God’s Reputation Is At Stake !!

 

Rev. Arnold Conrad of the Evangelical Free Church, praying Friday at a McCain campaign appearance in Iowa:

“I would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it is Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that [Obama] wins, for a variety of reasons,”

“And Lord, I pray that you will guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and Election Day,” he added.

To their credit, the McCain campaign almost immediately distanced themselves from the pastor’s remarks.

                            ~~

God needs to be made aware that his reputation is at stake?!?

Oh my.

Aside from the profound religious ignorance Rev. Conrad reveals- Hindu and Buddha are not the names of gods- his “prayer” also reveals the blasphemous practice of so many religious people who believe they have God in a box. These are the religionists who believe they know exactly who God is, what God should be doing, and how God should be doing it. They are engaged in the very seductive, easily fallen into psychological practice of projection.

Karl Wolfe, Ph.D., defines the phenomena this way: “Psychological projection is the phenomenon whereby one projects one’s own thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings..onto someone else.” In the negative, for instance, an overweight person might be prone to point out to others the slovenly, bad eating habits of other heavy people. In the case of people like Rev. Conrad, projecting onto God one’s own selfish desires or personal preferences, is the ultimate example of this very human defense mechanism.

Thus,we hear militant Muslims speaking for Allah as they defend their support for terroristic activities: “Blessings upon he who acts for the sake of Allah and went on raids for His sake.” (Dr. Ibraham Maadi, here). We also hear with great frequency, such pontifications from Rev. Pat Robertson, like this one, spoken after the school board in Dover, PA, was voted out of office for mandating the teaching of Intelligent Design:I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don’t wonder why he hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for his help because he might not be there.”

These, unfortunately, are not isolated quotes. Most of us tend, unthinkingly, to project our own desires,wants,needs, and definitions onto others, including God. But to do so, without sometimes painful self-examination, is wrong. We lessen God by doing so; we make God conform to our own political, cultural, and social biases. And, in the case of religious leaders, such personal projections are easily mistaken by those who trust such leaders for spiritual guidance, as actual pronouncements of God.

I wonder if Rev. Conrad (or Dr. Maadi, or Rev. Robertson) would be willing to pray as Jesus did, “..nonetheless, not my will, but yours be done.” Actually, I think I already know the answer, at least in Rev. Conrad’s case: if Obama wins the presidential election, he will probably blame Satan. Satan is every unthinking projectionist’s fall guy for things that happen outside the boundaries that have been constructed for God to operate within. Unlike Jesus, they are unable to accept God’s will as such, when it goes against their projected hopes.

Advertisements

Consider the lilies..

A mind-rattling, consciousness-caressing gift was handed to me today. It is so good that I want to share it right away because it could- I think- make a difference in your world, too, beginning right now.

It is one of those insights born within our language; it is a way of thinking that moves me from two-dimensional thinking (the easy, flat kind of thinking) to three, four, even five dimensional thinking- the kind of thinking that causes green and lively shoots of new questions to suddenly and profusely appear. Here it is:

See vs. Consider..

Do I see a person? Or do I consider that person?

When I see a person, I normally make a rush to judgement. I take the visual data before me, run it quickly through the sieve of my own preconceptions, develop a cursory evaluation and move on. I’m in a hurry, after all: there are more people, more things, more places to see. Why take time to linger when I’ve got all the information necessary to momentarily sate my well-defined and hungry ego? Now I have more to see!

But, when I consider the stranger standing in the line at the grocery store, or the friend who is in front of me speaking- when I consider that person, and not merely see him or her, then their multi-dimensionality begins to be revealed.  Their faces, the tilting of their heads, and the movements of their hands became the introductory sentences of a whole narrative that is begging to be read. The strand of curly hair hanging over the young girl’s left eye, or the blurred tattoo over the old man’s right hand knuckles are not mere visual data anymore. Considered, they become colors that give depth to the feelings behind words; they make more resonant the music of a person’s being.

To consider someone is to stop and to experience them. It is to stop the timer in my mind that is always clanging, “Move on!” It is to search (albeit, most of the time, in an unobtrusive manner) for the pain and the joy, the happiness and the suffering that all humans experience in a multitude of ways. It is to seek, because now I must, the tangible and outward evidence of that which is most often hidden and quiet.

To consider a person also involves something else- and in fairness I must warn you about this.  It is also draws me toward that person’s life. It causes me to want to know more, reflect on what I learn, and to begin to make the innumerable connections between myself and that person which are possible between all of us and everyone else.  It makes love very real, and always possible. And sometimes my heart- I can’t speak for yours- but sometimes my heart just doesn’t feel like it can stretch anymore than it already has.

It’s worth the risk, anyway.

Consider, after all, the alternative.

The Rapture

Born in the bowels of early-19th Century religious fervor, the notion of imminent Rapture has diverted, and continues to divert the attention of many Christians from the presence of Jesus Right Now. A by-product of the Second Great Awakening in America, the Rapture cult is focused on what-is-about-to-happen, causing many to not only turn a blind eye to current events, but to even stand by anxiously, encouraging and applauding natural and human-caused catastrophes.

Rapture theology surfaced again this past week as one of the presidential candidates repudiated (or at least tempered) the endorsement of John Hagee, pastor of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church and popular expositor of the Rapture and its meaning for the world. The whole Rapture theory is a complicated set of scriptural proof-texting and “special revelations” that Hagee is particularly and skillfully adept at translating into easily accessible, simplistic statements that bear the stamp of ancient authority.

In doing so, I believe Hagee also appeals to some of the worst instincts in human nature as well. I watched him several weeks ago. I took notes just after I heard him say the following because it epitomized everything that disgusts me about this Jesus-perverting teaching of Jesus’ soon-to-be arrival to rescue his beloved from the jaws of the Antichrist:

[After the Rapture] ..”we’ll have have front row seats as we watch the Valley of Armageddon fill with the blood of the enemy.”

Key words in that statement:”We” and “the enemy.”

The Rapture cult is all about ‘us’ and ‘them.’ That is one of the universal characteristics of ALL fundamentalist systems; i.e., there is an “us” on the inside, and a group of “them” outside the accepted orthodoxy, whatever brand of orthodoxy it is which is being espoused. This is something basic to the darker nature of humanity, it seems- the need to be counted among those who are saved and the ability to determine who is not saved. Sales organizations do it, some Muslim factions do it, many American Christian groups do it, and even towns do it during football games with their main rivals. Amway people are ready at a moment’s notice to point out the flawed ingredients used by Proctor and Gamble. Islamic Jihadists need “The Great Satan” in order to exist. And Springfield hates with a vengeance those cheaters from Smalltown who suck up to the the referees.

The need to identify an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ on the part of Hagee and the Rapture Ready cultists is an old and ancient tradition that has led to countless wars and much torture. The need for such separation among people does not arise from Christian impulses; it rises from the human ego- the need to be “better than” someone else. And the desire to see others- even the so-called ‘enemy’, swimming in their own blood- well, that comes from the most debased of human values.

All of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus have made the mistake from time to time of projecting our own personal characteristics onto the person of Jesus. It’s why Jesus is often unrecognizable when one tries to compare what they’ve learned about him with what the gospels say. Both capitalists and socialists can claim him as their own, just as slave-owners and abolitionists once did. Right now, it simply happens that many who are fearful of the modern world in which they find themselves, and who are having many old and traditional “truths” kicked out by science from underneath their clay feet, are retreating into the gnosis of the Rapture, as a means of ultimate escape.

So be it. They can be wrong with a host of others, beginning with the Apostle Paul, and extending now into the Rapture profiteers like Hagee and the Left Behind authors, and all the ancillary businesses that their mistaken beliefs have given rise to. They can keep their eyes aimed at future clouds in the East if they want to; I’m just afraid they might miss Jesus walking among them in the meantime. That’s the real tragedy of this dismal doctrine.

Here’s Hagee, explaining the Rapture as he sees it. Let me know if you hear anything about God’s grace during the presentation:

God

If I give in to my first and oldest thoughts on the subject, here’s what I believe about God:

1. He’s vaguely shaped like me- he walked around in the Garden of Eden, after all. (Genesis 3:8) And Moses got a glimpse of his backside. (Exodus 33:23)

2. He is a he.

3. He is jealous, easily angered, arbitrary, vengeful, violent, and holds grudges. But..

4. God is love.

That’s enough to begin. These thoughts were all formed early on, during my childhood, from numerous Sunday School handouts, a voracious appetite for every tract, magazine, and some bizarre little books I would find at my grandparent’s home. (I wish I remembered what they were; I only remember the covers on them would often have pictures of beautiful angels and lascivious devils. Yes, I was weird.) I also, even as a kid, would watch TV preachers. This was the mid- 50s, so it was Oral Roberts on a folding chair in a tent at noon on Sundays, and, at 6 p.m. everyday, just after “The Little Rascals,” “Suppertime,” a locally produced show starring the lesser known brother of Rex Humbard, Clement, and his family. (wife Priscilla, and daughters Rebecca and Delilah.  See? I told you I was weird!)

Together, all of that data ran together in my 7 to 12 year old mind, and God the walking, talking, prissy and pissed god, emerged. But he loved me, somehow. I can’t make that elementary version of him go away, not completely, no matter how hard I try. It is one of those childhood-formed chunks of misinformation that has concretized in my mind to the point that I will still, incredibly, default to it at times. (Here’s another example of that kind of information which I apparently hold dear, because it won’t leave me: somewhere along that time, I got the idea in my head that goats and sheep were the same species. All the goats were male, and all the sheep were female. On first glance at either kind of animal, that is still my first thought.)

I mention all of this because, I have found, many adults also carry with them some anthropomorphic ideas about God that were forged in the halcyon days of childhood, when new information about the world was flooding our minds, and the cognitive means of evaluating/rejecting/accepting that information were not yet fully formed. It doesn’t matter, at that age, that the information doesn’t fit together that we are absorbing; it finds a place to take up (apparently) a permanent lodging place  in our minds, anyway.

When that information, right or wrong, is an ingrained part of the culture we grow up in, it becomes important and life-affecting. When it concerns goats and sheep, it is only a minor and very occasional irritation. It is easy to see, therefore, that the God of my childhood still enjoys a well-tended residence in the minds of many, many people. It is an idea that is nurtured and fertilized, and so satisfying (again, apparently) to so many people that it affects how they vote, how they say it’s important for other people to believe, and how they raise their children.

Thinking critically about God- rather, about that image of God I’ve had in my head for waaaay too long- is a never  ending process. I don’t want God to be as small as my imagination, and I sure don’t want God  to be as small as the authors and artists of those tracts and books tried to make God out to be. I want to both understand the metaphors for God used by the biblical writers in the context of their time, and to think about new metaphors for God in the context of our time. I want to reconcile the stories of God’s bloody and horrific vengeance on persons other than Jews (Deut 20:16-18, et.al., et.al.) with the statement, “God is love.” (1John 4: 8), if they can be reconciled. I want to get by the saccharine nonsense that God dusted the heavens with stars for human pleasure, and the maudlin idea that God allows babies to die because of God’s selfish need for flowers in heavenly gardens.

I want to know God better, even as I know I will not even come close to knowing God fully.  I want the goofy image of God I have stuck in my brain to be put to pasture with the he-goats and she-sheep.

Fundamentalism: The Perversion of Jesus

“If I speak in tongues of men or of angels, but have not love, then I am nothing more than a clanging gong or a resounding cymbal.” (1Corinthians 13:1)

And if I continue to speak in terms of tolerance and acceptance of the fundamentalist poison being pumped into the body of Christ, then I am actively participating in the death of the Word made flesh. I will no longer do that. I may not wield a weapon much more effective than a fly swatter in battling this many-headed parasite within our midst; nonetheless, I will swat and swat and swat at it. I am tired- sick and tired- of the loveless clanging I hear constantly coming from the back of the Church.

For me, the Gong Show is over.

Fundamentalism, within whatever culture or religion it begins to coalesce, does so in reaction to perceived Modernism. It is, by its very nature, a reactionary movement based on fear of that which is new, unknown, and uncomfortable. Just as the Church in Europe dug its Inquisitive heels into the backs of powerless peasants as the onslaught of Science and Art began to encroach on its once exclusive domain of cultural influence (read: power), so is modern day fundamentalism motivated by fear. And fear, fundamentalist leaders have found, is always a more powerful crowd-pleaser than love.

Fundamentalist Characteristic #1- Fear

Fundamentalists are afraid. They’ll deny that, but listen in on any television evangelist’s resounding message or- better yet- venture into a local, so-called, revival meeting. You’ll hear, for a little while, about God, about the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, and about the joy and peace that comes from knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord. But it will amount to not much more than mere lip service to the language being used to present the evening’s real Star of the Show- Satan!

People who choose to live in fear need an enemy to be afraid of, and Satan fits that bill. He is not omniscient nor omnipresent, but somehow seems to know (according to the fear-mongering preacher) exactly where you are and exactly what your weaknesses are! He is always ready to attack, always prepared to tempt you, always whispering sweet seductive siren songs into your ready-to-hear ears. Most importantly, he is there to be blamed every time you fall from, or wiggle out of, God’s grace.

He wants your soul in hell,to burn eternally with the millions, billions of others he has already claimed. And to do that job, Satan needs helpers: the demonic hordes which do his bidding. There are, according to any number of deliverance ministries which fill tents and television studios across the land, a legion of demons out there, some of which are probably in you already. Which is why you smoke, drink, lust, fail to tithe, wear lipstick, have wet dreams, think goddam when you hit your thumb with a hammer, get bored in church, miss church, watch anything but “Christian” television, have debts, vote Democratic, despise the military-industrial complex, or drive a better car than the preacher.

Demons are everywhere. They are to be feared. If you’re having fun, feeling free, laughing, healthy, or making a good living- watch out! Because they’re getting ready to pounce- down your gullet, into your eyeballs, through your fingertips, or absorbed by your imagination. You must- you MUST- claim  the blood of Jesus as it is being hustled by the speaker of the moment. Only tithes and offerings, and a walk to the front of that preacher’s altar will afford you protection from them! Do it tonight! Because you might be dead tomorrow! (And, if the fear-mongering preacher has learned how “properly” to do it, he/she will, at this point, begin to list the many ways you might be dead tomorrow!)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Who said that? Who’s that rabble-rouser trying to interrupt the meeting? Who dares to speak serenity; who is it that dares to bring talk of peace to this arena of fear we’ve been building tonight?

Oh, it’s Jesus..*

(More will follow. Everything about fundamentalism derives from fear, but the means by which fear is invoked are many and subtle. Unfortunately, the ramifications of lives lived in this inflicted fear are not so subtle. And so there is more to write. Much more.

But right now, I need to go wash my hands. They’re filthy.)

* John 14:27

 

 

The Virgin Mary Comes To Town!

Oh, happy day! The BVM has landed here, right here on the West Texas prairie, and here she is!

She left her mark this time in the scar of an old native pecan tree. You can see in the picture that the south fork of that tree split away from the trunk, and it was there that the BVM either immediately inscribed herself or was revealed to the world after being embedded within the tree for at least the past five or six decades.

I personally had a hard time seeing her at first, so I’m really just going on the word of those who have the God-given (?) power to see the Virgin in those many odd places she chooses to appear. Me? In my quest to see anything anthropomorphic in the tree, I could only vaguely see Bishop Sheen, as he would sweep from the doorway to the blackboard in his priestly cassock on his Sunday afternoon television show in the 1950s. But then, I kept looking and (what do I know?) I thought I could see Sister Kenny raising money to fight polio like she was also doing in the 1950s.

photo(3)

Then I made the mistake of continuing to look, wanting desperately to join the throngs (see them?) who’ve made a sacred grotto of the tree. I was able to see a virtual parade of personages, including but not limited to: Joan Baez, Soupy Sales, my Aunt Emma, Jimi Hendrix, and a substitute teacher in the fifth grade whose name I forget.

So there went another potential Epiphany, right out the always open window of my imagination!

Channel 5 out of Fort Worth and Telemundo out of Dallas have already given the tree their pandering-to-the-masses Seal of Approval by televising live reports on the perceived phenomena. Sorry I can’t lend much credibility to their fine reporting, but I’m kind of a stick-in-mud when it comes to sightings of the Divine. I get stuck on little stuff like wildflowers and ants, and dogs licking my face even when I’m feeling like crap. Those things tell me much more about God than the scar of a tree.

*****

And, for the record,here’s Sister Kenny and Bishop Sheen:

sister kenny  Bishop Sheen

from Miranda’s blog, “My Brother Is Dead”

“I know, I know. I’m a depressed bitch. But I bring this up only to help. Because the thing I’m coming to realize, the thing that’s really amazing, is not that we all have our crosses to bear. It’s that we’re able to bear them. The world is so much more horrible than we ever could have guessed at age 5, 15, 25, but what makes us as humans so miraculous, so capable, so strong, is that we can handle the horror. We can deal with the very thing we’re terrified of. That which doesn’t kill us, we can live with. I’m not sure how, except that it has to do with evolution, religion, and anti-depressants.
“And hope. Our capacity for suffering may be outweighed only by our capacity to imagine what it’s like not to suffer.”

Go. Read the rest of it here.