Archive for the ‘christian’ Category

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Absent

April 27, 2009

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here on this terrestrial ball.  For me, writing is connected to spirituality, and lately, I haven’t felt very spiritual, or even like I have anything of value to say.  I know my pastor would say that I am going through the “valley of the shadow”.  I suppose this is where I find myself, but not in a despondent, depressed, or desperate situation.  Let’s say that I’m “in transition”.

Back in December, I wrote about my experience of leaving a job and church that I loved, the way in which that it appeared I was forced out by a new, and interim minister, and the betrayal I felt by the congregation.  I admit that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that experience.  I’m hurt that so many who greeted me warmly every Sunday morning do not care to know what is happening with me now, do not wish to understand what could have driven me away.  I keep asking myself “where is the love that they so freely professed?” 

I am reminded that this is not the first time I’ve experienced alienation from a group of Christians.  As a matter of fact, recalling the experiences of my parents, other ministers that I’ve worked with in my career as a church musician, and a variety of  tales that have been related to me by those who’ve been mistreated at the hands of Christians, I’d have to say that it is the natural condition of churches to destroy its own members, or at least to ostracize those who are “not our kind of people”.   Of course, this is done in spite of the clear command in scripture to Love One Another.

I’ve been absent from church services since December.  Oh, I’ve gone a few times, but you could count those on the fingers of one hand.  Two of those services were to substitute for an organist who needed time off after surgery. We visited a Unitarian church but didn’t quite feel like it met our spiritual needs.   I attended my husband’s church but found it lacking of any real substance;  it felt like they’d found something that worked at one time and saw no need to review it’s effectiveness.  Now they simply continue performing the same empty rites out of obligation. 

Where I’m not:  I’m not sad, depressed, or suicidal.  I’m also not lacking any interest in spiritual things.  Despite some snarky comments around Easter  in which I may have stated that we should reinstate the practice of feeding Christians to the lions, I have no contempt for those who find spiritual fulfillment in organized Christianity.  But I also think I am no longer one of those who can find fulfillment in the church pew.

 

So yes, I’ve been absent, from here at my blog, as well as at church.  Where have I been?  I’ve been hanging out with some people that most would consider as being on the fringes of religion, and others would say that they are just plain heathens.  That’s ok with me.  I’ve learned that those who have been persecuted, those who have lived through painful episodes in life, are the ones with deep insight and compassion.  I’m happy to be in their company, they tend to be wise people. 

I’m also no longer able to suppress my trust in my own intuition.  Since I’ve been paying attention to those subtle urges and thoughts that enter so quickly, I’ve noticed that they are becoming more accurate.  It is as if I am becoming more aware of the emotions, motives, and likely actions of the people around me.  This awareness gives me clues about how to act and respond in positive ways.  I feel as though I am connected to the whole of the universe, including the God that is omnipresent, and so much bigger than the God that is spoken of in the churches I’ve attended in the past. 

I hope that I’m not shallow, not trendy, but it seems that I may indeed be what is known as post-christian.  I can no longer participate in an organization that routinely does the opposite of its mission statement.  I’ve long hesitated to call myself Christian, but that does not mean I have discarded the teachings of Christ.  As a matter of fact, I hope I’m able to do a better job of following the great commandment than the Christians who stood silently while their new leader ushered me out the church’s door.

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Going to Church

January 23, 2009

I went to church last Sunday.  Big deal.  So did millions of other people.  It was a big deal, at least for me.  It has been over 3 weeks since I left my position as music director at a Disciples of Christ Church.  In the past 25 years, I’ve had very few Sundays in which I could experience church services that are outside of my own experience.  I’ve been employed continuously by churches since 1982, with the longest hiatus from music ministry being about 2 months.  One of the problems of being “in charge” of worship is that one rarely sees how others go about it.  This abrupt leave from my music job is the perfect opportunity to visit and make observations at other churches. 

 

The chosen destination for this past Sunday was my husband’s church, one which I’d never attended services at because I was always at the organ of my own church.  We loaded up the kids of our blended family that were with us for the weekend and headed out in the snow to the church in the country.  It’s part of a small, protestant denomination that tends to be traditional and evangelical.  They are awaiting the arrival of their newly hired minister, so it is understandable that this service may not have been a good example of what things are like there on a regular basis.  And that’s a good thing. 

 

The people were friendly and happy to see Scott.  They greeted me warmly and welcomed our children.  We took our bulletins and found a seat, taking a moment to arrange ourselves comfortably.  The organist began the prelude and I immediately got nervous.  I’m a musician, and a good one.  When I hear church musicians who are struggling, I become anxious.  This woman was having such a difficult time with her chosen prelude, that it took me quite some time to determine what she was playing.  It was an old evangelical hymn  Out of the Ivory Palaces. 

 

Which leads me to the next problem I had with the service: the lack of meaningful, timely hymns.  The hymnal, by my estimation, was at least 25% contemporary Christian music, or “praise choruses”  which I’d hardly call contemporary considering that they were at least 25 years old in most cases.  If a song has been around long enough to be included in a hymnal, printed, promoted, and sold to a congregation;  and the congregation uses the hymnal for a significant period of time, it’s difficult to consider the music “contemporary”.   The one “traditional” hymn planned for the morning worship service was an old Holiness Movement song “We’re Marching to Zion”.  It was sung at a slower pace than I’m used to performing it, and the musicians, both pianist and organist, lacked the skills to transpose it into a key in which most congregants could comfortably sing.  Imagine being out of breath and reaching for high notes.

 

When the ushers were called forward, I looked up to see 4 burly men walking forward.  I whispered to Scott  “is there a weight requirement?”  These guys were huge.   I said “what’s the minimum?  225?”  Seriously, I didn’t know if they were ushers or bouncers.  Of course, since this was an important job, handling the money, all of the ushers were required to be in possession of a penis. 

 

fat-preacher

 

The children’s message was delivered by a woman, which is generally thought of as acceptible in these patriarchal churches.  Caring for children is the woman’s domain afterall.  The woman talked about having friends but the point of her little message was lost on me, so I’m pretty sure the kids were as baffled as they looked.

 

We plodded through another pop-ballad hymn which was executed with technical accuracy by the instrumentalists, but with all the musicality of a horse counting to ten with its front hoof.  This song led us into a time of prayer.  I believe that the people who made their prayer requests known are genuinely concerned about those people named.  Some moved beyond the typical illness requests and made mention of current events and nationally known tragedies. In all of these honest, heart-felt concerns, there remained a sense of some unspoken desire, an appeal to magic.  That appeal to magic was reinforced by the prayer leader, who prayed extemporaneously, including all of the requests voiced moments earlier.  I noticed pretty early in her prayer that she had a favorite phrase, which was  “Dear Heavenly Father”.  She said it so much that I wrote it in my bulletin.  She kept saying it, punctuating each paragraph with 2 or 3 repetitions. So many Christians have this habit when praying publicly.  It is as if there is a mystical combination of “Blessed Jesus'” or “Loving Fathers” or even “Hail Marys”  that said in a specific quantity or order that will unlock heaven’s safe full of blessings.  When did prayer become the heavenly Powerball?  Jesus cautioned us of this in Matthew 6:7

 

And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

 

Sadly, the sermon, offered by a visiting minister, did little to hold my attention as a visitor.  I suspect that it was meant to encourage this congregation as they await the arrival of their recently hired Pastor.  The sermon began with the perfunctory joke and apologies for his shortcomings as a speaker.   Those who attend this church regularly may have heard some words of encouragement, but my mind wandered off.    After one more pop-song hymn, the benediction was pronounced and everyone bolted for the door. 

 

Now, I’ve certainly been critical and some would say downright mean with this post.  You might even tell me that the computer glitch that sent my first version of this post out into cyberspace, never to be found again, was a sign from above that I should turn from my wicked ways.  Let me reinforce this sentiment:  these people are good people, their intentions are noble and their desires are honorable.  Unfortunately, they found something that was successful at some point, decided that this is how they would do it from that point on, and mediocrity set in.  Their worship service has most likely morphed slowly to become the dry and irrelevant ritual that we experienced that morning.

 

Traditionally, people in this country have attended church for the spiritual encouragement they receive by participating in worship services.  There was a time when people attended church out of a sense of obligation, regardless of any spiritual or communal benefits that may or may not have been derived from attending.  I’ve heard complaints about the lack of commitment to the church and its programs.   My question, after visiting this church, is “what does this church offer that would encourage people to attend regularly and support their programs?”  In addition, for those who do attend, are their perceived or actual needs, physical and spiritual, being met?  And finally, are the people we meet in this or any other Christian church a reflection of the Christ they strive to emulate?

 

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

Mohandas Gandhi

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When You Can’t Prove What is Obviously True

December 31, 2008

It all started with a phone call from the new interim pastor of Paradise Christian Church* (wink and tip of the hat to preacherlady). 

“This is Reggie Dominy.  I’m the new interim pastor here at Paradise Christian.”

“Yes. Good to talk to you.”

“I’ll be selecting the hymns for the worship service from now on.  I guess you’ve been doing that for a while?”

“I’m really uncomfortable with that.”

“Why?  That’s not typically the organist’s job.”

“Well, it’s part of my job description.  I do it well and I’m not comfortable giving it up.” 

And that’s how the battle began.  That phone call lasted more than thirty minutes, and during that time, I found myself making some strong and defensive statements to a stranger who’s face I’d never seen.  I felt attacked, especially when Reggie said that he had to pick the hymns because we needed to change the way we do things since attendance at worship had decreased.  I told him that he was making it sound as if that was my fault; as if my music were the cause of people not attending worship services.  Reggie said he wasn’t saying that, but how else could I read that implication in the context of this conversation?

In the first service over which Reggie presided, there were at least five statements that sent up red flags in my mind.  From our phone conversation, it sounded like Reggie desired to create a solemn, even somber service steeped in traditional worship and laced with long moments of silence and reflection.  Nothing could have been further from the reality of what happened that very first Sunday in November. 

The humor was abundant as well as inappropriate.  Reggie set the tone in the announcements which are made before the organ prelude and the official start of the worship service.  As Thanksgiving was approaching and the Outreach committee was planning on giving food to several needy families, a plea was being made for congregants to donate canned goods.  Reggie’s pitch went like this:

“You know that can of salsa you bought seven years ago and it’s been sitting there on your shelf and you don’t know why you bought it?  Go ahead and bring that in for the food drive.”

It was then followed up with some muttered statement about buying a new can of something to go with it.  The request for food donations was being played for laughs, while the sincere request was downplayed.   Throughout the service we learned a few things.  For instance, it became clear that Reggie loves to eat deviled eggs.  And just in case someone might not have gotten that message, Reggie repeated his declaration of love for deviled eggs in the next four consecutive worship services.  We also learned that he likes to hear jokes, and that we should feel free to tell him Polish jokes and “jew” jokes.  For some reason, as Reggie made that statement, he hesitated, as though there were more kinds of jokes he enjoys, but felt it best to edit himself as this was part of his introductory sermon.  We also learned that there is a proper way to introduce onesself, which, one would know how to do “if you’ve ever been to college.”  What an effective way to discourage the “wrong” kind of people from attending church!

Most telling was the one particular family that Rev. Dr. Dominy made sure to mention in his sermon.  It was the one family in which the husband has a great job, the wife is a SAHM, and the two daughters are involved in dance lessons, baton twirling corps, and kiddie pageants.  They also happen to be the family who left the church in a huff, refusing to return until the full-time minister was either fired or resigned.  Dr. Dominy made sure to say their names, or compliment the beauty of the daughters, or involve the family in most of the services during November. 

On my last Sunday as music director, December 21st, Reggie did something that was at best unethical, and at the worst, creepy in the sense of looking too much like a child molester.  As part of his sermon, he asked the two little girls, both under the age of 12, to come forward and model their new Christmas dresses.  Embarassed, they walked to the chancel, where Reggie had them put their forefingers on their heads and do a ballerina turn for all to see the new outfits.  Then, in spite of smaller children moving back and forth between the sanctuary and the nursery, Dr. Dominy gifted the two “models” with presents, to be opened there in front of everyone. 

The weeks between that initial phone call and my final service were stressful. Communication between Dr. Dominy and myself was archaic.  He would leave handwritten notes, in the most screeching hot pink ink, on the piano.  I asked our secretary why he didn’t use email.  She replied that he wasn’t very computer savvy.  That statement that was refuted in the coming weeks when, during a sermon, Reggie mentioned looking things up on the internet.  It was countered again in a meeting of the church committees in which one member spoke of the email exchange that he and Dr. Dominy had. 

The hymns that Dr. Dominy chose were ancient, plodding tunes with dated language.  Although one of his stated reasons for taking the hymn selections away from me was the need to match the hymn texts to the scriptures, I seldom saw how the two aligned themselves.  Several times within those few weeks that Reggie and I worked in the same building, he repeated hymn choices.  I was left wondering if he selected hymns the way he selected the Psalms for our worship services:  numerically.  On his first Sunday in worship at Paradise Christian Church, Dr. Dominy selected Psalm One for our call to worship.  In subsequent weeks, the Psalms were used, in numerical order, regardless of the sermon topic, and regardless of the scheduled readings from the Revised Common Lectionary

The final straw came on the morning of December 19th.  I received a text message from our secretary asking me to call her asap.  I replied with a request that she email me, as I had students all day (with my teaching position at a public school) and would not have a break to make a phone call until late in the day.  The email arrived quickly, and in it, was a message from Dr. Dominy that said:

Ok  here goes.    Reggie left me a note to ask you if you got a brass ensemble for Christmas Eve.  If you did, please get the name of the group and names of their songs to me on Monday.  If you did not, please contact the band director at local school district.  She has some names of students who might be available or some other musicians in the area.  She can be contacted at local middle school xxx-xxx-xxxx  Her name is middle school music teacher her e-mail address is someteacher@someschool.

I am sending you the bulletin stuff so that you can give me the song titles by Sunday (or Monday morning at the latest)  The ones in pink he would like the brass ensemble to do  and he would like the choir and the brass ensemble to join in on the other carols as well.

Reggie said to contact him if you had any questions or suggestions.  xxx-xxx-xxxx

Thanks Dana

Interesting thing about this email:  I do not recall having a conversation with Reggie in which firm plans were ever made about the Christmas Eve service, let alone such an important detail about hiring or assembling a Brass Ensemble for the service.  At my first opportunity to call, I phoned Dr. Dominy.  In that phone call, I was verbally pushed around.  During a break from ministry, Reggie had been a car salesman, and a good one according to some accounts.  I could tell that I was being manipulated by his words.  He objected to my statements about why it would be impossible to assemble a brass ensemble just five days before the performance.  He interrupted me.  He cut me off.  He dismissed my professional musical advice.  Then I figured out what was going on.  I was being placed in a “catch 22” situation:  fail to assemble the ensemble, and Reggie could claim I’m not doing my job;  get one together in short order with no time to rehearse, no many to pay them, no music to give them, and have a disastrous performance on Christmas Eve and he could say that I didn’t do my job as well as I should have.  For me, given all that I had witnessed in the previous weeks, my only option was to resign.  My plan was to do so immediately, leave them without a musician for Sunday morning as well as Christmas Eve, but friends talked me out that plan. 

I learned that the committee charged with finding this interim pastor had failed to check his references.  They hadn’t bothered to call his former churches and talk to them about his strengths and weaknesses.  After handing in my resignation letter, and feeling crappy for about 24 hours, I decided that I’d look to see what I could find on this guy.   I did a search for “Dr. Reggie Dominy”  on Google and discovered that the guy is pretty computer savvy, contrary to previous claims. 

I also found one particular piece of information that confirms what I suspected from that very first phone conversation.  Reggie seemed to have some contempt for me from the very beginning.  It didn’t make sense that an interim pastor would walk in and start changing things before ever experiencing a worship service in the way that the members were accustomed to worshipping.  Interim pastors usually keep things going, the status quo, until the permanent pastor is hired.  This bit of information explains why he and I could never work together.

In the eight weeks in which both of us, interim pastor and music director, tried to do our duties, there was rarely a moment of kindness, of friendship, even an attempt to understand each other.  Attempts by Reggie to put up a facade of respecting and valuing me, at least in front of the congregation, fell flat.  At one service, Dr. Dominy said that he appreciated the “beautiful competency” that I brought to the services.   Competency?  Well, I must have some adequate skills when it comes to music.  It’s like saying “I love you” to someone and hearing “and I’m fond of you as well.” 

What could make us resist each other like oil and water?  The search results contained a major clue:  a letter to the editor of an online denominational magazine, written by one Dr. Reggie Dominy.   Here are some relevant excerpts:

I have no problem deleting statements from the Barman Confession (ah, another confession) that are editorial additions and weren’t originally there. Make it pure! I do have problems with ignoring cogent statements in the New Testament regarding homosexuality (Romans chapter 1 seems rather clear.) The Scriptures have to be our final authority about the actions and directions of God. What makes an action a sin at the time written but not in the present? More people lie and cheat others than participate in homosexual activity, and we all seem born with that narcissistic trait (this makes it a natural act); maybe the Church should support, or at least condone, lying and cheating.

            I hurt for gays and lesbians who have in the past been wrongly excluded from the Church. I also hurt for those devout Christians who believe the Presbyterian Church has abandoned them in this decision. They feel NO peace, NO unity, NO purity in the General Assembly decisions. Our voted inclusivity feels like exclusivity for many devout Presbyterians. They feel the Scriptures have been ignored. Many will leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Whole churches will leave. We do not now exclude homosexuals from church membership; but our ushering in their ability to be church officers and ministers will usher out other true believers from the whole church.

          There were times in the past when portions of our Presbyterian Church supported slavery. There were times when we excluded folks from the Lord’s Table because they weren’t of our ilk. There were times when we Presbyterians haughtily looked down on those who were not like us in faith and practice. There were times when women could not be ordained. We overcame and grew through those parochial sins.

There’s so much there that I could write about, and perhaps I will examine more of this letter on this blog at some point.  The important thing to notice is that while attempting to sound compassionate, even loving toward the “homosexuals”  it is clear that Dr. Dominy does not like gay and lesbian people.  Nothing else explains his immediate dislike for me, nothing else explains why he felt the need to change my job description, nothing else explains why he created a situation with the purpose to tarnish my integrity with a congregation who felt I was doing a fine job for them. 

Dr. Dominy believes that my orientation is a choice, and as such, is a sin, much like lying and cheating.  For him, the scripture about such things is clear, although, he’s managed to find some grace in the Bible for himself, being a divorced man.  There are many more scriptures concerning divorce, than there are homosexuality.  Reggie hurts for gays and lesbians who feel excluded from the church, but then goes on to reinforce that exclusion.  Homosexuals are welcome to be members in the church, but if they are given positions of authority, church officers and ministers, then true believers will leave the church.  Did you catch that?  Whether Reggie admits it or not, whether he would claim his words as his own or deny them, it’s stated clearly in that letter, gays and lesbians are not true christians. 

My mind goes back to that phone call.  I recall Dr. Reggie’s claim that if he had known I was going to be so opposed to his removal of my job duties, that the phone conversation was going to go so poorly, he would have come to my house and visited with me and my…friend.  He choked on the word “friend.”  I didn’t correct him and say “husband” because I felt like I had said so much that was in direct confrontation that I didn’t need to add to the tension of that phone call.  I can never file charges of discrimination because I resigned voluntarily.  Even if I had been fired, the situation created by Reggie would have appeared to be a legitimate reason to do so.  Discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry is seldom blatant, but at church it is couched in the language of love and compassion, making it all the more painful. 

A final word to my friends at Paradise Christian Church:  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said  “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

*all the names have been changed

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Finally, the Honeymoon!

November 26, 2008

Way too long ago, I promised that I would report on the events that took place after the Big Gay Wedding.  After much procrastination, here it is!

Monday morning, following our Saturday evening nuptials, Scott and I headed out to the airport, boarded our plane for Boston.  We took a water taxi to the dock where we would find our ferry.  In spite of some rain in Boston and gloomy skies while we were on the boat, we eventually arrived safely in Provincetown MA. 

on the bay

on the bay

 

Skies cleared as we pulled into PTown.  We found our bed & Breakfast, the Black Pearl, and checked in with no problems.  Soon we found ourselves walking Commercial Street, enjoying the sights and sounds of what is quickly becoming a home away from home for us.  Of course, we grabbed some seafood for dinner, and we planned our evenings, deciding which shows we might want to see. 

Most days, we spent our time at the beach.  We would pack our bags, grab the bus to Herring Cove, and make the trek through the moors to get to our destination.  This particular part of the beach is unofficially “clothing optional”  so we managed to tan some parts of our bodies that don’t see much sunlight! 

Scott took this from atop the dunes

Scott took this from atop the dunes

 

One day, we were concerned about the weather forecast.  The local stations were predicting rain.  For most of the morning, it looked like it the skies might open up and drench us.  We hesitated to make the trip to the beach, but hated to miss a day of fun in the sun.  We opted to rent bikes and ride through the Cape Cod National Seashore, a National Park.  This was one of the best things we did while on our honeymoon.  The dunes are incredible, the bike trail is enjoyable, and at times, a bit challenging. 

The Dunes

The Dunes

 

Scott entering the tunnel

Scott entering the tunnel

Steve coming out (again???) of the tunnel

Steve coming out (again???) of the tunnel

 

However, the very first thing we did when we arrived in Provincetown, was to visit the Town Hall, where we registered for our marriage license. 

PTown Town Hall

PTown Town Hall

 

Massachusetts requires a 3 day waiting period for marriage licenses.  We wanted to be sure to get ours, and allow an extra day for any glitches that might arise.  Monday afternoon we applied with no problems, and returned on Thursday morning to retrieve our official, legal, marriage license. 

We like to think of our legal wedding ceremony as the yin to the yang of our sacred celebration.  It was everything that the sacred ritual was not.  Our ceremony was performed by the Justice of the Peace, outside on the lawn of the Bed & Breakfast.  Our witnesses were the innkeepers, and the guests of the inn, a group of women on vacation together.  We asked the JP to use our vows from our wedding back home, and she added some additional, beautiful words about equality, and her personal joy of presiding at the weddings of gay and lesbian couples.  Champagne was poured, the license signed by the JP, and now, Scott and I are joined in both sacred and legal matrimony.

Steve and Scott with the JP

Steve and Scott with the JP

Repeating the Vows

Repeating the Vows

A Kiss Seals the Deal

A Kiss Seals the Deal

 

We are legally, sacredly, and happily married!  Each ceremony holds a special joy for us, the formality of one, the casual atmosphere of the other; the friends and family witnessing our love at home, and total strangers sharing the joy of our love at the b&b.  The elaborate meal and dancing to celebrate the sacred ritual, the sharing of wine with temporary friends who toasted our life together, followed by an intimate meal at a nearby restaurant, all of these weave themselves together to create a seamless memory of the week in which we got married, twice.  God grant you the same joy that we have found.

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Today’s Sermon: Creation: God Starts it All Off with a Big Bang

October 12, 2008
I was honored to speak as a layspeaker at church this morning.  Here is a copy of my sermon. 
In the beginning, which occurred near the start, there was nothing but God, darkness and some gas. The Bible says the Lord thy God is one, but I think He must be a lot older than that. Anyway, God said, “Give me a light!” and someone did. Then God made the world. He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but they weren’t embarrassed because mirrors hadn’t been invented yet. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were driven from the Garden of Eden. Not sure what they were driven in though, because they didn’t have cars.  Adam and Eve had a son, Cain, who hated his brother as long as he was Abel. Pretty soon all of the early people died off, except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or something. 

Right from the beginning, we are confused on the creation story.  And if this is what a child hears when we read today’s scripture, is it any wonder that even the theologians can’t agree on what really happened in Genesis?  “Oh, Steve, We aren’t tackling Evolution vs. Creationism today, are we?”  No, we’re not.  We don’t need to.  As Disciples, we have members who accept the creation story as historical fact;  we also have members who believe it to be metaphorical, a creation story unique to Christians, but in many ways similar to creation stories from other cultures. We find that many of us fall somewhere in between. As Disciples, our tradition has been to encourage each other to study the scriptures, and respect each other for where we are on our individual journeys. So I’m not going to tell you what you must believe about God’s first actions.  However, let’s look at the beliefs we hold about these early chapters of the Bible and why they can cause such controversy. 

Christians who accept the Genesis 1 account as historical fact, must have a strong faith in God.  I mean this in the most positive way.  They look at the events of each day: separation of day and night,separation of the waters to create an expanse known as the heavens, and the water and land; and in these events they witness a powerful God, speaking a word and the elements of the universe moving to obey. In 3 days the stage is set for life to begin.  In the next 3 days, God speaks the planets, ocean life and birds, and animals and humans into being. God pronounces all of it good, and takes a day off.  We need only to look around us to find the witness of nature to God’s awesome power. 
 
For some of us, it’s too much to take in, we just can’t believe that something so big, so majestic, so amazing as our universe could come into existance in a mere 6 days.  In our quest to learn more about our selves, our environment, our planet, our galaxy and our universe, we have questioned everything. And we’ve found some clues that it may have taken more than 6 days to put this place together. As humans developed methods for studying every aspect of our planet and beyond, and learned that scientific methods could indeed yield answers about where we come from, the 6 day creation account has been called into question.
 
One of the most famous inquiries in the science vs. faith debate was the Scopes Trial in 1925.  John Scopes was a science teacher in Tennessee who openly defied the law prohibiting the teaching of evolution, made popular by Charles Darwin in his book On the Origin of Species.  The case went to court, and very quickly, instead of John Scopes being tried for breaking the law, the Bible seemed to go on trial.  Clarence Darrow, the famous attorney, questioned William Jennings Bryan relentlessy about things most Christians consider miracles that which could not be explained scientifically.  Mr. Bryan died 5 days after the end of the trial, and the enmity between Christians and Scientists has lingered since then. 
 
If we could begin that discussion again, how would we bring together the opposing sides?  Where would we find agreement?  How could we find a current in which faith and knowledge flow together? 
I say that we should begin with God’s love.  I say that no matter what you believe about the creation story, it very simply demonstrates God’s great love in that God creates a world, an amazing universe for humans to occupy and share with the rest of the creation. It appears God’s motivation for the creative act is to receive honor and glory from beings who have a choice to do so. 
The creation story comes to us, presumably through Moses, in a way that these early people could understand.  The story was handed down in an oral tradition and finally put on paper by Moses, although I’m sure you’ll find some people who would argue that point with you.  In doing some research for today’s sermon, I discovered a theory I’d never heard before:  That the creationism vs. evolution argument is not about Science, it’s about literary genre.  This makes sense to me.  Did the original author intend to write, or recite history?  Or, did the author intend to write something more like poetry?   Could it be that giving the story somewhat of a symmetrical structure would make it easier to retell?  A look at the structure of the text reveals that the first three days of creation MIRROR the second three days of creation:

  • On the first day of creation God said “let there be light,” as well as darkness, and on the fourth day of creation he made the moving inhabitants of those realms (the sun, moon, and stars).
  • On the second day God separated the waters above the earth from the waters below the earth, and on the fifth day he made the moving inhabitants of those two realms (the birds and sea creatures).
  • On the third day God made the dry land and plants appear, and on the sixth day he made the moving inhabitants of that realm (the animals and man).
 In the first 3 days, the stage is set, and in the following 3 days the actors appear.  The story is set up to describe the things that “are” and the things that “move” – the living creatures. Is it possible that in the years this story was told in the oral tradition that it developed this form?  Is it possible, like that old game of “telephone”, that with each retelling of the story the details were nuanced?  When humans are involved, we need to acknowledge the opportunity for such changes, even error, but that does not negate the main idea:  God loved and God created.
 
You may find people willing to stand on their arguments for or against the Creation story based on the words used.  The simplest telling of the story teaches us that God made a man named Adam and a woman named Eve.  Research tells us that those Hebrew words ‘adam and havvah may be more symbolic terms meaning mankind and mother of all life.  For those who wish to discredit the literal or historical creation story, it’s a simple move to then ask about the children of this couple.  In fact, it is a question that was asked by Clarence Darrow, back in the Scopes trial that I mentioned earlier:  Where did Cain’s wife come from?  Maintaining that Adam and Eve were the only 2 humans from which life springs, takes us to a place we’d rather not go when explaining how the earth became populated. Using a symbolic interpretation of Adam and Eve as “the people” that God created solves that problem, but makes many more for us.  It becomes much easier to simply dig in our heels and lock horns with our adversaries, rather than do the research and discern what God wants us to learn from such a story. 
And if this isn’t enough controversy for you, we’re given a second account of the creation in Genesis 2:4-25.  The second telling of the creation doesn’t match the first telling in Genesis 1.  In the first chapter of Genesis, humans are the last thing created by God; in the second chapter, humans are created before the other animals.  In chapter one, the man and woman are created simultaneously; in chapter two we get the famous “adam’s rib” story. 
 
At this point, do we get hung up on the controversy, or do we look beyond it to discover what God wants us to know?  I’ve seen some of the arguments over these scriptures.  They go off into tangents on issues that don’t matter, but all sides want to claim these words as proof that God agrees with them and not their opponent.  We place our own prejudice and our own bias on top of the Word that we’ve been given.  We can suddenly find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be.  For example, in chapter two, Adam is alone.  God says “it’s not good for man to be alone” so God creates the animals and brings them to Adam to be named.  From the scriptures, it’s clear that Adam is to choose a helper from the animals. It seems that it is only after Adam fails to choose a helper, that God creates Eve.  For those reading these verses with a literal viewpoint combined with a skewed agenda, it could sound like God expected man to have a working relationship with animals beyond what we already experience.  
And we haven’t even gotten to the “Fall” of humans.  Was it really an apple?  What did the “serpent” look like before God made it crawl on its belly?  Are the tree, fruit, and serpent literal or symbolic?  Believe it or not, I even found a website that believes Cain was not Adam’s son, but Satan’s.  Controversy!  From the very beginning!  
Does it make a difference in our daily lives if God spent 6 days working and 1 day resting?  Do we lose our salvation if God’s day means thousands or millions of years instead of 24 hours?  Is God’s love negated if the creation story is told as a narrative with some details changed to make it easier to remember as well as for better drama?  More importantly, how does it benefit any of us to deride each other for holding the literal or allegorical view of the creation story?  The Disciples slogan certainly is appropriate “In essentials, Unity; In non-essentials, Liberty; and in all things, Charity.” 
From the very beginning, God has interacted with humankind. Whether it was through a booming theatrical voice to speak the world into being, or the voice of God as the Big Bang Theory, we may never know.  The universe is an amazing place, full of things our human minds will never comprehend.
When Albert Einstein was asked if he believed in God, here was his response: “I’m not an atheist. I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books, but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws.”

  

 

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Hey Hatas! It’s Time to Walk the Talk

September 27, 2008

It’s time for the rubber to meet the road, and I’m not talking about fucking in the streets.  I have run into too many christians spouting off homophobic comments, writing anti-gay blog entries, that, when confronted, employ less than honorable journalistic skills and hide behind the common refrain “God said it in the Bible, I didn’t.  If you don’t like it, take it up with God.” 

So, homophobes, bigots, hypocrites, family values supporters, christians, and evangelicals/fundamentalists, take note:  it’s time to put up or shut up.  You need to find some ethical standards if you’re going to participate in the blogging world, and you need to be consistent about your beliefs.  In addition, you need to support your beliefs with scripture as well as demonstrate that you know some reliable facts before you form an opinion and put it out there for all the world to see.

Let’s take another look at the American Family Association’s boycott of McDonald’s.  I recently hit the tag surfer button here on my wordpress dashboard and ran across a young man who enjoys blogging about conservative issues.  Jermy Buffo seems to think that McDonald’s was acting improperly when it did two things:  requested a group discount for sending at least 15 employees to a training session known as the “Out and Equal 2008 Workplace Summit”  and donated $20,000 to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.  Bluffer then made some outrageous replies to comments at his blog, and employed some questionable practices while doing so. 

I confronted Mr. Fluffer with some hard evidence about his claims.  Claim #1 was that McDonald’s had suffered a huge financial blow because of the AFA’s boycott.  I provided a link to Yahoo’s stock reports which showed McDonald’s stock values had steadily increased since start of the boycott. I think most people would agree that this would indicate that the boycott is having no effect whatsoever.  Claim #2 was that McDonald’s was pushing the gay agenda above and beyond anything else.  I did the math for this guy, and showed him how McDonald’s gave a total of $30,462.50 for joining the NGLCC and attending the Equal and Out Conference.  Then I quoted from McDonald’s own website that shows they have donated $460 million in grant money over and above their corporate support of Ronald McDonald House Charities. 

The really disturbing stuff comes in how Boffo handles the comments.  One of my replies was totally deleted, which caused me to start making screen captures of my posts that were awaiting moderation.  At one point, Jerkmy accuses me of calling his writing “crap.”   I searched my replies and finally discovered that I had quoted another comment by a guy named Andrew.  Andrew had called the writing crap.  Now, remember, Jeremy claims he doesn’t delete any of the comments, however, when I posted the correction that Andrew had made the comment, not me, that particular post never made it to the blog. 

It’s just a bit of creative editing that allowed Mr. Bluffo, the right-wing, conservative, anti-gay blogger to accuse me of lying without ever having to admit to his own error.  So what have we learned from the religious right?  Make accusations, and never admit that you were wrong. 

Now let’s take a look at a woman who represents God, although I’m not sure if this is a self-proclaimed title or an actual endorsement from the Almighty.  I’m not sure who represents the licensing in this case.  Here’s a link to Janelinda, but let me warn you, the woman has no taste.  The font size, colors, and site theme more than clash, it hurts the eyes.  Janelinda caught my eye while tag surfing a few days ago. 

Here’s the exchange that got things rolling:

janelinda said: The truth is that Paul’s writings are clear that homosexuality is a sin rewarded by death. If the state won’t do it, the church will.

keltic said:  wow, it sounds like you’d like to kill all the gay people. as a matter of fact, it sounds like you’re threatening to do just that. will you pick up the first stone?

Now, I don’t put this out there to brag, but I know my way around the Bible.  I know which books are Old Testament and which are New Testament, I know the major themes, and I even hold a minor in religious studies.  I know that the verse to which this woman refers to does not have a death penalty attached to it.  I also know that Jesus silenced a group of hypocrites by saying “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” as a way of teaching that humans can not make that kind of judgment against each other.   Yet, here is a woman who is perfectly willing to make that kind of statement, and proclaim it loudly as her duty to God. 

Again, the deceit and unethical tactics commence.  Janelinda began using my comments as material for her blog entries, yet she would let my comments sit “awaiting moderation” for days on end. 

Another favorite tactic of the screeching fundamentalists:  when confronted, fling a little mud.  Case in point:  in reply to my question about why christians are concerned so much with homosexuality and less about divorce, in light of the fact that Jesus said nothing about the former and plenty about the latter, I got a response about pedophilia. 

Yes, Jesus was silent on the subject of homosexuality even as he was silent about molesting children.

I gave her the statistics that prove children are in more danger from straight people, but she chooses not to be confused by facts. 

Once again, I had to request that the owner of the blog post all of my comments, not just those they wanted their readers to see.  One comment has been lost completely, after which I began performing screen captures.  This particular blogger decided that my comments could go unpublished, but that she would use them as a starting point for ever more shrill homophobic posts.  A request to allow my posts to be made public was met with a disclaimer at the beginning of another blog entry about how nasty “teh gays” are. 

Now I am engaged in what can best be described as talking at each other, I certainly wouldn’t call it a dialog.  Ms. Jadedliah seems to think I don’t have an understanding of the Bible.  Notice how she ignores my questions about other laws or rules that are clearly stated in scripture.  She so cleverly turns that around to say that she doesn’t need to explain the law to me.  Of course she doesn’t!  I already understand the law, but I also understand that no one can ever fulfill the law.  I know that every time a fundie trots out a scripture with the intent to beat a homosexual into submission, they are ignoring all the words around it that condemn them 20 times more than God’s word condemns gays and lesbians.  Miss Jane claims to be a minister, called to preach God’s unchanging word.  So when asked about a few scriptures that imply women should never take on that role, she pulls a few more out of context to support her case. 

You will not move from what God has said in the Bible? that is excellent news!
1 Corinthians 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

as well as 1 Timothy 2:12-14 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

So you are condemned by your own words. “I was called to ministry. I didn’t decide this myself. I was called when a child to preach the gospel.”

To whom do you preach? Only other women? You have been instructed by God’s Holy Word to keep silent. why is it that you, by your own admission, disobey God’s commandments?

I admit to playing devil’s advocate in this exchange.  I believe women have a rightful place in ministry.  I’m just baffled by a woman who can ignore clear scriptures about her own position within the church, then turn around and issue condemning decrees about gays and lesbians with those same scriptures.

So here is my request, Mr. Fluffer, Ms. Janelicka, and all you other hate-filled (love the sinner, hate the sin) types of christians/ fundies/ evangelicals/  right-wingnuts/ conservatives/ homophobes.  Do us all a favor and start living your lives in a more consistent fashion.  When you write an offensively homophobic blog entry, have the balls to go exactly where you intend it to go. 

For instance, if you want to use Leviticus as your basis for hating on the gays, you’ve got to be willing to kill us.  The scripture is clear.  It doesn’t say that the government has that responsibility, it doesn’t assign that duty to some church committee, it is entirely up to God’s people to stand up and do the right thing:  Kill those Faggots! 

If you’re going to skip lunch at McDonald’s because they gave a few nickels to a gay & lesbian organization, you’ve got to hold fast to that commitment.  Now, go out and find all the other businesses that support homosexuals and boycott them as well.  Need some help?  Here’s a list:  Burger King, Pepsico, Frito Lay, Wells Fargo, Kodak, Levi’s, Pacific Gas & Electric Co (Californian’s united for Hate, turn off those lights!), Motorola, American Express, Shop n Save, Cub Foods, Blue Cross of California, Comcast, Capitol One, Coors Light, AT&T, Marriott, Ramada, Hilton, Southwest Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, UPS.  Have we hit you where you live yet?  You, homophobes calling for boycotts and screaming that granting civil rights to gay and lesbian people is giving them special rights, need to walk the talk!  Stop giving your hard-earned straight dollars to all these companies that are pushing the gay agenda!  Do it now!  I mean it. 

Stop listening to music created by gay people.  That means you’ll have to give up all your Judas Priest albums (Rob Halford is gay), no more Clay Aiken, Johnny Mathis, or Barry Manilow.  No Stephen Sondheim, Elton John, or K D Lang.  How’d you like Ray Boltz’s music back in the day?  Surprise, he just came out too.  Is the music minister at your church a male?  He may be deeply closeted, but he’s most likely gay.  Don’t sing along until you can have him fired and replaced by your 85 year old aunt Stella.  Into classical?  Change the station when Aaron Copland hits the airwaves, or Samuel Barber, or even Tchaikovsky.  Don’t even think of going to the theater for a Broadway show;  you’ll find more gays than you can shake a stick at, whether you’re into shaking sticks or not! 

Need some more help?  Go buy a gay magazine like Out, or Advocate, or Instinct.  Don’t worry about reading any of the articles, just make a list of the companies who advertise in the magazines.  Then, keep that list handy whenever you need to make a purchasing decision.  You’ll need to avoid Tylenol products, Avis car rentals, premium movie channels, all the major clothing designers, and most travel destinations. 

But why stop there?  Let’s bring the hate a little closer to home.  Who does your hair?  Have you been going to that gay man for your latest hairstyle?  Stop it!  What’s your favorite restaurant?  Make sure that chef with the short hair isn’t a butch lesbian.  Got a car that needs maintenance?  Be sure to ask the mechanic if he’s ever had a cock in his mouth.  And for God’s sake, don’t go to the garage that has a woman working on cars.  Does the coffee shop employ androgynous baristas?  Go get your morning java at the convenience store. 

You think that “millions and millions” of Americans want to recognize marriage as being one man and one woman?  That’s great, a little hyperbolic, but great.  If it’s as you say it is, then there should be no problems finding businesses, large and small, that will assist you in your boycott of all things gay.  Think globally, act locally.  Hate universally.

I have one small favor to ask.  Could you email me and let me know what time you intend to be here to stone me?  I’d hate to be late for my own funeral.

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In the Meantime….

August 24, 2008

OK, I’ve been home a week and haven’t gotten a word written about the honeymoon or even the wedding.  I think that the biggest reason is that I have so much to say about it, I need to break it down into small pieces, organize, then write about it. 

So, in the meantime, here’s a picture:

 

and here’s a link to my pastor’s musings on the wedding:  No Difference. Really.