Sea Shell Sin

I saw an author’s self-written blurb on the back of a recent book of his, and was struck (read: aghast!) at what it said. Read it, then I’ll tell you why I’m writing this.

The author (a well-known Christian preacher/teacher) wrote:

I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader’s Digest: A couple ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells..’ Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy.”

The author, a second generation preacher, continues:

This book will warn you not to get caught up in a life that counts for nothing. It will challenge you to live and die boasting in the cross of Christ and making the glory of God your singular passion. If you believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain, read this, learn to live for Christ, and don’t waste your life.”

To have the audacity to be able to claim what constitutes a life “that counts for nothing” reveals a very large ego. I personally find that the larger a person’s ego is, the greater the chances are that it is also misshapen. Perhaps that audacity arises from the fact that the author is a preacher, and that his dad also was a preacher is not insignificant. Many preachers believe they are role models for how people should live their lives (just don’t come poking around in the cupboard under the sink: you might find some shells there, or other things).

They believe and teach, just like the main speaker at any pyramid sales event, that “Everyone is a prospect! Everyone needs what you have! Walk the walk, don’t take ‘No’ for an answer.” To be a real Christian, a true Christian, an on-your-way-to-heaven Christian, according to those listen-to-me preachers, you’ve got to tell everyone about Jesus. Everyone! Don’t miss an opportunity anywhere – at the bus stop, the restaurant, on an airplane, or at home! Hand out tracts, carry your biggest Bible, and wear necklaces, tie-tacs, lapel pins, tattoos, bumper stickers, or t-shirts that will let the world know that-

You. Are. A. Christian.

Christianity, after all, is about words- spoken, written, and memorized- right? It’s about getting that person at the bus stop (if you’re way lucky) to say a prayer, your prayer, the one printed right here on this tract, repeat after me: The Sinner’s Prayer, “God, I am a piece of worthless trash…” Etc.

Once you’ve said The Sinner’s Prayer, you’re in! Now you’ve got to tell other people the Good News, and to find what the Good News is, go to a church, maybe even our church. And don’t collect shells. They are a waste of time. As is everything except the speaking, writing, and memorizing of Bible words.  Softball? End that nonsense, too! And a 30-foot trawler??? That needs to be sold, right now, and the money- a tithe at least- given to a church, maybe even our church, almost certainly our church! (We did get you into heaven, right? And away from that sordid shell addiction? Also, we’re upgrading the air-conditioning at the parsonage, too, so we could use some extra help. God will bless you for that, indeed he will).

Feeling obligated to “save” the soul of every person you see, to tell your version of God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ, and to try to keep up with the people who are running from you or turning a deaf ear toward you, is an exhausting process. It’s exhausting because you either are doing it, or not doing it, and when you’re not doing it you feel guilty or ashamed because you think you should be doing it. People will burn in hell just because you wanted to watch the Mavericks and the Spurs on TV tonight!

Here’s my opinion about what is revealed in that back-page blurb above. And do be aware, in fairness, that the author is also very adept and anxious to point out who is going to hell and why; he would no doubt include me, with glee, in the great majority army who will burn, baby, burn. C’est la vie. Or, rather, c’est la mort.

The author believes in beliefs. He is not alone. Believing in beliefs it is a plague, particularly in the U.S. Belief in belief reduces the majesty, grandeur, and mystery of God to a series of codified rules which are enforced by spiritual superiors, uncritically swallowed because of the fear of not swallowing, and which completely deny the Truths taught and lived by Jesus the Christ.

Belief is about knowledge- what you know- what you read, write, listen to, and memorize. In belief, you learn what to think, how to say it properly, and then are able to consider yourself to be special (elected, chosen, better) for having learned, memorized, and regurgitated the right beliefs- the orthodoxies of others. Faith, the faith lived by Jesus, plays only a very small role.

Faith is about not-knowing. It is about moving forward without knowing the right words, or the consequences. It is about stepping into the Mystery of God, and looking around. The chances are excellent that when you do that, you will feel the desire to learn more about the depth and width and timelessness of that Mystery and that is when you will hear- or, more likely- feel the words, “Follow me.”

When that happens, you might be led to a Jesus-attending dinner party of tax-collectors and sinners, or to a wedding party with more wine than you’ve ever seen in one place. You may be led to break the religious laws again and again because they were turned into legalities by tight-lipped, judgmental preachers. If Jesus is your companion on this journey you will be a revolutionary for real, unearned and unqualified Love; you will fall in love with the revealed Grace and Love of God, and then you’ll realize that the God that fit inside of your imagination for so long wanted you to experience the explosion of God’s continuing Creation. You’ll realize that Truth, real Truth, always leads to more questions. You’ll see the idols that people can make of their beliefs, the forts they build around them, and the defenses they will use to mask their fears.

There’s nothing wrong with belief; but it must be ready to bend, even ready to be thrown out when it no longer is valid- when a newer “truer” Truth takes its place. We can believe in God or have faith in God. The former tends to make God small, while latter tends to make us larger. It may cause us to want to be part of a community which plays..oh, I don’t know..maybe, softball? Or it may cause us to bend over, in increasing awe and always-growing Mystery, and see God’s perfect, evolving and creating Beauty..in a seashell.

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The Rapture- if you’re reading this, you missed it..!

Whoops !

rapture

It really is easier to read a novel- or a series of novels – about the Rapture, than it is to read a critical history of Rapture theology. Just as it is easier to “believe” in Creationism than it is to study and understand Evolution. Just as it is easier to maintain a fatalistic view of every single thing that happens (“God did it!”) than it is to face the random nature of many (most?) human and physical events, or to accept an iota of personal responsibility when things go wrong. 

Faith has become a short cut around thinking. The words “I believe” have come to mean that whatever pronouncement follows those words is off-limits in terms of criticism. (Although you are allowed, encouraged even, to verbally punctuate such statements with a hearty “Amen!”)

But is being faithful, toward anything, a legitimate excuse for not thinking? Is thinking about faith a forbidden activity? Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t like dead ends in thought, where questions are no longer welcomed, because then the only thing left to do is to build a fort and be defensive about that arrived-at place of thinking.  And that’s also where Inquisitions and Jihads are conceived.

The theology of the rapture is relatively recent, beginning in the early 19th Century. It was an odd interpretation of scripture which found wide acceptance in the reactionary intellectual atmosphere of the time. Times were, in 19th century Great Britain (where the rapture story began), a’changing. Pastoral countrysides were seeing, with greater and greater frequency, the smokestacks of nearby cities rising in ugly industrial salute to the Coal and Iron being burned and formed in a revolution of manufacturing. Urban areas were growing, along with the attendant urban problems of bad housing, crime, and alcoholism. The rich grew richer as the poor grew poorer. As Charles Dickens wrote of what was happening, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Some people were feeling left out, and powerless, and in need of a “way out.”

And the Rapture is the ultimate Way Out! Every year for the past two centuries someone, somewhere has claimed that this is the year:  This is the year that the Lord returns for his own!  It’s an appealing hope for many people: it costs nothing, it could happen any moment, and it makes those who know they’re ‘going’ better than those who don’t know they’re not going!

The popularity of the Rapture grows wherever people feel out of control. It gives people who believe they will not be left behind, a sense of power- perhaps even, a sense of superiority, over those who will not make the cut. As the doctrine’s popularity has grown, it has become more complex. Schools of thinking have grown about when the rapture will occur in relation to perceived timetables they are able to find in the books of Daniel and Revelation.  On-line resources are available for wills to be read and messages to be sent to relatives and friends who are left here after the rapture to face the horrors of Armageddon, or not.

When Jesus said, on the cross, “It is finished,” little did he know that 1800 years later the rest of the story would be uncovered. Nor did he know it would all be over in 1992, or not.

The World is a "Dirty Gas Station Restroom.."

In October, I was banished (their word) from one of  the fundamentalist Christian,  Rapture-obsessed forums. This particular one is billed as “your prophecy resource for the end times.”

It was the end of October, 2008. I was banished for daring to ask in one of the forums, the following question: “Can we assume that the president we elect on November 4 is God’s answer to our prayers?” It seems an innocuous sort of question, doesn’t it? Actually, I knew these folks would have a hard time with it, which is why I asked. They overwhelmingly, of course, wanted McCain/Palin to win- they’re the Republicans and they used kind of language that would appeal to these fundamentalist, literalist “Christians.” There were many, many written prayers in the forums there pleading with God to make their victory happen. But the polls showed Obama/Biden ahead; thus, their dilemma. To answer my question affirmatively, and in the face of a possible Obama win, it would be evident that God was different than this Rapture-obsessed crowd had understood God to be. They knew, after all, that God (He) was conservative, Republican, against Muslims, for war, for capitalism, against gays, against illegal immigration, for McCain, and against everything that Obama stood for, including his middle name. So if Obama would win, it would mean their fundamentalist and oh-so-narrow view of everything, would be in the spiritual toilet.

Thus, my banishment, and this segue..

In 2005, I lifted this particular quote from one of their forums. I lifted and kept it because it captures so well the attitude of so many fundamentalists regarding our world, our planet, this great and shared part of Creation upon which we are all utterly dependent:

I think we Christians should look at this world as being a filthy restroom at a roadside gas station. Fate has brought us here, we try to touch as little of it as possible while doing our business, we hope to leave quickly, and we don’t ever plan on coming here again until it’s under better management.”

bathroom

Welcome to their world!

That’s not an isolated attitude; in fact, it’s pretty common. They feel separate from the world, not a part of it, not responsible for it:  in it, but not of it. The world, they will tell you, and most persons in it, belong to Satan, the bad guy to whom they ascribe almost-God-like powers. “This world is not my home,” is one of those phrases heard every Sunday in most of their churches, and the focus of their lives becomes the end of their lives. They will only live when they die. Only when they die will they be able to leave the filthy gas station restroom they are trapped inside of; only in death will they be able to walk out the door, across the street, and down the hill to the river where, if they look closely, they will see tiny little wild violets in the spring, hundreds of tadpoles in early summer, the gold/red/orange/burgundy blanket of fallen leaves in the autumn, and the diamond sun-reflections in the whiteness of a wintertime snowfall.

I mean, I guess that’s their back-asswards, crypto-eschatological, FUBAR-brained thinking. No wonder they pray every day for the Rapture to happen! They’re getting tired of the stink!

I am, too.

I’ve Changed My Mind About Obama !

After discovering that Obama is the anti-christ, I’ve decided to switch my support.

http://o.bamapost.com/

Turns out that Barrack Hussein Obama even has an inverted pentagram- a symbol of Satan- shaved into the back of head! I know it’s hard to believe, but IT’S ON THE INTERNET! So it must be true!

I know, I know..Obama said he was a Christian in a Chicago Sun Times interview in January of 2007, but read the article closely. He says that being a Christian is “complicated” and that he “didn’t grow up in a particular faith tradition.”  Which gives me reason to doubt his public affirmation, in his 20s,at the Trinity United Church of Christ that he had chosen to make Jesus his Savior. Real Christians KNOW that a public, confessional walk down the aisle at church means nothing compared to saying the right words, going through the right motions, and having the right bumper stickers!

bumper sticker

And real Christians support the president! Real Christians know the right people to vote for, and the right people to shun. Real Christians belong to the Center for Moral Clarity or Focus on the Family or the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated, who understand what Obama really stands for:

racist16_400

Real Christians are concerned about witchcraft in Alaska and Africa. Real Christians know that God’s creatures and resources were put here by God himself for humans to exploit, kill, and use in whatever ways they see fit to use them!

So, I apologize to anyone I’ve led astray. I’ve seen the Light! I’m voting for candidates anointed by God this time- people with special insight and vision. No more namby-pamby Sermon on the Mount stuff for me!!

 

We are the Ones!!  🙂

President Obama

It could happen. I don’t know whether it actually will, but the important thing right now- today- is that the real possibility to have an African-American president of the United States does exist.

We’ve come part of the way, baby.

The candidacy of Barack Obama has already affected some very important changes in our American collective consciousness (it seems to me). And changes in consciousness always grow. Once doors open in our individual and communal awareness, they never close- they only open wider over time. That is true in both our evolution as a human species and within our national consciousness.

To be sure, changes in consciousness are always accompanied by cultural, religious, and political reactions to those changes. Just as fundamentalism within Islam is growing in reaction to the larger international movements for democracy and equal rights, so are we seeing evidence of some fundamentalist reactions against the idea of a black person being president here in the United States. We’ve all overheard comments the like of which have not been heard openly in many years: “I don’t believe we’re ready for a black man to be president” and “If he gets in, the n—–s will be lined up in front of the White House with their hands out.” (I heard both of those at our local Democratic precinct caucus in March.)

But we’ve also seen those sentiments expressed in voting demographics and heard them through various disguised comments from the other Democratic candidate and that candidate’s family. And as ugly as those realities are, that they are being expressed- that Obama’s candidacy is causing them to be expressed- is a good thing. Here’s why:

When Light shines on darkness, Light always wins. A good way to get rid of mold, is to expose it to sunshine.

Overt racism has lain dormant in America for several decades. Actually, “dormant” is a misleading word- lethally hidden would be a better description of it’s state of being.  That Obama has been a catalyst for its being expressed more openly has been a good thing. Racism is being acknowledged and talked about honestly today in ways that will eventually spread to local morning gatherings for coffee  and to corporate boards of directors.

And, also eventually, that consciousness-raising kind of talk will move from heads to hearts. That’s how awareness works: it always makes things better than they were. To be sure, there will be reactive and ugly bumps along the way. But the twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings among us are driving road graders that are leveling out the ditchy and pot-holey messes us older folks have been benignly and denyingly walking around for far too long.

No matter what else is happening, in other words, hope is happening.

Starbuck’s War on Morality..(or something)

From Minneapolis Star-Tribunr, By PAUL WALSH

3starbucks

Seems that one person’s smut is another person’s morning latte.

A Christian group based in San Diego found grounds for outrage over the new retro-style logo for Starbucks Coffee.

The Resistance says the new image “has a naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute,” Mark Dice, founder of the group, said in a news release. “Need I say more? It’s extremely poor taste, and the company might as well call themselves Slutbucks.”

Does not this observation by by Mark Dice of The Resistance speak far more loudly about his state of mind than it does about the moral fabric of Starbuck’s? If little tiny ink engraved nipples on the side of a coffee cup send Mr. Dice into an outrage, imagine what apoplexy a casual flip-through of this week’s TIME magazine must cause him. Or perhaps he is the type who takes a Sharpie pen to the library each month when the new National Geographics are delivered, to “protect the children” of course.

Thus, Chapter 8,397 in the continuing saga of the bending of the gospels into nothing more than a set of hare-brained, silly doctrinal stances, taken by whatever group wants to claim “Watchman on the Wall” status this week. There are so many such groups! This one- The Resistance claims 3000 members nationwide. Imagine being a person who is starved for the love Jesus can bring, and asking the only Christian in his/her vicinity for help..and it turns out to be a Resistance member with a big Bible in one hand and an empty Starbuck’s cup in the other!

I’d run from such nonsense. And I would urge anyone else to run, too. Because what they’re about to get pounded with is 21st century, American, Western, doctrinal Churchianity that seeks to bend human will into the image of whatever false idol that group has erected at the moment. They, no doubt, will hear much more about Satan than Jesus, and a whole lot more about God’s imminent and angry justice than about Jesus’ immediate and compassionate love.

Baby Bible Bashers- Fear, in the name of Jesus

Wow! “Baby Bible Bashers,” produced by Firecracker Films, follows three child preachers. I’ve just watched all five Youtube segments and am depressed, angry, sad, and more committed than ever to speaking, writing, and living against this kind of foulness perpetuated in the name of Jesus.

These are little children being manipulated out of a childhood by zealous adults- adults who see their children as their own redemption from failure or- in the case of one daddy- an eternal meal ticket, along with the cars and homes appropriate to being the father of an empire-building “little man of God.” The kids have much more to say about hell than love, perhaps because that is what they know best.

Young Samuel, forced onto the streets of New York City while his daddy taunts homosexuals, is simply a heart-breaking figure. His parents have made him so afraid of “long worms in hell” that he must fight to be a little boy. And that, of course, is deemed to be rebellious and disobedient, which will no doubt earn him yet another spanking.

Honest to God, I feel right now like I need to vomit. Part 1 follows, Youtube will guide you to the other four segments: