Thursday, February 28, 2008

Another Quiz

This one isn't as stark in its contrasts as the BeliefNet Quiz and had some interesting results. It's called "What's your theological worldview?"

Here's my result:

You scored as a Emergent/Postmodern

You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern: 89%
Modern Liberal: 79%
Classical Liberal: 71%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan: 50%
Neo orthodox: 46%
Roman Catholic: 29%
Charismatic/Pentecostal: 25%
Reformed Evangelical: 21%
Fundamentalist: 0%

Yep, that about covers it, and I'm jazzed about that 0% on fundamentalism. :)

For those who want to know more about the emergent/postmodern movement may I suggest Tony Jones' new book The New Christians. I'm reading it now and it's fabulous. I have cheered more than once while reading this book. If you're tired of the stale dogma and doctrine of the mainline church, emergent theology is a breath of fresh air.

Apparently, I'm a Liberal Quaker

According to BeliefNet's Belief-O-Matic quiz. No wonder I've always felt good at the Quaker meetings or at the UU church. Ironic that I'm a mainline pastor, eh?

Here are my results:

1. Liberal Quakers (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (98%)
3. Neo-Pagan (96%)
4. New Age (94%)
5. Reform Judaism (89%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (85%)
7. Mahayana Buddhism (78%)
8. Bahá'í Faith (72%)
9. New Thought (69%)
10. Secular Humanism (68%)
11. Jainism (65%)
12. Scientology (65%)
13. Taoism (63%)
14. Sikhism (62%)
15. Theravada Buddhism (62%)
16. Orthodox Quaker (59%)
17. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (54%)
18. Orthodox Judaism (51%)
19. Hinduism (51%)
20. Islam (46%)
21. Nontheist (35%)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (27%)
23. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (27%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (27%)
25. Jehovah's Witness (17%)
26. Eastern Orthodox (14%)
27. Roman Catholic (14%)

What are you?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2008 Election Spoiler!

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Result of 2008 Election. But, vote anyway ...

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

Pharisees Attack UCC

Fundamentalist churches, for years, has been endorsing candidates from their pulpits, producing voter guides that make it obvious who they support and even have candidates speak from their pulpits. The IRS never seems to notice.

Let a liberal or progressive church or denomination just breathe about politics and the iron fist of the IRS comes down hard.

The Internal Revenue Service has notified the United Church of Christ's national offices in Cleveland, Ohio, that the IRS has opened an investigation into U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's address at the UCC's 2007 General Synod as the church engaging in "political activities."

In the IRS letter dated Feb. 20, the IRS said it was initiating a church tax inquiry "because reasonable belief exists that the United Church of Christ has engaged in political activities that could jeopardize its tax-exempt status."

The Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, called the investigation "disturbing" but said the investigation would reveal that the church did nothing improper or illegal.

Of course the UCC did nothing illegal and the IRS knows it. This is harassment, plain and simple. The IRS is investigating because it can. It will cost the UCC a lot of money that it could be using to do ministry, but now they'll have to defend themselves because they had a member of their denomination, who happens to be a politician, speak at their Synod.

This follows the investigation of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California after an anti-war sermon was given there. The IRS cleared All Saints, after much snooping and money wasted.

Jesus spent his ministry rubbing shoulders with tax collectors and other sinners. Perhaps the UCC can, in this encounter with the IRS, help to redeem the system. I pray they show God's grace and love to the tax collectors here.

But, the hypocrisy is maddening. As long as a church is preaching for the war and supporting the right-wing candidates they are safe. Breathe one word against Dear Leader or criticize his illegal war of choice and you'll find the black helicopters circling and men with dark suits at your door.

Progressives beware. The freedom of speech does not apply to you.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm a Social Justice Crusader

According to a "What Breed of Liberal Are You?" quiz over on Daniel Kurtzman's Web site promoting his new book "How to Win a Fight with a Conservative. Here are my results

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Check it out ...

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Spies Who Love You

If you don't support spying, you don't love Uh-mur-i-kuh

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Goin' the courthouse and we're - denied, again!

For the fifth time in as many years, couples here in South Carolina made the trek to the courthouse here in Columbia to try to apply for marriage licenses. Wanda and I have participated four of those years, including this year. The result is always the same. They let us fill out the paperwork so the cameras can get their shots and then they politely tell us to get lost.

Back in the early years, we had three or four couples show up (this year it was just Ed Madden and his partner Bert Easter on the left along with Wanda and me on the right) out of the thousands of gay and lesbian couples living in our state. According to the 2000 Census some 15,000 gay and lesbian partners lived in South Carolina - that's certainly an undercount. The Census also reveals that Sumter County in South Carolina has the third largest number of African-American lesbians raising children. And none of us - even those of us who are willing to be the public face of our civil rights movement, can get the government to recognize our commitment to one another.

Those who can get married take for granted the more than 1,000 rights and privileges granted to couples. Those include the ability to collect your spouse's social security, inheritance rights, the right to make financial and health care decisions in case of hospitalization or incapacitation.

Gay and lesbian couples can spend 50, 60, 70 years together and when one dies, we are strangers under the law. Sure, we can get some papers drawn up giving each other our property upon death or granting power of attorney in matters of finance or health, but don't think those pieces of paper will protect you when a greedy, homophobic family member gets dollar signs in their eyes and revenge in their hearts.

Some people bring up the idiotic religion argument, like God invented marriage, or some other cockamamie idea. Sorry, didn't happen that way. Man created marriage for the sole purpose of passing property to heirs. The church didn't make it a sacrament until the 12th century - preferring to let the state handle the civil matter of marriage. It wasn't until the 1500s that the church required witnesses and a priest to be part of the ceremony, so don't tell me that the church invented marriage. It's just not true.

Besides, I could give a priest's butt if the church ever recognizes same-gender marriage. It's the government that marries people, not the church. The government, under what's left of our Constitution, is required to treat everyone equal under the law - there are no exception and no second-class citizens. Everyone should have the right to protect their committed relationships. Everyone should have the right to collect those more than 1,000 rights and privileges of marriage, because the government isn't a religious entity and it has no right to discriminate under the law.

Of course, the next idiotic argument is, "Well, if two guys or two girls can get married then people will want to marry their dog, or their cat or their houseplant." That's exactly what was said when the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws. People said that if different races could marry, then next people are going to be marrying their horse. It's a slippery slope argument based in fear and idiocy.

We're advocating marriage rights for two non-related consenting adults who are eligible for marriage (not married before or properly divorced). There should be no reason why gender would matter. Not one good reason in the world.

So, until people understand that same-gender marriage is simply another way that marriage has evolved over the years and come to understand that all discrimination is wrong, we'll keep going to the courthouse and applying for marriage licenses.

The clerk always tells us: "We cannot accept marriage applications from same-gender couples."

I say to her and the rest of America: "One day you will."

Friday, February 08, 2008

First Clue: His Name is "Hayseed"

Okay, if there are any clues about someone trying to swindle you out of your money, it would be that their name is "Hayseed."

It seems, a few years ago, a man named Harold "Hayseed" Stephens, proposed drilling for oil in Israel - and not just to get rich, but to:

drain the oil fields of the Persian Gulf, prompt Arab countries to attack Israel, and at last touch off the great battle that would usher in the end of days.

I'm not kidding. I so wish that I was. But, the wingnut section of Christianity truly believes that their oil exploration efforts in Israel will bring on the apocalypse. Old people with more depth in their pockets than in their brains, are backing these people. Poor James Cojanis (well, he's poor now!) gave $120,000 to old Hayseed - who, at the time, didn't even have any drilling rights secured in Israel. Now, his investment is worth about $3,000, but he still hasn't soured on the deal:

"I'm glad the stock price is in the tank," he says. "When they hit oil and the stock goes sky-high, that means Armageddon is around the corner." At that point, he plans to use his gains to spread the word that the end times are here, preparing as many souls for heaven as possible.

Holy Crap!

Hayseed? He's dead, so he doesn't really care anymore - but his son "Sha" is continuing the tradition.

The Mother Jones article really sheds some light on why oil is so important to wingnuttery branch that George W. Bush represents. Sure, Bush wants to line his pockets and the pockets of his friends with oil money and war profiteering. But, at the core of his agenda is bringing the four horsemen over the horizon so Jesus can come in all his glory.

I wish the anti-Revelation crowd had won the battle way back in the day and that piece had never made it into scripture. A book that so obviously talks about the Roman empire of the day is repeatedly misread and used to scare the hell out of people and bilk old people out of their money on some misguided mission to induce Jesus' return to Earth. If I were Jesus, I'd stay put just out of spite because people are just too dumb.

For an eye-opening and sobering look at why the wingnuts are well, nutty, read this incredible piece from Karen Armstrong:

This nihilistic religiosity is based on a perversion of the texts. The first chapter of Genesis was never intended as a literal account of the origins of life; it is a myth, a timeless story about the sanctity of the world and everything in it. Revelation was not a detailed programme for the End time; it is written in an apocalyptic genre that has quite a different dynamic. When they described the Jews' return to their homeland, the Hebrew prophets were predicting the end of the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BC - not the second coming of Christ. The prophets did preach a stern message of social justice, however, and like all the major world faiths, Christianity sees charity and loving-kindness as the cardinal virtues. Fundamentalism nearly always distorts the tradition it is trying to defend.

No Heaven, but Hell is Just 20 Miles Away

Wow, the Holy Crap has been cascading today. First, I read an interview with conservative Bishop N.T. Wright who tells us that whole heaven thing is just a fig newton of our imaginations:

There are several important respects in which it's unsupported by the New Testament. First, the timing. In the Bible we are told that you die, and enter an intermediate state. St. Paul is very clear that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead already, but that nobody else has yet. Secondly, our physical state. The New Testament says that when Christ does return, the dead will experience a whole new life: not just our soul, but our bodies. And finally, the location. At no point do the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels say, "Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven." It says that Christ is coming here, to join together the heavens and the Earth in an act of new creation.

John Lennon was right - above us is only sky. No heaven to ascend to when we die. Wright, instead, believes the traditionally conservative idea that we are simply dead until we are raised again (literally and bodily) when Jesus returns.

Want to bet that the good bishop is not an organ donor?

But, wait, there's more.

It seems Lennon is only batting .500. He was wrong about there being "no hell below us." According to Pastor James Melton, hell is real and is only about 20 miles below us.

the sphere of Hell is a round, hollowed-out place in the Earth's core...Scientists say that the Earth's outer crust is less than twenty miles thick, and that beyond that point, there [is] ... a lake of fire. [At] this very moment your eternal soul may be less than twenty miles from the burning fires of Hell!

The link is worth following because the MishMash blog has lots of other silly beliefs of religious zealots including the warning that if you speed you're going to hell. (Hell will be a very crowded place - sort of like Atlanta at rush hour, I'm thinking.)

So, we can still be justified in telling someone to go to hell but all we have to look forward to after death is a long dirt nap until we get resurrected. I sure hope God can do something about my love handles in the resurrection. I'd hate to spend eternity all pudgy.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Holy Crap

My heart and my prayers are with all of those who lost their homes and loved ones in the devastating tornadoes that went through the southern region this week. How horrible that these disasters strike. It always seems so random. One house gone, the one next door standing without a scratch.

How do we explain it?

Well, those who survive have this odd tendency to credit God with their survival.

The house was gone, but Kruger says he believes there's reason why he survived.

"I think God was holding my leg, beating my ass, teaching me that I hadn't been doing everything he wanted me to do," he said.

Yep, God held his leg and got him through the tornado to knock some sense into the poor boy.

I heard two students from Union University in Tennessee talk about how God saved them from the storms.

Holy crap!

No one thinks through what they're saying when they thank God for their survival. Yes, they're alive and they're thankful and that's good. But, they don't stop to think what kind of God they're praising. Why did God spare them and not the others? Why were they special? So, God likes Mr. Kruger better than the other 50 or so folks who died during the storm?

The problem is we can't accept the utter randomness of life. We must have been spared by some benevolent sky God instead of simply being lucky. God had nothing to do with it. Just as God had nothing to do with the storm. The storm was the result of specific weather conditions converging to form tornadoes. God didn't will it. It happened because that's what happens when these conditions converge.

God didn't "save" anyone. God didn't take anyone's life. God didn't "protect" anyone and "forsake" anyone else.

A storm came. Some died. Some didn't. Some lost their homes. Some didn't.

Luck of the draw. Nothing more.

Those who remain alive are glad to be alive and they should be. If it makes them rethink how they're spending their lives and they decide they ought to live better lives, then God is in that. God is always there, grieving with us, giving us hope and bringing redemption out of shitty situations.

God is in the comfort. God is in the growth after the tragedy. God is not in the storm - God is in the still small voice that comforts and encourages us after the bad shit happens.

Reflect, Repent, Reboot: An Ash Wednesday Homily

Here is my homily from Ash Wednesday service last night. You can hear the audio here.

Reflect, Repent, Reboot
Ash Wednesday - Feb. 6, 2008
Joel 2:12-18, Matthew 6:1-15

Let me begin with a couple of silly questions: How many of you use a computer?

How many of you have had your computer crash?

I imagine many of us have experienced this throughout the years. If you use a Mac you dread hearing what's known as the "Chimes of Death" - because it's quickly followed by an icon of a "Sad Mac" - a frowning Mac with X's for eyes. You know it's time to say goodbye to whatever precious material you had stored on your little Mac.

For the PC user, it's the dreaded "Blue Screen of Death" that announces that all your files are now nothing but precious memories. No matter which one you see, you knew you and your data are doomed.

Both of these harbingers of data death are so harsh. Instead of Chimes of Death or a Blue Screen of Death, why can't computers give you the bad news in a more pleasant way? I found a Web site that had error messages in the ancient Japanese poetry of Haiku. Here are a few:

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

The file you need
might be very useful.
But now it is gone

Windows XP crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
File not found.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, reboot.
Order shall return.

So often, however, it's not a computer crash that happens - it's our whole lives that crash. We hear the Chimes of Death and experience the Blue Screen of Death almost on a daily basis when things seem to go out of control. We may feel lost, alone, helpless - unable to find our way back home.

Life doesn't have to be that way. The prophet Joel tells us how to change our lives - we simply must come back to God. Chaos reigns within when we wander away from God - when we try to take control of our own lives and live apart from God. For order to return, the steps are simple: reflect, repent, reboot.

Take the time now to reflect on your life - what areas of your life have you taken control over? What areas of your life have you taken away from God? Are there areas where you're in the driver's seat and God is your co-pilot instead of the one guiding your life?

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a season of reflection and self-examination. We take this time to pray - and often to fast - as a reminder of the 40 days Christ spent in the desert enduring temptation. We all know temptation well. We face it everyday as the chaos reigns within.

Take this season to reflect on where you have forsaken God in your life. Reflect on the chaos within. Then we move to the next step: repent.

We have this idea that repentance means we have to grovel before God and confess all of the terrible, horrible things we've done. We feel like the prodigal son, who comes home in shame, and tearfully tells his parent, "I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your child ever again." If you look closely at that story in Luke 15, you find the father calling his servants to get his child new clothes and fix a feast. The father isn't even listening to his son's confession.

We don't have to throw ourselves upon the mercy of an angry, vengeful God. That's not what repentance means. Repentance means to stop going in the direction we're going and turn around. Just the act of turning around and coming home, the act of changing our mind and setting our sights once again on God is enough. God isn't interested in hearing about how sorry we are or how we'll do better next time. We're already forgiven in the moment that we turn toward home. Even before we get there – God is already running toward us, bringing us new clothes and setting up a banquet.

That's the good news of repentance. There's no need to beat ourselves up or be mad at ourselves for yet again messing up. God is simply elated that we've realized our mistake and turned around.

To tame the reigning chaos, we must reflect, repent, and then reboot. We must start over. God forgives us, gives us a fresh slate from which to start anew.

Tonight, as we receive the ashes, we are reminded of our mortality - from dust we came and to dust we shall return. But, in the meantime, God has given us radical grace - the ability to end the chaos within - to have order restored. The ashes remind us that life is precious - and even when we crash - God is ready to pick up the pieces, forgive us and give us a fresh start.

When chaos reigns within, don't despair. Jesus has given us a prayer designed to help us reflect, repent and reboot.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.

This is our reflection.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

This is our repentance.

Next we reboot.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, reboot.
Order shall return.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Bush's Budget: Screw the Poor

The Good Christian President(TM) George W. Bush has put out his latest budget and not surprisingly, the winners are, well, not anyone reading this blog.

The more than $3 trillion budget includes lots and lots of spending for the military industrial complex - all in the name of our "national security." It also calls for making the Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy permanent - entrenching the haves and the have mores as the real winners from here on out.

Where will all the money come from to pay for more guns and real butter on the fat cats dinner table? Wait for it ...

The poor! Of course.

It's really no shock that Bush will slash funds for health care for the elderly (he won't fund it for children, so the old people can suffer too), education (keep 'em stupid enough to keep voting Republican), energy assistance (let those sick elderly freeze to death. It's what Jesus would do!) and drug free school programs (the kids won't notice they're sick if they're high!).

This Good Christian President(TM) has proven time and time again that the perverse popular religion that blasphemes Christ at every turn will turn his back on the least of these with impunity, smirking the entire time. He knows that no one will call him on it. Democrats will not bang the obvious talking point that this man who professes to be a Christian consistently sells out the poor in favor of the rich (I remember Jesus doing that all the time, don't you?). Democrats will sit on their hands and vote for this abomination and the press will continue to simply report the facts and not call the president on his callous disregard for those in need. (Now, if a Democrat tried it, the headline would scream, "President Sacrifices Poor at the Altar of War and Tax Cuts!!")

Perhaps the hypocrisy of this "compassionate conservative" claptrap is just so obvious that people don't believe it needs any further comment. Perhaps we've all grown callous to the needs of the least of these. We're not in that group, we don't know anyone in that group, so who cares? Pass those buttery tax cuts this way please.

Jesus knew that when our hearts grew cold to the cries of those on the margins that God's kingdom could not break through. It's only when we understand that true love of self results not in "I've got mine," but "Does everyone else have theirs," will we ever be able to truly love the God that made us. As long as we are selfish - getting ours and forsaking the needs of others - we can never truly love God. When we truly love God, we understand that the only proper self love is a love that gives itself away.

Good Christian People(TM) are too busy airing their piety in the streets for others to see and admire to see those whose needs remain unmet.

May God forgive us all for being Good Christian People(TM).