Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Spiritual Journal Entry #3

This week we did Martin Luther's Four-Stranded Garland, and it really works for me. But I was deeply and profoundly disappointed with how the Confession strand was handled. I know that at least one student in the class went into a total emotional shutdown when the word was mentioned, and the instructors did not adequately explain the role of that strand; the student in question never did re-engage that afternoon.

In addition, another student asked about this whole "why do we have to believe that we are dirty and need to be cleaned" b/c she is not from a Christian background and I think the instructors did a poor job of explaining that point as well. It felt like the instructors could not even understand the question b/c they are so Christian-focused. Perhaps they need a refresher on the meaning of the words interfaith and ecumenism? But back to the point... the Four-Stranded Garland practice does work for me. I need to devote more time to trying it for real some day on my own!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Death-Penalty Hypocrisy: Part Two




WHAT IS PHILIP YELLING ABOUT NOW? His name was Derrick Mason and he was a cold-blooded killer who forced a woman to strip her clothes off so that he could look at her titillating features just before he shot her in the face. Clearly, he deserved to die. Ooopsie... I thought you were opposed to the death-penalty?

People on the political far-left have, for years, tried to guilt-trip me into supporting a moral outrage against the death penalty. As if I am not fully capable of reaching my own moral conclusions about the value of every human life, as I learned from my personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

I am a white man from the South, folks: I grew up in the part of the country where the vast majority of state-sponsored killing occurs and I know for a fact that it is applied capriciously and racist-ly. Please stop insulting my intelligence by trying to teach me something I already know. Turn the mirror back on your own face and ask yourself this: why you weren't holding a prayer vigil in the PSR Chapel this week for the white-supremacist in Texas, or the black man in Alabama who openly admitted that he was guilty? I am so tired of knee-jerk politics from both the right-wingers and from arrogant holier-than-thou left-wingers. You make a lie of the values you claim to hold by applying them capriciously, and this makes you no better than the right-wingers. Stop doing the Republicans' work for them by engaging in Republican-style moral hypocrisy.

I have spent much of my adult life, since moving to California almost 23 years ago, shouting against the Republican hate-mongering shit-machine... and yet, my siblings on the far-left make it hard for me to stand with you this week. C'mon folks, throw me a frickin' bone here. Grow a spine and stop acting like a bunch of vapid celebrity-groupie armchair-quarterbacking moral police. If you identify as liberal or radical Christians then stand up and admit to your own moral epic-fail this week. Express regret for the opportunity you squandered this week to make a powerful Christian statement against the death penalty.

Let's review:

This week there were three state-sponsored killings in three states in the Bible Belt.
This week those three states killed one white supremacist and two black men.
This week Texas and Alabama killed two men whose cases were [legally] air-tight.
This week Georgia killed one man who might have been innocent.

I pray that radical-left Christians will ask themselves one core question: if Jesus were presented with three state-sponsored killings in a two-day period across three states that are socially dominated by people who claim to follow His teachings, what would Jesus have done?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Death-Penalty Hypocrisy

Note that in this post I am totally skirting any admission of where I stand on the issue. The point of this post is not to place my beliefs up for public scrutiny or discussion; my point is to extend the argument on the death penalty and to perhaps educate some folks so they examine their own position more consciously.

People who oppose the death penalty will mark Wednesday 9/21/2011 as the latest in the long line of state-sponsored killing in American history. But did you know that two people were killed in state-sponsored killings here yesterday? Or were you so focused on what appears to be another blatantly racist application of the death penalty in the South that you totally ignored the other state-sponsored killing, which also occurred in the Bible Belt and which was the direct outcome of race-hatred?

Everyone is on the "Troy Davis bandwagon" and folks on that bandwagon have been making some powerful moral arguments. What bothers me personally about this is that everyone is going on and on about the "wrongness of the death penalty" with regard to a possibly innocent black man... and nobody seems to have even heard of a man named Lawrence Brewer. I HAVE NOT HEARD ONE PEEP OF PROTEST AGAINST THE EXECUTION OF AN AVOWED RACIST PROUD-TO-BE-KKK WHITE MAN WHO WAS EXECUTED IN TEXAS ON THE SAME DAY.

So, let's review: do we actually oppose the death penalty, really? Or do we only oppose it when it is being applied in such a heinous way like with Troy Davis? I saw a protest sign equating the execution of Troy Davis with lynching -- equating the execution of a black man with lynching since it seems quite clear that something was fundamentally wrong with the state of Georgia's case against him. I get it.

I'm a white Southerner; believe me I get it.

But, are we protesting the execution of Troy Davis because it was a vile and disgusting racist miscarriage of justice, or because we think that state-sponsored killing is wrong? And for that matter, here's my challenge question: is there a middle-ground with the death penalty? Is it possible to maintain moral outrage against the death penalty in all cases "but"? Yaknow, all cases "but" those cases where we define the criminal act as deserving of death? And how is such a position any morally different than stating something like "I oppose abortion in all cases but when the mother's life is at risk?" 

I would think when it comes to human life that the argument becomes a binary: either we are against the death penalty or we are not. Period. If we want to say that the death penalty is morally unacceptable then WHY WERE WE NOT PROTESTING AGAINST THE EXECUTION OF THE RACIST WHITE MURDERER AS WELL? Do we oppose the death penalty only when it is the latest Cause Célèbre or when it is being applied in such an obviously unjust and racist way?

My opinion is that if we OPPOSE the death penalty then we OPPOSE it. Period.
It's not a gradation of morality, is it?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Spiritual Journal Entry #2

What a day this was in class. Today in small group, we did not even get to the scheduled "spiritual practice" example, because my group contains eight beautiful personalities that are experiencing the glory and the agony of spiritual growth that occurs when stepping forward to serve the Savior. I have no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit is working through these beautiful people... it's just odd to realize that there are ways in which God is making things easy for me by comparison to other people. The oddest part is that I am so committed to my lovingkindness and desire to support my fellow seminarian pilgrims that I have not shared much with them... about my father's health, about the miasma of my parents' marriage, about my tremendous sense of impending financial doom, etc etc etc. Maybe I will need to work on that?

But for now, what was amazing about today's praxis was that we held each other's pain, loved each other, and nobody was left alone in their struggles. We could do a lot worse with our spiritual practices.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Spiritual Journal Entry #1

Over the next few weeks, I will be keeping a spirit-journal for one of my MDiv classes. There will (hopefully) be other entries in my blog besides these journal entries... but we'll see how the Holy Spirit and my schedule end up interacting with each other!

My first reaction when this class began was... simply... oh shit, that woman who attacked me in last semester's reflection session is in this class. I'll show her: I'll use my newfound loving connections with my fellow first-year MDiv students to isolate her. How messed up is that shit? But the simple reality is that even though her misplaced anti-male hostility toward me was very real, I do not wish her ill. In fact, I feel pity for her: the more I hear about how many people on campus dislike her, the more I wish I could get along with her. I just don't know how. This came into my mind when we were doing our "group share" and she mentioned something I thought was very sweet. While the class was doing its prayerful meditation, lifting up each student's "share," I felt a genuine desire/hope for reconciliation. I have no idea what form it will take, or whether it will even come to pass. But what I do know is that I placed the intent out there as an outgrowth from today's meditative practice.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Best Film I've Seen In Years

It's a veritable classic. It has the:
  • Sensibility of Monty Python
  • Pathos of Les Miserables
  • Squick of Event Horizon...
And it even features lots of boobies and a gun. Seriously.

Check out my friend Sarah Thompson's new film. It is called The Truth About Zombies and you can view it for free on Sarah's YouTube Channel -- spread the word about this film. Show some love to The Sarah!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Orientation Week

What a week this has been. I was remarking earlier today to a seminary friend that history will record something miraculous: in the week before Labor Day 2011, I will have attended church five times. That's right, five times in one week: two Pentecostal gospel services, a standard mainline Protestant MCC-ish service, a Taizé service, and a nearly indescribable service called Awaken that was designed by three second-year MDiv classmates. More on the impact of Awaken, later.

And I gotta tell ya... it works for me. I find that the more time I spend in "church mode," the more normal it feels. And the more time I want to spend in church mode. God has truly worked miracles in me this week; I know now, clear as day, that the Holy Spirit has been fixing the cracks in this broken vessel from inside... and the Spirit has even been fixing cracks I didn't know I had. Δόξα εν υψίστοις Θεώ!

I just re-read the last entry I uploaded to this blog before orientation began; I got chills from its prescience. A new truth has appeared... seven months ago my friend Gina and I put forth the thought that PSR wouldn't know what had hit it this fall when we started our core MDiv studies; this remains true. However, I had tacitly made the assumption that Gina and I would be prime-movers in such a shift; I am now convinced that God had even greater things planned all along:

The bottom-line is that God has drawn a staggeringly beautiful group of people to PSR in order to begin their studies this fall. I do not even know where to begin; there were honestly only one or two new students at the entire orientation who gave me that not-so-fresh feeling and even those few people did not trigger the kind of ickies that were triggered in me by some of the students I met last year. There are two guys on whom I have a crush that will never go anywhere because they are straight, and there is another guy on whom I have a crush that will likely never go anywhere because even though he is gay he is also like 25 years old... and yet, this is all perfectly fine because I just do not know how I would have the time or the emotional bandwidth for a relationship at this point:

A core reason is that my Sobriety Ministry at COR-SF will start in less than two weeks, and also because the Holy Spirit has moved me to work with Gina to design a new series of worship services following in the lead of what my now-second-year MDiv classmates have done with their Awaken service design. This series of services will operate under the name Reconciliation... styled in the Greek as ΣΥΝΔΙΑΛΛΑΓΉ (Sūndēăllăghé)... and whose tag-line is Giving Voice To The Silenced.

God is most definitely still speaking. AMHN.