Name change

Those of you who read my blog may notice a slight change today. I’ve changed/updated the name of the blog–not a huge change, but the previous name seemed a bit clunky. I mean, it is obvious that this is a weblog, so I really didn’t need that in the name.

But that’s the only thing to change–at least for now. I’ll still be writing from the perspective of being a preacher’s kid (and a minister myself)…and I’ll be writing on a variety of topics.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize that we cannot put the “sacred” and the “secular” into separate little boxes and keep them from ever meeting. What we do in the “secular” world is impacted by our belief in the “sacred”…they are two sides of a multi-faceted world.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very supportive of a distinction between the laws we make and the religion(s) we practice. I don’t want anyone telling me what I can (or cannot) say or do–demanding that a particular religious belief becomes the law of the land.

We are a diverse creation–and out of that diversity we have had different relationships with the Divine…and different understandings. I’m okay with that, because I believe that when we share those understandings with each other, we come to a better knowledge and relationship with something that is far beyond our finite understanding.

Humans like things to be in neat little organized boxes. But life–and creation–isn’t like that. It’s wild…and free…constantly growing and changing, and we can either delight in that or–like people throughout the ages–try to hold change back…and fail.

I delight in a creative and creating God…and look forward to the changes yet to come.

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Humans vs. the earth

I grew up–and am now a minister–in one of the many faith traditions that tries our best to follow the teachings of Jesus.

What that also means is that the Bible is a foundational book of scripture for me…one I see as a record of humanity’s attempts to understand the Divine.

In the first book (Genesis), there are two stories of creation. I’ve always loved the imagery in them…of a creative and creating God who calls that creation “good.”

But there’s also a portion of those stories that has bothered me. It comes after humans have been created in the image of the Divine…and is translated as “fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion…over every living thing.” Unfortunately, I believe that translation is a misunderstanding of what we are called to do with our earth–and it has impacted our decisions for many, many year…especially recently.

“Subdue”…common synonyms are to conquer, defeat, overpower, overcome. To “have dominion” in our day carries with it similar connotations.

Some contemporary translations instead call for humanity to have stewardship over the earth–and I think that’s more in line with what was intended. Stewardship calls for responsibility…for handling what we have wisely.

That’s hardly what we’ve done. Instead of working together with the earth, we have tended to be more like “humans vs. the earth”–and have made animals extinct…have destroyed environments…are in the process of continuing that destruction and changing our climate…and seem unwilling to go any other direction.

Do we not understand that if we destroy our environment, we destroy ourselves? I hope and pray it’s not too late for us to stop and reconsider our relationship to the earth–so that it changes from “humans vs. the earth” to “humans in partnership with the earth”…as I believe was intended.

 

 

Who gets to make the decision?

I tend to try to not wade into political matters in my blog (at least, not very deeply), but this post is definitely going to get deep. I know some of you will not be happy that on a blog identified as a “preacher kid’s weblog” I’m getting into what many see as a political issue rather than a religious one–but I believe it fits both categories.

And so what is that issue? It’s one that’s been a hot-button issue for at least 20 years…and seems to be getting even hotter today: abortion.

Let me state up front that I am supportive of a woman’s right to a medically safe abortion–although I would prefer that abortion became more rare.

Over the years since Roe v. Wade legalized that right, there have been movements that have chipped away at it, making it more difficult…more expensive…more humiliating for women who have chosen to go that route. In some cases there is only one clinic in a state where women can go. In other cases, women are required to go through a waiting period before they can have the procedure, creating both additional expense and frustration. And in yet other cases, women have been required to go to court before they could terminate the pregnancy.

One of the frustrations for me as I have watched this process is that those on both sides of the issue have tended to act as though the decision to have an abortion is an easy one…and that it is a black-and-white issue. No, it isn’t.

There are many factors that play into a woman’s decision to have an abortion. Criminalizing it or making it less available aren’t going to bring the rates down. If we really want to make abortion more rare, we would be better off by:

  • ensuring better access to birth control for women
  • providing comprehensive sexuality education that includes medically accurate information about abstinence and contraception
  • requiring insurance coverage of family planning services
  • providing access to emergency contraception
  • providing access to education / training that will help young women have the means to provide for themselves
  • funding programs that curb domestic violence and sexual abuse
  • encouraging / requiring parental leave
  • providing and funding services for disabled children
  • making child care a priority

Until we are willing to look at better ways to lower the abortion rate, the decision to have one should, in my opinion, be dealt with by the woman, her significant other (when appropriate), her doctor, and (if desired) her spiritual advisor. Not those who don’t know what’s led to that decision…but who would easily condemn her as a murderer for it.

Why?

It seems like almost every time I turn around, I see a news story that someone who has been virulently opposed to the LGBTQ community has (1) acknowledged that they are indeed members of that community and/or (2) been charged or found guilty of charges that would undercut the “purity” of their opposition.

And I can’t help but wonder why.

What are they so afraid of?

I mean, I can understand opposition to understanding the diversity of human sexuality and gender if you have spent your whole life being taught that there are only two genders and only one permissible combination of sexual contact.

But what is it that causes some individuals to lash out so much? Is it fear of having to let go of something that has been a foundational understanding? When we do that, it does feel like the ground shifts underneath us…and we have to revisit and re-evaluate our previous understandings.

Or is it sometimes a fear of being true to themselves? of acknowledging that perhaps they are part of the community they seem to despise so much…that is so hated and marginalized?

I don’t know. Only they do.

But the one thought that comes to mind is this statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (8:32). Yes, it’s in response to some who didn’t believe who he was…but it’s a true and important statement as we try to live our lives authentically: “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 

Only when we are true to ourselves can we live a life of joy.

What…and where…is church?

I’m probably like a lot of you. I grew up at a time when talking about going to church meant going to a specific building on Sunday morning for Sunday school and a preaching service…possibly returning on Sunday night for another preaching service…and also maybe on Wednesday night for a prayer and testimony service. Then there were also special weeklong preaching series…church camps…youth camps…etc., etc., etc.

That was what…and where…church was.

But as I’ve gotten older–and as our society has become less overtly religious–I’ve had to face some questions. Is that the only way to experience God? Are there other ways to “do” church? What does “church” really mean? And I’m sure you can add your own questions to the list.

While I still appreciate Sunday morning preaching services, I’ve also become aware that Sunday mornings are difficult for many people. Families with young children…those who work all week and for whom Sunday is the one day they can sleep in…families with children involved in sports activities…

Yes, we can say that it shouldn’t be that way–but it is. And if we ignore that reality, we risk losing any opportunity of ministering to a large group of people.

So what if we put aside our own personal biases for a moment and think outside the box? Where…when…how can we do church?

What about sitting together around a meal? After all, that’s where Jesus did a lot of ministry…

What about playing games together? Sometimes that casualness allows people to be more open in their sharing…

What about just visiting? or going to an event together? or cleaning up a street or neighborhood? or…or…or…?

There are so many ways and places “church” is…if we’re willing to be open to them. What are some ideas you have?

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

These last few days have seen a lot of discussion and commentary over a viral video of a confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial. What was initially thought to be a simple situation has–in some ways–been shown to be more complex.

But there is one element of the situation that I think needs to be discussed–the concept of respect. One definition of respect is due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others…and that seems to have been missing all the way around.

Yes, there is the right of free expression–and that seems to have been on full display in the initial interactions between the small group of Hebrew Israelites. Then entered Nathan Phillips, an elder of the Omaha tribe.

There are many videos of the situation, from several different perspectives. There have been many responses and analyses of what happened. What was in the minds of the individuals involved? The two individuals involved have each given statements sharing their perspectives. They disagree, but that is not unexpected, given that each of us involved in particular situations respond according to our backgrounds and expectations.

But what if respect had been at the foundation of the interactions? How might things have been different?

Well, obviously, first of all the Hebrew Israelites and the students wouldn’t have been throwing taunts at each other, raising the level of tensions!

When Mr. Phillips approached–from his perspective seeking to defuse the situation–he still might have been met with confusion from a group of teenagers who weren’t sure what he was doing. But respect would have suggested stepping back and trying to understand–not meeting him with actions that have been identified as offensive by many Native Americans.

Respect would have suggested that the chaperone(s) (who were meeting the students there for a bus ride back) would have stepped in and told the students to knock it off…to do their part in defusing the situation.

For all of us, respect demands that we take a deep breath. We are a community…a world…filled with diversity. For us to get along, to ensure that we can continue to live on this world in safety, requires that we be willing to have a regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others. In other words, to follow a simple commandment that is found in the sacred writings of all the major religions:

golden rule poster

 

I have a dream…

In the United States, today is the day set apart for celebrating and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s a good time to look at ourselves…to see where we’ve been (both as a country and individually)…to see where we are (again, both as a country and individually)…and to consider where we want to be (as a country and individually).

I remember the days of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s…

  • the hatred that was apparent on faces of individuals who did not want people of any other color than white sitting at lunch counters…
  • the taunting and harassing of young people–some young elementary students–who wanted access to the same quality of education as their white peers…
  • the awful pictures of peaceful protestors being sprayed with fire hoses and attacked by police dogs…
  • the murders of individuals who were helping others with their rights to vote…
  • the murders of innocent children in a church…

Looking back, I can think that we’ve come a long ways. And yet…today I see so many situations that make us less than our best vision…

  • far too many African-American individuals being killed in their interactions with police with no apparent consequences…
  • demonization of individuals fleeing oppression and violence…
  • language from the top echelons of our government that promotes separation and division among races and ethnicities…
  • marches that promote white superiority…
  • mass shootings..
  • an unwillingness to listen to scientists and their concerns for our planet…
  • a brand of “Christianity” that insists on its superiority over any other understanding of the Divine…

You probably have your own list of concerns.

And yet…I also see hope…

  • in an increasing diversity of representation (at least in some areas)…
  • in young people who are standing up and saying “enough is enough”…
  • a growing community of people from a variety of backgrounds who are finding common ground even as they acknowledge their diversity…

And so, on this day when we remember a man who said, “I have a dream…” and who called us all to join in making that dream a reality, I also want to remember another challenge:

mlk quote on darkness and light