Thursday, February 28, 2008
I don't think this stereotypical version is what embodies the proverbial "angel". I have a little bit of a different take on it. I think that maybe an angel is that Twilight Zone landscape 'where man ends and God begins'. I think an angel is the flash of light that is the manifestation of Divine Love. While alive I think we have a little bit of angel in us, but once we pass and are made perfect in grace, we cease to be human and begin to be....to be what? An angel perhaps? Why not? Those we love who pass come to know peace. Many times you hear about loved ones ushering family members and loved ones into their passing, or waiting for them when they 'arrive'. Maybe those who loved us on earth are the angels spoken of in the Bible. Unless angels are really God's helper-monkeys: whereas you are sitting in the waiting room and a winged angel walks in with a clip-board, calls your name and says "God will see you now."
No, I think there are pieces of angels in all of us. A good example is my father-in-law, Lou. He led a hard life, having witnessed the suicide of his own father as a child, struggled throughout his life with addictions, struggled to keep a job, make ends meet and support a wife and three boys. He had such a hard time of it. Now, as his health and body is failing and he ventures into the winter of his life, it can be said that he possessed (and possesses) pieces of angels. He was not only a father to my husband, but to a friend named Chuck whose own father had abandoned him as a boy. Lou took Chuck under his wing and championed him. And I don't think Lou could have ever guessed just how great an impact his actions of love had on, not only the lives of his wife and children, but on the adopted son he never expected to help raise.
No, I think an "angel" is the best part of a human and the most human part of God.
Monday, February 25, 2008
This poignant article is from TIME.com - it offers great perspective in this bumpy political landscape. I have always believed in the separation of church and state...even when I was part of a "church".
Sunday, May. 07, 2006
My Problem with Christianism
By Andrew Sullivan
Are you a Christian who doesn't feel represented by the religious right? I know the feeling. When the discourse about faith is dominated by political fundamentalists and social conservatives, many others begin to feel as if their religion has been taken away from them.
The number of Christians misrepresented by the Christian right is many. There are evangelical Protestants who believe strongly that Christianity should not get too close to the corrupting allure of government power. There are lay Catholics who, while personally devout, are socially liberal on issues like contraception, gay rights, women's equality and a multi-faith society. There are very orthodox believers who nonetheless respect the freedom and conscience of others as part of their core understanding of what being a Christian is. They have no problem living next to an atheist or a gay couple or a single mother or people whose views on the meaning of life are utterly alien to them--and respecting their neighbors' choices. That doesn't threaten their faith. Sometimes the contrast helps them understand their own faith better.
And there are those who simply believe that, by definition, God is unknowable to our limited, fallible human minds and souls. If God is ultimately unknowable, then how can we be so certain of what God's real position is on, say, the fate of Terri Schiavo? Or the morality of contraception? Or the role of women? Or the love of a gay couple? Also, faith for many of us is interwoven with doubt, a doubt that can strengthen faith and give it perspective and shadow. That doubt means having great humility in the face of God and an enormous reluctance to impose one's beliefs, through civil law, on anyone else.
I would say a clear majority of Christians in the U.S. fall into one or many of those camps. Yet the term "people of faith" has been co-opted almost entirely in our discourse by those who see Christianity as compatible with only one political party, the Republicans, and believe that their religious doctrines should determine public policy for everyone. "Sides are being chosen," Tom DeLay recently told his supporters, "and the future of man hangs in the balance! The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will." So Christ is a conservative Republican?
Rush Limbaugh recently called the Democrats the "party of death" because of many Democrats' view that some moral decisions, like the choice to have a first-trimester abortion, should be left to the individual, not the cops. Ann Coulter, with her usual subtlety, simply calls her political opponents "godless," the title of her new book. And the largely nonreligious media have taken the bait. The "Christian" vote has become shorthand in journalism for the Republican base.
What to do about it? The worst response, I think, would be to construct something called the religious left. Many of us who are Christians and not supportive of the religious right are not on the left either. In fact, we are opposed to any politicization of the Gospels by any party, Democratic or Republican, by partisan black churches or partisan white ones. "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus insisted. What part of that do we not understand?
So let me suggest that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque. Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists. And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.
That's what I dissent from, and I dissent from it as a Christian. I dissent from the political pollution of sincere, personal faith. I dissent most strongly from the attempt to argue that one party represents God and that the other doesn't. I dissent from having my faith co-opted and wielded by people whose politics I do not share and whose intolerance I abhor. The word Christian belongs to no political party. It's time the quiet majority of believers took it back.
Visit Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish, at time.com
Find this article at: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1191826,00.html
Friday, February 22, 2008
The song Little Wonders by Rob Thomas
Let your clarity define you
In the end
You will only just remember how it feels
A book that I feel is a stunning allegory of Divine Love is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The tree, for me, is a great metaphor for a parent...or God. Always willing to give and give.
The story is a short moral tale about a relationship between a young boy and a tree in a forest. The tree and the boy become best friends. The tree always provides the boy with what he wants: branches to swing from, shade to sit under, apples to snack on, branches to build a house. As the boy grows older and older he requires more and more of the tree. The tree loves the boy very much and gives him anything he asks for. In the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, the tree lets the boy cut her down so the boy can build a boat in which he can sail. The boy leaves the tree, now a stump. Many years later, the boy, now an old man, returns and the tree says "I have nothing left to give you". The boy replies that all he needs is a quiet place to sit and rest as he awaits death. The tree happily obliges. (Summation courtesy of Wikipedia)
The book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Available for about $12 at Amazon
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Mercy and grace would be nonexistent if the (mostly misdirected) decisions made in this flicker of a lifetime were to determine an eternity. I think universal salvation upholds the greatness of God's power, not the so-called greatness of people's own ability to 'save themselves through belief'.
Universal salvation leaves man's ego behind and focuses on the omniscience and the so-big-it's-hard-to-fathom LOVE and GRACE of God. The Bible states that those who believe shall be saved...OK. Great. So, what if all came to believe...eventually... just maybe not during this flicker? Does it make grace and faith any less worthy of God? The original Greek manuscripts of the Bible indicate universalism in God's love. The Bible is not the end and last word. It is not the end of the conversation, but rather it is here to promote it. God waits up all night for His children to come home, like your parents when you were a teenager. And He will wait until every last child comes home. Those porchlights never turn off.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I was watching TV and a commercial came on for the BC SPCA - an Animal Anti-Cruelty and Rescue Association - which had Sarah McLachlan's song Angel playing in the background (see this commercial). I absolutely couldn't handle it and the combination of seeing the poor shaking dogs and hearing Sarah's heartfelt song overwhelmed me to a waterfall of tears. Later that day, I happened to catch the last 15 minutes of the movie The Color Purple, which is a movie about the difficult and oppressed lifelong plight of a black woman during the early and mid 1930's that has never EVER failed to move me to tears. And this time was no different. I felt like I wanted to reach through the screen and pull Whoopie Goldberg's character out to me, to just squeeze her so tight and rock her like a baby. Later that night an episode of Extreme Home Makeover was on, in which the homebuilding crew built a new house for a soldier who had lost his leg in Iraq. He was a single dad with 4 kids to support who was having a hard time. All through the show as he cried, I cried, and in the end his new house and gratitude was just as overwhelming to me as it was to him. My day of crying for and with these animals and people who I have never met nor have any real attachment to emphasizes the otherworldly common bond of the human spirit.
Perhaps a deluge of such divine emotion cannot be contained, so it must go somewhere - exuding outward in the form of tears and energy compelled like a vile tipped over in the lab. That we can all relate (in differing degrees) to the divine feelings of compassion, empathy and projection of love is, for me, testimony to the real grace within us. They say there is love human and love divine. Human love demands and expects something in return, expects cooperation and equal share. Divine love is nothing like human love - divine love gives and gives without ceasing, with no expectation of gain or recognition. It loves for the sake of love, nothing more.
Monday, February 11, 2008
I always disliked those signs "Repent! The End is Near!" It lends such an alarmist sense of hurry-do-or-die. I feel that it was in the past 30 years that I needed to mentally endure all that I did to get to the point of realization of the truth of grace. It took about 30 years. Not 20, not 10....I could never have been born and then immediately realized it - it takes time, man. All good things take time.
To make a correct and rational decision, many of us rely on time to think within a peaceful state of mind. When the mind is clear, the answer comes with ease.
Jesus would greet his friends, "Peace be with you." He did not say, "Panic be with you brothers, hurry up and repent and decide to believe in God or you will DIE - you got 5...4...3...2...1!" He did not hastily push and shove his followers into belief. He allowed them to observe and think and they eased into a relationship with Christ as easily as slipping into a warm bath.
Just as when someone forcefeeds religion to those unwilling to swallow, they usually throw it all up again. Small bites are easier to taste, to chew, to think about, to swallow.
The point of this post: Don't panic. Don't feel like you must rush to a conclusion about what or who God is. Don't feel the pressure to figure out the equation because there are only two minutes left on this test. Take your time. Be at ease. Look around. Think in peace. Grace will come to you in peace. And after all, even Corinthians reassures us that "Love is patient..." And I believe this to be so. As a parent is patient with a child learning to take its first steps, so is God patient with us as we learn a little more each day.
I would like to close with a couple of really great quotes:
As to the justice of endless punishment, minds enjoying the liberty of free inquiry could easily detect the diabolical character of such justice, as it is in exact opposite of the Divine nature, which is love. Such justice is evidently predicated on the false principle and ungodly practice of rendering evil for evil.
Hosea Ballou, 1771-1852
All will be redeemed in God's fullness of time, all, not just the small portion of the population who have been given the grace to know and accept Christ. All the strayed and stolen sheep. All the little lost ones.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
February 7, 2008 - CHICAGO (WBBM) -- The fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets at funerals of American soldiers is planning to demonstrate at the funerals of two of the victims of the Lane Bryant massacre in Tinley Park.WBBM's Steve Miller reports.It's there on the Web site of the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas. Under "Upcoming Picket Schedule" for this Saturday.To picket the funeral of 22-year-old Sarah Szafranski at St. Damian Catholic Church in Oak Forest.And then to picket the funeral of 37-year-old Connie Woolfolk at Leak and Sons Funeral Home in Country Club Hills.Why?Oak Forest Mayor Joann Kelly isn't sure, but she's heard one possible explanation. "That it may be because of the kind of customers that go to Lane Bryant. And that in some cases they may have an objection to some of the clientele."Specifically, she says, transsexuals and transvestites who may shop there.Both Oak Forest and Country Club Hills received letters yesterday from the church, saying that members planned a peaceful protest at the funerals.Both towns say they'll have extra police on the scene.
How their hypocrisy knows no bounds. They should make sure to also picket the following items, which I am sure they find to be sinful and damnable and on a one-way ticket to HELL:
- Closets - everyone knows GAYS COME OUT OF CLOSETS - bolt them shut - bolt them ALL SHUT!!!!
- Red Lipstick, Anything Red - because everyone knows red is the harlot's color - WHORES! WHORES! WHORES! DIRTY SINNING WHORES! SINNING WHORES IN RED! THEY'RE ALL GONNA LAUGH AT YOU!
- Rainbows - because they appear in the sky and are beautiful and natural and represent THE GAY GAY GAY COMMUNITY!!! Therefore, rainbows are the devil! FLAMING DEVILS that occur naturally with moisture & light!
- Milk - because it comes from a cow's teets which can be extracted by touching the teets - this may as well be BESTIALITY! COW-PUMPING SINNNNNERRRRRS! SINS THROUGH MOLESTING OF THE SHE-COW!
- Television - because many shows are created, directed, produced or acted in by JEWS OR GAYS! OR GAY JEWS! OR JEWS PORTRAYING GAYS OR GAYS PORTRAYING JEWS PORTRAYING GAYS! BLASPHEMY!
- Picket signs (men only) - because holding the stick that holds up the picket sign is symbolic of holding onto a man's penis!!!! MEN CAN ONLY HOLD UP THE SIDES OF A POSTER WITH BOTH HANDS (representative of holding up a woman's boobs with both hands, which is acceptable if only within the confines of marriage).
- Their Brains - because everyone knows it is SINFUL AND PRIDEFUL TO RELY ON ONE'S OWN UNDERSTANDING - THEY MUST RELY ON THE PASTOR TO INTERPRET THE BIBLE AND DO NOT QUESTION THEM! ALSO, DO NOT READ THE BIBLE - THEY MIGHT MISUNDERSTAND THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL TO BE LOVE.
- 3:00 A.M. - because someone told a friend who mentioned to the pastor that this is THE OFFICIAL WITCHING HOUR - WHEN GAYS AND HARLOTS AND OTHER SINNERS ARE EITHER SLEEPING OR AWAKE - BLASPHEMY! BURN THE WITCH AND HER HOUR! OUR CLOCKS GO FROM 2AM STRAIGHT TO 4AM!
CALL TO ACTION: If anyone has any other bullet points they wish to add to this "Fundamentalist To-Picket List" please post a comment to this blog.
While I poke fun at the ignorance of such a group, it really is not funny when it comes down to it. We need to stomp out the intolerance - but how do we do that? By being examples of complete love and the harder they force their hate, the more we should love them. A tough assignment, I know. And also, they should maybe not breed ; )
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
When that absurdity is the threat an eternity in a fictional hell, the atrocity is soon to follow. How many self-righteous self-"chosen" people have martyred themselves to terrorist acts in the name of Allah? How many have set fire to abortion clinics and ostracized or lynched gays? How many wars and inquisitions have been wrought in the name of a "loving" God? It does not make sense.
My parents recently visited Thailand where they were briefly educated on Buddhism by a monk-in-training at the university. He said that Buddhism was not a religion, but rather a way of life. A respectful, non-violent way of life.
I wish Christianity treated its message as more of a way of life than an exclusive "club". I wish it were a peaceful, loving way of life. Instead you have Church Worshippers (I have an aunt like this) who can spew out every saint and pope's name but mention nothing of the Word or the teachings of Jesus. God sent Jesus as a great PR person - to tell them in the flesh to love one another - to be gentle and kind and not invasive, in-your-face, self-righteous or judgmental. Jesus did not chastise his disciples to steer clear of the dirty sinners they encountered. As He said, it is not the healthy who need the doctor, but those in pain. Christians today have completely forgotten this ideal and continue to wage wars against those who do not believe as they do. They missed the point completely. Like a star-struck celebrity groupie, they look at Jesus with their heads cocked, stars in their eyes ...but never hear a damn word He said.
Monday, February 4, 2008
I want to simplify my life on a domestic level: I want to move out of my big house in the suburbs with rooms that go unoccupied and into a small condo close to work in the city. I want to be rid of 2/3 of my possessions, including a car. I want to live in a more concentrated fashion (greener, too) and I want to do away with many of my belongings - books I have read sit and collect dust, knick knacks and trinkets sit unused, music that I listen to in a digital format is not necessary to have in hard copy, multiple copies of items are so unncessary and I have furniture that is old and worn and I keep it for no good reason anyway. Why do I feel the need to keep so much shit? I was never a "pack rat" and have purged one or two items in the past that I have regretted getting rid of, but I feel an emergency to downsize once again. I want to shift my way of living 180 degrees. This new motivation comes with the freedom I feel with a new outlook on God's love.
I hope to begin making changes and arrangements to this new way of life this month. Though the housing market is not good for sellers, I am willing to break even if it means getting out and getting my life in a simpler state.
I feel like when I got rid of my misconceptions and burdens of guilt and fear that I have carried about God from the Catholic Church, I became lighter than air. I need to heave-ho the last of my burden of "unnecessary things" and live in a more humbler and real way.
I have moved away from the the Church's motto of "In the end, there are three things that last: fear, tithe, and guilt....and the greatest of these is guilt." to the real thing. I know that I am in the minority of Christians who believe in universal reconciliation, but I seek the narrow way anyhow. With Ash Wednesday fast approaching, I know that co-workers who have seen me leave to get ashes in the past will say something. I stopped trying to change people long ago. With a calm heart I will explain my 'heresy' and expect questions, but I will not get into the ring over who is right and wrong. There is no point. The point of the Gospels is that we all strive to act with love as Jesus did.
And living with less belongings may help.