Thursday, March 25, 2010

Check out these great links to progressive social/political action Web sites

From Jerry or Ben & Jerry's. Home of the famous Oreo cookie viral video.

Alternative News magazine with depth and insight.

The Internet way to get involved, sign petitions, write letters to public officials and media outlets.

Will We Once Again Reject the Politics of Hate? | Southern Poverty Law Center

Will We Once Again Reject the Politics of Hate? | Southern Poverty Law Center

Here's a great article on the current climate of fear and hate that's been whipped up by right wing media and the tea party movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center does a great job of tracking racist and hate groups on their Web site;

Liberal author and radio host Thom Hartmann ( interviewed Lamar Waldron ( on his show today. They had a powerful discussion topic, "Is the climate of hate being fostered by Tea Parties and Republicans today as dangerous as the climate of hate in the 60’s that led to the assassinations John, Robert & Martin?"

“It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck, and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate.” ~James Arthur Baldwin

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" ~Jesus (Matthew 5:44)

A couple of good ones

Clay Jones
Free Lance Star
Mar 25, 2010

Rob Rogers
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mar 25, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

food for thought

I'm not sending this to rile you up or to gloat over the bill that passed last night. If anything, I'd like to assuage some of the angst and/or trepidation about that bill. It was interesting that so much of the drama last night came from anti-abortion Dems (yes, there is such a thing). 

Universal health care coverage leads to a reduction in the abortion rate, confirming what many have long suspected but have never before been able to prove in the United States.A new report in the new england journal of medicine reveals that the abortion rate declined in the first two years after massachusetts implemented health care reform, writes jess arons. read more from the center for american progress at: <>.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Learning to look at yourself through God's eyes

Last Sunday our Epistle lesson in Church was another one of my favorites, from 2 Corinthians 5: 16-20. Check out verses 16-17 especially;

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
I think that this is a wonderful passage for anyone who is feeling like they aren't worth much or are struggling with self image problems. Stop looking at yourself in the mirror and try seeing yourself from God's point of view. You were created in His image!

Both as a Dad and as a cheerleading coach, I try to impress on my daughters and students that nothing makes you so attractive as two things, confidence and a smile. Poise, being comfortable with who you are, and having a positive attitude are more important than height or weight or complexion. People are drawn to people who respect themselves and others.
1 Peter 3:3-5 says "3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.
Knowing that God loves you and trusting in Him, gives you both an inner calm and confidence and an enthusiasm about serving Him (which entails showing kindness and compassion toward others). That's what is really meant by inner beauty.
Sure, this all sounds like girly advice about looking pretty, but especially in 2 Peter, God is talking to guys too. You ARE worth something. You have value, meaning and purpose. Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-20,
18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.
God didn't create you for no reason. He didn't create you in His image for no reason. God loves us so that we can love others. He want's a relationship with us, that's why He sent His Son, Jesus. And once we're reconciled to Him, He can use us to reflect His love, mercy, forgiveness, grace and acceptance to others who need it.

How can you hate yourself when God made you to be His instrument?
One of the best songs in the Dreamworks movie, 'The Prince of Egypt' occurs when Moses is feeling rejected, depressed and despondent. He's discovered that he's not really an Egyptian, in fact his adoptive family despises his biological race. He's had to become a fugitive because of killing an Egyptian who was being cruel to a Jewish slave, yet his own people, the children of Israel don't accept him because he's a spoiled rich kid, out of touch with his roots. Sounds like a lot of mulit-racial kids today.

His father-in-law Jethro, priest of Midian, sings him this song. What an awesome thing for parents to sing to their children. What an important lesson for all of us, whenever we're felling bad about ourselves. Who needs self-esteem when you have God's esteem?

'Through Heaven's Eyes'
from The Prince of Egypt
with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Visit the composer's website to read his own comments about the song.

A single thread in a tapestry-
Though its color brightly shine-
Can never see its purpose
In the pattern of the grand design.
And the stone that sits on the very top
Of the mountain's mighty face-
Does it think it's more important
Than the stones that form the base?
So how can you see what your life is worth
Or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man
You must look at your life,
Look at your life through heaven's eyes.
A lake of gold in the desert sand
Is less than a cool fresh spring-
And to one lost sheep, a shepherd boy
Is greater than the richest king.
If a man lose ev'rything he owns,
Has he truly lost his worth?
Or is it the beginning
Of a new and brighter birth?
So how do you measure the worth of a man-
In wealth or strength or size?
In how much he gained or how much he gave?
The answer will come,
The answer will come to him who tries
To look at his life through heaven's eyes.
And that's why we share all we have with you,
Though there's little to be found.
When all you've got is nothing,
There's a lot to go around.
No life can escape being blown about
By the winds of change and chance,
And though you never know all the steps,
You must learn to join the dance-
You must learn to join the dance.
So how do you judge what a man is worth?
By what he builds or buys?
You can never see with your eyes on earth-
Look through heaven's eyes.
Look at your life,
Look at your life,
Look at your life through heaven's eyes!

Monday, March 08, 2010

It makes you think

I may be wrong, and whether or not I am, a lot of people will disagree, but at least it's something to think about; I've always believed that it should be okay to talk about anything, including sex, politics and religion. Here's an example of talking about all three at once.

Recently a student asked me to fill out a political survey for a story he was writing for the school newspaper. There weren't any questions about the deficit or Afghanistan, jobs or the economy. He did ask about health care and gay marriage.

Ordinarily I try to avoid forming opinions (let alone sharing them) on this issue, but that morning my devotion had been on Matthew 22. In Matthew 22:30 and Mark 12:25 the Sadducees, a group of religious teachers who didn't believe in the resurrection and Heaven, challenged Jesus. The custom was that if a man died without any children, his brother was supposed to marry his widow and have children for him. The Sadducees gave Jesus a scenario where seven brothers all marrying and dying in turn. They asked Him who's wife she would be in Heaven. Jesus knows it's a trap and corrects them, "For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven."

This got me thinking- mind you, I am not condoning homosexuality or promoting gay marriage, but good grief, it seems to me that what Jesus is saying (in part) is that marriage is a temporal, human, perhaps even a civil institution, not necessarily something quite as perfect and Divinely ordained as many of us seem to think. Don't get me wrong, besides my salvation, I personally think that my wife and our marriage is one of the greatest things God has given me. I try thanking Him for Bethany every day. But if marriage is in fact, a covenant, a contract between two people, the 14th Amendment prohibits states from denying everyone equal treatment under the law.

I think, speaking metaphysically here, that some of what Jesus was getting at is that perhaps in Heaven we'll be asexual- it will no longer be necessary for reproduction nor will it any longer be a stumbling block in terms of sin or temptation. Like all other good and natural things, it's been tainted by our sin and selfishness this side of Heaven (for those of us who're straight, just as much as for those of other preferences).

I'd also like to think (as hard as it is to imagine) that all of our conventional social, familial, hierarchical, and relational structures won't have the same meanings or purpose anymore in heaven. A maxim used by many Christian marriage gurus is that as we grow closer to God, we grow closer to each other. At the risk of sounding too Eastern in my thinking here, it seems to me that we will have such a great unity both with God and with all of each other in the next (perfected and sanctified) life, that things like marriage, cohabitation, civil-unions, and nuclear families will become obsolete. (See Jesus' prayers in John 17).

I'm not talking about Hippie "free-love" or sexual liberation here, as I just said in the previous paragraph, in Heaven we will be liberated from sexuality. One of the greatest problems with sexuality in this fallen world is that it becomes self-indulgent. I think that this is what Paul was getting at most in Romans 1: 24-27 (a passage used most often to prohibit or condemn homosexuality).

Whatever your position politically, philosophically, or theologically on homosexuality and bisexuality, it is important to take Romans 1 as a whole, and in context of the whole Bible, and not just zealously apply verses 24-27 to whatever position you're predisposed to. Just reading Romans 1:28-32 levels the playing field for both gays and straights. 

To paraphrase a little, "we have all become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. We are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. We are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless." 

Carers? Consumerism? Ambition? Affluence? (Greed)  War? Political campaigns? Movies, music, TV, and video games? (depravity) Tabloid TV? Blogging and facebooking (slander and gossip)? The attitude that customer is always right? It's not MY job!? Fight for your right to par-tay? Sue to get yours or to get even? By any means necessary? The ends justifies the means?

I can't claim to be innocent of all of these sins and I certainly don't perceive the FOX networks or the tea party movement as being immune from them either. As a matter of fact, these days 50% of straight marriages end in divorce. 

In other words, as Paul puts it in Romans 3:23, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

We don't live in a perfect world, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard." (Matthew 19:8).
I'm not trying to justify or excuse homosexuality. If I'm honest about it, I'm as homophobic as the next heterosexual American male. But it seems to me that both the due process and the equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment entitles anyone of voting age to be able to enter into an agreement which would secure certain legal, financial, custody and health care provisions for both parties.

However, I do not think that church bodies should be required to perform, recognize or "bless" same-sex unions. Whether or not a marriage is sanctioned by, witnessed by, or prayed over by a church body should always be at the discretion of the individual church body. If the Baptist, Catholic or Lutheran church won't marry you, try an Anglican or Unitarian one, or see a justice of the peace. Be that as it may, marriage licenses are issued by the state after all, not churches. So one wonders, is this a case of  "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's?" (Luke 20:25, Matt 22:21, Mark 12:17).

I realize that this is probably enough for some people to want to burn me at the stake as a heretic, and others to try to have me excommunicated- I really hesitated to even write about it here, if only because this blog is programmed to automatically post on facebook. I'm not really excited about having to listen to the negative feedback. I guess as much as I enjoy provoking people to think by trying to stir up cognitive dissonance, I'm a coward when it comes to hate mail and argumentative comments.

As I said, I'm not trying to advocate or promote homosexuality. I'm not even sure I'd go so far as to say that I condone or advocate for gay-marriage, although I guess that I can see a logical secular case for it. I just thought I'd share some thoughts that occurred to me after reading Jesus' answer to the Sadducees in Matthew 22.

If nothing else, I hope that this helps readers realize that it's a difficult and complicated issue that calls for a great deal of thought and careful consideration.