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Archive for April, 2008

My mother called me the other day. Or maybe I called her. I can’t remember. Anyway…one of the other inmates at my grandmother’s Senior Assisted Living Center publishes a newsletter. (Katherine , meet yourself in 40 years…) The Newsletter lady asked my mother and aunt to write a tribute piece to my grandmother. Both Mom and Betty Jean plead Moses and the duty of writing the tribute fell to me. I’m good at writing extemporaneously but suckful at writing for deadline. It got even worse when my mom said “it doesn’t have to be long. 50 words are fine.” Well, 50 words is a sentence or two in my world. So this was a hard piece. But I’ve written it anyway. (more…)

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Amazon’s throwing a contest. The winner gets to go to London for a weekend wherein they will get a chance to visit the priceless Tales of Beedle The Bard purchased by Amazon at auction.

Open to muggles ages 13 and older in 24 countries, the Beedle the Bard Ballad Writing Contest challenges you to creatively answer one of the following three questions in 100 words or less:

• What songs do wizards use to celebrate birthdays?
• What sports do wizards play besides Quidditch?
• What have you learned from the Harry Potter series that you use in everyday life?

I happen to think this is quite possibly the coolest contest I’ve seen in a long time. I note that the Grand Prize Winner is announced the day before my birthday. (Or on somebody else’s birthday, if you want to get picky about it.) How cool a present would it be if I won? Well, cool for ME anyway.

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On Grumpiness

Slarti has a project going, wherein he rates the general grumpiness of blogs. Leaving aside that any such rating systems are subjective–what constitutes “grumpy” or “negative”–it makes me think back on my own long career with cantankerous writing.

Blogging serves several purposes for me, and over the years the various roles it has played in my life have waxed and waned as needed. Blogging will always be part writing exercise, part social networking, part catharsis and part working through my own personal philosophies. I’ll admit that I was surprised when one person called me a curmudgeon and hurt when another said I had a chip on my shoulder. I suppose, though, that if all one knows of me is what I write–and you happen to come across me on a Catharsis period you’re likely to think me surly/grumpy/curmudgeonly or even, God forbid, bitchy.

In talking with my mother about an unrelated subject a couple of weeks ago I realised that one of my deeply-held religious beliefs makes me appear coldhearted, and I’m at a loss as to how to remedy it. I believe that any charity or good works we do as Christians are not to be talked about. That’s one of my strongest beliefs when it comes to my religion. Yes we should do good things–but those things are between us and God. I’ve read many blogs by religious people where they talk about how many hours they put in at the soup kitchen, how much they tithe and how many children they sponsor through Compassion, International. I’ve been wrestling with the dichotomy between “by your fruits you shall know them” and “let not the right hand know what the left hand is doing”. I’ve decided, though, to stick with the way things have always been.

So, depending on the week this blog may be the grumpiest in Nashville. Or the most pointless. At the very least it remains a good writing exercise.

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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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