For God So Hates Everyone That Is Different.

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Racism is beyond common sense and has no place in our society.
Steven Patrick Morrissey

This month is Black history month and it reminds me of so much prejudice that still goes on in America.  I remember a few years ago, my wife and I took in a biracial child into our home.  Very few people outside the kids at church took time to get to know him.  I’m guessing because he did look African American.  After all the church did reach out to other white kids that we took into our home.  So what made them not reach out to this child?  One board member even told our family that he “needed to be with his own kind.”  It is sad that this still goes on in the world and especially sad it goes on in the church.  The church is supposed to show God’s love to all mankind.

Shortly after Obama was elected president I ran into some prejudice against him.  A family member said, “We brought them over here and now they are taking over.”  What kind of talk is that?  Another relative has said several times that they wished Obama would be killed or commit suicide.  Both of them would both say they are Christian.  Again what kind of talk is that?!  I am not a huge fan of Obama.  I think he’s average at very best.  However, I was raised to love all mankind no matter what they are like, yet some family members reject that ideology.  When I read posts comparing President Obama to Hitler and comments like he’s trying to be a dictator, I wonder what in the world they are thinking.  There has certainly been something that has happened in their lives that has obscured their view of the world.  I know that these thoughts are not simply in my family.  There are many Obama haters and I wonder if it is because he’s not a WHITE conservative.

What is it about others that make us afraid of them?  Differences should be embraced but instead they are rejected and build divisions.  Right?

Coke released an advertisement during the Super Bowl with many different people and languages singing “America the Beautiful” and there was an uproar about that.    Seems to me this was nothing but prejudice.  The quotes I saw were very hateful toward immigrants and yet unless you are a Native American your ancestors were immigrants.  Seems to be fear that these immigrants will take something from us instead of adding to our already rich culture.  Also, I must ask why this is different than the old Coke commercials “I want to teach the world to sing?”

The Olympics are going on in Sochi, Russia.  There has been a long discussion on the problems Russia has had with its laws on homosexuality.  Yet the Olympics are supposed to be about bringing the world together.  How can this world be brought together when it treats one another with such contempt.  In America there is a fight over whether homosexuals should have the right to marry.  Recently there was a gay couple on “Good Luck Charlie” and death threats were sent to the 5 year old who plays the role of “Charlie”.   Closer to home I have had people say that they wished “all homosexuals would die.”  That from a children’s teacher at a church.  I wonder if they taught love or hate to those kids.  Too often very hateful things are said like this, and all too often in the name of God.  No people, God does not hate gays, but just maybe you do.

There is a store in our area that my wife and I call the “scary mart”.  Not because it is scary, but because a member of a church we no longer attend talked about how scared they were to get gas there.  What may have been scarier were all the people who nodded in agreement with them.  I was offended.  Those people are simply poorer than that church.  The same church where another leading member said of the poor “The poor choose to be poor.”  Obviously a division caused by prejudice.  I can say this because my work is less than a mile from that store and I am in contact with the people all the time.  They are not scary, they are nice people.  If they had money like the above people then I guess that would make them ok instead of scary.

Prejudice still runs deep in our society.  Whether it is another race, sex, class, language etc…   We have a long way to go.  If you want to truly leave this world a better place for the next generation than it is you and me that have to change.  To truly start treating each other like we want to be treated.  With love and respect, no matter what our differences are or how right we think we are.  You see, when a person thinks they are right, most likely they are like the people I mentioned above.  They all thought they had it right, they just couldn’t see it from another persons point of view and that is where prejudice begins and ends.  Within us.  Within you.

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Confessions of a Pepsi Drinker

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It seems that there has been big controversies about the Super bowl add that Coke a Cola put out.  Here is the link in case you have not seen it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8uSVUiniWQ&feature=share

I guess that since the Super Bowl wasn’t too super that we have to stir up something to talk about.  I watched the advertisement when it came on as I was sitting with friends but no one thought a lot of it.  It was simply a commercial selling Coke.  It wasn’t funny.  Those are the ones that we look for during the Super bowl.

However it did really spark an interest with people who tend to think that Americans should only speak English.  Often we think that America was settled by the people from the British Isles.  It was, but not simply by only them.  The Germans came, French, Spanish and so much more from Europe.  Then many came from Africa.  Mostly by force.  The U.S. only became Englishized (if that is a word) through treaties and wars. 

Here are a few things people said negatively.

 http://pulsefeedz.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/you-hate-america-if-you-hate-cokes-super-bowl-commercial/

From the beginning America has been a melting pot of different cultures and yet 200 plus years later we still can’t get along.   At different times in our history we have had problems with immigration.  Most of those problems came from people being scared that their lives would change because there were too many Irish, Asian or Mexicans coming to America. 

I find it ironic that this commercial would come out during Black history month.  This is supposed to be a time where we celebrate the diversity in America.   Yet it seems that we have not really come very far from the 1950’s.  Sure African Americans are somewhat more accepted, but we have just taken our racism from them and placed it on another group.  The problem is still there and needs to be fixed.  It will never be fixed though by hating those of different race, religion, language, sexual preference or toe nail paint. 

Some people will find hate no matter what.  The rest of us need to show the love and acceptance of others and stop dividing America.  We should not have Red and Blue States.  We should be Purple.  We should be one nation working together and not ripping apart. 

 America does not have a national language and there is no reason to have one.  I find it fun to learn another language, customs etc… of others.  I have lived in three states and all of them are different even though they are near each other.  That is how we learn.  If we want simply to stagnate and fall apart then we can try to make everyone just like us.  However I don’t want to be a clone.  I want to be free to explore and learn and change and grow.  That is what we should be like. 

So let us get off our high horse and find someone that is different and get to know them.  Buy them a Coke, have a good time.  It will change your life and probably theirs too.

Praying My Team will Win!

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Recently I read an article that said that 1/3 of all Americans believes that God has a hand in who wins and losses athletic events.  This article concentrated on professional games but I’m sure if people pray for the pros that they also pray for their child’s team to win too.  26% of fans have prayed for their team to win and 1/3 of Fans believe that their team is cursed.  Maybe they should change their name from the Devils to the Angels.

So I wonder why did God stop the curse of the Bambino this past decade and still let the Yankees win with people like Alex Rodriguez on their team. In the 90’s I assume Joe Torre was praying a lot when he led the Yankees to several championships.  This past decade there have not been any consistent prayers but is does seem that St. Louis, San Francisco and Boston have been praying a lot.  Of course we all know that the Cubs are the most Godless team ever, but if Boston can repent there is hope for the Cubbies.

In Basketball, God must be a fan of Lebron.  After all, God let him win the last couple years.  Maybe God thinks he’s better than Jordan and wants to prove it.  But doesn’t the Heat sound more like Hell than Heaven?   Detroit must have the Godly hockey players but only OK baseball players and their Basketball team has been ungodly for years.  What about their football team?  Do they even know God exists? Those Lion fools have said in their heart there is no God.

Now I know that I have been taught that God cares about our deepest needs, but I don’t think he let me win the couple of championships that I had a part of.  After all they were in church leagues.  I doubt we were the most Godly team in the league those years and even if we were, how does winning a championship make you a better Christian?  What about the 5 years that my softball team lost every single game except for a couple forfeits?  Were we that ungodly?  Did we just miss God’s calling to let our bench players have more time?

Personally I don’t think God cares who wins the Super bowl this year.  I just think God wants each team and fan to treat each other nicely.  I think God cares more about whether you let someone in line ahead of you than who scores the big touchdown.  I can’t see Jesus winning every game of dreidel just because he is more Godly than one of his brothers.  Sometimes God lets things play out to see how we react and take care of one another.

Several players in the past have been run out of town because of a misplay or bad performance in big games.  Fans often don’t have forgiveness on their minds when their team loses.  What about some who have killed themselves over lost games?  What did the fans do for them?  Did they try to help them by saying it was one pitch or one missed shot?  I don’t know personally, but often the overwhelming feeling is that we don’t want you around anymore.

There is a good chance that there will be a goat this coming Sunday.  Someone will fumble, miss a tackle or throw an interception.  Maybe the ref will make a questionable or terrible call.  That is life and we are all human.  Forgiving them and moving on is Godly.  America puts too much time into sports.  It’s a game, let’s move on.

I’m not simply speaking to everyone out there.  My wife can tell you how I feel when the Scum Sox beat the Yankees.  Umm, I mean the Halo Sox.  After all they were God’s team this last year.

So, hey, let’s go have a good time at our party and if your team wins great.  If they don’t there is always next year.  Life will go on either way but our attitude will follow us wherever we go.

Here is the article about fans praying for their teams.

http://progressivepopulist.org/2014/01/16/poll-half-americans-believe-god-plays-role-sports-outcomes/

Change Yourself Please

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Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
Leo Tolstoy

When I went off to college to begin my pastoral life I was ready to take on the world.  I remember even a few years after college saying that one day I would be preaching the ordination ceremonies.  I wanted nothing more than to win the world for Jesus and show people how ministry is supposed to be done. The churches that I served at changed that attitude, but made me a better person in many ways.  It made me want to stand up more against what I saw as hypocrisy in the church.

Even in college I was a little rebellious.  All the important people seemed to attend a church right next to the campus.  I went there some my first semester but found it lacking and many of the ministry students to be superficial.  Many seemed to only be going there because it was the in place to be, not because it was a place to do real ministry.  So this place was not for me.  I found myself at a church with very few of the college students, but at a place where I could really minister.  I was determined then not to be part of the “in crowd”.

My guess is that most people want to be in this kind of crowd.  Some people want to because it makes them popular, some because they won’t be noticed and some, because it’s easier than doing things yourself.  You don’t have to think for yourself.  Just agree with the crowd and go with the flow and there won’t be any trouble.  You’ll have a nice and easy Christian life.

I don’t think that is what Jesus was like.  He was an outsider who made waves.  Almost everyone who followed Jesus was not in the in group.  He did not make it easy for anyone to follow him.  His motto was “Follow me and die”.  Isn’t that really what “Take up your cross and follow me” means? According to tradition all of the disciples but John died because of their faith.  Why do we think that Christianity is supposed to be easy? No!  It’s supposed to be hard.  Hard to go against the crowd.  Hard to make a difference and yet a lot of Christians want to hole up in their nice cozy churches and sing their sweet hymns in their nice clothes, while bums on the street freeze and the next door neighbor goes hungry.

Christianity should shake up society, push them beyond their comfort zone into real love and acceptance no matter if you are an illegal alien or a homosexual (Samaritan) a government official (Give unto Caesar, tax collectors) women, men, rich or poor.  Jesus took time for each one of them and never put them down.  No he reached out to them.

Jesus said to pray for your enemies and those who persecute you.  Do you have enemies? Does anyone persecute you? If not maybe you should think of changing yourself.  All the great reformers (Christian or not) had enemies.  Jesus, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and even Mother Teresa had their enemies. Mostly from the institution they belonged to.  Jesus was a Jew and went to the temple like a good Jew but was rejected by its leaders because he showed them the true path to God instead of their traditional ways. The reformists were rejected by the church.  Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an American; Gandhi was killed by members of his own party.

All Christians are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  That means that if there is someone in need that we reach them.  We don’t ask them to be like us, or for their green card.  We just help them, care for them, love them.  Do you want to see the world change?  Be Radical, be a heretic, be a world changer by changing yourself.  Don’t be afraid of change, be afraid of not changing.

Rethinking Sodom

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The idea of marriage has been a big issue in the past few years.  I have taken opportunities to study and read a lot about what the Bible truly says about marriage , sexuality and relationships.  Sometimes I find myself surprised by what it actually says and sometimes what it doesn’t say.  This is not about marriage but it is about Christians possibly interpreting passages incorrectly.  So read the following and see if we might be doing just that.

Some of what I have read has suggested that our idea of the meaning of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah may be incorrect.  That it has nothing to do with sex, but how we treat each other.  The story in Genesis chapter 19 is compared with the story in Judges chapter 19.  The story in judges, I have never heard a sermon or Bible study that made the sexuality an issue yet the two stories have a lot in common.  Let us first look at the similarities between the two stories.

Both stories have strangers going into a town in which no one seemed to help them.  Eventually, someone came and took them into their home.  It was considered normal, even expected, that when a stranger came into the town that the people would immediately take care of their needs, yet in both stories this does not happen.

After the men are taken into these homes people of the town come and demand that this stranger be sent out so that they can rape them.  This is of course where we get the idea that it is about homosexuality.  However, most psychologists and counselors today will tell us that rape is not about sex.  It is about power or control over the other individual.  So did they want sex or to control or hurt the stranger whom they were supposed to protect and take care of?

Following this in both stories the people of the town are offered women.  The daughters of Lot are offered in Genesis and the daughter of the man of the town and the stranger’s concubine in Judges.  Remember that throughout the Biblical times women were simply property so they were simply trying to buy their way out of the situation.  The people of the town did not want the property.  That would not help them control or have power over the strangers.  In Judges the men of the town did take the property and destroyed it.  In other words they killed the concubine.

After these events the strangers were able to leave and then judgment came on the cities.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone and Gibeah was destroyed in a war with the other tribes of Israel.

Then both Lot and those of Gibeah are given wives and children through unconventional means.  Lot has sex with his daughters and the men of Gibeah kidnap some women for their wives.  Again, women are property so there is no protection for them.  And in the future King Saul was from Gibeah.  (1 Samuel 10:26) Lot’s children became the nations of Moab and Ammon.  The book of Ruth tells us that Ruth is about a Moabite.  Ruth is the great grandmother of King David.  So, both of these stories ended up leading to future kings of Israel.

Those that believe that this story is about how we take care of our neighbors or strangers also refer to Ezekiel 16:49 “This was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud and had plenty of food and lived in great comfort, but she did not help the poor and needy.”  So Sodom and her daughters were proud and did things I hate in front of me. So I got rid of them when I saw what they did.”

No place in this verse does it list sexuality, but it does list not taking care of others.  They also discus Isaiah 1:16 and 17 “Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean. Stop doing the evil things I see you do. Stop doing wrong.   Learn to do good. Seek justice. Punish those who hurt others. Help the orphans. Stand up for the rights of widows.”  In verse 10 of this chapter God starts comparing Jerusalem with Sodom and ends with these words.  Again, nowhere is sexuality used but taking care of others is mentioned.

Isaiah 3:8 & 9 continues this idea. Especially since the people of the town did these acts in the open seemingly with no care about it.

“This will happen because Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen. The things they say and do are against the LORD; they turn against him.  The look on their faces shows they are guilty; like the people of Sodom, they are proud of their sin. They don’t care who sees it. How terrible it will be for them, because they have brought much trouble on themselves.”  Isaiah 3:8 & 9

The final part of the discussion is that just before the strangers enter into Sodom, Abraham is visited by three strangers, but Abraham takes care of them.  He makes them a meal and spends time with them.  This is what we are called to do in contrast to what happens in Sodom.  Also, the conversation between Abraham and Yaweh in chapter 18 discusses the righteousness of the cities.  It never mentions any specific sins.

So what do you think?  Is it possible that we have misinterpreted this story?  I do encourage you to read the stories over again and see what you think.

I must add that Sodom is talked about in nine verses in the New Testament   Only Jude 1:7 seems to discuss sexual sins but does not specifically say homosexuality.  Sodom is mentioned 38 times in the Old Testament.  I have read all those verses but very few have anything to do with sexuality.  Most of those that do mention sexuality seem to deal with spiritual adultery and none mention homosexuality.   However, I encourage you to be your own judge.  Read them and get back to me.  I’ll be waiting.

Christians Left and Right Walking together

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Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.  Colossians 3:15

This past week I discussed or more correctly asked some questions of those who were more on the religious left.  A few weeks ago I talked about the problems with the religious right. What I see as the biggest problem is how each side read the Bible.  Funny how what is supposed to be God’s word can be so divisive and read in so many ways.

How we choose to read the Bible tells a lot about what our beliefs will be.  Literalists will discuss the rapture, anti-Christ, tribulation, Hell, Heaven, pro marriage, anti homosexual right, pro-life, Republican politics.  The left will discuss unity of all people, the spirit of Christ’s return, who wrote this section of the Bible?  Was it J, E, D, P, or A, or sometimes R?   They won’t talk about the tribulation and anti-Christ because it isn’t going to happen.  Those issues were for the writer’s time and not for today.  I’m taking a guess but I’d think most would vote Democrat but I also think they wouldn’t put a lot of stock in who was in office.  Most literalist would have no idea what those letters mean.

So there are a lot of things that could pull us apart, but it shouldn’t.  Instead it should bring us together to discuss our views.  That’s discussing the issue, not argue about why you are right.  I say that because that is often what it turns into.  Some heated argument about why we are right.  We often debate and not discuss our differences.  Debating means that I have to win.  Discussing means people taking the opportunity to learn from each other.   Don’t we serve the same God?

I believe that we have differences because that same God that we all serve has shown us what we need in our lives.  I have moved from the right towards the middle as God has shown me the hurts that living the ways of the right was missing.  Others I’m sure have moved from left towards the right for the same reasons.  If we do not move back and forth we probably aren’t learning anything and maybe we just simply become a Pharisee who seemed to think they knew what God really wanted.  After all that is what we’ve grown up with.  That must be right.  Tradition is always right.  Ok that last bit was sarcastic, but I hope you get what I mean.  The more we talk to one another the more that we can open each other up to those things we may be missing. Don’t ever think you or your beliefs are perfectly in line with God’s views.  That is dangerous.  Just ask those in Jonestown, Waco, the KKK, or Nazi Germany.  All thought or think they knew God’s will.  And yes, the Nazi’s did believe strongly in their idea of Christianity.  They even had a group searching for Christian Relics because it would bring them the power that they wanted.

Yes, they may be extremists, but the more we believe we have the only way the more it leads to hate for those not like you, bigotry, self-importance and explosions at abortion clinics.  If you feel that you know it all then anyone who disagrees with you must be a sinner and therefore bound for some kind of punishment, but not the reward that a person who is right in the eyes of God, whatever that right means.  Often these people come off as very judgmental, because they seem to think that because they are right with God they can tell anyone all their sins and what God will do to them.  This can be people in or out of the church.  It doesn’t seem to matter to them, who they put down.

Jesus prayed for unity in John 17 and Paul likened the believers to one body in 1 Corinthians 12.  It seems that we are having the same problems that Paul addressed.  Our eyes are saying to our feet, “I know the right way to go” Our hands are saying to our mouth, “you don’t speak for me.”  The head says to the ears, “why don’t you listen to God.” And Jesus says to the heart “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”, because we leave him out when we fight amongst ourselves.

Then Jesus turned to us all and said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 12:25 “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” Not in theology, but in love.  Paul follows his thoughts on the part of one body with the love chapter.  And what remains is Faith, Hope and Love,” but the greatest of these is Love.”

Yeah, we have differences and that’s OK.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t get along.  If Jesus wanted us to have unity then we can, but it’s up to each one of us to put down our guard, our predispositions, our traditions, our theologies, and give it a chance.  Are you willing to let go of those things that make you angry at other believers?  Can you let go of those things that you hold as absolutes that may not be and to listen, truly listen, and learn from one another? I think we need to try, it sure can’t hurt.

Looking Back and Moving Forward

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As we end the 2013, it is often a time of reflection on what the year has brought to us.  We remember the good times and the bad, those who have come into our lives and those who have left us.  For my family it has once again been a trying year.

In January, I finished my masters degree in Special education but that was one of the few highlights of the year.  Most people who know me would chime in that I’m pretty special too.

In February we lost our nephews dad.  This left a 13 year old boy without any parents.  Through heartache, pain, worthless social workers and much more, he ended up in foster care.  For months we have tried to communicate with him and right before Christmas he sent us an e-mail.  We had waited and struggled through nearly 10 months for him just to say hi.

This past summer I left my position at a church that I had been with for seven years over disagreements about how people should be treated and just plain exhaustion over what had transpired the previous year.  Recovery was really what I needed to find.   At that point I was done with church.  I still loved God, but I didn’t care if I ever entered a church again.  My wife made me go to a couple churches as we looked for some place that we felt comfortable at.  I remember at one Bible study we went to the leader asked everyone why we had come.  I responded, “My wife made me.”  We didn’t stay at that church.  They didn’t seem to be friendly.  We have been attending a church since July that we feel more comfortable.  Yet I still feel like a hammer is going to drop at some point.  Maybe it’s because I have been hurt too many times by those that I trusted or thought were my friends.

I didn’t get my teaching job like I was hoping, but that may have been a blessing in disguise.  Because of the car accident in November, I missed a lot of work, but I had sick days so I was still getting paid.  I only worked one full week from the first of November until now.  Partly due to the accident, Dr.’s appointments, strep and some weird body rash that I passed to all my family members.  This past week was my (hopefully) last therapy session to strengthen my back.

My wife was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, an auto immune system problem that has often left her sick, hurting and often unable to do much of anything.  The stress of this year sure hasn’t helped that situation at all.  That combined with the fact that often people just don’t get how someone so young could have so many problems led to people thinking she was for some reason faking it all.  She was also diagnosed with Aspersers syndrome, which is high functioning Autism.  Most people think of Autism as those that I work with in school that do not have high IQ’s.  So again people jumped to conclusions that we were making up stories for some reason.

So yes, it has been a tough year, but it has also been a growing year.  My family has stood together, struggling as we might.  We had a year where we grew as a family.  Not only by one cat, (our nephew’s cat) but also spiritually, and love for one another.  We learned to be strong through tough times and to lean on each other and God.  I don’t know what I would have done this past year without my wonderful wife and my faith in God.  They are what have kept me going.  Well, I need to go do my exercises so that I don’t have to get back to therapy.

I hope your year has been better.  We look forward to a new year and new beginnings.  After all it can’t get much worse than the last couple of years.  Can it?  Grace and peace to all of you and Happy New Year!