Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Problem With Christian Holidays


The roller coaster of the Christian calendar is over.  It's a lot of work, especially if you are in church leadership.  You get prepped for Advent, work hard through Christmas, get a month or so of planning for the next season and then it's Lent and Holy Week and the big event, Easter.  It's pretty exhausting. 

If you are exhausted, please take a deep breath. You deserve it.

All the church work for a few events in Jesus' life.  Important ones, though.

  • Jesus; birth and the incarnation.
  • Jesus' forty day temptation in the wilderness.
  • Jesus' victory parade into Jerusalem.
  • The last supper.
  • Jesus' crucifixion.
  • Jesus' resurrection.

These are certainly times to remember and celebrate.  But I wonder about the things we are missing.

  • The baptism of Jesus
  • Three years of ministry, healing and comforting the poor.
  • The transfiguration.
  • The bulk of Jesus' teaching.
  • The cleansing of the temple.

I'm sure that pastors teach on these subjects occasionally.  But they are outside the "main events" of church life.  Jesus' healing and teaching is brought out most Sundays in the gospel readings of the annual liturgy, for churches that use that tool.  But still, it seems that we can focus on the "big three" of events-- birth, death and resurrection-- to such a degree that we can forget about the other, equally important events.

Certainly Timothy Keller thinks that we can easily forget:
"Jesus’ teaching was not the main point of his mission. He came to save people through his death for sin and his resurrection." 
I don't think Rev. Keller is saying that we should just forget about Jesus' teachings.  Only that, if you were going to forget something, forget about the teachings and keep the death and resurrection.

This makes sense if you think that Jesus' death magically eradicated sin.  But that isn't why Jesus died.  Jesus died and was brought back from the dead to establish the kingdom of God.  Entrance into the kingdom eradicates sin and puts us all under a different system of justice, one based on repentance and mercy. 

When we see the death and resurrection of Jesus as the establishing of Jesus' kingdom, then we can see their proper place in the whole of what Jesus was accomplishing.

  • Jesus' incarnation showed the kind of person who could do the work.
  • Jesus' ministry showed the heart and power of the kingdom, or, as Jesus says, "The kingdom of God is upon you."
  • The teaching of Jesus is the constitution of the kingdom, the principles and laws which provide the building blocks of the kingdom.
  • Jesus' death is what was necessary to set aside the old kingdom and to establish the new.
  • Jesus' baptism, transfiguration and resurrection shows that God is displaying the choosing the right man for the job, certifying Jesus' kingdom.

It seems to me, if we put Jesus' ministry and teaching on a second or third rung on the Christian ladder, we are left with an outline without a heart.  If we celebrate Jesus, and declare him to be Lord, but we do not live out Jesus lifestyle of supporting the poor or celebrate the poor and outcast in our teaching, then we have the semblance of a people of Jesus, but not the reality of it. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

White Jesus

There are many Jesus' that people worship.  But the one I hear about most frequently is the Jesus of most American churches, the one that is followed by the majority of White American Christians. 

I heard Aisha Harris call him "White Jesus" on Code Switch the other day.

White Jesus loves his enemies and then kills them.

White Jesus seeks to obtain and stabilize power, making excuses for what it costs others.

White Jesus denies racism exists, but escalates a war on Christmas.

White Jesus tells his leaders to draw more power so that they might spread His name.

White Jesus says “Blessed are you who are rich, for you can make the world wealthy.”

White Jesus pushes his eschatology into existence, even if it means people are oppressed because of it.

White Jesus teaches, “Love yourself first and your neighbor if you feel led.”

White Jesus prioritizes worship over healing.

White Jesus says the world must love, but don’t help people survive, because that just draws more poor people around.

White Jesus demands the oppressed forgive, allowing the powerful to punish.

White Jesus has one good religion and all the rest are evil.

White Jesus says, “Buy more possessions and forsake the beggar, because this is what improves the economy.”

White Jesus says, “Cause others to suffer in order to bring your eschatology to pass.”

White Jesus establishes ritual, ignores compassion.

White Jesus upholds authority, even when they do evil.

White Jesus worships the Liar for the sake of ruling the world.

I am with Aisha Harris.  I deny White Jesus, my former Lord and Savior.  I stand with the Real Jesus, who stands with the oppressed. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Experience Jesus Today

Jesus seemed really cool, dying for us and all, when he was a long time ago
But I don’t appreciate him in my neighborhood.

First thing, he tells a guy with AIDS that he’s healed.
I mean, you KNOW what that guy is going to do and pretty soon it’s disease everywhere.

He tells a couple people who have local markets to quit and become mystics.
Great.  Where am I going to get my fish now?  They had good fish.

He walks into a mental health ward, says some mumbo jumbo and then sets them all free,
Telling them to go downtown and tell everyone what God did for them.
So the town is full of psycho fanatics now.

Worst of all, he went to every drunken bum, every lazy chick in an RV, every single mom on welfare, every illegal stealing jobs from good folks and he told them that the mayor is a rat, the local CEOs are immoral, the bishops are corrupt and that THEY should be in charge instead.
I mean, I don’t like the mayor either,
But what I hate
Really HATE
Is to see these good-for-nothings walking around town as if they own it.

I preferred it when Jesus was meek and mild.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Weather Conditions

Some are Tornadoes, sucking all things toward themselves, because of their deep inner need. They leave destruction wherever they step.
Some are Hurricanes, who destroy broadly because of their rage against "evildoers". Many honor them because of their clear divisions and because they have a calm center. They ignore the massive body count.
But there are also Clouds who spread little pieces of themselves as far as they can, sustaining life. They know that life is short, so they never cease their work until there is nothing left of them.
I love hanging with Clouds. They have the best parties.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thoughts from a Cis Male on "Me Too"

The women's movement has shown they know how to use social media, and the latest indication of this is the "me too" reaction to the many sexual assaults of Harvey Weinstein.  The producer and mogul of Miramax Films has been called out for his multiple sexual assaults over decades.  More and more women declared that they were also victims of his attempted or successful assaults.  On social media, then, more women declared "me too", publicly acknowledging that they were victims of sexual assault.

It has been amazing to see.  Sure, I knew that the majority of women have been assaulted, but it is another thing to see my friends, women of all personalities and powers, announce that they have been attacked.

The cis male response has been less than stellar.  

I see some men standing up saying, "I'm guilty" for leering or participating in porn, which is kind of right, but I don't know if they got the point.  Other men are saying "me too", acknowledging that they have also been sexually assaulted, and this is good, but I would like to see a separate time focus on their abuses.  Other men are giving the equivalent of "you really wanted it," which I find disgusting and encouraging the evil we live in.

So here are some of my own thoughts, which I hope work toward building a better world for women.

 I need to recognize that we live in a rape culture and I participate in it.

It amazes me how many people perpetuate the myths of rape.  Assuming that someone is lying about sexual assault without evidence.  Claiming that a woman “deserved it”.  Thinking that the way a woman is dressed has anything to do with whether they deserve to be assaulted.

And I have participated in that rape culture.  I have paid for movies that perpetuate the myth that if a woman says “no” she doesn’t really mean it.  I have ignored men who openly and lightly objectify women.  I have, in the past, approved of churches who insisted that “forgiveness” means a wife must accept back a husband that abused her and that “submission” is a one way street.  I have ignored and supported the ocean of objectification and reductionism that women swim in.

As men, we need to realize what the problems really are.  First, it is the limiting of women to objects of our own enjoyment or pleasure.  Of course, when our only relation to a human being is as an entertainer, then we can judge their performance as to whether they have given us something.  But women in general are often treated as a male gaze display.  Thus do men catcall and tell women to “smile” or advise them to dress better or to wear makeup.  These are all indications of a context in which men see all women as on a stage for their own benefit, instead of equal human beings who are allowed to look as they wish, according to their own desires and goals.  When that

Second, men consider their sexual satisfaction as something they “deserve,” and to not obtain that satisfaction is to suffer something unacceptable.  Look guys, if you aren’t getting the sex you want, you have another option: jerk off.  It may not be the first option, but it is better than driving oneself crazy failing to obtain the specific kind of satisfaction you choose.  Women, whether individuals or in general, have no responsibility to make sure every man is satisfied.  When a man thinks that their sexual pleasure is more important than respecting another human being, their priorities are screwed up. 


In the past, a man’s sexual limits were limited by a concept of purity.  Then it was by a principle of faithfulness.  Then it was a matter of law to determine what a man could and could not do.  In our society, the key principle is consent.  We cannot assume that women are on board with our plans or desires for them, whether they are strangers or girlfriends or wives.  We have to ask and obtain agreement.  If we have no agreement, then there is no place for any kind of sexual activity, from a catcall to a slap on the ass to a kiss.   We need to train our boys to back off until agreement is reached and we need to train our girls that they don’t have to accept any kind of intimacy unless they agree (even if that’s a kiss from their rich aunt Zelda). Consent is a huge part of respect, something we all want and expect. 

A number of people (almost all cis males) claim that women are as aggressive sexually as men. That is certainly true, and it isn't good. But it means something different.
99% of all sexual assault happens by men. Women know this, even if men don't. Women protect themselves from the inevitable onslaught by some man, and they don't know which one. Most threats from men are small, the off-hand comment, the lingering leer. These mosquito bites mean nothing, unless you are in an area in which a quarter of those mosquitoes have malaria. Then you get scared, because one of those mosquitoes will really harm you.
This is the life that women have in a rape culture. Up to 25 percent of men have sexually assaulted someone. Less than one percent of women have. Frankly, women have something to be scared about. Men might get unwelcome sexual attention (I have), but we don't live in a context of sexual assault.
And sexual assault usually happens by friends or family, people women trust. This makes the whole situation more frightening. Because the ones who are closest to women are more likely to be the ones to harm them.
The issue is less a single event, but the constant fear that it could happen any moment, by a trusted person. Most cis men don't have to worry about that.
(BTW, 45 percent of all gay or bi men also experience sexual assault, 99 percent of which are also caused by men).

I just had a man post under the last section, "you are so brainwashed."  If he means that I have looked at the facts and listened to women to come to a reasonable assumption, and he calls that "brainwashing", then yes, yes I have.

But if he means that I have dismissed out of hand the assumptions that the world has stuffed down our throats about the sexual "needs" of men, the lesser status that women have been handed, the disrespect that women have suffered for millennia, and the excuses men have given in order to act immorally... well, I guess I have done that too.

No apologies.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Working toward Freedom

We all have two people:
A free person and a person under slavery. 
Our freedom is where we can love beings around us. Our slavery is when we have to focus on something other than love.
We could be under slavery to mental health issues, to selfishness, to emotions, to addictions, to oppression, to financial burdens, to a belief system, or many other things.
The first goal of our lives should be to free ourselves so that we can love and help others. The second goal of our lives should be to help others free themselves so they can love others.

Questions I Must Ask Myself Today

Did I speak to support or to tear down?

Did my silence encourage or discourage listening?

Did I have an opportunity to save a life today? Did I take it?

What I hope for today?  What actions did I do that indicate my true desire?

To which god did I offer service today?

Whom did I love today? How did I show that love?

For what am I grateful for? How can I speak that gratitude?

Did I give someone a chance to thrive, or did I take that away?

How did I respond to my anger, to create or to destroy?

Did I step up to my fear, or run away?

Did I equip myself to help another person tomorrow?

For whom must I pray?