From One Christian to Another: Southern “Heritage” and Marriage Equality for All

I have seen a lot of buzz and opinions posted on the internet this week about the historic changes that have happened, and are still coming about in the U.S. I figured I would add my two cents as well, now that I’ve had some time to process it all.

I know that many of my Southern friends are upset about the Confederate flags coming down, but I really think it is a no-brainer, and it should have happened long ago, like at the end of the 19th Century or something. I don’t know if Southern states have been flying them all along or not, but I really think it is a crime against humanity to try to retain anything reminiscent of the Confederacy, except in a museum. You can go there to celebrate your heritage, not parade it around like it was something positive, because for black people, it is a crying shame. It is a symbol of a time when an African people were robbed of everything by the greed of a country that had no shame, of immense cruelty, of stripping them of every right they had, including family, property, and even their name. It’s way past time for us all to appreciate that.

Now, as far as the marriage equality debate, I have to admit, like most people, it has taken me a long time to come around. I think it is only within the last ten years that our culture has really gotten to the point where we understand that two people can love each other, no matter what their sexual orientation. I think most of us grew up with the idea that alternative sexual orientation was a kind of deviancy that was to be avoided at all costs, joked about, teased mercilessly, etc. But I see now that it is not just about sex, but more about gender identity. Most people probably don’t even think about it. But it is an important and necessary distinction to make. Yes, sex is involved in the relationship, I imagine, although, like in heterosexual marriage, that is none of our business. I am still processing it all, too. It is about a committed, sacred relationship. It is about love. Everyone deserves that.

I wanted to say a few words about the Bible, as well. Although, for Fundamentalists, and many Evangelicals,  arguing is like beating your head against a wall, I wanted to try, for those who are on the fence, or, possibly struggling with these issues. The Bible mentions slavery in passing in the New Testament, not sure where else, or of the verse, but I think it is Paul who encourages slaves to obey their masters, and masters to treat their slaves well. Anyone who thinks this is a justification of slavery is fooling themselves. It is a matter of fact statement, relative to only the culture at the time, because slaves were common then. It does not say slavery in itself is right, or that it is good. It was just how things were. The world had not evolved to even consider that question yet, and neither did the Apostle Paul. Just because it is mentioned in the Bible does not mean that culture cannot move on from that point and improve and grow. It’s ridiculous to think that way. If in doubt, see the commands to the people of Israel all over the Old Testament, and specifically in Exodus. Muslims, check the Koran. All the holy scriptures were originally written to apply to a specific time and place, not for everyone, and not for all time.

Lastly, an appeal to more common sense concerning this same issue. The Bible talks a lot about lust. It is all over the place. The main reference in the Book of Romans mentions lust, as well. Is it love that the Bible prohibits, or is it lust? I think that most people, without even checking, can answer that. Lust is dangerous. It gets us into all kinds of trouble. We can all relate to that. We have all been there. But the Bible talks a lot about love, too. Jesus, especially, mentions it over and over. Paul says it a lot, too. You really can’t mount an argument against love. If you can, I would hate to be you. Who would want to argue with love? Marriage Equality is about love, not lust. People don’t want to get married so they can have sex. They want commitment, relationship, support, and equality under the law, with all the rights from the government that come with that. How can you deny them that? Why would you want to? If you have a personal hang up about it, keep it to yourself. That’s your issue. Give people freedom and equality. It is their God-given right. Leave others alone. It’s really none of your business, anyway.

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True Brothers in Christ

“And every man is, to the Christian, in some sense a brother. Some are actually and visibly members of the Body of Christ. But all men are potentially members of that body, and who can say with certainty that the non-Catholic or the non-Christian is not in some hidden way justified by the indwelling spirit of God and hence, though not visibly and obviously, a true brother ‘in Christ’?”

–Thomas Merton, “Life and Holiness”

Contemplation and the Virtue of Love

“…the true contemplative has no special interest in anybody for their own qualities, whether he is a relation or a stranger, a friend or an enemy. All men seem related to him and nobody is a stranger; all are his friends and none is his enemy. He will go so far as to say that all those who hurt and damage him in this world are his special friends, and he seems inspired to seek their good as zealously as he would the good of his very best friend…”

from Chapter 24, “The Cloud of Unknowing”

More Bloodshed, More Grief: Is It Time Yet to End This?

For those of you who haven’t heard, two police officers were ambushed this week in their police car and murdered by a black man.

I’m sure some of my white friends and family are chalking this up to one more angry black man taking justice into his own hands and all the persecution towards police lately is to blame. And you probably feel that your anger at blacks is now justified. But you know I’m not going to go for that.

Ask yourself this: Do you honestly think black people break the law anymore than white people? You might look at our courts, jails and prisons, and make that conclusion–but you would be wrong. The reason they are there and whites are not, is simply because they are patrolled, watched, harassed, accused, investigated, prosecuted, charged and convicted more. These things are done, because whites see blacks as the enemy: the thieves, the druggies, the gang members, the murderers and the rapists. The sad thing is, whites do all these things as well, but they usually get away with it, or at least, if they are caught (which is not likely, since they are not as vulnerable as blacks to surveillance, and in many cases, harassment), they are not charged (whites get warnings much more than blacks); if they are charged, and especially if they are a police officer, their case is dismissed before even being able to present evidence; if they are tried, they are not convicted; if they are convicted, they are given a much lighter sentence, and rarely prison time, even if their crime was the same crime for which a black man is imprisoned, or even executed.

Another difference, when something like this happens, white people get justice. Their cries are heard. These fallen officers will be honored, and their killer, if he lives, will receive the harshest penalty imaginable. This is because they are white, they are police officers (who can do no wrong, apparently), and he is black, one more criminal to punish, and, worse, a black man that didn’t keep in his place. Only fifty years ago, he would be tortured and lynched, and today they’ll do whatever is in their power to punish him with impunity, making sure this black man, and all black men like him, know their place, and who really holds the power in this country.

You can complain all you want about protests, riots, blog posts, Facebook rants, whatever. But this issue is here to stay, until blacks are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. They will continue to demand it, and there will continue to be more bloodshed on both sides, until whites take responsibility for their actions towards all oppressed people, all around the world.

Oppression and Violence in the USA

This is a repost of thoughts I put on Facebook earlier today. I figured I’d reach a different audience this way…

The United States has a unique and very complex problem with oppression and violence. It is unique because our country is the most powerful country in the world. It is a problem, not only because we use violence to control our enemies, but because our culture teaches us that any violence is always justified towards our enemies, that those in power can do whatever they want to those that are powerless, as long as that person has been labeled as an enemy; and that the oppressed are the enemy, so any violence done to them is justified. Does everyone now see the problem? If not, please read the attached article from Wikipedia on structural (and cultural) violence. I thought it was also interesting that there is no main entry for cultural violence. Hmmm…

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_violence“>
(Structural [and Cultural] Violence)

“Blessed Are You When…”

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I was raised in the church, so I was taught that heaven is a beautiful place we go to when we die, because of the sacrificial death on a cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whom Christians consider to be God’s one and only son. This is what most Christians are taught when they are children by the Christian education program that we in the church call “Sunday School”.

Since then I have struggled with several issues related to this teaching. First of all, if heaven is a place, then where is it? Outer space? Another planet? Another solar system? Another universe? In the book of Matthew, in Chapters 5, 6 and 7, what is often referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus makes some very interesting points about suffering, spirituality, morality, and heaven. I think some conclusions can be drawn about heaven in particular in Matthew 5:2-12, also known as “the Beatitudes”.

Jesus uses the phrase, “Blessed are you when…”, followed by several scenarios of suffering, which are then followed by rewards. Jesus covers a large amount of territory in these 11 verses. Such topics are as follows: “the poor in spirit”, “those who mourn”, “the meek”, “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”, “the merciful”, “the pure in heart”, “peacemakers”, “those who are persecuted for righteousness”, and finally, “when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of false things about you because of me”.

So, you might be saying, what are the rewards? Well, the rewards are not what most people spend their time dreaming about. Jesus does not promise a new car, a new house, an expensive vacation, or winning the lottery. Instead, as Jesus is known to do, he turns suffering on its head, and points out rewards that are directly related to each type of suffering. They are as follows: “the kingdom of heaven”, “comfort”, “the earth”, “being filled”, “being shown mercy”, “seeing God”, “being called children of God”, “the kingdom of heaven” (again) and, finally, “a great reward in heaven”. So, there it is, again and again: “heaven”.

So what is this “heaven” exactly? These days I am more inclined to believe that heaven is not just a place that good people go to when they die, like so many of us are taught. I think heaven is more than that. I think heaven could be described as “another dimension of reality.” Now, I’m not talking here about having our minds blown by LSD, marijuana or peyote. I’m talking about something much deeper, something that penetrates every day, every hour, every minute, every second of our lives. And not just for those who are considered by some as believers, either. Heaven is a state of being, a way of seeing, an experience that can be tapped into at anytime, in any place, by anybody.

The trick, though, if you want to call it that, is that heaven can only be experienced by those who do God’s will. Now, I do not believe that this is only a select population, nor do I believe that you have to refer to yourself as a Christian. I think God is bigger than our petty religions that we create, the churches, temples, mosques and synagogues that we build, and all the rules we try to follow as if God is the Cosmic Santa Claus, and we want to make sure that we are on his “Good List”, so we can get lots of presents on Christmas morning.

I think Jesus challenges us to take a higher path, a more difficult path, but a path that gives rewards that are greater than we can ask for or imagine. In Matthew 5:44-45, Jesus makes an especially radical challenge: “…love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” So, what is he getting at, here? Most of us, if we are honest, would admit that loving our enemies is something we cannot do, not without a lot of help, at least. And there it is. There is help, if you are willing to ask for it and accept it, no strings attached. Ask God to forgive you for all the ways that you fall short, every day, every hour, every minute, every second. Then, accept the life-changing, soul-freeing, everlasting love that God wants to give to each and every one of us. Perhaps, if we are willing, there is a “place” in heaven for every one of us.

Aborting Genius

True, so true. I took a few creative writing classes at FSU several years ago, and there is so much emphasis on following rules. Even my classmates were intolerant whenever I tried to do something different. Weird.

Poesy plus Polemics

"A Bit More Pressure Can be Good fro You" Painting by Alan Firmin From "Be Fearful of Mediocrity" at afirmin.com “A Bit More Pressure Can be Good for You”
Painting by Alan Firmin
From “Be Fearful of Mediocrity” at afirmin.com

exquisite raw feats of
sure genius
by uncommon autistic savants

serve to illustrate how much
pure genius
human intellect desperately wants

to unleash of potential
poor genius
starved by schools focused on the mundane

who will manage to damn well
cure genius
before it takes root in the brain

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About Those Tickled Ears

“Having a form of godliness, but denying its power…” This is quite common in Christian circles today, as it has been for a long time.

The Upside Down World

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” – 2 Timothy 4:3-4

As a general rule I do my best to adhere to the policy that one ought to promote what one loves rather than bashing what one opposes. But today, I feel the need to warn y’all about the ear ticklers. “Have their ears tickled” was something of an idiom in ancient Rome which meant that a person was listening for things which were pleasing to them rather than the truth. What people looking to have their ears tickled really had a preference for were ideas which were new or novel. Paul warned young Timothy that the day would come when ear…

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