Weekly Ponderings

Here are some things I read this week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement. To read the post in its entirety click on the title beneath each excerpt. Anything is bold is something I chose to emphasize.

Lesley Stahl: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?

“War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.”
Benjamin Ferencz: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite–

Lesley Stahl: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?

Benjamin Ferencz: He’s not a savage. He’s an intelligent, patriotic human being.

Lesley Stahl: He’s a savage when he does the murder though.

Benjamin Ferencz: No. He’s a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.

Lesley Stahl: You don’t think they turn into savages even for the act?

Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people…

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, if it’s naive to want peace instead of war, let ’em make sure they say I’m naive. Because I want peace instead of war. If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don’t say they’re naive, I say they’re stupid. Stupid to an incredible degree to send young people out to kill other young people they don’t even know, who never did anybody any harm, never harmed them. That is the current system. I am naive? That’s insane.”

What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know by Lesley Stahl

“What I’m struggling to address here is a weird belief that seems to be the source of a lot of pain for a lot of people — both for the Christians trapped in this form of belief and for the millions of others (many of whom are also Christians) who have to live in a world shaped by the consequences of this weird belief.

It’s the idea that God is not as good as we’d like God to be. The idea that God isn’t as fair, or as kind, or as loving, as we ourselves would be if it were up to us.

This blasphemous accusation arises whenever we find our fallible conscience in conflict with our fallible perception of a divine commandment. It arises because we’ve had it drilled into our heads that our conscience is fallible and not always trustworthy, while at the same time we’ve desperately pretended that our perception of “God’s will” or “God’s commands” is not just as fallible and untrustworthy. So we wind up deferring to the latter, subordinating conscience to a dreadful obedience of a dreadful command.
That’s a terribly uncomfortable place to be, but it’s where millions of white evangelical Christians in America find themselves because it’s where they’ve been taught to believe they are required to be. They wish they could have a faith that better aligned with what their nagging conscience is telling them would be more good, more beautiful, more true, more just, and more loving, but they’ve been taught to believe that such faith is not permitted

What we quite often see these days, instead, is a form of Christianity that no one wishes to be true — not even many of its believers

It’s very hard to invite anyone to believe anything that they have no reason to want to believe in. It’s very hard to convince anyone to believe in a God who seems distasteful — even to you.

Here’s the really, really weird part of this: Conservative evangelicals reading this are now convinced that what I’m saying here is that we need to reinvent God according to our own preferences. They think I’m saying we need to change what God is really like and who God really is in order to make the idea of God more popular — more palatable and more acceptable.

Let that sink in for a second. Consider the assumptions that shape that criticism — what one would have to presume in order for that criticism to make any sense at all.
What they’re really saying — what they’re really confessing — is that they believe that the actual truth about God is, in fact, unpalatable and unacceptable. They believe that God’s actual character is, in fact, distasteful — that God is exclusive, condemning and oppressive. And that any attempt to portray God as otherwise is a liberal lie.

In this view, God could decide to cherish us, but simply decides not to.

Maybe God isn’t as awful as you think you have to think God is by Fred Clark

“In particular, complementarianism can act to peripheralise women within churches, and in those contexts it’s easy to see how abuse can flourish undetected. In complementarian contexts, women have as much room to speak as the male leaders allow. That’s a profoundly vulnerable position to be in, and one which I suspect some male ministers are not always able to empathise with. If a woman suffering abuse wasn’t completely confident that she would be believed, that the particular nature of the abuse would be understood, and that she would be supported by her church’s leader, she would most likely continue to suffer alone. This is true for any church, whether complementarian or egalitarian, but within complementarian churches the capacity for women to shape teaching and policies is almost entirely dependent on the senior minister’s amenity. That makes it crucial that the senior minister seek out and really listen to the women of the church. They must also be clear-eyed about how they are received by the women of the church – are they regarded as trustworthy, knowledgeable about the issues which affect women, do they demonstrate a humble willingness to learn? If not, women will not disclose abuse to them…

After several years in ministry, I have come to expect that the women I meet with have had significant experiences of abuse, whether direct or indirect. The women who have not been abused (or have not yet disclosed abuse to me) are a minority. Most of the time, these women have told few people. They have learned to accommodate quietly. They swallow their pain…

Male leaders of both complementarian and egalitarian churches – are you confident that you are doing what is necessary to care for the women in your churches who are experiencing such things?

And more importantly, would the women of your church agree with you?

Reflecting on complementarianism and domestic violence by Erica Hamence

“A few years after I came out I had lunch with my father in Toronto. He’s always been a bit more awkward than unaccepting when it came to my sexuality. As I sat across from him he relayed a perplexing story. At the garage he worked in, during lunch hour in a predominately male lunchroom in aforementioned small town Ontario, one of his colleagues made a homophobic remark and he froze. There was no defending his gay son, no calling out the bigotry. At first I was angry at his response. Why wouldn’t he stand up for me? Why would he even tell me this story with no happy ending? A potential moment of redemption seemed so glaringly obvious. Then something became suddenly clear to me. He too was saddled with shame. The culture he still lived in, the culture I moved away from, filled him too with fear of rejection and mockery. It was like this bizarre conversation was an apology and an acknowledgement. It was as if this was his way of saying he was starting to understand my struggle, and that he was ashamed for his part in it now that he too had felt the sting of homophobia, however vicarious…

The lesson here: take care with your choice to be homophobic because it lasts forever for both the victim and the victimizer. It doesn’t just affect gay people or people with gay kids either…”

The everlasting effects of homophobia and why it’s not just gay people that suffer by Ryan E. Thompson

 

 

Weekly Ponderings

Here are some things that made me think this week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement of everything in each post. To read each post in its entirety click on the title beneath each excerpt.

“I found myself in a debate about this the other day, and the gentleman I was talking to fell back on the argument that it was the Church’s job to take care of the poor, not the government. But is that really true?

My first thought whenever I hear this argument is, “Who gave the Church this job?” Obviously the implied answer is God. After all, Jesus does talk a lot about His followers’ responsibility for taking care of the downtrodden, poor and oppressed. If you read His parable about the sheep and the goats, it’s easy to walk away with the impression that eternal life rests entirely upon whether or not a person cares for the poor…

But does that mean that He’s delegated that responsibility away from non-faith communities and governments? That seems a little silly. To tell His followers to be mindful of a particular group doesn’t necessarily preclude the rest of humanity’s responsibility to each other. If I tell my kids to pick up their trash, I’m not sending a message to every other parent on my block that their kids can litter because my kids will pick it up.

Christ’s major point is that He cares about what happens to the those on society’s bottom rung. It would be irresponsible for Christians to not encourage everyone to do all that they can to protect them…”

Whose Job Is It to Take Care of the Poor? By Jayson Bradley

“…We knew to say, ‘don’t do drugs, they are dangerous, people get addicted’. We didn’t know to say, and I wish with all my heart we had, ‘but if you get addicted, please come to us and we will help you. We will be here for you because we love you.’ Of course this OxyContin thing wasn’t on our radar. Who could ever imagine their kid would go so far as to stick a needle in their vein? I’ll tell you, my son didn’t think he’d ever do something so stupid either, even when he was addicted to OxyContin, until he did…

My son would tell you he had a nice childhood. He played baseball and soccer and took karate. We had a good relationship. He knew his parents loved him, and – he did know better. What made him make bad choices in spite of knowing better? What changed from the age of 14 to the age of 16, when the drinking began? Murky gray. Minefield.

Recognize addiction can happen to your child. The epidemic is real. Be afraid. Be prepared to fight for your child’s life.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Arm yourselves.”

I Raised a Heroin Addict–And I Learned Something Every Mom Should Know by Patricia Byrne By Patricia Byrne

“…You just want to engage in sin, the person who disagrees with Evangelical Christianity is told.

But for the things that Evangelical Christianity wants, it’s somehow not a desire to sin to justify why they are allowed to do things that the Bible plainly states are not okay.

And what’s funny is if these things are so small, if it doesn’t matter, then it also is the easiest thing to follow. It doesn’t cost anything to not braid your hair, to not get a tattoo, to forego jewelry or flashy materialism. If you are storing up your treasures in heaven, then there is no reason to defend material wealth, because to let go of it shouldn’t matter.

But if the argument is that sometimes the Bible is cultural, or certain scriptures need to be seen through a broader context, or certain things don’t apply anymore because they don’t matter as much as other things, it’s hard explain how that makes sense for some versus and not for others without it all looking like justifications. You want to do a thing, so that scripture doesn’t apply. You don’t care about something, so that scripture was clearly cultural and doesn’t matter, solely because it doesn’t matter to you…”

The Acceptable Cultural Relativism: Christianity and the Sins that Don’t Matter 
by somaticstrength

“You weren’t there.

You tell me you are going to help us learn “to understand one another.” Please LISTEN. Please hear me! I DO understand him. I have stared into those eyes during the good times, the moments of kindness and laughter that kept us staying. I have also stared into those eyes as he has threatened us, ruined us, shredded us, humiliated us. I have spent __ years studying this man – studying his moods, his looks, his face, the set of his jaw, the squint of his eye, the shift of his weight, the movement of his hands, the movement of his arms (just in case), his words, the meaning behind his words, the movement of the corner of his mouth, his need for admiration, his derisive laughter, his sniggering when he “got” me – I have studied him meticulously all these years to avoid the next rage or joke at my expense or humiliation or cruel trick. YOU need to understand, from someone who DOES know him inside and out – he will not go down without a fight. I am scared, hurting, confused, shaken, broken, financially ruined, sexually damaged, and nearly destroyed by all that he’s done to us. And you want to put me into a room with this person? I KNOW him. He will lie, shift blame, label me as crazy, act humble, draw you aside into his “confidence”. If that doesn’t work, he will lash out in anger, cry, tell you he’s a victim, blame his parents and environment, yell, intimidate, storm out and then “apologize” so that you will be obliged to reciprocate an apology for “words that were said,” or use any other variety of tactics in order to get you to back down and admire him again.

I cried out to you for help. You sent me this letter. You completely discounted my pain, my family’s pain. You made yourself to be an expert in a situation you have never looked into, have never visited, have never seen.”

You Weren’t There — a letter to pastors from a survivor of domestic abuse A guest post at  A Cry for Justice

“Two and a half years ago, a pensioner walked into a police station and handed in a piece of paper. It revealed a horrific secret he’d kept hidden for most of his life – a litany of sexual abuse he’d suffered at a private school in Devon in the 1950s and 60s. His abuser went on to have a successful career as a children’s TV presenter and author. But now – the truth has finally emerged.”

Victim of John Earle’s abuse speaks out by Andy Davies (links to video of victim sharing his story)

“The truth is that words have consequences. Putin’s hardline against homosexuality—which Graham praised—gave the Chechen president space to crack down harder on gay and lesbian residents in his own corner of Russia. Words have consequences in the U.S., too—gay teens kicked out of their homes and high teen suicide rates due to anti-gay bullying…

Within the U.S., evangelicals are used to being able to inveigh against gays and lesbians without having their literal blood on their hands. Yes, this rhetoric still has consequences—and people do still die (see teen suicides as referenced above). But the causality feels less direct. American evangelicals do not have to watch as gay and lesbian individuals are murdered.”

Words Have Consequences: Evangelical Rhetoric and Gay Rights  by Libby Anne

“Childbirth is changing in Kenya. Increasingly, mothers are giving birth in hospitals, rather than in the village. But not so long ago the use of traditional birth attendants was the norm, and there was a tacit assumption about how to deal with intersex babies.
“They used to kill them,” explains Seline Okiki, chairperson of the Ten Beloved Sisters, a group of traditional birth attendants, also from western Kenya.

“If an intersex baby was born, automatically it was seen as a curse and that baby was not allowed to live. It was expected that the traditional birth attendant would kill the child and tell the mother her baby was stillborn…”

“The parents did not get any say in the matter,” says the group secretary Anjeline Naloh. “The expectation was that the baby should not even live long enough to cry.”

The midwife who saved intersex babies By Helen Grady and Anne Soy

“What happened to this family is shocking,” Lambda Legal Counsel Beth Littrell said. “Almost immediately after losing his husband and partner of more than 50 years, Jack Zawadski’s grief was compounded by injustice and callous treatment from the very place that should have helped ease his suffering. Following Bob’s death, the funeral home, the only one in the area with a crematorium, refused to honor agreed-upon funeral arrangements after learning that Bob and Jack were married…”

“John made all necessary arrangements before Bob’s passing in order to shield his 82-year-old uncle from additional suffering and to allow friends to gather to support Jack in his grief,” Littrell explained. “Instead, Bob’s peaceful passing was marred by turmoil, distress and indignity, adding immeasurable anguish to Jack and John’s loss. This should not have happened to them, and should not be allowed to happen again.”

We’re Suing a Mississippi Funeral Home for Refusing to Transport and Cremate the Body of Gay Man by Lambda Legal

 

Weekly Ponderings

Here are some blogs/articles that made me think this week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement of everything in each post or at each site. To read each post in it entirety click on the link under each excerpt. (Anything in bold is an emphasis made by me).

“On any given week our fellowship will have between 200 and 300 attendees. In that group is the full range of Christian denominations. From high church liturgical to aisle dancing charismatic, we all come together as foreigners and believers. Like any church, ours has taken on its own personality (somewhere in between those two) but the full spectrum of potential theological debate is always present…

Disagreeing actually forces our focus towards what matters instead of an unchecked sense of rightness

Our worship team routinely consists of some mix of a couple of a couple Brits, a German, a Canadian, two Filipinos, an Indian and an American or two. Once a month a team of African students come from the other side of the city to lead. It’s not uncommon for 30-40 nationalities to be present and yet we join in a common voice.

It’s like a little taste of heaven.”

Three Things I Love About An International Church by Jerry Jones

I see a lot of places where I made mistakes or I “should have known better.” But none of that changes the fact that I was a victim and they took advantage of me. Nobody should be talking about sub-optimal choices a victim made, when another person consciously made a choice to hurt and manipulate someone.

When people talk about abuse, they ask questions like “but why didn’t the victim leave?” or “but why didn’t you report the rape immediately?” Really? I can think of SO MANY reasons why. My situation was just about money, not anything as serious as rape or abuse- but you could ask why I kept choosing to go back there. So many reasons. My own optimism. I didn’t want to believe I had made a bad decision. I didn’t want to believe that they were the kind of people who would claim to be my friends but really just want money. I thought maybe someday I would win an argument with them and they’d have to treat me better. I thought I could get them to respect my right to receive the service I had already paid for, without constant harassment. I didn’t even realize how badly it was affecting me because I didn’t know my feelings mattered- I didn’t know that it could be so hurtful and unhealthy to just have a “friendly and polite conversation.”

An essential part of manipulation/ coercion/ abuse is making the victim believe that they actually like it, that they chose it, that it’s not manipulation/ coercion/ abuse. So OF COURSE you’re going to have victims that don’t realize they’re victims until much later. I totally believe you if you say that’s what happened.

A victim who’s made mistakes is still a victim by perfect number 628

“We talk about how suicide is ‘selfish,’” a friend said to me a few weeks ago. “But that means that people who are suicidal but struggling to live are doing something incredibly selfless, every day. Why don’t we talk about that?”

On a societal level, we rarely, if ever, acknowledge all of the thankless work that people who wrestle with suicidal ideation pour into staying alive — labor that they engage in not for themselves, for the most part, but because they know how much their deaths would devastate family and friends. There’s not much in the way of resources or aid available to those doing their ultimate best to avoid suicide. Instead, we mostly treat those who are suicidal — as I am, sometimes — as morally deficient for even thinking about killing themselves in the first place…

The other day a friend and I were dreaming up a place where people might learn how to live. We called it the not-hospital, because it should be everything the hospital isn’t: warm, comfortable, loving, tolerant. A place with corners full of blankets and pillows where you can go cry if you need to. A place with huge heated tubs full of salt water where you can soak and read and sip fancy drinks. Common rooms where people can be together if they want to; individual rooms where people can go if they need to be alone. A proper convalescent home, where people can recuperate and rest and feel cared for — that’s maybe what the not-hospital would be.

But until we invent the not-hospital and start training people in how to live, the least we can do is acknowledge the massive amount of effort it takes not to die

If You’re Suicidal, Staying Alive Is The Most Selfless Thing You Can Do by Anne Thériault

But the thing that struck me the most this past Sunday morning was how much everyone talked about God’s amazing grace, the amazing love he showed us in sending his son to be beaten to death on our behalf. The message was primarily a positive one, I’ll grant that. But there was something else lurking beneath the surface, something far more negative…about us.

This preacher got up in front of an auditorium full of people to tell them they are lucky to have God in their lives, lucky to have him condescend to show grace and mercy to them because they deserve so much less. His love for us and his grace toward us is amazing, the man told us.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? We are being told over and over again that what they have to offer us is good news. But implicit in this good news is the very bad news that we are so bad, God had to kill himself in order to get over it.

Does that not strike you as…I dunno…excessively demeaning? For every time we are told that God’s love surpasses all other loves, we are being told that it takes an extraordinary kind of love in order to love the likes of us…

See, I know this narrative very, very well. I’ve inhaled deeply of this message and I can recognize its aroma almost anywhere. Each mention of the surpassing love of God reminds the listener of his or her own innate unworthiness. Without that unworthiness, without the implicit notion of our own horribleness, this love wouldn’t even be anything special.

For grace to be amazing, it has to overcome something terrible. According to the Christian message, that terrible thing is us

The sugar coating on that pile of anti-human excrement satiated me for many, many years, but time has made clear to me what lies beneath that saccharine exterior: The good news of the Christian message is built upon an inescapably dehumanizing narrative which says that you’re so very bad that only God can love you the way you really need to be loved. If you look for that love in any other source, you’ll be disappointed because the likes of you requires something especially gracious and forgiving…”

The Dark Side of Grace by Neil Carter

“The Christian agenda to “get” people is so weird to me. Having these strategizing meetings to best figure out how they can convert whomever and convince them of the “truth” they hold. I imagine Christians having a conversation with whomever non-Christian they want to convert, sitting there not listening but waiting for any chance to strategically insert their beliefs. It’s uncomfortable, that’s not how normal people have a conversation.

And before everyone gets all mad, I’m not saying to never talk about your faith or whatever. I really like Jesus and I talk about him all the time, but not with the agenda to convert anyone – that’s where it gets weird. Awkwardly inserting your religious ideals or straight up arguing why people need Jesus so they don’t go to hell is kind of creepy.

What if instead of focusing so much on how we can convert, we focused all that energy on how we can love bolder like Jesus? Seriously, sit and have meetings to try to figure out how to love our neighbors better. There are people out there doing this and they are changing the world and people actually like hanging out with them…”

It’s Okay to Love Your Religion Without Forcing People to Convert by Sheri Faye Rosendahl

Christians speak about “Judgement Day.” For many, this is a terrifying concept where everyone’s secrets are laid bare so that God can “smite” people for what they’ve done. But I believe that the very opposite is true. God’s justice is actually about everything being in right relationship, in its right place—“the way things should be.” God’s judgement is not a heavenly courtroom where we are all tried “for our sins,” instead, judgement is the means by which God’s justice is achieved, the process of righting all wrongs so that His justice comes into full fruition.

God’s justice and His judgement are therefore restorational concepts, not punitive ones. Like most Kingdom concepts, this is happening in the here and now wherever Christ’s followers bring Him into a situation. It is also what will happen at the “Last Judgement” when it will be brought to its completion. I look forward to everything being restored to its proper order and place, with everyone in right relationship with God and with others. I look forward to everything that was ever wrong being made right, and every injustice set straight. I look forward to everything being “the way that it should be.” When viewed in that manner, Judgement and Justice take on entirely different meanings from that of the angry god taking out his “wrath” on people, they become the means by which a loving God establishes peace and wholeness for everything He has made.

Why is this relevant to whether or not animals will be in Heaven?

Well, death is one of those things that is wrong and that needs to be put right. It’s so hurtful, so damaging, and so painful—and permanent too…

But I really don’t know—we’ll just have to wait and see. What I do believe is that intelligent, conscious animals, with which we formed a good relationship, will be raised up with us as part of our inheritance as saints.

Finally, there’s this vitally important point: God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes (Rev. 21:4). This means that everything that ever upset you, everything that ever hurt you, everything will be made right and things will be just as if the bad stuff never happened! This is part of God’s restorative justice. It’s part of what will happen. The Bible is full of God’s promises to restore. The heart of God is always to restore. Restoring: putting things back where they belong; giving them back; restoring relationship—including those with our beloved pets.

So, animals in Heaven. Why not? Given the unimaginably generous and, moreover, restoring nature of God, that He loves to surprise us and bless us with every good thing, and that Heaven will be better than anything and everything we could ever have dreamed, why not?”

Do Our Pets Go to Heaven? by Tony Cutty

Quotations

“I realized that I was tired of being comfortable with sickness and death and inequality; so, too, was I tired of being overwhelmed with all of the places where it seemed that God was absent. I was tired of trying to fix all the problems on my own, of placing the burdens of the world on my own shoulders. I had reached a breaking point, where I no longer believed I could save anybody and I didn’t know if God could either. I, unlike the majority of people at the service, was afraid to give up my false sense of control. I was afraid of looking foolish, of deciding to truly believe that a very good God was at work in the world.

I was nervous to live in a world that seemed inhabited by so few, to refuse to assimilate into a life either of despair or of religious platitudes.

But really, when it comes down to it, I was scared that God might ask me to wave my own freakish, shimmering flag around – to declare that he loved all of us, when everything around me seemed to contradict this statement.”

– D.L. Mayfield (from her book Assimilate Or Go Home: Notes From A Failed Missionary On Rediscovering Faith)

Quotations

“We interviewed 600 believers in 72 countries, and their persecution was not over homosexuality or abortion. Believers are suffering because of evil’s response to their positive witness. Most Western Christians have divorced their witness from the marketplace. So we won’t know if there is real persecution in the US until we Christians stop whining about our rights as ‘temporary’ citizens, and return to a loving witness. Including the US among nations that actively oppose the presence of Jesus demeans those truly suffering for their faith.”

~Nik Ripken, global strategist, International Mission Board (found on Christianity Today’s website)

Weekly Ponderings

Here are some things I read this past week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement of everything written in each post. To read the whole post click on the title beneath each excerpt. Anything in bold is an emphasis made by me.

Society has pitted the life of a child against the well-being and future of its mother, and asked us to choose one or the other. But not both.

For Christians, this is an impossible position because of our understanding of the Imago Dei—the image of God, which has been uniquely gifted to human life. This means that all human life is equally valuable, both the unborn child and the expectant mother carry equal weight. Both have inherent dignity, and both are worth fighting for.”

The Uncomfortable Truth at the Heart of Louis C.K.’s Abortion Comments by Natalie Walker

“Only about one in 10 of these mass-injury shootings involved domestic violence, the Times found. But the domestic violence shootings were more deadly than the other attacks. Domestic violence shootings represented only 11% of the incidents, but 31% of the victims who died.

Even when domestic violence does not play a direct role in high-profile mass shootings, the perpetrators of these attacks are often found to have records of domestic violence and abuse of women.”

“This is an issue that red and blue lawmakers can agree on: domestic abusers shouldn’t have guns,” she said. “All countries have domestic violence. The difference is that we arm our abusers.”

Domestic violence and guns: the hidden American crisis ending women’s lives by Lois Beckett

“I see the culture of Trump as undermining any net positive legislation from Trump. Who he is, how he leads through his leadership, undermines any net positive laws he might make possible. If he passes a law that makes abortion illegal, while promoting a culture that encourages creating more abortions, the net effect will be negative for the unborn children of this world.

Likewise, if we seek peace and reconciliation as the redemptive work of Jesus in the world, if we seek racial reconciliation in the world, and we support a president who promotes a culture of antagonism, conflict, war, any pro-Christian legislation in the world is undermined. May we discern carefully both how to pray for this president and in what ways we are called to either support the president or oppose him.”

What Gorsuch’s Nomination Means for our Witness by David Fitch

“I think most people reject universalism before hearing the full case because they are aware that the Bible does in fact, quite clearly describe some sort of consequences in the afterlife for refusing to be reconciled to God in this life. They mistakenly believe that being a Christian universalist means that one rejects the concept of hell or some sort of divine punishment. This in fact, is totally untrue.

One of the advantages of universalism is that it can affirm passages that seem to speak about punishment in the afterlife, and it can affirm them in a way that better reflects the love and character of God. In universalism one can argue compellingly that the intent and outcome of God’s discipline is restoration of relationship, instead of endless punishment or permanent separation. It’s a difference of restorative justice instead of simply punitive justice– and that difference better reflects the character of God which is loving and always inviting reconciliation

Christian universalism is not the same thing as an “anything goes” religion where we can all believe what we want, do what we want, and all end up in the same place at the same time.

Instead, it is a belief in the power of Jesus to atone for the sins of the entire world. It is a belief that Jesus truly has reconciled all things and all people to himself. It’s a belief that God’s loving nature is so endless, that even those who stubbornly refuse to be reconciled in this life will still find themselves pursued by God’s love and invited to have a change of heart, until every last one of them turns back to God– and hell is empty.

The case for universalism is not weak or some liberal nonsense, but actually fits God’s character and the biblical narrative quite convincingly.”

A Case For Christian Universalism (From A Non-Universalist) by Dr. Benjamin L. Corey

‘There is no such thing as a “self-made man”. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the makeup of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.’

George Matthew Adams, writer.

The Simplest and Most Perfect Explanation of Privilege I’ve Ever Seen by Toby Morris

“Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal’s office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead.

The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it’s filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are also asked to talk through what happened.

… the schools are seeing a tangible benefit from this program, too.

Philips said that at Robert W. Coleman Elementary, there have been exactly zero suspensions last year and so far this year. Meanwhile, nearby Patterson Park High School, which also uses the mindfulness programs, said suspension rates dropped and attendance increased as well.

Is that wholly from the mindfulness practices? It’s impossible to say, but those are pretty remarkable numbers, all the same.”

This school replaced detention with meditation. The results are stunning. by James Gaines

 

 

Quotations

Never accept and be content with unanalyzed assumptions, assumptions about the work, about the people, about the church or Christianity. Never be afraid to ask questions about the work we have inherited or the work we are doing. There is no question that should not be asked or that is outlawed. The day we are completely satisfied with what we have been doing; the day we have found the perfect, unchangeable system of work, the perfect answer, never in need of being corrected again, on that day we will know that we are wrong, that we have made the greatest mistake of all.

– Vincent J. Donovan

Love vs Power

I was watching a show a few weeks ago where two characters were arguing about whether someone who is in love should let that relationship interfere with their ambitions. In this case the ambition was getting into the White House. One character said love never matters and should be given up without question because your gaining the Oval office. Basically power is worth pursuing and gaining at all cost even if that means giving up the chance at being with someone you love.

This made me think about the unfortunate bargain Christians in U.S. have made in the hopes of retaining influence in this country. To paraphrase a well known quote ‘carry a big stick and make people do things your way’. Why do we feel the need to force our beliefs onto people? Because we stopped loving them the way Jesus taught us to love people. He told us how to change the world and we fell back into the age old trap of believing that power is the best, surest and fastest way to ‘change’ things. Love is hard, takes time and may not get you the results you hoped for. Whereas power can force change quickly and get you the results you want (though you have to ignore the damage you’ve created in the process).

You generally can’t change people through having more power. If anything you’ll just make them fear or hate you. But you likely haven’t changed things for the better. Take abortion as an example. Calling women who seek abortions and abortion doctors baby killers hasn’t changed anyone’s mind as far as I’ve seen. And gaining conservative supreme court justices with the hopes of changing the law still doesn’t address any of the many reasons a woman might seek an abortion. Oddly enough recent studies indicate that the abortion rate has dropped and that seems to be a result of efforts made by those considered liberal not conservative.

Christians may believe they have the moral high ground but they’ve lost respect in just about every other area because of their harshness and inability to empathize and work on other solutions on issues like abortion.

So when will we learn that when given the choice between love and power we should always choose love?

Weekly Ponderings

Here are some blogs and articles that made me think. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement of everything in each post. To read the posts in their entirety click on the title beneath each excerpt. Most of the parts in bold print are parts I chose to emphasize.

You may have the most intellectually sound theology, but if it’s not delivered with love, respect, and kindness — it’s worthless.

The practical application of your love is just as important as the theology behind it. Our faith is evidenced by how we treat others. Does the reality of your life reflect the theory behind your spiritual beliefs?

We should never give up on theology, academic study, or the pursuit of understanding God, the Bible, and the history and traditions of the church, but these things should inspire us to emulate Christ — to selflessly, sacrificially, and holistically love others. Theology should reinforce our motivation for doing things to make the world a better place — not serve as platforms to berate, criticize, and attack others.

But too often, we’re guilty of failing to practically apply our beliefs in tangible ways that actually help others. In the end, this is what matters most to the world around us: that we simply love as Christ loved.”

When Christians Love Theology More Than People By Stephen Mattson

“Let’s be clear about what is really happening when we hear the “I just go by what the Bible says” types of statements. What’s really being said is: “I just go by what I have been taught, by what others have thought or written about these passages, and all that is still further interpreted and understood through my own personal, cultural, educational, family, geographical, social background and history.”

Remember, the Bible doesn’t “say” anything until someone articulates what they think it is saying. The last time I checked, the Bible did not literally and audibly just start speaking in English to me as I read it. We are the readers. We must do the hard work of hermeneutics, of interpreting, which is both an art and science. Furthermore, we should always be aware that our interpretations could be wrong. We might completely miss what the author wanted us to hear or understand. Instead of claiming that we are speaking for God or just “going by what the Bible clearly teaches,” we need to be humble and admit that we are trying to interpret and understand as best we can–and that it is us who is speaking.

Why is this important? One need only look to the issue of slavery or the way women have been treated historically to point out how wrong the church has at times found itself when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Are there issues in our present day where the church could be making the same interpretive mistakes?

“I Just Go by What the Bible Says” and Other Ridiculous Things Pastors Say by Darrell Lackey

Lonely practice was exactly as it sounds—practicing being lonely

I learned that day that the big moments of life are only fun when you’ve got someone to celebrate them with.

Celebrating alone is utterly vapid, lifeless, gray.

Humans fear being invisible almost more than anything. And feeling like that in the epicenter of a massive celebration is a very unique kind of human pain. To celebrate life’s big moments is to be invisible in those moments.

Imagine being invisible at a wedding . . .

or a graduation . . .

or a birthday party . . .

or an awards show . . .

or a New Year’s Eve party . . .

Oh sure . . . you’re present. You’re visible . . . but you’re unseen. Single people feel visible but unseen quite often. And the presence of strangers just isn’t all that comforting. It only makes the pain worse.

I got a little taste of that pain on that crisp autumn evening in Tuscaloosa. I got a little taste of my future.”

Episode 24 Lonely Practice by Brett Trapp

“This is not about inclusion. This is a matter of life and death.

By making their children stick to their own expectations and standards for them — whether they really think their gay child is going to hell or honestly are just ashamed of them — parents are asking their kids to change something inherent, something that son or daughter can’t change. No matter how much they pray or plead. It’s just not happening.

And the message that sends is absolutely devastating. It tells our kids (young, teens or adults) that they are broken, not okay, for whatever reason.
It’s plain wrong. And it can be tragic.

The suicide statistics for LGBTQI youth is alarming — 40% of gay youth contemplate suicide, 50% of transgender youth – 4 to 5 times the rate for their straight peers. And gay youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as gay peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection…

Family… we are supposed to love and support each other no matter what. If our own family won’t do that, how does that impact our confidence that anyone else can?

Would You Rather Have a Gay Child or a Dead Child?  by Susan Cottrell

Passages in Scripture do exhort us to flee from temptation, and there are certainly women who have had inappropriate relationships with married men. So, I understand the desire to fiercely protect something as precious as a marriage.

But the Bible exhorts us to live in the freedom of Christ. I don’t believe that treating women as if they are affairs-waiting-to-happen is living in freedom, nor is it faithful to our shared identity as co-heirs before God. God gives us self-control so that we may exercise it for his glory, not as an excuse to cut ourselves off from half the body.

Additionally, most women are not looking to seduce every man they encounter, and most men are not interested in having sex with every woman they encounter…

Billy Graham’s rule protects men from scandals, but it does only that. It does not promote the heart accountability that actually overcomes sexual sin. It protects men’s reputations, but it restricts women in the process. Women already face prejudice, stereotypes, and adversity in the workplace and in the church. Billy Graham’s rule does not empower them or promote healthy partnerships between men and women…

We should apply discretionary wisdom on a case-by-case basis rather than embracing a rule that makes many women feel dangerous and excluded…

But a better model for sexual integrity is possible. Men should not be treated as sexual beasts incapable of restraint nor should women be reduced to objects of men’s lust or sources of temptation. We are to hold each other in high esteem, not suspicion.

As Christians, we are no longer bound to legalism. Our model for sexual integrity should not be rooted in fear. It should not add additional burdens to the shoulders of women nor should it be grounded in gender stereotypes. Rather, it should promote the individual, relational, and communal wholeness that belongs to all believers.”

Why Christians Can Do Better Than The “Billy Graham Rule” by Tina Osterhouse