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Archive for April, 2008

Moral Question

Is it wrong of me to be kind of ticked at the squirrels for taking the food I put out for the cardinals?

And why do the squirrels–when I’ve put out food for them, too–only want the birdseed? It’s like they’re perpetual three-year olds.

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I asked for, and received, a subscription to Christianity Today for Christmas. I’m very glad I did, because I find it thought-provoking, uplifting and–especially this month–a good source for blog articles. At the risk of turning this blog into “One Woman’s Commentary On Each Issue Of CT”, I confess that I have yet another blog entry inspired by yet another shocking thing I read.

“Where’s the message of Jesus in all this social gospel stuff? The answer lies in the life story of David Miller. [Former Marine member of ACT UP and a suffer of AIDS for 20 years, now a Christian. Miller asked Rick Warren where the church was when Miller needed help.] Rick responded by asking for forgiveness, saying “I’m sorry for all the hurt and pain that has ever been caused to you in the name of Christians or Christ.”

–Kay Warren, “Wiping Out HIV”

As a Christian Libertarian, I find myself frequently a more vocal proponent of what some call “Social Gospel” and others call “Pinko Liberal Commie Collectivist Bull.” I believe that Christ has called his Church to minister to the Least of these, an umbrella which includes everyone from those stricken with AIDS to those who live next door to you and are too busy at work to mow their lawn. Where I differ from many folks is that I believe the Social Gospel is absoluletly not to be confused with political socialism and active redistribution of wealth through forced means such as taxation. We as a church are supposed to do the going us therefore into all the world on our own. But of course, I’ve said this before and there’s nothing new in that idea.

Christians preaching the Social Gospel are getting a lot more coverage these days because they make a good counterpoint story to the media’s portrayal of the Evangelicals as hamstrung prudes who hate sex, dancing and all babies the minute they are out of the womb. Folks like Rick Warren who stand to make a lot of coin off attracting people to the Gospel have a vested interest in making Church look attractive. In the words of a marketing pro, they’ve got to massage their brand a little. Oftentimes I read or hear what Warren, Osteen and other Professional Branded Gospel folks say and it comes out sounding like a commercial for their book or their church’s offering plate. “We’re not like those other Christians! Buy my book and see!”

Of course, I’m probably ascribing motives to them which exist only in my mind, and for that I’m sorry. But when I read a statement like the one Rick Warren made to David Miller I can only shake my head in wonder.

I, too, am very sorry for the pain Mr. Miller (and countless others) have experienced in the name of Christianity. It’s a terrible thing to think that something which brings me such joy and peace has been used to cause others shame and suffering. But to ask forgiveness on behalf of all other Christians is prideful beyond measure.

I’ve written about this before, and I’ve argued with friends over the matter on many occasions. But when I see someone like Rick Warren saying “Please forgive me for all of the sins committed against you” I see that person taking on sins they did not commit.

Only one person in history has ever enjoyed that unique burden. For anyone else to do so is for that person to climb upon the cross of Christ and take the mantle of Saviour upon himself–a mantle none of us have come close to qualifying for.

That’s the problem many Christians have with the Social Gospel, and that’s the danger I see whenever we address it amongst ourselves. It’s very easy to make yourself feel like a Super Christian. There is no small amount of “look at how great I am as I’m here feeding these widows and orphans and hugging all these poor emaciated AIDS victims!! I’m doing just what Jesus commanded!” Buried silently within the same mind is the equal thought that all those who AREN’T at the Widow’s Soup Kitchen And AIDS Hospice are falling short of Jesus’ mandate. It’s an insidious way in which Satan uses our good works to cause judgment and dissention within the Church. Any way you look at it, it’s pride–the personal sin of Lucifer.

Kay Warren concludes her essay with a very good thought:

Our task is to make the invisible God visible. By opening our arms in acceptance, by being his hands and feet, we make him visible.

As long as we don’t confuse making God visible with becoming God, I think we’re on the right track. Otherwise we run the huge risk of ruling in hell rather than serving in heaven. Like that other guy who made the same mistake.

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I was talking about the Colson article with my mom on the phone and it set me on a mental tangent.
I’ve been going to church since I was in utero. I went to a Christian school and did part of my college studies at a prominent Christian university. I’ve been in nearly every sort of service you can imagine–I think the only kind of North American Christian worship I haven’t participated in is snake handling. Believe me, I’m content to let that one slide.

There are many phrases which are so often used by folks in the church that they’ve become idiomatic or on par with verbal tics.

I’ll start with the phrase Colson used which drives me batty.

Scripture tells us

Really? Which scripture and where? We are not illiterate peasants at the mercy of monks. We don’t need a “trust me, it’s in the Bible” type of answer. If you are trying to convince us of your position then give us access to the source documents for your position. Otherwise you sound both lofty (“I can read the Bible better than you”) and unconcerned with your audience’s ability to form their own opinion. The greatest thing about the Bible is that God meant it for all to be able to read. Many of the earliest scriptures were written in the language of the lay people.

Turn in your Bibles…

This always cracks me up. They mean to say “Open your bible to Matthew 6″ or whatever scripture we’re all reading. But they say “turn in your Bibles to Matthew 6.” Without that last prepositional phrase it sounds like we’re all supposed to put our Bibles in the collection plate.

Every head bowed and every eye closed

Always a favourite with youth ministers, revival preachers and anyone else who wants to gauge the effectiveness of their message by polling for conviction. The true purpose of praying with head bowed is to show obesience and humility to God. The true purpose of praying with eyes closed is to allow for a more meditative conversation with God by blocking out distractions. But whenever a speaker insists on everyone in the room bowing their heads and closing their eyes you know sure as you’re born that a show of hands is soon to follow. Was their preaching a mighty wind that blew open the fettered hearts of the crowd? They must know by asking anyone who wants prayer/to rededicate their life to raise their hands. Since churchgoers know each other it’s best if we aren’t looking. God knows WE shouldn’t be aware of who needs prayer among us.

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The Scriptures tell us that animals are soulless creatures and will perish with the rest of creation. We will not see them while our suls rest with God; when Christ returns and our bodies are resurrected, we will live in the new heavens and new earth–where there may be new, not resurrected, animals.

–Charles Colson, Christianity Today “Keeping Pets In Their Place”

Of course this particular article struck a chord with me after the events of last Good Friday. Suffice to say, I disagree with Colson. Not entirely, though. Because I believe in Talking Beasts.
(more…)

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4.14

I had forgotten until just now that this is that weird day where Lincoln was shot, the Titanic sank and the Donner Party set out for the West. This is an historically bewitched day, if you ask me. Whatever you do, don’t go on a cruise today, don’t see a play tonight and do not–under any circumstances–help a friend move.

Speaking of bewitchedness…

Coritcosteroid injections are things of Satan. You know how they say Satan buries each lie in a bit of the truth? That’s how it is with corticosteriods. Yeah, they’ll make your arthritis feel better for a few days. But what they’ll do to the rest of your system is just wicked. I won’t go into all the details, but trust me. I have a zit the size of a dime right in the middle of my forehead. It looks like I’m either three months late for Ash Wednesday or I’ve taken up membership in a Hindu caste.

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The other day I realised I hadn’t written a blog entry in some time, and then I realised that I’d been very happy lately. It occurred to me that it isn’t fair to the few folks who suffer through reading me to only write about the bad things. It’s as though I write as a form of therapy, in order to rid myself of the negatives and then I go and live out the positives off-book. So I figured I ought to at least make passing mention of the good things going on with me.

a) I’ve been able to do a bit of knitting again. It looks as though the drug combos are working. Will I be able to finish the Sunshine afghan? Only time will tell. I will say, though, that the odds are better now that I’m able to hold the work again.

b) We’ve got a new car. Now, I realise I did mention this already–but I don’t think I mentioned just what a change it’s going to be in my life. The Blazer had become so scary in the last 8 or 9 months that I really couldn’t drive it anywhere. This new car means that I’ll be more able to go places. Look out, world. No. Seriously. Look out.

c) I’ve cried less and less each day. That’s a big milestone, especially when I expected to be crying nonstop for the next six months.

Those are the big things, but there are a lot of little bits which make up the fabric of my days but don’t rate a list point. There has definitely been a paradigm shift over here at my house, and it’s as though we’re moving from a time of trial to a time of peace. I like that very much.

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For all of you who were waiting with bated breath to know what “H” name we were giving the new car….

Hunter.

We hope the trips in this car will be long. Since we’re going on them we know they’ll be strange.

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A few years ago I had a very bizarre dream. The bizarreness was in it’s mundanity–unlike other dreams where I’m walking naked throughout a city or singing from the top of the Sears Tower while wearing ice skates on my hands. This bizarrely normal dream was about me and one of my high school friends sitting and talking. The friend–whom I hadn’t seen in years–was asking my advice and I was giving it. Just as we had done dozens of times as teenagers. It was sweet and nice and calming.

A co-worker told me that there was a concept called “dream walking”, which the aboriginals of Australia believed gave your spirit a chance to commune with another spirit. Of course, when you look up “dreamwalking” on the web, you get thousands of pages by 14 year old girls who love the show “Charmed”, peppered with a few sites run by aging hippies who sell candles in the parking lots of various gatherings. In other words, it’s one of those serious experiences that gets watered down into a sort of pseudomystical sideshow. [True mysticism doesn't require souveniers...]

It has been years since I dreamed that dream but I never forgot the peacefulness of it, how relaxing it was to be normal in my sleep and converse with someone I cared about. When Casey died I actually remembered the “dreamwalking” dream and was afraid that something like that would happen with the dog. I did NOT want to dream about him because I didn’t think I could handle it in my waking life. The raw hurt of being without my constant companion is a soul’s pain that goes beyond any superficial bodily injury and I didn’t want my mind to rub psychic salt in it.

But I just woke up this morning after having the dream I knew would come–the dream where everything was normal and I went about my business with Casey at my side. The dream where he came when I called his name, I petted his face and looked into his eyes. The experience was very peaceful and very nice and it confirms something I’ve long suspected. Dreams are one of the greatest kindnesses of God.

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It looks as though the Cobles are now on Car H——-.

Our first car was Annie, and that was 16 years ago. Since then we’ve had Bella, C (?), Desdemona, E. Robert (don’t ask), Frobert (it’s better than “F. Robert”) and Grover.

But now it appears that we have an H. We haven’t decided yet what H will stand for. But we do need a mechanic to check it out and verify that the car is not a Hlemon.

So if you know of anyone, let me know! (k dot coble AT comcast dot net)

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That’s the question in the cover article of Christianity Today magazine. CT didn’t ask me, of course, but after reading the article I wish they had. The main answer to the question of What’s Wrong was proffered by the author, a former Christian Bookstore owner. And it may have been the dumbest answer I’ve ever heard.

Basically, they think Christian Bookstores should be less churchy and have more activities. At one point a bookstore is lauded for having a skateboard craft area.

People, please.

The answer to Christian Bookstores’ problem is also the answer to every bookstore’s problem.

They need more books.

Christian bookstores have always been in the vanguard of New Book Retail. Years before mainstream bookstores filled their retail space with non-book paraphanalia, the Christian bookstores were the ideal model of how to junk up your space with ugly paintings, catch-phrase coffee mugs and cheap resin figurines. As an avid reader I always hated to go into our local Christian bookstores back home because the actual books were slim pickings. After wading through candles and praying hands that glow in the dark, there’d be a shelf with a very few overpriced titles. It seems like Christian bookstores did all they could to make the buying of books a painful experience.

Now most mainstream stores are following down that path. I was just at Davis-Kidd with my sister a week ago. They’re not a Christian bookstore, but their marketing space looks like it was set up by the same guys who do Family Christian. Books are tucked away in one corner, with very little backlist to be had. As long as you want the trade paperback version of the very latest titles, you’re okay. And you’re also in the right place if you want some of Paula Deen’s jam, a Johnny Cash CD or some windchimes.

But if, like me, you’re looking for a book you are out of luck more often than not.

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