Monday, September 21, 2015

Fly Me to the Moon

my wife and i are off on a month-long trip, so i won't be posting for a while.  i hope to be back blogging by mid-october.   may all who stumble upon this page or who come to it on purpose be well, may you be happy, may you be at peace.  shalom.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Blessed Assurance!

three events keep swirling through my mind--first, a county clerk's refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her belief that doing so would be a denial of her christian beliefs and her subsequent jailing for contempt of court; next, the dismissal of our church secretary because of her problems relating to other members of the church staff; and, finally, walking into our local movie theater and hearing an advertisement for how to have a "lasting relationship with jesus christ" by attending a local evangelical church.  how are these events related to one another?  what does their coming to mind together mean for me?

i am suspicious of those who are confident in their own rightness and righteousness.  i am troubled by those who seem to have no doubts about their own beliefs and who can dismiss the beliefs of others with self-assurance.

i ask myself how would issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple harm kim davis, or how would her faith be harmed if she permitted her deputies to issue licenses even if her own conscience would not allow her to do so.  how can she be so certain that her "deeply held" religious beliefs are right and should therefore be forced on others?

if an employee of a church harbors resentments against other staff members, i question whether the problem is best solved by firing that employee.  would it be better to bring the staff together to air grievances and to try and come to terms with the source of those resentments, resorting to dismissal only as a last resort when all else has failed?

i wonder why movie patrons should be subjected to advertisements recruiting members for a local church after they've paid for admission to a movie theater.  should the theater chain make a profit by selling ads for the purpose of religious proselytizing?

in all of these situations, there is an underlying assumption that, since i am right, you must be wrong if you fail to adopt my belief system.  the county clerk says that her belief that same-sex marriage is a grave sin makes it her duty to prevent others from committing this sin in so far as it is possible for her; there is no questioning of the reasons a same-sex couple would wish to commit to each other in marriage.  the church elders take the side of some staff members against another staff member and say that the staff member who is having difficulties relating to some other staff members must be in error without giving her  a chance to defend her position or providing a mechanism for all of the staff to work through their differences; there is no opportunity for all of the staff to find wholeness by honest communication with one another.  the church which seeks to "save" others by paid commercials at the movie theater forces ticket holders to listen to their message, quite a different thing from the recruiting ads for local colleges and blurbs to entice attendees to buy tickets for upcoming movies; their "saving" message is reduced to just another commercial as trivial as the other commercials that play in the lobby and restrooms.

may we allow room for doubt and questioning.  may we seek healing and wholeness rather than taking the easy road of getting rid of whatever offends us.  may we not reduce the most profound questions of life to glib answers that can be found in a thirty-second blurb over a public address system.  shalom.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

But the King's Own Army None Can Overthrow

"who is this king of glory?  the lord strong and mighty, the lord mighty in battle."  so says verse 8 of psalm 24.  i wonder how much suffering resulted from this kingly image of God, this god of war.   how many wars have been fought with all sides claiming that God is on their side?  how many victories have been credited to God's favor?  how many have been killed in the name of God?

in our church's wednesday night bible studies, we are investigating the teachings and preaching of charles spurgeon, the famous 19th-century british preacher.  on one of these wednesday studies, we contemplated spurgeon's image of a christian approaching the throne of God, as God sat in majesty.  that image seemed too earthly for me.  i thought of spurgeon, steeped in the the traditions of british respect for the monarchy with great britain at the height of its imperial power, seeing a god who is the heavenly embodiment of the english sovereign and wondered if this is the image of God that we ought to have in our heads, if indeed we ought to have any image of God.

if God has neither form nor substance, should we create such for God?  when we do, are we not worshiping a god of our own imagining?  this battle-king god of the old testament is far from the God about which jesus teaches.  we must choose between a God of love and a god of war, the latter being the justification for all sorts of oppression and cruelty that humans visit on one another.

may we never pretend to understand God as a human-writ-large.  instead, may we revere the mystery that is God, not daring to believe that we have found a solution to that mystery.  may we replace certainty with doubt, with searching, with dissatisfaction when it comes to answers that come too easily.  may we see God in every act of love.  shalom.