“God’s promises were not given to save us the problem of thinking.” — John Stott
Parsing Politics and Finding Cool Stuff on the Internet
“God’s promises were not given to save us the problem of thinking.” — John Stott
“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.” -Michele Bachmann on how she interpreted Hurricane Irene this past weekend.
Doug Mataconis adds some insight:
Of course, I’m not sure how this computes given the fact that the storm largely spared Washington, D.C. and New York, while hammering a red states like North Carolina and a heavily Republican area like Virginia’s Tidewater region.
Bachmann’s press secretary adds some extremely deep insight:
”Obviously she was saying it in jest.”
“You can tell you’ve created God in your own image if he or she hates all the same people you do.” Anne Lamott in her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
The passing on Friday of the New York state law allowing same-sex couples to marry (which kicks in in 30 days) was monumental. The population of the Empire State alone (19 some million people) outnumbers the five other relatively small Northeastern states (and Iowa /D.C.).
This law, and many other important events, are going to be almost magnified in importance as we approach the 2012 election. Each candidate, including the incumbent, will be asked what they think about the new law in New York, if it should or shouldn’t come down to the state legislatures deciding on such matters, and if this could possibly be a national law in the coming decade.
One of the major issues that stood out in crafting the same-sex marriage law in New York was religious protections for churches, organizations, and the like. The Right has let out some steam on this issue, comparing New York to North Korea and insisting that anti-same sex marriage is not anti-homosexuality but really pro-marriage. What has been surprising and refreshing is to see many members of the Right and Republican Party rebuke their own side and agree with passing this law. This floor speech is worth watching for it captures some of the roots of the small government / libertarian in most Republicans as well as religious protection:
Even Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has some nuanced respect for the New York law.
David True calls those paying attention to see that this law is not solely about saving same-sex couples from an encroaching government with its “moralistic” laws but ” it is about claiming the legal right (with the help of government) to make a huge commitment, indeed, one of the most profound and traditional commitments one can make.” True describes marriage as “an unfolding story”, one that can have “us appreciate what has come before” as well as recognize the “cultural revolution” upon us as part of the timeline.
Marriage in this view can even be compared to God. Both marriage and God are infinite spheres (the former of love and commitment, the latter of the same as well as a divine expanse of justice, judgement, and redemption). Neither can be fully grasped with words here on earth. If anything, words at times can hold these two back and muddle their true essences. In the end, participating with both provide more than words ever could.
(Pictured: The First Presbyterian Church of NYC on 5th Ave & 12th St., which was on the Pride Parade route. The congregants passed out water and hung a huge welcome banner, complete with triangles.
I am starting to wonder where people get the idea that Obama is anti-fatherhood (or parenting) as well as a non-Christian. Let’s start with the first one.
Yesterday was Father’s Day. Obama circulated a message via email, radio address, and in People magazine. It doesn’t deviate from what he has talked about before (being raised fatherless) or how he lives his life today (a married father of two). Yet some on the right are surprised?
I know. So many of his policies do so much harm. I wish he would see the full picture. We need a president who does. We need leaders who do. But count me among those who are grateful Barack Obama is talking about the importance of fatherhood.
This beginning paragraph is somewhat of a ramble that I cannot find connecting to what Barack says about Father’s Day. By the way, good luck finding that president who sees the full picture. I find it funny and ironic that the GOP can hold the mantle of responsible, moral families when it is lead by Karl Rove (who has a gay dad) and Sarah Palin (who has a daughter who had a child out of wedlock). What about the Democratic president with the picturesque family?
Again, is there an expectation that Barack is to be advocating an extreme opposite of father’s being present in the lives of their children and family?
Now on to Barack and his faith. He obviously has been smeared by the right (the meme wasn’t helped by Hilary Clinton’s own mud slinging) as a Muslim, unwilling to commit to a church, and is a Democrat so he can’t be a real, true Christian (the party of God, the GOP, cannot answer without rationalizing why God would side with a pro-war, pro-rich, and mostly white party). I showed the following speeches to a friend:
My friend was blown away when he saw these videos:
Wow i got to say i’m impressed with Obama’s speech! … maybe being President is changing his views on God and faith.
Changed from what?
Paula Kirby went from being a devout Christian to an Atheist. She makes some interesting conclusions on God and how the masses have viewed the divine over the ages.
One of the things that had struck me during my Christian years was just how many different Christianities there are. Not just the vast number of different sects and denominations (over 38,000 by one reckoning), but the huge amount of difference between individual Christians of the same sect or denomination, too. The beliefs and attitudes of an evangelical, biblical, literalist Christian compared with a liberal Christian are so wildly different that we might almost be dealing with two completely different religions.
No matter what religion you believe in, you have to view God in a subjective lens:
Like every other Christian I have ever known, I had clear ideas about the kind of God I believed in and, on the basis of those ideas, I accepted certain bits of Christian dogma while utterly rejecting others. Again, let me stress: this is par for the course. In practice faith is always a pick-and-mix affair: believers emphasise those bits that sit comfortably with them, whilst mostly ignoring those bits that do not, or concocting elaborate interpretations to allow them to pretend they do not mean what they actually say. So this was the question I faced up to in 2003: What was there to suggest that the version of Christianity I believed in was actually real? Was there any better evidence for the version I accepted than there was for the versions I did not?
The Bible could not help me. Both kinds of Christian – the ultra-conservative and the ultra-liberal – find abundant support for their views in the Bible provided they cherry-pick enough (and, of course, they do just that, filing the bits that don’t suit their case under the convenient headings of “Metaphor” or “Mystery”).
I myself tend to stray away from overemphasizing sin, heaven, and the like when I talk about God, my religious beliefs, and even when I am reading the Bible. Sure, the daily lectionary has me reading portions of the Bible that mention sin and heaven. I try to read up on the Greek and Hebrew, which usually have their original translation as vastness instead of heaven.
This has fostered some inner-thoughts as I have had several discussions with friends lately on the topic of same-sex marriage / homosexuality and how those two are seen or should be treated by the Bible and government. Plethora of verses are mentioned to denounce the two and I have up to this point said that they talk about pederastery, not what we know today as homosexuality. Re-reading these texts has me constantly asking questions. I try to focus on the context of the letters and laws in the Bible and keep them under the umbrellas of love, compassion, and justice. One other important topic that has played into that discussion is defining the role of marriage. Is it meant for pro-creation (child bearing) or as a covenant between two individuals? Attending a wedding can answer that question very clearly. Weddings usually mention nothing about sex or bearing children but forming a lasting relationship with your partner. If these marriage ceremonies are merely man-made, why then are they not changing in form and substance towards emphasizing “what the Bible says” about marriage?
I finish my reflection with this quote from Kirby:
This is why subjective experience cannot tell us anything about God. Knowing what kind of god someone believes in tells us a great deal about that person – but nothing whatsoever about the truth or otherwise of the existence of any god at all.
Kirby is partially correct. Our experiences of God can tell some but not all of who God is. Looking back over time, we can see the many views of God and the roles the divine has played in people’s lives. They, just like ours, are merely reflections from a mirror, not the full picture.
“You take away the money from Israel? No. That’s something we can’t do. Do I like foreign aid? Sometimes, but not every time. Don’t like giving money to our enemies, but I love giving money to Israel. And so there’s a picture there that people realize that, we stop helping Israel, we lose God’s hand and we’re in big time trouble,” – Congressman Dan Webster (R-FL).
Mind you, we give $2.4 billion per year to Israel. Some necessary background info for the newly informed:
Webster’s religious argument for assisting Israel echos the belief of Christian Zioniststhat Israel will play a central role in the apocalyptic end-times. One interpretation of the Bible, held by a large portion of Christian evangelicals, is that the return of Jesusrequires that Jews control the “Holy Land.” Over the last two decades, both Israeli lobbyists and right-wing Christians have harnessed this growing belief to build support for Israeli government actions and for unchecked taxpayer assistance to the Israeli military.
“Sit with God as you might with the ocean. You bring nothing to the ocean, yet it changes you.” -Sean Caulfield, from The Experience of Praying
To engage in this post, read the cited Holy Scripture (bold emphasis by me):
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
Let’s point out a few things.
When I read this part of 1 John, I thought it spoke in polar extremes.
One side (If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God) can almost suggest a form of exclusivity for who “knows” God.
The other path (Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God, God is love…Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them) can promote an open and free way for those outside the Protestant Christian fold to seek God.
A few other thoughts. Most likely Jesus’ followers attributed to him the title “Way, Truth, and Life”. Yes, Jesus said this in the Gospel of John. However, John’s Gospel, mind you, is filled with plethora metaphorical terminologies. Jesus said, for instances, that he is the bread of life and the word made flesh. Was he literally a loaf of bread or a letter on a page? Obviously not. Many Christians will agree on this: Jesus was the only way made flesh, in that no other religion had their God in the flesh live a way or follow a path. Other religions have a prophet or mouthpiece for their God but were not their actual God in the flesh. That doesn’t diminish other religions or smugishly elevate Christianity but separates the latter from the former in content. For more on this specific topic, read some of Marcus Borg’s books.
In the end, I come away with a more ambiguous understanding of what John means about who can know God than before. Then again, are we meant to come away from reading The Bible with more answers than questions or vice versa? Your thoughts are always welcome – vgiordano at gmail dot com.
Is it? Email me your thoughts: vgiordano at gmail dot com.
Testifying at yesterday’s hearing on a proposed same-sex marriage ban, Minnesota state Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-Hopkins/St. Louis Park) asked his colleagues to ponder the possibility that God may just be A-OK with gay people. “How many more gay people does God have to create,” Simon inquired, “before we ask ourselves whether or not God actually wants them around?”
“I’m at ease,” Ramirez told ESPNdeportes.com via phone from his home in Miami. “God knows what’s best [for me]. I’m now an officially retired baseball player. I’ll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man,” says just retired Manny Ramirez. Ramirez failed a second drug test in spring training this year and instead of serving a 100-game suspension, he retired (he told MLB first and then word eventually made it to his team, the Tampa Bay Rays).
God works in mysterious ways, I suppose.
I received some thought provoking and candid responses to this question:
How much of prayer is meant to change us, not necessarily our/the circumstances?
One respondent wrote:
This is the problem with a providential God. For every atrocity there must be an equal or greater Good, which can only occur if this atrocity does. This, in turn, can cause us to (justly) question the goodness/perfection of God (as well as God’s creation.) In short, an anthropocentric providential God who answers some prayers but not others is not a viable theological construct.Prayer, then, is meant to make us happy. It allows us to feel that we have done something when, in actuality, we have likely done nothing.
I believe Marcus J. Borg has made a point similar to the first one above. Another respondent:
I am just not really sure. I think it is certainly both factors working in concert for the glory of God, but I don’t know in what proportion. Perhaps the proportion varies based on the situation. There is power in prayer to change the circumstance– this is stated as well as demonstrated in the Bible, but it certainly doesn’t work that way all the time. For instance, I doubt God lets people he has more work for die just because not enough people pray hard enough, nor do all people who recieve prayer survive. So on the other hand, scripture also seems to point to the idea that God’s plan is bigger than our temporal circumstances, his purposes are higher, and he is working things out for his kingdom purposes, not for our immediate comfort and ease. So I don’t know.
I’ve been thinking a bit about this, and the best I can manage is that prayer is what God wants it to be. Our perception of it is an expression of our free will, but attempting to quantify or classify prayer’s effect is a humanly impossible task. It would seem that prayer is more about maintaining a relationship with God than changing circumstances, but at the same time there are plenty of examples where both the circumstance and the individual involved underwent a change of some sort.
Prayer is a vehicle for change to occur. The minute we pray about something, the beginning stages of change within ourselves has already occurred (i.e. – we’ve stopped relying on ourselves to ‘fix’ things and involved someone much greater). This breeds more change in us (i.e. – hope, patience, endurance, persistence, adjustments in viewpoints/attitudes, etc. – conversely anger, bitterness, contempt, etc. if we feel our cries have been unheard.)
As soon as the initial prayer takes place, change in the circumstance takes form – seen or unseen. (i.e – it goes away, it becomes easier/harder to deal with, becomes worse/better, peace with the circumstance sets in, etc etc.)
That’s the whole piece of sprituality coming into play. We only see what is happening on the tip of the iceberg but don’t/can’t ever fully grasp what a seemingly subtle change to the tip (like prayer) does beneath the surface of the iceberg (like our circumstances).
This is why we should pray without ceasing – to take everything to God’s throne for the change to start there and move through Him first – change in us, and in our circumstances.
If i come to God with ONLY the desire for my circumstances of my life to change, and finish “my prayer” there, i doubt that i have changed (for the good at least) nor my circumstances. Unless you think God actually listens to prayers like the one i attached.
I have no idea what the ratio would be, but i do believe we will be surprised at the end of our life at just how much our prayers were more meant to change us and not so much just our circumstances. Why? I believe changed people change things. In Matthew 14 there’s a bunch of hungry people (like, thousands) and the disciples want to usher them away so that the recently saddened and overworked Jesus can slip away. In the conversation between Jesus and the disciples, look at where the transformation is:
v 15 let’s slip away, let them buy themselves food
v 16 Jesus tells his disciples, “they don’t need to leave, YOU feed them.”
v 17 the disciples again look only to their circumstances: “We only have a little food.
Then the miracle takes place. And though we don’t know explicitly what happened in the disciples’ hearts, you gotta imagine that they joined Jesus in having compassion (see v. 14) and even thankfulness (see v. 19) despite having little food. Jesus shows that compassion and thankfulness alter circumstances, not the other way around.
He wants us to come to Him not with need, but with compassion. And prayer, i believe is for us to become more like Him so that as we become more like Him, He and we are more able to change circumstances but more importantly properly view our circumstances.
One final respondent:
I don’t know ‘how much’ but do see how it does change a person….I think of two things immediately
A – a friend who’s alcoholic mother had neglected him then abandoned him as a child. He had discovered an amazing relationship with God in college and his life changed, still though he had an anger towards his mother – a mentor encouraged him to pray for her. Reluctantly at first he did and amazing changes happened, but not to her, to him. His anger dissipated – slowly but it did. He was able to love his mother in her pain and her behaviors that resulted from that pain and the choices she made. He became a more loving and understanding man. He credits this to God – God softening his heart as he held up his mother in prayer with more and more compassion and fervor each day.
B – I think of Phillippians 4: 4-7 ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ – I think of it because the Lord brings me to it constantly – if I decide to Rejoice in any and all situations wow, what a life and what a statement to those around me about the Lord and his Glory and Goodness and Love. I think of Prayer and Rejoicing and Worship in similar ways – in everything rejoice, in everything worship, in everything take it to the Lord in Prayer…..no matter what, no matter if it changes the situation because it changes you.
Moses was changed by the presence and power of the Lord – Moses came to God and said some version of ‘Look I know you may be settled on this but here are the reasons you shouldn’t do what you are planning on doing’ – did I get that right? hahah…I mean prayer is being in the presence of the Lord…it is! It is spending time with Him – his presence changes us, opens us.
I believe this is something worth thinking about and questioning, especially in the mix of “I’m praying for you” texts and Facebook status comments. Does prayer really do anything for the circumstances or mainly affect the one praying? Of course, how can we even begin or try to gage this?
Seek the things that are above, where Christ is.
Does this call my focus to Godly care and providence? What about my worries? Does His will factor in to this?
Set your mind on things above, not on earth.
Set my whole mind, with all of its thoughts? What about my cares, love, passions?
Put to death passion
I don’t think this means to put to death good passion since this one is nestled between bad descriptors.
Put off the old self
a.k.a. be ‘born again’. Isn’t this a process, and by process I mean life long process? Not necessarily a one time thing / moment or a station you arrive at.
It is being renewed, it has not been renewed.
Christ is all and in all
Is all of what? In all of what? In all humans?
And be thankful.
I have been growing in this.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
Such a beautiful description.
Thus, “Jesus died for our sins” was originally a subversive metaphor, (in that it challenged the temple claim of monopoly over grace and access to God) not a literal description of either God’s purpose of Jesus’ vocation. It was a metaphorical proclamation of radical grace; and properly understood, it still is. It is therefore ironic to realize that the religion that formed around Jesus would within four hundred years begin to claim for itself an institutional monopoly on grace and access to God. (emphasis mine)
And we think Glenn Beck has lost his mind with his 15 chalk boards, suggestions to stock up on canned food and gold, and his progressive conspiracy theory. Then I see the above:
I’m not saying that the news on Libyan State TV is far from “fair and balanced”, but this fellow seems to out-do even Mr Glenn Beck for a unique perspective on events. In the middle of the news, he pulls out an AK-47 and declares, “In the name of Almighty God, I pledge to you, my Dear Leader, that I will sacrifice my last breath, my last bullet, my last drop of blood, last baby and child for you.”
“To be faithful to God means not only to love God, but to love that which God loves – namely, the neighbor, and indeed the whole of creation.”
-Marcus J. Borg in his book The Heart of Christianity (p.34)
“In the examen of consciousness we prayerfully reflect on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of our days to see how God has been at work among us and how we responded. We consider, for example, whether the boisterous neighbor of last night was more than just a rude interruption of a quiet evening. Maybe just maybe, he was the voice of God urging us to be attentive to the pain and loneliness of those around us. Perhaps in the glorious sunrise of this morning God was shouting out to us his love of beauty and inviting us to share in it, but we were too sleepy or distracted to participate. Maybe we responded to the Divine Whisper to write a letter or call a friend on the telephone, and the results of our simple obedience were nothing short of startling,” -says Richard J. Foster in his book on Prayer, which is ultra relevant even 20 years after it was written.
Love Wins is not a book about who is in or out. That sort of talk is too small. It is a book that invites people to remember the life God is offering them and this encourages them to thrive as they joyously participate in that life. Bell challenges theologies that seem to have forgotten what it means to live this life and moves the conversation back to a placed where Christians have the freedom to say yes to the gift God continually offers. Christianity isn’t about being right or wrong, it’s about living joyously and transformativly for Jesus — and this is a message we can all benefit from being reminded of.