Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Holidays Part II

My parents recently took the train into Chicago to visit my husband and I and we took them to the Christmas at DePaul Concert in Lincoln Park. It was a wonderful production, a wonderful experience. For the song O Holy Night, a male tenor (DePaul alumni) sang and it was amazing. More than one tear slipped out of my eye. My nostalgic side was glad to be in a church again with the beautiful architecture; the sculptures, columns and somber lighting.

Afterwards, my mom told me about a spiritual book she was reading and that hearing the chorus and orchestra culminated for her the message of her book. Basically, someone asks "Why are there so many faiths?" And the answer is analogized with the orchestra comparison: it takes many differently crafted, differently sounding instruments to contribute to the masterpiece of the symphony."

This made me smile and so I thought I would share.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy Holidays

It has been a long time between posts but I have to say that I am grateful for being busy – new home, graduate school, a job I like, etc. – and it is this time of year when people tend to outline those things they are grateful for. That is a long list for me. I am grateful for everything. Every. Thing. I can only feel the overwhelming gratitude in my heart and have it swell up and out to touch others who don’t feel that heart-swell in their lives. In lieu of holiday gift-giving, I am going to make a nice donation to the Chicago Food Depository. There are others who need extra care at this time of the year – and all year-round!

And while I don't attend mass, this is the time of year when I get a little nostalgic about it. I miss the ambience, candles and incense and music, but I know it is all theatrics. Those giant stone cathedrals are like the tomb. All the important witnessing, miracles and message of Christ play out OUTSIDE of these Municipal City Halls.

Mark 16: 1-8 - "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here."

Happy Holidays and Blessings to all!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


A very nice way of saying you are low on funds is to not say anything at all. And invite others in under the guise that all intentions are of good will.

The one sentence that sticks out at me in the article below is the following:

"The process will enable groups of Anglicans to become Catholic and recognize the pope as their leader."

A) A true non-elitist Christian church should always recognize Jesus Christ as their leader. Not the pope.

B) The Catholic Church's rules are made up and agreed upon by a Board of Directors (The Holy See). The Board of Directors wanted a broader range of shareholders. My, how mergers and acquisitions can produce great media PR opportunities.

C) Matthew 15:8-9 "All of you praise me with your words, but you never really think about me. It is useless to worship me, when you teach rules made up by humans."

D) The Catholic Church's obsession with social issues such as gay rights and married / women priests get put on the back burner at the prospect of Anglicans making the coffers fuller, don't they?

E) While I think an alliance between these two groups will produce some good things, it should be done for one reason and one reason only: because they all share in the true Love of Christ and for others. I wish full transparency was the case here, but, as it goes with any institutional bureacracy, I'm afraid it is not.


Vatican welcomes Anglicans into Catholic Church

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- The Vatican said Tuesday it has worked out a way for groups of Anglicans who are dissatisfied with their faith to join the Catholic Church. The process will enable groups of Anglicans to become Catholic and recognize the pope as their leader, yet have parishes that retain Anglican rites, Vatican officials said. The move comes some 450 years after King Henry VIII broke from Rome and created the Church of England, forerunner of the Anglican Communion. The parishes would be led by former Anglican clergy -- including those who are married -- who would be ordained as Catholic priests, said the Rev. James Massa, ecumenical director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. "This sets up a process for whole groups of Anglicans -- clergy and laity -- to enter in to the Catholic Church while retaining their forms of worship and other Anglican traditions," Massa said. The number of Anglicans wishing to join the Catholic Church has increased in recent years as the Anglican Church has welcomed the ordination of women and openly gay clergy and blessed homosexual partnerships, said Cardinal William Joseph Levada, the head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Their talks with the Vatican recently began speeding up, Vatican officials said, leading to Tuesday's announcement. "The Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion," Levada said. Levada said "hundreds" of Anglicans around the world have expressed their desire to join the Catholic Church. Among them are 50 Anglican bishops, said Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia of the Congregation for Divine Worship. While married Anglican priests may be ordained as Catholic priests, the same does not apply to married Anglican bishops, Levada said. "We've been praying for this unity for 40 years and we've not anticipated it happening now," Di Noia said. "The Holy Spirit is at work here." One interested group is the Traditional Anglican Communion, an association of churches that is separate from the Anglican Communion and has hundreds of thousands of members worldwide. The TAC in 2007 petitioned the Vatican for unity with the Catholic Church with the stipulation that the group retain its Anglican rites. The TAC's primate, Archbishop John Hepworth of Australia, said in a statement Tuesday that the Vatican's announcement "more than matches the dreams we dared to include in our petition two years ago." That is because the Vatican's move involves not only the TAC but other Anglican groups that want to unite with the Catholic Church, said the Right Rev. Daren K. Williams, bishop ordinary of the western diocese of the Anglican Church of America, which is part of the TAC. The Vatican has yet to release all details of the offer, and the TAC's leaders will meet and discuss how to respond when it does, Williams said. But Williams said he believes much of TAC will respond favorably. Williams, who also is rector of All Saints Anglican Church in Fountain Valley, California, said his parishioners have generally been "very warmly receiving" Tuesday's announcement. "It is encouraging for them to know their worship experience wouldn't be turned upside down by the Roman Catholic Church," Williams said. "The person in the pew should see very little difference in the way we pray. We might be asked to pray aloud for any pope who happens to be in office, in addition to praying for our primate. "Really, there'd be very little other difference." The parishes retaining the Anglican rites would answer not to Catholic bishops but to regional or nationwide "personal ordinariates" who would report to the pope, Massa said. Those officials often will be former Anglican clergy, Vatican officials said. The Church of England said the move ends a "period of uncertainty" for Anglican groups who wanted more unity with the Catholic Church. Both groups have a "substantial overlap in faith, doctrine and spirituality" and will continue to hold official dialogues, the archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster said in a joint statement. "Those Anglicans who have approached the Holy See have made clear their desire for full, visible unity in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church," Levada said. "At the same time, they have told us of the importance of their Anglican traditions of spirituality and worship for their faith journey." Preserving Anglican traditions, such as mass rites, adds to the diversity of the Catholic Church, he said. "The unity of the church does not require a uniformity that ignores cultural diversity, as the history of Christianity shows," he said. "Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: 'There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.' "

Friday, October 9, 2009

God Is Within

This article speaks for itself. It is not surprising that faith and spirituality are evolving and taking on individually organic forms in peoples' lives. I think we've come full circle into an era where "God is within".

I attribute this in part to the age in which we live where ANY AND ALL questions CAN be asked without being socially shunned. Nothing is taboo and many atrocities of organized religions have been exposed over the past decade. The truth always surfaces. Information and exploration into religious questions can be accessed through many different sources (the Internet being one of these sources) and I think people are becoming more reliant on their own internal interpretation of God and the Bible and are acknowledging and abandoning the flawed religious institutions that all seem to be wrought with abuse and politics.

"The Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands..."-- Acts 7:48

Where Have All the Christians Gone?
Bruce Feiler - AP / FOXNews.com - September 25, 2009

The number of people who claim no religious affiliation, meanwhile, has doubled since 1990 to fifteen percent, its highest point in history. Christianity is plummeting in America, while the number of non-believers is skyrocketing. A shocking new study of Americans’ religious beliefs shows the beginnings of a major realignment in Americans’ relationship with God. The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) reveals that Protestants now represent half of all Americans, down almost 20 percent in the last twenty years. In the coming months, America will become a minority Protestant nation for the first time since the pilgrims. The number of people who claim no religious affiliation, meanwhile, has doubled since 1990 to fifteen percent, its highest point in history. Non-believers now represent the third-highest group of Americans, after Catholics and Baptists.Other headlines:

1) The number of Christians has declined 12% since 1990, and is now 76%, the lowest percentage in American history.
2) The growth of non-believers has come largely from men. Twenty percent of men express no religious affiliation; 12% of women.
3) Young people are fleeing faith. Nearly a quarter of Americans in their 20’s profess no organized religion.
4) But these non-believers are not particularly atheist. That number hasn’t budged and stands at less than 1 percent. (Agnostics are similarly less than 1 percent.) Instead, these individuals have a belief in God but no interest in organized religion, or they believe in a personal God but not in a formal faith tradition.

The implications for American society are profound. Americans’ relationship with God, which drove many of the country’s great transformations from the pilgrims to the founding fathers, the Civil War to the civil rights movement, is still intact. Eighty-two percent of Americans believe in God or a higher power. But at the same time, the study offers yet another wake-up call for religious institutions. First, catering to older believers is a recipe for failure; younger Americans are tuning out. Second, Americans are interested in God, but they don’t think existing institutions are helping them draw closer to God. Finally, Americans’ interest in religion has not always been stable. It dipped following the Revolution and again following Civil War. In both cases it rebounded because religious institutions adapted and found new ways of relating to everyday Americans. Today, the rise of disaffection is so powerful that different denominations needs to band together to find a shared language of God that can move beyond the fading divisions of the past and begin moving toward a partnership of different-but-equal traditions. Or risk becoming Europe, where religion is fast becoming an afterthought.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More On Divinity and Wrath

Where "wrath" is concerned, I think it is clear that the Catholic Augustinian made up dogma of the "7 Deadly Sins" which are nowhere to be found in biblical text, is laughably thwarted because God Himself, exercising one of these 'sins' is no less THE source of divine perfection. I touched upon this a couple of posts ago, but because I think they are worth sharing, here are some excerpts of theological reflection on the subject of divine wrath from Gregory MacDonald's The Evangelical Universalist:

"Hell is usually seen as the full manifestation of God's wrath. The theological issue concerns the nature of that wrath. God is not like some pagan deity with a bad temper who may 'lose it' at any moment. New Testament scholar Chris Marshall writes that wrath

designates God's fervent reaction to human wickedness. God's refusal to tolerate, compromise with, or indulge evil...wrath is not a chronic case of ill temper on God's part but a measured commitment to act against evil and injustice in order to contain and destroy it...it is not so muc a matter of direct, individually tailored punitive intervention as it is a matter of measured withdrawal of his protective influence and control, a refusal to intervene to stem the deleterious effects of human rebellion.

A key biblical foundation for the idea that wrath is primarily God's withrawing his protection is found in Romans 1:18-32, where God's wrath is revealed from heaven when God gives people up to pursue their self-destructive sinful desires. The wrath IS God's letting them slide down the path to destruction. In Joel Green's words, 'wrath is...God...handing people over to experience the consequences of the sin they choose (Rom 1:18, 24, 26, 28; cf. Wis 11:11-16; 12:23).'

If we think of hell as the state in which God allows the painful reality of sin to hit home, then we can understand both the terrible imagery used in Scripture to portray such a fate and the urgent warning to avoid the wide road that leads in that direction. It also removes the objection that God is being presented as a cosmic torturer hurting people until they agree to follow him. God does not torture anybody - he simply withdraws his protection that allows people to live under the illusions that sin is not necessarily harmful to a truly human life. The natural (though none the less God-ordained) consequences of sin take their course, and it becomes harder and harder to fool oneself into believing the seductive lies of sin anymore. In this way hell (while temporary) is educative and points us towards our need for divine mercy.

Once we see that God's justice is more than mere retribution but is also restorative, and once we see that divine punishments are more than deserved but also corrective, then a way is open to see God's final punishment as another manifestation of this very same justice and not something qualitatively different. It is retributive but also restorative. It is deserved but also corrective. Divine wrath can be seen as the severe side of divine mercy. It is just as much an act of God's love as his kindness. Granted, it is a side of God's love it would be better not to experience but it is none the less loving for that."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pyschological Bleach

OK, I’m going to approach this from perhaps a less obvious angle.

Let me put this out there: I am FOR prayer. I am FOR heartfelt, genuine REAL prayer. I am for the daily natural and very personal conversation between a person and The Holy Spirit. When I pray, I don't let someone else form those words or intentions for me.

Aside from the Church’s preoccupation and ever-persistent attempts and hypocrisy in getting involved in peoples' sex lives, I view this as the Church’s way of re-enforcing the idea that the way a person can only truly communicate with God is through a formal, poem-like prayer, edited and stamped with the Catholic Church’s seal of approval. An individual’s internal spiritual dialogue with God is non-existent (and in the course of Catholicism, at least in my life's experience, RARELY encouraged). An individual’s actions as a way of communication with God are non-existent (unless it involves TITHING).

The Church inserts themselves as a moderator, though I think a better word for it would be "blockade", between one who would directly and personally converse with the Almighty…and the Almighty. A person’s gift of biology is clearly evil in the eyes of an institution that touts celibacy of its "teachers". In developing this pre-coitus declaration, they are asking people to pour psychological bleach on their nether regions. The celibate should not counsel those who are sexually active, just as the unmarried should not counsel those who are. I understand that this book's content was written by other sources (perhaps married sources), but it all falls (and profits) the umbrella that is the Roman Catholic Church.

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” – Matthew 6:6-8

With regards to the prayer described in this article, it feels... semi-apologetic. It refreshes the guilt of the reciter of all the “sinful urges” and shortcomings one possesses (which were...hmmm...bestowed by God). Why should one feel guilty about the natural human urges one feels towards their spouse? People were blessed with these feelings and tendencies for a reason. To spend time telling The Creator, “sorry, but these lusts you gave me….yeah, I don’t think so – not pure enough. I would like sex - but hold the hormones, please” is, well, rather insulting. A mature person learns to control these human qualities and keep them in check, as with any other human urge or emotion. But the Church continues putting these words in one’s mouth…and, I think for God, they have to be authored by one’s own heart to mean anything. The prepackaged template of insincere prayer is wasted breath and insulting placation of God.

P.S. I would like to know who, exactly, the people are, that allegedly openly mock the ‘commitment of spouses to fidelity'.


Give us this day our daily... Catholic church issues prayer for faithful to say before sex

By Simon Caldwell 02nd September 2009 Source: Mail Online UK

Roman Catholic couples are being encouraged to pray together before they have sex. A book published by a prominent Church group invites those setting out on married life to recite the specially-composed Prayer Before Making Love. It is aimed at 'purifying their intentions' so that the act is not about selfishness or hedonism. Message: The Roman Catholic church encourages couples to pray before sex to remind themselves that intercourse is a selfless act, not driven by hedonism. The prayer, which appears in the Prayer Book for Spouses, implores God 'to place within us love that truly gives, tenderness that truly unites, self-offering that tells the truth and does not deceive, forgiveness that truly receives, loving physical union that welcomes'. It adds: 'Open our hearts to you, to each other and to the goodness of your will. 'Cover our poverty in the richness of your mercy and forgiveness. Clothe us in true dignity and take to yourself our shared aspirations, for your glory, for ever and ever.' The 64-page book has been published by the London-based Catholic Truth Society. The group has close links to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. The Rt Rev Paul Hendricks, who is the Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark and sits on the charity's board, said he thought the prayer's inclusion was 'brave but good'. 'I suppose it is a bit idealistic but it is recognising that God is at the heart of the marriage relationship between husband and wife,' he said. 'It is important for the Church to affirm the value of marriage and family life and I suppose this is a particular way of doing that.' 'Perhaps it is something that has not been tried, certainly for a while - I can't remember seeing something like that before.' The book contains prayers for every stage of marriage and family life, including engagement, planning for parenthood, pregnancy and caring for children and elderly parents. The prayers, written by a variety of authors, are interspersed with Catholic teaching on the meaning of marriage and family. The book pushes the message that marriage should be exclusive and life-long and condemns abortion. It criticises 'those who, in our times, consider it too difficult, or indeed impossible, to be bound to one person for the whole of life, and those caught up in a culture that rejects the indissolubility of marriage and openly mocks the commitment of spouses to fidelity'. It adds: 'It is a fundamental duty of the Church to reaffirm strongly the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage.'

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Math Problem

Personally, it has been a rough and busy August so I haven't had time to write up a thoughtful post. Until I get my ducks in a row, I just want to throw out an idea that I came across.

Forgive me if I can't eloquently convey this thought:

If something bad happens to someone, someone may say "God is punishing me". In this spoken tense it would seem that God is intentionally emitting anger or wrath, right? Well, in those times that one thinks God's "wrath" is upon them, what if He is not so much as being actively angry, but rather is only slightly withdrawing His protection so that one learns a lesson? Any space that has less Love is bound to be miserable. So, is it possible that God's "wrath" is not an addition of anger, but rather a subtraction of protection and presence for one's own good, done out of Love?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Common Sense

Once in awhile you see a story in the news similar to this one:
Child gets sick.
Parents pray.
Child gets sicker.
Parents continue to pray.
Child dies.
Parents go to jail for neglect.

God helps those who help themselves.

I would like to know where in the Bible it indicates that seeking medical attention is an affront to God. The doctors could have been God-sends. Science is not the antiChrist. Science is of God. A little faith in God's medical science could have gone a long way.

I don't think that (with prayer) God should be treated as one's own personal genie. If this man truly believed that he didn't need to take any action to help his daughter because he was relying on God to take care of everything, then by that same logic he must now hold God responsible for his daughter's death. Which is both spiritually immature and no way to have a relationship with God. Pray for strength. Pray for wisdom. Pray for understanding. Don't pray for things that you yourself could easily accomplish but do not out of laziness.

"He who does not work shall not eat. Yet we hear that some of you are living in laziness, refusing to work, and wasting your time in gossiping. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we appeal to such people--we command them--to quiet down, get to work, and earn their own living." -- 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12

In other words, "Put your shoulder to the wheel. God isn't pleased with laziness." In that sense, Paul is saying, "God helps those who help themselves."


Man testifies he expected God to heal his child
Father is charged with homicide for praying instead of getting medical help

The Associated Press - Fri., July 31, 2009

WAUSAU, Wisconsin - A father charged with killing his daughter by praying instead of taking her to a doctor read from the Bible while testifying Thursday that he couldn't seek medical help without disobeying God. Dale Neumann told the jury he didn't seek medical help for his child because "I can't do that because Biblically, I cannot find that is the way people are healed." He added: "If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God. I am not believing what he said he would do." Neumann, 47, is charged with second-degree reckless homicide in the March 23, 2003, death of his 11-year-old daughter, Madeline, from undiagnosed diabetes. Prosecutors say he should have taken the girl to a hospital because she couldn't walk, talk, eat or speak. Instead, Madeline died on the floor of the family's rural Weston home as people surrounded her and prayed. Her father was the last person to testify in his trial. Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday morning. Neumann, who once studied to be a Pentecostal minister, preached to the jury about his faith in God's healing powers and cried out like he was talking to the Lord. He said he has been a born-again Christian since 1982. ‘Who am I to predict death’?He testified he thought Madeline had the flu or perhaps a fever but never expected her die. He thought she was in a deep sleep but not unconscious, even though her breathing was labored. At one point in his nearly four hours of testimony, Neumann cried and nearly whispered to the jury. "Who am I to predict death when death is an appointed time for all of us?" he asked. Doctors testified earlier in the trial that Madeline would have had a good chance of surviving if she received medical treatment, including insulin and fluids, before she stopped breathing. Earlier Thursday, a woman who prayed with the Neumanns and helped give Madeline a sponge bath hours before she died testified she thought the girl had the flu. "She looked a little pale. I could see that she was weak," Lynn Wilde told the jury. "She would respond when we would call her name. She would make noises. She moved her head."‘The power of prayer’ Wilde, a loyal member of Neumann's Bible study group, testified for the defense as Neumann's attorney tried to show the father didn't know how ill his daughter was. Wilde said the five adults and three other children at the home prayed and took communion in an effort to heal the girl. She went home and took a nap, expecting the Neumanns to call later and say Madeline was fine and walking again. "I believe in the power of prayer," Wilde testified. The girl died about two hours later. Someone called 911 when she stopped breathing. Neumann's wife, Leilani, testified earlier that she noticed her daughter had been weaker and drank a lot of water — some early symptoms of diabetes — about two weeks before she died. Leilani Neumann was convicted of second-degree reckless homicide this spring and faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced Oct. 6. The prosecutions of the mother and father were separated so that each could be called upon to testify in the case against the other.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sex Lives of the Popes

I was given "Sex Lives of the Popes" by a friend and thought I would find more amusement in it than I did, but instead I found it to be depressing. I don't want to add this book to my "Recommended" links because it was a spiritual downer and moreso because the author, Nigel Cawthorne, does not cite his sources in neither footnotes nor a bibliography.

If this book is nothing more than hearsay, then even half of it being true is still fully depressing. But I thought it was worth mentioning in case anyone out there wondered if any books existed on how the allegedly infallible popes throughout history may have been quite fallible after all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guilt: The Cement Shoes of the Catholic Church.

It is both funny and sad how feelings of guilt can be so ingrained (brainwashed) into a person and surface at odd times.

At work the other day I took the elevator down to the lobby to get the mail. After retrieving it, I went back to the elevator: pushing the button, I waited. The lobby music that played sounded like church music and for a brief moment, I felt like bursting into tears. Why? I told myself it was beautiful music! Seems that the psychological remnants of the Church sometimes die hard.

People are hard-wired to feel guilt when they know they have done something wrong. When a PC encounters an error a dialog box usually pops up to alert the user that something is wrong. Our Great Programmer gave us the ability to naturally notify ourselves when we have done something wrong through moderated feelings of guilt. We feel guilt in order to correct something that we have done wrong. God wants us to correct the errors in order to think clearly and to feel good about our lives and so we can live in peace with others…and ourselves.

The Catholic Church is notorious for drilling the feelings of guilt into a person: you feel guilt when you look at someone with lust, if you eat meat during Lent, if you don’t tithe, if you don’t tithe enough, if you don’t go to church, if you don’t go to confession, if you use birth control, if you choose to stand in the back of the church rather than sit, if you don’t get married in the Church, if you don’t do this, if you do that, etc.

In my 29 years as a Catholic I tried to follow the rules as best I could. But the Church’s “secret sauce” is that your best will never be good enough and they will always let you know that – like a horse with a carrot on a stick. Churn feelings of guilt over something that cannot be rectified. This is the way they want to keep it because if a Catholic corrects the error and this eradicates their guilt, then they feel at peace with God and might just (gasp) think for themselves. Guilt is the Church’s most valuable tool of control. As with anything, the poison is in the dose. I believe this overwhelming environment of guilt wrongly abberates God’s original design for the condition of our mental and spiritual circuitry. If a person's mind is saturated with guilt, how can they have a clear, genuine and healthy relationship with God?

I remember feeling inadequate many times because of this guilt overload. I remember crying in confession on more than one occasion, because of grave sins, because of corporal sins, because I couldn’t shake the sin and because they constantly tell you that you are full of sin – including their favorite imaginary sin of all: Original Sin. Yes, you are supposed to feel guilty for existing at all. They tell you that you are born a sinner. St. Augustine (who felt guilty all the time) conjured up the idea of Original Sin so that anyone out there who didn’t have enough guilt could get their fill. Guilty people want others to feel the same, I guess. The Church latched onto this idea as it is not fully biblical and as scripture goes, it is contextually misconstrued. This lie has created a lifetime worth psychological damage, self-hate and unhappiness to so many people and I am grateful that God led me out of that swamp after being entrenched for so long.

Didn’t Christ die to take away the sins of the world? I cannot reconcile these two views. Seems to me that the Church thinks He failed.

After my lobby moment, I reminded myself that God helped me graduate to the next tier of getting to know Him and I returned to a peaceful state of mind before the elevator reached my office floor. Guilt in ginormous, damaging Church doses may work to keep the spiritually immature in line (if but for awhile), but I believe I’m no longer spiritually immature and feel pity (and hope) for those who are still mired. May God open their eyes.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Islam Is What?

When I was young, I never understood John Lennon's lyrics in his song "Imagine":

"Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too"

But now I can say that I do understand them. Very well.

I had some problems embedding this CNN video, so please feel free to watch.

This Florida "church" has posted a hateful sign that reads: Islam is from the Devil. Misguidedly, in an effort to pull congregants in? What?!

Not only does this go against the core message of Jesus to Love They Neighbor and to cultivate peace and understanding, but it represents an ignorance and intolerance that I can't even comprehend. In the interview, the "pastor" says "It is our way or no way." This is exactly the spiritually immature view (topped with a lack of biblical / education), that starts wars, creates distrust and widens existing social divisions.

Since I personally believe in the Universal Salvation of all (a Gospel of inclusion, not exclusion) I believe there are many paths that lead to grace. The purpose of organized religion, in short, is to keep people in line and to behave, not to encourage bad behavior by sneering at another belief structure. And I don't consider this form of "Christianity" to be in line with nature of Christ.

Unbeknownst to themselves, these bigoted "Christian" people are waging a spiritual jihad against the grace of God, for God loves Muslims, too. They don't want to hear that Jesus Christ died on their behalf as well. They lick their chops at the thought of "the bad people" supposedly burning in hell for eternity. They had a "bad people" slot to fill in their story, so they happily insert: Muslims, Gays, Pro-Choicers. Yeah, not the way of Christ at all.

There is a saying: "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar." How true.


I found a better idea online:

In support of a magazine for Muslim-Christian dialogue:

As Muslims and Christians in the University of London, we don’t talk to each other enough. It follows that we don’t know much about each other and don’t spend much time together. The ultimate aim of this magazine would be to provide a channel for discourse which would at least sow the seed for a “network of open, honest and committed personal relationships between Christians and Muslims” in London’s student population.

And here is another multi-faith online forum: http://en.allexperts.com/q/Islam-947/Multi-Faith-Society.htm

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Zebras Can't Change Their Stripes

It is cliched, I know. But it is true: zebras can't change their stripes.

And I believe that people born gay, stay gay. It can't be "scared out of them". It was the nature God gave them. And because it was imparted on them by God, I doubt very highly if God "holds it against them" and so...why the hell should anyone else?

I was tipped off by my friend Colleen on this YouTube video in which a "Christian" church of sorts tries to exorcise the gayness out of a teenage boy.

Um. Yeah. By yelling at him. Take a look at this upalling footage of intolerance and humiliation:

Absolutely ridiculous.

Jesus said that there would be many charlatans to follow him, attempting acts in his name...

Another article I found shows yet another politician who allegedly faltered after being cured of "gay".

In the last film I blogged about (Religulous), Bill Maher interviews a "pastor" who claims to have been cured of "the gay" but anyone with senses can see through the ruse. It is sad that anyone who is gay feels the need to pretend to be straight. Likely because they would find acceptance and life to be much easier if they don't rock the boat by being themselves.

Divorce papers accused alderman in '86
Annapolis official is now charged with groping midshipman

July 1, 2009 – Baltimoresun.com
By Nicole Fuller

An Annapolis alderman and mayoral candidate charged with sexually assaulting a male midshipman was the subject of a 1986 restraining order after his wife accused him of beating her, court documents show. Alderman Samuel E. Shropshire, 61, denied the claims in an interview Tuesday. Jana Shropshire made the accusations in a Montgomery County divorce filing that also contained allegations that the alderman "has a problem with homosexuality" but had been "cured" before they were married. The divorce was never finalized. While the Shropshires remain married, she has lived for years in her native Slovakia, as does their adult daughter. Reached yesterday by telephone, Jana Shropshire declined to discuss the divorce case in detail. "That was 20 years ago. Why do you bring it up?" she said from her home in Poprad, a city in northeastern Slovakia. "I don't want to talk about it. It's all in the past." Shropshire, a first-term Democrat said, "None of it's true. ... Deny that it happened? Of course I do." Gill Cochran, an attorney who is defending Shropshire against the charges involving the midshipman, said yesterday that his client and wife are "no longer" together though they remain legally married. He called the 23-year-old allegations "ancient history" that should have no bearing on Shropshire's current legal troubles."My client is gay. And he's never tried to hide it," Cochran said. "He's no longer with his wife. Sam is a gay man. I don't think there's any law against it." Shropshire declined yesterday to address his lawyer's statement, saying only, "I love my wife very much, and she loves me." Shropshire is accused of groping a Naval Academy midshipman May 14 and has been charged with second-degree assault and a fourth-degree sex offense. He has called the accusation "a lie." The 21-year-old male midshipman, who is not being named by The Baltimore Sun because of the nature of the allegations, had been paired with Shropshire through a sponsorship program that matches Naval Academy students with Annapolis-area families. Shropshire has been removed from the program. In the divorce filing, Jana Shropshire alleged that within a year of their marriage in the former Czechoslovakia in 1977, Samuel Shropshire "started a pattern of physical and then verbal abuse." In the filing, Jana Shropshire alleged that her husband "had had a great many problems since the marriage because of homosexuality," but added that he told her he had been " 'cured' before they were married." She alleged that the abuse spanned years, and that she once required treatment at a Rockville hospital in 1986, after which she received a protective order. Shropshire, who at the time of the filing was working as a minister for an organization called Christian Response International, wrote to the judge that he could not afford a lawyer for his defense. The divorce proceeding was dismissed on May 7, 1987, court records show.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I recently saw the Bill Maher movie "Religulous".

I have to admit I had my reservations about it. I was thinking that he was going to bash the very idea of believing in God. But he did not. He did however, with just cause and much to my agreement, question the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions' fundamentalism and its followers about the discrepancies and man-made ideals which they cling to.

The cause of much of the world's problems are ingrained in the major organized religions and there is no disputing this fact, folks. The intolerance of these fundamentalists has disgraced the face of the planet. The very message Jesus taught is lost on many Christians. The idea that people in 2009 cannot accept the basic tenets of science (i.e. evolution, the age of the earth, dinosaurs, etc.) is also disturbing.

In one scene of the movie Bill Maher visits the Creationist Museum in (I think) Tennessee. In this incorrect-timeline and literalist museum, there is an exhibit showing people living during the time of dinosaurs. I laughed out loud. People are paying money to walk through this "museum". And in many cases, the people being interviewed by Bill Maher get flustered and all defensive (and end the interviews) because they could not answer the questions he posed to them. Simple questions that they should know the answer to since it is what they believe. To believe something without question is scary.

It is about time someone put together a documentary film about this topic. There is a snarkiness to this film that is both delightful and jaw-dropping at times. As a Christian Universalist who has left organized religion, of course, I endorse this film. Anyone entrenched in an organized religion will likely take offense to this film and perhaps shut it off. Like Bill Maher, I think doubt is a healthy thing as well as asking questions of one's religion. Anyone not willing to try and answer or at least think about the tough questions of this film needs to re-evaluate the reasons why they believe at all.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Explain Yourselves, Literalists

I credit my husband for drawing my attention to this humorous look at "Traditional Biblical Marriage". Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Praise God and Pass the Ammunition

And Jesus said "Peace, I leave unto you."

He healed the soldier whose ear was cut off by one of his own disciples' sword.

He believed in passive resistance in the name of God's Love.

He discouraged strife and emphasized forgiveness.

I don't believe he carried any weapons, except that of wisdom, logic and love. Maybe a staff.

I think he would look at these "Christians" and tell them to disarm and open their eyes.

I don't believe violence should answer to violence nor do I believe brandishing a symbol of warfare, division and violence is a good idea when attending a "Christian" mass. In this article below you will read about the unbelievable ass-hattery that is demonstrated by those who think they are acting right by the Words Jesus Spoke through "an alternative marketing tactic".

This past week a doctor who had performed late-term abortions was entering a church when he was shot dead by a fanatic. There were even protests at this poor doctor's funeral, which I find dispicable. What happened to the message of God? To Judge Not? To let the first without sin cast the first stone? Forgiving 77 x 7, etc. I think this type of terrorism is just as bad as terrorist acts by radical Muslims. Same thing, maybe even worse. What would Jesus do? Not that.

I'm not against owning or shooting a gun, but I am against attempting to bastardize yet another Christian church by:

a) trying to merge it with a gun range / gun show

b) asking for Murphy's Law to step in because you just know not everyone is showing up with guns unloaded.

c) a huge distraction from the reason for going to church. God comes in second to your neighbor's Desert Eagle, fella.

People are floating further away from the message of Jesus Christ. Soon Smith & Wesson or Benelli will be church sponsors. And it is not just this one particular church. It is the whole of fundamentalist churches (including Catholicism) who chant and cheer on war and the deaths of abortion doctors and then turn to their neighbor to offer the sign of peace. A congregation of judges?

God help us all.


Kentucky Pastor to Hold a 'Bring Your Handgun to Church' Service

Wed Jun 3 2009 Graphic and article courtesy of www.Gawker.com

In light of George Tiller being gunned down in a church, this blows the mind: a Louisville pastor wants to expand his flock by encouraging them to brandish firearms while they worship. A Kentucky pastor is encouraging people to attend a service with guns in holsters, enter a raffle to win a free handgun, and be sermonized by operators of gun stores and firing ranges. In what's being called an "Open Carry Church Service," Pastor Ken Pagano of New Bethel Church in Louisville (Yes this is actually happening in the state's most metropolitan city and not somewhere in Appalachia!) says that he's just trying to "think outside the box" to grow his flock. The event, slated for late Saturday afternoon, June 27, is being promoted with online posters, including one using a red font resembling splattered blood with the words: "Open Carry Church Service." Pagano said the poster wasn't intended to glorify bloodshed and that the lettering was just "a font that somebody developed." And he said he didn't want the event to be confused with regular Sunday worship at the Assemblies of God congregation. "It's just a celebration we're doing to coincide with Fourth of July," he said. "There are people who own firearms and do so responsibly and enjoy them as a sport, maybe like golfing or bowling." Win Underwood, one of the owners of Bluegrass Indoor Range, said he would try to attend the event if family responsibilities allow. "I'm not aware that anybody's ever done anything like this before," he said. New Bethel members regularly have outings at the firing rang, he said. "You would be surprised how many churches use shooting for recreation with fellowship," he said. Underwood said he's a religious person himself and believes the First and Second amendments are closely tied in the nation's Revolutionary War history. "Guns are the one thing that secured freedom of religion for our country," he said. Dave Lowley, an elder at the church and a military veteran, supported the event as part of the congregation's efforts to conduct creative evangelistic outreaches. "We're advocating gun safety and gun awareness," he said. At the end of the piece, Pastor Pagano explained the Christian justification for all this. "Not every branch of Christianity is pacifistic," he said. If someone is "not against the First and Second amendments, I'll be glad to sit down with anybody to say, 'How can we do this better?'" Jesus must be looking down on all of this beaming with pride right now. You just know if he were down here with us he'd be packing, and probably using his heat to murder OB/GYNs who perform abortions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Right To Defend Oneself

Besides being a spiritual blog, this is also a feminist blog. Feminism defined as women being equal to men, not superior to men.

At the behest of my husband I recently took a 4-week women's self defense course called R.A.D. (Rape Agression Defense) at DePaul University. I was hesitant, mostly out of fear, but I did it and I'm glad I did. This class provided me with confidence in knowing how to effectively utilize my body as a weapon. The last class was yesterday and the "final test" per se was a simulation exercise in which two men attacked me in 3 different scenarios and I had to fight and get away. I was so nervous all day thinking about the simulations.

Then I read the article below and felt that I should do it on behalf of those women who cannot.

I went through these intense simulations (heart pounding) with more confidence than I thought I had. I did fine. It is an education in equipping one's mindset and muscle memory as well as using one's voice to discourage an attack. I feel this class should be mandatory for all high school girls (urban AND suburban). Period.

It hurts my soul to read about the acceptable victimization of girls and women in other countries. And I feel fortunate to be part of the society I live in, in relative safety.

My God, does my heart go out to these women. Blest are they...


Commentary: War on women in Congo
By Eve Ensler - Special to CNN - May 18, 2009

Editor's note: Eve Ensler is the playwright of "The Vagina Monologues" and the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. V-Day has funded over 10,000 community-based anti-violence programs and launched safe houses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. This commentary was adapted from remarks Ensler made Wednesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs and the Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women's Issues.

(CNN) -- I write today on behalf of countless V-Day activists worldwide, and in solidarity with my many Congolese sisters and brothers who demand justice and an end to rape and war. It is my hope that these words and those of others will break the silence and break open a sea of action to move Congolese women toward peace, safety and freedom. My play, "The Vagina Monologues," opened my eyes to the world inside this world. Everywhere I traveled with it scores of women lined up to tell me of their rapes, incest, beatings, mutilations. It was because of this that over 11 years ago we launched V-Day, a worldwide movement to end violence against women and girls. The movement has spread like wildfire to 130 countries, raising $70 million. I have visited and revisited the rape mines of the world, from defined war zones like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Haiti to the domestic battlegrounds in colleges and communities throughout North America, Europe and the world. My in-box -- and heart -- have been jammed with stories every hour of every day for over a decade. Nothing I have heard or seen compares with what is going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where corporate greed, fueled by capitalist consumption, and the rape of women have merged into a single nightmare. Femicide, the systematic and planned destruction of the female population, is being used as a tactic of war to clear villages, pillage mines and destroy the fabric of Congolese society.

In 12 years, there have been 6 million dead men and women in Congo and 1.4 million people displaced. Hundreds and thousands of women and girls have been raped and tortured. Babies as young as 6 months, women as old as 80, their insides torn apart. What I witnessed in Congo has shattered and changed me forever. I will never be the same. None of us should ever be the same. I think of Beatrice, shot in her vagina, who now has tubes instead of organs. Honorata, raped by gangs as she was tied upside down to a wheel. Noella, who is my heart -- an 8-year-old girl who was held for 2 weeks as groups of grown men raped her over and over. Now she has a fistula, causing her to urinate and defecate on herself. Now she lives in humiliation. I was in Bosnia during the war in 1994 when it was discovered there were rape camps where white women were being raped. Within two years there was adequate intervention. Yet, in Congo, femicide has continued for 12 years. Why? Is it that coltan, the mineral that keeps our cell phones and computers in play, is more important than Congolese girls?Is it flat-out racism, the world's utter indifference and disregard for black people and black women in particular? Is it simply that the UN and most governments are run by men who have never known what it feels like to be raped? What is happening in Congo is the most brutal and rampant violence toward women in the world. If it continues to go unchecked, if there continues to be complete impunity, it sets a precedent, it expands the boundaries of what is permissible to do to women's bodies in the name of exploitation and greed everywhere. It's cheap warfare. The women in Congo are some of the most resilient women in the world. They need our protection and support. Western governments, like the United States, should fund a training program for female Congolese police officers.

They should address our role in plundering minerals and demand that companies trace the routes of these minerals. Make sure they are making and selling rape-free-products. Supply funds for women's medical and psychological care and seed their economic empowerment. Put pressure on Rwanda, Congo, Uganda and other countries in the Great Lakes region to sit down with all the militias involved in this conflict to find a political solution. Military solutions are no longer an option and will only bring about more rape. Most of all, we must support the women. Because women are at the center of this horror, they must be at the center of the solutions and peace negotiations. Women are the future of Congo. They are its greatest resource. Sadly, we are not the first to testify about these atrocities in Congo. I stand in a line of many who have described this horror. Still, in Eastern Congo, 1,100 women a month are raped, according to the United Nations' most recent report. What will the United States government, what will all of you reading this, do to stop it? Let Congo be the place where we ended femicide, the trend that is madly eviscerating this planet -- from the floggings in Pakistan, the new rape laws in Afghanistan, the ongoing rapes in Haiti, Darfur, Zimbabwe, the daily battering, incest, harassing, trafficking, enslaving, genital cutting and honor killing. Let Congo be the place where women were finally cherished and life affirmed, where the humiliation and subjugation ended, where women took their rightful agency over their bodies and land.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Eve Ensler.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Damning of Infants

I just finished a book: Christian Universalism: God’s Good News for All People, which was excellent and I highly recommend it. A wonderful and easy-to-understand book whose author, Eric Stetson, is truly inspired.

I don’t think there is anything that should be emphasized more than GOD IS LOVE. God’s love is beyond the greatest parental love on earth. We cannot comprehend. He wraps us in his love.

Most people do not realize that the early Church was largely Universalist and took a major turn into the idea of an eternal hell when translated OUT of Greek and into Latin by St. Augustine, who could not speak or read Greek. A big problem when attempting to translate, right? His most important ideas which are contrary to the Biblical Gospel include, first and foremost, the belief that the very essence of our being is evil, because humans are defined in God’s eyes by our “original sin” that is passed on as a sexually transmitted disease at birth, and therefore damnation is the default destiny of all people – even unbaptized babies who die in infancy – because of God’s furious anger. Secondly, he taught that hell is eternal and anyone who is not saved from divine condemnation during life on earth will experience eternal torment. Along with this idea is the teaching of predestination by God of some people to heaven and all others to hell, not because of their works either in this life or past existence, but because of arbitrary favoritism. The cornerstone of Augustine’s religious system was the belief in the necessity and unique power of ritualistic church sacraments and priests for people to attain salvation from hell, based on the concept of “created grace” that can be dispensed only by the Roman Catholic Church.

Speaking of infants and children, my sister recently gave birth to a beautiful son named Adam. He is perfect in every way and if he were to be sent to “eternal hell” right now, it would be because God created evil for the purpose of evil, which I don’t buy. His soul is clean and reflective of the cyclical nature of life and being, I believe we are born innocent and will return to innocence by the universal redemption of God.

Catholic priest J. Furniss (that name is ironic) wrote about hell in a religious book for children:

“The little child is in this red hot oven. Hear how it screams to come out. See how it turns and twists itself about in the fire…You can see on the face of this little child what you see on the faces of all in Hell – despair, desperate and horrible! ...God was very good to this child. Very likely God saw that this child would get worse and worse and never repent, and so it would have to be punished much more in Hell. So God, in His mercy, called it out of this world in its early childhood.”

[Furniss, Reverend J. The Sight of Hell: A Catholic Book for Children (1870)]

Scary, yet UNTRUE.

Some denominations are taking steps beyond avoiding the topic of hell to strides toward Christian Universalism. In 1995 the Church of England Doctrine Commission wrote in an official report, The Mystery of Salvation, that it is “incompatible with the essential Christian affirmation that God is love to say that God brings millions into the world to damn them.” The same report states “Over the last two centuries the decline in the churches of the western world of a belief in everlasting punishment has been one of the most notable of transformations of Christian belief.”

It is encouraging to see more churches getting back to the original message of the Bible, back to the roots of truth and the actual Good News. The more people THINK and use their minds to process the original and common-sense message of the gospels and the directions of God, the more the truth is so OBVIOUS. I know I've found a much-needed peace in being able to reconcile a loving God with a loving outcome. Those who cannot reconcile in their minds that a loving God would damn any of their loved ones truly experience mental hell on earth, which is sad because that is the message the Catholic church still peddles.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.” (Tit. 2:11 NSRV)

Notice the word ALL.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Tract

First of all, I would like to wish everyone a joyous Easter celebration. It is a wonderful reminder that we are all loved beyond our comprehension.

Last night my husband and I were standing on the street with our realtor. A man passed by and handed my husband a tract. A little Baptist pamphlet outlining that people can be religious but not right with God. I took one, too.

The problem with this little tract is that several quotes from different authors of the Bible are strewn together out of context to create new and (for lack of a better term) mutated messages. There are quotes and parentheses and no indication as to which version of the Christian Bible these quotes are extracted, because, in case you were not aware, each Bible is unfortunately worded very different based on the religious sect touting it.

Another problem with the tract is that in one sentence it says “salvation is God’s gift” and in another says that “those who believe will receive remission of sins”. The problem with these two statements is that one really contradicts the other: Salvation as God’s gift means we receive this gift free and clear, without paying for it, without any attempts to earn it (because Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of the world, hence paying for EVERYONE). The other statement makes clear that to receive forgiveness; you have to take charge of your own salvation through believing. You have to earn it with your belief. This is really problematic. And I disagree with it entirely.

If I were standing on the street and Christ came up and handed me a tract, I think it would be a one-pager that simply read:

I love you, you are my child. Nothing you do will ever change this. Be kind and love one another as I have loved you, even if you do not agree with one another, always be respectful.

You are my child who is playing ‘outside’ and when you come back into my house we will get you all cleaned up so you can rest. I am always with you, whether you think so or not, it makes no difference.

Do your best and when you’re done with this life, we’ll talk further. And then I may have another project for you : )

Love Always,

Your Heavenly Father

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I’ve been thinking about the idea of vocation and calling in life. More to the point, of what God expects from us. I know there are many Christians who feel the pressure / calling / need to be missionaries, pastors, ministers of some sort. They feel that God calls ALL people to spread the word and directly serve His ministry. These are the obvious spiritual vocations. But, who is to say that living your life and doing what you are doing is not the right ‘vocation’ God intended for you. Not everyone can be a pastor or a missionary. As honorable and great and admirable those life paths are, does being an ordinary working Joe or Jane make a life any less meaningful?

I’ve had moments in my life where I’ve felt especially guilt-stricken for having a life that most people in 3rd world countries could only dream about; feelings that I’m not doing enough, not helping enough. I’ve thought, “F*** it all, I should just go join the Peace Corps”. But then reality sets in; I find myself tied to my family obligations. I began to recognize my inability to tear away from my current life responsibilities. And I would feel “useless” like I wasn’t doing enough to ‘earn’ God’s love.

I had neglected to see the ‘works’ I was able to do on God’s behalf in my ordinary non-Ghandi-like life: the help I provided my sister in babysitting, the listening ear I would lend to a friend, the donations I made to a local mission, setting a good example by being kind, etc. Small things make a difference, too. Doing things with love makes a difference.

In the book I’m reading, a beautiful image is described with regard to this question of vocation. There is a description of a photograph of a father reading down and lovingly reading a book to his seven year old daughter who is developmentally challenged, unable to talk or walk – in a wheelchair looking up at her daddy. She is wearing a frilly dress and has bows in here hair – someone lovingly tied them in and dressed her to look presentable and dignified as a little girl should. She cannot tell him what she feels and she cannot walk and will need to be cared for the rest of her life. She is, with regard to how most people operate, “useless”. She will never be able to verbally minister or preach or perform great acts of charity as a missionary in a foreign land. But her father loves her as his greatest treasure. Just as she is. Her very act of being is precious in his eyes and he wouldn’t trade her for the world.

I think the love of God is even beyond this father’s love.

God loves us.

As is.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shine The Divine

I'm reading a book called Divine Nobodies: Shedding Religion to Find God by Jim Palmer. In it, he comes across everyday people who "shine the divine". In a chapter Jim comes across a very kind and weathered lady. Having had a hard life, lacking education and perhaps some social grace, the red-haired middle aged Waffle House waitress, when asked if she has tried church, basically says, 'Yes, and believe me, they don't want my kind there. When they see me in my lowly orange waitress uniform and nametag in church, they make it apparent that this is not the place for lowly waitresses.'

She goes into explanation of the Sunday churchgoing crowds who she has waited on. And how unbelievably rude and thoughtless they can be after just coming out of church. She says she once came upon a table amidst prayer and politely waited until they had finished before taking their order. And how, after waiting on these people hand and foot and servicing unreasonable requests (too much ice in the iced tea, etc.), they left her a tract pamphlet as a tip. Nice. Real considerate.

When I attended Catholic church each week, I experienced something similar with the just-out-of-church-crowd. I recall being cut off on the road and in the grocery stores by people who were sitting just a few pews away from me not an hour before; and I remember saying to my dad that just because you go to church does not make you a kind person. It doesn't make you a good person, either.

My younger sister had attended church when she was pregnant (out of wedlock and very young) and she felt more comfortable standing in the back of the church to avoid stares and glares. The church director / administrator lady would give her dirty looks and disdainfully tell her to go in and sit down, that she shouldn't be in the vestibule. No kindness. No smiles. No Christly compassion. Needless to say my sister no longer attends church, and I don't blame her. A person should feel welcome in what is termed "the house of God". Instead it has all the trappings of a theater. People dressed up for show, ready to break out the hypocrisy on the road or in the store after the final hymn. I know not all churchgoers are like this, but the ones who are...well, those are the majority, I think.

Love is patient. Love is kind. God is love. So, God must be kind. To be like God, we should be kind to one another. This is not a trigonometry formula. It is as simple as simple gets.

"Turns out in the end, the main thing God asks of us on the road to wholeness is the truth. The idea we can "clean up our act" through our own willpower is an illusion, and the only hope of ever being whole is to receive the life of God. It's clear from the "hot/cold" Scripture in Revelation that the video nauseating God is not categorically the hip-hop one, but the one where we come to church masking our brokenness, out of touch with the truth about ourselves while pointing our fingers of condemnation at others." -- from Divine Nobodies

Another tidbit I'd like to share was a bit unsettling and rather shocking to me. 11 years ago I had taken a speech class at my local junior college. In the class was a middle aged, heavyset and outspoken lady who talked about her husband and children alot. She was a nice enough lady. She was memorable and funny. Well, I was at my parents' house last week and picked up the local paper and I saw this lady's obituary. She had died of cancer. Her obituary write-up was two colums long and included all her "best friends - the best friends anyone could ask for" - all 25 couples. The write-up went on and on in a conversational manner. It also read "To all those who loved and cared for my family and friends, I will always love you. To all those who hated my family and friends, may God close the door of Heaven to you."

I was stunned. That is not right. You leave the message to love those who love you and hate those who hate you? How spiritually immature. There's always a first impression - but this was her last impression and it spoke volumes. I felt sad for her misunderstanding and imagine the incorrect message her grandchildren will pick up from reading her obituary.

With this week starting the Catholic observance of Lent, I hope that the observers shine the divine more and learn to be kind to the homeless man asking for coffee, or the waitress trying to survive. Ashes on the forehead doesn't mean you are a good person. And I won't get into another digression about the papacy and their political ties within the economy (of the time) that created the "No eating meat on Fridays" clause...

Because as the Bible says: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but rather, what comes out. I'm at peace with not participating in Lent (this will be my 2nd year). But I will continue to make a concerted spiritual effort to show every living creature I come across the kindness and compassion I imagine Jesus Christ would show.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Parental Template

Everyone has parents. It is the one thing in life that universally applies to each and every person. The Parental Template is understood as the one of love, caring and responsibility. It is the example of behavior that is everywhere we turn.

When I visualize the tenderness of a parent, I think of The Pieta by Michelangelo.

Thomas Talbott recognizes this as well:

God could no more choose to create persons without accepting that obligation than human parents can choose to raise children without acquiring a similar obligation for the welfare of their children. And a God who refused to forgive repentant sinners could no more promote the welfare of those for whom he is responsible than a father who refuses to forgive his children can promote the welfare of the children for whom he is responsible. That is why, given the simplicity of God's moral nature, he forgives not only because he is merciful, but because he is faithful and just as well (see I John 1:9).

For if God is necessarily faithful and just and necessarily accepts, having created a world, all the obligations of the Creator, then his forgiveness, which is in no way opposed to punishment, will be unconditional and without limit of any kind.

The idea that divine justice requires forgiveness accords very well with the New Testament analogy between God and a loving parent. It also illuminates in an intriguing way the nature of God's opposition to sin. As the Augustinians (Catholics) see it, God opposes sin enough to punish it, but not enough to destroy it altogether; instead of destroying sin altogether, he merely confines it to a specially prepared region of his creation, known as hell, where he keeps it alive for eternity. So, the opposite of a sinful condition is a state of reconciliation; and if that is so, then God cannot be against sin, cannot oppose it with his entire being, unless he is for reconciliation. And he can hardly be for reconciliation unless he is prepared to forgive others even as he commanded us to forgive them.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I half-paid attention to a few minutes of a documentary on the History Channel the other night about "Angels" and the role they played in myth and Christianity etc.

Once life stops moving so quickly, thus preventing me from posting as frequently as I would like, I will have to do some research into this popular idea. I know they are mentioned in the bible, but also have obvious ties in mythology, which is interesting, but does an omniscient God really need helpers? Or maybe they are his PR staff?

I remember a small glossy print my Grandma used to have hanging in her house. It showed two children crossing a rickety wooden bridge over a fast-moving stream with a large vibrant angel behind them. [See photo in this post.] It was a comforting photo and talk of guardian angels occurred in the household I grew up in. But how far off is this notion? Does the obsession with angels rank up there with the cult of the Virgin Mary? Is God an abstract afterthought when it comes to how people view the popularly iconic angel?

There is even a prayer that I recall from childhood: "Angel of God, my Guardian dear. To whom God's love commits me here, Ever this day, be at my side, To light and guard, Rule and guide. Amen."

This is, when it comes right down to it, a prayer to an angel.

[Thou shalt have no other gods before me?]

I'm always seeing tacky angel-things on people's bumper stickers such as "Never Drive Faster Than Your Angel Can Fly". I read these and they seem so spiritually immature to me. Childish, even. Like "Never Leave Your Closet Door Open Wider So the Monster Inside Won't Squeeze Through".

I just think our focus should revert back to God, his love and our gratitude and connection towards him, not his mother, not his messengers (if they be angels), etc.

Time to do some research.


On a separate note, I would also like to take this time to express my joy over the inauguration of President Obama. "Obama Lifts Hand, Raises Nation"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lex Talionis

[Summations extracted from Talbott's brilliant book The Inescapable Love of God]:

You cannot have a law without having some penalty in the case of disobedience. So if God wants to do more than simply make requests, if he wants to issue commands or to establish the rule of law, he must also ensure that those who disobey his commands or laws suffer a punishment of some kind.

The retributivist theory of punishment is a theory where justification for punishment has nothing to do with deterring crime or rehabilitating the criminal, or with protecting society from criminal behavior. According to the retributivist, the primary consideration in punishment should be justice, not deterrence or rehabilitation. This theory tends to sever the concept of punishment from that of justice. It seems an ineffective exercise. Many retributivist Christians tend to think this is how God operates, but it is not the way of love.

To punish without a corrective purpose is nothing more than retaliatory vengeance. A loving parent would never inflict such a system upon their child. Fitting TEMPORARY punitive steps are taken in order to educate and correct. In even our flawed human society, excessive punishment is termed abuse.

Contrary to popular belief, the Old Testament principle of retaliatory justice -- "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" -- was never instituted for the purpose of justifying harsh punishment for serious crimes, something that no one at the time would have questioned: instead, it was instituted for the purpose of eliminating EXCESSIVE punishment, such as capital punishment in exchange for a tooth. The idea was very simple. We must measure the seriousness of a crime according to the degree of harm done, and we must proportion the punishment to the seriousness of the crime.

Lex talionis is Latin for 'equal retribution'. For what sort of crime might everlasting torment be a just retaliation? If God is both omnipotent and perfectly loving, no such crime is even possible, it would seem, in a world that God has created and therefore governs. For if an action were so heinous, so dire in its consequences for others that its perpetrator would deserve to suffer everlastingly in return, then a loving God would never permit it in the first place; his love for the potential victims would require him to protect them from such irreparable harm, and in so protecting them, he would likewise be preventing others from doing irreparable harm. Insofar as the degree of harm done determines the gravity of an offense, therefore God could never permit any offense that would warrant everlasting torment as a just penalty.

If I approve of a God who fails to love some of my neighbors (even though I know not which ones) and I am grateful for this fact, then I do not truly love or will the good for all of my neighbors. The theological name for any belief that interferes with the capacity to love is called sin.

The Lord's justice is his mercy and his mercy is his justice. One in the same. I do not think God is a bipolar schizophrenic being.