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.
by Randy Walker
If you think your way is the only way, you might be “stuck in the details.” If you belittle those who do not look like you, act like you, or think like you, you might be “stuck in the details.” If dogma rules your life, you might be “stuck in the details.”
First, what is meant by the idiom, “stuck in the details”? Has anyone encountered someone who is obsessive-compulsive over certain things in his or her life? This person becomes consumed with a minute detail, or details, that have little impact on the person’s quality of life, and in doing so, misses the “big picture,” or the things that do matter and affect the quality of life or the outcome of something in particular. I once worked for someone who displayed this quirk to the extreme. He and I worked in construction. This man would obsess over visible brush strokes left on a painted surface, imperfections in trim molding, or other minor blemishes to the point that he would miss obvious things, such as a missing storm door, blatant damage to an outside wall or other similar but what should be easily detected flaws. In other words, he was “stuck in the details,” and he missed the “big picture.”
I believe it is easy for many people to do, essentially, the same thing when it comes to religion or worldviews. To me, religious dogma is an example of details, and people tend to focus on dogmatic “details” and miss the more crucial “big picture.” Stated another way: the doctrine and the rules included in the dogma become more important to some people than how they view and treat people they encounter. They will argue, vehemently, about a minute point of doctrine and proclaim that if other people do not believe just as they do, such people are inferior, hell-bound, unfit, outcast, ex-communicated... the list goes on.
by Mark Sandlin and the Admin Team of "The God Article."
“Being a slave to your own truth,” might be one reasonable way to define extreme fundamentalism.
On September 22nd two years ago, CNN ran an investigative report titled “Ungodly Discipline.” It takes a look at a history of biblically “justified” abuse in one specific school. It would be easy to walk away from the report and think it's nothing more than a he-said/she-said piece on spanking in schools. It is so much more than that.
It points to the dangers of fundamentalism. These children were not just spanked, they were abused. People who presumably loved them, hurt them. They justified it using the Bible. Fundamentalism frequently requires a devotion which is so blind that its adherents find they are nothing more than pawns in a game whose only purpose is to keep the game going. They are slaves to their own truths.
My heart goes out to each child who has grown up in this church and school. I have little doubt that some of them have escaped it relatively unscathed, but I know without any doubt that many have been wounded deeply.
The school is Fairhaven Baptist Academy which is associated with Fairhaven Independent Baptist Church
and Fairhaven Baptist College in Indiana. Their founder is Pastor Roger Voegtlin. His two adpoted children are among those who were abused and they are speaking out about it.
Pastor Voegtlin's adopted son, Frank Voegtlin, contributed the following introduction to the CNN video for this article. In part, it explains why I believe it is still important to continue to tell their story.
This CNN video was a liberating moment for my sister Catherine and me. Having been adopted at a young age into the home of Roger Voegtlin, the minister of Fairhaven Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church, we were quickly taught that he was the definitive authority of God’s word. After living in his home and being abused by him for many years, we eventually left.
After leaving, we contacted several newspapers, etc. As hard as we tried very few, if anyone, would publicaly agree that our stance against our father was true or right.
This video started a public outcry 20+ years after our initial accusations and has allowed other victims to verify what we have been saying.
I like calling North Carolina home. (I know, it sounds like I stole a line from James Taylor or the Allman Brothers, but I actually think it's from a old PSA for traveling to N.C. ... sung by none other than North Carolina's own: Andy Griffith). But seriously, I like calling North Carolina home.
I mean, what's not to like? We have majestic mountains for snow skiing. Beautiful, uncrowded beaches that are perfect for sunbathing or bodysurfing. Over 120 colleges and universities. We are “first in flight” with the Wright Brothers and we are the site of the Woolworth Sit-in (which is now the home of the International Civil Rights Museum). We also have the preacher who told his congregation to knock the gay out of their “limp-wristed sons” and the guy who became a YouTube sensation by blowing holes in his teenaged daughter's laptop for complaining like a... well, teenager. And, we are voting in just a few days to make same-sex marriage, which is already not legally recognized in the state, a constitutionally prohibited thing. Ah, soak in the goodness and machismo of the Tarheel State. Come in and stay awhile. Ya'll come back now, ya' hear?
Oh... and our state bird is the Cardinal (almost forgot).
Yep, the Cardinal is a gorgeous bird, particularly the males who are a brighter red than the females. Considering the beautiful landscapes of our state, what a perfect bird to represent us! And the Cardinal is a terribly aggressive bird. Considering the machismo of some of our residents (even some of our preachers), what a perfect bird to represent us.
Don't get me wrong, I really do like calling North Carolina home, but I'm not going to pretend like we don't have our problems. As a minister, some of the problems are terribly concerning to me. Recently, one particular problem keeps floating to the top – machismo.
My concern began growing stronger when this guy started blowing holes in his daughter's laptop as a way to teach her a lesson:
I'm not sure what lesson he was trying to teach her, but the one she was likely to walk away with was: Violence solves problems. Or maybe: Many men prefer to solve problems with violence. The first conclusion is sadly wrong and the second is sadly sometimes true.
But that's not what I found most concerning about the whole thing. What bothered me the most was the way the dad was cheered on by so many other parents. Even those of us who tried to point out the aggressive and violent nature of his actions received aggressive and violent responses from people who were defending their right (need/desire?) to be... well, aggressive and violent.
Then, along comes Amendment One. An attempt to make it constitutionally illegal for two people who are in love but happen to be of the same sex to get married. Which is a stereotypically hyper-masculine thing for which to advocate all by itself, but the language of the amendment is so vague that it actually makes it harder for a woman, who is being abused by a man she is living with but not married to, to get protection via the state. Fantastic, a constitutional amendment that not only tries to normalize the false Christian notion that the Bible prescribes marriage to only be between one man and one woman
, but also makes it easier for one man to abuse one woman (or quite frankly, more if he feels so moved). Seriously, whoever picked the aggressive Cardinal as a state bird was some kind of a soothsayer... or, more probably, male and he simply self-identified.
The most resent national display of this hyper-masculinity of the Tarheel soul comes from Pastor Sean Harris who in a sermon which told his congregants to vote for Amendment One (can someone please get the IRS to revoke their tax exempt status?), also told them to knock the gay out of their “limp-wristed” sons. Yes, really. He, of course, now says it was just a joke, has apologized and even sort of retracted his statement, but why don't we let you
decided if it was a joke or if it sounds like he didn't really mean it. You can listen to him here
(as welll as the laughter of the congregation). Or just read the transcript below:
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“So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is 4 years old, and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, 'Man up, son! Get that dress off you, and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do!' you get out the camera, and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female, and then you upload it to YouTube, and everybody laughs about it, and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid, is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed ... Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. OK? 'You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male, and you are going to be a male.'”
You can almost feel the testosterone oozing through your computer can't you?
Well, I'm tired of sitting by and simply shaking my head over all of this or just posting a particularly well worded Facebook status update to express by deep sense of disdain. So, Rev. Zac Bailes of libsandcons.com and I came with a campaign to let people like Pastor Harris
know that there are Christians out there who not only disagree with advocating for bullying LGBT folks (particularly kids) but that the bullying frequently has horrible outcomes.
We are asking you to send a letter (even if it's only a few lines) to Pastor Harris and along with it, send a page from your Bible or a photocopied page with a verse highlighted. It might be the verse that Zac and I are using, Micah 7:8, or you may chose Micah 6:8 or Mark 12:31 or even Psalm 23. Then across the page write the name of a child who committed suicide due to bullying. I added the age and date of their death to mine. Here's picture of the page I'm sending to him and the page Zac is sending.
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Rev. Zac Bailes of libsandcons.com
Send your pages and letters to:
Berean Baptist Church
517 Glensford Drive
Fayetteville, NC 28314
Here's the letter I'm sending:
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Dear Pastor Harris,
Greetings to you in the name of the One who called us to a vocation of serving the Prince of Peace! I hope this letter finds you doing well, even if troubled by your latests proclamation against children who are, (how did you put it?), “limp-wristed” and “effeminate”?
Let me start by saying, I am with you 100% in trying to help our congregations understand what it is that God calls them to in this life. After all, God made it. Who would know better than God about how it best works?
I do need to say, however, that we seem to disagree on what it is that Jesus was trying to teach us about God. Admittedly, with the constraints of pastoring my own congregation, I have never attended one of your services, but I have read the words from your most recent sermon and even parts of your blog. In doing so, I'm left to wonder how is it that you justify not only preaching and exclusive faith, but a violent one?
The things for which you advocate, from Amendment One to knocking the gay out of a kid, are wrapped in the clothing of privilege and exclusivity and, dare I say, even hate and machismo. It is more than just difficult to justify this when paired with the teachings of Jesus which told us to love everyone and to seek out equality for all, it's impossible.
Kids who are bullied for being who they are, you might say who God created them to be (and, yes, having their parents knock the gay out of them is a form of bullying), find themselves very conflicted between knowing who they are and wanting to please others. The lack of love and support, the lack of core Christian values, for which you are being an advocate, eventually pushes some of them to believe that it is better not to live than to live in the constant conflict and bullying for being who God made them to be. To put it as simply and directly as possible: their deaths, their blood, are on your hands and on the hands of others who advocate or practice this kind of bullying.
I've included a page from the NKJV Bible. On it you will find the name of one such child. As a collegial favor, I'm asking you to keep it on the desk where you research, reflect and pray over your sermons. May it be a reminder that God loves us all and asks us all to love one another.
Peace and blessings,
Rev. Mark A. Sandlin
Finally, while I will not ever address it directly from the pulpit. I would like to make my position clear on Amendment One. As I've referenced once already, the idea of many Christians that same-sex attraction and acting out on it are against what the Bible teaches is simply and utterly false. While it is true that our English translations were made to read that way, as I have demonstrated in my blog post “Clobbering 'Biblical' Gay Bashing
,” which draws on the best scholarship available on the topic, it is also true that the authors of the Bible never tried to address homosexuality as we understand it today, nor could they have.
Amendment One, not only tries to push this false Christian belief on the rest of society regardless of their own religious beliefs or lack thereof (which seems like a very unloving and unChristian thing to do), but because of it's poorly worded dictates it also further marginalizes folks who are already looked down upon by certain groups of people and it opens the door for those who are abused to find themselves less protected and more at risk than ever before. When I read the teachings of Jesus, a man who reached out to those society marginalized, I find no way to justify supporting Amendment One.
Amendment One is nothing more than hate on a page, legalized discrimination. It is divisive, damaging and disingenuous for those who truly seek to follow the teachings of Jesus. There is nothing loving, supportive or nurturing about it. Its end results will only be to limit love, to hurt those who are already being hurt and to further divide the Body of Christ. As a Christian and as a minister, I cannot, I will not, vote in favor of it. I will be voting against Amendment One and I am asking you, in the name of the One who loves us and asks us to love one another, to do the same.
I really do like calling North Carolina home. I just want it to be a place everyone would like to call home.
(This article is also posted as audio file read by the author at the end of the post).
Ah.... I LOVE this time of the year!
Some people wait with bated breath for duck season, some for deer season, but for me it is all about Christmas season. That's right I'm one of those lefty, liberals that have declared a War on Christmas. That's right! Sign me up for the War on Christmas! … but maybe not for the reasons you might imagine.
You see, while I am signing up to help in a War on Christmas, I'm not on, what by default gets called, the “non-Christian” side. I’m also not signing up for the side that news pundits falsely purport as the “Christian” side. If anything, I’d make the argument that the dominant face of Christianity, as it is seen on television and promoted through news programming, is itself far from what Christianity is supposed to be about. It is a sort-of white-washed, sanitized version of Christianity that every year presents an increasingly cleaned up version of the Christmas story to the viewing public.
You see, the baby we remember this time of year, was not part of the dominant culture the way the religion he started now is. The religious stories that were told in those days were told under the shadow of the dominant culture. They were stories of oppression and hardships, stories of overcoming unthinkable odds, stories of hope for a people living in times and cultural positions that – well, quite frankly felt hopeless.
But today, our stories are told from places and positions of power. Today, Christianity is the dominant culture. So, instead of story of a olive skinned middle-eastern, unwed, pregnant mother, who was seen as little more than property, giving birth to what the world would surely see as an illegitimate child who was wrapped in what rags they could find and placed in a smelly, flea infested feeding trough in the midst of a dark musky smelling animal stall… instead of that story, we end up with a clean, white skinned European woman giving birth to a glowing baby wrapped in impossibly white swaddling clothes and laid to rest in a manger that looks more like a crib than a trough in the midst of a barn that is more kept and clean than many of our houses.
So, “War on Christmas?,” sure sign me up. I'm pretty sure I'd prefer the elimination of what our modern “celebration” has become to the increasingly white-washed version we hear every year.
The Christmas story has been hijacked by a dominant culture. Places of power and positions of prestige have warped the comeuppance sensibilities of the original Christmas story. God’s vision of liberating the oppressed, the down trodden, has been slowly replaced year after year with a story that no longer brings fear to the Powers that Be, but rather supports the big business agendas of profit and mass consumerism.
“War On Christmas?” – come to think of it – they’re right. There is a “War On Christmas,” but it is actually waged by many of the very people who think Christmas is getting squeezed out of our culture in the name of plurality and other religions. If the Christmas they support wins – well, I for one, would have to say all is lost. So, yes, there is a “War on Christmas” and we Christians have been supporting it. If the present day, white-washed version of Christmas continues to be the dominant version, then I believe a great darkness will smother us in a sea of privilege and perverse oblivion to the struggle of those most in need – the oppressed, the downtrodden.
If the Christmas Present, with it's full on worship of consumerism, continues to masquerade as Christmas Past, our Christmas Futures will increasingly become a time when we give out of our abundance rather than out of a response to need and out of a response to God’s love – the kind of Christmas where we give to those who already have abundantly while the oppressed, the downtrodden, watch our overindulgence and rightfully judge us by actions that run contrary to our words of a child born to bring light into the dark corners of the world.
by Mark Sandlin
This is a bit long for a blog post, but some may find it to be a helpful resource. I wrote the piece for another project and it just wasn't a good fit. Honestly, if you are well read on the issue of the Bible and its take on homosexuality (or lack thereof), there is little new in here. For you, I hope this can be a quick reference. If you are not well read on such things, this may be a bit of a bumpy ride, but bumpy rides can be a lot of fun. Either way, I hope I was able to take what is sometimes thick reading, albeit important reading, and make it at least bearable and mostly straight forward.
Christianity and “Biblical” Hatefulness
We Christians are good at a lot of things. Helping others. Dressing up on Sunday. Quoting scripture. Pot luck meals. Taking care of church members. Weddings. Funerals. Worship. But perhaps the thing at which we are the most persistently exceptional is misinterpreting the Bible then running amuck in the world because of it. Honestly, mad skills. And history backs me up on this one.
We have used the Bible to support, promote and act upon some pretty un-Christian things: slavery, holocaust, segregation, subjugation of women, apartheid, the Spanish Inquisition (which, no one ever expects
), domestic violence, all sorts of exploitation and the list could go on and on. Oddly, if you ask theologians to pick one biblical theme to rule them all, most of them would say “love”... well, love and grace. Okay, love, grace and forgiveness. Fine. They probably would not specifically agree on a single term, but they would most likely name something that is, in every way, the opposite of the oppression, belittlement, hatred and marginalization represented by the numerous atrocities committed by the Christian Church.
More times than not, these atrocities are the result of trying to play God, pretending as if one group of people has complete knowledge of God's will and is more blessed or chosen by God. Not surprisingly, the people who see the world this way are always exactly the people who also happen to belong in the group they believe to be the uber-blessed. Lucky them.
Time and time again, Jesus made it clear that we should not put ourselves in the place of playing God and that, unlike far too many humans, God welcomes and loves us all equally. Period.
But we keep doing it. We keep doing it even though each time after we argue, name-call, suppress others and fight for centuries, falsely playing the role of heavenly judge and jury, we slowly realize that we got it wrong. We realize that, in fact, Paul was not promoting slavery. We learn to contextualize his statements and letters. We become more skilled at interpreting the original Greek and, over time, we decide to stop quoting the Bible to support slavery (or the subjugation of women, or racism, etc.) because we finally come around to realizing that, as Rob Bell's book points out, biblically love wins. Always.
And so we find ourselves here again. Doing the thing we do best: misinterpreting the Bible and ruining lives with it. We are, once again, ignoring the biblical bias for those who are marginalized, abused, belittled and negatively judged. Ignoring the biblical directive to show all the children of God love (and grace... and forgiveness). Hate By Any Other Name
Oh sure, this time around we have “softened” our approach, saying things like “hate the sin, love the sinner,” but we fail to recognize that what we are calling a “sin” and the person we are calling a “sinner” are one and the same. A person whose sexual orientation is homosexual, or bi-sexual, or queer can no more separate themselves from their sexuality than a heterosexual person can. It's like saying “hate the toppings, love the pizza.” It's just not the pizza without the toppings. We just aren't loving the person if we don't love the whole person.
I suspect the “softening” of the language we use has everything to do with making us feel better and very little with making LGBTQ folk feel better, because it certainly doesn't make them feel any better. As a matter of fact, the love/hate (emphasis on hate) relationship that the Church continues to push on this group of people only serves to push them into closets and into even darker places, which sometimes leads to suicide. The Church and its approach to this issue are at fault for most of the hurt, anguish, self-doubt, abuse and death associated with being LGBTQ. Not very loving. Not very grace filled. But it certainly leaves us in need of forgiveness.
Many Christians have lost their way in this twisty, turny maze of how to practice our faith. We would much rather reinforce the things we want to believe than believe the sometimes difficult teachings of Jesus. Who, on a side note, never said a word about homosexuality but did tell us to gouge out our lustful eyes. Which seems to me is more likely to leave us all blind than the “eye for and eye” thing.
I fully and completely believe that God created us all equally in the divine image. In each of us is a reflection of our Creator. None are more capable of living into that reflection, none are less capable. That is exactly what I hear in the creation stories of Genesis when they tell us that humans were formed in God's image and that God breathed life into humans. To be human is to be formed by God, in the image of God, and given life by the breath of God. All of us. No exceptions.
Today (May 10, 2011), the denomination to which I belong (PCUSA) has taken a very large step in recognizing the intrinsic value of all people. Technically, all we really did was pass an amendment to our constitution (The Book of Order), Amendment 10-A. What it actually does is give more governance of ordination standards to local governing bodies. That seems innocuous enough, doesn't it? You would think so, but this has caused some disagreement and division in our denomination, and I understand that some churches have already voted to leave the denomination while still others are considering doing so. Why all the tension and division? It's the pink elephant in the room.
While this change in constitution is about more than just the issue of homosexuality, the tension and division are because it opens the door to the ordination of gay folk. Oddly, it also opens it to the ordination to those having sex outside of marriage (as well as other things), but I've not heard many people raising a ruckus over that... it's about "the gays."
I hate to see the division in our denomination, but I am glad to see us taking so seriously the biblical reality that we are all created equally in God's image. I do have to say though, while I am glad to see today come, I am dissatisfied with were we are. As an ordained minister in a denomination that will soon allow for the ordination of LGBTQ folk (even though we've actually been doing it forever
), I cannot officiate the marriage of a same sex couple. The state will not allow or recognize it.
So, today I make a new commitment. I tried to be a voice in the struggle to change our Book of Order, that's why today's passage of Amendment 10-A pleases me. I happen to believe, however, that it is the Church's duty to be advocates and partners with those who are not treated in a way which recognizes that they are created equally in God's image. While we have made great strides today, I believe we have just begun, particularly as clergy. With that in mind, today I commit to sign no more marriage certificates until I can sign the marriage certificate of any two people who wish to commit their lives to each other before God regardless of their gender.
The wedding I participate in this Saturday will be my last to officiate. I fully recognize that it will be difficult and there will ultimate be those who, for varying reasons, will be disappointed in my decision, but I cannot sign another wedding certificate knowing that it represents a system that intentionally excludes people who I understand to be equally created in God's image. To be clear, my commitment is to no longer officiate a wedding until I can officiate all weddings. I will still participate in weddings since I can do that for all people already.
I also issue this challenge to ALL clergy regardless of denomination: do the same.
If you are not clergy, send this blog post to your minister. If you don't have a minister just send it to a minister, any minister. I've created a Facebook page where we can gather and publicly take a stand. It's is also a place where those who don't happen to be clergy can stand in support with us. Here's the link to Until ALL Can Wed's
Facebook page. Please 'like' it in support and in taking a stand.
If we collectively stop signing wedding certificates, it would be a statement to states across the US. Imagine each County Clerk's office flooded with people who can't find a minister to wed them because the state won't recognize the desires of same sex couples who simply desire to have the same rights as them. I think it would be powerful. So, I challenge my fellow clergy to take a stand with me and our LGBT brothers and sisters. Alone I can make a statement; together we can make a difference.
If you are willing to stand with us, please let me know in the comment section of this post and by joining the FB page
. Thank you.
As it became apparent that the President had called an unexpected address to the nation to announce the death of Osama bin Laden, social networks erupted with jubilation. Shortly after that, ground zero and grounds in front of the White House, with their 9/11 connections, became gathering places for the raucous crowds.
For a night, so many of this mostly divided nation were united... over a death. Not just united, joyfully so.
“He's won,” I thought. One of bin Laden's primary goals was to cause terror in the US and he has. Not buildings collapsing terror. Not dirty bombs exploding terror. What happened was more diabolical than that. We lost our humanity...or we lived vengefully into it, whichever way you care to see it. We gave into our primal instinct. We answered blood-lust with blood-lust, vengeance with vengeance. We solved the problem of murder with murder. As Dr. King once noted, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
I know that is not a popular point of view and I fully recognize that this post will probably evoke more negative responses than positive, but in looking at the teaching of Jesus, I do find it to be a solid biblical point of view. I do not ask you to see it the way that I do. I just need to give voice to it.
I was even more bereft in watching so many of my dear Christian friends quote the Bible in order to justify their understandable need to rejoice that this man, who seems to be the devil personified for most people, was brought to his end – violently. I even sort of understand why they sought out Bible verses: because there was a part of them, the part that is a reflection of God, the part placed in each human as God metaphorically breathed the very breath of God into each of us, that knew this was wrong in the eyes of God. Their humanity needed to overcome the piece of divinity that was trying to speak out.
That piece of our humanity that so easily gives into hate, vengeance, anger, retribution, and blood-lust is the most powerful weapon that a man like bin Laden has. It divides not only nations but the world. It divides not only communities but it also divides individuals against their better selves.
People who would never intentionally cherry pick Bible verses were using text out of context to justify their actions rather than using the verse to guide their actions. Saying things like, “live by the sword, die by the sword,” to give vengeance a biblical sounding edge, never realizing that those kind of swords cut both ways. It divides nations. It divides our very spirits. That is a powerful weapon.
Worse yet, (at least from a Christian perspective), seeing the death of anyone as redemptive reduces love to a trite keepsake, a bauble, a plaything of convenience. Even on the cross it was not the suffering that was redemptive, it was the love of the one who laid down his life for his friends and the love of God that was redemptive. When we try to make violence redemptive (and we can only try, because it never will be), we make violence the end all be all. We elevate it above love... and when we do that, we elevate it above God who is love. We make it a religion unto itself.
It was good to see cooler heads begin to prevail in Christian communities the day after, but this isn't the first time we have lived into that human instinct to try to make violence redemptive. I am left to wonder, will we resist the urge the next time? Because there will be a next time.
I agree with Rob Bell, love wins. Hate begets hate. Fear begets fear. Violence begets violence. Love begets love.
"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." -MLK
(UPDATE: As expected, I've received many more negative responses than normal. The largest majority of them actually proved part of my point by being mostly hateful and verbally violent. The ones that were primarily name calling have been deleted. Negative responses that do not leave their real name and email will also be deleted. For now, I'll leave the comment section open. If necessary, I will switch to approving comments before they are posted. I welcome negative feedback. I do, however, insist it avoid name calling and that it is a response and not an attack.)
A prayer submitted by Kimberly J. Edwards:
I find myself heartbroken
by the hatred I see all around me.
So I ask that I may never forget :
That behind every brown, yellow, red, black or white face, there is a family like mine, and souls trying to live in a world that often tells them they are less than or unworthy, aliens that are not wanted. May I never lose sight of the soul behind each face, the souls of Your children.
That behind every homeless person there is a story that may be so familiar to me as to be uncomfortable. May I never be comfortable until there are no more homeless faces seeking a kind word, or an opportunity, or just a smile and a little love.
That I never forget the truth of Your gospel, that storing up riches here, withholding from others out of some misguided sense of superiority or right to judge, that treating any one of Your children as unworthy to come to Your table is not the Christian love You came to teach us.
That I count as treasures the friends who stand beside me, encouraging, loving, supporting and accepting me, through word and deed. Sometimes just being available, sometimes through prayer, sometimes through sacrifice of their own. Let me never take them for granted, and always see them as the blessing You meant them to be, and do my very best to love them as well as they have loved me.
That when I see actions or hear words that mean harm to the 'other', to never stand still or be quiet in the face of injustice, cruelty, racism, to call out behavior that seeks to harm my neighbor. To always see in each face the potential of a child of God no matter how I might disagree with their manner or actions. To protect those who are being shunned, criticized, or even threatened because they are considered different.
That I appreciate the love and devotion shown to me by my pets. The unconditional adoration that radiates from the soul of our animal friends is surely sent from heaven, through souls that speak a different language, one of complete acceptance. It is no small thing for an animal to love a person. May I always remember those gone on to You to await our reunion.
That I see and cherish each small blessing, from a spontaneous hug given by a grandchild, to a moment of clarity when I realize that my grown children love and understand me despite my obvious imperfections, a gesture or look from a husband who shows devotion and commitment each day, an unexpected phone call or card from someone reminding me that I matter, to the sunset, birdsong, moonlight, joyous bark or laugh that sweeten my life.
That I never find myself so blinded by my illness or difficulties that I forget those around me, and around the world, who hurt, hunger, shiver, grieve and strive for rights denied them by oppression and greed.
That I take every opportunity to let the wonders of Your creation heal and uplift me. Knowing that something as simple as sunshine on my face, sand and waves under my feet, regal treetop canopies, a bird in flight or the beauty of horses galloping across a field can be proof of Your love for Your world.
That I always, always remember that color, creed, faith or none, accent, sex, age, language, dress, orientation, hairstyle, home, or financial status has not one thing to do with the worth of anyone to You, and to follow your example.
That above all the chaos and upset in this world, You gave us the greatest Gift the world has ever known. You loved us then, and love us now, that much. May we all continue to grow and journey toward the greatest we can be for You, and because of You.
That I do all I can to give my children an grandchildren an example of the power and light of Your love in my life. That I always do my very best to be a light for Your world, to honor and respect each individual I meet, no matter our differences. That I grow into the person You wish me to be.
Good and gracious God,
This time of year,
despite all of the presents we give,
it is sometimes too easy
to get caught up in ourselves.
In the 'joy' of shopping,
the 'love' of all the seasons' festivities,
the 'peace' of settling in by a fire
while the Christmas Tree
helps light the room,
the 'hope' of what we might receive.
Change our hearts O God.
Not in a way that devalues those things,
but in a way that puts them into proper perspective.
This first day of December,
remind us that there are more important things in this sometimes broken world
with which to concern ourselves.
Today, on World AIDS day,
Remind us of the half a million children that were born with HIV\AIDS last year alone.
Remind us of the more that 2,000,000 children living with AIDS and
the 33,000,000 million people living with it.
This time of year,
despite all the presents we give,
it is sometimes too easy to get caught up in our selves.
Let us revision the joy, love, peace and hope of Advent.
May we find the joy you intend for us
in doing something that makes someone else's life better.
May we share the love you extend to us
with those whom society continues to ostracize due to fear and ignorance.
May we offer the peace you give to us
to the entire world by living in ways that confront dominance and marginalization
by living in ways that do not accept that some people are not given
what they need to live healthy lives
by speaking out and speaking up
against systems that continue to ignore those in need.
May we share the hope of Advent
with those who must at times find it particularly difficult to hold on to hope.
Teach us that we can achieve all these things,
not just in the presents we give,
but with our presence as well.
Let us stand with all of our brothers and sisters
over and against the powerful governments and businesses
that treat them as if they were pawns in a game,
ready to sacrifice them for the good of Kings and Queens.
On this World Aids day,
we ask that the joy, love, peace and hope
that waits in the wings of Advent
may break forth upon this sometimes broken world
and that we may be part of the spark
that brings that fiery Spirit
to realization here on Earth.