My daughter, Sarah, showed me this video. It confirms the suspicions I published in Let's All Be Friends. After the last couple of "heavy" posts I thought I should share something sweet, light and romantic.
Yesterday I called on Muslims to reject the evil in their ranks. Now I must do likewise for a group of so-called Christians.
Today I came across info about Westboro Baptist Church. They claim America is being punished for allowing homosexuality. They applaud the fact that America's soldiers are killed and maimed because it shows God's judgment on America. They like to protest at the funerals of American soldiers. Last year after one such protest the soldier's father sued the church and won. The jury awarded him $11 million.
Westboro Baptist Church is hateful and mean. This is not what Jesus preached. He told us God loves us. He called us to love God and love people. The people of Westboro grossly violate Jesus' direct commands and the entire spirit of his ministry. Jesus surrounded himself with "sinners." He never condemned a single prostitute though he knew many. He never condemned cheating, evil tax collectors although he had plenty of opportunity. He only condemned one group during his ministry -- hypocritical and mean religious leaders.
People of Westboro, do you read your Bible? Have you looked at Matthew 23 or the "sinful" woman in Luke 7:36 or the woman caught in adultery at the beginning of John 8? Have you noticed that Jesus' genealogy in Matthew 1 includes many people who participated in all sorts of deviant sexual behavior? Have you checked out the grossly-less-than-perfect lives of Lot and Samson and many others included in the list of heroes of faith in Hebrews 11?
Westboro is absolutely wrong. Bruce Willis has a great line in "Sin City" that applies here: "There is wrong, then there is wrong and then there is this." The people of Westboro make me as sick as the rape injustice I wrote about yesterday. Calling themselves Christian makes it so much worse. If all God hits Westboro with is an $11 million judgment and resultant bankruptcy they should consider themselves blessed recipients of his grace.
I want to call down fire from heaven on Westboro, but that would lower me to their level. God loves them just like he loves the evil Saudi judge and everyone else. I pray the people of Westboro really get to know the God they claim to worship and become acquainted with his love and grace before it's too late.
The BBC carried this story Friday. A Saudi woman was raped and punished with 200 lashes. This is Saudi Arabia -- not Afghanistan, not Iran, not Iraq, not Syria. This is sick. Followers of Islam please explain why I should not be sickened by your religion. Is this against the Koran? Where is the compassion of Allah? Why do the Saudis do stuff like this? Where is the "moderate" Islamic outcry?
I know Christianity has its evils too. I reject them. I've so spoken and written many times. I invite followers of "the most beautiful way" to similarly reject such barbarism done in the land of Muhammad.
I spent many years avoiding alcoholic drinks. Much of my Christian input indicated they were evil. I've held a more relaxed view for many years now. I realize they still can be abused with some very bad consequences, but they are not inherently evil. They can be very good.
For Thanksgiving we bought some spiked eggnog at Costco. I enjoyed it a lot, but I didn't drink as much as these guys did.
I haven't blogged much in the last couple of weeks. I've been working on our Quartz Hill School of Theology website. Some of what I did was not very visible -- just file maintenance and clean-up. I did change the navigation frame a bit. I also added a link to professor blog feeds on the main page.
As I mention in Remastered, I become much more peaceful with who I am and what my church is. This doesn't mean it's always easy.
I also mentioned that I'm treasurer and we are struggling. Last night I did the week's finances. We, as a church are as bad off financially as we've ever been since I was treasurer. We are behind on our bills. We won't be able to pay our pastor (Don) this week. It's very depressing.
Don has repeatedly advised me to not take it personally. He's right. Still, it's hard not to. Last night I felt very depressed. Just writing this is making me feel bad again.
Part of the problem is I wish I could personally do more. However, my personal finances are very tight. That only adds to the pressure.
Despite my depression, I actually had a good night last night. My wife, Carolina, and I spent some good time together last night and have been doing a bit more of that recently. That was encouraging. There's more to life than money.
Church life has been good outside of finances. That too encourages me.
Finally, there is a real sense I'm glad I'm depressed about the church finances. I can disassociate very easily and not care about stuff and people like I should. I'm glad to see I'm only human. God doesn't call us to be super-human, only humans that follow him.
I am different. My church is different. Today I'm a lot more at peace with that that I was even a month ago.
I've long been leading the church movement away from evangelism. I've felt enough hurt and rejection that I'd rather just stay in my shell and hide behind my walls. I'm happy that I've found a church that accepts (or at least tolerates) me.
For about a year now our church has been in almost constant financial crisis. We've paid the bills but we often have no money to spare and are often a bit behind. I'm the treasurer. I deal with it often.
As treasurer this has often caused me to think about solutions. If we don't have enough income, we need to reduce our expenditures. Unfortunately there is not really any excess spending. We can turn off lights better and try not to overuse the air conditioning, but these are really minor improvements. We still need to pay the mortgage and property tax and pastor's salary.
One radical solution would be to sell some property and fully commit to the idea of little or no future growth. I realized this and actually considered it as a solution for a while. I mean, if God is calling us to stay where we are, why not fully follow his calling? Many at church are like me -- they don't reach out.
The more I've thought of this the more I realize it's the wrong solution. God does not call us to hide in a box (or a church) and tend to ourselves. God has used this radical "final solution" to open me up to the only real solution for our budget crisis. We won't solve our problem by ignoring it and hoping it goes away or hoping a church member wins the lottery. Yes we need to pray and trust God. But we also need to change what we are doing. Specifically we need to reach out to our community.
Duh! Still, it's hard to describe how much I'm naturally against that idea. And, as I said, I think a lot of my church has fallen into the same mentality. What's cool is I'm now open to it.
I want to be clear: we do not reach out just so we can have more money. That's not what I'm saying at all. The financial crisis just highlights our real problem. We need to reach out because it's right and correct.
I've always viewed evangelism as sales. I need to become a pushy salesman hawking my wares door to door. I always fail because I'm not pushy like that. Furthermore I'm weird and once people figure out I'm weird they stay away.
What I'm finally comfortable with is that I'm not called to convince people. I am not called to be a salesman. There will be lots of people who don't like me or our church (at least not enough to attend). If, however, we are following God, if our church is his work, then there must be people God wants at our church. All we need to do is make ourselves known. Not sell ourselves. Not participate in a big sales campaign. Just inform people.
I like informing people. I passed out fliers for our Harvest Day (Halloween) party. I enjoyed it. I was at peace with it. I haven't done anything like it in a long time, and whenever I did I was not very happy doing it. This was much better. I still got nervous and got tired of walking around. I was glad to be done. But I was also glad to be doing it and want to do more of the same.
We don't need to all become salesman. We do need to let people know. If we let them know and they reject us, so be it. If everyone rejects us and we die in spite of our best efforts, then God is done with our church anyway and must have a different plan for us.
It feels like God has "remastered" me -- completely changed a part of me. I believe and hope he has. However, I know me. I'm sure many times I will want to crawl back into my shell. I won't always feel good about this. This blog will help remind me of the right thing to do.
I am a computer and science nerd who is athletic and likes sports. I am also a Christian, which to me means I believe in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah who came to rescue mankind. I believe in the Bible. I find, however, serious problems with a lot of what is called Christianity and many people who claim to believe the Bible are just pure whack jobs. I take the famous John 3:16 seriously -- God really does love us -- and do not appreciate people who cram it down the throats of others and thus violate directly what it is saying.