samedi, janvier 19, 2013

What would Jesus shoot?

I don't want to take away your hunting rifles...but I don't "get" why you feel you need an assault rifle with 30-bullet ammunition clips.

Target practice? That's an art.

I'm o.k. if you want to go hunt deer, but I feel less safe knowing that you are next to me at BJ's armed to the hilt.

While I don't interpret the Second Amendment the way that the conservative Republican justices on the Supreme Court do, it is the law of the land. I respect your "right" to own guns (the same way I respect the "right" to abortion), though I vehemently disagree with it.

I still don't understand, however, how Christians who worship the ultimate icon of nonviolence can double down on weapons that kill.  Maybe someday I'll run into someone who can explain it to me in a way that makes sense.

Jesus cradling a rifle in his hands...imagine.

vendredi, janvier 18, 2013

Deep six the "F" word

There are some idiosyncrasies in the journalistic world that drive me crazy.

Frankly, I blame the advent of social media, including blogging, for the fact that, all of a sudden, everyone's a writer.

In one way, that's a blessing.  We now get to hear from people who might have been too shy to express an opinion before, or not had access to a way of getting their ideas out before the public.

Sometimes what they have to say is worth reading.

But with the popularity of Twitter, Facebook and Blogger comes a lot, forgive me for saying so, of dreck.

That includes certain memes that seem to rise and fall in popularity, becoming trite before you can say " Bob's yer uncle."

I'm not crazy about writers who label other writers "elites" from another privileged position.

Nor am I fond of the way that some conservative authors call newspapers, blogs and online magazines with which they happen to disagree "the media" (meaning the mainstream media) when conservative media outlets like Fox are both vociferous and extremely well-funded.

What media outlets are leaching jobs left and right? Or should I say -- left or right?

But in the interest of fairness, it's not only conservatives who fall deep into the linguistic mire.

Liberals also have their favorite words -- one on which is "fascist." Often, it's a response to the accusation by conservatives that those who favor government-funded health care and unemployment benefits are "socialists."

Thus ideas held dear by conservatives become totalitarian or "fascist."

Real fascists (or real socialists, for that matter) would find these comparisons absolutely ludicrous. But it's just another sign of the disintegration of our political and social discourse.

Frankly, as a descendant of people who survived (and some who perished) in the Holocaust, I don't just find it ridiculous. I find it offensive.

In addition, we happen to live in  a democracy, however dysfunctional. That's why we have elections -- right?

But liberals don't own the f-word anymore. And perhaps that fact means that we can begin to wean ourselves from overusing it.

Conservatives like Jonah Goldberg have also been known to throw the word "fascist" around when speaking of his political opposites.

Then there are people like John Mackey.

Frankly, I'm not sure what the Whole Foods owner would call himself.  He recently termed President Obama's Health-Care act "fascist" (though he later walked it back -- perhaps when he realized that he provides his employees health-care).

Wait up.  I'm worried.

What are we to think, however, of a man who talks about our "food addictions" and the need to cure them?

Scary dude.

Conveniently enough, Mackey has provided us with a nationwide network of Whole Foods stores so that we can be reprogrammed.

Oops. I mean, have stores in which to purchase healthier products.

Sounds a little fascist to me.

lundi, janvier 14, 2013

Reaching out to the 'nones'

I spend a lot of time pondering this question:  why are more and more of us Americans identifying ourselves as either nonbelievers (atheists, agnostics, freethinkers) or as "spiritual but not religious?"

For some general data on the "nones," take a look at this Gallup poll, which indicates that the largest percentages of those with no religious affiliation live in the West, or in New England, trend Asian, politically independent, and male.

Some of my ideas on this subject are completely unscientific.  Others, just slightly less so.

There are lots of reasons for the increasing number of nonbelievers (although growth has slowed) that may have more to do with secularization and an increasing lack of a sense of a shared culture than with the failures of churches and other communities to reach seekers.

Somewhere along the way, we lost the sense of a "common good" -- a civic identity that encompassed people of many faiths.

But I can't help but wonder if the growth of the unbelievers is  not, in part, because Christians (who are still the majority among U.S. believers) have done such a lousy job of conveying the wonder of encountering God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

I find it deeply troubling that we can't seem to find ways to get along among ourselves, let alone be welcoming to those who approach our doors with honest questions.

Again and again in the Hebrew Scriptures, God spurns the fatted calves and sacrificial offerings of the "righteous"-- because their hearts aren't right with Him.

I'm tired of sitting in Roman Catholic churches, wondering if the sophisticated theology behind denying me and other Protestants communion isn't just another long series of words for "pride."

Sick of Reformed theology that speculates on who is chosen -- and who isn't.

Impatient with Anglican "via media" that allows "celibate" gays to be bishops while barring heterosexual women.

These theological battles are so fact, to many who have grown up in secular environments, they may seem completely irrelevant.

We can be so prissy and precious about our faith -- as though God had given us a hammerlock on the truth.

No wonder radio hosts like Terry Gross, interviewing gay  Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson and many others, can show such shocking ignorance of the basics of Christian faith.

She doesn't need to "get it," the way she "gets" movements in art or politics or rock n' roll. She thinks she's got us nailed, as it were...because, in some ways, we've made it that easy.

Of course there is anti-Christian bigotry. Of course there is media bias (though not among all media, and not along treasured conservative-liberal lines).

But we have brought much of our problems upon ourselves, with our endless theological nitpicking and our lack of imagination -- the kind of imagination that allows God  to be God, instead of trying to remake God into our own likeness.

That's not to say that everything goes.  There are reasons that those wars were fought over phrases in the Nicene Creed (although it would have been much better for all of us if they'd figure out other ways of dealing with disagreements).

How about a little less theological judgmentalism -- and a bit more charity?

How about a little less arrogance and a bit more humility?

How about a heart open to prophetic words from others -- even if the others don't look or speak or read the same books as you?

As Christians, we need to figure out who we are to those who turn away from us. Only then can we begin to grapple with who it is we want to be.