'as she stops working' as I don't think she'll ever stop working, but she will leave my employ with my regrets for her departure and my joy that she's getting to do something new.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Needed - a balance

When I was growing up I heard, 'don't air your dirty linen in public.' I was pleased when that rule relaxed as I saw too many cases where that meant don't deal with the problems. But there ought to be a balance between not sharing anything in public and sharing too much. I'm not sure I want to hear what type of underwear your partner will be wearing when you get home. And I'm certain I don't want to hear twenty or thirty minutes of discussion about your marital problems when you're at the next table over in the restaurant. A balance, perhaps, deal with the problems when you're directly with the person and don't let me know that you'll be greeted with someone in a thong when you get home. Please. Pretty please with sugar on top.

A taradiddle

The Texas GOP now thinks that someone who is an atheist can't uphold the constitution. So help me God that's the truth. That seem to forget the long time substitustions made for those who don't swear by God. There are ways that the courts have used for those who will not take the Lord's name in vain and those who don't believe there is a God. To put such an accusation on their website as this:
“…So Help Me God.”
Candidate for the Sixth Court of Appeals, Ben Franks, is
reported to be a professed atheist and apparently believes the Bible is a
“collection of myths.”
During debate over a plank in the State Democrat
Platform, members of the Platform Committee debated dropping “God” from a
sentence on the first page of the document. The plank stated: “we want a Texas
where all people can fulfill their dreams and achieve their God-given
According to an article published in the El Paso Times, Ben
Franks states: “I’m an atheist…”
All elected or appointed officials in Texas
must take the oath prescribed by Art. XVI, Section 1(a) of the Texas
"I, _____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm),
that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of
_____ of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve,
protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this
State, so help me God."
Should Franks be elected in November, one would have
to conclude that he will hold true to his out of touch “atheist” belief system
and ignore the laws and Constitution of Texas. Mr. Franks is a personal injury
trial lawyer practicing in Texarkana, Texas and is the Democrat nominee for the
6th Court of Appeals.

is nothing but a taradiddle.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Dobson's Follies

James Dobson seems to have joined a minority of voices who believe that the Foley e-mails were a joke. I have trouble with that since Foley sent some explicit e-mails. I really have problem with those who are trying to blame the pages, that is abuse. I always thought Dobson was supposed to be on the side of children and families. Making excuses for someone because they've voted your way seem to me to be showing more interest in power and position than in children and families. Just one person's view.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A perfectionist confesses

One of the less than perfect gifts that my mother gave me was her streak of perfectionism. Hers was expressed in always worrying about whether something was right and trying to do that thing, whatever it was, just a little bit better. Her satisfied was great for most people. Mine expresses myself in two ways. I either get things done immediately and turn it in or wait until the last moment. Either way I can say I didn't have time to do a good job.

But whether I do it mom's way or my way that streak of perfectionism is slightly flawed. And the flaw is that one can't take pleasure in the moment or the job. One is always looking for the problems. And, while there are prolbems and while one should do their best, a perfectionist beats themself up if everything isn't, well...., perfect. And that is the enemy of the good.

If a perfectionist goes on the dance floor then they don't just want to jave a good time with their partner, they want to do moves like those of the professionals on a national or world championship. And that is destructive of the good, for it concentrates on the less important matter of how well one dances when the perfectionist should be dancing with their partner.

That streak of perfectionism that some of us have can be used for good. It is wonderful to see someone who has practiced for years move on the dance floor, but only if kept in the proper place. The discussions in scripture between Jesus and his followers show that we should be concentrating on our relationships rather than how we do things.

Perfectionists can achieve great things, but sometimes they miss the more important things along the way. So I've started working on (more than a few years ago) recovering from that perfectionist streak. It's not easy, since some of the old habits remain, but it is for the better.

Savage on Foley

Dan Savage writes about sex in Savage Love. That's probably where he's most notorious. But he's also a fine journalist and writes some great editorials. The one on Mark and Me will become classic in it's skewering of people who want things to be the way they want them to be rather than the way they are.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Say what?! Rep. Cannon about Foley

I'm still puzzled as to why Rep. Chris Cannon doesn't believe that he's blaming the victim.

From the Salt Lake Tribune comes:

"These kids are actually precocious kids," Cannon, R-Utah, told KSL
Radio's Nightside. "It looks like uh, maybe this one email is a prank where you
had a bunch of kids sitting [around] egging this guy on."

If this isn't blaming the victim, I'm not sure what is. Oh... he went on later to excuse himself by saying that parting should be taking responsibility for what their children see on the internet. I'd agree with him on that, but the case is one of an elected representative of the republican variety making advances to children. This isn't about parents protecting their children. This isn't about a precocious kid egging on someone. This is about someone who is in a position of power taking advantage of his position and propositioning a sixteen year-old. No matter how precocious or taunting the sixteen year old is, the responsibility is with the more, lots more, than twenty years old, person. The one who is an adult. If Cannon thought Foley was the type to be snookered by a sixteen year old into exchanging inappropriate e-mails then why were the republicans putting Foley in a place where he could interact with those kids. Whether those pages were egging on Foley is irrelevant. Whether or not those pages were precocious is beside the point. That Cannon made these statements reminds me of a historical incident where another elected representative was asked, "have you no shame, sir, have you no shame?"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Congressional Oversight

While I've focused on the inappropriate behavior of a particular senator, the Bangor Daily News asks a more important question. That is where was the congressional oversight? The first report of inappropriate e-mails seems to have been passed to the dead letter office. While they are not entirely out-of-line they are such that should raise questions. It just doesn't seem like the leadership wanted to exercise their responsibilities for oversight. Not just sad for the representative, but sad for all of us.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A horrible fascination

Andrew Sullivan found a quote from Sen. Foley. I think this is the pot calling the kettle black. A sixteen year old page vs. a twenty something intern. I think the age difference says it all.

Intelligent Design

There's a good article on why Intelligent Design isn't making headway at EvolutionBlog. I keep wondering why the ID people don't get to work. The theory of plate tectonics is a prime example of a theory that has gained credence in the scientific community after initially being derided. The proponents didn't spend a lot of time in the churches or talking to the media. They went out and did things to test their proposal. In time it achieved the status of a theory, not by popular acclaim, but solid work using principles of falsifiability and replication. Falsifiability, in science, is about making a proposal that can be tested for evidence or lack thereof. Replication, in science, is the question of whether other people can repeat your work. ID proponents present neither and so do not rise to the level of science. let alone provide controversy over the theory of evolution which is what they claim.

The Heterosexual Agenda

There are a number of books about the homosexual agenda, but someone asked what would happen if studies were used in the same way to talk about the 'heterosexual agenda'.. Many thanks to Ex-gay Watch for pointing me in this direction.

Mark Foley

Representative Foley's relations with a page is one of those icky stories which is still fascinating. Something like staring a snake in the eye. For some articles on how to get beyond equating pedophilia with homosexuality, Foley was identified as a straight man, there's some good reading at Beyond Homophobia. For the contradictions in law that would make, in many states, sex with a sixteen year old legal, but the e-mails illegal look to Unclaimed Territory by Glenn Greenwald.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

And this is a gay activist because

A family in Colorado (according to Focus on the Family) has been targeted by gay activists. But the evidence is slim to none. I am certain that gay activists have done some things of which I don't approve. But if the sign burning was filmed and the person's face was clearly seen why not name names and why are the police still investigating. There are times to blame activists and then there are times to wonder if it wasn't just someone from the neighborhood or something else. Somehow this just seems to me another example of a Christian who claim martyrdom when they've been acting like an idiot rather than when they've been proclaiming the gospel. But then what do I know, I'm gay, so I must be an activist.

Foley in toto

Gay patriot has a good summation of comments on Foley and his mess. The comment I liked most was being in the closet and hiding one's orientation leads to being an idiot.

Obituary for America

Unholy Moses has an article that says it all to well, even if in words I wouldn't use. I always thought we were founded on the principles of lawful search and detention, of seeing the evidence used to convict and such measures. But until, hopefully, the courts rule these changes in law as unconstitutional.... A sad day for my country.

Thanks to Thoughts from Kansas for pointing me to this article

Sen. Allen and the N-- word

One of my beliefs is that everyone over thiry has used the n----- word. It may have been playing around and testing limits as a child. It may have been because of prejudice. It may have been in explaining that the n- word is one that we don't use. But everytime someone says, "I've never used that word." I start thinking that they're lying.

Senator George Allen is certainly under increased scrutiny because of his presidential ambitions. The Washington Post is one, but not the only, paper to say so. And it is unfair that the scrutiny is coming towards him rather than his election rival. But somehow I just think the issue would have died if he'd said something along the lines of "I made mistakes while I was growing up and said some things that I don't approve of now." Denying the issue just leads us into the same morass that a democratic president had when he said, "I did not have sex with that woman." I'd rather have someone who can admit to mistakes and move on than someone who covers up their mistakes and hides from them.


Once upon a time I'd been working on the teme of reaching out and making welcome and mentioned that many people didn't feel welcomed when they attneded our congregation. One of the women spoke up and said, "But I've always been welcomed when I come to church." She was in many ways a mrvelous woman, welling to help, supporting the pastor, giving time and money generously. But she didn't quite get that she'd been raised in the congregation and contributed generously and all that made her welcomed in a way that someone walking in the door for the first time didn't get.

The congregation I was serving meant to be welcoming. But many of the long-time members never realized that they sat with the same people and beyond saying 'hello' did nothing to help people feel included. A welcoming congregation needs things like name tags for everyone so that the new person can learn names. A welcoming congregation needs someone who introduces people to each other. A welcoming congreagtion can do things in many different ways, but the common denominator is making sure people are greeted and helped even before they come in the front door. A welcoming congregation doesn't leave the becoming a member in the hands of the new arrival, but works so that the new arrival becomes a member starting with their arrival.


When I read the passage for today from the common lectionary I was struck at how applicable it still is. Politicians still need to be called to account for their actions. There are still cover-ups as in how many people knew and when did they know. But those cover-ups are not just in the news about Foley, but in news about authorizing torture, hiding information, and more.

I'm not sure that the steop of naming one's children to make a point would work these days. In Hosea's day I would still feel sorry for his children having to bear those sorts of hames. But... a point was made.

We need to consider how to make apoint today about what we expect from our politicians and from our country. Is it just a dictator who commands us for a time and we obey? Or do we want more. I think God calls all of us who are Christian to speak to the world about caring for each other. Whether it is protecting the least among us by actions within our communities such as shelters and food banks, hether it is protecting the least among us by actions towards the nations such as civil protests, hether it is protecting the least among us in some other fashion, we are called to do more than what we have done.

I'm not sure I would have liked Hosea if I'd met him. But he had the courage to live out his beliefs. Do we?

Hosea 1:1-2:1

[1] The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri, in the days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel.

[2] When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits reat whoredom by forsaking the LORD." [3] So he went and took Gomer daughter of iblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

[4] And the LORD said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. [5] On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel."

[6] She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the LORD said to him, "Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them. [7] But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen."

[8] When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. [9] Then the LORD said, "Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God."

[10] Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people," it shall be said to them, "Children of the living God." [11] The people of Judah and the people of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head; and they shall take possession of the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

[2:1] Say to your brother, Ammi, and to your sister, Ruhamah.

Dating is Healthy

I missed putting in a link to the article that started me writing on Mark Foley. So with thanks to Scienceblog, here's a link to Dating is Healthy.

Foley redux

So someone who was writing legislation to protect minors from inappropriate content on the internet writes inappropriate e-mails to an underage child. As Andrew Sullivan has in an article. the closet is corrupting. And others, like the Corpuscle have excellent articles on why the best protection from predators that gay men and lesbians have is dating not more laws.

Study after study and case after case shows that males who are heterosexually identified are the sexual predators who prey on children, not gay men or lesbians. Foley is but the latest example. We need to change our minds and our societies so that sexual orientation is not the big deal that some have made us. Consensual, age-appropriate loving relations is what we should be looking for rather than which genders are involved.