We often hear about the "Christian Right," or "Conservative Christians." Yet, if you think about it, Jesus was the original liberal.  He cared about motives more than the deeds themselves (Matthew 23:5 & Mark 12:41-43) and more about compassion than adhering to rules (Luke 6:1-11 & Luke 13:10-17). This blog will reflect liberal Christian values of compassion, tolerance, mercy, charity, a thirst for knowledge & understanding, and, above all, love.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Right People

Recently my pastor made the observation that, "There will always be people who are willing to pee in your Fruit Loops."   He was, of course, referring to people who are willing to tear you down in order to perpetuate the illusion that they're taller.  He's right, especially these days.

I don't want to get political on this blog, I have a whole different blog for that.  Nevertheless, we, Americans, are currently living under a leader who is quick to insult and belittle people in order to puff up his own chest (ego).   Like I said, this isn't my blog for political ramblings, so I'm not going to name names here (we know who I'm talking about).   I only mention him because he seems to have initiated a wave of negativity across the country.

Granted, hate, bigotry, and cruelly are nothing new, but since I've been alive (born 02/12/1970) I can't remember it being as overt as it is today.  When I was young, we knew that the ugliness was there, but its purveyors were just embarrassed enough to keep it on the down low.  Today it feels like haters have been given sanction to hate openly.  The hoods have come off the Klansmen, and they're marching in the open.

Other than voting, there's not much that most of us can do to heal our country.  However, we can distance ourselves from the ugliness by surrounding ourselves with the right people.  When I say "right people," I'm not referring to people of the same race, orientation, or socioeconomic status.  I'm not even talking about people who know what all the forks are for, although every child should be taught to start with the outside fork and work their way in.  I'm talking about people who build us up instead of tear us down.

That's not to say that we have always have to agree with these people.  My best friend and I are polar opposites when it comes to immigration.  I believe asylum seekers and refugees should be met with food and medicine and ushered into our country.  She believes we should be spending resources on our own poor and refugees should be someone else's problem.  We never will agree on the issue, but we can still respect each other and love each other as friends.

Surrounding ourselves with those who can share mutual love and respect with us is first step toward breaking the cycle of negativity permeating society.  It won't stop the most negative among us from hurling insults.  Yet, the insults say more about the insulter than the insulted.  When we surround ourselves with respectful loving people we insulate ourselves from the negativity and take the wind out of the sails of those who embrace the negativity.

We can literally change the world by simply surrounding ourselves with kind loving people and showing them kindness and love in return.  If enough people do so, just within their own circles, suddenly the world changes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A History of Violence

3 Maccabees 3: 1-10 ~ "When the impious king comprehended this situation, he became so infuriated that not only was he enraged against those Jews who lived in Alexandria, but was still more bitterly hostile toward those in the countryside; and he ordered that all should promptly be gathered into one place, and put to death by the most cruel means. While these matters were being arranged, a hostile rumor was circulated against the Jewish nation by men who conspired to do them ill, a pretext being given by a report that they hindered others from the observance of their customs. The Jews, however, continued to maintain good will and unswerving loyalty toward the dynasty; but because they worshiped God and conducted themselves by his law, they kept their separateness with respect to foods. For this reason they appeared hateful to some; but since they adorned their style of life with the good deeds of upright people, they were established in good repute among all men. Nevertheless those of other races paid no heed to their good service to their nation, which was common talk among all; instead they gossiped about the differences in worship and foods, alleging that these people were loyal neither to the king nor to his authorities, but were hostile and greatly opposed to his government. So they attached no ordinary reproach to them. The Greeks in the city, though wronged in no way, when they saw an unexpected tumult around these people and the crowds that suddenly were forming, were not strong enough to help them, for they lived under tyranny. They did try to console them, being grieved at the situation, and expected that matters would change; for such a great community ought not be left to its fate when it had committed no offense. And already some of their neighbors and friends and business associates had taken some of them aside privately and were pledging to protect them and to exert more earnest efforts for their assistance."

I like to begin the day with a chapter of scripture and prayer time.  Once I finished the Bible, I decided to make my way through the Apocryphal books in the same way.  Last Friday I came to the passage above, not realizing how timely it would prove to be.

On the morning of  Saturday, October 27th, Robert Bowers, 46, stormed into the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in the affluent Squirrel Hill neighborhood shouting hate for Jews and killing eleven worshipers in a 20-minute attack.

The passage illustrates the fact that the Jewish people have been targets of cruelty and violence for more than two thousand years.  Think about that for a minute.  A race of people have been tortured and killed for countless generations.

The prejudice against the Jewish people has always been there, for reasons beyond understanding.  Factions of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities hate each other enough to kill each other in the name of God.  Besides the fact that they commit acts of violence in the name of a loving God, the truly bizarre part is that they're doing it in the name of THE SAME GOD!

When Ishmael and Isaac parted ways, the Arab and Jewish races were born.  The Arabs fashioned the Muslim faith to worship the God of Abraham (Ishmael's father).  They adopted the same God, but chose to worship him in a different way.

Then, Jesus Christ performed his ministry.  Those who accepted Christ as the Messiah became Christians, and followers of traditional Judaism are still waiting for the Messiah.  Again, same God, different take.

In the Christian tradition the number three is the number of completion.  If that's true, then perhaps the fact that there are three primary schools of thought regarding the same God (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is no accident.  Maybe we're SUPPOSED TO view God from three different angles.  If so, then such violence becomes even STUPIDER!!!!!!!

Bottom line, we're three different squads of the same team.  Yes, we live in a divisive time in which cruelty is fueled by opportunists posing as leaders.  But, it's precisely during times such as these that people of good faith must stand up and demonstrate the virtues of love and tolerance.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

God Is Love

"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. ~ 1 John 4:16 ESV

The quote from 1 John came to me in my verse of the day newsletter this week.  I usually read the verse in the morning, think about it for a moment, and then move on to something else.  But, this one was different.  I kept thinking about this one through out the day.

I realized it was a concept I'd always known, and accepted, but never really thought about.  I mean, God is love sounds good.  It sounds right.  But, what does it mean?  Love is an emotion.  If God is God, then how can he be an emotion?

Once I started picking it apart, it stopped making sense.  Did it mean that God is just something that we feel, but not really there.  I wasn't going to accept that.  I believe there is a there there.  So, if God is real, if he's (I'm using "him" for the sake of convenience to keep my mind from exploding as I write this) "there," then how can he be love?

Assuming that the idea is more than just what some people say as they hand out flowers at the airport, there had to be an answer.  I decided a good starting point would be to first understand what love is.

According to the Bible, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

While I don't necessarily think God believes all things, and I think He does insist on His own way, the rest of the quotation works.  God is patient and kind; God does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. He is not irritable or resentful; He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  God bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Perhaps instead of love being God, it's more accurate to say that love possesses the same characteristics as God.  If so, then when we act in ways that are motivated by love we're doing as God would have us do.