Reject evil

when of our baptismal questions is do you denounce/reject Evil?

i always joke this is the easy one, who isn’t against evil?  But as the news of violence and hatred pile up. I wonder why it’s so hard to act against evil?

Min the Belhar Confession there is a rejection piece that condemns wrongdoing–and I find myself, over and over again, condemning the bad things that have happened.

So here’s me practicing my rejection and denounciation of evil!

I condemn senseless murder. All of it. I condemn that African-Americans are unduly targeted, I condemn that trans women of color are the most murdered and abused of our population, I condemn the ways our Latinx, Indian, Pakistani, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Native Americans (as well as countless other minorities) are silenced and erased, I condemn that people are killing police officers, I condemn small children being run over on holiday in Nice, I condemn people dying who were dancing, I condemn the violence against those who use the bathrooms who don’t look gender conforming, I condemn all efforts to divide by calling some groups racists and others anti-police. In the name of The Belhar confession I condemn any threat to unity and recognize that separation is a sin Christ has already defeated. I will continue to work towards unity and reject the sins that are prejudice, separation and bigotry.

I am done with it. No more!

I will stand behind every humans right to live, breathe, laugh and love no matter who they are. I will resist the temptation to compare and separate and will work to treat all humans like the creations of God they are!

Phew! Back the the work of living it out!

 

What is true #christian #forgiveness in an #abuse situation?

These notes are from my Albany area’s Christian Response to Sexual Abuse–all typos are my own… and make sense of what Justice is in a more mature way than demanding forgiveness in (any kind) of power abuse situation. I’ve had a colleague use this material for financial abuse as well.

Also, as one colleague noted, each person experiences abuse differently and heals differently, this is one way to think about the complex process that is healing. But here are some deeper theological thoughts than “we should just forgive the abuser and show grace” in difficult situations

The Elements of Justice-Making
Truth-telling: giving voice to the reality of the abuses (from the victim’s point of view)
Acknowledging the Violation: hear, name and condemn the wrong doing (by the governing body of the victim)
Compassion : Listen and suffer with the victim (Consider having an advocate for the victim)
Protecting the vulnerable: Take steps to prevent further abuse to the victim and others (removal from position, how can they have it at this time?)
Accountability: Confront the abuser of trust, and impose discipline (negative consequences) this step makes repentance possible
Restitution : Make symbolic/real restoration of what was lost; give a tangible means to acknowledge the wrongfulness of the abuse and the harm done and to bring about healing. The restitution must be freely given and of significant value to show repentance wanting to make right.
Vindication: set the victim free from the suffering caused by the abuse when justice has been done.

THERE CAN BE NO HEALING WITHOUT JUSTICE-MAKING
FORGIVENESS, REPENTANCE & RECONCILIATION
If your Sibling wrongs you, reprove him/her, if he/she repents forgive them. Even if one wrongs you seven times and comes back to you seven times saying, “I Am sorry” you are to forgive him/her. Luke 17:1-4
Forgiveness within a relationship is not a matter of forgetting the experience, nor is it a matter of saying that the behavior was acceptable. When a person whom one has trusted takes advantage of his/her position, it is usually a traumatic experience, not one that is easily forgotten. In the bounds of sacred trust, that behavior is unethical.
For the victim, forgiveness is not unconditional we are not God. (We can believe  and try to put into practice God’s universal ability to forgive)
The preconditions for forgiveness are
The Victim(s) must have experienced sufficient justice
The Victim(s) must be empowered through God’s grace
The Victim(s) must have experienced sufficient healing to be able to let go of the anger and pain
Without these conditions, forgiveness will not be authentic—it will be an attempt to or an effort to forgive. The victim must experience sufficient justice, grace & healing to be able t let go of his/her anger at the abuser.

For the abuser: Repentance= not merely confession, apology or intention not to repeat an offense
Repentance means to turn around to change one’s behavior and/or one’s life so that one will never repeat the offense. As the scripture passage makes clear, the victim(s) obligation to forgive is dependent upon the abuser’s repentance.
True Repentance : Signs
The abuser takes steps necessary for justice-making to make amends for the abuse: (see above)
The abuser identifies the beliefs & attitudes that lie behind the abusive behavior and finds ethical ways of rejecting those beliefs & attitudes
The abuser becomes aware of the needs that lie behind the abusive behavior and finds ethical ways of meeting those needs
The abuser identifies the conditions that allowed the abuse to happen, and changes the conditions to prevent future abuse
RECONCILIATION is restoring of the right relationship between the abuser and his/her church. IT involves restoring the trust that was violated and restoring the broken relationship on new terms.

(Note: my instinct is that since our God is a justice-making God, Forgiveness for God is universal, but I have not been able to fully think out this theology yet)

“Just because y…

“Just because you believe in Jesus, doesn’t make you superhuman”

My husband on what congregant’s expect pastors to magically “know” without telling us…..I find this observation useful in so many situations

“I believe that…

“I believe that appreciation is a holy thing–that when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something sacred.” ~Mr Rogers

Mr. Rogers

A True Story

A teacher and a nurse are left with a faltering church. The teacher is practical and into appearances and the nurse is into rule following and order. Both women help to run the church for 40+ years. In all probability should either of them not have been there the church probably no longer exists.

Neither woman likes the other (in fact there are rumors of the women’s mother’s hating each other), but they are there the two pillars of the church. In walks a policeman. The policeman is new, and yet he gets to irritate both the teacher and the nurse. The teacher hates how he wants to lay out everything in rules, the nurse hates that the policeman likes to always be right.

A new pastor walks in and insists that God wants all these people to be a church.

The people all wrangle, manipulate, yell and complain.

But the pastor says that God put everyone in this church for a reason.

Much more goggosomen,grumblings murmuring and mutterings occured (See John 6:35-51 about goggosomen)

Then the pastor insisted that the church continue to be a church

Then an argument broke out, it might have been between the policeman and the teacher, or the teacher and the nurse or any combination of said participants.

Words were said, aggression became passive for some and active for others.

And in the end the pastor looked at her scripture, threw out her sermon and preached on the Golden Rule in light of the fight that had taken place not ten min before service.

Jesus commands us to love God, anyone who has loved a person with depression, addiction or bad days knows that love is hard work. Happily Ever After is just the beginning of the commitment.

That is what we are doing here as a church–we are vowing to be together forever, to love no matter what and to work on our relationships.

Who here doesn’t have relationships they need to work on? Church is a place to work on those through the empowering and life-changing love that is personified in Jesus Christ.

And every Sunday, every time we gather, whenever two or three gather in Christ’s name–the tone should be that of a wedding, for we are renewing and living out our vow…

The story doesn’t end happily ever after–because the church is too busy, too busy renewing their vows, working together and attempting to love one another no matter what.

Because whether or not the church needs us, or whether or not the God needs us…

The church wants us, and God wants us….God wants to love us, God wants us to reflect that love unto the world so that our entire being is changing…..

And that is something the pastor will avow to till the end of her time!

Image

(funny thing, all these professions are public sector jobs, note the above comic portrays a teacher, a policeman and a nurse)

Deuteronomy 6:4-94Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

 

Mark 12:28-34

28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question

I’m not crazy…

Ok, I guess that is debatable…I mean who else thinks that establishing a church through Sci Fi/Fantasy is their calling?

But often I think that this is the message I want to get out…I’m Christian, not Crazy.

Just because I believe in God

Just because I try (and fail and then try again) to put God’s love and hospitality into practice does not make me an extremist, bigot, loony or uneducated person. In fact it doesn’t make me liberal/conservative, rich/poor, smart/dumb, etc. That’s the point. ImageChristianity is supposed to be noncontextual (for an ironic moment watch a pastor talk about how bigotry succeeds at being ultimately noncontexual as well http://gawker.com/5953357/missouri-pastors-fiery-speech-against-equal-rights-for-homosexuals-has-stunning-twist-ending)

Christianity should be without context. And when I say I’m Christian, I would love for that to mean that I think outside the box, not that I am stereotypical (cause I’m not)

When I say I’m Christian, that means that the most important thing to me is God’s graciousness, and when I look at the world, it is hard for me to think that we were a random happenstance of nature. And the fact that I was created and I, in turn, try to create things, is an important part to figuring out my life…

It does not mean I’m going to push my beliefs on you, that I hate everyone else out there or I’m going to be judgmental–it simply means that to me, God enriches my life….

That is all….

I don’t know what I believe….

When I worked at the Psychiatric Hospital as a chaplain, one of the things I would do as often as possible was a Spiritual Assessment: Basically to get a feel of someone, their faith, and how it may or may not support them.

 

 

One of the questions was “Do you feel hope?”

 

And more than once the answer I got was, “no, not really, maybe someday I will.”

 

i.e. I’m hoping for hope

 

To me, this is the essence of the Christian question….

 

When a father brings his son in Mark 9 to be healed, Jesus says he can only be healed by belief, and the father says “I believe, help my unbelief”

 

 

 

In PCUSA we have a great deal of rules and order. We have systemized theology so that we have a complete (well complete as humans get get) picture–we put all our information about God out on the table, and we desperately try to leave nothing out. Why? 

 

 

Because we don’t know everything, so we hang on tightly to those things we do know.

 

Image

 

Two things about this

 

1. Church is for unbelievers: Its for those who don’t know whats going on, and the more we make church for unbelievers the more successful church will be 

 

2. Church is for faith: Faith is not something you can hang onto–one minute you are walking on water, the next you are sinking fast. However, Church is a place to hold onto faith when you yourself don’t have any. We don’t have to believe all the time, because Jesus does. And we can both believe in Christ and not believe at the same time–>I don’t know what I believe

 

 

What an honest statement. I don’t know what I believe….

Image

 

 

I believe in love

 

I believe that bad things happen in the world

 

I believe in discipline

 

I believe in human brokenness

 

 

I believe in being a good person

 

 

I believe I can’t do it alone

I believe life is a miracle, every single time

 

 

I believe in relationships

 

I believe in science, math and the order of the world

 

I believe that someone is behind the ordering of it (most of the time)

 

I believe that there are intangibles that are as important as tangibles

 

I believe there are connections that are beyond desciption

 

I believe that humans have a purpose

 

I believe in God

 

I believe that good and evil both exist, and there is a struggle between them

 

I believe that I can’t understand that struggle

 

and I believe that God would never leave us hanging and alone ie I believe in Christ and the Holy Spirit

 

I believe that God is a particular person, not a nameless entity, I believe that we have complete free will and that God controls everything

 

I believe in auxi morons

 

I believe that God is timeless, and that often we mess things up by trying to constrain God with time (time travel anyone?)

 

I believe that most of the time I believe all this, and I believe the the church helps me when I believe…and when I don’t….

 

But I believe in hope, and if you don’t have hope, I believe you should hope for it! (Isn’t that what waiting for Christ is? Hoping for Hope!)

 

Beauty and the Beast

I may or may not own a billion different versions of Beauty and the Beast. (Plus some figures, snowglobes and plastic McDonald’s toys)

Why? Because its my favorite fairy tale. Why? Because its the first/best fairytale and it is so TOTALLY theological!!!! (did I put too many exclamation points there?)Image

Things to know about Beauty and the Beast which I have disseminated from years of study (no seriously I have been convertly studying fairy tales for 8 years. First as an “English” major at Oberlin, then as a theological student at Princeton)

1. It is the FIRST fairy tale we know of

2. It evolved from what is the last myth we know of: Cupid and Psyche (in “The Golden Ass”) written a couple of hundred of years after myths were in styleImage

3. Before Christianity, the “happily ever after concept” did not seem to exist in stories….In fact the theological differences between Cupid & Psyche and Beauty and the Beast are amazing but I will write my thesis on all that later (hopefully). Today we’ll stick to B&B

Next thoughts

If you haven’t read Beauty and the Beast, I invite you to do so on literally the best Fairy Tale Resource today (I mean literally, I’ve done the research) at Sur La Lune http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/beautybeast/index.html

1. The prince/beast is a fallen man somehow either through his own or his parents brokenness. Usually his outer ugliness mirrors his inner ugliness (The Fall from Grace Anyone)

2. His Salvation/Transformation into his former/real/best self is through Love

3. Beauty Loves Beast even in his ugliness

4. Beast regains his life/and is transformed through the pure love of Beauty

(PS how cool is it that the Christ figure is a girl in this one)

1. Humanity falls and is ugly

2. Humanity’s hope lies in God’s grace through God’s Love

3. God loves us, period.

4. We are born again/from above and transformed

And we all will live happily ever after!

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.–1 Col 19-20

All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.–Ps. 86:9

(PS concerns and questions about the every knee shall bow language will be addressed in another post, so don’t worry)

Now that I’ve blown your mind (or at least reminded you to hear “Be Our Guest” again) I invite you to read any/all of the following, and if you know another Beauty and the Beast that you like let me know in case I haven’t read it.

(This may, perhaps, possibly in the Disney version make Gaston into the devil…hehehehehehehe)

Good Versions of Beauty and the Beast

1st John 4:7-18 (I’ve copied it below)

C.S. Lewis Voyage of the Dawn Treader Eustace’s Story

Beauty by Robin McKinley & Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley (yes she wrote 2 good ones)

Beast by Donna Jo Napoli

Cupid and Psyche in the Golden Ass (Hi, Chloe! I love you!)

La Belle et La Bete directed by Cocteau (black and white one of the 1st films, look at the effects, I mean this was before computers)

Beauty and the Beast the 80s TV show

10th Kingdom (in a lighter vein)

Donkeyskin/Tattercoat/Alleirauh are very similar (though different)

Deerskin by Robin McKinley (I know, but I couldn’t help myself)

Fables Comic Series (note: main characters)

and of course the Disney movie/play

1st John 4:7-18; Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Peter Pan and the Economy

“We will never grow up” Sometimes I think that this is the theme song for my generation. Playing the day away–putting off being settled, trying to find a foothold on which to grasp. Here we are living at home, putting off marriage and  renting. .Image

“Today, some 29 percent of 25- to 34-year olds either never moved out of their parents’ home or say they returned home in recent years because of the economy, according to the Pew report. Among 18- to 24-year olds, that figure is even higher – 53 percent of young adults in that age group live at home”. That’s right half of the youngest adults have to live at home.

(for more read http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2012/0315/Three-in-10-young-adults-live-with-parents-highest-level-since-1950s)

Image

Personally, I know this to be true. My siblings and I have all been supported by my parents since college. Every person I know has had to live off/with their parents Luckily my family had my grandmother’s house so I was one of the few of my friends who didn’t have to move back in with the family after grad school–that’s right grad school with two kids and two cats in tow.

The Young Adult age keeps getting longer and longer. Young Adults are those who have the responsibilities of an adult but don’t yet feel settled (thanks Kenda Dean for that definition).  Young Adults used to be the generation that belongs in the YA section of the library–you know those between the ages of 15 and 18 or maybe even 20. Today “young” adults are all those under age 35.

Image

Because of the economy, us Boomerangs, or Millenials have put off marriage, housing and Children. “Nearly half say that in recent years they’ve taken a job they didn’t really want, to pay the bills. More than a third have gone back to school because of the poor economy. About a third have postponed either their plans to get married or have a child, and one in four say they have moved back in with their parents after living independently. And fewer than half of young people who are now employed say they have the education and training necessary to get ahead in their jobs”.

Maybe it isn’t “We won’t grow up” but we can’t grow up. Personnally I know that we will not be owning a house for a long time, the used bookstore we want to open has to wait, and we are lucky that we were able to have kids so soon.

So what does religion have to do with us? Can religion help those struggling with debt and self-worth as is described in http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/09/local/la-me-young-recession-20120209

Here a summary of the current situation. Most people consider themselves “Spiritual” but “not religious” “Katie Douglass a Phd student at Princeton, researched young adults “While they typical attendance/praying/Bible study questions continue to be dismal when it comes to young adult responses – when asked Have you become more or less religious in the last year? – and Are you interested in growing in your faith? -produces emphatic yeses.”

for the hr long interview about young spirituality see http://churchnext.tv/2012/09/12/katherine-douglass-young-adults-are-more-spiritually-aware-than-you-think/

So young people are looking for meaning, they are looking for purpose, but the connection has not been happening. Apparently most young people find anything relevant to them in the sermon. There is nothing. According to research done by Stephen Cady, young people do not find anything spiritual or connectional about a sermon (http://churchnext.tv/2012/08/20/stephen-cady-why-100-of-young-people-dread-the-sermon/)

If young people who are in high school find little meaning in worship, I expect the same is true of this generation of boomerang/millenial/Peter Pans. Plus, if we are feeling rootless and unfulfilled a rooted congregation might feel overwhelming, or apathetic about a generation that can’t be around for the long haul, can’t attend church every Sunday, and can’t commit the way other generations might have.

Here is a generation that was told “work hard and go to school and you will succeed” and here we are: Not Succeeding. Understanding that this must be somehow our fault. How might faith and Christ address this? How might the love of God and the purpose of our lives to build relationships and communities based on that love give purpose to these people’s lives. If Jesus met a college student, what would he have to say to them????

Would he had said “Peter Pan why won’t you grow up and get your butt to church, so that you can understand God (the way we do)”

or Would he have met him where he was “Peter Pan, Can I play with you?”

PS remember the Harry Potter/Fantasy generation is graduating next, what is their fascination with fantasy about? how does that fit into spirituality? How does that work in this economy? *”For young adults, bad times don’t trump optimism. Among those ages 18 to 34, nearly nine-in-ten (88%) say they either have or earn enough money now or expect they will in the future” see for full survey http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/02/09/young-underemployed-and-optimistic/

(Just some light philosophical questions 🙂