Sometimes you will never know

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The crisis in the U.S. church

“How can you be a Christian and support abortion?”

“How can you be a Christian and support Trump?”

Seemingly simple, the distance between the questions is massive, made wider by  Christology, pneumatology, eschatology and Biblical hermeneutic.

Simple questions are seldom simple.

More than anything, nationalism has overpowered Christianity in many people and in many churches. Nationalism is where the symbols of religion and government intertwine and become more important than the philosophies behind them. Nationalism helps you value the country’s flag over people.

As some American Christians moved away from the values behind the words, and simply worshiped the pages of the Bible, it grew easier to prioritize tax cuts for the wealthy over programs for the poor.

Nationalist Christians seem to care more about abortion, than about the health of living women or children.

(By the way, if you want the government to make abortion illegal, then you surrender to the government the authority to make abortion mandatory in the future. Think about that for a while.)

They worship a false Christianity of their own creation and outright reject the actual teachings of Jesus.

The gap between the two versions is as different and stark as the people it affects — the powerful rich and the powerless poor.

Jesus is on the side of the powerless. The least of us. The weakest.

When the actual words of Jesus lose their meaning, people suffer, churches lose their way and Christians leaders become no different than the oppressors of the Empire. Nationalist, Western Christianity becomes an institution for the powerful and not Good News for the poor.

“The crisis in the U.S. church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence.” ~ Walter Brueggemann

“The crisis in the U.S. church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence.” ~ Walter Brueggemann

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A great video of a pastor talking about LGBT rights

Here’s a great video of a pastor talking about LGBT rights.

Here’s what the same minister wrote about the speech, five years later.

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i thank You God for most this amazing

by E.E. Cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

from 100 Selected Poems. © Grove Press, 1994.

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In a world growing more violent, filled with those who accept violence as the cost of living in the world, our thoughts should turn to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

Better known as Mahatma.

Great Soul.

Born Oct. 2, 1869, he was assassinated at age 78, Jan. 30, 1948.

He led a non-violent protest that freed India from British rule and inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead a similar non-violent civil rights struggle in the United States.

Non-violence brought Britain to its knees and ushered in massive change in the United States.

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”

Gandhi’s lesson is that love of others, love so great as to not ever respond with violence, can in fact change the world.

“You must make the injustice visible, and be prepared to die like a soldier to do so.”

Non-violence, beginning individually and expanding to recognize the divine in others, can change the world, one person at a time.

“I am a Muslim and a Hindu and a Christian and a Jew and so are all of you.”

Like most internationally recognized individuals, his legacy is not without controversy.

There are accusations of racism when as a young attorney in South Africa he defended the rights of Indian workers to the detriment of indigenous workers. Prejudiced, perhaps. But racist was the system of oppression that he fought first in South Africa and then at home.

“The cry for peace will be a cry in the wilderness, so long as the spirit of nonviolence does not dominate millions of men and women.”

Some respond to the idea of non-violence by saying the world had to use violence to stop Hitler. The argument misses the point. Germans, and German soldiers, could have stopped Hitler by refusing to invade, refusing to fight, refusing to kill or murder. More than 20,000 German citizens would have survived the war, if Allied forces had refused to bomb an unarmed city of civilians.

Violence can be stopped by refusing to be violent; rejecting physical violence, as well as spiritual, emotional, and economic violence.

“An armed conflict between nations horrifies us. But the economic war is no better than an armed conflict. This is like a surgical operation. An economic war is prolonged torture. And its ravages are no less terrible than those depicted in the literature on war properly so called. We think nothing of the other because we are used to its deadly effects. … The movement against war is sound. I pray for its success. But I cannot help the gnawing fear that the movement will fail if it does not touch the root of all evil — man’s greed.”

To read more about Gandhi’s writings, click here.

For a good article about Gandhi, click the image below:

(Bapu is the nickname Gandhi received as the “father,” of India.)


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The light of Christ is for all people

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Finding God in the unexpected

From Upper Room Daily Reflections

Finding God in the Unexpected

I FIND GOD in the unexpected,
the unexpected places
where I least expect to find
the presence of the Living God.

It is in these unlikely places
that the undeniable sense of
holy-overwhelming arrests my attention.

I find God in the unexpected,
the unexpected times
when I would rather

wallow around in the muddle of my mind
and rehash old, unresolved issues.

God pierces through the wall of my wailing
and shines glory on my being
so I can see a new path,
a new direction,
a new purpose.

I find God in the unexpected,
in people whose lives seem so fractured.
Yet they, like shards of a mirror,
reflect the image of God so clearly
and profoundly
that God becomes flesh again.

I find God in the unexpected,
those situations that seemed trivial:
a passing comment,
a line from a movie,
an image on a screen.
Serendipity turns spiritual in unguarded moments
because God chooses to speak to me
through the unexpected.

I find God in the unexpected.
Slowly, I’m beginning to learn
to expect God – in the unexpected.

The Africana Worship Book, Year C

“God in the Unexpected” by Kwasi Kena. From The Africana Worship Book, Year C, edited by Valerie Bridgeman Davis and Safiyah Fosua. Copyright © 2008 by Discipleship Resources. Click here for more information

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Jesus is on the side of the oppressed

Jesus is with the people on the fringe of the culture who demand to be treated with respect and dignity.

He is always on the side of the marginalized victims.

Jesus is with refugees and minorities.

Jesus supports the meek and humble.

He stands against oppression.

Jesus is not on the side of the government or those who make it illegal to help the needy.

He is not with those who victimize or threaten the helpless.

Jesus is not on the side of the majority when they walk the streets with rifles.

Repeatedly, Jesus placed himself between victims and the crowds. He opposed religious and government leaders and defended their victims.

We who actually follow Jesus have no choice but to stand up for victims and stand up to oppression.

As Jesus followers, we join him when we oppose racists. Or bigots. Or homophobes. Or misogynists.

You can be on the side of the majority, and sometimes bring Jesus there, when you do the things Jesus would have you do.

You can’t find yourself an oppressor and claim it’s in the name of Christ.

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Teachable moments

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God bless everyone

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Did you see this Facebook profile frame for the eclipse?

This was a sponsored ad from the Institute for Creation Research. It was a paid ad from a religious organization, and most Facebook users had no idea.

Who is ICR?

Let Wikipedia explain:

“The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is a Creationist apologetics institute in Dallas, Texas that specializes in media promotion of pseudoscientificcreation science and interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative as a historical event. The ICR adopts the Bible as an inerrant and literal documentary of scientific and historical fact as well as religious and moral truths, and espouses a Young Earth creationist worldview. It rejects evolutionary biology, which it views as a corrupting moral and social influence and threat to religious belief. The ICR was formed by Henry M. Morris in 1972 following an organizational split with the Creation Science Research Center (CSRC).”

These people call themselves Christian and dedicate their lives to discrediting science and denying humanity’s advances during the Enlightenment.

Beyond making some Christians feel good about themselves, and enriching advocates, this sort of faith-based Biblical ignorance is worse than pointless, it overshadows the authentic message of Jesus.

The first five books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible are the Torah, the Pentateuch, which includes Genesis.

Jesus criticized the religious leaders for their spiritless, literal reading of the Torah, a reading that focused on the words of scripture and ignored people.

The people of ICR do the exact same thing that Jesus denounced — they dedicate their careers and energies to strictly interpreting scripture, leaving no room for discussion, different views or for the Spirit of God to move.

There is a Christian cottage industry finding science and history and projected what customers want to see onto the pages of the Jewish scripture. Millions of dollars are made selling to Christians ‘facts’ that support what they already believe.

They are wrong.

Literal interpretation of the Bible willfully ignores the historical and cultural context in which the words were written.

We can tell they are wrong because Jewish people don’t agree with their fundamental, literal reading of Jewish scripture in English. Well, some Jewish people read Genesis literally.

Photo by Eliel Joseph Schafler

The Jewish people who read the Torah literally aren’t visiting LifeWay Christian bookstores or creationist museums.

Even the most conservative, fundamental Torah readers understand that Genesis is archetypal metaphor, not literal.

Christians reading Genesis in English literally are like people who see photos of the eclipse and think they’ve witnessed nature.

These Christians read Genesis and think Adam is a literal person. Every Jewish person reading Genesis in Hebrew knows that Adamah is a literary metaphor mean Mud Man.” Adam isn’t a person. He’s a literary technique to represent all of humanity, both women and men.

Conservative Christians get that wrong, and then proceed to misread the rest of the Bible. And because their faith is built on mistakes, they compound their mistakes by refusing to accept basic science that might contradict their beliefs.

Eventually, scripture gets twisted so badly, that they miss the entire message of Jesus.

Scripture was made for humanity, humanity wasn’t made for scripture.

If your faith leads you to value scripture more than people, then your faith has been eclipsed.

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Both sides

Both sides on the beaches of Normandy weren’t equal.

Both sides at Auschwitz were not responsible. 

Both sides did not cause the Civil War. 

I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, “Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.”

People went to Charlottesville because they are prejudiced racists who want to discriminate against others.

Others went to oppose discrimination.

And the war came.

Like a man who blames the victim, not the rapist, the president claims both sides were responsible for violence in Charlottesville, Aug. 12.

The terrorized are not responsible for the actions of terrorists.

Those who fight to defend freedom are forced to fight by those who would take freedom from others.

The only confusion rests in racist minds.

Neo-Nazis are anti-American, immoral racists. The ‘other side,’ the only decent response, is to oppose Nazis.

The president has clearly sided with the bigots who celebrate traitors:

“So this week it’s Robert E Lee,” Trump said. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

It stops when bigots and racists are no longer shamelessly parading through city streets and supported by bigots in the White House.

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