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by Mark Sandlin
Good and gracious God,
There is a tension that comes
with giving thanks.
Even as we recognize
and are grateful for
the blessings in our lives,
we are confronted with
enjoying our abundance
as we recognize the reality
that there are those
who have far too little.
Even as we celebrate a holiday
with roots which reach back
to the beginnings of our nation,
we are confronted with
the reality of
the genocide and slavery
upon which it was found.
by Morgan Guyton
Ever wonder how God turned into Darth Vader, Jesus became Luke Skywalker, and Christians came to look like storm-troopers? It's the product of a particular way of understanding the cross that is the centerpiece of Christianity. I call it the Vader cross, a cross that makes Jesus bleed so that his Sith Lord Father can have a cathartic release for His anger.
This Vader-ized cross was recently the subject of a controversial decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to drop the popular hymn "In Christ Alone" from their new hymnal on account of a line which says the purpose of Jesus' cross was to ensure that "the wrath of God was satisfied." The stormtroopers of the Christian blogosphere howled in protest, chalking it up as yet another example of mainline Christian denominations eschewing uncomfortable Biblical truths under popular pressure.
The irony is that the Bible never says Jesus was crucified to satisfy the wrath of God. It certainly says God is angry about sin; it says Jesus died to save us from sin; but nowhere does it say explicitly that the cross's purpose is to be a dumping ground for God's wrath. This widespread misunderstanding of the cross's purpose is modern Christianity's most significant theological problem with devastating ethical consequences manifested in the intransigent misanthropy of many Christian stormtroopers today.
by Peggy Beatty
This is about presence:
Bodhicitta, the awakened mind,
Is known in brief to have two aspects:
First, aspiring, bodhicitta in intention;
Then active bodhicitta, practical engagement.
From bodhicitta in intention
Great results arise for those still turning in the wheel of life;
Yet merit does not rise from it in ceaseless streams
As is the case with active bodhicitta.
For when, with irreversible intent,
The mind embraces bodhicitta,
Willing to set free the endless multitude of beings,
In that instant, from that moment on,
A great and unremitting stream,
A strength of wholesome merit,
Even during sleep and inattention,
Rises equal to the vastness of the sky.
Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, 15, 17-19
by Mark Sandlin
You are what you believe.
At the core of each of us is our belief system. It is around that belief system that a large part of our personal identity is formed. One of the real strengths of fundamentalism is that it provides a stable core belief system. To borrow from 80's new wave and avant-garde band, Talking Heads, “Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.”
It is much easier to believe you understand who you are and to be stable when your core belief system is stable. For folks like liberals and progressives this is a little more difficult because the walls around our core beliefs are a little less rigid and more willing to flex as new information presents itself. Which means that we, more frequently than fundamentalists, are reshaping our understanding of who we are and how we relate to society, even if in small ways.
by: Mark Sandlin
Dear Terry Jones,
I'm sorry it's been so long since I've written but, let's face it, you've been a very busy man with all the Qurans and the burning and the getting arrested. You probably wouldn't have had time for my letter and that's okay, I understand. I do hope, however, you'll make a little time for this one. Why? Because I want to thank you.
You probably don't get much love from we progressive Christian minister types and I'm sorry about that. After all, God is love and we are called to love everyone, even our enemies (how crazy is that?). So, you can think of this as a love letter – an awkward spiritual bromance, if you'd like.
You see, the last time I wrote you was exactly three years ago. Time flies, huh?
by Peggy Beatty
For in the end,
We will conserve only what we love,
We will love only what we understand,
We will understand only what we are taught.
— Baba Dioum
I recently watched video program by Franciscan Father Richard Rohr in which he outlined the 4 steps or stages of meditation. He did this as prequel to an exercise in which he instructed students to find an object they wished to commune with (outdoors is a good place to do this) and use the object as the "focal point" of the meditation. The focal point is similar to the mantra or a special word (as in centering prayer), in that it allows the meditator to have one point of "thinking" for the busy mind to return to in order to drop into non-thinking. The focal point allows the meditator to practice observing without judging, which leads to the ability to 1) observe the self, with subsequent 2) experiencing the self. Baba Dioum's wisdom (above) describes the process. Words in bold type are Bab Dioum's poetic concepts applied to outcomes of Rohr's meditation stages.
The ultimate goal of meditation is to allow the mind to move from conscious duality, that is, a reference place that judges in order to see differences and define thoughts (FORM) to conscious nonduality, which is a mental reference point without judgment that allows for all thoughts and no thoughts (FORMLESS). This latter is the contemplative mind.
by Mark Sandlin (and friends)
"That's not Christian! You're using Jesus to promote your liberal agenda!"
I'm getting this a lot. I've spent a good deal of my life reading and studying the Bible (even going to graduate school for it). One of the things I do now is write this blog about what I've learned.
The interesting thing is, I very frequently get accused of promoting a progressive agenda. Frankly, I think that says more about the Bible than it does about me. It's also been said that "the truth has a liberal bias." So, there's that too.
Well, if I'm going to be accused of having a progressive agenda, I might as well know what it is. So, I asked my friends on The God Article's Facebook page what their "#1 priority as a progressive Christian"? Then, using their thoughts and mine, I put together this little "To Do" list. I wouldn't exactly call it a complete list -- but it's a good start. I don't get it right every day but I am trying.
by Mark Sandlin
In response to my last article, “10 Things You Can't Do While Following Jesus,” I was accused multiple times of being political. All I was trying to do was follow Jesus. So, I thought it'd be interesting (and generate tons more hate mail) to show what a list would actually look like if I were being political intentionally. Like the first list, this is not a complete list but it's a pretty good place to start.
There will be those who comment and send me messages berating me for “making Jesus political.” It's okay. Fire away. Jesus didn't worry much about stepping on political toes and the Bible insists that governments be just toward the least of these (the books of the prophets alone make this point very clear). Frequently, people who are the most vocal about not making Jesus political are the same people who want prayer in school and laws based on their own religious perspectives. By a happy little circumstance that brings us to my list:
10) Force your religious beliefs and practices on others.
One of the strengths of the faith Jesus taught was in its meekness. The faith he taught valued free will over compulsion – because that's how love works. Compelling people to follow any religion, more or less your personal religion, stands over and against the way Jesus practiced his faith. If you are using the government to compel people to practice your spiritual beliefs, you might be the reason baby Jesus is crying. This does get tricky. There is a difference in letting your beliefs inform your political choices and letting your politics enforce your religion. This article is about the first part.
9) Advocate for war.
There's a reason why he was called the Prince of Peace. Sure, you can quote, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and even two or three other verses but they don't hold a candle to the more than fifty-some verses where Jesus speaks about peace and peacemaking. It's funny how things keep coming back to love but it needs to be said, it is way far away from loving a person to kill them. I guess there's a reason why we say, “God is love.” In the end, love wins.
8) Favor the rich over the poor.
This is actually related to #4. Favoring the rich over the poor is a slap in the face of Jesus, his life and his teachings. In terms of the teachings of Jesus, it is bad enough when we allow the rich to take advantage of the poor, but when we create laws which not only encourage the behavior but also protect it? Well, let's just say it becomes crystal clear how ironic it is that we print, “In God We Trust,” on our money.
by Mark Sandlin
Lots of people claim to be “following Jesus” and then they do stuff like this. Sure, people who follow Jesus do these things all the time but you can't say you are doing them because you are trying to follow Jesus' example.
(Clearly, this is not a complete list but it's a good place to start).
10) Exclude people because they practice another religion.
Jesus was constantly including people and he did it with a radical disregard for their religion. We do not have a single recorded incident of Jesus asking for a person's religious affiliation before being willing to speak with them or break bread with them. We do have several records of Jesus seeking out those who happen to practice faith differently from him. There was even this one time when he used a hated Samaritan as an example of how we are supposed to take care of each other.
9) Exclude people for what they look like, how they were born or things beyond their control.
I may have mentioned this already but Jesus was constantly including people. Jesus had this rebel streak in him that actually sought out folks who didn't “fit in.” People who were different, people who were marginalized, people who were made to feel unwanted in one way or another held a special place in the heart, life and actions of Jesus. I suspect he did it because he understood they weren't actually different at all. Touch the lepers (the “untouchables”). Do it.
8) Withhold healthcare from people.
Did you ever play the game “Follow the Leader"? If you don't do what the leader does, you are out. Following means you should imitate as closely as possible. When people who were sick needed care, Jesus gave it to them. If we are following Jesus, we will imitate him as closely as possible. No, we can't repeat the miracles he did but I've seen modern medicine do things that are about as close to a miracle as I expect to get.
7) Exclude people.
Last time. Promise. Jesus was constantly including people. It's a little concept called love. He was pretty big on it.
6) Let people go hungry.
When Jesus said, “feed my sheep,” it was about more than just a spiritual feeding. As a matter of fact, if Gandhi was right (and I suspect he was), you can't have one without the other: “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” There is not a food shortage in the world -- there is enough for everyone. There is not a problem with having a distribution system capable of handling it; I can eat lobster from Maine while looking over the Pacific ocean. The problem is that we aren't very good at sharing.
by David Henson
Don’t forget to feast this Lent.
In the midst of the almsgiving, praying and fasting that traditionally mark this season, remember also to feast.
But only on Sundays.
For Christians, every Sunday is a feast day, and fasting is forbidden at a feast. And, it would be downright rude — to the host, to others at the feast, and to yourself — to fast in the midst of a feast.
Of course, feasting isn’t the first thought that comes to mind in Lent, especially in the popular imagination. But, in many ways, it is the most important part.
Some Christians tend to think of Lent only in terms of deprivation, discipline and rigorous religiosity. Others might malign it as encouraging a kind of mind-body dualism in which the body is battered into submission or the spirit edified at the expense of the repression of the body. Others have criticized Lent, explaining they don’t need the Church to dictate a special season for them to draw close to God.
These criticisms tend to forget about that one critical element: the Lenten feast.
Now, before anyone protests, the feasts of Lent are certainly on the more somber side of things, with all the minor chords and buried Alleluias. But the Sundays during Lent are still celebrations. The Eucharist is never a dirge. It is always a celebration and not just of God’s love and of Jesus’ life. It is also a celebration of our participation in that divine mystery. It is an invitation to a party in which we can touch the hem of divinity — and sometimes more. It is an embodied celebration and a celebration of bodies, particularly God’s own body.