Category Archives: theological

raise up a child to grieve

On Facebook today, one of my acquaintances—a former friend from my churched days of yore—posted a status about her son, who is a very young teenager. She commented how she was proud of him becoming his own man, not bending to popular opinion.

She wrote that he was “pretty upset” by schoolyard conversations, and he asked her why Democrats “wanted to keep trying to legalize things that are forbidden in the Bible.” She was proud of him for being deeply upset, a “man after God’s heart,” and commented how he was mostly conflicted because these Democrats whom he had met on Capitol Hill were so nice, so caring—how his own family’s friends were Democrats who endorsed these abominable things, and how he was deeply grieved that they were so sincere about their political positions. He’s very sad.

And he’s “made a correlation” between those kids at school who swear, misbehave, and hold agnostic/atheistic beliefs and support for Obama.

She’s terribly proud of him for being so terribly upset.

And I’m terribly ashamed for her.

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I received an email from a very close friend “Little Shoes” (LS) today, which read, in part, as follows:

I … would really love love love to discuss with you in some fashion what you’ve come to as to spiritual ‘doctrines’. I know you’ve said it’s been a journey, and that it’s a bit of a departure from the Calvary teachings [e.g., those of the church LS currently attends and I attended for 16 years]. I don’t personally consider that a bad thing at all — we’ve really done quite a bit of journeying ourselves too … starting … shortly after we were married. It really made me aware there was much about the history of the Church that I was unfamiliar with. So, when you’ve mentioned possibly going into the ministry, I’ve really wanted to hear more about what your beliefs are at this point. I know you’ve mentioned it, but I can’t remember the specific denomination that you’re a member of … but since I don’t consider deominations to be the full definition of a person’s beliefs, I would love to hear more from you.

Unsurprisingly, my reply was so long-winded that Facebook (the venue wherein LS sent the email) didn’t allow it. I had to break it up into thirds. Here, somewhat edited, are the second and third parts of my reply to my friend. 

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in which the character of the (anti-)hero is measured and found wanting

Put downs are so popular. It was cool to have a witty jab back in the 70s, in the 80s, in the 90s. But the counterculture was still counter culture, not mainstream. What has become of us? The issue has been nagging me a lot, lately, especially as I’m inheriting two teenagers who both revel in fast tongues and rapier wit. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got a quick wit. I’m good at the come back. Wittiness will get you everywhere with me. Check out my favorite quotations on Facebook. But demeaning, belittling, denigrating, cruelty—these are unconscionable.

When I was in junior high and high school, we found it acceptable to tell “Polack” jokes, to mock “retards,” to use the word “gay” as a pejorative or a synonym with “stupid” or “tacky.” We judged each other. We did our level best to appear “in the know” even if terribly naive, not wanting to appear stupid or ridiculous (i.e., worthy of ridicule). There are countless times I chose to laugh heartily with so-called “friends” at dirty jokes I didn’t get, so as to avoid being seen as less than my peers. It was almost an instinctual reaction.

So I understand the need for kids to fit in. I understand the hierarchical mindset that dictates youth culture. But, unfortunately, this isn’t just youth culture I’m addressing.

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soundbite theology: perfection & forgiveness

Recently, I posted a status on Facebook, requesting friends to give me any well-worn Christianese sayings, sayings popular as bumper stickers, aphorisms, or catch-all encouragement expressions. I was looking, in short, for soundbites that seem, unfortunately, to form the ‘foundation’ of certain groups’ theology.

It was a fun thread, and a number of friends, of very diverse political and theological backgrounds—from the very liberal to the very conservative—participated in good humor and great memory.

But the fun was dampered quite suddenly when one friend wrote simply, “I feel attacked.” It wasn’t even an hour later and she had unfriended me. I was shocked and hurt, since this friend was a dear discovery, a found ally from decades ago, with whom I had many shared trials and victories, a friend I treasured. That a simple list of aphorisms, outside of any usage context, could make one feel attacked in one’s faith, pulled me up short. What is it that this portends?

My concern is that an increasing number of Christians rely not on scripture and its ambiguities, not on the ineffability and mystery of a God who is greater than we can think or imagine, but on the certainties such soundbites promise. And when these soundbites are merely listed together as a set of aphorisms, they somehow fail to stand up with such vigor as do other lists of aphorisms, like, for example, the Proverbs. The soundbites, when looked at for what they are as aphorisms, even before we consider content, seem paltry and trite. But such a subconscious suggestion challenges one’s faith, if one stands on these, and not on the complexities and paradoxes expressed in scripture and those faith traditions that have endured for centuries.

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the woman at the well: a meditation

There once long ago was a woman who had no good fortune with relationships. She lived in a world where the best thing anyone like her could ever have was a good marriage, a strong son, and a solid community reputation. As a girl, she’d dreamed about what her future husband might be like. He’d be respectable, strong, intelligent, romantic, awe-inspiring. She’d dreamed of her future sons, who would, of course, be supportive and devout, growing up to the stature of community pillars, as all the town would look to her as a great woman whom God had smiled upon, and who, because of her virtue, had been blessed with honor and comfort.

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