Friday, July 27, 2007
Grace and Peace,
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Today on Fresh Air, there's an interview with Al Jean, one of the long-time writers. In the discussion, there's talk about Ned Flanders--Homer's evangelical Christian neighbor and the role faith plays in the TV show. Also, Jean says that God plays a significant role in the movie--literally God is a character in the film, and the God presented in the film is one who acts in history to help people--in this case the people of Springfield.
Also, in the next post you'll find a trailer for the new movie. I'm experimenting with posting video straight to the blog from YouTube. Beware--it's funny, but just like the TV show, it's meant for older viewers not for small children.
Grace and Peace,
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Yet, it was considered offensive back in the day. I guess just because it was a cartoon--albeit one that was never intended for kids. Now, shows like Family Guy, South Park and the lineup on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim have taken adult-targeted cartoons to a level way past what The Simpsons has ever done. Yet, even cartoons that are made for kids these days exceed what The Simpsons offer in terms of humor that is inappropriate for kids, at least in my opinion. When I tape Little Einsteins for my 4 year-old, I cringe at the commercials for other shows on The Disney Channel. Thankfully, he's oblivious to most of it, but he won't be for long. Maybe I'm getting old or maybe it's just because I'm now a parent, but Bart Simpson is the least of my worries about what kids are exposed to. I know, I know, Bart would tell me "Don't have a cow, man!"
Still, I think there is a lesson here in how trivial the morality police and culture warriors of talk shows and conservative interest groups really are. They protest a given thing at a given moment to capitalize on an emotional and rather pointless emotional fervor and then do little if anything to solve real problems in society. The latest rock band or book may offend such groups but kids still go to bed hungry in our country and with inadequate health care.
In any event, I'm looking forward to the movie. here's a link to it--WARNING: it's not made for children. Also, there's an interesting article in today's Washington Post with the writers of The Simpsons that talks about the good/bad old days when The Simpsons was considered bad for society.
Grace and Peace,
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The first ministry took place last Sunday at First Lutheran Church where we co-sponsored a screening of the documentary The Lost Boys of Sudan. By partnering with the Sudanese Community Association, First Lutheran and Francis Street First United Methodist, we demonstrated that it is not only possible but advantageous to everyone involved when Christians look beyond differences of doctrine and culture to help one another. It was wonderful to see First Lutheran’s sanctuary packed with people watching the film. Estimates were over 250 people attended. Even better was the dinner afterwards downstairs where life-long Americans and Sudanese newcomers alike shared food and stories. I am deeply grateful for those from First Christian who came to serve and help out at this event, especially Lynn, Dave and Theo Tushaus for preparing a huge quantity of soup! It was also wonderful to see a picture of our own Marilyn McMillen on the front page of the paper accompanying the story about the event. Yours truly also got a little press coverage, although in the newspaper article it was a quote of me asking about the menu rather than saying anything spiritually profound and on KQ2’s Live at Five they identified me as “Roger Lenander of First Lutheran Church.” The good thing is that our church’s name was out in the community as a faith community that cares about all people regardless of their national or ethnic background.
The second ministry took place at Nature Park at 10th and Powell where we led Vacation Bible School for neighborhood kids. We had 18 children take part; some kids were from our church, some were from the neighborhood and some were from Representatives of Christ Church across the street from the park. Matthew and Brenda Gregg, along with the many volunteers, deserve credit for organizing a fun week of crafts, songs, Bible stories and games. Although 18 kids is a perfectly respectable number for a VBS held by a church our size, it is only a fraction of the number of children within a few blocks of the church that need to learn about how much God loves them. Rather than being discouraged or intimidated by the number of children around us that we need to reach, we should instead feel proud that our church’s first significant attempt to reach out into our neighborhood went so well! VBS went smoothly and the children present had a great time. A number of kids simply showed up, because they were walking by and saw the fun going on. We also made connections with a fellow church in our neighborhood that we can partner with in the future. VBS was a wonderful first step of many future steps that First Christian must make in order to be the body of Christ in our neighborhood.
Together, let us continue to demonstrate the great love we have as a church for all of our neighbors.
Grace and Peace,
It appears that the American Family Association had a campaign to stop a Hindu prayer from happening, because it would contribute to the United States turning away from its Judeo-Christian values.
The first question that comes to my mind is why groups like the AFA are so invested in the whole America is a Christian nation thing? Actually, I have a number of ideas--trying to prove America is a Christian nation means that as a Christian you would be a part of the powerful majority and power equals money and influence, also stirring up intolerance of different faiths is a great way to make money and again, generate power, such prejudice has been a part of this nation from its inception, finally such views operate from the perspective that only Christianity, or at least a mono-theistic religion, can possess real morality--the truth is people of all religions and no religion can be moral, good Americans.
Another question this incident raises for me is why did this take so long? America is a nation of many faiths and our government is supposed to represent and serve people who are from all of them. Why is it that just now a Hindu clergyman is offering a prayer when Christian clergy have been doing it for so long. In more recent years, Muslim and Jewish clergy have offered similar prayers. One of the great strengths of our country is supposed to be a respect for all religious minorities and that all are free here. If our government is supposed to protect our pluralistic religious culture, why isn't their more diversity in those who offer prayers before government?
The final question I have is should anyone of any faith be offering prayers before the Senate? There is supposed to be a separation of church and state--no matter how much conservative Christian groups wish to deny it. Although these prayers are largely symbolic and do not represent a strict government endorsement of a particular religion, symbols matter. It seems to me that if these prayers are going to happen, then every reasonable effort should be made to include every faith in our nation rather than a few. Should Scientologists be allowed to lead prayers? What about voodoo priests? What about African traditional religion? What about Buddhist meditation? If everybody doesn't get an equal chance, then doesn't this mean government is privileging the few over the many?
As a Christian, I believe individuals can be Christians but nations cannot. At most, they can have a majority of Christians living in them, but nations cannot make faith confessions--not with any real integrity. Also as a Christian, I do not need my government to hold prayers from my tradition. I only need the government to allow me to worship as I feel led by God.
Grace and Peace,
Monday, July 23, 2007
Faced with such difficult recognitions, religious people can retreat into fundamentalism or throw out religious faith altogether. Or we can quite deliberately embrace what the philosopher Paul Ricoeur called a "second naiveté." This implies a movement through criticism to a renewed appetite for the sacred tradition out of which we come, even while implying that we are alive to its meaning in a radically different way. Pope Benedict is attempting to restore, by fiat, the first naiveté of "one true church." In an age of global pluralism, this is simply not tenable.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
In case you missed it, there was an article by Clinton Thomas about the screening of The Lost Boys of Sudan and the meal afterwards. We ended up sitting across the table from each other with a couple of the Sudanese folks. So, he quoted some of my dinner conversation.
Was it a reflection upon the eternal curse of humanity's violent nature? No.
Was it a question about the relationship between the Sudanese civil war and the current crisis in Darfur? No.
Was it a request for more information about the incredible and tragic journey of the Lost Boys from war-torn Sudan all the way to St. Joseph? No.
Here's the quote:
The Rev. Chase Peeples of the First Christian Church was one of many in attendance who enjoyed the diverse menu.
"This is good, it tastes like our beef stew," Mr. Peeples said to some of the Sudanese at his table. "I can't quite figure out the bread. It almost has a sour taste. What's in it?"
That's right. It's me wondering why the Sudanese bread tasted sour. Oh well, at least the church's name got on the front page.
The really important thing--all joking aside--is that the story got on the front page and the Sudanese people in our community could get attention and notice as a real gift to St. Joseph. I appreciate the good coverage from the paper and the good article from Clinton Thomas.
It was a great event Sunday night The turnout was awesome--I'd guess 250 people. A serendipitous thing that happened was that so many Sudanese from across the country could make it to St. Joe. Unbeknownst to us when we planned the event, the Miss Southern Sudan Pageant was held on Saturday in Kansas City. Over 3000 southern Sudanese were there and anybody with a connection to the folks in St. Joe drove up I-29 on Sunday. It was definitely cool.
Grace and Peace,
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Since then, Mr. Bush has turned away — and 450,000 more people have been displaced in Darfur. “Things are getting worse,” noted Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a human rights campaigner in Sudan.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
For many Christians, evangelism amounts to confronting other people who do not believe the same thing as they do with the “truth.” Instead of approaching a person with different beliefs as an equal and the conversation as a dialogue, this understanding of evangelism reduces conversation to a one-way stream of arguments meant to persuade the other person how wrong they are. If you have ever been approached by someone of a different denomination or religion who hopes to make you a convert, you know how off-putting and even offensive that can be. I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I want to come across. Besides, operating as a condescending know-it-all in my opinion does more harm than good to Christianity in our culture.
Instead of preaching on a street corner or delivering tracts door-to-door, I believe Christians in our culture have to demonstrate their faith in tangible ways that make a real difference in other people’s lives before they can expect anyone to take them seriously much less listen to them. We must earn the right to be heard. Once we have been granted that right by others, then we have the opportunity to share in a humble and loving way what our faith means to us. Then we can return the grace extended to us and listen to how others’ beliefs make a difference in their lives. Until we are willing to pay others the respect of hearing their stories, how can we expect them to offer that same respect to us?
Sharing the difference that Christ makes in our lives implies that we have actually allowed Christ to make such a difference. It is worth asking whether or not our faith really means that much to us as individual believers and as a community of faith. What difference does being a Christian really make for you? For me, following Jesus offers me not only a direct connection to a loving God but an example of humility and service that contrasts with the self-centeredness of our culture. I feel that is worth sharing, so much so that I want to share it in a significant way with an attitude of humility and service that hopefully mirrors Christ’s own.
In this coming week, we have two great opportunities to share our faith through demonstrations of service and concern for others. The first is at the screening of the documentary, “Lost Boys of Sudan,” this Sunday at First Lutheran Church. It is an opportunity to understand and welcome our fellow Christians from Sudan. Furthermore, it demonstrates that we believe our faith transcends all national, ethnic and cultural boundaries. The second is Vacation Bible School. This year we are taking VBS our of the church and into the community to reach out to children in our neighborhood who need to know the love of God. They and their families also need to know that the church down the road also loves them too. I hope you will make every effort to demonstrate through one or both of these events the difference your faith makes in your life. Together, by sharing and listening, we can show how Christ values each and every person.
Grace and Peace,
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
The true bitter irony here is that today's establishment figures who brag about their immigrant ancestors yet bash hispanics for their own political gain fail to realize that those self-same ancestors were discriminated against in their own day.
Grace and Peace,
He had some interesting and dramatic things to say about his own faith. His testimony apparently even impressed conservative Christian commentators. (Check out the article by Terry Mattingly on how Obama's speech played with Pat Roberton's CBN.)
You also can watch a video on-line of Obama's speech at the UCC web site. (There are also videos of speeches by folks like Peter Gomes, Bill Moyers, Marian Wright Edelman and others.)
I have to admit that I really like Obama. He's got his share of campaign gaffes and goofs--what he calls "rookie mistakes", and he is a politician after all, but his speeches--especially his discussion of faith--touch me in a way that seems far more genuine th at what else is being said out on the campaign trail.
Here's an excerpt from his speech from the Boston Globe:
"Faith got hijacked, partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, all too eager to exploit what divides us," the Illinois senator said.
"At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design," according to an advance copy of his speech.
"There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich," Obama said. "I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it doesn't jibe with my version."
We shall see if my high opinion of Obama remains as the campaign season wears on.
Grace and Peace,