Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mercy & Justice Redux

So on Wednesday, Dr. Mouw gave a chapel address that included a story from Charles Spurgeon. I can't find a link to the sermon online (if anyone knows it, please put a link in the comments), but the gist of it was an imaginary conversation between Mercy & Justice in heaven, watching the life of Christ unfold. At each point in Jesus' life, Mercy asks Justice if it is satisfied, but it is not satisfied until Jesus hangs on the cross. Good ol' substitutionary atonement theory.

But later I was pondering it (it really pissed me off - I turned to my friend and said, "Justice is kind of an asshole") and mentioned it to my internship supervisor, and she said, "Why does everybody always assume that Justice defeats Mercy? Why does Justice always get its way?" And that got me thinking that maybe the story could be rewritten. Also it got me thinking about what we mean by justice, because Mouw went on to explain that we are called to work for justice today, but what he meant in that sense was quite different than the justice in the story which demanded blood sacrifice. I thought about rewriting it so that the justice concept would be consistent, and so that mercy would in fact win in the end.

So here I humbly offer the Liberal Loosey-Goosey Atonement version of the Mercy & Justice story. Enjoy.

Mercy & Justice (an alternative take, with apologies to Charles Spurgeon)

Mercy and Justice were talking together in heaven. They lamented the state of humanity in its rebellion against God. Both desired reconciliation between the two. Justice demanded restitution for the sins of the world. Mercy desired nothing but renewed relationship. When the second person of the Trinity stepped forward to enact the radical plan of salvation for God’s creation, Mercy and Justice were pleased. They anticipated each being satisfied with the results of this risky endeavor.

When Jesus was born as a baby, Mercy and Justice joined the other residents of heaven in rejoicing and marveling. Mercy said to justice, “Look, he is a baby. God has humbled himself beyond all reason. Surely you are satisfied.” Justice replied, “This is not right. His family is poor. No one would take them in. Someone should help them.” Justice was pleased when the wise men showed up with gifts for the marginalized family. But he pointed out to Mercy that God’s incarnation, loving though it may be, did not resolve the problem of human sin. Mercy responded, “What could be more effective than God himself showing people the way to return to him?” Justice simply grunted.

Jesus grew up and began his ministry of teaching and healing. Justice was pleased with the way he reached out to the poor and dispossessed, and Mercy clapped her hands and laughed as Jesus touched another leper. Again, Mercy was satisfied, but Justice was taken aback at the way Jesus would simply forgive sins without any price paid. Mercy explained, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Jesus cannot help but radiate God’s love to all. This mercy knows no qualification, no boundaries, and requires nothing of the receiver.” Justice went in the other room to pout.

Before his Passion, Jesus prayed in the garden, sweating drops of blood. Mercy understood. She knew that the power of God would lie in humiliation. She knew that in God’s weakness is God’s strength. Justice was uncomfortable with the position God was placing himself in. God had the upper hand. God was righteous, it was humans who were sinful. So why was Jesus allowing himself to be arrested? To be treated so, well…unjustly? Mercy tried to put it into words, but found them wanting - how to explain the unbelievable love that would endure such suffering?

Instead, she reminded Justice of the way Jesus had behaved on earth, especially his last night with his friends, when he washed their feet. “God did not go to earth to condemn his creation, nor to demand something of them. God simply wanted to be closer to them, and desired their closeness in return.” In looking at what Jesus had done during his time there, Mercy could not but conclude that his goal was to show the world nothing but the purest, truest love, in the hopes that others would follow this way of life.

But instead, the world shrunk from Love, not daring to believe such Mercy was possible. Stuck in the way of Justice, it saw only a weakling who would not stand up for himself at trial. As Jesus hung on the cross, Justice still was not satisfied: “But he did not deserve the death penalty! He was innocent.” Mercy told him to hush, for Jesus was speaking: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Mercy smiled, knowing by these words that she had won. In the incredible power of Mercy, Jesus absorbed all the violence and pain and hate that the world could throw at God. Jesus took it into himself…and died.

But it was not over yet. Mercy watched with unfathomable delight as Christ resurrected from the dead. Justice couldn’t believe his eyes – what did this have to do with balancing the scales? It was a neat trick, to be sure, but it wasn’t all that necessary. Oh, no, Mercy exclaimed. When Jesus resurrected, it proved once and for all that death had lost its sting, that love cannot be quenched. It proved that Justice, in the end, was not important –Mercy had the final word. The most Merciful God had proved that no matter what the humans did against him, He would always come back with more love than ever. Unable to argue, Justice acquiesced to the overwhelming power of Mercy.

We like to give Justice the upper hand, to say it must be satisfied. But we have no evidence that God’s Mercy will be or even has been overwhelmed by God’s Holiness or Righteousness or dignity. No story – no act of God – tells us God demands Justice (although words attributed to God do say so). Nothing about Jesus suggests that God cares about his reputation, and Jesus' actions show he cares "more about suffering than sin" (Alexia Salvatierra). All the stories tell us God is forever reaching out with both hands – seeking Adam & Eve in the garden after their rebellion; forgiving his people over and over (despite his better judgment perhaps); choosing to work through the poor, the humble, and the slow; standing as a Father out on the road, every day, hoping against hope that it will be the day the child comes home. And finally, above all, taking into himself all evil so that it could be vanquished. So that he could prove once and for all that it is Mercy, not Justice, that will be satisfied.

Now we live in the Mercy of God for us, and pour out that Mercy on the world. We stand with Justice against the violence and pain and hatred still in the world, but we can stand there humbly and absorb the world’s suffering because we know that in the end this evil has no power. In the end, God will win. Mercy will overpower Justice. Because that is who God is.

What a freaking day

Note: This post was written Tuesday night. I'll include an update at the end.

What a freaking day. Yesterday I was in such a sweet little mood. Today just sucked. Well not until class started. Before that I had a pretty nice time doing my reading for patristic theology, which was all about stuff I’ve already studied (Didache) and then the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, which are all him looking forward to “fighting the wild beasts” in the forum at Rome. It’s really funny stuff – he’s all about “I hope they dispatch me in short order.” It’s also really well-written. I love his metaphors, even though he mixes them monstrously. I love his descriptions of false teaching, mixing Jesus into other religions “like poison mixed with honey and wine” that goes down smooth. Gee, sounds familiar. There is really nothing new under the sun.

But then I went to class and everything went kablooie. The 1 Corinthians thing just isn’t going to work. I could handle the class without anything else, or at least with slightly less, but I can’t put it in a schedule with Systematic Theology and Patristics. It just can’t happen. I already have 100 pages a week to read for the latter, and about the same for Sys Theo. I’m thinking I can handle an exegesis class if, like the 1 Peter I was in for one day, it’s mostly translation and not much in the way of reading, a couple papers, that sort of thing. But not only is he assigning enough verses for 6-8 hours of translating (I’m guessing, since I’m so rusty), but also 150-200 pages to read! It just can’t happen. Not with this internship, which has already made me stressed beyond belief. I can’t do it. I just can’t do it all.

I’m ridiculous. I can’t keep signing up for exegesis and dropping it. Although I’m pretty sure that the Greek is completely gone, so it doesn’t hurt to put it off for that reason any more. I can’t forget any more Greek than I already have. What a relief.

But I don’t want to drop Patristic – I really like it so far. I guess I could drop Systematics, but again, I like it. I was really interested in 1 Cor today, but to be honest I did already know most of what he was saying. Since I have written two intensive research papers on religion and meals that were primarily based on Corinth (since that’s our primary source for material on those topics in the Bible), I’ve read a lot of this stuff already. I’ve already written the final paper that I would want to write for this class. So maybe I should wait and take something else…something I could learn more about, broaden my biblical knowledge beyond specialization in one book (well, two – I feel like I know Revelation really well also). I emailed my fave NT prof, asking her if she’d teach something for me later in the year. Wouldn’t that be nice? J

I dunno. Maybe I can take Sys 1 as an online class. But that would have as much work, and the goal is to lessen the work. Hmmm. I think exegesis might have to go…again. Grr. I wish I could hack it. But I can’t. Not with the internship.

So pray for me. I have five options and I have to go see the financial aid people to see which I can do for the least troubling financial outcome.

So then I ran off to Systematics, and we’re going over the syllabus, and I pull out my cd from the bookstore with the syllabus (proud that I have a laptop so I don’t have to print it out anymore), and lo and behold the wrong class has been burned onto my cd! GRRR. Then I think I’m so smart because I can just go online and download it, right? Well despite the fact that I have a wireless connection showing with no trouble, I can’t get Explorer to work. Huh? I have no idea, nor does the guy next to me, why it won’t connect.

So I am the idiot stuck here without a syllabus while everybody else has one and the prof berates those who came unprepared. But I tried so hard to be prepared!! I am so annoyed. And I basically missed the entire discussion while I fucked around with the computer, so I’m already confused and behind. Not to mention quite, quite frustrated and stressed. Plus I’ve also been fighting with J all night b/c of the stress he’s under making us both pissy. Oh, I can feel it in my shoulders. Ow.

I’m going to hit the library at break and try to see what’s up with my wireless problem. Then tomorrow I’m going to go hit someone at the bookstore, whoever sold me this faulty cd.

I’m kidding. I’m a pacifist. I’ll just yell then turn the other cheek.

But anyway, to my five options.
#1 would be to just drop the class and take a smaller load. I think this is the smartest thing to do with my current schedule demands. And since I’m in no hurry to graduate and get a job (ewww!), that would be fine with me. Unfortunately, I think if I drop below full time, I lose my entire scholarship. And the difference wouldn’t be covered by the fewer tuition dollars – I’d owe about $500. Not great. So we have to pray that fin aid will pro-rate my money or something. If they won’t then this isn’t an option.
#2 is to take an online class instead, that will count for a requirement. I remember once reading that this also would kill my scholarship, though. So not great.
#3 & 4 are to take a different class, either a 2-week intensive in November (I know, adding something like that is a bit crazy, but it’s just 2 weeks…and it would be fascinating – it’s a class on Islam) or this low-key missions class I was previously considering that is supposed to be wicked boring but would probably be really easy. Especially because it’s largely based on blogging, and hey, what am I spending my other class periods doing?
#5 would be to stick with what I’ve got. Which I think I just have to do if 3 or 4 are full. But I’m hoping that won’t happen. If it does, then I guess that’s my sign to quit whining and get on with it.

By the way, with 3-5 I would keep my scholarship – and a full class load. Which is not ideal. I’d prefer to cut to part-time at this point in my studies. If they wouldn’t keep giving me all this stupid scholarship money! (and then take it away so easily…)

I do kind of look forward to some of the later exegesis stuff being offered. There are rumors of a class with Gordon Fee being offered…that would pretty much rock. I do enjoy learning from legends. And we have a new prof coming, a reconciliation-focused African-American woman who just did a dissertation on Paul. Sounds like a plan. Either one would be cool.

Well, class is about over, so I’d best pay attention. Pray for my money to come through so I can take school at a reasonable pace!


I dropped 1 Corinthians, and I feel great about the possibility of taking Fee or the other class in winter. I'm also really happy that I signed up for the Islam class. It looks like it will be extremely informative and interesting. I attended the Sacraments seminar today, and my heart did about break, because it's just so exactly what I want to be studying. But alas, I really can't afford to keep taking classes that don't count for my degree. I'm pretty sure I'm taking Mystical Theology in spring, so I must limit myself to one extra class a year. Each one, remember, is about $1000 that doesn't count for much except a full transcript and my happy edification. But the longer I'm in school, the more debt I acrue. I realize it's "just money", but I need to be a good steward all the same. And I will have far fewer options in life if I'm saddled forever with a giant debt.

So I'll just sit in that class, probably will do the work anyway since I'll find it interesting, but get no credit. Maybe I should pick up another degree. Think they'd let me pick up a PhD?

Monday, September 25, 2006

looking to connect

Will psal625 please email me? I'd like to meet you.

Jes' Chillin

So I'm enjoying some fabu music by my friend Mike while I write my chill blog entry for today. I'm feelin extremely sleepy which is manifesting in a very centered way. Even though today's the first day of class (which was extremely enjoyable - John Thompson is a very funny man), I'm not feeling the stress at all. I think because I have no internship stuff to do until Wednesday afternoon (after 5 straight days of thinking about nothing else). Hopefully that's gonna lay off now that classes are back in session. It was a tiring couple days and I'm pretty much in a haze. But hey, that keeps me from being too wiggy today.

There's a yoga studio in an old church nearby. I think I'm going to try out this class - check the description: "A basic, relaxing class that combines easy yoga postures with heart-opening lovingkindness meditations. This class is specifically designed to facilitate profound relaxation,acceptance, presence, joy and compassion." Yeah, baby. That sounds just like the perfect thing for a Monday. Or I could go Wednesdays, since by Wednesdays I'll have finished classes for the week. How about that?

But then I go to internship. And there's homework. Yay. Hm. Mike's done and now I can't get KCRW to load. Bitch. Oh, there it is. Sounds like crap though. Bummer.

Oh, so before I get to serious stuff I should share a bit about the TV I've been watching. It's ever-so-important for you to be up on my television viewing. I'm trying to convince the world that we're having a bit of a renaissance right now. There really is a lot of great stuff out there, and with most of it on DVD, you can fit it into your schedule (and do the weekend binge thing, always fun).

Anyway, we tried out Battlestar Galactica after much prodding by many people. I have to say I wasn't that into it. Kind of a big ho-hum for me. But J has been steadily growing in enthusiasm over the days since we watched. He almost let me turn it off b/c we were both bored. Now I guess it's grown on him as he's pondered it, because he won't let me take it off the Netflix queue. Okay then. I can give it another try.

We're also hooked on Carnivale, which has an extremely slow build but I'm hoping a worthy climax. We're about 1/2 way through season 1. I was rewatching Buffy season 6 during my week of break, and I think it is probably one of if not the best season. I'm going against the grain here, but it is just really classic.

As for new shows, here is the lowdown. We loved Studio 60, but who wouldn't love a new Sorkin show, esp one about our former lives in Hollywood? And the most intriguing thing is this Evangelical Christian character on there. We thought maybe she was based on Victoria Jackson but then someone else pointed out that the storyline involving her going on 700 club actually happened to Kristin Chenowith. Since the character looks like Kristin (and that Pat Robertson subplot is hardly a coincidence), we're guessing that's the basis. But how interesting! And so far, she seems normal and nice enough. This is a very intriguing thing for Aaron to try. I love his work so much - Sports Night, West Wing - so I have really really high hopes for this show. If only it weren't on too late. I have to tape it (and last week I messed up but thankfully I could watch it online - ain't technology grand?).

Last night I taped the unfortunately titled Sisters & Brothers. Apparently it's about Calista Flockhart being a Republican talk-show host who's not a mean person (can we get any more sci-fi fantasy??) but whose family is all liberal and consists of people like Sally Field and Balthazar Getty and Rachel Griffiths, as well as a super-nice gay brother and another who's in Afghanistan in the army (that might be Getty?). It's like the whole world of issues in one extended group of adults who are supposed to be believed related even though they don't look all that alike. Anyway I haven't watched it yet but I think it has real potential as a concept. I hope it doesn't suck. I'll let you know.

Finally I have to say I was amused by 'Til Death. It actually is fairly funny for a traditional comedy. I mean, it's no Arrested Development, but TV execs apparently don't know what to do with hysterically funny stuff.

OK, enough about unimportant subjects. Although I'll fight to the death for my right to fry my brain with TV. And the stuff I watch is worth watching. I'm just going to be one of those priests who makes constant pop culture references. It's in my nature. Can't help it. Love the pop culture.

But I also love whatever other culture I can get my hands on, and I went to a cool opening the other night of an exhibit you should see if you're in town. It's a series of works by orphaned children in Malawi at the Armory Center in Pasadena. Beautiful photos and heartbreaking drawings.

Yesterday I got to hear Susan Thistlethwaite speak. She's President of Chicago Theological Seminary (and may I say they have the coolest website I've EVER seen for a school!!). She pointed us to this awesome address by one of their profs. I'm just gonna say go read it.
She was giving a talk on "Biblical Self-Defense" at all saints. Basically telling people how to respond to those who wield the bible as a weapon towards them - but respond on their terms, meaning knowing the other side scripturally. This is a difficult concept for us mainliners, who prefer our bible in easily digestible lectionary bits and mixed into liturgical prayers with no sense of chapter or book context. And she gave us a little chiding for ignoring the bible, when in fact it's a simply wonderful thing for us liberals to know. I mean, just read the thing - God is totally on our side!

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit.

Anyway, Madame President was telling us how to wrestle with Scripture instead of ignore it, how to read the bible contextually, and reminding us to read all of it, not just the bits we like (which people on both sides of any debate are guilty of doing). All stuff I know from seminary, but I'm really glad she was there to tell the laypeople about it. She did it in such a clear and understandable way. Really nice work. She mainly used a Jewish approach, which is unafraid to question the text. She said, "A lifelong love of Scripture is a lifelong argument with God." Doesn't that make us feel better about the book of Judges? :)

I think God loves our challenges - loves our arguing. I was thinking as I walked (!) to school this morning all about whether God purposely created bananas as they are (guess what my breakfast was) or if She just set some systems in motion and then saw how things turned out. Isn't it a neat idea, to think of God eagerly anticipating how the next plant or animal or star will evolve? Watching this awesome system that She's set in motion start to produce actual living things. Funny shapes and colors, powerful energy and emotions. Breath. Sex. Birth. Death. Photosynthesis. Chameleons. I mean, come on - that had to be a kick. I like to think that while there may have been an idea, and goals, perhaps some of it (and here I go heretical again) was a surprise. The way the world turned out - good and bad - a surprise. God laughing and clapping at the beauty of it all. Just read Job again - the chapters where God speaks are all about creation, and God seems as amazed as we get about it. God's proud of it but also in wonder at it, I think.

And at us, too. I hope we surprise God. In good ways, mostly. I bet when we do disappointing things it's not too much of a surprise. But we can make God laugh and clap, too.

Well anyway, I should close this up. I do want to make one advertisement, and that's for the new category of membership at All Saints' called "Solidarity Membership." Anyone, from any religion or none at all, is welcome to support their legal fund, and any amount will get you this type of membership. I think it's a totally cool way for those who agree with the principle of this freedom fight to stand behind it without necessarily aligning themselves with anything else they aren't comfortable with (Christianity, liberalism, Episcopals, etc). I hope we get lots of support from those conservative Evangelicals who put voter guides in churches and preach on the virtues of our current administration. They need this freedom more than anybody!

So if you want to participate, just visit All Saints' website, and instructions are in the 2nd paragraph under the "IRS Update" banner.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Press Conference

Yesterday I attended the press conference regarding the IRS action against All Saints. They are not going to comply with the demands of the government. And I say more power to ‘em.

It really felt like an historic moment. I was most impressed by the strong interfaith presence there, those of the Jewish and Muslim faiths standing in solidarity with all those men and women! in collars. They spoke out against what’s happened to All Saints and said that the threat against them was a threat to all people of faith, to all pulpits. One Muslim leader said that intimidation tactics “smell rotten.”

Someone asked if they felt unfairly targeted, since Evangelical Christians pretty much blatantly take credit for electing Bush, and the rector said he gets emails from people across the country, from Evangelicals, saying they can’t understand why we’re being investigated. They say, “You should have heard the sermon at my church last Sunday!” It was pretty amusing.

The thing that everyone was stressing was that this is an attack on freedom of speech and religion. Let me try to explain why. The IRS regulations only say that non-profits cannot align themselves with a particular party or candidate. But All Saints’ didn’t recommend a candidate or a party. The sermon did point out that Bush was responsible for the war in Iraq (which is pretty much a fact) and that as Christians, we are against war. In a really convoluted way, you can say that was campaigning against Bush.

But I liked the way another person put it (I think it was Bacon the rector). He said something like our religion is against terrorism of all kinds and against poverty and against war and against oppression and stands with the dispossessed, the poor, and the downtrodden. Thus, our religion speaks out and teaches about these issues, because they are at the heart of who we are – of who Jesus was. If the government muzzles the church from speaking to these issues, then they are attacking our freedom of religion. Our religion is fundamentally about these things. Without them, we are not able to do God’s work. So saying we can’t talk about them is the same as saying we can’t practice our faith.

Anyway, you can read about the press conference here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

IRS strikes ASPas again

If you haven't heard, the IRS is at All Saints' Pasadena's throat again (just in time for the election season!). You can read all about it on their website:

I recommend reading the rector's sermon from this past Sunday, "Neighbor Love is Never Neutral." But you can also read the actual letters from the IRS, and the original sermon that caused the fuss.

Even though I'm interning there I'm pretty much outside the loop on this one, so I don't have any special insider info for you. I can say what most others are saying: that if we cannot preach against war, that if we cannot use our pulpits to proclaim our morality, then we are pretty much muzzled entirely. If you can't preach against war, then you can't preach against abortion either. Or gay people. Or unjust economic policies. I suppose they'd have us all going back to the days of hellfire and brimstone preaching, because at least then, sermons had nothing to do with the here and now.

Too bad. From the prophets on to us, we are a people that seeks justice and calls our own to work towards a better world. And we can't do that unless we speak truth to power, speak out against that which we believe Jesus would stand against. Which we know our saints have stood against.

But in doing so, we must adopt Jesus' attitude of humility and self-sacrifice. We can stand up against the powers, but if they need to hurt or kill us, then so be it. As long as there are more of us waiting to speak and act, we needn't worry about our own life.

The only way there are more waiting in the wings to stand up for justice is if they have learned what is right and wrong from their church, and that happens, among other ways, through preachers who are unafraid to boldly declare the hard truths of scripture - the beautiful, all-encompassing love of God, which desires none to suffer or be left behind or left out. When we see pain and worse, cause it, we must speak against it.

As a preacher, that is what I know I have to do. So I can't blame Regas for his sermon, and I don't want the precedent set that the government can meddle in what the church teaches. This is why we had separation of church and state in the first place (which, incidentally, I think is a very good thing, for precisely this reason).

Or maybe we should all give up our tax-exempt status so that we can say whatever we want. I dunno. How would that work?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Life with Internet

You know, it's really, really hard to keep up a blog or email or life in general without constant home access to the internet. On the one hand, it should be freeing. But it's not - it's a horrible burden. This morning, we couldn't find our cord for the new laptop. It took forever to get to the library and wait for a computer so we could look up a phone number for where we thought we'd left it. Simple things like that are suddenly a whole project (not to mention you have to get dressed and walk across the street). And that's why the blog has been so sparing lately. I have no shortage of topics on which to write, I just only get 1 hour on the computers here and I spend all of that sifting through emails. I get over 50 a day. I spent my hour today unsubscribing from just about everything. Then I have no time for actually reading the important stuff.

It's crazy. I really hope once school starts I'll be able to spend more time in the lab there and there are no limits on time. So hopefully I'll be back then. Sorry I haven't written much.

Now I'm going book shopping. Hopefully I can shake off my tension and enjoy this normally pleasurable activity.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ugh, lost post

blogger lost today's post. too tired to rewrite. pray for me - internship is too much. need a break. also went to friend's mom's funeral today and that was tiring and sad. also darfur is a mess and you should check to send Bush a message about it.

later I will write again about the William Wilberforce movie but too frustrated to rewrite now.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Thoughts on an Anniversary

Today is an important anniversary of a most remarkable moment in our modern era.

100 years ago today, Mohandas Gandhi initiated the first organized non-violence movement in history. Gandhi stood up against the most powerful empire on earth - and won - by simply refusing to fight their way. He refused to accept their terms: hatred, deception, pain, violence. He chose to absorb suffering rather than inflict it.

It took a Hindu to teach Christianity its own political strategy.

Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by Gandhi and changed America. He wrote:

"We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you.

But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer.

One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory."

King understood, as many of us are beginning to understand, that there are two basic forces behind every action a person takes, two root causes of how we choose to live our lives. They are Love and Fear. Fear is behind hate, violence, self-preservation, and retribution. Love is behind suffering, forgiveness, grace, and faith.

People of faith call Love God, because we read in our scriptures that God is love, and those who abide in Love abide in God and God in them. But whether or not you call it God, you can still choose to live your life from a place of Love. The only thing that will save our world is for those of us who haven't given up hope to begin choosing to live from Love rather than Fear.

How would this look?

We would be patient. We would be kind. We would not be envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. We would not insist on our own way. We would not be irritable or resentful. We would not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoice in truth. We would bear all things...endure all things.

We would keep no record of wrongs.

Which brings me to the other anniversary we recall today, the other day in our modern era that changed the world. But that day five years ago set us on a course of Fear rather than love, and has only led the world to greater confusion, pain, apathy, cynicism, and suffering.

The Mahatma knew better than many of our Christian leaders how to respond to attack. How to react to violence and pain. How to deal with the shock and dismay and horror of such an event.

He responded with Love.

We have tried Fear for five years and things are not any better.

May I humbly suggest we try Loving our enemies.

100 years ago today, the world changed when one man made such a suggestion. It changed when William Wilberforce chose Love and abolished slavery in the greatest empire on earth. It changed when King marched and went to jail and was beaten and refused, refused, refused to fight back with anything but Love. It changed when women went on hunger strike in jail and won the vote.

I know it offends our sense of justice and dignity. I know it seems naive. But it has worked. We have historical proof. When people absorb the world's suffering instead of lashing out with it, others have no choice but to marvel at the great power of Love. And then they change too.

But the only way to have the strength to do this is to stand together and to draw upon our higher power, whatever we may call it. Do not try to do it alone. You will end up cynical or disillusioned or angry. But if you draw upon the Higher Love, you will find reserves of strength and grace and even joy that you never knew possible.

We can all make a difference. We can vote. We can write. We can stand vigil. We can read and study and become informed. We can buy fair trade goods. We can turn off the air conditioner. We can drive less. We can ask Starbucks if our latte is made with fair trade coffee, and if not, why not? (can you imagine if we got Starbucks changed!) We can shop at Costco instead of WalMart. We can patronize unionized hotels. We can visit those in prison to let them know they are not forgotten. We can support our local farmers, buying their produce.

Sure, it may cost us more money to live this way. You know what? We can afford it. And the world cannot afford for us not to.

But the most important thing we can do, regardless of how we shop or eat or spend our time, is for each one of us to decide in our hearts that we will live from Love and not Fear. That we will support those in power who choose the way of Love over Fear. That we will not let them scare us any more. That we will not allow our own desire for safety, health, and happiness to override our compassion for other people just like us. We must choose the way of Love or our world will continue falling apart.

Each of us will find our own path to Love, and our own way to express it in the world. But let me urge you to draw upon Love from a higher power, and from those around you. Jim Wallis says that the two great hungers in our world today are for justice and spirituality. I believe he is right. And we must have the two together for either to work properly.

So I encourage you, as you ponder the way your life changed five years ago today, to ponder also the way the world changed 100 years ago today. To consider whether there may be another way to move forward. To consider the way of Love.

It still hurts. And we may not ever forget, and we probably should not. But we can choose how we react. And we have seen that Fear does not make things any better, for ourselves personally or for our nation or for the world.

But I have a secret to share with you. It is very good news.

Perfect Love casts out Fear.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Politics & Spirituality Conference

Just a reminder that I'll be at the conference in Pasadena all weekend. My nametag should say "Feminary" so look for me & say hello! If nothing else, I'm ushering at the Thomas Mass on Sunday, so find me there. I'm blonde with a bad haircut (just got it, thank you very much) and 5'7". I'll probably wear my various political statement t-shirts.

Looking forward to meeting new people! I'll blog as I can about the event for those of you who can't make it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

On Second Thought...Lewis the Universalist?

So it turns out I may have been unfair to ol’ Clive Staples in my universalism paper. I just finished The Great Divorce – quite a wonderful little book, an easy afternoon read (I recommend by the pool, tho sober, for it is quite advanced prose) – and towards the end he seems to have changed his mind about universalism. Or at least, he admits that Paul was a universalist (and George MacDonald, which if you know Lewis’s story, you know that’s an important influence). In the end he seems to say that one cannot say for sure either way, but that from the vantage point of humanity (in Time), we could not understand universalism fully. But he seems to want to say that it will be so in the end, which would put him in the optimistic camp. His caveat is that humans, in Time, cannot release the idea of our Freedom. Yet once we are out of our body and the timeline of history, we will perhaps have a different perspective on Freedom, and in fact see the possibility of universalism as not conflicting with our personality at all. This is not possible while stuck in human form.

Hmmmm….he’s sounding a bit Gnostic, isn’t he? And in fact, he’s quite Platonic, in that he writes about our Immortal Souls standing around watching our human selves act out our lives in time. Yes, Lewis was extremely smart and a wonderful writer, but I can’t go with these notions. I’m pretty much an open theist, and I do believe God is in time, and I don’t believe the Bible supports an immortal soul for all (immortality is a gift from God, not an inborn quality). So I depart from Lewis on several points.

But I did want to say (and I wish I’d been able to include this in the paper) that Lewis seems to have tempered his ideas from The Problem of Pain in his later years (it was published 6 years prior to Divorce), and seems to be saying that universalism is a possibility, just not one that we can comprehend in our current state (or at least he couldn't comprehend it).

One other thing - keep a lookout for Mel White, on a book tour coming to a town near you. He's in LA Sept 18. Since I didn't make the Equality Ride events (or rather was barred from attending them), I plan to try to get to this.