Memorial Day, Remember Peace

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“May God have mercy for my enemies because I won’t.”
― George S. Patton Jr.

 

I grew up in a family full of men in the service. A grandfather, three brothers, three uncles and at least one cousin served in the military. They served during peace time as well as wartime. None of them died in the service, but my grandfather was left for dead after being gassed in WWI. His Brother William died during the war due to the influenza outbreak. My wife’s great Uncle also served. I have also known many others who have served so willingly in our nation’s armed forces. I can’t count how many, but I do enjoy listening to them all.

I remember one person talking about riding in a tank in France during WWII and peeking out of the top to get a better view. He had his helmet shot off and never peeked out again. Another person I knew about the same time had a lot of cuss words for those in tanks because they drew the gun fire in their direction. Then there were others who just couldn’t talk about anything that happened. It was just too hard for them to do so.

I remember one of the stories of my grandfather while he was in France. He was out scouting the enemy and along a river he saw a German soldier getting a drink from the stream. The German soldier didn’t see my grandfather until he looked up and knew he was a goner. Yet my grandfather did not shoot. He waved to the German soldier and walked on. The German soldier repaid the kindness by walking in the other direction.

When I was growing up one of those brothers got me some army men and I played with them for hours on end. I read many, many books on WWII, the Civil war and the Revolutionary war. I really enjoyed reading the history of wars. I loved the strategy and even the ironic or funny things that happen during war. Did you know that the first British ship sunk in WWII was sunk by the British? There is some useless trivia for you.   I thought war could be so glorious. I looked up to the heroes of the wars. The leaders like Washington, Patton, Grant, etc…

Today I really want the end to war. There is no glory in war. My grandfather had no arguments with the Germans. It was the governments that couldn’t get along. I have no qualms with Muslims. I don’t want to fight them and for the most part, they don’t want to fight me. I don’t want to fight the Russians, or the Chinese, or the people in Somalia. There is no one in this world I want to fight, but unfortunately there are some that think fighting is the answer and against those we most likely will have to fight against.

Bertrand Russell once said, “War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” War is not the answer to this world’s problems and solves little. John Steinbeck also said “All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.” I feel it is just the playground bully on the world’s stage. Nobody stood up to them before so now we have to stand up to him with tanks and bombs.  I hope there is never war again.  I don’t want anyone else dying for my freedom, but I am not that optimistic when I look around the world, or even down the street.  There are just too many people who think that fighting is the way to get their way.

So, until there is no war, I’m glad we have men and women serving us across the world. I’m also glad that we have men and women who have fought for our freedom through the centuries. Those that have fought for freedom around the world and stand up against those world bullies that think fighting is something that OK. Thank you to all those out there who have sacrificed their time, energy and lives to doing what has to be done no matter how difficult it can be. May your lives be filled with peace and love.

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”

John Lennon

A Religious State: What I fear

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May 20, 325 – 1st Christian ecumenical council opens at Nicaea, Asia Minor. This was the first major marriage of Christianity and state. The Emperor Constantine the (not so) Great called the church together to figure out what they believed. All those who disagreed with the Nicene Creed were kicked out of the church. Within 60 years (380 Edict of Thessalonica) all other Christian beliefs and ideas were deemed heretical and the “church” proceeded to eradicate them. This kind of thing is why we have separation of church and state. So we can have freedom of religion.

The same kind of thing had been happening in England for quite some time. When the Church of England broke from Catholicism in the 1500’s the King (or queen) became the head of the church. Whatever the king or queen was (protestant or Catholic) the other was persecuted. There was a revolution in which Oliver Cromwell and the far right Protestants took over and then were over thrown. For six years (1653-1659) the Commonwealth of England controlled the nation’s religion. People were jailed, killed or exiled for speaking their minds. Cromwell did have some people exiled instead of killing them to show his tolerance for religions. (Yeah, right, as I roll my eyes)

Many of the colonists that came to America were running from the wars and religious oppression from the government. They often settled in the Virginia area and in New England. This is where many of our founding fathers were from. Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, and Patrick Henry were born in Virginia. Hancock, Franklin, John Adams, and Samuel Adams were all born in New England. They were born into areas filled with people who did not like the government and religion being married as one. I find it interesting that the bigger leaders and the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution all came from these areas, as well as our first six presidents.

The conservative Christians in America want a “Christian government” like our founding fathers but our founding fathers didn’t want religion in government. They had seen its affects on the people around them. I question how many of them were really Christians. John Adams said the Bible was full of myths. Jefferson took out all the miracles in the Bible when he printed the Jeffersonian Bible. That includes the resurrection. Washington seldom spoke about Jesus, only about the almighty God.   Franklin was a womanizer and Madison said “The establishment of the chaplainship in Congress is a palpable violation of equal rights as well as of Constitutional principles” Not exactly what you would call Christian ideas.

Madison also stated that “During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

The end of that is really what scares me if this country becomes a government run on religion. Our government would start persecuting based on the bigotry of whatever religion was in power. We don’t need that. We need freedom. The freedom that the founding fathers wanted us to have.  The freedom to worship without being persecuted. And when I say persecuted I mean beaten, thrown in jail and killed.  That would actually be persecution.

As John Adams once said, “Government has no right to hurt a hair on the head of an Atheist for his Opinions. Let him have a care of his Practices.” Nor should it hurt the hairs on any head of a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jehovah Witness, Mormon or any other religion. Let’s allow all people to worship as they like, no matter if we disagree with them.  Keep religion out of the government and we can all have true freedom.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Thessalonica

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Puritans_from_1649

http://www.usconstitution.net/constframedata.html

 

 

My hand at Bible Translating

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There are so many versions or translations of the Bible out there that it is often hard to really know if one is any better than the next. I once counted mine and I had around 25 different versions in my house.  Each version or translation tries to bring into modern language what the Bible writers were trying to say. So each Bible has bias, good or bad, of the person or people translating it. What they understand and believe will come across in how it is translated. I could not come up with an exact number of translations there are but several sites said there were thousands. So we have thousands of people trying to tell us what they think the Bible writers were trying to tell us when actually they weren’t talking to us at all. They were talking to someone of their day.

What we have to discover is what they said in their time and see if any of it fits into our time. Lately I have been toying with that and have tried to make a few verses more real to people. Some have liked it and some not, but here are a few of what I have tried.

So with the idea of bringing the Bible to modern language, I gave my attempt at a few of the more famous scriptures.

 

When our time began God created the Big Bang. Genesis 1:1

Love mom and dad, so that you may have a good life wherever you live. Exodus 20:12

Jesus told him, “I am the path, the realness, and the full life. No one can come to the Father except doing what I have taught you.” John 14:6

There is neither American nor Russian, neither citizen nor alien, nor is there male and female, nor is there homosexual or straight for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3;28

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and the second is this, Love that dude that cut you off this morning, don’t complain about that bum begging for money, don’t put down that person with different political or religious views, and for Christ sake, don’t be mean on facebook!  Mark 12:30-31

Go and make followers of God, baptize them in the name of God, and teach them to love one another like I loved you and not to follow what church laws you grow up with just because that’s the way you’ve always done it. If you do this, my spirit will be with you always. Matthew 28:19 &20

 For by grace you have been saved through faith; it is the gift of God, and not by following all the rules of the church or what you think everyone ought to do, so stop telling everyone how righteous you are. Ephesians 2:8 & 9

The price of sin is a horrible and lonely life, but the gift of God is a rich spiritual life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

For all have messed up, and remember that includes you and fallen short of what God intended. Romans 3:23

Do not give your opinion about what others are doing, and others won’t go around talking about what you are doing. Do not attack others, and you will not be attacked. Instead forgive and show mercy to those that talk about you and attack you, and you will be forgiven as well. Luke 6:37

Hey everyone, love each other, because love begins from God. Everyone who loves, understands God and truly knows God. Those that say God hates others, or is mean to another in God’s name or is unfair to others using God’s word has no clue, because if God is anything God is LOVE! 1 John 4:7-8

 

So what do you think? Did I miss the mark completely or was I close? Feel free to give it a try for yourself. After all it’s all about trying to understand the authors meaning or meanings the best we can so we can live it today.

Here is a list of the translations available if you are interested. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_Bible_translations

To All My Moms, Thanks!

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“Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs… since the payment is pure love.”

~ Mildred B. Vermont

 

I have had many mothers in my life. My birth mother of course, but as I grew and moved and married, other mothers had a hand in my life as well.

Mother Patrick was the first of the other mothers. She was my pastor’s wife and she took me under her wing and helped me grow spiritually as well as mentally when I was just a teenager.   I spent so many nights at the Patrick’s house because their son was my age. We were like family. She always believed in me and encouraged me. She told me how proud she was of me. Since we don’t live in the same state, we don’t see each other much anymore but she is always with me.

Mother Hand was another mom who took me under her wing. Only in a different way. Her son and I roomed in college. During some of college they lived nearby so we spent time there and after graduation, I couldn’t always make it home for the holidays, but I always had the Hand home to go to. Even when their son wasn’t there, I was. That love still lives with me.

Mother Van Cise is another mom in my life. She also has kids my age and when I moved to the area, 600 miles from home and an hour away from anyone else I knew, she and her husband showed me the kindness that goes beyond measure. Always encouraging, and sweet, she was the epitome of love.

I came across this quote as I was writing this blog: “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.” ~ Spanish Proverb. I thought this was quite ironic since all the women above are pastor’s wives.   But, I think the quote is so true. Theology doesn’t teach you how to behave, but mothers do.   How many sermons do you remember? But I bet you remember the love a mother gives you.

Then I got married and found another mother. My mother-in-law. You know those evil mother-in-law stories and jokes? They don’t apply here. My mother-in-law has been great to us and has always treated me as a son. She has lived with us for about 10 years and we have barely had any problems. She is always been there through whatever good or bad we have gone through in the past. I can truthfully say I have the best mother-in-law in the world!

I have to save the best for last, my birth mom. Obviously I wouldn’t be who I am without her. She is where I get my love for kids from and my kid nature. I’m just a big kid and often would rather play games with kids than do things with adults, except they wear me out. I remember mom coming to my concerts and ball games. I would always look for her and dad, never happy until I saw her smiling face. I remember once I had a trio and I did not tell mom. When the concert was over and she asked why, I lied and told her that I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it or not. Really I did not want any pressure on me because I did not want to disappoint her. I thought that if she knew she’d be all excited and if I’d mess up she’d be disappointed. That was just stupid middle school thinking. She would never be really disappointed in me. She loves me unconditionally.  I know that even if I am not the perfect son that her love for me will never go away. Her love stays with me each moment of my life.

“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein

In my life it has been both.  Happy Mothers day to all of you!

Questioning our beliefs makes us grow.

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“Religious belief, like history itself, is a story that is always unfolding, always subject to inquiry and ripe for questioning. For without doubt there is no faith.”

Jon Meacham.

 

A decade or so ago, I read a book called “20 Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Ask”. I was reminded of this book this past week in part because of Jars of Clay’s lead singer Dan Haseltine’s question. All he asked was “Not meaning to stir things up BUT… Is there a non-speculative or non “slippery slope” reason why gays shouldn’t marry? I don’t hear one.” And then followed it with “I’m trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But it doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women’s suffrage.”

All he did was ask a question and then was berated for okaying LBGT people, gay rights etc… Why attack someone for asking a question?

Then a day or two later a friend of mine posted a meme that asked a question of Christians. It was a conversation between an Eskimo and a Christian. Eskimo: ‘If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?’ Priest: ‘No, not if you did not know.’ Eskimo: ‘Then why did you tell me?’ I found that to be a legitimate question and luckily no one jumped his case.

At my last church it was impossible to really ask questions. They were either ignored or ignored. It was either a roll of the eyes and “anyone else have anything to add?” question or you were given the “this is what the denomination’s beliefs are” speech. No answers, only frustration.

If the church does not allow questions how can it grow? Jesus was always asking questions of the religious leaders of the day. “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied (Matt 22:41). The religious leaders also questioned Jesus many times. Jesus never told them to stop asking, but he hoped by hearing his answers they would learn something.

Questions are to help us think. To help us try to understand what the teacher is trying to teach. Most people aren’t trying to trick the teacher or pastor. They really want to know, to learn. However, many church leaders discourage questions. They want people to just take their word, because they are the teacher or pastor. Obviously they know what they are talking about.

I feel that if a pastor or teacher does not allow questions, they are a lecturer, not a teacher. A teacher encourages others to think for themselves, a pastor leads people to the answer but doesn’t give it to them. He allows people to find the answer for themselves. Many churches and their leaders today, find these questions dangerous. It was only dangerous because they feel their power slipping away.

As I write this it is the anniversary of the day that John Wycliffe and Jon Hus were condemned at the council of Constance. Two people who merely asked why. Why do we pay indulgences? Why can’t the people read the Bible? Does not seem like the church or its people have changed much does it?

It seems like anyone who questions the teachings of the church gets ridiculed by those who have to hold on to that belief. It often seems to be when we question our beliefs that it is an attack of Satan or “how can you question God?” types of responses. There does not seem to be a path of meaningful dialogue. It’s “Why?” and in response, “You’re going to Hell.” Not “Why?” and in response “Why do you feel that way?”

The thing is people believe that if you ask a question you are questioning God, but really it questions the human theology. Humans make mistakes, so our theology should not be set in stone and yet we hold on so tightly to our man made ways of thinking.   If your theology can never be wrong then maybe, just maybe, deep inside you are questioning it too, but are afraid to let it out. If not, then at least be open to listening instead of berating those who question something. They are thinking and learning and growing. Something we all should be doing.  Theology has changed over and over in the 1900 years of Christianity and if Christianity wants to continue it must continue to change.  But it will only change if we are allowed to ask questions.

So, I encourage you to go ahead and ask. Keep asking until you understand, even if that is 50 years from now.   “The key to wisdom is this- constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth.” Peter Abelard.

 

http://www.thewire.com/politics/2014/04/jars-of-clays-christian-fans-lash-out-after-the-lead-singer-tweets-for-same-sex-marriage/361256/

http://www.glaad.org/blog/jars-clay-frontman-posts-apology-stands-support-lgbt-equality

The meme http://www.whyistheresomething.com/answer/going-to-hell