Friday, September 15, 2017

A UCC Church Got Upset Its Pastor Talked About Racism


Rev. Robert Wright Lee, IV is a United Church of Christ minister fresh out of Duke Divinity School who until this week served a UCC congregation in Winston-Salem, NC as his first pastorate.  He made headlines a few weeks ago when he, an indirect descendant of General Robert E. Lee (he is the great-great-great-great nephew of the Confederate general), stated to multiple news outlets that he felt Confederate statues, including ones of his ancestor, should be removed.  He told NPR his rationale for removing monuments of his ancestor was because "We have made an idol of Robert Edward Lee. We have made him an idol of white supremacy. We have made him an idol of nationalism and of bigotry and of hate and of racism. And that's unacceptable. And not only as a person of goodwill but as for me as a Christian, I can no longer sit by and allow my family's name to be used as hate-filled speech."  Not everyone in the Lee family shared his views, and it turns out neither did many in his church.

The breaking point seems to have occurred when Lee spoke during the annual MTV Video Awards ceremony last weekend.  He introduced the mother of Heather Hyer, the activist killed by a white supremacist in Charlottesville when he drove his car into a crowd of people protesting white supremacists.  In his remarks, Lee said, "My name is Robert Lee IV, I'm a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence in Charlottesville, We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America's original sin.  Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God's call to confront racism and white supremacy head-on.  We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women's March in January, and, especially, Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs."  This was apparently too much for his church.

In his public statement on resigning from his congregation, Lee wrote, "A faction of church members were concerned about my speech and that I lifted up Black Lives Matter movement, the Women' s March, and Heather Heyer as examples of racial justice work.  I want to stress that there were many in the congregation who supported my right to free speech, yet were uncomfortable with the attention the church was receiving. The church's reaction was deeply hurtful to me."  Lee expressed regret that his statements upset church members and gratitutde for their impact upon him during his first pastorate after seminary.  Yet, when there was discussion of the congregation voting on whether or not to keep him as pastor following his wordsat the ceremony, Lee chose to tender his resignation.

This story grieves me, because in the United Church of Christ I have found a denomination committed to being an inclusive church that struggles to overcome white supremacy.  I'm used to seeing headlines about UCC churches that make me proud, such as ones where UCC churches welcome LGBTQIA people, protest racism, advocate for the poor and oppressed, and involve themselves in interfaith work.  Yet, I know well that our denomination is one that prizes the freedom of the individual and the freedom of the local congregation.  Just because the national setting of the United Church of Christ has taken a position does not mean a local congregation or members of those congregations have done the same.  Just because one UCC church has taken a stand on racism or voted to be Open and Affirming of LGBTQ people does not mean every other UCC congregation has done so.  I prize that freedom and it is a huge part of why I am in the UCC, so I support that freedom for others in the UCC, even if I think they have fundamentally misunderstood what Christianity is supposed to be about.

I grieve that this particular UCC congregation chose to react with fear and yes, racism, to their pastor's prophetic words.  (It makes me thankful to serve CCCUCC where my own efforts to be prophetic have always been supported, even by members who do not always agree with me.)  I wonder why this particular church reacted as it did?  As far as I could find, it has made no public statement regarding its pastor's very public resignation.  Conflicts are always more complex than one party's view on them; there is always another side to the story.  I can imagine dynamics where a young minister is thrust into the national spotlight at a controversial moment in our culture and that young minister fails to realize that his congregation is unprepared to wrestle with questions of white privilege, racism and the role of a pastor in private, much less in public.  Even so, I've experienced too much racism in churches to excuse this church's reaction.

I grew up in churches belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention.  Southern Baptists originated, because Baptists from the north opposed slaveholders becoming missionaries to Africa.  Southern Baptists had no such qualms.  Through the Jim Crow era, Southern Baptists were often the most vocal proponents for segregation based upon scurilous interpretations of the Bible.  Despite some noteable exceptions, the denomination continues into the present time unable to unequivocally stand against racism.  As the son of a Southern Baptist minister, who raised me on stories of his own attempts to integrate white churches and the backlash that inevitably followed, I know all the white code for not wanting "those people" around.  

Although I can only speculate, I expect some members of that North Carolina UCC congregation watched and read media outlets that painted Black Lives Matters protestors as terrorists and the originators of the Women's March as "feminazis."  I suspect some of them bought the argument that counter protesters in Charlottesville were just as violent as the white supremacists.  I feel pretty sure, however, that those voices were in the minority.  

I suspect most church members were upset by their pastor's public stances simply because he violated an unwritten rule in white America against talking about racism.  His public stances were simply too controversial and upsetting.  Their church is probably small enough that everyone knows and cares for everyone else.  Such conflict is just too painful in such a small system.  I bet most members just wished their pastor would shut up and quit causing trouble.  I believe white people will go to almost any length to absolve themselves of white supremacy.  Anyone who does otherwise offends all who reject such a conversation.

Rocking the boat is upsetting and painful, so those who do so must pay the price.  I seem to have read in the Bible about somebody who upset the status quo and paid a price for it.  I feel sure it was somebody important and that person called out sanctimonious religious folks whose religion oppressed others.  What was that person's name again?

I have been party to so many conspiracies of cordiality.  Considering the fact that the founder of our religion was put to death for causing too much trouble, it is odd that churches are usually the last place where painful topics get addressed.  The result of keeping everything polite is that people get ground down under a weak theology that passively endorses oppression by never talking about it.  Thus there are Christians who believe their churches and communities contain no gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people.  Thus, there are churches full of white people who never think to ask why nobody with brown skin ever walks through their church doors?  Thus there are churches who proclaim that poor people lack faith or are just lazy.  The church becomes a means to oppress others rather than a place to liberate and transform all comers.

I can't say for sure that this particular UCC church in North Carolina fits this description, but I'm pretty sure it does.  I believe that for one simple reason--every church fits this description to one degree or another.  There is no perfect church full of perfect people.  All of them, including ours, is full of humans who would rather do anything besides face their own complicity in the systems of injustice that rule in our culture.  I'm human too and I feel the same way.

So, when I consider this particular UCC church in North Carolina and I begin to feel superior to them, I find myself looking in the mirror and asking about our church and my leadership of it.  In what ways does our church refuse to face up to controversial issues?  At first glance, one might say that we are not afraid of any issue given the diversity of belief within our church and its commitment to social justice issues.  Yet, I can't help but wonder if our ability to talk about controversial issues is only confined to those issues which remain abstract.  It's alright to talk about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, economic injustice, peace and justice when we speak about the injustice of others, but how much harder is it when we must make a decision about how we will live together in Christian community as a church?  I believe it is much harder.

We are a relatively small congregation in which most people know one another.  When one person within the body gets upset, we all feel it.  When one person gets mad and leaves the church, their absence is felt for a long time.  That is painful.  Both prior to my arrival here almost five years ago and since, this congregation has known folks who have left and we have grieved their leave taking.  Yet, in almost all cases, I believe we have become a healthier congregation for having borne that pain.  Experiencing such pain is no fun, and given that most of us have plenty of pain in our own lives, we don't come to church for an extra helping of it.  Yet, there is no real community--no real relationship--that exists without pain.  To love is to risk pain.  To be a part of a Christian community is supposed to involve a heck of a lot of love.  

The words of Rev. Robert Wright Lee, IV echo in my mind re: how statues of his ancestor have become idols.  UCC theologian Walter Brueggemann writes that idolatry is "the treatment of some things with absoluteness even when they are not that important and do not deserve to be worshiped."  Are those statues whose supporters claim exist only to commemorate history worth the misery and pain they cause African Americans to this day?  At what cost do those statues remain in places of honor?  They are absolutized to the point that the cause they represent and the pain they enshrine are ignored.

If we say that we are a church that seeks to welcome all and promotes the concept of a God that accepts all people, in what ways do we live together that reveal the opposite to be true?  Are there things in the life of our church that we invest with "absoluteness": and prioritize above our stated values of welcoming all and working for social justice?  In what ways are we a part of a conspiracy of cordiality which silences the voices of hurting people?  In what ways have we chosen the false peace of refusing to wrestle with  ways our congregation is complicit in the ills of our culture?  As much as I wish to think otherwise, I suspect I'm not as far as I wish from that UCC church in North Carolina or for that matter the protesters who believe the men who fought to maintain the enslavement of other human beings deserve places of honor in our public squares.  

I want to do better as a Christian, a minister and a church.  Do You?

Grace and Peace,

Chase

P.S.--If reading my words isn't enough for you and you wish to wrestle with the concept of "whiteness," I encourage you to read the latest essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Perhaps no writer has shaped my understanding of white privilege more than Coates.  This particular essay counters the idea that the 2016 presidential election was about anything besides race.

Recommended Reading (9-8-17 edition)

Regularly, if somewhat spasmodically, I share a list of things I'm reading, watching and listening to with my congregation.  If I remember to do so, I also post it here on my blog:

United Church of Christ
LGBTQ
Immigration and DACA
The Religious Right
Hurricane Harvey
Hate Groups/Hate Crimes
  • "The Two Americans"--Wow! An inspiring story of a young man who vandalized a mosque in Fort Smith, AR and how the Muslims showed him mercy in return.
Race/Racism
The Death Penalty
Other Stuff I Think is Worth Passing On

Recommended Reading (8-25-17 edition)

Regularly, if somewhat spasmodically, I share a list of things I'm reading, watching and listening to with my congregation.  If I remember to do so, I also post it here on my blog:

LGBTQ
Taking a Knee for Racism
Confederate Statues
Charlottesville
Other things I think are cool

I Know By Now You're Tired of Thinking About Charlottesville But Don't Stop Thinking About It


I sent this out to my congregation on August 18, 2017 after the white supremacist rally and counter protest in Charlottesville, VA, but it took me a few weeks to post it here.  

Was it just last week I wrote about Christians using the Bible to justify war with North Korea?  That seems like a year ago, because of what happened in Charlottesville last weekend.  I've heard from some of you that you feel overwhelmed by the news, the ignorant comments on social media and cable news, the astounding words of our president which justified the actions of white supremacists.  It's a lot, and just like when any terrible news breaks, I'm a supporter of people taking good spiritual care of themselves.  Know your limits and when you can't filter out the noise.  That being said, I want you to keep thinking about Charlottesville, because there are lessons to learn here.

I've read a lot this week about what happened at Chrlottesville, confederate monuments and more.  I know you may have had your fill, but I encourage you to read the following articles and columns.  I've tried to pick the ones that were most meaningful and enlightening for me.  The reason I want  you to take a look at them is because Christianity, specifically white Christians--even more specifically majority white Christian churches who say they are Peace with Justice churches like ours must do our homework--and then we must respond in meaningful ways.

(For those of you who aren't going to click on all the links below, if you only pick one thing to read, pick this one: "6 Things Our White Friends Can Do To Be Better Allies".)  

1.  I want to make sure you know about the United Church of Christ's involvement in the peaceful counter protest to the white supremacists in Charlottesville. If you missed the e-mail earlier in the week, take a look at these:
  • The video below shows why we give. Rev. Traci Blackmon the newly elected Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries for the national UCC represented us in Charlottesville this past weekend. She was one of the keynote speakers at the Friday night prayer vigil that was surrounded by white nationalists bearing torches. The next day she was bearing witness in peaceful protest with other clergy--literally singing "This Little Light of Mine" in front of militia members with machine guns. She was being interviewed on MSNBC (see below) when the security detail for clergy whisked her away from a street corner where brawls in the street broke out.  Rev. Blackmon has become a leading voice for civil rights for all people in our country and we get to claim her as a part of the UCC. She is demonstrating that Christianity doesn't have to be a religion of hate.  Click here to watch Rev. Traci Blackmon on MSNBC during the protests on Saturday where she is taken away by security in the middle of the interview.  Click here to watch Rev. Track Blackmon on MSNBC on Tuesday night responding to President Trump's news conference Tuesday afternoon.
2.  The History Behind the Confederate Monuments--they were erected not to commemorate history but as tools of oppression in their day and ours
3.  Equating the "Alt Right" with the so-called "Alt Left" is merely a way to excuse white supremacists
4.  How are WMWP who are Christian to respond to something like Charlottesville?
Finally, just in case your interested, KCUR's program Central Standard had a segment on reactions to Charlottesville in KC.  At about the 25 minute mark, you can hear a whiny-voices minister from Kansas City named Chase call in to the program.  

Grace and Peace,

Chase

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Fire and Fury": Misusing the Bible to Justify War


This week I sat in the waiting room of my therapist.  The receptionist had NPR playing in the background and the news was about President Trump's threats of "fire and fury" towards North Korea.  When she came to get me, I remarked to my therapist, "Today's news might not be the most calming thing to play in your waiting room, especially if you've got clients suffering with anxiety issues."  She grimaced and agreed.  I'm not sure if the radio station was changed or not after my comment.

When I heard the news that Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas, Texas had declared, "God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un," I thought, "Oh, just shut up!  You are not helping."  Jeffress is apparently incapable of shutting up and has been doubling down on his declaration all week.  A conservative evangelical friend of mine stated on Facebook, "Robert Jeffress is the low-hanging fruit of morons. Criticizing him is taking the easy way. You don't even have to counter-point, just quote the crazy stuff he says."  I have to admit my friend has a point.  Does anybody take this guy seriously?

 The Dallas Morning News stated the following about Jeffress' latest comments:

"By now, those of us living and working in the shadow of Jeffress' church on San Jacinto Street are well-accustomed to such outrageous - and, in the word of former Dallas Morning News editorial board member Rod Dreher, "obscene" - utterances. This is the man who first became internet-famous in 2008, when he preached about "why gay is not OK." Then he called Mormonism a "cult"; blamed the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on abortions; said President Barack Obama's policies "are paving the way for the Antichrist" - just a few of his greatest hits."

To justify his belief that Trump was given authority by God to nuke North Korea, Jeffress has quoted Romans 13:1-4

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God's servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.. NRSV

The ridiculous nature of a Christian minister saying God is for using nuclear weapons would seem to be self evident.  Jesus' teachings about "blessed are the peacemakers," "pray for your enemies," and "love your neighbor as yourself" come to mind.  Even the secular web site Mashable couldn't resist this misuse of the Bible.  They put out a satirical piece titled "5 Bible Passages Supporting Trump Advisor's Claim That God Supports 'Taking Out' Kim Jong-un" which had mock bible verses such as the following:

1 Corinthians 12:8--"Three times I pleaded to the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so the Christ's power may rest on me.  Also, Donald Trump has my explicit permission to bomb North Korea in 2017.  

and Jeremiah 28:11--"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  However I do have plans to harm somebody named Kim Jong-un.  He shall die by 'bomb.'  This will make sense in like two thousand years." 

I think it would be easy to dismiss Jeffress' statement, except for the fact that a great many Americans seem to think God did want Trump to be president and therefore God is okay when "God's chosen nation" (the U.S.A.) bombs the hell out of whatever country we consider to be evil--nevermind if the country is populated by people who have no say in their country's policies or actions.  Maybe many American Christians wouldn't say it as loutishly as Jeffress, but they at least passively believe it is a good thing to have a president threatening "fire and fury."

It's not that often that a Bible passage becomes international news.  (Google Romans 13 this week and the top results will be Robert Jeffress' statement rather than a link to an on-line Bible.)  So, I think it's at least worth discussing what it says and doesn't say.

There aren't that many passages in the New Testament, at least, that deal with the role of government, so Romans 13 gets drug out quite often, along with Jesus' statement "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" in Matthew 22.  Yet, as often as these verses are quoted, they offer us little in terms of understanding the Christian's relationship to government.

Anglican Bible scholar N.T. Wright says in the New Interpreter's Bible,

{This paragraph] is not a fully blown "Theology of Church and Sate"; indeed. . . our post-Enlightenment notion of "State" would have been foreign to Paul.  One can hardly blame a writer if, in the course of a letter about something else, a small aside does not contain the full sophisticated and nuanced treatment that subsequent generations might have liked.  

Wright goes on to make an important point: 

 Romans 13, in short, carries a hidden "nevertheless" at its heart.  Jesus is Lord, nevertheless his followers must obey their earthly rulers.  

In other words, whatever authority God may or may not have given an earthly ruler, their authority is subordinate to that of Jesus Christ.  

Presbyterian scholar Paul Achtemeier describes the limits of government implied by this passage in his commentary on Romans..

The language of this passage, at the same time that it calls for obedience to civil governments, also relativizes that government authority.  In the first place, since governing authorities are in fact God's servants for the promotion of civil order, those governing authorities cannot claim for themselves divine prerogatives.

He goes on to describe what happens if a government demands its citizens do evil.

If then a government claims for itself the kind of devotion proper only to God and demands of its subjects that they perform evil rather than good, and if it punishes those who disobey such demands to do evil, that government no longer functions as a servant of God and is therefore no longer to be obeyed as such.  

That final sentence is the rub, of course.  Critics of Robert Jeffress' claim of divine support for Trump rightly point out that preachers like him never thought God gave Obama any authority.  A president authorized by God is in the eye of the beholder, along with her or his political party affiliation.  A more liberal Christian might question the entire idea of God appointing every ruler in every place and in every time.  History is littered with abominations by totalitarian governments, but even the best rulers often commit actions contrary to what God intends.  Personally, I've never understood why Christians like Jeffries who preach all the time about the "fallen" state of humanity and sin can call for absolute obedience to human rulers--at least human rulers with whom they agree.

People of faith can disagree on what constitutes a government, law or ordinance that should be obeyed, but as with most things we should do so from a place of humility.  We should invoke God's support of our political ideas with fear and trembling.  The best way I know to figure out whether or not God would support a particular policy or law is to question its effects upon people who have little to no economic or political power.  God's consistent concern for "the widow, the orphan and the stranger" (i.e. those without power over their own fates) is a good rubric for bringing scripture into the political fray.

Undoubtedly (at least in hindsight), we can point to Christians who disobeyed civil government to protest unjust laws (e.g. the Civil Rights movement), yet most of the time politics and politicians remain imperfect and full of gray areas.  I believe strongly that Christians who take seriously the teachings about justice in the Torah, the Prophets and the teachings of Jesus have an obligation to engage with politics--apathy is not godly, and when we do so, we must act alongside people whose voices are either not being heard or silenced.  Doing so, however, requires courage as well as humility, lest we fall prey to the kind of self-righteousness Jesus so rightly condemned.

Our particular congregation has claimed it is a "Just Peace" or "Peace with Justice" congregation.  This is a designation given by our denomination to congregations who have studied what God's justice and peace mean, as opposed to charity and the passive or active support of violence.  In these days of "fire and fury" it might behoove us to recall what we committed to years ago.

CCCUCC voted as a congregation to officially become a Peace with Justice Church on January 26, 2007 by adopting the following resolution:

Resolved, that Country Club United Church of Christ now is and shall continue to be a Peace with Justice Church.  We affirm the human community and oppose the use of nationalism to divide us.  We reject the concept that whole groups of people and entire religions are our enemies.  We affirm diversity as the best example of God's handiwork.  We affirm nonviolent conflict as inevitable and valuable.  We affirm freedom to travel, freedom of exchange of ideas, and freedom for open dialogue.  We affirm the worldwide goodness of God's creation and deny that God creates junk.  We commit our community to hone our existing skills and God-given strengths to encourage justice and promote peace.  Be it so resolved this day, January 26, 2007, that we adopt this Peace with Justice covenant, so help us God.

Want to know more about what "Peace with Justice" looks like?  Click here to visit the national United Church of Christ Just Peace resources.
Grace and Peace,

Chase

Recommended Reading and Listening (8-11-17 edition)



Regularly, if somewhat spasmodically, I share a list of things I'm reading, watching and listening to with my congregation.  If I remember to do so, I also post it here on my blog:

 United Church of Christ 
Podcasts
The Religious Right
HBO's Confederate and the "#NoConfederate" Backlash
Religion in the 21st Century

Friday, August 4, 2017

Overcoming P.T.R.R.S.: Post-Traumatic Religious Right Syndrome

Last week I was outraged (justifiably, I think) about President Trump's tweet about banning transgender people from serving in the US armed forces.  As I shared in my "thoughts" last week, I really felt like this was scapegoating of the worst sort and a cynical ploy to change the news cycle from Trump's other problems. I was even further outraged when I read that this ban was precisely what conservative evangelicals urged Trump to do when they met with him in the Oval Office.  Remember that picture of these supposed faith leaders laying hands on Trump in prayer?  That was the meeting in question.


The rogues gallery of power hungry clergy surrounding Trump is grim indeed.  (Seth Meyers had a takedown of Trump's faith and his clergy friends that would have been hilarious if it wasn't so frightening.)  Given Trump is courting (and manipulating) megachurch pastors along with the likes of Jerry Falwell, Jr. and the right-wing zealots of the Family Research Council, I think I can be forgiven for feeling reactionary. 

Pretty much my whole life the Religious Right has been meddling in politics claiming to be building up Christ's kingdom while instead they built up their own kingdoms of earthly political power and wealth.  No small part of why I pastor the church I do is because I feel called to demonstrate a type of Christianity that stands as a refutation of such hypocrisy and religious abuse.  I guess I've got P.T.R.R.S.: Post-Traumatic Religious Right Syndrome.  

I haven't really known life without Christianity in America framed as hating LGBTQ people, opposing equality for women and condemning the poorest of our society for their own misery.  This current presidential administration feels like a bad sequel to a movie I didn't like in the first place.  Yet, I was forced to check my alarm when I read an interview with Robert P. Jones, director of the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C., who thinks the election of Donald Trump is the "death rattle of white Christian America."  (His most recent book is called  The End of White Christian America.)  He doesn't argue that white conservative Christians are going away completely, but he does compile statistical data to show that it is shrinking in its number of adherents at at amazing rate.  

Already white Christians of all persuasions (Protestant and Catholic, conservative and liberal) have become a minority in our country in less than a decade.  Jones says that when he wrote his book in 2015 he was using 2014 data, and it showed that the number of white Christians in America dropped from 54% in 2008 to 47% in 2014.  That percentage continues to drop: in 2015 the number was 45% and in 2016 the number was 43%.  That is an amazing cultural shift.

Jones cites "the three D's" as the drivers of this change in our culture.
  • demographic changes that are due mostly to immigration patterns since the 1960s; 
  • declining birth rates among whites relative to the non-white population;
  • and [religious] disaffiliation.  
The last item is perhaps the largest driver of the decline of white Christians in America.  Jones says, "There's an internal engine in the churches - mostly young people leaving white Christian churches in large numbers is really turbo-charging these changes. Nothing that the Trump administration could do is going to be able to affect that underlying engine and these changes. ... I do think the Trump administration is propping up the power of White Christian America but it may be the equivalent of putting it on life support and keeping it alive even as its vitality continues to ebb."

On the surface that seems like good news to me, however it becomes less positive when I consider that the decline in white Christians includes not just conservative evangelicals but also mainline Protestants.  In case you don't know the term "mainline Protestant" it refers to denominations that have historical roots in the founding of the country and that generally have chosen more liberal stances on social issues.  Generally by the term "mainline Protestants," denominations like the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the United Methodist Church, American Baptist Churches, Disciples of Christ, and (GASP!!!!!) the United Church of Christ!  So while I'd love to laugh at the demise of the Religious Right, the tradition I have claimed has been in decline to a greater extent and for a longer time.

What does that mean for Christians like you and me?  Well it means that it is no longer enough (and never was) to define ourselves in negative terms (i.e. "I'm a Christian, but NOT that kind of Christian.")  It is not enough only to show up after some hatemongering group of fundamentalists commit religious abuse and denounce them.  Oh, I firmly believe false Christianities that abuse and demean and oppress  those in the minority or with less political power should be condemned and denounced, but I believe we must do so much more.  

If our experience of God is real.  If the God we say we believe in--the God who loves and welcomes ALL people, charges us to care for the Earth, hates inequality in all its forms and calls us to acts of peace and justice--is more than just a fairy tale, then we must live out these values in ways that transform our own selves and the world around us.  Simply being "Plan B" to the Religious Right is not enough.  It never was.

It is an appropriate thing to be outraged by the hypocrites praying in the Oval Office, but we must be careful we do not spend too much of our emotional and spiritual bandwidth upon them.  They and their kind are dying out.  The vast majority of our emotional and spiritual bandwidth must be used for cultivating our own spiritual lives, strengthening our own community of faith, partnering with other like-minded Christians as well as people of other faiths and no faith who share our values, and working for a world that is just and peaceful.  If we fail to do so, we will die out as well--and justifiably so.

If you, like me, have P.T.R.R.S., let us together vow to spend as little time as possible upset about the Religious Right.  Instead lets spend as much time as possible living out the wonderful life together that God desires.
Grace and Peace,

Chase