Crystal Ball Gazing

Well, a no-fly zone has been instituted over Libya. It may be too little, too late. I guess there is no way to know at this point.

I don’t know if it was the right thing to do or not, but I do know that doing nothing was unacceptable. Somehow we have to make it clear to petty dictators that murdering your massive opposition is not acceptable, no matter how many paid henchmen you can pay.

There is nothing clear about whether it will succeed or not–the no-fly zone I mean. Andrew Sullivan directs us to Marc Lynch and his views which I think are well worth reading. All depends, in his view, as to whether or not we can succeed and do so quickly. The stakes are high. Bahrain and Yemen are both now engaged in severe crackdowns against rebels in their nations. A quick success in Libya could give them pause. Otherwise, the cries for freedom may be muffled once again.

Some good news in Wisconsin. A judge there has placed a temporary restraining order against the Govenator’s new union busting bill. A full hearing will be held, to determine the legality of the sleazy trick the GOP attempted by violating the “open records” law. There is some reason apparently to think that the judge might be inclined to the union side of the equation.

Lest we forget, the GOP of course is claiming that union benefit packages, including pensions are grossly unfair and bloated. All the while they claim this, not a one of them refuses their own pension plans gifted to them by taxpayers. Steven King (R-IA), oinker from Iowa, claims his is “slim pickins”, while the FACTS seem to suggest just the opposite. Like health care, which they are also again, and which they also receive from the taxpayers. Me thinks King, et.al. speak with forked tongues.

Did you know that in the three areas of the US that carry the english version of Al-Jazeera, it gets quite high ratings? Did you know that every time cable networks start to talk about putting them on the regular cable news lineup, the conservatives go bat shit crazy? Political Irony suggests, I guess we don’t have freedom of speech here unless it agrees with what corporate-owned media likes.

As many of you know, the Dalai Lama has been the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people for many years. He has been in exile since 1959. Recently he signaled his intent to step down as political leader, feeling that the Tibetan people should be able to rule themselves. They don’t like the idea, and apparently do not intend to amend their constitution to make that possible. I guess it means that the Dalai Lama is doing something right. It’s hard to think of any leader that the people wish to remain in office in this world today. Maybe we should take a look.

A book you might want to take a look at, called the Sufi’s Garden.

The Sufi’s Garland
by Manav Sachdeva Maasoom
Published by: ROMAN Books
Publication date: 25th March 2011
Price: $24.95 (Hardcover)
104 pp, 6-1/8 x 9-1/4″
ISBN: 978-93-80040-02-8

A small excerpt:

I went outside to see
if God’s voice
was disturbing anybody

I think I’m going to inquire about getting it for review. It looks simply divine. [h/t 3quarksdaily]

I bet you forgot, that you used to memorize things. If you are old as me anyway, which is older than most trees, but not quite as old as the Jurassic. See, we used to memorize things like phone numbers and addresses. And we don’t have to do that any more, so we are beginning to lose our abilities to remember stuff. I can tell you that is true because I dare not send the Contrarian to the store to pick up five things without writing them down. Actually, make that three things.

Anyway, there is a new book out that helps you remember what you never knew, or something like that. How to remember stuff. Moonwalking with Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Read a review of it here.

Okay, you got enough information to make you  the hit of the party tonight. Have at it.

Spotting a “Christian” Bigot

What probably first comes to mind, is that isn’t this a contradiction in terms? One would hope that Christian and bigot couldn’t possibly go together. Alas, all too often they do. At least for a certain type of Christian.

I’ve been thinking a good deal about the “Pastor” Terry Jones and his tiny brigade of haters who had planned to burn Qur’ans. This spurred a world-wide whirlwind of response from the President, Pope, and others in positions of power and influence.

Terry seemed undisturbed by it all, claiming that God told him to do this.

Indeed, his god probably did. But is this THE God or only the convenient one he has created to salve his guilty conscience at his alive-and-well wealth of hatred? I would think the latter.

A few weeks ago, someone (speak up if it was you!) suggested that “born agains” which most of these fundogelicals are, don’t really experience any real conversion interiorly. They simply profess that Jesus is my savior and then go about their lives pretty much the same, with a generous “amen” and “have you confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior” sprinkled throughout their conversations.

The Bible, then, becomes for them, a hugely wonderful resource for finding all kinds of quotes to sustain whatever personal beliefs they have about just about anything. I for instance have been told that Jesus never authorized governments to take care of the poor. (I just can imagine Jesus condemning Rome for its decision to take over the care of the widow and orphan in Jerusalem, freeing the Jews to spent their money on Temple maintenance!) 

I can only speak of my own conversion some seventeen years ago, as an example. I was flooded with guilt for months, until my baptism, and I actually went around to a number of people who I felt I had wronged and asked forgiveness and made my amends as best I could. I allowed to come forth all those natural feelings that hate and prejudice toward others was wrong. I resolved to actively work against the desire to blame “others” for whatever ills I fashioned were wrong with the US and the world at large.

Of course, I fail more than I succeed. Yet, I resolve each day to do better, and occasionally I think I’ve beat another hatred back a bit. It’s an ongoing battle, and of course it is meant to be. We don’t become saints over night, and most of us never. But we try.

Our new resident troll seems to suggest that we are intolerant because we aren’t tolerant of intolerant people! Wrap your brain around that one if you can. He misunderstands of course. I am most tolerant of anyone’s right to spew hatred whether they be Christian bigots ala Terry Jones, or the KKK or self-serving money grabbers such as Glenn Beck.

They have every right to do what they do. This is what freedom is about after all. But I, I have every right, and frankly a duty to speak out against their hatred. Their intolerance cannot be allowed to go unchallenged lest the uniformed be persuaded that this stuff is the right way to think.

Christian bigots as I said, sprinkle their talk with lots of godly words. They make Facebook entries like “Do you love Jesus?” They are always punctuating sentences with “Praise God.”

But if you look closely at what they cite in their defense of their bigoted ideas, it is almost never Jesus. No they speak of Jesus but never quote him much. Much of what they quote is either Paul taken outrageously out of  the context of very specific issues, or Hebrew Testament cherry picking. This is the more interesting because when they don’t like something in the HT, they invariably tell you that NT subsumes the Old, and Jesus fulfilled all the HT. That allows them to eat pork, and charge interest, and a plethora of other things that they find unpleasant or tedious.

You can know them almost precisely because they don’t quote Jesus, who, by overwhelming degree, spoke about love, forgiveness, and taking care of each other. Jesus above all talked of treating “enemies” not as such, but gently, with friendship, with love, and with hospitality. For as he often said, sinners treat well people who treat them well. Doing the same is nothing to brag about for the believer. Jesus spoke of the poor, the outcast, the sinner.

To suggest that God wishes us to burn the spiritual book of another faith is simply absurd. Most of us know that. Most of us know that Jesus would have condemned anyone who tried to box an entire faith system as evil. He found faithful people among the Roman legions for goodness sake.

Terry Jones, is a preacher in his own mind. He has so little sense, that he apparently actually became convinced that  Imam Rauf, who has stood against all manner of politically powerful idiots, suddenly bows to a dolt such as Terry and agrees to move his Islamic Center. I mean how full of it can one be?

Jones is captured by his own press at this point, and actually apparently thinks he is an important individual. He is nothing but a pimple on the butt of Satan. And the media, ever ready of course, to take the easy road, gives him play all day long. What should be done, is simply to ignore the fool and his tiny band of ill-educated, and unconverted hate mongers. Their god is no god, but an idol they have constructed to justify their bigotry.

We would do well to get on with life, leaving Terry and his ragtag troop to their marshmallow roast, ignored and shunned.

Of Ink and Quills and Parchment

One of the joys of living, it seems to me, is the ever-present ability to re-invent oneself. So, a few months ago, I declared, amid no fanfare whatsoever, that I deemed myself a writer.

I’m not sure there is some formal standard that one must meet in order to claim this appellation. If there is, I may not meet it. But then I don’t care. It is my claim, and anyone is free to disagree.

Note that I call myself a writer, not a Writer. I reserve the capital W for those who can REALLY write. I scribble, with an occasional dash of brilliance that streaks across the sky and too soon snuffs out much as your average meteorite. A big ado about little–this is me.

I have concluded that being a self-proclaimed writer gives me a certain ability to be witty and slashingly evil. All in the name of sharp-edgy rhetoric, the turn of a phrase that causes a gasp from you my reader. You do gasp on occasion don’t you? Please say you do.

It’s why I adore people like Dorothy Parker and Lillian Hellman, and goodness knows one of my favorites Truman Capote. And Tennessee Williams! Rapier wit, icy, droll, slicing, eviscerations. I just love them all.

I read this piece today courtesy of 3quarksdaily and frankly the article on a very old book on the study of evil is worth reading, but I include it for its gorgeous quotes. One is by Capote, who in reviewing Jack Kerouac‘s On the Road, quipped:

That was not writing, that was typing.

There is another by the reviewer of Soame Jenyns book, A Free Inquiry in the Nature and Origin of Evil. But follow the link for that. As I said, a discussion of the author’s theory of evil is worth the read in and of itself. Evil here is cast in the greater sense of natural as well as man-made, and Jenyn’s concludes that evil is required to keep balance in a well run universe. I would of course not agree, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Oh just want to throw in my two cents at the GOP attempt to “speak against the nut case pastor in Florida.” Both Sarah and John B. have weighed in and both, as I have heard are tying the impropriety of the Qur’an burning to the impropriety of Park51. Like there is anything remotely similar in the two. Just exactly what is to be expected from moral defectives. Shame on ya both.

Helen weighs in on the book burning over at Margaret and Helen. Never miss these lovely slices of humor and straight talk. Ever. I mean it.

I got to thinking. (You have been warned.) We were watching The Colony last night. It is a reality show where about ten people are thrown into an area somewhere along the Louisiana coastline, as “refugees” of a viral global epidemic. Nine-tenths of the human race is dead. They are left to their own devices. It’s fairly interesting as they scavenge material and food, trying to build a viable community.

They are not doing well with food, and they are starting to show the effects. I suddenly giggled at the possible headline:

 Reality show participants forget that it’s just pretend, and by lots kill a member for food. Body found partly dismembered. One survivor was heard to  say, why “he tasted just like pork, better than the cockroaches we were eating for sure.”  All have been hospitalized and are under observation. Psychiatrists condemn show producers for not making the make-believe aspect more clear. Meanwhile, the partially eaten body of James Kelly was turned over to the family for burial. A closed casket is expected. Authorities are investigating for possible criminal charges. The leader of the survival group, when advised that it was all just make-believe, expressed his sympathy, and emphatically said, that no such killing would have occurred had they not been so hungry, or had they known that a Burger King was right down the street, behind the fence.

Well, so sue me. I have a morbid mind at times.

On a completely different note:

I ran into this at Tikkun Daily Blog: Non-Jews would benefit from observing Rosh Hashanah thru Yom Kippur (Sept 9-Sept 19). I think Rabbi Lerner is right. Repentance and atonement are things we all need, both individually and communally. We are so quick to blame others for the chaotic world we live in. We don’t condone nor commit the hate that swirls around us, but we are complicit when we sit in silence bemoaning the state of things. When we don’t speak out, and let it be known that we disagree with the war mongers and hate mongers who continually tear down bridges and erect walls of division. This is a good read.

Heather at Crooks and Liars has an important question, or at least reiterates one: when has someone crossed a line? When is the GOP rhetoric just too much. When is it dangerous? When it is traitorous? When do we pull back in disgust and turn our backs on such people as simply unacceptable in a democratic state? Rachel Maddow asks this of Sharron Angle and her continuing threat that people may have to resort to their second amendment rights to get what they want. Is this the real face of the GOP? Are they the party of dictatorship?

What’s on the stove: pork chops and parslied potatoes and green beans.

Chaotic Symmetry

So I’ve been out and aboot all day, as the Canucks would say, and so my wee little brain is a bit fried.

So don’t be surprised if nothing that follows is connected with anything else. You have been warned.

First of all, let me key you folks in on a great adult education program that you might want to explore for your church.

I stopped by the church today to look at part 4, on creation stories, which, God willing and the creek don’t rise (literally I might add), I’m supposed to facilitate on Sunday. Be prepared is my motto even though the Boy Scouts think it belongs to them. Girl Scouts were every bit as prepared, and we did it backward and in heels. No wait, that refers to dancing.

Anyway, I watched Part 3, which I had missed, and was awed by some of the stuff they discussed, and actually thought I got at least two good blog post topics from it. But I, as usual, digress.

The program is called Living the Questions. It is a 21 part series, and you can do one each week. There are 3 DVD’s and each segment is 20 minutes long. It is ecumenical in nature; I’ve seen representatives from at least 4-5 different denominations. We did a session on fundamentalism and literalism, theological thinking, and now creation stories.

If you are a liberal/progressive congregation, and wish to learn a few things, then I suggest you take a look and bring it to the attention of your education committee. Any of these quite frankly can be the jumping off place from which to find a book and delve deeper into any particular subject that interests you.

***

I stopped by the Barnes and Nobles on my way in today, on a quest. Course, I usually see a kazillion other things I’d like to buy, but much to my joy and all around yippieness, I found exactly what I was hoping for–a collection of the works of Dorothy Parker, queen of  wit, for me. I soooooo admire her writing. She is one of my heroes. If you are interested, I got The Portable Dorothy Parker, edited by Marion Meade, who is also the writer of a Dorothy Parker bio, entitled What Fresh Hell is This, which I should also think about getting.

This collection includes short stories, Vanity Fair articles, book reviews, and poetry. I’m just so excited, but, laughing since, I am also reading a comparison of Christianity with early to 18th century philosophic thought, as well as completing the end of my study of Jeremiah in EFM. I also have another book on the way about women in biblical times. I’m about 1/3 of the way through McCulloch’s Reformation,  and dying to order John Bright’s, The History of Israel. I have about 3 other books I want to request for review in the next two months.

If somebody would only pay me to read, I could be a millionaire rather quickly I reckon.

***

Speaking of nothing in particular, I was assaulted by this rather strange and utterly idiotic “problem” this morning. I was as usual watching GMA while sipping my first coffee of the day. What follows is true, I swear.

We all know the horror of bullying and we have learned sadly that a number of children have committed suicide after being subjected to this verbal hell both at school and also on the Internet social sites. It is a despicable practice, one that most everyone got a little taste of at some point growing up, and I support every effort to put an end to it.

That said, what follows is insane.

It seems there is such a thing as mommy bullying. Women, who are moms, either blog, or get on social sites and discuss various phases of child rearing. It seems that some women are quite quirky on what is “right and wrong” here and don’t mind being rude and nasty to women who aren’t doing the job as they would. I’m told this might have to do with breastfeeding or not, and working or not, and so on.

Well, the picked on women are being bullied it seems. And the “experts” were quick to point out that should it get threatening, one should call the authorities, either to explore criminal charges or at least to close out their social networking accounts.

Hey. How bout simply not going to it? I mean, you lady, are a freakin’ adult. You are not a child who has to face these same dunces in a school hall way or bathroom. Unless you provide the info, these folks can’t contact you, come to your home, or otherwise bother you at all, UNLESS YOU FREAKIN’ MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE.

I mean really. There are problems in the world, and this ain’t one of ‘em. One dipshit was complaining that after she twittered that her toddler had been found floating in the pool, and everyone should pray, a few hours later, twittered that her baby was dead. Was it a big surprise that a few people suggested unkindly that she might STOP TWITTERING and take care of her kids?

I’m thinking this all might be leading up to a post on whether our capable hands have overcome our evolutionary brains and we are seeping over into mass insanity. It seems there are examples of utter unbelievable uncontrolled, insane insanity every day now. Heck some woman wanted to replace the health care law with bartering chickens, like they did in the 19th century. Yeah and reserve a room at the HOME for you too lady.

Well, I’m pooped. Have a great one. Hopefully things are back to a quiet contemplative posting tomorrow. HA!

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Lazy Blogging or Appropriating the Work of Others

Okay, not really, it’s pretty much the usual short takes, which I haven’t done in a while, but it does lend to the idea that I’m really letting others do the talkin’ for me. Sometimes, (rare, I know) others actually say it better.

The weather is lovely in terms of the sun, but way cool, only 61 at the max today. Tomorrow I must shop before the next deluge which is due sometime Thursday or Friday.

I’m otherwise occupied with the usual stuff.

Actually, I’m not a bathroom hermit myself. Never have been, and never figured out how people can read in the darn place. My butt would get cold sitting there. I go in there for a reason, and get ‘er done.

So here goes, hope you find a thing or two worth your attention.

My first inclination is to say that such a beautiful sunset shouldn’t be wasted on a bunch of elderly dried up old prune faces, but that would be mean. My second inclination is that the entire state could easily be scraped into the Grand Canyon with room to spare.

But if you want to read a rather thoughtful  post about current issues in Arizona and Israel, slip over to read Matty Boy’s take on racism–yeah, now I got your attention don’t I?

I’m an adult, I know we usually take baby steps to correct the wrongs of the world, but for liver-lovin’ sake, has Arizona lost it’s mind? And beware sanctimonious remaining 49, it’s an infectious disease, make sure you get your immunization shots soon.

***

And if that only whetted your interest, then read on. Dusty, never one to parse a expletive when needed, offers some background into the admittedly racist history of those who pushed forward this ugly piece of law.

***

And then there is the political angle that this is all really a ploy to stop the rise of Democratic voting Latinos from living in the state and disrupting the Rethuglican look of things. Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast researches and brings you that story.

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I’ve mentioned more than once my concerns about the rather blatant racism that is espoused throughout America against other Americans, namely Muslims. Not to say that we should reserve that for Muslims who are not Americans of course.

I was happy to hear that the Pentagon rescinded it’s offer to Franklin Graham to speak at the National Prayer Day ceremonies. The Reverend, son of the famous Billy Graham, expressed the usual racist claptrap in the name of God no less.

While VJack at Atheist Revolution was “disturbed”and “disappointed” that the President visited the elder Graham and also met Franklin, I pointed out in a FB entry that, well fundies would would have been just as disappointed and disturbed had Obama visited Dawkins or Hutchens. The point being, I guess intolerance is something that both fundies and atheists can have in common.

I’ve just started reading Sharp Iron, an admittedly evangelical conservative blog. I was pleased to see that Christian Beyer seems to agree that the Pentagon did the right thing.

Interestingly, Franklin claims that Muslims have a different God than his. That argument always seems odd to me, coming as it always does, from a  monotheist. If there is only one, well, however defined, the Muslim God is indeed the same God as the Christian God, and the Hindu, and the Shinto, and well, you get the picture.

***

I’ve been a believer that nature is God’s canvas upon which he creates the most beautiful of art for us, free of charge. Andy Goldsworthy, seen here in one of his creations, seems to agree. In fact he works in tandem with God (okay that’s my opinion of course) in creating some really beautiful pieces.

If your soul has been battered lately by personal or civic problems, then do stop by and take a look. I promise that you will come away feeling lighter and more at peace. Beauty is a gift of God, at least that is how I see it.

A H/T to Experimental Theology.

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Liberty University, love child of the late Jerry Falwell, is back in the news as we mentioned a few days ago.

It seems they have invited the renowned intellectual and all around great expounder of Christianity, the one and only, Glenn Beck to be their commencement speaker.

You might remember Liberty from the fact that the Bushites enlisted a goodly number of their law graduates into the Justice Department, where they soon got in hot water by mixing their Repuglian politics with doing their jobs. We are guessing that ethics don’t play a big part in Liberty’s law curriculum.

Anyway, we pondered the incongruity of Beck, who is an avowed Mormon, being asked to speak at a ultra conservative evangelical university. You know, they often claim that said Mormons are not really Christians at all, and if you don’t believe me on that just ask Mitt Romney.

It all seemed mighty crazy, in any event. And I figured, crazy is as crazy does. Beck has called for a boycott of any church that does social justice ministry, and well, we figured Liberty must agree with all that anti-Jesus stuff too. (My Jesus is not their Jesus I would guess.)

Matt Kelley, pastor and blogger has a take on the issue, well worth your reading. And the usual H/T to Prof. James McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix for this link.

That’s it for today. A first–all links are to regular bloggers and I’m as always just amazed at the talent out there. Hope you find something to read!

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Balancing Act

What God  taketh away, God returneth, that seems the case here in Iowa, pictured at right, from my own front porch.

We have been embarrassed greatly by the press received for the retired pastor of some no doubt weird church, who had the stupidity and utmost wrongheadedness, to suggest a number of goofy things last week. You remember, Johnny, I intend to win Iowa, was here, and the invocation was presented by said pastor, (let’s just leave him unnamed. No need to give him publicity of any type). The feeble-minded man suggested that first of all there were multiple gods, which might come as a shock to God, who I think usually suggests that there is only one.

Secondly our sage biblical master told us that Hindu was a God, when of course we know that is not the case. Hinduism is a religious in which there are numerous Gods, according to their beliefs. He also suggested that there was a Buddhist God, although Buddhists don’t technically believe in a God as such.

Thirdly, o wise one, apparently keeps counsel with all these deities and they have informed him that they, (the God of Hindu, the God of Buddhism, and of course the baddest of all, the God of Islam) are all doing all in their power to see that Mr. Obama is elected.

Now this might seem merely farcical entertainment to some. But what came next in his prayerful doings, is even more spectacular. He cautioned the One God, the Christian one that is, that should He (most assuredly in Pastor poo’s mind, he is a He), not get personally involved in this election, those other Gods would make the Real God look rather impotent and foolish. Imagine that!

I mean has God ever been counseled so perfectly well in recorded time? Not since the prophets who went out to do battle with the priests of Baal, has such a challenge been laid down. I really expected Pastor Poo to call for a smack down. Let’s get those representatives of priestly sorts from the Hindu, the Muslim and the Buddhists together with a similar array of our best evangelicals (Oh Jerry Falwell, we could have used you for this) and let the miracles begin. I call down rain, and I’ll do you one better, and bring a hail of brimstone.

Gosh, don’t you just love the smell of sulphur first thing in the morning? I mean that is the kind of thing a nation can get behind. No more voting, no more campaigning, just let the Gods fight it out. We have plenty of arenas, football stadiums and such. It would be a bonanza for the folks who run concessions. The T-shirt industry could make some much needed cash for Christmas. I mean really, wouldn’t you travel a ways to watch the Gods throw down right before you eyes?

Frankly, we could use the dough, and believe me you will have to pay for the privilege of seeing God(s) in action. You can’t expect this kind of Hollywood spectacular to come for free. No way, we had a flood here remember, and a really bad tornado. So make your travel plans.

Okay, on a serious note, I suggested that God does return the favor when crap like the above is done in his name. He returns the favor with utter gracious love. And the story below the fold is this:

There has been for some weeks a murder case of note in Iowa. The case is not being tried here, since the crime occurred over two states, and they chose to prosecute in the one having a death penalty. Thank God (seriously) we don’t in Iowa kill folks under state authority. I won’t name names, because that is not important. But I will tell you a tad about the case, although I don’t pay much attention to murder cases generally speaking.

The defendant seems to be a thoroughly bad character. I think he has a record of other crimes before this hellacious one came about. It appears he engaged in or tried to engage in some sort of molestation of a young girl here in Iowa. He was a middle aged white dude, and she was a pretty African American girl, somewhere around 12 or so. I don’t know the particulars, perhaps he was fearful she was going to turn him in, or something.

Anyway, he hired a “hit man.” He had used this person for other criminal acts before, but apparently never anything violent. He hired the hit man to abduct and murder the girl. This was done. The body was found I believe in the other state, which is while the trial could occur there.

This is one of those thoroughly premeditated and cold killings. The hit man turned “State’s evidence” in return for a lesser plea. He testified against the molester. The molester was convicted, and has now, as of this writing, been found “eligible” for the death penalty. More hearings are still due as to whether it will be imposed or not.

Now for the God part. The family of the murdered girl spoke after the verdict and after the jury determined that the convicted man was eligible for the sentence of death. Both father and mother expressed that they did not favor the death penalty, and would be happy with the life sentence. The mother noted that she had now lost two children, and would not wish that kind of pain on anyone. Presumably she was talking about the family of the convicted man.

How does this all relate? Oh not at all in any real sense. Yet to me it redeems my state of Iowa. On the one hand we have our share of disreputably ignorant people like the Pastor, and yet we have just average folks who are amazingly wise and forgiving in their lives here. One balances the other, and I like to think that the balance is not quite equal. I like to think that the grieving parents of a lovely child ripped from life all too soon, and their sane and forgiving response to that tragedy, somehow trumps Pastor Poo and his hate filled ignorance.

Perhaps if we search hard, every day, we can find that on balance, good triumphs over evil. I like to think so anyway.


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Is Ecumenism Really a Good Thing?

There are some things that we tend to take for granted. We think they are statements so true that we never question them, never analyze, never contemplate alternatives. Such I think is the issue of ecumenism, the formal organized efforts to re-unite all Christian faiths, or more broadly, unite all dispirit faiths throughout the world into one.

Ask anyone, and most will agree, that God wishes such a thing. After all, there is but one God, or so most of us believe, however we may define that. And so therefore, it seems to be that there must be one perfect understanding of God which is embodied in some one faith, or so most believe. Of course, the rub is that all to many different faith traditions all claim to have the most perfect understanding.

Efforts to achieve such a union have been worked on for years by any number of organizations. The World Council of Churches is but one. But even from it’s inception, there have been those who have refused to join. Mostly it seems because there is always a requirement by some that certain basic principles of belief must be agreed upon. And that never happens, and so efforts are always stymied. The situation only becomes worse, when we move beyond Christianity into the numerous faith traditions of the world. How can there be a basic principles agreement? Other than “do unto others” most everything else is too different in concept to be the basis for agreement.

As a former Catholic, I of course was taught the necessity of at least a return to unity among Christians. If you haven’t guessed, Martin Luther is roundly criticized for tearing the Church asunder. The Eastern Church is given less culpability, though I am not sure that is deserved. In any event, what Luther began, clearly had no end. The numbers of new Christian groups multiplies at the rate of nearly 3,000 per year, and is now in the vicinity of some 35,000.

Catholics, at least those of a traditional orthodox persuasion see this as a horror, and await the “return” of the flock to the Mother Church. Of course, the awaited “returnees” have a rather different take on the issue. Not only are they, for the most part, uninterested in “returning” to Mother Church, but they await Mother Church to recognize that indeed it should be coming to them, as the true Church.

You see this all gets ugly very quickly. Nothing much gets accomplished when participants begin arguing about who is the “original” church, is there an original church at all, and what was the original teaching and doctrinal truths of that church. Having witnessed some of these “discussions” I can tell you they are brutal. Take a swing by Catholic Answers forum some time and be prepared to be insulted if you are non-Roman Catholic. You will soon learn that your faith, whatever it might be is polluted and silly, never apostolic, and is but one of those things warned of by Paul and others. Non-Catholics are, whatever their denomination, led by false prophets. Only return to the Mother Church with complete obedience to her word is sufficient to return to grace.

If you wish to approach from another way, try some of those fundamentalist evangelicals. They consider the Roman church that which is spoken of in Revelation. Not Rome, as in the emperor, but the very same Roman Catholic church. They of course aren’t returning anywhere, and they are sure there can be no unity until everyone agrees that scripture is literalistically true in every word. Welcome to creationism folks.

So, those of us who would wish for more unity, and less division, know that nothing like that is possible in any future we can so far see. And what’s more, we find it hard to see how that could ever happen. For goodness sakes, many of us can testify that whatever our faith tradition is, we are internally often badly split on serious issues. The Roman Catholic church certainly is, with any number of groups that run the gamut from strict and almost backward looking practices and dogma to those who are highly liberal and progressive in their outlook. There is sadly, badly veiled contempt held by both sides in this.

The Anglican church itself is clearly at odds within itself over issues of homosexuality and women. It would not surprise me to learn that there are other divisions as well. From what I have learned in my brief time as an Episcopalian, some of this is sadly vicious as well, with both sides taking increasingly hard lines.

The same is true of Baptists and other evangelicals, between those who are hardliner and those who favor a more moderate and progressive view. It is no doubt true that differences exist in probably every defined denomination. Those new “sects” have to appear for some reason, and the reason is, one assumes, that someone decided that their church had strayed from the “true” teaching and after futile attempts to get it back on track, some or many left and started their own church.

That is the state we find ourselves in unfortunately. It is not something I thought much about, except to think that those who were engaged in the attempt to forge bonds of agreements must be true saints to do such work. It was not anything I thought about until a few weeks ago.

Last week, many of you know, I was received into the Episcopal faith. Prior to that, I met with one of the priests of my parish to discuss things. The purpose was two fold. First, it was for them to answer questions I might have about the Church, but secondly it was about them getting an idea of where I was coming from theologically in order to determine whether the Church would be a good fit for me. Additionally, I’m sure they wished to get a handle on what ministries I might fit with, and how versed I was in biblical and theological issues.

We were talking about issues of difference, and I suggested that I found so much of interfaith dialogue frustrating because it always got bogged down in doctrinal differences instead of simply working on common problems. Poverty and social issues really don’t require that we are all on the same page regarding the issue of consubstantiation for instance.

Barbara suggested that it was probably not the best idea in the world to spend our time trying to “unite” doctrinally. I recall, taking that in, but being busy with other things, I let the significance of that statement wash over me with little recognition. She offered that we all have unique and special things to contribute to the great fund of Christianity, and unity would no doubt discard some of that.

Later, when I had time to digest and review that conversation, I saw that indeed, I had never considered whether the movement to unite was worthwhile. And, after having considered it for some weeks, I’m rather convinced Barbara was right.

Perhaps, we as this huge mosaic which we call Christianity are better off doing our separate things. Perhaps what is missing is the ability to recognize and respect that we all come to the table, enriching the full tapestry of Christianity by our differences. Perhaps it is through the fullness of our unique offerings that the clearest and most complete picture of God’s kingdom emerges.

I have long thought that the probability is that we have almost all of us, gotten it quite wrong. We have to one degree or another attempted to construct a faith that is faithful to what we understand to be  the message of Jesus. Given the plethora of opinions on that, just in the first two centuries following his crucifixion, I’d say we have but a limited clue of it really. Things, as we move through the centuries, just get worse.

Just one example will suffice. Nowhere did Jesus ever suggest that a priesthood need be either male nor celibate. True,  the men who wrote about his ministry, long after his crucifixion I might add, did not declare that Jesus picked women and named them apostles. That of course may mean no more than that the writer of the gospel or letter or such never understood it that way. But more clearly Jesus never restricted the priesthood to a celibate lifestyle.

That came much later, through the Spanish church. And since it was later adopted through what was then Christendom, it has stuck. Now the Roman church declares that said ideas (celibacy and male priesthood) is the will of the Holy Spirit and thus they have no power to change it. Convenient, but hardly definitive I would say. If you talk to Roman Catholics who adhere to the belief in celibacy and to a male priesthood, they will surely tell you that the Church has no power to change this. This is God’s will, evidenced by “tradition” which is synonymous with God’s will in their opinion. In other words, we never thought about doing it differently, so the fact that we have done it one way for a long time, is evidence that this is the way God wants it. Lousy logic I’d say.

So it hardly seems to me that today, we have gotten it more right than they did in say 50 CE or so. And that’s just Christianity. Things get no better, and only get worse when we add in all the other faiths, some of whom believe things quite drastically different than what is taught in Christian circles. Yet they have a rich heritage, and deep wisdom as anyone who has read sacred texts in Buddhism, Islam, or Hinduism can attest.

Many of the eastern faiths offer a breathtakingly beautiful explanation of God and humanity. So much resonates with us. We can recognize truth in what are otherwise foreign doctrines and beliefs. We are enriched and opened in amazing  ways. We benefit greatly. We are enlarged spiritually, fed with good food.

So I have come to a new conclusion about interfaith dialogue for the purpose of joining ourselves into one homogeneous and should I suggest bland concoction called Christianity. I think it’s a bad idea. I think we should stop worrying about it and arguing about it. I think we should worry about poverty, disease, and all the ills that face the world. We don’t have to agree about apostolic successions and Eucharistic prayers to address hunger do we? I think God might prefer we address those issues first.

It’s just what I was thinking about today.
**Cross Posted at Here I am Lord


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