In a world of stone

In a world of stone, be a flower.

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People yelled as they witnessed a man being assaulted.

Most of us have seen the video of a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines flight.

Video and news story

A very few, as some usually do, blame the victim for not complying with the demands of corporate employees or the men with guns.

We still don’t know all the details.

Witnesses on the flight say they were offered $800, United claims they offered $1,000, to surrender their seats. The fact is, not enough people were willing to vacate the plane so that four United employees could take their seats that day.

The man clearly was not combative during the videos I’ve seen, his body was limp as he was dragged out.

The official police statement claims he fell, and that’s how he ended up bloody. But anyone with eyes can clearly see that’s not what happened.

Inexplicably the man ran back onto the plane, bleeding. According to his lawyer, the victim had a broken nose, lost teeth, a concussion, and trauma none of us would want to experience.

On the video we can hear other passengers yelling in response as he was attacked by armed men and dragged from the plane.

Despite the yells and protests, what we don’t hear on a video is anyone trying to stop the assault. In all the news coverage, I’ve never heard if someone offered to take his place, to give up their seat, so he could remain. People yelled, but they didn’t come to his assistance or defend him.

Instead, what this is, at the end, is more video of another assault where witnesses do nothing.

This is the best comment I’ve seen about the incident:

Someone in authority—pilots, stewards, ground crew—might have realized that this was an assault on a person’s dignity. But no one stopped it. Why not? Not because they are bad people: They too probably looked on in horror. But because they have been conditioned to follow the rules.

Those rules said: First, we may sometimes overbook because we want to maximize our profits. Second, we can eject someone because we have overbooked, or if we decide that we want those seats back, no matter what a person can reasonably expect, and no matter how much of an inconvenience this is. And third, and most tragically, human dignity will not get in the way of the rules. A toxic cocktail of capitalism and corporate culture led to a man being dragged along the floor. (Read the article, here.)

And people did nothing. No, they yelled, as the man was assaulted. It easily could have been anyone else on the plane. The man with the gun who committed assault has been suspended, but not identified or investigated as quickly as the victim.

Also in the news at the same time, video of a police officer slamming a 22 year old female college student to the ground.

(Google “police slam student,” and see how many times it’s happened in the past few years. Men with guns throwing people, usually much smaller, teenage females, to the ground.)

When did the USA become a society that responds this way? How did people in authority begin escalating nonviolent confrontations and respond with violence? Can you imagine how bad it was, before everyone carried a camera?

When did it become acceptable for people to stand by and only yell when they witness abuses of power and of unarmed young women?

The distance between outrage and action is immense, filled with the prospect of personal discomfort. That gap grows wider every time the rights and dignity of others is assaulted and witnesses do nothing.

Safely removed by distance and time, people are boycotting the airline. Given the CEO’s horrible response to the incident, a boycott is more than justified. But the issue isn’t a single airline. It’s a systemic acceptance of violence. A failure of character and training among men with guns. A cultural acceptance of violent responses to non-violent situations.

But at least they yelled.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

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April 12, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr.  was the original face of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The radical right who annual parrot empty platitudes about King for his birthday would reject him if he were alive today.

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Did Jesus die for our sins?

Did Jesus die for our sins?

That’s a common question the week between Palm Sunday and Easter.

Jesus took on the sins of the world, suffered and died, so that we might have eternal life.


This was the point of Jesus, right? To die for our sins?

If that was the point, then Jesus might have mentioned it. But he didn’t. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say he’ll die for our sins.

Jesus said he would die and return. He didn’t say he was taking the sins of the world with him.

That idea is in the Bible, but it came about nearly 50 or 60 years later, and is only in the letters in the New Testament, not in the teaching or actual words of Jesus.

When we consider the teaching, death and resurrection in the context of the people at the time, we see a different story.

The purpose of Jesus isn’t his death on the cross. The purpose of Jesus is the empty tomb.

Anyone can die; everyone will. But only the son of God can overcome death and live again.

When we look at scripture from the perspective of the people who lived with Jesus, from the perspective of those who witnessed him after he died and came back to life, the Gospel of John explains the importance of the resurrection, and doesn’t mention Jesus dying for our sins.

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” ~ John 20:30-31

Jesus died and was resurrected to prove he was who he said he was — the son of God. He was executed and came back to life. And then people saw him.

A person named Celopas, along with someone else, encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

People ate with the resurrected Christ, multiple times.

Photo from the Lumo Project

Jesus talked with a lot of people.

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” ~ Luke 24:45-49

The account in the Gospel of Luke mentions repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But as it’s written, it can easily mean repenting because you’ve been forgiven. Not insisting you repent, before you’re forgiven. But more important, it doesn’t mention Jesus sacrificing for our sins, it says the disciples witnessed the risen Christ.

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matt 24:16-20

That might have been a good time for Jesus to mention he’d accepted the sins of the world. Instead, he reminded them to do what he had commanded, which was love people.

Jesus didn’t die for our sins, he died to prove who he was. A little more than 2,000 years ago God walked the earth as a human. He was executed by the government and then he came back to life.

The miracle of resurrection was enough to convince me the four different Gospels were true, because of what it said, and because of what happened next.

All of the people who witnessed the resurrected Christ were dramatically, irrevocably changed. Like a new day dawning, they couldn’t return to the way they were if they wanted to. In fact, after Jesus was executed, they did try to return to their old lives, and they were confronted by the resurrected Jesus.

They knew Jesus was from God, of God, and the son of God. They began to earnestly share his message of love, and all that meant.

They began spreading the message of Jesus, and that message had traveled far across the region by the time the letters of the Bible were written, and without any other written documents.

The message was simple and remains simple.

God loves us and wants us to love God and to love others. To prove it, God was born, God died, and God was resurrected.

Thanks be to God.


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Be a flower

Be a flower in the life of someone else.

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Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

Image provided by the Lumo Project

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

The rest of the story . . .

And one guy said, “hey, that’s my donkey! He’s riding my donkey!”

Then Jesus said:

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Spiritual refugees

The Apostle Paul, 1657, by Rembrandt van Rijn, Widener Collection.

The Apostle Paul, by Rembrandt.

Most of us are refugees in someway.

Many are emotional or spiritual refugees, as distant and isolated from others as physical refugees are removed from homelands.

We are separated from feeling our own pain, refugees rejecting our own emotions. Unaware of how or why we feel what we feel.

When we don’t know who we are, it’s easier to emotionally separate from others in need.

Some white men lord over the culture and society they were born into like roosters crowing over the sun they help raise. They fight desperately to hold onto a whitewashed fantasy of the past that doesn’t actually exist.

The Pharisees and Sadducees dominate mainstream Christianity and stroll the halls of political power, while many of us feel like misfits, outcasts, wanderers — spiritual refugees.
We have reason to feel this way. Christianity has been co-opted over time by everything it’s not supposed to be: commercialism, capitalism, militarism, elitism.

Many can clearly see that what Jesus says in the Bible isn’t how Christianity is in the world.
The face of Christianity in media and churches doesn’t reflect the teaching of Jesus.

People look to Christians and the churches and find nothing they need. They see social clubs rather than space for spiritual development.

People looking for comfort find condemnation.

Those seeking support find judgment.

Hurting victims are often victimized and hurt in new ways.

So it’s no surprise people are leaving Christianity in record numbers — the fastest growing religious group is “nones.” And then they wander, spiritual refugees.

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God’s power in weakness

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The Jesus you follow

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Republican Christians

Not since the Reformation has the choice been so clear.

On one side, Christians who read the red letters of the Bible and find in the teachings of Jesus a call to help the poor, support widows, orphans and aliens, and to respond with love, above all else.

And on the other side, Christians who make excuses in their faith to justify beliefs.

These Republican Christians invest their faith in “but” theology.

“I agree Jesus says that,” Republican Christians say, “but our country has to protect jobs, fear immigrants, take care of our citizens first, and also pass laws limiting equal access to marriage, health benefits and even restrooms.”

“Yes,” they say, “Jesus is about love, but abortion, capital punishment, military, capitalism and free market economics.”

Jesus tells his followers to love others. No ifs or buts.

Love others.

Love God, love others. You can’t love others when there are ‘buts.‘ (You can be bad at loving others, most of us are. We fall short of the Glory of God. So we keep trying.)

If Jesus isn’t the beginning and ending of your theology, then you’re not a Christian.

Calling yourself a Christian doesn’t make you one. Any more than calling yourself a member of the Gemini Program makes you an astronaut.

Without love, you may call yourself a Christian but you’re not. Over and over, Jesus tells us to love others. Not judge, not condemn, not do anything other than love others.

How are we loving God and loving others when we support programs and laws that break up families or prevent access to health services, education and even food?

Republican Christians have gone down the wrong road for so long that they don’t arrive at Jesus. More than anything, nationalism has overpowered their version of Christianity (God bless America isn’t Biblical).

They value tax cuts more than people.

They seem to care more about abortion, than about living people. (By the way, if you want the government to make abortion illegal, then you surrender to the government the right to make abortion mandatory in the future. Think about that for a while.)

The choice is clear, between those who value people over profits.

Those who care about others, more than a country.

Those who see strangers and see the face of God, rather than the face of an enemy.

The choice is clear — those who love God and love others, and those who don’t.

The choice is clear — Christianity that follows the teaching of Jesus and Republican Christianity that doesn’t.

The  choice is clear.


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