Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “Christian”

Time to Misbehave

Let me start with this disclaimer: In the words of Captain Mal Reynolds, “I aim to misbehave.” So if that bothers you, read no further.

You can accuse me of overreacting but the resent ban on refuges is the worst possible thing that our president could have done. If we as a people, allow this to stand we are in grave danger. As I have made the case in a previous blog, the sacred writings of the Jewish and Christian peoples abound with warning form God to protect those in danger and aid those in need or he will get pissed. Toppling of kingdoms level pissed. For those of you who are God fearing people (Jewish, Christian or Muslim) this should terrify you.

If you are not God fearing people, you should mock those of us who claim to be if we do not react to this. Any inaction on the part of those proclaiming to believe in God is true validation to you that we are nothing but a pile of hypocrites. Or at best a bunch of mindless idiots who have sold our souls for the safety of group think.

I feel the hymn Rise Up O Men of God fits this moment.

Rise up o men of God

in one united throng

bring in the day of brotherhood

and end the night of wrong

We need to rise up. We cannot remain silent when something this egregious happens in our land. The consequences are too dire to stay silent.

Shame on me for not raising this call in the heat of Black Lives Matter, for not screaming louder about Standing Rock. Both of which fall in the same category of what makes God pissed.

But this latest move scares me. Truly scares me. I hope it scares you too.

So much of Jesus’s teachings revolve around caring for those in need. He even states he came to preach good news to the poor and to free captives. If this is not core to what we are doing as people proclaiming to follow him, trying to be like him, then we are taking the name of Christ in vain.

I believe that an approach to God and faith must come from an inclusive place. It must start that all are equally loved by God. If my understanding of Christian theology does not start with Christ dying for everyone, then it falls apart completely. If ALL are loves and ALL have been redeemed, the ALL must mean ALL. Including my Muslim friends and brothers. They cannot be excluded. They cannot be cast out.

Jesus’s directives to are for those in need have no qualifiers. It is not limited to North American Christians. It is to anyone in need. Especially refugees. Even Muslims.

If any of you want to call this nation a Christian nation yet refuse to allow Muslims in, you have ceased to have Christian nation.

In face of this move by our president, I call to you who call on the name of God, in the name of God to push back against this. Our God desires we side with the oppressed. The founders of this nation have provided us the means to prevent our government from trampling us. Use your voice. Use your pen. Use your computer. Let those in power know this cannot stand.

Mario Savio stated my sentiment well.:

  • There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

When reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it astounded me as it did him, how little people responded to the actions of Hitler once in power. So much passivity lead to so much anguish. We can’t let the same happen here. If we remain quiet, it will.

Don’t passively let our government perpetuate hatred. Rise up people of God. Proclaim freedom for the captives. Chose brotherhood over oppression. Join me, and misbehave.


Further Defining Faith

I got some comments that defined faith more as an overall belief in something spiritual, whatever anyone’s favorite flavor of that might be. I appreciate those comments as they made me think a bit about why I chose the faith that I did. At some point in this discussion, I plan to delve more into that. But I want to dig deeper than just a belief system. How does that belief system become part of our lives? Can it become something that matters, not just a label that helps define my world view to someone else?
Perhaps I need to start by defining what I’m not doing here. I am not propagating a prosperity gospel. I have seen the health and wealth, name it claim it stuff up close and it makes me sick. I have a hard time reconciling that theology with my understanding of Christian scriptures and specifically Jesus’ teachings. So as I purse trying to understand faith, it is not this kind of faith that says that if we simply believe hard enough Jesus will grant all my wishes.
That said, what can faith really do? Jesus promised mountains moving if we have the faith. I have a hard time picturing that, even with metaphoric mountains. So, how can I close that gap between what I say I believe and what I believe in reality? How can I learn to expect mountains to move? Or should I let that go?

Further Indictments of the Church

Eric Adams’ Lackluster World poses a very interesting question: where were you the day you died? The point is that death is when we cease to live. The view off his main character, Fahrenheit is that we have all ceased to live. Or more precisely that we are not truly alive.
I have often said that I think zombie stories are a great metaphor for modern America. The idea of people no longer living, shambling along through their “lives” fits most people I know. It fits me at times. It’s like Thoreau said, we are living lives of quiet desperation. At times, we wake up and rage against this but we so often float back into the zombie like trance of existence.
Part of Lackluster World is a bit disturbing in that the people Fahrenheit (and I think Adams) rages against most are the Christians in his life. They are disgustingly buoyant, like fluffy clouds of giddy bliss. But for all their happiness, they are no more alive than anyone else in Fahrenheit’s world. They too are mindless zombies.
On one hand, the idea of the undead being a symbol of Christians is completely incomprehensible. Most of the demonic personification of the undead in our culture was shaped by Christian ideals of what is evil and what is holy. Yet at the same time, one Christian theme is that those who are born again, were once dead, that there is some power of life beyond the death that we experience as existence. Should there be more of a connection between those who live beyond the grave and the Christian life that many claim to lead? Or are zombies – mindless, lifeless monsters – closer to the truth of the typical Christian life?
The truly disturbing part about this is that here is another indictment of the Church that seems to have merit. Once again, Christians are being accused of not truly living and there is little evidence to the contrary. As countercultural and as radical as Jesus was, not many of his followers seem to live like that. Where is the abundant life that Jesus promised his followers? They should be more alive, if Jesus is right. Is he wrong? Or are they (we) failing to grasp what he meant? Failing to move into what we have available to us?
I have to ponder, though, is this a classic situation where those who hold a faith cannot be objective about it, but those who look at a faith from the outside cannot truly comprehend it because they don’t grasp it? As an insider of Christianity I often wish that many of the others on the inside weren’t on the inside. Or perhaps, more precisely, I don’t want to be in their inside. But maybe I’m not. Maybe they don’t include me in their group.
But what makes me think that I know or understand Jesus any better than they do? I certainly don’t. I have no way of knowing that I know Jesus any better. I just know that I don’t like the product that they’re selling. Doesn’t make me any better. Just different.
So maybe Lackluster World is right. Maybe Christians are just the blinded-by-bliss zombies of the world. Maybe I’m just the most cynical of them.

There’s Something in my Eye

“I started my day in the usual way, looking through a two by four.” That’s a line form a song by King’s X. It kept popping into mind as my pastor talked about Jesus’ teaching on judging others and how love is the antidote to that. It’s so easy not to see we are judging since it is so part of our “normal” life, our daily routine. In fact, it’s easy to let the two by four become who we are or part of who we are anyway.

Many, many years ago, a Christian comedy group called Isaac Airfreight did a fun bit with this where the kept bonking each others heads every time they turned or moved because of the boards sticking out of their faces. And the best part is that they each blamed the other person for knocking into their board. Again, as we let the judgments become part of who we are, it’s easy to blame others for “making” us judge them. We are so reticent to be wrong that we can’t see that it’s the judgment that is wrong. 

A friend of mine once told me, “My judgments of others are more about me than they are about them.” It’s like the people bonking into our boards. The issue is more about our board than them bumping into them.  We have to look at what’s happening with us when this happens.

Now, with that said, we have to remember that sometimes certain people trigger us more than others. My pastor frequently reminds us of the spiritual warfare against us, the enemy’s attempts to prevent us from growing closer to God. This enemy knows our weaknesses and our greatest hurts. He knows how to launch strategic attacks that trigger me and then offer me the opportunity to hurt you too.

This is why we need to call on Jesus to help us get the two by four out of our eye. Only as this happens can we separate the judgment from ourselves and find freedom. As this happens we can learn to love as Jesus wants us too. And we can gain the vision to discern when we are being hurt and how that can be healed rather than defensively lash back at those who hurt us because they bonk into our two by four. Again, this is another step toward loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Just like Jesus wants.

The Miracle of Prayer

So often I approach prayer as a discipline. I need to do it each day, preferably on schedule. I allot time for it. Usually in the morning before the day has begun. And then I try to fulfill my obligation to actually do it.
More frequently I forget to as it falls prey to other urgent priorities. Sometimes apathy is just greater than the obligation to pray. And, depending on the reason for not praying, I feel guilty about it and vow to do better next time. Or just continue to not do it because it is always easier to not do something than it is to do it.
Then I hear tales of people that pray beyond any sense of what I consider reasonable, great preachers or saints that prayed large portions of their days or prayed extensively before making any decision. Again, this either heaps guilt because there is some intrinsic implication that I have failed because I don’t pray like that. Or I consider those guys freaks and write them off and discredit their experiences. I can’t deliver those kinds of obligations
But how did it end up being an obligation?
The God of all creation, the wonderful and almighty God himself has offered us the chance to pray and somehow we have reduced it to an obligation.
Now, the hard part of writing this is to do so in a way not to heap a new kind of guilt on everybody. The Church has too much of that already. Think how much shorter the road to heaven would be without all the side guilt trips.
What I’m hoping I can do here is change how we think about prayer.
Rather than an obligation, prayer should be approached as a privilege. And this is why.
How many songs have been written about the amazing fact that God loves us and cares for us? How often have we been asked to ponder the fact that Jesus cared enough about us as sinners that he would die to redeem us and set us free from the curse of sin? A holy God called us holy because he restored us through the sacrifice of his son, and by the very proclamation of holiness made us holy.
This is truly the most boggling part of Christian faith. God loves us. Jesus loves us. The Holy Spirit loves. They want to be in relationship with us. They want to be part of our lives and express their love to us. And all the miraculous events of history have been expressions of that from the first second of creation to the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension. To even the fact that I am breathing at this very moment and so are you. Expressions of mercy and grace and love of the great and glorious God we worship and serve are boundless.
And he did all that, and continues to do all that for us. He did it for the generations before us and will continue to do it for the generations to come. He does all this for those we love and those we hate. God’s love is abundant. Illogical, perhaps, from a human perspective, but is all the more amazing for that.
And this astounding fact needs to pervade our theology. It needs to seep into practice of faith. It needs to mold our relationship with God and our following of Jesus. It needs to redefine how we relate to the people around us.
The more I grow to understand the depths of God’s love for us, the more I realize that this is truly the greatest miracle of all. I find it far too easy to disdain people I think are below me. Sometimes, I treat them as less than human.
I am truly, significantly less than God, yet he pursues me as a person of great value to him. He does the same for all of us, even those I disdain.
So, in light of this miracle of God desiring to connect with us, to be part of our lives, I want to look at the privilege of prayer. This is our chance to communicate with God. He wants to hear from us. He wants to talk with us, to know what we’re feeling and to speak to us. Everyone of us.
Recall some point in your life when you have been madly in love with someone. Remember that craving to speak with them? To hear their voice? That is God’s perspective on prayer. He’s eager to talk to us. He craves to hear us speak to him. He longs to share his heart with us. Just the very act of raising our voice to speak with him and sharing our heart with him gives him joy. When we pray, we cause God to smile.
God delights in us. And we forget it all the time. He constantly reminds us. As we spend time in prayer we can know this in a deeper way. Spend time with him and you can experience this joy and delight.
And how does that knowledge change us? Not just acknowledging that this is a theological fact, I mean knowing it. To quote the oracle form the film The Matrix, “It’s like being in love. You know it, from balls to bones.” Once this truth moves from a concept and into the reality of our lives, we will live very differently.
We most certainly will pray very differently.
So, I ask, why aren’t we diving into prayer as boldly and passionately as we can? I pray as you ponder that question that guilt will stay far from you and that you can see what really is in the way. The lover of your soul wants to whisper in your ear; run to meet him as if you were smitten with him, longing to spend time with him, aching to hear his voice.
Just like he is pining for you.

What’s so Funny?

We laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe. It was your typical giggle-fest where you get to the point where everything is hilarious and just increases the laughter. You cry. You try your best not to pee your pants. When it was finally over my ribs, my face, my throat and even the muscles in the back of my neck are sore from the ordeal.
This was a church meeting, mind you. A men’s gathering that was intended to be more serious, something to help us become more introspective and ultimately become better men, and understand how to live our faith more fully.
Instead, non stop, howling laughing.
This wasn’t one of those “holy” laughter things you hear about in some Pentecostal churches. This was good old fashioned funny stories from our lives.
We had an agenda for the meeting. We wanted to get to know each other better. Ultimately, the group is designed to help us grow spiritually and emotionally. Trust is crucial to that we spent time getting to know each other, setting the foundation for what is to come. We were asked to share something about ourselves that the others didn’t know.
I can’t share what we discussed. But when the first person to speak told us that he once was the quality control inspector at a breast pump factory, a few chuckles rolled out. Chuckles turned to guffaws and the night had a whole new agenda. Most of it sophomoric and gross. Enough so to pass for a meeting of sixth grade boys as we rattled off crazy story after crazy story that involved odd, embarrassing or even disgusting bathroom incidents.
By then, the laughter was far into the realm of unbridled. There was no way that it was coming back to something serious.
Later, as we were finally wrapping up, one of our number asked, “why can’t we have fun like this in church all the time?”
Which is a great question. Obviously, there are times when such humor is inappropriate. There are times when things need to be more serious; part our interaction with life as a church encompasses those bad, sad and even horrible times. Some things aren’t appropriate for certain audiences. But the truth of the matter is, we all have funny and embarrassing stories. They are part of life too. Why can’t they be part of Christian experience?
There are places where this kind of being real is good. Even important. There is a point when being goofy is necessary. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s holy.
The scriptures I read say that God found his creation good. Even the gross parts. Even the base parts. It’s the way he made it. Embrace it.

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