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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

“First they came for the Latinos, Muslims, women, gays, poor people, intellectuals and scientists and then it was Wednesday.”

 

I saw this tweet last week.  It someone managed to sum up all of my feelings, along with the difficulty of fighting against everything at once.  As Jon Stewart said, “The presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public,” but it already feels like months.

 

Two weeks ago, almost to the day, Donald Trump was sworn in as president, and at the end of the day, I felt like, “Okay, well, we’re all still here, good start…”  The next day I was at the women’s March in Boston.  I had wanted to write a blog post about it, but, you know, life.  It was a great day, though, as a person with a disability, the standing took a toll after about three hours and I never even got to actually march…but I was there and I stood for what I believed in.  I really felt the small children who got to ride in strollers and sleep when they were bored were doing the March right…  I loved how many people came out.  There were people climbing trees in order to see the speakers, and, for all the complaints about protestors, I didn’t see a single person disrespect a police officer or engage in any sort of vandalism.  It was very peaceful.  I do want to note, though, that while I am proud of everyone for ensuring that that was the result, it is a lot easier for things to remain peaceful when no one is opposing you.  The water protectors at Standing Rock are facing an entirely different kind of protest, and it’s important to remember that instead of just patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.

 

So, what has happened in those two weeks?  Well, I could write articles on specific issues, BUT THERE ARE TOO MANY OF THEM and I have a job.  We’ll go through the greatest hits and we’ll do our best to ignore anything that’s just stupid or doesn’t happen to be to our taste (example: I wouldn’t have picked that person for the supreme court, but I have no objections to his qualifications and I’m willing to take an agree to disagree on that one (even though I remain disgusted that, with a year left in office, no one would even vote on the president’s nominee as required by law).

 

In no particular order…

 

  • EPA has been put on some sort of lock down. No communicating with the press.  No renewing grants.  No projects.  In other environmental news, the Utah senator tried to sell off 3.3 million acres of federal land and the House just repealed a regulation banning mining companies from dumping waste in rivers and streams.  I was reading about that this day and…I was just so confused.  So there are people who don’t believe in global warming.  So there are people who believe that there’s too much regulation and government overreaching.  But who really thinks companies dumping waste in our water supply is a good thing?  Where are your children getting their drinking water for schools?  This really just made absolutely no sense to me.
  • Half the federal agencies have gone rogue on twitter what would be really amusing if it wasn’t real life.
  • Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon replaced the chairman of the joint chiefs and the head of the CIA as voting members on the National Security Council. This, frankly, is insane. Neither of these people have any experience or role that qualifies them to weigh in on national security.  I assure you, also, when they’re deciding whether or not to use force, I want the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs weighing in.  When they’re debating whether or not to bomb someone in the Middle East, I want the CIA there giving the best information they have available.  Even numerous Republicans have denounced this move.
  • Apparently we all need guns in our schools to defend ourselves from grizzly bears…. In case you missed it, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for secretary of education, advocated guns in schools, citing a school that needed to defend itself from grizzly bears attacking the students.  The best part of this story was that when they called the school that was referenced, they don’t have a gun…
  • The House just repealed a regulation that prevented people with serious mental illnesses from buying guns. This again falls into the category of “aren’t there some things that we can just all agree are bad ideas?”
  • Trump announced that we are indeed going to build a wall. And who’s going to pay for it?
  • We have spent a lot of time arguing over things like how many people were at the inauguration
  • He has accelerated the approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines
  • And then we come to the one that caused mass chaos this past weekend: the Muslim Ban.

 

There are numerous issues with the ban, some practical, some ethical.  First of all, the utter airport chaos indicated how poorly thought out and executed this idea was.  It targeted people who already were in this country legally but just picked the wrong time for a vacation.  People detained in airports were denied due process or the right to see attorneys, even when attorneys were provided for them or congressmen and women wanted to help intercede for them.  The ban ended up affecting numerous Christians and Yazidis, the very religious minorities that Trump suggested would not be affected by the ban.  The implication that Christians are the only religious minorities in these countries shows just how clueless Trump is about foreign policy.  If we are going to show favor to religious minorities in the immigration process, does that include Shiites coming from a Sunni-majority country?  No one has been killed by a refugee since the 70s.  Since 9/11, no one has been killed in a terrorist attack by anyone from these banned countries.  The main country that the 9/11 hijackers were from, Saudi Arabia, was not included in the ban (some people have noted that Trump has business ties in Saudi Arabia).  All of these refugees are heavily vetted, in a process that usually takes over two years.

 

But most of all, all I can say is that I felt a punch in the gut as all of this came out.  I am, like all of us who are not Native Americans, descended from immigrants, and mine are within the twentieth century.  More than that, my heart hurt for all of the people, God’s people, who were being shut out, who were being rejected, who were being damaged and ignored by this order.  All I could hear was the verse in Matthew: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”  As a nation, we have rejected God’s people and therefore we have rejected Jesus.  All I can hope is that the religious extremists who believe that the collective country bears the sins of their leaders are wrong, for our country has committed a great sin and God hears the cries of those whom we have turned away from.

 

And so, moving forward, I’m doing the best I can.  I take deep breaths.  I pray.  I work.  I hope.

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I apologize for my extreme negligence in posting. I’ve been struggling with health issues.

I am aware that I am probably incredibly liberal when it comes to Immigration. While I’m all for controlling who comes in, so that criminals, terrorists, and drugs are kept out of our country, I wish that we let in more people who wanted to come into our country to work and learn.

My feelings are biased by personal history. My family came here in the early twentieth century. We came during the massive waves of immigration from the turn of the century, during a time when, aside from the nauseating voyage to get here, if you could afford a ticket and you weren’t obviously ill, you probably were let in. During that time my great-grandparents, my great-aunts and uncles, my great-great-aunts and uncles, my great-great-grandparents, cousins…everyone, one by one, family by family, packed up their things and headed for a strange country because they wanted a better life, economically and politically. There was racism and hostility towards immigrants then too, but we were let in. Since that time, my family has worked hard, gotten degrees, served in the military…I like to think that we have contributed to our American society in our small way. I believe that the people who want to immigrate today want the same thing for them and their children. My family was given an opportunity and I feel that I am in no position to deny other families the same opportunity.

Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of children sitting in detention centers on the border, having endured far worse things than most of our ancestors did to be here, dehydration, exhaustion, and sexual and physical abuse. Right now, there are ethnic and religious minorities in places like Iraq that are fleeing persecution by groups like ISIS. This includes our Christian brothers and sisters. For any of you who don’t know, in places like Mosul, Christians were told they could either convert, pay a tax for their faith, flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs, or die.

I believe, that if any of those people want a chance here, we should give it to them. I think that our country has always been a nation of immigrants and for many years we operated under the approach that if you wanted to be part of our club, our American experiment, we’d let you have a shot, a chance to practice your religious beliefs in peace and to work your way up the ladder.

I understand the practical and political difficulties with this approach, I really do, but for me, this is a moral issue.

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus says: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angers. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They will also answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” Mathew 25: 34-45

I believe that this verse is extremely clear and for immigrants and refugees, they are the stranger that we are meant to invite in. To turn them away, it is as if we turned away Jesus, our savior, himself. It would be a sin. As Christians, our moral obligations do not stop at our borders or to be people with the same nationality, religion, or skin color as ourselves. We have an obligation to any people of the world who look to us as a haven, a place that has more opportunities and is safer than their home countries. For whatever we have not done for the least of these, we have not done for our God.

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About four years ago I wrote my second sermon and I chose the topic of doubt.  My premise was that doubt was not a shameful failing, but a step on our faith journey.

 

Years later, it’s still a lesson I struggle to remember and I suspect that doubt is something that most of us share, often secretly, from time to time.  I’ve wondered where we got the notion that doubt is a spiritual sin.  I think that it’s not because we decided it was wrong, but because our religion views faith as a virtue.  It’s not wrong, the Bible and our own hearts confirm that faith—the ability to hold our belief in God, the ability to take that mental leap—is indeed a virtue.  In the Christian communities, it’s become increasingly defended over the past decades as many people have tried to equate faith and ignorance.  However, faith as a virtue doesn’t make doubt a vice. 

 

We’re asked to have faith.  We’re not asked to have blind faith.  Without those periods of doubt, we never question and go searching, without a search, we never find God.  The ability to allow for possibilities, to question one’s faith, one’s god, and one’s own self is a necessary one for spiritual growth.  It’s necessary to having a real relationship with our Lord.  It’s not belief if we don’t think about it, we don’t think about it if we don’t consider everything, and we don’t consider without doubting.

 

Acknowledging that it’s okay to doubt is the first step into moving beyond the doubt.  Sometimes we need to admit that we’re furious at God or that we’re not sure of his love.  Admitting those things is the only way to be honest, with ourselves and with God, and honesty is the only way to a dialogue.

 

Most Christians hold to the doctrine that Jesus, while being human, was also sinless.  That’s why we can take comfort that on this Good Friday, even Jesus, asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

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Every Christmas we see dozens of pundits and political figures whipping themselves into a frenzy over “the War on Christmas”.  People get outraged over the fact that there are…or are not…creches in the public parks.  I personally think that these people who continually mourn the lack of “Christ” in public Christmas traditions or become outraged over the use of the phrase “holiday” instead of “Christmas” are really taking the wrong approach.

First, I’m a Christian and it truly saddens me as religion becomes more and more disrespected in the public forum (not just Christianity, all religions) and I’ll admit that it would be nice to always be surrounded by our faith.  To have constant reminders about how we should act and about God, rather than having to go through the exhausting effort of self motivation, would be quite nice.  But I don’t live in a Christian country.  I live in the United States.  I live in a country that says that the government shall make no law about the establishment of religion or prohibit the free exercise.  People often point to this as evidence that we should be allowed to have nativity displays in public buildings but I think what this really says is that sure, you can go put a nativity on your lawn, and maybe you’ll irk your atheist neighbor across the street, but that’s your right.  But the government cannot endorse a faith, and I think that putting nativity scenes on public property is tantamount to an endorsement.  That is not people living their faith, that is the government displaying a faith. 

Yes, I agree, the spirituality of Christmas is often missed in the superficiality and chaos of the season.  However, I don’t think the way to rectify that is by forcing everyone around us to appreciate the spirituality.  I don’t think there is just one meaning of Christmas.  In fact, I think there are two separate Christmases.  There’s Religious Christmas and Secular Christmas and I think once we accept that those are really just two different holidays things will be a bit easier.  The fact is that Jesus isn’t necessary to everyone’s celebration of Christmas.  We have family friends that are atheist and agnostic and their children love Christmas just as much as the ones in my family.  Christmas can still be a time of cheer and family and drawing closer together without having Jesus.  Christmas has meaning separate from religion.  That is the Secular Christmas.  On the other hand, there is a holiday that is celebrating the birth of the Christian savior Jesus Christ and that is Religious Christmas.  I think we need to celebrate these two Christmases and realizes that Christmas doesn’t have to mean one thing.  I think that public displays around Secular Christmas (holly, trees, Santa Clause) aren’t really that offensive and can be tolerated.  Christmas doesn’t have to be owned by Christians.  Families make a choice whether to celebrate one Christmas or the other, most families will choose to celebrate a mixture of the two.  Or they’ll say that they’re celebrating both independently. 

In reality, there are already two Christmases, I think admitting that, instead of trying to drag the culture one way or the other, is a healthy thing.  There is meaning in both Christmases, but they’re different meanings.  There is overlap and the two can complement each other, but I think they can only complement each other when one realizes that they are different in the first place.  I think this will keep those who celebrate Christmas without the religious aspects from being uncomfortable and can also preserve the religious aspect within Christmas, because then one has to beging to make a conscious effort to celebrate the two.  How am I going to celebrate a Religious Christmas?  How is that different from a Secular Christmas?  We are no longer, if we ever were, a Christian nation and people who are religous need to learn to preserve their faiths within their own families rather than fighting public relations battles. 

Just some thoughts to keep in mind for next year.

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It seems that everyone has a stack of “good” characters that they like to point to for support for their arguments.  Such as Glenn Beck’s frequent references to Martin Luther King during his “Restoring Honor” Rally…when Martin Luther King had communist sympathies…and we all know how Glenn Beck feels about communists.  Of course, the one most frequently taken seems to be Jesus.  No one can argue against Jesus of course, not even non-Christians, because what they disagree in theology, few people really want to bash the person who coined the Golden Rule, if for no other reason than it doesn’t make you look good.

A year ago, Herman Cain, the new favorite not-Mitt Romney of the month, wrote this article: http://www.redstate.com/thehermancain/2010/12/20/the-perfect-conservative/

It was entitled the Perfect Conservative, who is, as you can probably guess from the first paragraph, Jesus.

Main Point of Article: Jesus was a conservative.

“Evidence” of the Argument: “He helped the poor without one government program.  He healed the sick without a government health care system.  He [fed] the hungry without food stamps….For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check.”

So, technically, much of what Herman Cain said was true (though frankly looking at it in a historical context, the broader point remains to be proved).  I also can’t refrain myself from pointing out a number of the liberal things that Jesus argued for, such as distribution of wealth, paying taxes, giving money to the poor, et cetera.  And I have no doubt that Jesus would have been accused of class warfare if he lived now.   But none of that is the point.

Jesus was not a politician, of any stripe.  He was a social activist, a rabbi, a carpenter, and many other names, but politician was never one of them.  Jesus had a message that transcended any small politics of one era.  One group cannot claim Jesus for his own.  If you believe in Jesus and his principles of love and treating one another well and you are a conservative Republican…good for you.  If you believe in Jesus and his principles of love and treating one another well and you are a liberal Democrat…good for you.  There is not a party that has the corner on Jesus.  Jesus would probably look with disappointment on politicians on both sides.  I don’t think Jesus is a liberal or a conservative, I think he went above those kind of labels and I think when one group tries to claim him solely as their own it is shameful.

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I remember sitting with my friend one day, looking at amazon book reviews and for some reason we were on Harry Potter.  To my surprise, multiple of the reviews were bashing the series for its inclusion of magic and “satanic symbols” and one even went so-far as to call J. K. Rowling a witch.  A percentage of people seem to think that the use of magic in a book, by filing it under the fantasy genre, that somehow it is now irreconcilable with Christianity, that the two are polar opposites that belong in two separate worlds and hold nothing in common.  However, I frankly think the opposite, that one can find in the Harry Potter books many Christian teachings and corner pieces of Christian theology and in Harry a modern Jesus figure.

 

In the final battle, Harry discovers that he must die because a piece of Lord Voldemort’s soul is attached to his own and therefore Voldemort can never be defeated without his own death.  Just like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Harry knows that even though he is afraid and wishes that there was a different route, he still knows that there is only one choice and one path for him to take.  He goes willingly to be killed, just as Jesus was willingly killed on the cross.  Also, just as Jesus then rises again, Harry also comes back from the dead after spending a brief period of time in a limbo state.  In this, having gone willingly to be killed and then to be resurrected in a way, he parallels Jesus.  However, the real clincher of Harry as a Jesus figure is when it is revealed that because Harry went willingly to die and because he went for the sake of everyone he was leaving behind, he has therefore left a protection over everyone in the castle and Voldemort can no longer hurt them, he has sacrificed his life for them.

 

Love and love’s strength are focal points of the series.  It is this quality and an appreciation of love’s value that Lord Voldemort lacks, and also that Harry has in abundance.  It is his love, and his continuation to love in the face of horrible trauma, that Dumbledore says marks him as a remarkable person.  It is also the love of one to sacrifice themselves for another (Harry
with his friends, or Lily for Harry), just as Jesus’ love caused him to sacrifice himself for us.  Death also plays a significant piece in the books.  Lord Voldemort’s fear and paranoia of death is what causes him to create the Horcruxes, the focal point of the last book.  Harry’s willingness to meet death stands in stark contrast. Questions about the afterlife are also raised in the form of the Resurrection Stone.  Themes such as souls, power, goodness, innocence, et cetera all work throughout the book.

 

 

Harry Potter is not a perfect Christian allegory, it likely (though only the author can confirm or deny) was not written with that intent.  But it does ask the same universal questions that Christianity, along with most major religions, ask.  It also has many of the Christian themes, such as love and sacrifice, woven within it.  The Christian story, of Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity, can be found within its pages.  While Harry Potter is certainly an enjoyable, well-written, and entertaining story, it also is a story with depth for those who want to look and it is also a story that parents can use as an example to their children of what Christianity is all about.

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