27 September 2007

African-American, Asian-American, Native-American and...

...White?

What is wrong with this picture? Does anyone else see the obvious racism in this list? It's not right to say, 'Black person, Yellow person, Red person', so why is it alright to say 'White person'? Does anyone else see the double-standard here?

Have we become too politically correct for our own good? 'Those terms are used in derogatory ways by whites', some will say. And we don't think that 'whites' is derogatory? Or is that the point?

Has the 'white, heterosexual, male' been in power so long that he is seen as public enemy number one? I mean, if you listen to other people, he is blamed for a lot of the problems in the world.  Mind you, this isn't without merit. History is full of his actions.  Even today, there are some Anglo-American males who have just continued the oppression. They feel that they are better than other people because of something as silly as skin color. Some of them are stupid enough to say and think 'foreigners' need to go back to their own country. Seriously? Have they forgotten that everyone other than the Indigenous people of North America are 'foreigners'? Or have they forgotten that a lot of the 'foreigners' were forcibly brought here? And most of those people by their Anglo-American ancestors?  And that, after a hundred years (heck, after the first generation of people born here) those 'foreigners' have become 'authentic' Americans?

Furthermore, it seems that people forget that all people have fought over tribal lands, oppressed other people, and persecuted those people the powers felt threated by or saw as disposable or were just different. This type of 'power' is seen in the non-human creation even among the matriarchal societies (think of ants, for example). Do we think it would be any different if some other people 'group' was in power?

Here's an idea. Let's lay all the cards on the table, shall we? Let's admit that we all have pasts of which we are not proud. And stop pretending that it is okay to call each other names if you are from that same culture. (You probably thought I was going to miss that point, huh?) Then let's realize there is only one race. It is the human race. We are all brothers and sisters. 'From one ancestor [God] made all nations' (Acts 17.26). Those 'nations' are the different cultures we see in the world. No one is better than another based on language or skin or hair or whatever. We are the same race. We are different cultures.

Therefore, let's do one of two things:  Either stop calling Anglo-American people 'white' or start calling us all Americans.  I vote the latter.

Peace be with you.

+ OD

25 September 2007

'Sick to my guts...'

I usually don't make posts like this because I'm way outta my element. But I am sick of all of the hype I see in the media. The whole one sided take on journalism. Each program has an agenda. As my wife says, 'You find what you're looking for'. It would absolutely kill a mainstream media person like Olbermann to say President Bush has done something good and right. Likewise it would kill a 'talk radio' media person like Limbaugh to say that Senator Clinton or Senator Obama did something good and right. We are a country shown the extremes. Most of the mainstream media are such Bush haters, that's right I stated 'haters', that they would actually explode if they had to report on the good that he has done. Likewise 'Fox' news and talk radio hosts are such Democrat haters that they, too, would explode if they had to report on any good that they have done. 'Fair and balanced' my butt! Everyone, everyone has their agenda. It is so true that we find what we are looking for. The mainstream media seems to only report on the stuff that pushes their anti-Bush, anti-Republican agenda. Likewise, talk radio and the like seems to only report on the stuff that pushes their anti-Hilary, anti-Democratic agenda.

And I'm so sick to my guts of it.

I try and listen to both sides of the story but it is so hard to listen through all the second-grade name calling and hype. No one is really talking about anything. Both sides are only showing and pushing the extreme of the opposing view. A good example of this is when I saw a small bit of Bill Maher the other night. I usually don't watch his program because of this very issue but we were up late and channel surfing. Mos Def was one of the guests. He made the statement (and this is paraphrased, you can read the transcript here), 'Everybody wants to be America's friend. And America goes to these places and kills people!' To which Bill replied, 'Islam spread through the sword. Have you read your history?'

'Yes.'

'Then you know for a hundred years the Muslims almost conquered the whole known world and were killing anyone who would not convert to their faith.'

'That's a very convenient revision of history.'

'Really? So, Muslims are better people?'

This is exactly what I'm talking about. One extreme or the other. You are either a murdering, religious, fanatical prude or an open-minded, free-thinking, humanist philanthropist. This is such crap!

The answer is in the middle somewhere where we all live. But that position will not win an election. That position will not even get you on TV or the radio. Nope. People like the dark contrast between the 'evil' Republicans and the 'good' Democrats or the 'good' Republicans and the 'evil' Democrats. 'They (fill in your nemesis here) only want to take away your rights!'

It seems that you can't be a Republican unless you are for guns, war, low taxes, and small government. And you can't be a Democrat unless you are for anti-guns, no war, high taxes and big government. But that is the extreme in both parties. A lot of people I know are all for low taxes and small government but at the same time they don't like guns or war.

Something that is going to go by the wayside, i.e., I'm sure that the mainstream media won't comment on it or add it to a Countdown rant, is Senator Clinton was asked if she would bring the troops home during her first year of being president. Her (paraphased) answer? 'We don't know what will be happing then. We don't know how involved Iran will be. We don't know what Iraq will be like. Etc.' What? She is demanding that we bring our troops home now but sidesteps the issue if she were president?!? 'This is George Bush's war' was her cry not too long ago. Now she doesn't want to make a stand to say she will bring the troops home if she's elected?

And don't even get me started on the whole General Petraeus thing. I have seen where one side is saying that President Bush is the one who has desecrated the General and the other side is pointing out that it was the Democrats that wanted the report in the first place but now don't like the outcome. I hate that we have made the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people political.

Where is the voice of the people? Or, is there really just a few of us that are actually in the dreaded (and hated) middle? Maybe I'm naive and the country really is extremist one way or the other. Maybe that's why I'm an Episcopalian.

Here is a prayer that all of us should be able to pray whichever side of the aisle we're on:

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.


Lord, keep this nation under your care.


To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.

Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.

Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.

Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.

For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.

Peace be with you.

+ OD

22 September 2007

Slave or Free?

'Freedom in Jesus looks like slavery to the world, and indeed it is slavery to God and to righteousness, and in following Christ, if need be, even to death, which brings the final freedom, especially at the resurrection.'

This is a quote from Ted over at Jesus Community. He was responding to comments made to his post Freedom. And I think it's brilliant. What I think is important in all of this is a question that a lot of people don't even ask: What has our 'freedom' cost us? In other words, we may think we are free, but we are enslaved by that very thing we are free to do. Alcohol is a perfect example of that. We are free to choose to drink or not to drink. That is one of the 'rights' we have living as free people in the USA (as well as other countries). But at what cost? There are some people who can't drink alcohol. They become addicts. But, by god, they freely chose to drink! It is their 'god given right' to drink! But, again, at what cost? Alcoholics lose almost everything -- jobs, family, health, and sometimes the lives of others and sometimes even their own lives. Is that worth it? Some people say 'yes'. But others would heartily say 'no'. So that's the rub.

Following Jesus is all about laying aside our (supposed) freedom and becoming a willing slave. Did you catch that?  We are slaves one way or the other.  We will be forced to be slaves of something (alcohol, sex, drugs, work, country, 'freedom', etc.) or someone (usually ourselves) or we can choose to be slaves of Jesus.  And in choosing Jesus we are expected to put our loyalty to Jesus before everything else -- spouse, family, friends, community, country, etc. Everything must be considered to be a steaming pile of...loss...when evaluating following Jesus or not. As Ted states in the post and comments, we are expected to 'cut off' whatever won't conform. This is a brutal thing we are talking about here. Following Jesus -- truly, honestly -- is not for the weak.

Something that I have brought up in the Men's Bible Study group at church is the very 'either/or' picture painted in the Bible. It seems over and over again, there are only two sides. Take our Gospel reading for this week, Luke 16.1-13. Jesus said, 'No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other' (v. 13). Notice that it is so 'black and white' in this section. We can't serve personal freedom and Jesus. We will 'hate one and love the other'...we will 'be devoted to one and despise the other.' I understand that Jesus is talking about money in the story but I think the application is far reaching. It shows that people are enslaved. Even 'free' people. The question is, who is the master? Is it ourselves or is it Jesus? That, to me, is the biggest obstacle for people, not only today, in this culture, but for all time. We are commanded to conform to Jesus. To be like him. And he was all about self-sacrifice. People don't like that. People want to be able to (supposedly) do what they want when they want it. But that is a smokescreen. It's a flat out lie. We have never been able to just do what we want. We are, by our very natures as created beings, servants. We will always serve someone or something. Jesus is calling people to serve him instead of all the 'posers' out there. And the biggest poser of them all is freedom.

Peace be with you.

+ OD

19 September 2007

Quote

From my reading for EfM class:
How a community worships its god or gods [goddess or goddesses -- OD] shows how that community sees the very foundations of its culture.

Given today's culture, what are your thoughts of this?

Peace be with you.

+ OD

18 September 2007

Formerly

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1Timothy 1.12-17 (NRSV)



I want talk about change. In this passage, St Paul wrote that he was 'formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence'. The key word here is 'formerly'. Too often, especially in our culture today, we don't want to talk about personal change. That is, we don't want to admit that we might need to change; that we might be wrong about things in our lives; we might be wrong about our lifestyles; we might be wrong in our attitudes. In our Men's group, there is a gentleman who often defines 'sin' as 'something that (physically) harms someone else'. Yet, St Paul stated that he was 'formerly a blasphemer'. Blaspheming doesn't hurt anyone else. And yet, he used to be that way. This is important. It reminds me of another passage. In Colossians, St Paul wrote:

 



Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Colossians 3.5-11 (NRSV)



Here, again, we see that the Colossians used to be a certain way and do certain things. But now they don't. Why is that? The reason is pretty clear. When someone becomes a Christian, Jesus changes us. You can't come to the table and not be changed. However, we must realize that change does not come all at once. It is a process. On the other hand, as we can see from both passages, there is an understood change that takes place within a person's life that manifests itself in actions. Paul wrote the he used to be a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man. But we don't see any of those things continuing on after his conversion. It is the same in Colossians. Some of them, before Jesus, used to be fornicators, impure, etc. These things were not acceptable behavior for someone who claimed to be a follower of Jesus. But as the next verse shows, they still had some changing to do. And these things, primarily, didn't have anything to do with physically harming other people. They were attitudes and intentions. I can almost hear some people saying, 'God made me this way.' Yet St Paul is clear. You must change those things. New Creation has taken place and that must permeate the old creation. This is not just limited to our actions but includes our attitudes and intentions and desires.


My question is where are the people who are speaking out on these matters? Specifically, where are the church leaders who are speaking out on these issues?


'Sin' has been classified as separation from God. But it is also (or should be) separation from each other, as well. We can't live any way we want. There are behaviors that are acceptable and some that are not. Again, St Paul was very clear on this matter. In 1Corinthians 5 (the whole chapter), St Paul condemns the actions of both the church and the church member living in sin. He wrote:



I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.

1Corinthians 5.1-2 (NLT)



He goes on to write that if this behavior continues in the church it will spread like yeast in dough; pretty soon the whole church will be contaminated. He wrote that, when he told them to not associate with sexually immoral people, he was not talking about people outside the church. 'God will judge those outside' the church, he wrote (v. 13a). But we, that is, the Christian community, are supposed to judge those inside the church and 'remove the evil person' from among us. There seemed to be a 'moral code' among the early church. There was an morality that people in the church 'must' live by. And if someone doesn't, the the church is to remove such a person from the community.


I know that this is hard. But that is the way it has to be. We must stop looking at Christianity as a 'religion' and realize what it actually is -- the new way of life. The new way of life in the new country. The new way of life, in the new country, in the New Creation. It is the way of being truly human. The old way of being human is not to be here. That life, that way of acting, thinking -- and yes, evening being -- those ways are to be done away with.


When we come to faith in Jesus, we are not to remain the same. There are things in our lives that need to, nay, must change. It is the responsibility of the church to step up and tell their communities that we must change. That there are things that are not acceptable within the church.


Now, the question is, from where do we get this 'moral code'? Do we get this from the culture around us? Do we get this from within ourselves? Or is there another source of 'authority'? The Episcopal Church, to the shock and dismay of some without and within, sees the Bible as this authority. But it is not alone. The Bible, together with Tradition (church history) and Reason (based on the Bible and Tradition) are to be used in concert together to address these issues. And here is one way of looking at the issues of personal change: What does society accept? If society accepts something, we need to look long and hard at it within the New Creation of God. Just because it is accepted in our culture does not automatically mean we should accept it within the church.


Now, let me say something else here. Jesus is all about bringing in the people that society kicks to the curb, as the saying goes. He seems most particularly drawn to the people that are the outcasts. These people are often looked down upon by society -- prostitutes, people with chemical addictions, the homeless, the homosexual, et al. And it is these people with whom Jesus was often associated. Heck, he even ate with them! That equated to those people being accepted as members of his family. But, and here is the rub, they were not to stay that way. That is, just because someone was accepted just as he or she is doesn't mean she or he was expected to stay that way. Jesus changes people. He has to. He is all about bringing his New Creation to every part of creation, including the human condition. He told the woman caught in adultery, 'Go and sin no more' (John 8.11). He didn't condemn her, but he told her she must change. That is hard to hear. That is something that the church needs to tell its communities. Again, not those outside the family of God but those inside it need to know that there are somethings that should not be accepted or allowed.


Lastly, I am not posting all of this to sound 'holier that thou'. God forbid. I, too, am a sinner saved by God's grace alone. But I have changed a lot. But I have a long, long way to go.


Peace be with you.


+ OD

12 September 2007

Education for Ministry

efm.pngI am so excited!  I have started EfM this year and am chomping at the bit.  This is a four year program to help people with ministry.  It covers the basics of a theological education in the Old and New Testaments, church history, liturgy, and theology.  Last night was the first class and it covered the typical introductory stuff.  One thing that is done at the beginning each year is to establish Guiding Principles -- kind of a guide to help us keep on track.  A couple of the best things was confidentiality and 'no cross-talking'.  These two things alone will help set a nice 'safe' place for us to discuss things openly without worry of childish name-calling.  Another important guide is that of growth.  The idea is that we come to class with the mind set on being stretched theologically.

This is more of a 'student led' type of course, meaning that we don't have a 'teacher' but a mentor.  Our mentor is there to guide the conversations and help keep us on task.  This is crucial because all years are in the same room.  We have all four year students in our group so the conversations should be rather exciting and challenging.

Each year we are given a 3", 3-ringed binder filled with that years assigned readings.  On top of that, we also have a Common Lesson binder.  There is just one of those, however.  There are also additional resource suggestions.

Every class (and we meet every week except for regular holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Spring Break) for nine months) open and closes with...well...and Opening and Closing.  There are just little poems or songs or prayers or short stories, etc., to help us focus in and get us ready for class or give us something to ponder as we leave class.

I could go on and on.  Needless to say that I will keep you posted as this journey continues.

Peace be with you.

+ OD