Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eire Faith



<---- Guinness, Bailey's & Jameson; aka an "Irish Car Bomb"


Ever since I got back from my vacation out in Wyoming I've been in a bit of a downward spiral. I tend to absorb everyone else's frustrations & worries to begin with. So, starting with that, toss in a whole bunch of other stressors and mix it well with the minor form of depression that I have...you get quite a cocktail.

The truth is, I spend most of my days feeling like a complete fraud, and that my life is a joke. I wont bother to go into detail at this time, but suffice it to say that I am generally wracked with doubt most of my waking hours. (Yeah, you can tell me not to do that all you want. But it's easier said than done. It simply is the way that my brain is wired.)

Anyway, I've been writing this letter to God for quite some time know. I got more of it written tonight. Essentially, I was explaining to him why I feel like a fraud...and wouldn't a nice heart attack in my sleep be a great way to get me out of here? I just feel like I'm wasting my time in this life. Plus, I am so soaked in sin...in thought, if not deed, that why would God possibly trust me with anything in the first place?

Which all demonstrates what a lack of faith I actually have. Which, in turn, gets me spinning even more when I realize and admit that. Great! (I can easily identify with Paul in Romans 7..."When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.")

I must say, I spent some time today talking with my Dad. It helped me a great deal. My father has a good heart, and often gives much wiser council then I expect. Also, a few nights ago, I shared my frustrations with a friend. In turn, he shared his own struggles of a different nature. So often, when we are struggling with something, we feel like we are the only one who is struggling at all. Everyone else is fine & dandy. That's obviously not true...but that is how it feels. Not to say that misery loves company. But knowing that other people have their own frustrations is a comfort of sorts. You know that you are not alone.



Peter Rollins is a Christian Thinker that I have recently begun to follow. I find him quite fascinating. I still know very little about him. For starters, he's Irish. And guessing by his accent, he is from Belfast or some other place in Northern Ireland. He's friends with Rob Bell & Shane Hipps, and appears linked in many aspects to the "Emerging Church" movement. (So I already know who wouldn't like him...and I think that's a pity)

Anyway, I stumbled across a video he did a few years ago. It helped me this evening in a completely unexpected way. It is all about doubt and how it ties into Christianity. Many, many Christians I know, like to quote bible verses about why we are not supposed to doubt. Frankly, I think that those who uses passages in that particular manner are taking the verses out of context.

There is a healthy form of doubt. It's when you doubt, but truly want an honest answer to what ever it is you are struggling with. It is not the "Yeah, whatever. I know nothings gonna happen" kind of doubt. That really IS unbiblical, and to quote a favorite thinker of mine, "That is just unbelief masking itself in self-pity."

So, with out further ado, here is the video that helped me out this evening.



I find that to be a rather healthy & satisfying approach to the matter.

I think I like Pete...but that could just be the accent.

Here are a couple of other videos that you might find interesting.

Wrestling with the Divine from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

When you consider that the ancient Hebrews viewed God as NOT someone to be understood or explained, but instead to be experienced, what Peter says makes a lot of sense. (It's no wonder that so many Christians in the West get all out of whack by trying to reduce the God of Scripture to a theological formula that fits neatly on a page.)


Speaking of that, pay careful attention to this last video. I am an atheist when it comes to atheists. I don't believe in them. I DO believe in Nihilists, i.e. those who say that life is pointless, meaningless, etc. That's a natural fall-back position for just about everyone going through a hard time...myself included, obviously. But actual "Atheism?" No, no, you believe in a god. You just dislike the one that you have constructed in your head. Which makes sense since we are always creating a god in our own image.

With that in mind, watch this one...

Food for thought.

I'm not sure if a guy like Peter Rollins is for everyone. Probably not. But then again, James Dobson doesn't do much for me. That doesn't mean that God can't use both of them for his kingdom. Maybe that's why I am attracted to much of what Peter has to say. He's willing to embrace the divine mystery of the God of the Bible.

Helped me out tonight, anyway.


Peace

Joe

P.S. One more parable from Mr. Rollins. Pay careful attention to the ending. It's not what most would expect.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Prophets "Outside" the "church"


So this fellow dies. He goes up to heaven where St. Pete shows him around. St. Pete asks the guy what he'd like to see of heaven first. The fellow responds, "Well, I was a musician. So I guess I'd like to see all of the famous musicians that you have up here."

St. Pete takes him to the area where all sorts of musicians have their heavenly mansions. They're both walking down the streets of gold, as the newly arrived soul marvels at all of the sites.

"Oh, wow, there's Elvis!" says the fellow. "Ooo look, Jimi Hendrix...and Stevie Ray Vaughn." The new guy is amazed, and St. Pete gets a kick out his excitement. "Oh man, Johnny Cash is jamming with Carl Perkins. Holy smokes, even Bono is here," exclaims the excited newbie.

"Wait, WAIT...Bono's not dead!," he realizes. St. Peter replies, "That's not Bono. That's God. He just thinks he's Bono."

Rim Shot!


"In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah

"A voice of one calling in the desert,
prepare a way for the Lord,
make paths straight for him."

John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father." I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
Matt. 3:1-10 (Sounds kind of judgmental, don't you think?)

Rick McKinley has a great sermon about John the Baptist. He points out accurately that John would not be the most pleasant guy to hang out with for a prolonged period of time. Essentially, Jesus' crazy cousin from the hills would come off as one of those street preachers that get under people's skins, and whom we tend to say causes all the problems for other Christians. And yet, John was absolutely necessary to prepare people to hear the gospel that would arrive shortly there after.

Crazy prophets who bug & annoy people, and say all sorts of controversial things do seem to have a place in God's kingdom.



So last night, U2 had it's concert in a new outdoor stadium here in the Twin Cities. Really wish I could have been there. I've seen them three times, and they never disappoint. We also had a huge storm in the cities last night. Apparently, the concert got soaked...but they kept playing. (Not sure how they do that with out getting electrocuted.) A friend told me that in the middle of the storm Bono started "Singing in the rain."


U2, and Bono in particular, get a lot of flack about their outspokenness. Bono catches the majority because he has a big mouth and is involved in so many causes. I have noticed that he tends to get a bit of flack from many in the "Christian" world. The irony is that, as near as I can tell, he has a passionate love for the Jesus of the gospels...although certainly not in the conventional sense.

This morning during church, our pastor quoted a song by U2 to illustrate a sermon point. By this afternoon, I had two more stories of U2 being mentioned in Twin Cities churches. In all cases, they were used in a fairly neutral sense. (Which is fine. Many people get confused by a guy like Bono.) He just doesn't fit the American Evangelical stereotype very well. (Which I think we should be grateful for.)



Anyway, I had stumbled across an interview with Eugene Peterson a day ago. Apparently, he is the first guy to ever turn down the opportunity to spend a day with U2, because he was too busy working on a bible translation. It's no secret that Bono is a massive fan of Peterson's translation of The Message bible, so they had invited him. (Personally, I think that's pretty funny.)

Anyway, Peterson prefers Classical music to modern rock. But he has tremendous respect for a band like U2, especially the massive amount of charity & social justice work that they do. Here is a link to an interview that he did. I'll only quote from a section that really stood out for me...and should for anyone who is perplexed by modern prophets.


In the interview, Peterson refers to Bono as a "Prophetic Voice." (Another term that is generally misunderstood.)

"A prophet, almost by definition, doesn't fit into the categories you expect, which is what gives them bite, and clarity, and the sense of grabbing us by the scruff of our neck, and saying, "Listen to this: this is truth, this is what's going on." The whole authority of prophets comes not from what people say about them or the credentials that they have, it's from the truth of what they are saying. This is true of the Biblical prophets and of prophetic voices all through history. Often prophets use the name God but sometimes they don't. It is interesting to reflect that no Hebrew prophet ever was referred to as "messiah," but the pagan Persian king Cyrus was. (Now THAT'S interesting) God used him in what I would refer to as a prophetic way to free the Hebrews from their exile and return them to their homeland, but Cyrus had no idea that he was issuing edicts under the sovereignty of God.

It is my job as a pastor and professor to speak the name of Jesus and proclaim the news of the gospel into whatever reality the prophets expose and call attention to. If they also do it, that's fine, but if they don't that doesn't mean that they aren't speaking/acting on God's behalf."

Do you think a prophet loses something if he or she were to become "churchified" in some way?

Yes, I think so. I guess he'd lose the edge of surprise. I've been a part of the institution of religion all my life and have been quite happy doing it. I felt that's what I was called to do. But I depend for a lot of my insights and language on people who are outside the Church. That doesn't mean they are outside of Christ, but they are outside of the conventional expectations. I need that. If I'm just around people who talk the way I do, I lose perceptive accuracy, sharpness. And I think Bono is doing that for many.


If you are so inclined, here is the full interview that I watched. It's a very, very good interview...but also 30 minutes in length.




Now I know what some may say. "Yeah, Bono does some good work, and says some nice stuff about peace & love and such. But that doesn't make him a Believer." Fair enough.

For the record, I don't want to get into an argument over signing or reciting a specifically selected confession of faith. Frankly, embracing faith through mere intellectual ascent only gets you so far. I've been burned more times then I can now count by folks who signed the right confession of faith, but still produced no fruit in keeping with repentance, to settle for simply that argument.

That having been said, a number of years ago the French journalist Michka Assayas wrote a book with Bono. Actually, it was simply a prolonged conversation that they had. The covered a number of topics, but also the areas of Bono's faith. So, for the record, and in his own words, here is what Bono has to say about the importance of Jesus in his life.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/music/interviews/2005/bono-0805.html <--- You can read the full article from Christianity Today at that link.

Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don't let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that's my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that's not so easy.

Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn't so "peace and love"?

Bono There's nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that's why they're so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you're a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.

AND

Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

Bono But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says:"Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you?" There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled… . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

Assayas: That's a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it's close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world's great thinkers. But Son of God, isn't that farfetched?

Bono No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had "King of the Jews" on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched …

Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:

Bono: … [I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s--- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

To me, that sounds a lot like a Billy Graham crusade with some strong language thrown in.


I'm never really sure what people want or expect from other Christians/Believers. Far too often it is some religious code phrase or hair cut...with plenty of Americanized mythology thrown in for good measure. I'm not sure how you'll get that out of an Irishman.

John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all pointed out that who have to look for the fruit. Mere words/code phrases aren't enough. The Pharisees & Sadducees had plenty of those...and they ended up as kindling.


Look, I'm not trying to be an "Apologist" for Bono, U2 or anyone else. I'm just trying to point out that God, in his sovereign ways, is rather big and often mysterious. He also tends to not let opportunities go to waist. Maybe some Believers won't be inspired by a guy like Bono. That's fine. I wont knock them. But I have also seen young Christians, myself included, BE inspired into a closer walk with Jesus...in an admittedly unconventional, yet no less real, sort of way. If God could talk through a donkey, I don't see why he can't use a crazy Irishman. After all, "She moves in mysterious ways." (Blasphemy!)


Peace

Joe

P.S. A few years back, Bono was asked to speak at a Presidential Prayer Breakfast. He took the opportunity to speak about the opportunity to serve the poor through the international ONE campaign. I found it to be to be funny and humble. It's worth a listen.




NOW, that the more serious stuff is over, I think I'll just link up the various songs of U2 that I love that deal with Jesus. Enjoy!














That one might be a bit controversial. However, any Believer worth their salt will admit to struggling with doubt and such. If you can look me in the eye and tell me that you don't, I simply do not believe or trust you.


And last but not least...and just for the cheeky fun of it.



I LOVE that version.

Again, Peace. :)





Thursday, July 21, 2011

Observations on a Road Trip




About every three years, the folks on my mom's side of the family have a reunion of sorts. This year, it was held out in Wyoming. When Great Grampa Schroeder got off the boat from Sweden, he settled in North Dakota. Most of the relations either stayed there or moved west. Mom moved to Minneapolis. So, off to Wyoming we went this time.

I was given the option of staying home and dog-sitting. However, being that money is generally very sparse for me, and that I hadn't had a proper vacation in years, tagging along seemed like a good idea. That, and the fact that if I didn't go, I would get no sleep what so ever, worrying constantly about my family doing a long distance drive with out my expertise behind the wheel.

Vacation, here I come.



<---- Our destination was Lake Alcova, about half an hour outside of the mighty metropolis of Casper, Wy. Thanks to damming the N. Platte river, there is now a rather large lake up on top of a mountain. The fishing is supposed to be excellent.

That having been said, any trip has it's share of the unusual and such. I shall now endeavor to regale you with tales and observations.


To get to Wyoming, you have to cross through the vast wasteland known as South Dakota. My conditions for driving everyone was that I would get to see the Black Hills, which is your reward for putting up with the rest of South Dakota. From the eastern border of S. Dakota to the Black Hills is about a 6 hour drive...but it feels more like 12. There simply isn't all that much to see. Desolation has it's own beauty I suppose.

It makes you realize how many trees Minnesota has when you enter an area without many. Also, where as Minnesota has a ton of small towns, they are generally about 10 miles apart. In S. Dakota & Wyoming, once you are away from a town, that's IT!


<---- I'm weird, in that I notice the little things...like the rest stops that States erect for weary travelers. When we left, our State government was shut down over the budget. So there were no rest stops, per say. Anyway, you get into S. Dakota and all of the stops have a teepee in the front of them. Kinda cool, actually.

The rest stops in Wyoming were of a different breed all together. They were self-contained units that had artificial grass, were solar powered, and had composting toilets. (STINKY!!!!)





On the eastern side of South Dakota is one odd site that is worth a visit. It's the Corn Palace in Mitchell. For over 100 years, the outside of the building has been decorated with crops. (Hence the name) Unfortunately, it's still early in the season, so the best we got was wheat on the exterior.

Actually, I think it would be pretty awesome to see a band like U2 perform in a small theater like this. Bono could throw freshly popped kernels to the audience.






<---- I know that this may come as a shock, but I actually got some corn stuck on the bottom of my Vans while walking about the interior. I know! What are the odds of that happening???






Once you cross the Missouri River, S. Dakota becomes a bit like a scene from a science fiction film. It gets greener, yet still has that sense of mournful desolation. You could easily picture space aliens landing, taking a look around, and then deciding that it simply isn't worth the effort to conquer.





However, I did finally get to see the famous Wall Drug that I have witnessed on so many bumper stickers. Wall became famous in the late 1930s. They were clever enough to advertise free ice water to travelers headed out to see Mount Rushmore. The rest is history.

Seriously, it is worth a stop. Everything is located on one street. I picked up a cool hat which, according to my Dad makes me look like Wyatt Earp, OR, according to my friend, makes me look like Sam Neil from "Jurassic Park."




<---- There are other sites in Wall, too. This one made me recall fondly, the various women I know.











Naturally, you can't go to the Black Hills and not see Mt. Rushmore. To be fair to S. Dakota, the Black Hills is incredibly beautiful. Also, when you stand in front of this mountain and think of the time it took to carve this monument, it is very impressive.



You also realize how fat the average American tourist is.











<---- Not to far from George & co. is a new monument being carved. It's of Crazy Horse. (I was rather disappointed to see that Neil Young was not included in this.)

All that you can see at present is his face, with the beginning of an arm extended. At this point, it isn't worth the $27 to enter. I recommend taking a picture from the side of the road.


Wyoming is a whole other mindset. I like to joke about the "Minnesota Accent," where we stretch out our vowels. (My name is not Joe, it's Jooooooooooooooe.) But all of my relatives out in Wyoming have their own unique accent. They don't say "Get." They say "gIt." Also, a lady is not a "Woman," she's a "WHOAHman."

Where we stayed, all of the people were very friendly...in a cowboy kind of way. Like I said, Lake Alcova is a big lake up on a mountain. The resort area is not exactly the kind you would see on the Rivera. But for cowboys, it's perfect.

Actually, now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever seen so many tattoos in one place before. Everyone had at least one. Unfortunately, it makes you realize how time does a number on you. That tattoo may have looked hot when you were younger and in great shape. But now, due to the passage of time, it looks like you have two on your chin. (Another valid reason for me not to get one...aside from the pain, and the weeping like a girl that would result.)





<---- Sunrise











<---- Sunset. (Go figure)


















<---- The view from the hills above. Yeah, we took a little hike up the mountains. My thighs were burning for 2 days afterwards.













<----- The dogs had a difficult time getting down the canyon on the way back.

Actually, the walls of the canyons were beautiful. Makes you realize how creative an architect God really is. Although, I have to say that I was disappointed in not seeing any rattle snakes. I seriously wanted a picture of one...and then to kill it and keep it's skin & rattle.










Even though I saw no snakes, there certainly were plenty of other creatures hanging out. It's funny how wild animals can adjust to humans. The deer routinely wandered through people's yards and such. Lot's & lots of bunnies, too.







In fact, nature co-existed with us to such an extent that the friendly birds gave me a welcome present while I was out boating.


<----- DOODIE!












<---- Words to live by, on my cousins camper.












<---- Did I mention that we ate a lot of meat while there?

Normally, I'm fairly conscious of what I ingest. I'm trying to drop a few pounds.

Well, throw that idea out the window. I think I ate more meat in those few days than I have in the past 6 months.



Being a history geek, I had to head back into Casper to see some sites. It appears that much of the west was settled around forts and such. Which makes sense. When you are pushing the original inhabitants off of the land that they have been on for centuries, you might get a bit of resistance from them.



<---- This is an actual photo of downtown Casper, Wyoming. As you can see, not much has changed from the good old days.




When all was said and done, we packed up and headed back to Minnesota. One of our cousins showed us a short-cut to get us back to the Black Hills. It cut off 90 miles of road for us, but provided us with the most empty & vacant view I've ever seen. (And I've been to Nebraska!)

A couple of times while driving, I would speak up and say "Hey, would you look at that!" A family member would respond with "See what?" To which I would retort, "Exactly."




<---- Deadwood

I was a huge fan of the cable series "Deadwood." The writing was brilliant...like Shakespeare set in the old west. Naturally, I wanted to see it on the way home.

To be honest, it's pretty much a tourist trap. Still, I dig the old architecture, and it's location is beautiful. I just wish that I had more time to explore the historical sites around the area. Unfortunately, I was dealing with two old geezers and a sister with a gimpy foot. Such is life.


A couple of final thoughts.

I like music. I like to listen to it when I drive...LOUD. Unfortunately for me, my parents do not. (Unless it involves a church organ and mournful dirges.) Dad didn't even want me to listen to my Ipod. "It's illegal to drive with those in some States," he would say. So that was out, and the hypnotism of the bleak landscape did it's work on my brain.

Also, my Dad can snore like a warning siren. I'm not joking when I say that his snores have their own echos. (My Mom has a quieter snore that sounds a bit like a steam pipe.) On our last night in a motel, I actually had to take a pillow and sleep by the sink near the bathroom to escape the sounds of buffalo rampaging across the prairie that emanated from my father's lungs.

When he woke up in the middle of the night to see me sleeping on the floor, he apologized profusely. I told him to leave me alone and just let me sleep. I was able to listen to my Ipod while driving the next day. (Go Deep Purple!)


The secret to any vacation is to simply treat everything that happens as all a part of the adventure...both good & bad. All in all, it was a good trip.






<---- This is what a week of no shaving looks like. Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.







Peace

Joe

P.S. I wonder where I'll go next time?


And if you read this far, you should be rewarded with a song.




Sunday, July 10, 2011

I confess




"All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in God's likeness."
James 3:7-9

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight."
Psalm 19:14

I need to read those two passages everyday.



I have a big mouth. I admit it. I confess and apologize for it. In fact, I even have an appropriate song for it.

No, I haven't done or said anything horrible or inappropriate lately. It's just something that has been on my mind recently. (But I'm sure that I will be stumbling rather spectacularly somewhere down the line.)

You see, I have a gift. My tongue is often a cross between a laser beam and a samurai sword. With it, I can say things that are cutting-edge funny...or just cutting. I can be sarcastic in the best sense of the word, or really mean with that same sarcasm. Often, it's like I'm an X-Man...both gifted and cursed with the same talent.

I got together with Pastor Scott a while ago. He pointed out that he & I have something in common. We both have a soft spot for the weak & marginalized. We don't like the pompous and arrogant. And neither of us like it when people do not extend grace & mercy to others who trip & stumble as much as we do. In fact, we DIS-like it so much that we will not be exactly gracious or merciful to those people who are not being gracious or merciful...which isn't exactly being very gracious OR merciful, now is it?


One of the qualities that drew me to Living Waters, the church I attend, is that one of it's main pillars is to be a body of worshippers based on grace. As a result, we have folks from across the spectrum. We have Calvinists, Arminians, Emergers, Mildly-Fundamental, Charismatics and Frozen Chosen...and other odd-balls, too. Yeah, we're weird, I know...which says volumes about me.


Anyway, in my last post on politics, I went after the Republicans and what I perceive to be their idolatry when it comes to Christianity. It was pointed out to me that while it was funny, it was a bit heavy on the sarcasm. Also, I get flack from some friends of mine because a certain representative from my State, who is now running for President, is a juicy foil for me. She claims to be a big-time Christian, so they tell me not to go after her so hard, because that's not very Christ-like...and they may be right.

Also, there are some very famous theologians & pastors in my area who drive me nuts. They seem to go out of their way to bash other Believers who do not line up with their brand of theology enough. I know that these folks love Jesus, but they sure don't seem to love their fellow Christians. So I vigorously attack them...which might not be very Christ-like either.

The fact is that I take issue with what I see as prideful, un-thinking/un-questioning, and arrogant politicians, pastors, theologians and leaders. (I only use the full names of public figures) If I perceive someone to be bullying another Believer, person or issue, I do go after them. I am a sucker for the "Little Guy." I admit it. And sometimes my samurai tongue slices people and issues open a bit.

Do I have the right to do that in the WAY that I do it?


Is there a place for sarcasm in Christianity?
Well, YHWH used sarcasm. Check out Psalm 50, verse 12 specifically. "If I were hungry, I wouldn't tell you..." Not exactly mean spirited, but sarcasm never the less. Paul throws down a bit more in Galatians 5, when in verse 12 he openly hopes for certain bad teachers to castrate themselves. (Now THAT'S pretty brutal, let's be honest.)

Is there a place to verbally "Tear a new one" into some pompous religious cow?
Well, it doesn't take much reading of the Gospels to see Jesus savagely going after the official religious people. In fact, all the healing that he did on the Sabbath was a direct provocation to those who thought they knew all the answers.

It could also be pointed out that Jesus actually got physically violent over certain issues. Multiple times Jesus caused a one man riot in the temple when he cleared out the people making a profit off of worship. The bible never actually says that Jesus hurt these people, but when you realize that he made a whip and swung it around while he tossed tables over, you have to assume that somewhere along the line he must have made contact with people's behinds.



Now, it could also be pointed out that I am NOT Paul, nor am I Jesus or YHWH.


I have to be careful. That's all I'm saying. A guy I know likes to quote one of his favorite bits of advice to me often. He reminds me that he once said to a large group on a mountain, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy."

I think that I have the right to voice my opinion. I also believe that I have a duty to stand up for people who are picked on. But I do have to be mindful of how I go about that. Often, and I would suppose that I am not the only one guilty of this, I think it's all about me. Generally, this is not so. I might wish to believe that the universe revolves around me, but it appears that this is not the case. (Bummer, I know.)

So if sometimes I vent a bit too much, or go a bit too far with what I say and/or how I say it, I apologize. I was wrong. And here is a song to make up for it...

Peace

Joe.


P.S. Here's a true story for you which you may or may not find hysterical...or may even desire to throw rocks at me. But it is perhaps the finest example of my mouth skills ever presented.

Context: Like I mentioned, I have a gift with my mouth. It often gets me into trouble. Generally, at least twice a year I will take both size 11 feet and insert them deeply into my mouth simultaneously. It's a very impressive sight to witness.


Many years ago, I was at a friend's wedding. He was a local guitar player, so he attracted a lot of long-haired musician types to the affair. It was held outdoors, with kind of a bleacher seating set up. So I'm sitting there next to my buddy, Scott. I'm looking around at all of the other people. I see this chick in the back with the prettiest hair I had seen in ages. I mean, it was really long, with these beautiful waves in them...very stunning, I thought. Unfortunately, this gal also looked like she could have played linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings. She was BIG! So I poke Scott in the ribs, and point her out to him.

Scotty says, "Dude, that's Meat Loaf." (Meaning that this large woman with lovely hair was actually a man.)




<---- For those of you who don't recall the mid-70s.

Anyway, so I respond, "That's a GUY?!?!?" (Honestly, I thought it was a very large woman.)

Flash forward to the reception.

So I'm chowing down on the food. I'm sitting at the table next to Scott, a few other friends...and some people I don't know. (That "People I don't know" part will come in handy in a moment.)

Eventually, dude with beautiful hair comes walking by us as we're eating. Scott pokes me and says, "Hey, there's your buddy Meat Loaf." I, being the moron that I am, say to the entire table, "Man, I seriously thought that he was a just a big, *&% woman." (Insert the sound of either brakes screeching or a needle being dragged across a record, HERE!)

All of a sudden, everyone at the table pushes their chairs back, and gets up in complete silence.

So I lean over to Scott and ask, "So, who did I just say that in front of that I shouldn't have?"

"The big *&% woman's wife," responds my friend with a straight, yet oddly thoroughly-enjoying-the-moment, face.

I take a brief glance to my right to see from whence the newly volcanic heat source is emanating from. Well, you may have heard the expression, "If looks could kill?"

I think I'll leave the story here.




Good night everyone. You've been a beautiful audience. Be sure to try the buffet. Before you go, be sure to try our house specialty, MEAT LOAF...with a little Steve Martin sauce on the side.



Now if that's not great Rock Opera, then I don't know what is.