Love them all let God sort them out

This will be short, not overly sweet and blunt. While so many of us are busy debating who will go to hell and who will not, a decision that is far above our pay grade incidentally, we all to often ignore the fact that across the world and in our own nation, there are so many who think they are already living there. In Ferguson, our religious leaders are all to often (not always and not mine thankfully) taking sides instead of healing wounds. In Iraq the calls for prayer are followed by calls for further violence. The uproar over bringing sick Americans home for treatment of a deadly disease. We ignore Sudan, Mexican drug cartel killings, rampant gang violence in Chicago and so much more…I have this really revolutionary idea…let’s forget trying to figure out who is on their way to hell (judgement is real and God  will see to it, not us) and start actually helping those already living there.

When we are a part of the problem (or how Scott just became very unpopular again)

This link is to a statement from Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño who is a Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop, is Board President of the General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church. It is a shining example of how we, no matter how unintentionally, are sometimes a part of the problem as a church. The statement can be found here: http://www.calpacumc.org/bishop-carcano/commentary-on-the-death-of-michael-brown/ Now on to how it contributes to the problem instead of helping to solve it which I believe is the intent. “If Trayvon could be murdered then what about them?” Part of the problem is that our system of justice, no matter how flawed it may be, said that he was not murdered. By saying that he was, you are not only going against the system of justice that we have and should respect and work within, even to change it if necessary, and directly setting yourself in opposition to it. This does not promote order, it promotes the chaos that we are trying to prevent. As a note here, I think that there are some serious issues with stand your ground laws in certain states that should be addressed. This does not negate the fact that, legally, a murder did not occur. The other thing that has been done with this question, is it makes George Zimmerman the murderer. Again, it was determined that legally he was not. The morality of what he did is open for debate, but the legality of it has been settled. Instead of fostering forgiveness, love and healing, the question agitates and calls an innocent man (legally if nothing else) a murderer. If we wish to debate the ethics of Mr. Zimmerman’s actions, that is fine as well, perhaps morally he is a murderer perhaps not, but remember, Moses committed murder as well. We should be slow to judge and quick to forgive.

the response of local and state officials has been a military response with police officers in riot gear and armored vehicles, police sharpshooters in position on top of those armored vehicles in the face of demonstrators, the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and smoke canisters, and the arrest of many;” I am very concerned with how the police responded to the situation that is ongoing. I want to point out though that the statement does not mention this was in response to looting, violence and the fear of more to come. The local officials cancelled (probably unconstitutionally) scheduled protests before all of this yes, but that does not in anyway justify what followed by those in this community.  I do not like the militarization of our police at all and think it incredibly dangerous to freedom in general. I hope and pray that our elected officials do something to curb this.  All of that being said, they are the authority figures that we have. We have the power to vote them, and anyone like them, out of power if we choose. The behavior of the police in many cases has been appalling. The behavior of those who were looting just as. The rioting and looting is not a result of the unfortunate death, it is a result of poor choices on the part of those doing it. While we need to always remain loving and be willing to forgive whatever happens, we must never allow excuse and promote proper responsibility for all involved. That means we don’t do things like pretend rioting and looting is a legitimate form of protest.

“the composition of the local police department in Ferguson, which is primarily white, does not reflect the majority African American population of Ferguson; and the conflict between demonstrators and the police is escalating.” This statement is true, but very misleading and completely unhelpful. If our goal is a colorblind world, than we can not only have people policed by those of their own ethnic background. If it is proven that hiring practices of the police force are discriminatory, then I want that stopped and corrected immediately. There is not currently any evidence of this. In about 2/3 of American cities, the police do not live in the neighborhoods that they serve. Yes, I believe this to be a problem, not because of the racial make up of a police force, but rather because it is difficult to understand how best to serve a community where you do not reside. (http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/most-police-dont-live-in-the-cities-they-serve/ some interesting numbers about major cities and where the police live) If we are working toward a world where people are judged on their character, then we need to stop treating issues such as the racial make up of a police force as a divisive issue. By even mentioning this, the subtle insinuation is that if it had been a minority officer, this would not have happened. None of us actually know what happened and the legal process is playing itself out. We need to be promoting trust in the justice system instead of mistrust because the color of our skin is different. (Yes, I realize that I am going to get a lot of disagreement for this.)

Phrases like this: “A white police department in a predominantly black community is a clear sign of racial disparity that should be questioned” fuel the fire, they do not put it out. There is absolutely zero evidence that the officer involved in the shooting had any racial motivation to do so. Perhaps that evidence will come to light, and if so, then it needs to be dealt with accordingly, but, especially as Christians, aren’t we supposed to be promoting that we are all one? In Christ there is no Greek or Jew, unless it is on the police force? If the goal is that we all be one people, then we need to quit finding reasons to separate us. This is not a tragedy of the African American community and people need to quit saying so. It is a tragedy of all of humanity that a life was lost to violence. That is the message we need to send. I am not so blind as to think there is no racism. I am however doing my very best to see with heaven’s eyes so that i don’t notice if a young African American man was shot, or if he was Latino, or Caucasian, or even purple. I know that a young man lost his life and that is tragic. That needs to be the message. 

The message we send as Christians needs to stop being about minority men and boys being killed and jailed, (Yes, there is a disproportionate problem with the legal system, but in truth I believe it has more to do with economics than race, and believe that if we want to reduce crime we need to begin by reducing poverty as that is where I believe the correlation to be, not with race.) and needs to start being about young men and boys alone being killed. Should there be a conversation about racism? Sure, can’t hurt anything, but as Christians, we should not be able to tell who is a minority. We are all loved equally by a Creator and Father. We are all one under Him. Everything that we say and do should be in that framework. The conversation is not about how to treat those different than us, it is about how we treat each other…after all if we are looking through heaven’s eyes, we all look the same anyway.

 

Some thoughts on Ferguson

Let me begin by saying what this is not…this is not me taking a side in the issue nor is it me trying to give an opinion of blame toward anyone involved. This is not me trying to comment on race in America and whether or not it is a true issue or not. This is not really anything except my pain over the situation played out in type. Nothing more, nothing less.

What has happened is all together tragic. A young man lost his life and any loss of life is tragic. Another man took that life, and that is also tragic. Living with that is a terrible burden. Whether those two things were justifiable or not, the tragedy of both is what is left behind. In the ensuing rush to lay blame, two people also have had their reputations damage in ways that are terribly unfair to them, and to us who follow the story trying in vain to make an attempt at understanding what transpired. It seems that we have a need to find someone to blame. It is the fault of an officer of the law who took things to far, or perhaps he was a racist monster who saw an opportunity to act (incidentally, there is not evidence that this is the case), perhaps he was afraid for his safety as he had been assaulted before this occurred as is now being reported. We simply do not know as the details and evidence have been handled poorly in their release to the media, and then to us. Perhaps the young man was a criminal who needed apprehending, perhaps he was a young man walking in the street who became afraid of authority for whatever reason, perhaps he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Again we simply do not know. What we do know is the aftermath…

People protested and police responded poorly, riots began and looting soon followed with more poor response by authorities. Those in charge of the situation seem to change daily, government officials make conflicting, insensitive and often nonsensical statements about what has and is to happen. Community leaders try to calm things while the community, and in some cases those from outside the community, continue to incite violence and disruption. So called leaders and authorities on race relations, fuel flames instead of trying to put them out. In some cases they attempt to raise money for their causes. Those who support police and their authority cite reports and claim that even more drastic measures are needed, that our police need to be better armed and equipped for these occurrences. Some call for taking away the military hardware from police as it makes them, however unintentionally, more aggressive. the drama continues and the tragedy plays itself out further.

We have lost hope it seems. We are quick to believe the worst and can not bring ourselves to believe the best. We think the officer a racist, or the young man a criminal. We see things falling apart, but never strive to put them together. We forget that the only hope is in Christ and Christ alone, and instead look to so called leaders for it. We seek soundbites of society but do not look toward the security of scripture. Those same scriptures say if you seek Me you will find Me…surely the opposite is also true…if we seek that what is not of God then we will surely find it as well. That is what is happening here. That is what is happening to all of us it seems.

I know this is a bit rambling and somewhat disconnected, but as I said, this is my pain played out. I want to end here with a quote from a displaced Christian currently in Baghdad Iraq. His name is unknown but he was quoted in a local news paper. This man has lost everything. His family, his home, his livelihood, and most of his village. This is what he had to say: “”Even if there is a bomb attack today, tomorrow we will go back to work,
because we are convinced that Jesus cares for us. He will restore His Kingdom one day, this is my hope.” MY prayer, and I hope the prayer of those reading as well, will be that we all learn to hold to this hope. This hope will see us through. This hope will give strength and endurance for the day. This hope will bring peace to a weary soul. I am not an authority in anything, but I do believe that the letter written to Titus has wisdom and instruction for us in these times that are so unsettled: “Tit 2:11 After all, God’s saving kindness has appeared for the benefit of all people.
Tit 2:12 It trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world.
Tit 2:13 At the same time we can expect what we hope for-the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Tit 2:14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things.
Tit 2:15 Tell these things to the believers. Encourage and correct them, using your full authority. Don’t let anyone ignore you. ”
With whatever authority I have, I encourage you to hope and correct the lack of hope. I encourage you to hope for the appearance of our shared savior. I encourage you to remember that we have been set free from sin. I use what little authority I have, and I will not let you ignore me so long as you continue to read anyway. Hope…The Blessed Hope…this is what we are to hold onto and never let go of. Thus endeth my rant.

a new book series: “The History of Reception of Biblical Texts”

From the Jim West,

Peter Lang Verlag is launching a new series titled The History of Reception of Biblical Texts. Scholars working in the field of reception history are encouraged to send along their manuscripts to the series Editor, Jim West.

The Series is brand new and aims to

… include a broad range of topics within the category of biblical reception history. Utilizing cutting edge biblical scholarship, these books discover, explain, and examine how the Bible has functioned in a variety of contexts throughout history. These monographs cover a wide range of topics including religions, visual arts, literature, film, music, context and community.

The description is quite broad because it is our belief that the history of reception of Biblical texts is expansive and virtually all encompassing.

We would love to hear from you if you have any questions and if you have a proposal.  Just drop the series editor an email at drjewest@gmail.com.

my interview in the local paper…

You can find it here:

Former fundamentalist preacher Joel Watts, now an active member of Christ Church United Methodist, holds a book of essays he co-edited on the process of leaving fundamentalism. The book includes a chapter on his isolating, fear-based affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ. He left the church after 32 years and now speaks out on the dangers of repressive and rigid fundamentalist teachings

via The Charleston Gazette | Innerviews: Spiritual saga traces break from fundamentalist church.

To those discovering this site for the first time…thanks for stopping by.

#UMCSchism is stupid – lessons from Rome and (real) Presbyterians (#PCA)

Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Rubens)

Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Rubens) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two stories have come to my attention recently. I believe both represent some of the issues involved in the current discussions within the United (not an adjective) Methodist Church.

The first is the rise of (underground and unofficial) women priests in the Catholic Church:

The ABC7 I-Team uncovered the growing movement of Roman Catholic women who call themselves priests. Their numbers are on the rise even though the Catholic Church does not recognize their “ordination.” 

In 2008, the Vatican ruled that women are automatically excommunicated at the time they go through a self-styled “ordination” ceremony. At that time, the I-Team reported that a handful of Roman Catholic women were willing to face banishment. Their numbers have since blossomed to more than 200 women priests in 12 nations.

I believe we can agree that Rome has a pretty strict structure in place and yet, people — leaders and congregants — break the rules. If you are an (active) Catholic (at least a Catholic leader), I’m going to assume that you have something of a resolute faith that Rome is indeed the Church Christ left for the Apostles and so on. Therefore, I am also going to assume you believe something akin to papal infallibility (ex cathedra) and in excommunication. Thus, you don’t want to break the rules requiring excommunication. Or, at least, break them too easily.

In other words, regardless of the structure or the theology, some people are going to find it necessary to break rules when they feel that the church/organization is on the wrong side of God/history. The more so, it seems, when it comes to rights and individual worth.

Instead of a St. Peter’s basilica filled with the shouts of schism, Rome continues to march onward, obeying the rules in general — even if certain bishops do not. Rules exist, maybe not always enforced, but the faith God and Tradition overshadows temporary rebellions.

This is not the case with the United (not an adjective) Methodist Church.

Heck, this goes for protestants in general.

The second story is this:

Now, let’s face it – the PCA is still divided. Some see two groups, some three. I’ve even seen blog posts that define up to six different groups. But at the end of the day, I still see two main groups (with splinters among both). One group leans to the old ‘T.R.’ ideas (without the nasty attitudes for the most part). The other group leans to being the same ‘B.E.’s they have always been (that’s Broadly Evangelical for those not ‘in the know’).

Divisions have existed in the PCA since the formation — divisions on the role and nature of Scripture as well as the application of the theological framework. (Sound familiar?) Today, as the author alludes to, there are at least 6 different sub-denominations in the PCA.

And there is talk of division.

And there is talk from the middle of holding the two in tension with respect to both positions.

Many in the faithless extremes have this foggy notion that we are the only ones facing rebellion in the ranks or sense a loss of scriptural basis. Yet, I can point to Rome where their rebellion is rooted in the thing Wesley said he had to support — women ordination. Indeed, he rebelled within the Church of England to license women to preach. In the PCA, it is about the Westminster v. inerrancy debate. The UMC has already struggled with these things and decided a different course, but still yet we face disagreements.

I would argue that within such a group as a church, you will have people who disagree about even the basic commonalities.

If others can proceed past their own internal strife and if we can understand rebellion within a particular theological framework (perhaps on the Wesleyan model), then we have to understand, appreciate, and cope with the tension it produces.

“Long Black Veil” and (re)telling the Story from a different perspective

So I am ate up with this song at the moment. This is the original:

There are several editions of it, but I heard the one from Sammi Smith today…for the first time… and it was awesome. Sorta of that feeling when I hear the Creed recited by a large crowd.

It is…well… it is.

But, when Sammi’s version got to this verse, I nearly…

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave where the night winds wail
Nobody knows, no, and nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

In her version, sang as the mistress, it goes like this:

I walk these hills in a long black veil
I visit my grave where the night winds wail
Nobody knows, no, and nobody sees
Nobody knows but me.

I can picture the two, if this was a real story, as I stood afar distance… both singing this verse… It is a matter of perspective, of the voice, that no one else knows what is happening. I think this happens in the Gospels as well. Perspectives change. Stories are told differently. Maybe not.

But it does happen in (re)reading prophecy where we read something clearly for someone else and we take for ourselves.

Also, because I know someone wants to hear it…

Do we suffer from “cultural blindness?”

When the news first broke of ISIS’s beheading of children, some those of my political persuasion took to social media to question the stories, eye-witness testimonies, and pictures.

Perhaps this is because if the lies told by the previous administration in its lead up to invading Iraq. However, there is another side…

Since 9/11 we have encountered the “Islam is a religion of peace” argument so as to insure we do not look at all Muslims as fundamentalists. This is accurate and needed but some think we have gone too far… so far in fact that we cannot see the dangerous history of Islam and how it is practiced, or preached with a hope of practicing.

I am led to wonder if we are not caught by surprise at the danger of fundamentalism of any stripe because we want to think better about people, or rather, we do not want to thank bad about an entire people. I’m with that – I do not want Christianity judged by oneness holiness sects – but on the other hand, we have dangerous elements and tendencies to evil that cannot be ignored.

That’s where this story comes in at.

Academics who ignored the facts of what happens to minorities in ‘jihad zones’ allowed ‘cultural blindness and intellectual amnesia’ to distort policy making in Iraq leaving minorities exposed to terror, claims a jihad expert.

I don’t know if I agree or not… But it is an interesting read…

Remembering The Past may be good therapy!

I struggled to publish this here, but this is from the 90′s when I used to be a TV translator, lip-synchronizer  and dubber. The face is familiar, but ONLY THE VOICE is mine! It was viewed and heard by circa 100 million people around the world, 40 million in Brazil alone. Today is still viewed in Portuguese speaking countries still with my voice!

Of course, today, because I am a Calvinist (since the late 90′s) I decided this no longer to be appropriate to me for my own financial and professional loss. If you can stand it, wait until he starts weeping and see “how good” I really was at it!!!! Therapy for me, SICKNESS for you… perhaps!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ycih-BmuJ8