Micah 6:8

"...do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

Friday, October 31, 2008


I am a self diagnosed Christophrenic. It's kind of like being schizophrenic, except that the source (or maybe just the subject matter) of my confusion and delusion is the Christian Church. Specifically the American Christian Church. Somehow this powerful institution has managed to convince me to hold two opposing beliefs and cling to them simultaneously as truth, even though one seems to negate the other. So I walk around everyday unsure of what is real and what is imagined. Or maybe I just lack the courage to decide. In any case, my condition has left me tired, confused, and wondering who I really am and what Jesus really wants from us. Here are the two opposing beliefs:

Belief One
1. Because the church's mission is to bring as many people as possible into relationship with Christ, we must use every technique available to attract people to the church. If cool spaces, high quality video, great music, professional marketing etc. is what gets people to come, then we should unapologetically spend money on those things and do whatever it takes to attract people to Jesus. And it makes sense that tastes in more affluent areas are more expensive, so that means that doing church will cost more in those areas and that's okay. Eventually the people who come to church will be transformed by the message of Jesus and we will teach them to help the poor, but if they are not attracted to the church in the first place, then they will never hear the message, so there's no reason to give up part of what we're doing in our church in order to help the poor, because we are already missional and in the long run we will get more people to help the poor this way. The highest call of the Church is to help people with personal salvation, not to do social gospel work.

Belief Two

2. The church is primarily about calling people to follow Jesus and join a community of believers in a new way of life that expands their definition of family and shatters their ideas of ownership. What Jesus asked his followers to do is to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth, which looks totally different from the prevailing culture of greed, selfishness, and ambition. Christ-followers are the ones courageous enough to stand up for the poor, the neglected, and the hated. They are a community of sacrifice who share in a way that eliminates poverty among them and works with the logic of the upside-down kingdom. They are a peculiar people who seek to give up everything in order to find what is really valuable. It is a narrow road and not everyone will choose it, but there is no option to make the road wider and more comfortable. The highest call of the Church is to ask people to join "the Way" -- this way of life that is an expression of God's Will being done of earth as it is in heaven.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I love My Kids! And I want great things for them.

Rick and I don't have any children of our own yet, but the three kids in this picture: Musa, Little Rick, and Dollar (pronounced Doe - la) are just like family to us. I love these guys! Last night we celebrated Musa's 9th birthday. I can't believe it's been five and a half years since we first met them. Back then Dollar was in diapers and little Rick wasn't even born.

On Monday I stopped at their house to visit and Dollar asked me, "Who are you going to vote for President? Obama or THE John McCain." I told her to guess. She said, "I know, THE John McCain." (I'm not sure why she added "THE" to his name.)

"Nope," I said. "I'm voting for Obama." She frowned at me. "Hey, but you're white!" she said. I laughed a little bit at her response, but it made me sad. Dollar and I have been like family for five and a half years, white and black together. I love her like my own daughter, and yet somehow she has still managed to learn that white and black don't mix. That white people have reservations about choosing a black candidate. Dollar lives in Wheaton in a low income housing complex, but I'm sure that many of the kids in her Wheaton school come from affluent, white, evangelical homes. They are having a mock election at her school, so maybe she just noticed that most of the white kids (reflecting their parent's values) are voting for THE John McCain, and assumed that's what all white people will do. I tried to explain to Dollar that I was voting for Obama because I like his ideas, and that I would never vote for someone just because of the color of his or her skin. And I told her that I like and love lots of black people, her included. And I gave her a big squeeze and a kiss before she wiggled away to go play. I'm not sure she understood what I was saying. She's only in second grade. (Though old enough to pick up on racial divides that this election is bringing to the surface.)

For so many reasons, but especially for Dollar's sake, (and kids like her) I really hope that Obama wins next week. I hope that black kids all across this country have the opportunity to learn something new about what is possible for them. I hope they have the chance to hear white people saying how proud they are of our new President, who happens to be black. I hope we get the chance to change Dollar's mind about white people and how they behave. That we get a chance to repent of our broken history and start a new chapter.

Dollar is from a people group in Somalia that has been mistreated, put down, labeled, and abused for centuries. She came to the US with her family to find refuge from that kind of treatment. I desperately want her to find REAL equality here. I want her to know her own worth and value. I want her to know, not only that this white woman loves her like crazy and thinks she is totally amazing, but that white people in general respect and admire our black brothers and sisters.

Dollar also comes from a Muslim household and knows that "Muslim" has been used like an insult against Obama (though he is, in fact, a Christian.) I also want her to know, not only that this Christian woman loves that spunky, joyful, Muslim little girl, but that Christians in general love and respect our Muslim brothers and sisters.

I dream of the day when that's what Dollar experiences at school and in her neighborhood. It's time we started a new story in America, so that ALL our kids can have an equal chance at greatness.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hurt Feelings

Today I hurt someone's feelings by speaking out. I can't share all the details but it involved challenging an organization this person was inviting me to get involved with -- an organization that portends to be an interfaith peace group, but was started by a very controversial "church" which has a leader who has written his own version of scripture, claims to be the Messiah and also claims to be able to communicate with the dead and to have produced sinless children. Their main goal is to create one world religion and one world government under the leadership of their leader. (Hmm, that sounds familiar from an earlier post.) I also had to warn some of my colleagues about the organization because they had been contacted by the same person with the same invitation.

The person who invited me is very sweet and soft spoken and seems very innocent. I know that I embarrassed her by revealing the information. I tried to be firm, but gentle. But there wasn't any way that I could have said nothing. I know that now she thinks I am just judgemental and intolerant of her religion. I know that she deeply and sincerely believes in the goodness of the organization and it's mission. She says there is no agenda of conversion, but I find that very difficult to believe. I felt the need to protect those around me from what many people consider a cult. She said, "Couldn't people just come and see and decide for themselves?" It's a very rational question, I suppose...if it wasn't for the context.

I still feel shakey from the experience. I don't know if she will ever come and talk to me again. I hope she will. I don't like the feeling of someone thinking that I might be against religious freedom or interfaith movements. I am certainly not. But I am against any church that concentrates authority in one powerful leader who rewrites scripture and claims to be the Messiah. Religions are so crazy. And people are so hungry for some kind of meaning and some kind of answer. That's why churches have to be so careful about how they lead and teach. The vulnerable are easily swayed, for good or for bad. People in churches need to think for themselves, no matter how good the Pastor is. I hope the little lamb I met today can listen for the voice of the Shepherd rising above the sound of wolves. I hope I can too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Bible tells me so.

Our Bible doesn't say, "God Bless America." Our Bible says, "God so loved the WORLD."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Christians make me so mad!

If one more Christian declares, hints, or wonders out loud or over email to me about how Obama may in fact be the antichrist, I think my head will explode or I will tatoo the words "Christian No More" on my forehead or I will move to Kenya and never come back. Just in case you have been the recipient of these ridiculous rumors (as I have many times now), here is a good response my husband wrote recently to help a friend know how to answer:

Hey Kevin, yeah, on behalf of christendom I sincerely apologize that you had to be subjected to that level of ignorance. It's not necessarily that persons fault... they just aren't well informed and have fallen prey to some pretty radical people who have gone to great lengths to try to prop up this level of extremism. There's a good website that defends rumors against Obama from Christian Perspective called "Put Away Falsehood" based on a verse in Ephesians that warns against this very type of false teaching or rumor mongering (www.putawayfalsehood.com)

Unfortunately they haven't articulated a direct response to this most extreme, yet surprisingly common rumor about Obama (I've heard it many times). My first response to anyone who says this would be to ask them not only WHY they think Obama is the antichrist, but what they think the antichrist actually is and whether they even know what the bible says about the anti-christ.

The Bible only contains four direct references to the "antichrist" (in the most common translations) and NONE of them have anything whatsoever to do with why this rumor is being spread around (though, as previously mentioned, the Bible has plenty to say about how wrong it is to pass judgment on others and spread rumors/gossip). All four of the references to the antichrist in the Bible simply talk about someone who denies Christ, preaches against him or says that he is not the son of God. That's it. Period.

Chances are that this person either read one or more of the radical, right-wing, christian propaganda books in the "Left Behind" series or heard this rumor from someone who had. Unfortunately these books have been read by millions of Christians. They're terribly judgmental, divisive and exclusionary books that the world would be far better without. In those books, they develop a character who is the anti-christ which is loosely based on the allegorical "Beast" in Revelations. Without any real biblical basis, the "Left Behind" books create an antichrist character that is a charasmatic political leader trying to consolodate his power by uniting the world into a single community under a single leader & single radical religion. A pretty far stretch from the 10-headed "beast" in Revelations who marks people w/ 666. Along the way, the Obama/antichrist rumor has picked up some stuff about him being a muslim and in my mind the rumor would simply have NEVER gotten to the point that it has if Obama were white. This antichrist rumor has strong, strong racial overtones to it.

So BOTTOM LINE is that there is nothing in the Bible WHATSOEVER to point to any similarities between Obama and what the Bible says is the anti-christ. The concept of the anti-christ in the bible is specifically aimed at false prophets/preachers who deny the incarnation or divinity of Jesus. Obama has NEVER done any such thing--In fact he has explicitly, repeatedly and consistently done the opposite. In both of his books, he directly acknowledges that he believes Jesus is Lord. In fact he has acknowledged this belief far more often and more directly than John McCain has. It is an undisputed fact that until very recently many christians were unhappy with and did not support John McCain precisely because he has typically refused to talk about his Faith and most believe that he (McCain) is not a very spiritual person... which is to say that he does not appear to know much of anything about the Bible when asked, has not cited examples of prayer being a meaningful part of his life since he was in a POW camp, and appears to know very little about the tenants of the denomination that he identifies himself with...

Anyway, I obviously could go on and on, but as you already knew when you texted me, this rumor is nothing short of crazy talk. But it is worth pointing out to anyone who espouses such views or shares a concern about it, that it is simply IMPOSSIBLE to support such a view from a Biblical standpoint. So if Christians want to argue against the Bible and why the only author to ever mention the antichrist (John) was wrong in his description of the anti-christ... or how Obama corresponds with the 10-horned/7-headed beast/dragon/leapord/bear with ten crowns who has "called down fire from heaven to earth in full view of men" (from Revelations)... then I suppose they're entitled to try to connect such disparate dots.

I know that's A LOT of stuff. But unfortunately, while there's little or nothing to support this rumor, it'd take ages to point out all of the many ways in which those who believe this rumor have been misled or fooled into believing this non-sense.

Hope this helps a little.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Negative Campaign Attacks are Hurting All of Us.

As each day gets us closer to the election I find myself feeling angrier and angrier and sometimes I don't even know how to feel about my friends and family members and fellow church goers who plan to vote differently than I do. The intensity of the rhetoric on television and in the newspapers and ridiculous email fowards has me in a constant state of agitation. I feel so strongly about my choice for President that I find myself thinking that the outcome of the election could change the way I feel about the friends I have who disagree with me. I realize this is not healthy or appropriate. But in my mind the choice is so crystal clear, so black and white, so right guy/wrong guy, that I find it difficult to imagine how people who seem to have similar values as I do could come to such different conclusions. And I'm sure people on the other side feel the same way about me. I am trying hard to control my emotions and to be reasonable, but the recent negative attack ads are making it very difficult. And of course we all say we don't want that kind of campaign, but even so we pay attention to those ads and they sway us. Politicians know they work and so they use every weapon at their disposal. If the negative ads didn't work on us, they wouldn't use them. If being kind and respectful and honest was what won votes, then all politicians would do that. But the divide and conquer method seems to work best as a strategy, and so here we are divided, angry, and hating those who disagree with us more than ever. Not exactly a great way to run a country. If we feel that way across political lines in our own country, how are we supposed to handle foreign relations across cultural lines. This is dangerous stuff. In my mind the negative stuff has been a lot heavier on one side than the other. But if you're voting on the other side, you probably think your guy has the cleaner hands. I'm not talking about SNL skits and stuff like that, I'm talking about stuff coming straight out of the campaigns themselves. Stuff like Palin accusing Obama of "paling around with terrorists" and trying to drag Jeremiah Wright back into the picture because they know how much that angry black pastor scares old white people. I think it's kind of funny how people can claim that Obama is a secret Muslim and at the same time tie him to a controversial Christian Pastor. Which is it? You can only pick one. Okay, so now I have revealed my view (if you didn't know already.) Maybe you're on the other side and have gotten your own earful of false negative stuff about your candidate too. The other day I saw an email forward from a friend that said she wouldn't vote for Obama because he's a secret Muslim and possibly the anti-christ. When I see stuff like that I feel like my head is going to explode. It makes me so angry! I don't think the negative stuff about McCain has been quite that insane, but maybe I'm wrong. If you want to read about some Christians who have responded to the falsehoods spoken about Obama check out http://www.matthew25.org/

If you have anything you think is helpful in despelling false rumors about McCain, let me know.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fall Reflections

It's chilly this morning and the change in temperature makes my joints ache. Makes me feel older than I am. It's cloudy and the lack of sunlight coming through my bedroom windows made it harder to get out of bed. Today I feel like hibernating. Staying inside under the covers with a good book and a cup of cocoa. There is something about fall that makes me start to reflect on life in a different way. Maybe because another Thanksgiving and Christmas is coming and I still don't have any babies of my own to share the season with, and I still don't have a book of my own on any shelf. Or maybe because I always get this urge in the fall to re-read all my Madeleine L'Engle books. Especially the books about family: the Austins and O'Keefes.

More and more I have a longing for family. And more and more a longing to write. But somehow I don't quite believe that either of those things will ever really be possible for me now. I'm not sure why I have this dread feeling. I just do. There is a heaviness in my chest that won't go away. Maybe I am just impatient. But life is passing by so quickly and there is part of me that is afraid that we've already put things off too long. Maybe it's just because my birthday is coming next month and I just never imagined reaching this number and not having a baby and a book and I don't have either. Or maybe it's because it seems like all the people we know who got married around the time we did already have babies (some have two or three) and I feel a little left out of the club.

Don't get me wrong, I have a great life. I have a fulfilling, meaningful job and a terrific marriage. I have significant relationships in my church and my community. I have had amazing opportunities to travel and to participate fully in life. I am healthy. Nothing is really wrong. It's just that fall has this pull on me and reminds me where the empty places are and makes them harder to forget. Fall makes it harder for me to leave the house, harder to push forward, harder to be okay with things as they are. It's strange, because I love fall. I might even say it's my favorite season. I like cool weather and contemplation. I like cocoa and the leaves. But I really wish I had a child to take to the apple orchard, to get a halloween costume for, to snuggle up and read to. Fall esepcially feels like family time. And I feel left out.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Big Two: Why Jesus could never win a presidential election.

His platform on the Economy would be considered naive and impractical:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also....No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
-Matthew 6:19-21 & 24-25

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." - Mark 10:21

His platform on national security would be considered dangerous:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 6:43-44

"Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High."- Luke 6:35

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
-Matthew 5:38-39