Archive for the ‘societal expectations’ Category

What the Cross Means to Me

It was a dark, cloudy evening. Thunderstorms were all around and the lightning flashed almost constantly as we made our way back home from a night in the big city.

…big by our standards anyway.

As we approached Happy, Texas, there it was in the distance standing tall with lights illuminating it for all to see…the cross.  It was recently erected in hopes that someone would see it and feel compelled to turn to God.

I have lots of respect for those who chose to honor the object of their beliefs in such a public way. Even though it is not something I would do, I won’t begrudge them their passion and purpose as long as they don’t force those ideals and beliefs on me and my family.

As we drove by the illuminated cross, I asked myself what it meant to me to see it there on the side of the road. For that matter, what does any cross I see these days trigger in me?

For the Mel Gibson crowd, the cross is a reminder that Jesus suffered, died, and miraculously came back to life for the purpose of getting their evil, sinful selves a pass into heaven on judgment day.

Not me.

Not even close.

Well, maybe sorta close.

That cross in that moment amid a backdrop of violent lightning, reminded me that religious people through the centuries have gone to great lengths to silence anyone who dared question the currently accepted way of doing things.

Jesus dared.

They had him killed in a very public and official display of authority.

That much, I do not question.

Beyond that, I have many, but that’s for another day and another post.

Not much has changed in 2000 years.

Bottom line, regardless of who you are, if you seek to show people a better way–a more compassionate and less vengeful pathway to communion with a divine source–odds are pretty good things may get messy for you.

Thank you, Big Cross, for reminding me that rocking the boats of the religious majority rarely ends with “peace, be still”. Thank you for reminding me that sometimes the message of a better way through love and peace can be twisted and perverted into a whole new religion.

Sorta makes a person wonder if speaking up is worth it, doesn’t it?

Being Remembered

There has been little the past six months that has spawned my desire to blog. Thank God for Easter kicking my rebel mind into high gear. And a word of warning: If you are going to CHOOSE to be offended by what I say, stop reading and close this page. I don’t need the grief.  If, however, you are willing to have your thinking challenged in a way that may be very uncomfortable, then read on.

As people around the world seek to find an appropriate and sometimes elaborate way to memorialize the death and resurrection of Jesus, I have found myself wondering what he thinks about all of this. Please indulge me for a moment as I take this though process through its steps.

I have had a number of older family members (grandparents) pass over the years in the usual sad yet relatively mundane, uneventful ways–heart problems, cancer, old age, etc. I have known a few people who have died horribly tragic deaths–violent, graphic, unfair deaths.

In each instance, I find myself asking, “How would they want to be memorialized?”

Would my grandparents want everyone to gather around a hospital bed year after year at the appointed time and cry as each of us remembers their departure?

Would those who were killed in tragic accidents want their families to reassemble at the place (or a substitute place) where their death occurred and re-enact the events that led to their death?

Would they want a bigger than life monument erected so that everyone who passes by could see and remember how they died? Maybe it would be a crushed car three stories high, or a fifty foot replica of the handgun with which they were shot, or a giant ligature with which they were strangled.

Pretty gruesome, when you think about it, right?

I think in each case, they would want to be remembered for what they did in life, how they made a difference for others, what they contributed to the betterment of society.

Ask yourself  how you would like to be remembered? Go ahead and take a moment to think through how you want your family to reflect on your life and death each year.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Why do we think Jesus wants to be remembered as a gruesome bloody body suffocating to death on a cross? Why would he want us spending time and a buttload of money erecting crosses to repeatedly remind us of how much he suffered? Would your loved one want that?

No where did he ask us to remember his suffering by putting crosses throughout our homes and along our highways. He simply suggested we eat some bread and drink some wine in his memory….

Oh……and do what he did: heal the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and love our neighbor.

One other thought that is likely to send a few more people over the edge…

I find it ironic that we have conveniently forgotten the commandments about no graven images, idols, statues, objects of worship as well as that whole Tower of Babel story that are found in the Old Testament, but we can’t seem to move past the notion that homosexuality is an abomination and they must be put to death (right alongside your neighbor who ate pork last night).

Happy Easter everyone. May your day be filled with opportunities to bless someone’s life without judgment.

A Parable of Memoirs

Recently I’ve been reading and listening to some historical information on how the Bible as we know it came to be.  From the historian/scientist standpoint, it’s very difficult to accept the collection as literal true history once the facts surrounding the origin and compilation are made known.

It simply isn’t logical given what we know about how the human mind and memory work.

Yet Christianity has developed a very effective means of getting around the lack of logical. We simply ignore the facts of the matter, claim divine inspiration and guidance, and call it faith.

The result is a collection of contradictions and conflicting opinions that become the absolute inerrant Word of God.

Be sure to make a note of the words contradictions, conflicting opinions, and inerrant. Not words that typically fit well together.

In order to better illustrate to the faithful why this might not be quite as accurate as most want to believe, I’d like to share a little story, or parable of sorts. That’s how Jesus made his point to the hard headed and under-educated of the times. Remember, the story that follows is total fiction.

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Angie. She had three friends and a cousin with whom she had been quite close when she was between the ages of 10 and 13.

When Angie was 43, her three friends and a cousin decided they each wanted to write a memoir of the times they had with Angie between the ages of 10 and 13. There was only one small problem. They all had serious learning disabilities, and had never really mastered the whole reading and writing thing very well.

Tales of Angie’s life between the ages of 10 and 13 had become legendary, so the three friends and a cousin each told their stories to a ghost writer who recorded the memories each had of the events that happened 30 years ago.

Fast forward 100 years. Angie had become quite a legend all over the world. Tales of her escapades as a pre-teen were shared around summer campfires. Ghost stories involving her and her friends grew the legend even more. Her story was known far and wide and was told in many different languages.

One day, the Society for the Preservation of Angie’s Story decided to compile all of the stories into a novel. The dug through old documents that were faded, torn, and dusty. They hosted evidence hearings to evaluate all the different versions. They hired linguists to translate the various stories from other languages and cultures.

Many of the stories and sources were rejected. They did not align with the ideals held by the leadership of the Society. In order to prevent them from ever polluting Angie’s Story, the Society decided to burn every document that was deemed false.

And so the story was compiled. 

Unfortunately, the memoirs used to compile Angie’s story had many contradictions. They showed her to be in multiple places at once. They contradicted each other as to who her great grandparents were. They even added in details that defied the laws of nature. Miraculous tales of time travel and flying through the air without wings.

It was an amazing story.

The Society proclaimed it was historically accurate and convinced a world leader to side with them. As people came forward to question the inconsistencies and the implausibilities, they were discredited or even put to death.

And so the legend grew. Two thousand years later, a nation’s government decided that Angie’s Story should be taught in schools as historical truth. Many people continued to point out the inaccuracies and inconsistencies, but the majority ignored them and claimed Angie’s Story MUST be true because she was divine and the story had been properly preserved and protected by her divinity.

Those who didn’t believe were labeled as evil-doers and unfaithful. 

Sadly, the true message that stood to be gained from the adventures of Angie’s pre-teen years were totally lost in all of the fussing and fighting about the authenticity of the story. Everyone focused on the fight to defend her story as literal true history, and totally missed the point of her life and message.


An Ethical Dilema

This morning I applied for a teaching job.

There is nothing about that act that should be out of the ordinary, stressful, or otherwise challenging to my psyche. The job is for a position with my college alma mater and it is something I have dreamed of many times. I have the fondest of memories of being at that school. I have no doubt I am qualified. I have no doubt I can do it. I have a few reservations about the prospect of being expected to pursue a doctorate, but even that is certainly well within my capabilities.

The ethical dilema reared its ever present head when the question of personal faith appeared on the application. Plain and simple:

What is your religious faith? Church of Christ or Other? If other, please explain.

Seeing as to how important that CoC part is to the organization to which I am applying, I defaulted to that option. After all, it is my faith heritage.

Next came the sworn statement about upholding the values and beliefs of the CoC.

After a long pause, I checked “Yes, I will.”

You might wonder how in good conscious and total honesty I can still claim a Church of Christ faith, especially considering some of the intense posts I have composed in the past year. It’s really pretty simple.

The basic premise of the Churches of Christ is to be like the first century church. In other words, the stated objective is essentially immitate as closely as possible the man called Jesus of Nazareth and his followers before, during, and after his death.

I hold to the majority of those beliefs.

I believe that there is something greater than me that is a part of me and I am a part of it.

I believe it is our responsibility as human beings to share our resources and help ease the suffering of those whose circumstances are a source of misery and hunger.

I believe in the importance of loving not only my neighbor, but my enemy as well.

I believe Jesus questioned and challenged authority and tradition at every level and encouraged his followers to do likewise.

I believe that a person who chooses to live by the fruits of the spirit will be much happier and will bring happiness to those who enter our lives.

I believe our thoughts shape who and what we are and will become.

I believe in the concept of believing as if we have already received.

I believe that the performance of a ritual such as baptism or communion to signify a commitment to these concepts can be an important part of a person’s spiritual journey.

I believe the Bible has much wisdom to offer those who turn its pages and consume its texts.

I believe in the importance of questioning tradition, authority, and assumptions.

I believe “the church” was intended to be a source of unconditional brotherly love.

I love a cappella music. Oh, and instrumental music, too.

However, there are many ideas held by some individuals within the group that identifies itself as the Church of Christ with which I cannot currently accept as a part of my personal belief system.

I do not believe it is appropriate to take literally, declare as sacred, and apply as law for today a collection of writings compiled by a group of men, translated numerous times by hand from a variety of languages, which were written with a particular culture and ideas as its focus.

I do not believe a religion in which torture and murder of those who questioned the leadership and status quo can be viewed as authentic and completely accurate.

I do not believe the many contradictions, inconsistencies, and unanswered questions can or should be dismissed by stating that we as mere humans cannot understand the mind of God.

I do not believe that sparing the rod has spoiled the child.

I do not believe God cares whether or not we use intruments in making music.

I do not believe that all homosexuality is a choice and that those with such feelings should be denied sexual satisfaction and happiness or risk being labeled as sinners.

I do not believe “the church” as a whole has been a source of unconditional brotherly love. On the contrary, I believe the church has used religion as an excuse to be prejudicial, exclusive and hateful toward those who experience life differently from the norm.

I do not believe it is appropriate to request that we not all be lumped together because “not all Christians are like that”. We should be policing our own and recognize that we are in fact our brother’s keeper. The wacko Christian that just killed 90+ people IS our problem. We created him. By the same token, Muslim extremism IS the problem of the Islamic religion and its people. Both are dangerous. Neither embodies the concept of love advocated by its object of worship.

I do not believe religion has any place in the making of laws of our government if we are in fact a “freedom of religion” state.

I do not believe religion is the ultimate  answer to drought, hunger, mental disorders, marital problems , and suffering in general. Such belief tends to make matters worse, not better.

I do not believe silencing the questions will save the sanctity of the organization. Pursecuting and punishing those who would publicly raise the tough and challenging questions assures that a group of people are NOT true followers of Jesus.

I do not believe in the law of silence. Just because the chosen writers didn’t record it in black and white doesn’t make it an abomination to God.

I do not believe the Bible accurately and clearly portrays the entity we refer to as God. If so, we have a very bi-polar and confusing deity.

I do not believe Paul is the ultimate authority on Christian worship and behavior.

I do not believe the words of Paul, Peter, John, Timothy, and others should be taken above those of Jesus.

I do not believe in black and white, nor do I think Jesus did either. If he did, he would have cast the first stone at the “sinful” women he encountered.

There are probably many more things I could add to this list, and some that may some day be removed as my questions evolve and my spirituality matures. Until then, I hope that my desire to be like the great teacher who taught love as the greatest commandment will be enough to make me worthy to be a teacher as well.

To quote the great teacher, “…So who do you say that I am?”

A Trip with a Mission

My oldest hopped aboard a plane to Honduras this morning. She is with a group of very nice people, most of whom claim the label “Christian”.

One might tend to think I would be opposed to sending my kid off with a group like this on a “mission trip”, and in most instances, I would be a bit apprehensive of the potential for brainwashing that might ensue.

However, there is something different about this trip and the people making the trip. This group is walking the walk rather than just talking the talk. They are taking quite seriously the commandment attributed to Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself. They are making a trip with a mission, not going on a mission trip to proselytize people who just need medicine, a meal and shelter.

Here’s the itinerary for the trip:

Sunday – church in Santa Ana, lunch in Teguc and visits at Hospital Escuela and 21 October Home for boys. Finishing day at Nueve Oriental
Monday – Start willies house and building 2 others, Feed at Dump, Clinic Planning
Tuesday – Clinic at Sabana Grande, build 2 houses, willie house
Wed – Clothing give away, morning work at the dump, and more
Thursday – Clinic near the dump, build 2 houses, willie house, feeding people.
Friday – market buy/ food distribution, house construction, finish willie house, Casa de Esperanza
Sat – adios.

Notice anything missing? They will be too busy working their tails off helping people to tell them they are going to hell. Granted, they are having a church service on Sunday, but that’s what these people do on Sunday. It’s part of their spiritual ritual. I can cut them some slack on that one.

You see, I’m not interested in how many kids you drag to your summer Vacation Bible School. I’m not interested in how many people your church baptizes or how many show up every week. Frankly, I could care less about whether yours is the one true way to get to heaven. In my opinion, all of that is cow pookey.

I’m way more interested in how much love and compassion is shown to our fellow human beings.

Oh, and I am eternally grateful to those who have helped my daughter make this trip financially. You are my heroes as is she.

If you’d like to keep up with the events of the week, check out Hopefully he will be able to keep us all posted on their progress.


Apparently today was a good day to blog about hypocracy. Seems half the people I follow had some element of hypocracy as their theme.  A couple that stood out to me included Trey Morgan’s post You Might Be a Hypocrite If… and Jessica Ahlquist’s post A Crown of Thorns with Jelly.

Trey, a minister,  takes the Jeff Foxworthy approach to identifying hypocratic tendancies that seem to rear their ugly  heads in Christianity from time to time. Jessica shares her story about efforts to secure separation of church and state in the public school she attends. She goes head to head with an ultra-right-wing Christian “hell-bent” on keeping prayer in the school. Said Christian had apparently been arrested in the past for “…freaking out and throwing a pro-life video at someone…”.

Both are good reads.

And it took everything inside of me to keep my mouth shut on Trey’s blog. I had a few things to add to his list, but didn’t feel like he deserved to have to deal with the ruckus I am capable of causing.

Nevertheless, I have a few questions to ask regarding this whole hypocracy thing.

Like, isn’t it a bit hypocritical to be pro-life and pro-war?

And what about supporting a thrice divorced candidate as the cheerleader for family values?

I’m even wondering if Jesus would support a political candidate who advocates drilling for oil in our protected areas?

I mean really, What Would Jesus Do?

Stem cell research….I wonder if Jesus would allow a child to suffer with a horrible disease that might be curable at some point through stem cell research? Oh wait….he’d just miraculously heal them. Hmmm…..bad example. :P

Might it be a tad hypocritical to cut federal funding for women’s health care clinics for the poor while bankrolling the banking and auto industry?

What about the Christian approach to solving the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa? Eliminate the funding for medicine and condoms and start teaching them to keep their appendages behind their zipper.

That’s a real weinner.

What kinds of hypocritical political poop can you add to this list?

Dr. Death

I just noticed a headline that indicated Jack Kevorkian, the infamous Dr. Death of assisted suicide notoriety, has passed into whatever lies beyond the back side of his own eyelids.

I couldn’t help but ponder a few questions, because….well….his “mission” is such a question gold mine for those of us who like to rock the boats of the comfortably confident God-pleasers.

So here goes.

Upon hearing of his death, what was your knee-jerk, first instinct reaction?

Was it …

A) I thought he died 20 years ago.

B) May he rot in hell along with those poor people who committed suicide with his machines.

C) Why do I even care?

D) That was one courageous old dude. May he rest in peace.

I confess, there was a time several years ago when I probably would have chosen B or C. Today, I’d be a D.

…Which leads me to my next question…

Why are we as a society generally accepting or at least tolerant of euthenizing animals whether gravely ill or perfectly healthy, yet we are repulsed to the point of mob mentality over the mere mention of helping a truly terminally ill human escape their prison of torture?

I’m guessing there is a God factor working on the psyches of those who have the strongest negative reaction to the idea of assisted suicide. You know….that whole twisted notion that people who commit suicide go straight to hell and that God has a purpose for extending a person’s disease ravaged, agonizing existence. We like to give God all the credit and blame for being in control of things…..

unless we don’t…

Because we all “know” that while God is completely in control of the human thing, he’s incapable of controlling the animal thing. We have animal control specialists for that. (FYI—the previous two sentences are oozing with classic Angie sarcasm.)

And that whole Bible bit about clothing the sparrow is probably not relevant to us today…..

unless it fits the sermon this Sunday.

Of course, we can carry this “God is in control of life and death” thing a bit further, if you like…..right into the abortion vs. pro-life argument.

Most pro-lifers are somewhat moderate. They seem to think that abortion should be illegal except in certain cases such as rape or mother’s life being in danger.

My question is why the exception? If we truly believe God is in control of this life and death thing, why are we willing to kill a fetus in one situation, but not in another? Maybe God wants that baby to be born and that mama to die.

OR…..maybe we say those things to avoid having to commit fully to a position that says under no circumstances should anyone other than God end a life. Except God doesn’t cause death, does he? He’s not mean like that…well…unless your name happens to be Uriah or Nadab and Abihu, or you were unfortunate enough to be a citizen of Jericho when Joshua came knocking, or didn’t get invited onto the boat with Noah when the rains came.

It must’ve sucked to be camel number 3 that day.

“God, what did I do wrong to earn a ticket to the big swimming pool instead of the floaty pass? I was trying to be nice and not push to the front of the line. If only I had known, I’d a run her over.”

Maybe, if the truth be known, we are more afraid to commit to a position that says God doesn’t “care” what the heck any of us do with life.

Don’t ask me. I’m just trying to find a little consistency in anything remotely attached to religion.

Besides, I’m still stuck trying to figure out that poor number 3 camel situation.


Let’s play a word association game, okay? I’ll say a word, you notice what descriptors come to mind immediately. No looking them up…just knee jerk reaction to each word. No cheating.








Got your descriptors for each figured out?  Are you sure? Don’t go on until you have acknowledged what you believe about each of these.

Folks, that is what we call a stereotype.  We all have them. Whatever stereotype you assigned to each of the categories listed above is a direct result of your life experiences and the influences of the people around you. Many of those stereotypes are inaccurate and unfair to the majority of people who claim those descriptors.

Lately I’ve shared several things on Facebook that are quite harsh towards people who categorize themselves as Christians. Many of my Christian friends have a difficult time accepting the criticism  because they don’t see themselves as fitting the stereotypical descriptions attached to a word. Just as many Muslims recoil at the idea of being compared to Bin Laden’s followers, many Christians recoil at the idea of being lumped together with the legalistic extremists that dominate the news.

So why do we do this?

It’s programming. Conditioning. Experiences, both good and bad. They shape us and they shape our view of everything outside of us. Many of us have had experiences that have left quite a bitter taste in our mouths regarding the absolute rightness of Christianity.

So what’s a person to do when the descriptive word that has long been their identity, their get out of jail free card, has acquired such a negative connotation? Do we bow up and the people who lump us all together and whine that we aren’t all like that?

Well, that just added pouty whiner to the stereotype, so it probably isn’t the best solution. I said pouty not poultry.

Do we wear our identity plastered all over our shirts and our cars and set out to prove we are better than the fundamentalist lowlife assholes by serving and sacrificing until it kills us and destroys our family?

Not likely to change many attitudes and opinions.

So what’s a “nice Christian” to do? How can the bad wrap/reputation be shed?

My personal game plan is to ditch the Christian identity as my meal ticket and secret hand shake.

I plan to do my best to love every person who crosses my path. Hint: you will be much easier to love if you just love me back and don’t try to save me and my children from hell.

I am going to lay my hands on whomever needs and wants my touch, and wherever healing is within my power, I will give them all I have to give.

I plan to donate what I feel I can to organizations whose reach and ability to make a difference for hungry people exceeds mine and who keep the proseletyzing to a minimum.

I will do my best to connect with people who feel Christianity isn’t for them by caring for them and accepting them as Jesus might have.

I will teach and model for my children as best I can that “do unto others” means showing love to them even when they are not showing love to us.

I will help my children to see a bigger picture and learn to be wary of anyone pedaling “absolutes”.

And finally, I will work to move past and release the resentment I apparently harbor toward my stereotype image of Christian. Note: It will be a much easier task if they will kindly remove their claws from our political and legal system and start caring a bit more about the “creation” they claim came from the God they hold in such high esteem.

Okay, so I still have a long ways to go.

What are your thoughts? How do the “nice Christians” shake the negativity that many have attached to the word “Christian”? Is it even possible, or is it time to find a new identity?

God is So Good…Really???

Just a few short thoughts today. My apologies in advance for the likelihood of a sarcastic tone. I’ve been watching updates this past week regarding an acquaintance who was attacked by a nasty infection which traveled through his body and landed in a bony area completely eating through part of the bone. He was ripped open by surgeons, loads of infection and puss scraped out of his body, pumped full of even more antibiotics, and sewn back up to await his fate.

With news of each healing milestone, people proclaimed, “God is so good. God answers prayers!”

I watched a similar scenario play out last summer with another acquaintance. Near death many times, this person clawed and scratched his way back to health, having to have a leg removed in the process. Same thing. With each step forward, the people proclaimed, “How good is our God?”

My question is simply, where was this good God when that infection was worming it’s way into the bodies of these two? And what if things had not turned out so favorably? Instead of a good God, we revert to explaning it away.

“God’s will be done.”

“Pain and death are the work of Satan.”

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the power of prayer. However, I do not believe begging God to heal someone heals them. I believe the collective energies of many people focusing their attention and intention on a person’s healing actually supports the healing process for a given individual.

If God is so good, if he is the source of all healing, then why does he allow the situation to progress so that a person has to be ripped open and have their insides repeated scraped out by men with knives to heal them? What kind of a loving father would do that to his beloved child if he had the power to stop it? It makes no sense. The logic of Christianity doesn’t work.

Higher purpose? Sorry. Not buying it.

I’m inclined to think crap happens to everyone and some people get lucky enough to survive while others don’t. It’s a coin toss.

What’s your explanation?

Vengeance via Weather is Mine, Saith the Lord

Raise your hand if you know someone who ever suggested or even truly believes Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for all the evil contained in New Orleans.

Mine’s raised. I know people who believe it.

Oh, and that Sodom and Gomorrah thing….that was a direct action of the Big Guy, too, wasn’t it?

<insert dripping sarcasm here>

I mean, after all, the Bible says it happened that way and we all know the Bible is absolutely historically accurate because it was written by God himself, right?

So my question today is if those cataclysmic natural disasters were God punishing his horribly disobedient children, what the hell did the eastern half of the United States do to make him mad enough to send 100+ massive tornadoes including the longest touchdown in recorded weather history?

I mean really now. Alabama is supposed to be the heart of God’s faithful. What could THEY possibly have done that was horrible enough to warrant a punishment like this?

It was a punishment, right? Because if Hurricane Katrina was a punishment for New Orleans, and fire and brimstone (likely a volcano, if in fact it really did happen) were punishment for Sodom and Gomorrah, then reason and logic would insist that this week’s horrific tornado event must also be some sort of punishment.

Ah….reason and logic.

Two of the greatest enemies of faith.

The same reason and logic that says if homosexuality is an abomination before God, then wearing clothing woven of two different types of fibers is, too.

Except it isn’t.

The same reason and logic that says the Bible is completely timeless and fully applicable to our lives today, except that part about performing miracles and women keeping their heads covered.

You see, here’s the deal…..

Either it is or it isn’t.

Either natural disasters are punishment for evil, or they aren’t.

Either the Bible is completely timeless and fully applicable to our lives today, or it isn’t.

You just don’t get to have it both ways.

So which is it?

Oh, and the fact that Amarillo got rain earlier this week and my town 50 miles south didn’t OBVIOUSLY means God likes people in Amarillo better than he likes us down here. After all, he answered their prayers. He is still ignoring us.

There’s some logic and reason for you.

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