Monday, July 1, 2013

P4E.256 A Suggestion Regarding DOMA

A suggestion to my fellow Christians: Instead of bemoaning the Supreme Court's ruling on the DOMA, let's take this opportunity to do some self-examination. If we truly believe in the sanctity of marriage, that it is sacred, that it is forever, and that it is a vital institution in our cuture, then let's please begin to treat our own marriages as such.

Statistics bear out that marriages among "Christians" are failing at a rate higher than that of the "secular" world. Why should that be? If Christians are out there trying to define what marriage is, shouldn't their marriages be successful on many levels? If we are moving to deny people the right to marry, shouldn't we do so from some sort of higher moral ground? It doesn't exist at this time. I especially call out Christian men/husbands on this issue, because in the "Christian" culture the husband is/should be a spiritual leader and responsible for the state of his marriage. And please don't try to tell me there's nothing you could do to make your marriage better. Make sure and ask your wife.

Christ warned us not to judge. He encouraged us to forgive. We must be careful not to misrepresent Him. Let's take some time to examine the state of our own marriages and make sure we are doing everything we can to be above reproach. Peace.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

P4E.255 An Alternate Response to Ivy

Here is an alternate response to Ivy, the woman who's husband cheated on her and to whom Pat Robertson gave such terrible counsel:

"Ivy, I can't even begin to imagine the hurt, pain and anger that you've experienced because of your husband's infidelity. You have every right to be angry! I'm ANGRY! God's angry! There's no timetable for overcoming anger! I'm guessing that your marriage has been hurting for some years, so it may take some years for it to heal. And, the fact is, you may never forgive or overcome your anger. It truly depends on how Christlike your husband can be.

Unlike what Pat Robertson told you, Christianity holds its men to a higher standard than "he's a man and that's what men do." Christ expects His men to overcome their fleshly nature, to flee immorality and to remain faithful to their wives. Your husband did not and he is less of a man because of it. Even non-believers expect their relationships to be faithful!

The conservatives among us love to point out that actions have consequences. Your husband's infidelity has resulted in an angry and unforgiving wife. Freudian psychology supposes that one person cannot make another person feel anything. It says that we choose to feel how we feel. But, we know anecdotally that this is not true. Actions and words have consequences. Your spirit feels hurt because you have been betrayed. That is normal. That is human.

You must know that there is nothing you did or didn't do to "cause" your husband to be unfaithful. He CHOSE to commit adultery. And, we all know that Scripture indicates that if there's one act that gives a person just cause to divorce their spouse, it's adultery. Also, Scripture says that adulterers will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So, your husband has some hearts to change. His own and yours.

Unlike what Pat Robertson told you, you are under no obligation to see the bright side of your life after your husband's infidelity. There is no bright side to it. The burden is not on you to make things better or to change your attitude. That burden lies squarely on your husband's shoulders. Either he will make that effort or he will not.

The shame of it is that your husband did not write asking for help in how he could help you overcome your anger and unforgiveness. In a way, you are a mirror for your husband's spiritual condition. If he worked hard, very hard, at showing you on a daily basis how sorry he is for his infidelity, how re-committed he is to your relationship and to his relationship with God, how committed he is to NEVER putting himself in a compromised position again, then you might start to feel different. But, if he is not doing these things, how will your spirit change? His spirit must change for your spirit to change.

Your feelings of unforgiveness and anger are a reflection of your true spiritual state. The feelings will not change until your spirit changes. As a spiritual leader (in the worst sense), your husband led you to this place and, if he is a man who has any character left, he can lead you away from this place too. Unfortunately, it's up to him. He affected your spirit in a bad way and he can affect it in a good way. But, it's going to take a lot of work on his part.

The Christian culture insists that we "forgive and forget." But, even though God may have forgiven David his sins, He did not forget them. God made sure that David's story was documented in Scripture for all future generations to remember. David suffered severe consequences because of his adultery and murder. His son committed rape and incest and sought to kill David.

Finally, know this: God hates divorce, but He did not forbid it. In fact, He forbade adultery in the seventh of the ten commandments. And when the Scriptures say that God hates divorce, He is speaking specifically to men, telling them not to treat their wives treacherously. He is obviously making men responsible for the state of their marriages. If your husband remains unfaithful in his heart and his spirit, if he is not apologetic, re-committed and repentant, even Scripture would allow you to divorce him. And you should.

My heart goes out to you and we can only hope that your husband will take on the responsibility of recovering what he lost because of his infidelity. If he doesn't then you have the choice to leave him. Only by one of those two things will you have a chance of being truly spiritually healed. God Bless."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

P4E.254 The Poor You Will Always Have With You...

Last week a garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing hundreds of workers. The building owners had ignored warnings by the authorities that the building was unsafe. The almost immediate reaction was against Wal Mart. The pundits' response was that corporate greed was to blame for the working conditions in Bangladesh and a boycott of Wal Mart was called for.

On a personal level, we must ask ourselves how our actions reveal our hearts, our motivations and our ideals. An NPR Article references an experiment that revealed that very few of us are willing to pay a premium for clothing that is ethically fabricated. If we can infer that we divulge our ideals with how and where we spend our money, then it speaks poorly of us as a humanity.

How can we expect our government or our corporations or academia to represent values that the general population does not hold? We simply cannot hold Wal Mart or Joe Fresh or H&M or any other corporate entity responsible for the fact that we are a selfish, vain, prideful people who do not care for the poor. And, when I say "care for," I mean with our pocketbooks. I mean that we won't pay more for ethically fabricated clothing that benefits the poor factory workers who make them.

I'm sorry to continually point out the deficiencies of our religious institutions. They are also a reflection of our flawed humanity. But, they are responsible to call for the best in us to come forward. They are responsible to  explain in a provocative and profound way who we are, in our hearts, and how there is a better way. Instead, they push away the very ideals and ethics and values that we should be embracing and promoting. Some members of those religious institutions are then misled and some feel very misrepresented. I count myself among the latter.

So, it starts with you and me. With the man in the mirror. When it comes down to it, we are selfish, vain and prideful. We can't count on anyone else or hold anyone to a higher standard than we hold ourselves without becoming hypocrites. But, we can start with ourselves. We change from the inside out. You and I can start at home, by being kind and giving and caring. We can stop caring about what others think of us and teach our children the same. Jesus said that the poor would always be with us and that we could help them whenever we wanted. So, let's do that. Let's teach our children not to judge, but to open their hands (and their pocketbooks) to the poor. When we've established some credibility, then we can affect the world around us. We can support or establish companies who do care for their employees and the things we hold dear. We cannot hope that there will be many of us. But, that should not stop us in our resolve to make this globe a better place for all its inhabitants.

"Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world. For indeed, that's all who ever have." Margaret Mead

Monday, February 4, 2013

P4E.253 Of God, Guns and Country

I have to admit that I'm puzzled, confused and amazed at the response of part of the Christian community with regard to the gun rights issues that have enveloped the country. I can certainly understand the culture of legitimate hunters, who are some of the most serious conservationists, who eat what they kill, who are responsible with their guns and wish to protect their right to keep and use those arms.

What I struggle with is that element of the Christian community that is politically hyperactive, that wraps itself in the American flag, that homogenizes its Christian beliefs with its American patriotism and enters into "battle" with those it perceives are its political enemies. Here are some questions that I think are relevant for that element of the Christian community to answer for themselves:

- Are you more influenced by your belief in Christianity or your American citizenship?
- When it comes to your personal welfare and the protection of your family, in whom or in what are you placing your trust? Is your answer at odds with your Christian belief?
- What is meant in Matthew 5:39 where Jesus says "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."
- In the very next verse, Matthew 5:40, Jesus speaks of lawsuits, "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also." Courts of law are non-violent places to work out differences. If Jesus advised against non-violent self-defense, how much more do you think Jesus would be against violent self-defense?
- If guns are weapons of violence and Proverbs 3:31 states, "Do not envy a man of violence And do not choose any of his ways." what are we to do with that advice?
- If we are actively involved in the promotion of a culture armed with weapons of violence, what do we think God's attitude will be towards us in the light of Psalms 11:5 - "The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates."
- Advising against lawsuits, Paul says, in I Corinthians 6:7, "Why not rather be wronged?" Should the same reasoning not be used with regard to using guns in self-defense? Why not rather be wronged?
- If the argument is, as I often hear, that guns cannot reliably be used to wound, but must be used as lethal weapons; what is your attitude towards the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill"?
- What are we to make of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, where one of Jesus' disciples attempts to defend them by striking out with a sword and Jesus says to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword."

I know that our natural inclination is to defend ourselves and our loved ones. But, on the road to enlightenment or salvation are we not to change our ways? To overcome our natural tendencies and replace them with higher ones?

On the issue of gun rights, I think Christians ought best to be on the side of non-violence or remain silent. We simply cannot, in good conscience, side with those who would arm an increasingly sociopathic, dumbed-down, narcissistic, violent culture.

"The key to changing the world and pursuing justice and disarmament is to allow the God of peace to disarm our hearts, make us instruments of peace, and lead us together on the road to peace."
Fr. John Dear

Friday, February 1, 2013

P4E.252 We Must Act Upon What (Little) We Know

Mother Teresa

Recently, I heard a well known radio preacher proclaiming how important it is to know the Bible. According to him, studying Scripture is necessary to to guard against misunderstanding what Scripture says. He implied that our salvation hinges on our understanding of who Christ is and must be correct . He pointed out that Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are in error and therefore condemned.

As I listened, I couldn't help as a feeling of exasperation grew over me. The idea that we study Scripture to make sure that we are correct in our definition of Jesus is troubling. Yet, that is the pattern we are being taught. That is what we are told to believe our "salvation" hangs upon. If this were all that defined us as Christians, then the matter has been resolved for centuries. There are several versions of The Apostle's Creed that will do very nicely to define our belief. All one must do then, is recite the Apostle's Creed and all will be well. Nice and tidy. Problem solved. Not!

I know that I've previously harped on the idea of incessantly studying Scripture and wringing out whatever minutiae we can out of it. I've come up with an analogy that I think works.

Suppose Harold studies art. He eats, drinks and thinks art. He reads everything he can about it. He knows the history of art in all the major countries and some of the minor ones. He is well informed and appreciates everything from the paleolithic cave paintings in France and Spain to activist inspired decaying organic media presentations. You can ask Harold any art question about any period and the answer will be on his tongue. His art library is extensive. He delivers lectures and actively recruits others to become interested in art. He dresses the part, walks the walk and talks the talk. Harold knows everyone in the art-world and everyone knows him or wants to know him. We writes a blog and is a critic for White Fungus art magazine (not made up!). He is at every major opening and prides himself on stealing away to the not so major openings at out of the way galleries. Harold knows his art. But, Harold has never put pencil to paper. Never put Crayola to a Lion King coloring book. He has no tools or media. He's never dipped a brush in watercolor, acrylic or oil. He's never put one rock on top of another for aesthetic effect. Not modeled a stick person out of clay; never chipped a flake from a piece of marble.  Is Harold an artist? My answer would be, no. He is not.

In the same way, we cannot call ourselves "little Christs" if we have nothing more than an understanding of a definition. We can study Scripture all day, all night, 24/7 and not change our status to "Believer.". I know that I'm not exaggerating the situation. Most  church pastors are men and we men like to study, research, dissect, exegete, hypothesize, and parse. We men are a mechanical lot and you cannot become proficient in spiritual matters with mechanical means.

"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

We've taken a perfectly good thing like a relationship with a living Spirit-God and turned it into science. And, damn you, literally, damn you if you don't fall in line with right thinking!

What I'm advocating here is that to embark upon "belief," we must act upon what little we know. If, as Christians, all we know is the "Our Father," then let us not do anything that would sully God's name. Let us be agents of change to bring His kingdom and His will into other's lives in a positive, non-judgmental way (because it's not for us to judge). Let us feed the hungry and forgive those who wrong us. Let us not tempt others to do wrong, and help them when they're in trouble. That's a start! How much studying does it take to change the way we think act and talk? How much does studying get in the way of our changing the way we think act and talk?

I liken this discussion to Jesus' parable of the talents. It's not to be taken literally about money, but about spiritual matters!

"His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' " (Matthew 25:23)

Peace, Kim