Spiritual but not religious, part the millionth.

In response to the whole “spiritual but not religious” conversation (links within my link), I just want to say exactly what Pam said.

That, and the funeral home in town sends all the grieving “spiritual but not religious” families to me for memorial services, and it’s all sacred to me.

I do not think it means what you think it means…

I went to bed last night.

My husband, awake an hour earlier than I this morning, was the one who told me that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. operatives. I read the headlines and watched the President’s speech, and skimmed through Twitter, and began to develop a nasty, sickly feeling in my stomach. Cheering and celebration and glad shouts of “justice!” and “peace!”

As Inigo Montoya would say, “You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I was relieved, however, when I looked at my Facebook friends’s feed, to see so many people expressing mixed emotion, relief mingled with sorrow, dismay at our fellow countrymen and countrywomen’s jubilation. As I wrote and as I read so many times today, I cannot celebrate the death of another human being, no matter how cruel, horrid, or vile. I can’t call killing a just solution, or a means of peace. And while I can acknowledge that, for some, there may be a measure of healing in closing this chapter of bin Laden’s evil legacy, any jubilation at another’s killing rings painfully familiar to me.

I remember the cheers from places around the world in the wake of 9/11, as men, women, and children gave thanks for the deaths of American civilians. I wonder if, to God’s ears, our cheering now sounds the same. I imagine our claims of justice must seem so provincial and narrow.

My friend Jeremy has written a wonderful post about “justice,” and what we might mean by justice, whether retributive justice or restorative justice. I highly encourage a reading of his thoughts, especially where he turns his reflection back on what we do to build justice in all kinds of situations.

Myself, I think retributive justice is a bit of an oxymoron. I don’t think retribution is just; I don’t think killing is just. Add this to the very long list of why I would make a terrible President; I can’t condone death even for the worst of our “enemies.” I see that perhaps it “had” to happen. I congratulate and thank the team of people who worked to have it done effectively and relatively safely. But I can’t go so far as to call it justice. And I certainly can’t call it peace.

In a lucky or unlucky coincidence, I had been asked to lead the opening devotions in the Vermont House of Representatives today. I often use props or clever alliterative verses. Not today. I thought about the many quotes I’d seen batted around today: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11); “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” (Martin Luther King, Jr.), and the many calls for peace.

Peace. Now there’s a word I think we misuse. Only one death I know of has ever been a cause for peace, and even there, my theology of atonement gets a little shaky when we call his death “Good.”

And so this is what I prayed.

O Life and Hope, Holy One. Today we breathe a sigh. A sigh of relief, perhaps, for the death of a violent and brutal man. A sigh of fear for retaliation that may lurk around the next bend in the road. A sigh of resignation that the work and danger have not passed, only changed. A sigh of hope that we may know peace.

Peace.

We pray for peace.

More than the absence of violence, of terror, of danger, of bloodshed.

The presence of justice, kindness, forgiveness, and hope.

Peace for our nations. For weapons to be laid down. For men and women to return home from the battle fields. For us to learn the craft of war no more.

Peace for our world, for the places where hatred is bred, where oppression and violence and extremism forge killers out of children. Peace that is hope and tenderness and compassion, that is Shalom and well being and goodness. Peace that does not subdue violence, but renders it obsolete.

Peace for the dead, for all who died, civilians and soldiers, Americans and allies and combatants and enemies. Peace for those who died in towers and on planes, in military operations and in bombings and raids and suicide attacks. Peace and rest for those who have died.

Peace for loved ones who mourn: for all who have lost a mother, father, son, daughter, sibling, spouse, friend. For those who feel that the death of a man can bring long-awaited justice– peace. For those who feel that adding to the dead cannot bring back the dead– peace. For all who mourn and grieve and seek healing not in headlines and history, but in the slow agony of living– peace.

Peace. Deep Peace. Your Peace.

Peace, Jesus told his disciples, divine peace, holy peace, is not the world’s peace.

And peace, the song says, must begin with us, with me. As I take and live each moment in peace, in hope for a better world, in compassion and care for all around me. Peace.

May it begin with me.

Amen.

(i don’t think i’d ever heard the representatives voice “amen” in response. until today.)

Inspiration and Hope: Why I am part of MFSA

I am part of the Methodist Federation for Social Action because it both inspires me and gives me hope. For me, MFSA lifts up the greatest strengths and addresses the greatest areas of weakness in my denomination.

One of the biggest things that drew me to The United Methodist Church as a college student was the denomination’s commitment to mission work that equips and empowers, and never uses assistance as a bait-and-switch conversion tool (read more about the UMC’s values with respect to relief work here). So many times, I hear people who are skeptical about organized religion say things like, “Christians talk a good game, but they don’t actually try to live like Jesus.” I believe that the UMC and MFSA stand in counterpoint to this view. Although not an official board or body of the UMC, for me MFSA has functioned as the heart and soul of our denomination, inspiring us to continually seek peace and people’s rights, to address systems of poverty, promote progressive initiatives, and work for justice in our own church. Foremost for me, I appreciate a strong witness for pacifism, as I believe that organized religion has too often been used to sound the drums of war.

MFSA inspires me by holding my denomination to a high standard in seeking peace and justice, which I understand to be at the heart of the Reign of God as Jesus proclaimed it. That witness calls the UMC to be the best representation of Christ’s body that we can be.

And yet, we are far from perfect.

Like any human institution, my beloved denomination struggles to be a faithful witness to the vast and encompassing love of God. We fall short in our pacifism; we do not stand strongly enough in defense of the natural world, which we have been told to care for; we botch our inclusivity. We have not fully broken free of– let alone repented of– the racism and Anglo-North-American privilege that saturates so much of our movement. We cut couples off from the blessing of the church and deny the call of God to ministry in persons based on sexual orientation. And we spend so much time arguing about these things– particularly the last– that we neglect our call to be Christian community and extend the love of Christ to the world for its (and our!) transformation.

There are days when that list of shortcomings makes me want to give up.

But for the witness of MFSA, which reminds me that I am not alone. I am not the only one who wants to see a stronger pacifist stance. I am not the only one who weeps when I have to tell a couple I can’t marry them.

I am not the only one who believes that we cannot tend souls without tending bodies, and we cannot preach a just and inclusive Reign of God unless we work for a just and inclusive human society.

MFSA gives me hope by naming the places where The United Methodist Church needs to become more Christlike, and building community to lovingly call us to that work. None of us needs to carry the weight of our brokenness alone, nor shoulder the burden of our need for healing as a denomination.

And that’s why I’m part of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Why are you?

Fasting as a Means of Grace

I have a couple people in my church with whom I’m working through the beginning exploration of the candidacy process, and with one of them, we are up to the section of the “purple book” that talks about means of grace. And we began an honest conversation about fasting.

I’m not a good person to talk about fasting.

Perhaps this is obvious just by looking at me (I hope it’s not *that* obvious!), but food itself is an enjoyable and nearly– sometimes actually– sacred thing for me. I’m not totally clear, though, how fasting cultivates spiritual discipline, how it is a means of grace.

I get the theory. I understand on an intellectual level how fasting from food might cultivate a deeper appreciation of our blessings, might give us time we would have spent eating to spend in prayer, or how maybe the food I would have eaten could be given to someone else. I don’t totally understand how it would make me more aware of God, but I get that it’s the hope.

The same I could say about fasting from anything– facebook or chocolate or the types of things that people “give up” for Lent. How does it make us holy and not holier-than-thou? I’m not talking about refraining from things like gossip or yelling, but milder things like sugar or protein (and no, I;m not going to even touch fasting’s cousin abstinence, but my questions are the  same). If something is not wrong or evil, but might even (as in the case of food) be good and life-giving and in some contexts holy itself (food in communion, connection–even virtual–to our sisters and brothers), how does the absence of that thing bring a greater awareness of holiness?

I’ve fasted for a day. I didn’t feel holy; I felt cranky, shaky, and frankly a little resentful. I’ve taken a technology fast. I didn’t feel closer to God; I felt further from some other folks and closer to nature in some moments. I’ve given up specific foods for Lent, or more dramatically for pregnancy, and felt it was mostly a nuisance.

I’m not trying to be flip or snarky here; I am honestly seeking advice and input from people who find fasting from something to be a spiritual discipline or a means of grace, and maybe some ideas I might share with my brothers on the journey of ministry inquiry as we discuss these things. Your thoughts are most appreciated!

Praise and Lament

I recently sat with a woman who felt more like lamenting than like praising, and together we pondered what it means to grieve, to mourn, to feel without joy or hope at times. We discussed Psalm 23, and the beautiful image of a shepherd caring for sheep, tending them, protecting them, helping them find green pastures and gentle waters. We laughed together at the foolishness of sheep and the tenderness and patience of shepherds, and we marveled at the sense of peace and trust the psalmist expresses in knowing that the shepherd protects and cares always.

But we admitted that we don’t always feel that peace and trust, that safety and blessing. Sometimes we feel abandoned and alone, afraid or tormented, wounded and deeply grieved.

That’s when we turned back a page to Psalm 22. This psalm is attributed to King David, as is Psalm 23. It certainly may have been written by the same psalmist in any case, whether or not David wrote it. It was attributed to one of the greatest leaders in Israel’s history. It was included in the scroll of the psalms, the hymn book of the Israelite people. It is included in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. It is a sacred and revered text. And yet, we don’t read it to comfort ourselves, or to speak aloud our faith in God at the beginning of a memorial service (when perhaps it would be far more appropriate than the oft-quoted psalm 23). We don’t necessarily consider it to be a comfortable or affirming passage to read, and yet there it is, right next to one of the most beloved scriptural passages of all time, sharing pages with a psalm people turn to in the face of grief, and here is one of the most authentic articulations of doubt and despair and need for hope and healing. It is not considered shameful or faithless; it is sacred song, no less than its sister-song, one chapter later.

Both psalms are tied to the life and witness of Jesus as well. The one who was called the Good Shepherd, spoke the opening verse of psalm 22 from the cross. Jesus is both the one who affirms our sense of trust in God to shepherd and guide us, and the one who cries out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” If David can experience both, if Jesus can embody both, are we so surprised that life is so often both, so often pain and praise, lament and elation, abandonment and trust, pressed together, chapter after chapter, page after page?

Today, our house was flooded with family and friends to celebrate our impending new arrival (six more weeks!) with showers of love. We delighted in one another’s company, we laughed and played, and hugged each other tightly when we parted. We were blessed.

There was another family invited to the shower, but they could not come. Crystal and Jim and their daughters have been like family to my sister and I since before we were born. When we spent holidays together, my sister and I would call Jim “rent-a-dad,” since we were there without our dad, and so he filled in for all four girls. Jim was a witty, funny, brave and strong man. He fought a war, he battled addiction, he built a house, he worked with inner-city youth, he raised a family and then some. But cancer doesn’t care about any of that.

Two hundred miles away, my rent-a-dad Jim passed away this afternoon at about 2 o’clock. His wife, daughters, son-in-law, and granddaughter were all at his bedside.

Another song, another part of life, pressed together, page after page, chapter after chapter.

Sermon: Pick Your Parade

“Pick Your Parade”

(March 28, 2010 – Palm Sunday) Understanding what Jesus did on Palm Sunday is in many ways the key to understanding Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and most of the rest of what Jesus was about. No coincidental peasant outpouring of love and affection, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was a powerful and premeditated counter-protest to the show of Roman strength in the city. In presenting himself as an alternative, Jesus offers the citizens of Jerusalem a choice between the worldview he espouses and that of the Roman Empire. Jesus is not interested in changing up the people at the top of a corrupt system, but shaking and changing the framing story entirely, something much more sweeping and threatening, something, ultimately, people will kill to avoid. We have the same choice before us today; will we continue to buy into the Imperial story that the ones with the most money and weapons and people are in charge (and just change their faces from time to time), or will we seek a new vision, God’s framing story, that peace is never achieved through force or violence and justice is not the king’s to doll out but the common well-being of the people? Will we pick up our spears and shields to join in the Roman procession, or will we lift our palms and march in the Jesus parade? (Luke 19:28-40)

This is a topic with which I have undergone a tremendous amount of reading, prayer, study, and reflection. For that reason, it is often hard to tease out which thoughts are my own and which are the result of important books and essays I have read. I know I have definitely been influenced by Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael (for discussion of the importance of story and the ways in which they become ingrained in us), by Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change (where he says what I was trying to say, but more clearly and succinctly, about Jesus’ opposing framing story), and by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s The Last Week (for just about everything I’ve learned and internalized and made my own about the meaning and context of Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem).

That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.

I’ve been pointed to a fantastic discussion on Newsweek’s website about disbelieving clergy, and a corresponding study from Tufts University about clergy who have “lost faith in their tradition.” Friend and fellow blogger Jeremy has a great exploration of this article in his blog post on the subject, playing on the questions of how clergy should respond to the doubt they experience, and how we might be honest and authentic in leading congregations from various places of lost faith. I was going to post a reply, but it became an entry in itself…

I find that I “lose faith” in my tradition in three ways:

1. The Dark Night of the Soul. This is temporary, but that temporariness has varied in length, the longest stretch for me being about ten months following 9/11. I didn’t know if I could believe in humanity, much less a loving God or a purpose for life. Fortunately, I was not leading a congregation at that point. I don’t know what I would have done if I had been. As Jeremy says, there needs to be a balance. A couple sermons about the angst and questioning might have been fine, but after a while, I’d have needed to find a way to preach faith in the midst of doubt or something. Still, having been through these periods I believe makes a pastor stronger and better able to minister with those who inevitably face their own dark night, without giving fast and hard answers that sound more like condemnation than help (“What do you mean you doubt you feel God’s presence? God is real and that’s it! You just have to believe a little harder!”). And I think of Mother Teresa, who it seems conducted most of her ministry from within a place of doubt. It doesn’t seem to have diminished the power and faithfulness of her witness, bless her.

2. Loss of faith in the denomination and its policies. I love Wesleyanism and I love the United Methodist Church. I was a denomination shopper, coming out of the Catholic church and seeking a place where I could be in ministry, and I explored a lot of traditions. I think the UMC, of all the specific traditions I tried, is the closest and best expression of the Christian faith for me. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Sometimes our polity, our way of forcing there to be a majority vote when there is a strongly divided body, and the way some of those decisions shake out (mostly I’m talking about positions on human sexuality, yes), frustrate the hell out of me. I begin to wonder if we as a body really are seeking God’s vision, and begin to question my ability to be an authentic *United Methodist* Christian leader. I think it’s okay to be honest about this too, while leaving room for other United Methodists who are equally frustrated and disheartened with our denomination for exactly opposite reasons, and lift instead the challenge and struggle to be faithful as a human organization, seeking to live into a divine vision.

Those are the kind of easy ones.

3. Lack of adherence to supposedly orthodox theological positions. Most of these, I haven’t lost, but never had to begin with. You see, I believe, but I have been asked (sometimes by myself) whether what I believe is enough in line with my tradition. In the early 1900s, a movement arose to name the ‘fundamentals‘ of the Christian faith, and while the fundamentalist movement has sprung in large part from that, many if not most mainline perceptions of Christianity have also been influenced by it. And so many people think it’s impossible to preach “the Gospel” and *not* believe in a seven-day creation story or a talking snake. Even for the people who get past that, many raise their brows when I say things like “I don’t believe in original sin… at least, not at all in the way it is usually described” (I believe it has more to do with the fact that we are trapped in a destructive narrative [see B. McClaren, Everything Must Change], or that we are in the impossible position of trying to live into our commitments and what is asked of us, which we know we can never achieve [see R. Neville, Symbols of Jesus, I think]). I don’t think God is a being with hands and feet (and gender) and locality in time and place. I don’t place much stock in whether or not the Red (or reed) Sea parted, and I completely doubt that there was ever a prophet swallowed by an enormous fish. I don’t cling to the idea that Mary was (or had to be) a virgin. Doesn’t so much matter to me where Jesus’ DNA came from; I still believe he’s the son of God. I don’t need the the Bible to be infallible; it’s okay for me if it’s a human story of divine encounter. I don’t believe God demands a blood atonement for sin, and inflicts divine child abuse to exact it. I don’t believe suffering and violence and death are redemptive. I’m unsure about whether Jesus’ resurrection was physical and bodily; again, for me I care about what it means– that his life, his love, his oneness with the Divine transcended the grave, was more powerful than death, and we too when we live for him and as he did will find life and love and grace that are stronger than death– but I don’t really bother with the mechanics of it. If we suddenly dug up a body in Judea and proved it was his, that would not make the resurrection one ounce less true for me. I don’t believe that Jesus will come again in a cloud, or that anything described in the book of Revelation is intended to be revelatory of anything beyond the people of God living in faith in the face of the Roman Empire.

These are not temporary doubts for me, nor are they political debates. These are things I actually believe are theological and spiritual positions held by some that need not be held by all in order to live and believe an authentic Christian spirituality. And I will preach them. Again, leaving room for those who do believe that Mary was, by necessity, a virgin, and that Jesus’ blood did indeed avert the deathly wages of sin being extracted from humanity. But I have often said that if one need believe that God demands blood sacrifice in order to be a Christian, count me out. If one’s faith hangs on whether Jesus was a resuscitated corpse versus a spiritual being come Easter morning, I’m out of the club. I hear sighs of relief; I hear people give thanks, that they can now consider themselves Christian, when before they thought they were excluded. I also hear murmurs. Okay, then, what *do* you believe?

I believe God is; transcendent and immanent, Ground and Source of all Being, and that we are in God as a sponge is in the sea. I believe the Bible is the story of humanity’s relationship with God, filled with truth and beauty and adventure and sacrifice and chaos and anger and doubt and triumph, and that this story is true, regardless of whether it is factual. I believe that Jesus was, more than any other wise prophet or old soul, one and the same with that Divine, that to see him was to see God, to live the Way he taught is to live God’s Way. I believe that the consequence of confronting power and corruption and violence and domination, the cost of articulating God’s vision in the face of humanity’s greed is deadly. I believe that the life and love of God, and God in Christ, and now God in us as we are in Christ, is yet more powerful than the deadly force of Empire and fear and greed and corruption. I believe such life and love is eternal, and so Christ was and is alive beyond death. I believe that this Divine One, this God, is present with us even now, that we feel movement through Spirit and in community, that we are still called to be and build and participate in a new way of being and living, God’s realm, come to earth. I believe we are invited to make this new Way, together with God, and live as a people connected to God, to one another, to all of life, part of what Brian McClaren calls “God’s Sacred Ecosystem.” When that happens, we will see face to face, we will live as the Body of Christ, fully restored. We will see the fulfillment of all that needs to be.

These are my fundamentals.

But they are not sufficient for everyone. I have been told many times that I should renounce my wicked ways and confess before my congregation that I am not fit to be their pastor because I do not believe in the true tenants of Christianity. I have been told that I must have lost my faith, and that I must repent and seek the assurance of the infallible Bible, the inflexible answers, because to question is to doubt and to doubt is to deny God. I think to question is to invite deeper faith, to seek to know God more, to admit that I don’t have or need answers, only ideas and a direction to begin and begin again on the journey of faith that leads, as it must, to the Holy.

And so here, I reject the premise that this could be considered a loss of belief. I believe very strongly. I would challenge that simply because what I believe is not the orthodoxy from an older age or the post-intellectualism ideas of fundamentals, that doesn’t mean I question the deep truth of the Gospel. I would not count myself among disbelieving clergy, although many have pointed their fingers at me with just such an accusation. To my congregations, I say simply that I am on a journey with them. I have deep truths, and deep faith in God on which I stand. And if we differ from there, or you wish I articulated more solid answers, then perhaps your faith is in a stronger or wiser– or maybe just different!– place than mine. But if you question too, then be not afraid. I’ll hold your hand through the dark night of the soul; I’ll rage with you when our human institutions fall short of the Divine justice and truth we strive to live into; I’ll listen and hear and hold your questions about God and truth and Christ and existence, and share my own and maybe together where us two are gathered in Jesus’ name, we will find his presence with us. I’ll preach that: what I believe, what you might believe, what others might believe, because more than anything I know we all see God only in part, and only together can we begin to piece together how massive, how mighty, how all-encompassing, how grace-full, the Divine truly is.

The Invention of Faith?

My husband and I recently watched the movie “The Invention of Lying,” written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson (at Internet Movie Database). I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard more about this film sooner; I thought it was one of the most interesting and though-provoking movies I’ve seen in a while.

It starts as a romantic comedy of sorts, and a brilliant one at that. Sharp and witty and pushing the edge of its PG-13 rating, the film explores an alternate reality in which no one can ever lie. Ever. They don’t even have a concept for it. Now isn’t that a funny place to tell a story about a fat man looking for love?

Except the movie doesn’t stop there. When main character Mark does manage to break the mold and tell a lie, a whole new world opens up, for him, and for the audience. It’s not about lying to get girls in bed or to make easy money. Mark discovers something incredible.

(Mild spoilers ahead, but I try to be good about it)

Mark has discovered not just lying, but a whole series of stuff about saying something that isn’t. You see, by inventing “lying,” he has also discovered creativity, storytelling, and fiction. He has created, at least for himself, a concept of truth and honesty, because now he has a choice about when he will lie and when he won’t. This plays out very dramatically in a scene where he could get everything he wants– not money or sex, but what he really, truly wants– if he’d just tell a little lie. Mark discovers that he now sees the world in a different way, not only by what is, but by what could be, and he sees in people not only what they look like, but what they seem like, who they are inside. He’s discovered, although he never names it as such, hope. (here comes the spoiler-y bit)

And that’s ultimately what I think he’s trying to express when he invents his biggest “lie,” religious belief.

I was prepared for that to be really offensive, and at first glance it is. The film seems to suggest that faith is a lie, something we invent to give ourselves hope, to make ourselves less afraid of what happens after we die. What Mark invents is exactly that, and as he discovers, it’s not transformative or life-changing, it doesn’t help others see the world the way he sees it, and it ultimately doesn’t bring hope or change to anyone because it’s only an empty promise about the afterlife and some removed “guy in the sky” and not a way to change *this* life and live with new priorities, new eyes.

And I agree. When we strip faith down to be something like that, to be a series of empty promises about heaven and hell and how to get to one and avoid the other, we take something transcendent and holy and we turn it into a lie. We make it a silly story we tell ourselves to be less afraid and alone in life, and we strip it of any power to transform us and the world. We create our own religion, which has little or nothing to do with the powerful gift God is trying to give us. I believe that what God offers us, when truly understood (which we see only in glimpses most of the time), is powerful and profound and life-changing. Like Mark’s discovery, it should free us to live more deeply and fully, to express free will and choice and creativity, to love passionately and honestly, to be a part of something much more than ourselves or the survival of our species, but the lifeblood of all that is, a part of the vast and sacred scope of all of creation.

But instead, we boil it down to our own desires: safety, security, a relief from fear and loneliness. We take God’s gift of faith and we make it into a human invention of religion, empty, powerless, devoid of any transformation or lasting hope.

We render it a lie.

Like I said, the film got me thinking. I recommend it, and if you watch it and want to discuss it, I’m happy to kick around ideas some more. Enjoy!

That Old Time Religion Ain’t Conservative Enough

So my friends lists on Facebook, and on my blogroll, and even on my television (good Lord, do I love Rachel Maddow) are all talking about the same thing this week.

The Conservative Bible Project.

Like Rachel Maddow, like many of my friends when we first emailed this around, I was convinced this had to be satire. Surely The Onion was pointing out the foolishness of over-reliance on Biblical translations by creating a silly story about people so committed to the causes of conservatism– including Biblical literalism– that they would re-write the Bible to make it easier for them to take it literally. A joke, right?

Right? please?

Nope.

So you’ve probably heard this one by now, but there’s this group on the conservative wiki “Conservapedia” who want to create a ‘translation’ of the bible devoid of liberal bias, which, according to them includes “three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning:

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
  • lack of precision in modern language
  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.”

Instead, they want a Bible that obeys these guidelines:

  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
  4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”; using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
  10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

I’ve never found Hell to be particularly logical. In fact, I’ve never really found there to be a strong case for it in the Bible, but I’ve been reading those liberal Bibles that leave things in their original language where possible, so I read more about Sheol and Gehenna than Hell. Oh well.

I don’t even understand point 9. They want a bible that credits the openmindedness of the author of the fourth gospel, who, 70 years after Jesus’ death, wrote “No one comes to the Father but by me”? I can’t speak to this point.

And 10 just makes me laugh. Yes, silly liberal wordiness; why keep single words in their original language like “Yahweh,” when you can use two words loaded with historical, gendered, medieval baggage like “The Lord”?

But strangely, the one I have the biggest problem with is #7. Maybe this isn’t strange; I did just watch Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story,” which I highly recommend, and about which I hope to post soon. In any case, I can’t even begin to get my mind around how much you have to misread the Bible to think that a good translation would be committed to “explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning.”

Yes, yes, I remember. The Israelite concept of Jubilee– you know, bailouts for the wealthy, but forget that bit about letting all the slaves go free and forgiving individuals’ debts. The Deuteronomic Law insisting that in the land which God provides, the people must care for the widows and orphans and strangers (actually, aliens– don’t know if we mean illegal immigrants there or people from other planets…)– that’s the one part of Deuteronomy we should ignore (but keep the part about sexual practices, because nothing in human sexuality has changed in 4000 years). Most of the prophet Micah’s work, because in fact, God requires that you seek punitive justice, love kindness as an abstract concept, and walk along arrogantly proclaiming that you are in accordance with God, who, now that ‘He’ thinks of it, could care less about mercy and does require a big, honking CEO bonus of a sacrifice.

Then there’s that ridiculous Socialist society of the early church, holding all things in common, by which we should really understand that they took things from other people to accumulate their own wealth, which they held in common until the strongest among them developed a corporate buyout scheme, leaving the rest of the fledgling church members paupers.

And that Jesus guy. I must have totally misunderstood! He didn’t really mean blessed are the poor, but thank God for the poor because without their class to oppress, the rich couldn’t be rich. And he was being sarcastic when he said that it a rich man should sell everything and give it to the needy; no, he should sell everything at the best price he can get for it, gouging other retailers so they go out of business, and making the poor dependent on his goods so they can’t sustain their lifestyles. God’s kin-dom is like a foreman who hires workers for a day, and pays them all the same amount regardless of the hours worked, because the foreman is trying to break the back of the Union so tomorrow he can fire all those workers and hire new ones for much less money. Whoever holds on to their life is bound to accumulate more and more of it, and whoever looses their life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel is a right fool who deserves to fall on hard times and no one is going to give them a free ride.

Again, you have to seriously, painfully misread the Bible and misunderstand what faith is and what it means to be faithful to think that this is a idea that merits anything other than scorn.

Grace. No Kidding.

Here is a great post about grace and how hard she can be to believe in, from a United Methodist pastor blogging “everyday theology.”

And that, my dears, in the midst of a very busy but very productive week, is my thought for the day.

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