Showing posts from November, 2015

please don't try to save me

I've been on a 45 year long faith journey. I haven't reached a destination. Most of that path has been on fundamentalist/biblicist path. But there was so much of it I could no longer accept.

Lately, in my version of NaNoWriMo, I've been exploring on this blog, my online public, personal journal, the concept of universalism. I could no longer believe that God is love and would send people to hell for eternity because they never heard of him, nor that he would extinguish the souls of his children for the same reason. I cannot imagine anyone suffering eternally for temporal offenses they did not know they were even committing.

My faith is also not in my Bible but in the God who is love who sent his son to save the world that he loves. I do not think God the Father is pissed all the time and Jesus calmed him down by letting his dad beat the shit out of him for our sins.

I also do not believe my gay friends have an agenda to destroy my family or anyone else's. Nor do I beli…

book report: Jacksonland by Steve Inskeep (2015)

The subtitle is important to appreciate Inskeep's aspiration, Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab. It's a good reality check to read American history. Dirty politics? Check. White privilege? Check. Abuse of minorities? Check. Broken promises? Check. Political doublespeak? Check.

The Cherokee Trail of Tears was caused by the implementation of Andrew Jackson's first political policy when he became President in 1828, get them out of Georgia. Did the Cherokees have treaties signed by the federal government protecting the right to their land? Yes. Did Georgian land speculators want the land in order to line their pockets? Yes. Did Georgia threaten nullification if the federal government stepped into their constitutionally proper role? Yes.

Am I asking to many rhetorical questions? Yes.

Jackson campaigned with a platform of limited government, not unexpected for a slave owner. Georgia was able to throw that in his face,…

about this curious explanation of condemnation in John's gospel

In the scene of John when Nicodemus, the religious leader, came to meet with Jesus at night, in secret, is written, John 3

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Verse 16 is on most of those football signs behind the end zone. It's a great verse about
God who is love. Verse 17 is so hopeful, that he might save the world. From what though? Condemnation, in verse 18. So what does this condemnation look like? Hell? Nope. Rather, exposure and truth. Jesus is t…

a curious verse in my morning's reading

1 Peter 4:6 For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.
From today's Daily Office reading.

When was the gospel preached to the dead? In their afterlife, right? Why? That they might live in the spirit as God does. What about the bad people who died?

The question is, how merciful is God?

James says, "Mercy triumphs over judgment." (James 2:13)

In the very beginning of the Bible, Adam and Eve are warned by God that if they eat the forbidden fruit they will die that day. They ate and did not die. Why? I think because mercy triumphs over judgment.

I keep saying justice is not ignored by God even though he is merciful. For example, consider this story from today's daily office, as summarized from a longer obituary article in the Washington Post recently.
Evangeline Moore, whose parents were killed in the first U.S. civil rights assassi…

I am grateful

It's been a couple years of deconstruction and reconstruction, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Deconstruction is scary, Reconstruction is scarier because it is an exploration of the unknown.

I don't think this was a mid life crisis because I did not end up irresponsibly purchasing a convertible sports car. But I was in crisis, and I am 45.

I'm thankful that my climb out of the valley has gotten less steep emotionally. I'm in a more level place where I can see further. I can rest if I need to.

I still have a ways to go to live in the open handed posture of love and tolerance towards all. But I know that is where I am going and that it is possible to get there. This was the pole star which I wrote about two years ago. I am still going that direction.

I'm also thankful for those of you who read this blog, retweet it, Plus 1 it, and converse with me about it on Facebook.

Give thanks.

what if Jesus' story about hell is true?

Jesus tells an interesting story about hell in Luke's gospel, chapter 16, just a few verses after the parable of the unjust steward. (See my earlier wrestling with that passage here.) The story goes like this.

An unnamed rich guy ignores the beggar at his gate who hopes for the rich man's crumbs. Then, as happens to all humans, they both die. In the afterlife, the roles are reversed. Lazarus the beggar receives comfort while the rich guy is in agony. He asks for permission for Lazarus to merely dip his finger in cool water and drop it on his tongue. Abraham denies this request saying, "Nah bro, there is a chasm between us." Next the rich guy asks Abraham to send a warning via a resurrected Lazarus to his brothers so they will not make the same mistake. Again, Abraham is like, "Nah, bro. It's not gonna happen. They wouldn't listen to him regardless." The end.

If you are a poor person exploited by the one percent, someone who feels taken advantage of …

sharp knife, dull mind

When I was ten years old my dad gave me a folding buck knife with a 3 inch blade. I had never used a real knife before. I used a butter knife to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches regularly, but nothing as sharp and magnificent as this piece of steel. I still have this very knife in my adulthood.

One of the first cool things I wanted to do with my new knife was to cut off slices of an apple and eat each slice off the blade like my dad would do. The first attempt did not go so well though. The apple was not slicing. My dad could do it so effortlessly. Why was my knife not working? I figured my dad was so much stronger than I and I only needed to apply more thumb strength on the back of the blade. The apple then did start to open up, but not in a slice, but more in a smash and my thumb was really hurting. I stopped to re-evaluate my technique.  Was this apple extra tough? Was my knife extra dull? I looked at my thumb. No, the knife was not extra dull because it was making cutting i…

Not everything Biblical is Christian: Part 17 - Psalm 51 a prayer of confession

In Psalm 51, a prayer of repentance is written in light of King David's affair with Bathsheba and the battlefield murder of her husband. It's a tragic and vulnerable prayer, but in the middle of it comes this non-Christian part in verse 4.

3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.
Hold on! He forced himself on a woman, some even say it was rape. He got her pregnant. He tried to get her husband to come off the battlefield and sleep with his wife to cover up his offense. The soldier was so honorable, he refused to sleep with his wife as his men on the field did not have the same luxury. David let's the guy go back to the battlefield with a message for his commander to leave the guy exposed so that he would get killed. Done and done. After the wife finishes her time of mourning, David has her move into his…

will you make it to heaven?

The Protestant denominations have not reached consensus on the afterlife of all humans, nor even of all believers. Some are universalists who believe all will go to heaven. Some are minimalists who think that only their tribe will make it. Some think "once saved, always saved." Some think "once baptized, always saved." Some think that unless salvation is worked out one who was saved could lose it. The ways to read the Bible literally and puzzle it together in a systematic theology are so myriad, protestantism has also fractured in a myriad of tribes.

There are verses that indicate all these options.

I think my wild and crazy perspective on hell let's all of these verses be true. I haven't contrasted my view yet with the Roman Catholic understanding of purgatory, but I admit, there are similarities, but there are differences. I think everyone is waylaid in a purgatory/hell that acts like an afterlife version of a truth and reconciliation commission. Certainl…

"...if you do not forgive"

Today's readings from the Daily Office challenged me to think some more about heaven and hell. Can I still read these passages and continue to rethink hell and heaven?

I think so.

The New Testament reading is from John's Apocalypse.
Revelation 22:14-15 “How blessed are those who wash their robes! The Tree of Life is theirs for good, and they’ll walk through the gates to the City. But outside for good are the filthy curs: sorcerers, fornicators, murderers, idolaters—all who love and live lies.
The Gospel reading is Jesus' parable of the unforgiving servant.

Matthew 18:21-35
21 At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” 22 Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.
23-25 “The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up,…

a musical night

Seeing my kids perform in theater is such a wonderful escape for me.

Tonight, my youngest performed in a cabaret show.

I don't know much Broadway. I didn't even like show tunes before my kids starting performing. Sometimes, even most of the time, I don't even hear the words, not because of poor diction, but I simply enjoy the voices as musical instruments.

Kids creating music. Kids making art. Kids making beauty. "Beauty will save the world" is the title of a book I will someday read. The sentence expresses so much hope and redirects my eyes from the ugly to the good.

I'm grateful for beauty.

Land of the free, home of the brave

A country was attacked this past week by terroriests who killed over a hundred citizens enjoying their life in a free country. These terrorists are from a war torn nation fighting for it's own freedom. People are fleeing that war torn country because they don't want to choose between terrorists or a totalitarian demagogue. People are fleeing by the tens of thousands to a land of the red, white and blue. They share the skin color, the background, and the religion of the terrorists, but they hate the terrorists.

What did the attacked country do?

It fought back against the terrorist bases and announced they will still take in 30,000 refugees from the land of the terrorists. France's national motto is "Liberty, equality, and fraternity." France is living up to their national aspiration.

One of my country's national mottos is "land of the free, home of the brave." However, political candidates believe out country should increase it's internal surveil…

what you have done for the least of these...

It is highly ironic to me that the Bible belt and the Rust belt have governors declaring they will not accept Syrian refugees, despite our nation's already extreme and over long refugee vetting process. Whereas the liberal west and east coasts, except for northern new england, seem to exhibit the kind of faith in action the Bible talks about.

Maybe those godless liberals have never read these words from Jesus.
Matthew 25:40-45 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did w…

scape goat theory

I recently awoke with a fresh remembrance of an event that happened nearly 35 years ago. I remembered in junior high school, during an outdoor assembly, perhaps because the fire alarm had gone off, participating in community scapegoating.

This poor boy, who had a recent growth spurt, as young adolescents do, was wearing pants that no longer came down to his shoes but only to his ankles. Kids around him started laughing. Then more kids saw him and started laughing. Finally, at one point, a teacher tried to help him by escorting him away from the crowd. But instead his ankles were exposed to the rest of the school. We all laughed, like ignorant, insensitive, immature, insecure kids.

I can't imagine what it feels like when you are an awkward insecure 13 year old boy to have hundreds of your fellow students laughing at you without any protection from your teachers. I joined in that mocking and laughing. In my mind, if I join the laughter I am safe from being laughed at. I joined in th…

There is no room in love for fear

The point of terrorism is to instill fear out of proportion to the capability of the terrorist organization. Terrorist acts are also recruiting tool for finding more recruits/cannon fodder for the terrorists.Violent counter-terrorism can also assist recruitment and propaganda. Even precision weapons like American drones with laser guided munitions have up to a 90% "collateral damage" rate. Punishing the families of the terrorists alongside their terrorist family members is wicked, hence the euphemism, "collateral damage."

Terrorism can also be countered economically and with counter-propaganda. Economically, funders of terrorists should be sanctioned. It is not that difficult except for the complication of international relations and embarrassment of public figures.

On the propaganda front, ideologically, Islam is battling for its soul. Over a thousand Muslim clerics have joined together to condemn ISIS. But Christians can also combat this ideologically, by acts of…

Kung-fu Jesus

The Twitter and Facebook feed is an interesting theological study.

Some people believe in Kung-fu Jesus, who will come back one day and kick some heathen ass.

Unfortunately, his delay is frustrating and they want to start the ass kicking now.

Muslim refugees - *KAPOW* - keep them out of our Christian nation.

Muslim terrorists - *KAPOW* - let's go beat up some Muslim neighbors.

Palestinians waving flags - *KAPOW* - support the Israeli army for shooting that kid.

Following Jesus is hard.

Luke 6:27-36The Message 27-30 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generous…

justice against suicidal murderers

When a killer sprays a crowd with bullets from an assault rifle then kills himself before he can be apprehended, where is the justice?

When a killer walks into a crowded venue then sets off the belts of explosives under his coat, where is the justice?

An eternity in hell, tortured by flames, is cruel vengeance, not justice.

A face to face confrontation, killer with killed, one by one, each story fully known, all mental incapacities healed, all delusions cleared away, all prevarications inhibited, when a full acknowledgement of guilt has to be made, is what I believe justice looks like in the afterlife.

Suicide is not an escape for those killers, just a hastening to justice.

who doesn't make it into heaven?

St. Paul makes a few lists.

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, 1 Cor. 6:9-10 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,  nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

He writes to the churches in Galatia, Gal. 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

He writes to the church in Ephesus, Eph. 5:5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inherit…

Jesus is not Harvey Dent

IIf you are not interested in the Batman comic franchise, you don’t get the title. If you are still interested, let me explain Harvey Dent.

In the comic world of Batman, Harvey Dent was a district attorney in the city of Gotham. But a bad guy threw acid on Dent, leaving half his body wrecked. This brought out the wickedness in Dent who decides whether to do good or evil with the flip of a coin. His evil persona’s name is Two-Face. He does not have a moral code. He acts arbitrarily, indifferent to the effect of his choices. image source
Let me explain what I mean by my blog title, "Jesus is not Harvey Dent" with a simple illustration. If I’m walking down the road telling my non-Christian friend about Jesus and the love of God, and my friend starts to let his guard down and wants to learn more about Jesus, but just then a truck runs off the road and hits us, killing us instantly.
Would I awake in the afterlife standing on Jesus’ good side and see my friend standing on Jesus’ bad s…

The tax plan of the billionaires club

I listened to the Republican candidate economic debate last night. When it came to tax plans, it sounded to me that they all supported a flat tax. It's an idea that has been shot down numerous times by economists over the decades, yet they keep rolling it out. Some are even claiming since God used it for an ancient, tribal, agrarian economy to fund its religious ceremonies and staff, and was closer to 30%. But how can a brain surgeon who does not understand current national economics or Old Testament studies be held to such a high standard?

There is a tax plan billionaires have already formulated with success and satisfaction that has been in place with modifications over the last few decades. It's a progressive plan with exemptions and penalties to ensure that the poorer billionaires are able to deliver as viable a product as the more successful ones. The redistribution plan enables the dream of the underdog success to even come true once in awhile.

Where is this plan impleme…

the widow's husband who never heard

A true story confirmed by someone I know who was on this mission trip.
“For instance, a couple of my friends and I were visiting with a Hindu priest’s wife. She was a widow and the pastor in that town frequently visited her and read her the Bible. The woman was so glad to see us, and very kind and intelligent and knew a lot about Scripture. We shared the gospel with her, and asked her questions about Hinduism. In the end, she didn’t accept Christ, and when asked why, she explained according to her faith in Hinduism. I beamed in pride for her, because somehow I knew that she would come to Christ. I felt it, and I still can’t explain it. I knew she would accept God soon, and I understood that it wasn’t going to be now. Then, out of nowhere, my team leader said [to the pastors with us], “Tell her that her husband is in hell.”

The pastors looked at him in shock. Had I just heard that? “We can’t say that,” they said, and even though it was the truth, such a saying would hurt more than help. …

Suffer the children

Meet Jaxon Buell.

Picture is from CNN. He just celebrated his first birthday even though he is missing most of his brain. His condition,microhydranencephaly,was determined in the 2nd trimester. His mom says,
"When we first learned there were concerns for Jax during the pregnancy, we were given the options of carrying him to term or having an abortion because there was the unknown issue. No doctor could tell us exactly what was wrong or what to expect, but we did make sure to ask if Jaxon was in pain or was suffering, and we asked if there were any added risks for Brittany during the pregnancy or potentially at time of delivery. Since the answer to both questions was "no," we never came close to considering abortion. Yes, we are Christians, and our faith has certainly been vital during this entire journey for our family, but we're still realists. Had there been any suffering in the womb or a danger involved other than Jaxon possibly not being able to live outside the w…