Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What Christians SHOULD be doing in Indiana and beyond

I share below a "Letter to the People of Indiana from Jesus" from the website of of John Pavlovitz. It's for any Christian or anyone wishing to understand what Christianity means to many of us.


Dear Christians In Indiana (and those elsewhere, who might read this),

I’ve seen what’s been going on there lately. Actually, I’ve been watching you all along and I really need to let you know something, just in case you misunderstand:

This isn’t what I had planned.

This wasn’t the Church I set the table for.

It wasn’t the dream I had for you, when I spoke in those parables about the Kingdom; about my Kingdom.

It was all supposed to be so very different.

It was supposed to be a pervasive, beautiful, relentless “yeast in the dough” that permeated the planet; an unstoppable virus of compassion and mercy spread person-to-person, not needing government or law or force.

It was supposed to be that smallest, seemingly most insignificant of seeds, exploding steadily and gloriously with the realized potential of my sacred presence, becoming a place of safety and shelter for all people.

It was supposed to be something so very precious, such an obvious, invaluable treasure, that it would make all those who discovered and experienced it, feel like it was worth selling everything they had to hold onto it.

It was supposed to be my very body, here in your very flesh.
You were designed to do this, to be this.

My kindness, my goodness, my forgiveness; you were created to be the method of transportation for all of it.

You were made to deliver the greatest good news to a world so desperate for it.
This wild, extravagant, world-altering love I have for my people, was intended to travel from my aching heart, through your trembling hands, to my hurting people.
This has always been your calling. It has always been your purpose.
It still is. This very second it is.

I have placed you here at this exact place and time in the history of creation, not to defend me, as I need no defense; not to protect me, since I have already willingly laid my life down; not to judge others on my behalf, as this is far beyond your capacity and my instruction.

My beloved, I placed you here, not to defend or protect or replace me, but simply to reflect me.
That has always been my most critical commandment and your most pressing obligation; loving God and loving others. I thought that I was clear on that, when I was asked this before.

I showed you how to move in this world.
I kept company with priests and with prostitutes. I touched lepers and washed feet and dined with sinners, both notorious and covert. I served miraculous free meals to starving masses, and I allowed myself to be touched and kissed and betrayed and slandered and beaten and murdered… and I never protested.

All that is happening these days, all the posturing and the debating and the complaining; does this really look like love to you? 

Do you really think that the grandstanding and the insult-slinging and the side-choosing, that it feels like me?

Do you truly believe that the result of your labors here in these days, is a Church that clearly perpetuates my character in the world?

Is this the Gospel I entrusted you with? 
To be honest with you, I simply don’t see it.

How did you drift so far from the mission?
How did you become so angry, so combative, so petty, so arrogant, so entitled?
When did you begin writing your own script for this story?
When did you turn it into your story?

My children, here’s what you may not realize, being as close as you are to all of this. You may not be able to see it clearly anymore.
 You certainly don’t have the perspective that I do, and here from my vantage point, this is what I do see:

You are driving people from me.

You have become an unbreachable barrier between myself and those who most need me.
You are leaving a legacy of damage and pain and isolation in your path.
You are testifying loudly, not to my love, but to your preference.
You are winning these little violent battles, and you are losing people; not to Hell or to Sin, but to all of the places outside of you, where they go to receive the kindness and decency and goodness that you should be showing them.

This life is not about your right to refuse anyone. If I wanted to avoid serving those I found moral faults with, I would have skipped the planet altogether.

I came to serve.
Your faith in me, cannot be an escape clause to avoid imitating me. 
Asserting your rights, was never greater than following my example.
Your religious freedom, never more important than loving the least. 
Your central cause, should be relentlessly conforming to my likeness, despite the inconvenience and discomfort that it brings.

When I commanded you to deny yourself, I was speaking about the times when it is most difficult to do so, because that is when “self” is the most distracting, the most dangerous, the most like an idol.

Obedience to me, usually comes with sacrifice to you.

I can’t force you to reflect upon these words, and I can’t make you live as I lived or love as I love. This was never the way I worked or will ever work.

I can only tell you that you have surely drifted from the course I started you on, and as often is the case in long journeys, it is a divergence that unfolds by the smallest of degrees, almost imperceptible while it’s happening.

That is why what feels like victory to you, is really another slight but definite movement away from me, and from the reason you are really here at all.

Not long after I walked the planet, as my Church was just beginning to blossom and my Kingdom was truly breaking out, a Greek writer named Aristides, wrote these words about those who bore my name then:
“It is the Christians, O Emperor, who have sought and found the truth, for they acknowledge God. They do not keep for themselves the goods entrusted to them. They do not covet what belongs to others. They show love to their neighbours. They do not do to another what they would not wish to have done to themselves. They speak gently to those who oppress them, and in this way they make them their friends. It has become their passion to do good to their enemies.
They live in the awareness of their smallness.
Every one of them who has anything gives ungrudgingly to the one who has nothing. If they see a travelling stranger, they bring him under their roof. They rejoice over him as over a real brother, for they do not call one another brothers after the flesh, but they know they are brothers in the Spirit and in God. If they hear that one of them is imprisoned or oppressed for the sake of Christ, they take care of all his needs. If possible they set him free. If anyone among them is poor or comes into want while they themselves have nothing to spare, they fast two or three days for him. In this way they can supply any poor man with the food he needs. This, O Emperor, is the rule of life of the Christians, and this is their manner of life.” *
                                                                                                                                                                             – Aristides, 137 AD
To the Christians in Indiana, and those beyond who are still listening today; you would do well to hold these words up daily as a mirror to your individual lives, and to the expression of me that you make together in this place.

Is this what you see when you look at yourself?

Is this what the world sees when it looks at you?

In your words and in your ways, Church; do they see me?

If not, then regardless of how it seems to you, you haven’t won anything.

May this be truth, that truly sets you free. 
 

                               * taken from Jesus For President, By Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

Monday, March 30, 2015

Indiana's Religious Freedom Law - A Neutral Analysis

The legislation that Governor Pence signed into law has thrown the liberal and conservative pundits into a tizzy. It will be no surprise that I believe that law opens the door for discrimination against LGBT people.  In addition the potential for LGBT people to be denied public services or accommodations.


I still wanted to look at the language.  It is imbedded in the legal analysis by Matt Anderson a lawyer in South Bend.  Worth a read! Click Here

Another document to review is this letter form Columbia University signed by many lawyers in Indiana.

On visceral level, watching Gov. Pence refuse to answer George Stephanopolis' direct questions reveals the intent of the law.  "Should it be legal to discriminate against LGBT people?" asked Stephanopoulis. "Come on George" responds Pence.  Clearly "no" should have been his response.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Another Night at the Opera

Last year I coaxed Kyle into joining me for Wagner's Ring Cycle broadcast "Live from the Met in HD."  My passion for Wagner assured that I would love it.  But 16 hours of Wagner, one of the least accessible composers for the novice, was literally baptism by fire. One of the icon parts of the 4 opera grand twisted tale base somewhat on Teutonic mythology is Brunnhilde being surround by a ring of fire and subsequently rescued.  Kyle, like most folks, new Elmer Fudd's take on The Ride of Valkyries, "Killed a Wabbit."  That was all he knew.

He loved it and has attended many of these broadcast since.  Tonight we saw Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman. Drawn from the stories of E.T.A. Hoffman, the opera weaves together 3 stories of failed love into a fourth.  The Met's production put a more surreal spin on this "opera fantastique."  It was another sucessful night at the opera!

Olympia, Hoffman's first love, is a mechanical doll.  His first love is quite literally shattered.

 
The first act. set in the dollmaker's shop, pure fun.  Packed with body parts, including jars of eyeballs in a gelatinous mess, the staging is extremely creative.  The second act, in jarring contrast, is a somber winter scene. Offenbach's top 40 hit "Barcarolle" dominates Act III along with most scantilly clad women I have ever seen on an opera stage.

For anyone afraid of the "opera experience" I heartily recommend it.  The singing is subtitled (even when it's sung in English) and intermission(s) features backstage interviews and a peak at the grandeur that is a the Met. Sets, costumes and the crew that works with the mechanically impressive stage that dwarfs the house (where the audience is seated).

These productions eventually make their way to PBS, but rarely with the intermission features.  Intermissions also give you 10 to 15 minutes to stretch your legs.  It's the next best thing to being there.

Think that opera is trite or boring? Coming soon is Bela Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle. Below is a synopsis. Make's 50 Shades of Grey sound tame.  It's on a double bill with Tchaikovsky Iolanta.  Care to join me?
Bluebeard's Castle synopsis:
Place: A huge, dark hall in a castle, with seven locked doors.
Time: Not defined.
Judith and Bluebeard arrive at his castle, which is all dark. Bluebeard asks Judith if she wants to stay and even offers her an opportunity to leave, but she decides to stay. Judith insists that all the doors be opened, to allow light to enter into the forbidding interior, insisting further that her demands are based on her love for Bluebeard. Bluebeard refuses, saying that they are private places not to be explored by others, and asking Judith to love him but ask no questions. Judith persists, and eventually prevails over his resistance.

The first door opens to reveal a torture chamber, stained with blood. Repelled, but then intrigued, Judith pushes on. Behind the second door is a storehouse of weapons, and behind the third a storehouse of riches. Bluebeard urges her on. Behind the fourth door is a secret garden of great beauty; behind the fifth, a window onto Bluebeard's vast kingdom. All is now sunlit, but blood has stained the riches, watered the garden, and grim clouds throw blood-red shadows over Bluebeard's kingdom.

Bluebeard pleads with her to stop: the castle is as bright as it can get, and will not get any brighter, but Judith refuses to be stopped after coming this far, and opens the penultimate sixth door, as a shadow passes over the castle. This is the first room that has not been somehow stained with blood; a silent silvery lake is all that lies within, "a lake of tears". Bluebeard begs Judith to simply love him, and ask no more questions. The last door must be shut forever. But she persists, asking him about his former wives, and then accusing him of having murdered them, suggesting that their blood was the blood everywhere, that their tears were those that filled the lake, and that their bodies lie behind the last door. At this, Bluebeard hands over the last key.

Behind the door are Bluebeard's three former wives, but still alive, dressed in crowns and jewellery. They emerge silently, and Bluebeard, overcome with emotion, prostrates himself before them and praises each in turn, finally turning to Judith and beginning to praise her as his fourth wife. She is horrified, begs him to stop, but it is too late. He dresses her in the jewellery they wear, which she finds exceedingly heavy. Her head drooping under the weight, she follows the other wives along a beam of moonlight through the seventh door. It closes behind her, and Bluebeard is left alone as all fades to total darkness.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Requiem: Marcus Borg


Marcus Borg has died at the age of 72.  His theological literature has helped me continue to identify myself as a Christian in a world were that word, at the very least, is unwelcome in much of the LGBTQ community.

"Thin places" is part of Borg's approach to spirituality that I often quote.  We find these in the times, places and experiences that are a "porous" encounter with the Divine.  An emotional moment, a musical event, a transcendent work of art and for me beautiful liturgy and the sacrament of the Eucharist.

These thin places can also be the times that we encounter the "other." It can be when we engage and radically welcome those that are not like us.

Borg's book "The Heart of Christianity" explores this. I found this study guide very helpful:

http://www.wesleybakersfield.org/heartxianity/08heart-xianity-studyguide.pdf

Read more about Borg:

http://www.religionnews.com/2015/01/22/marcus-borg-leading-liberal-theologian-historical-jesus-expert-dies-72/

http://www.episcopalcafe.com/breaking-marcus-borg-has-died/

  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oscar Nominations



 
Here's the list!
√=have seen +=must see ?=might see
As of now: MF=My Favorite, MP=My Prediction
I'll be sharing changes and details as I see all films.
Best picture
+American Sniper
√Birdman
√Boyhood MP
√The Grand Budapest Hotel
√The Imitation Game
√Selma
√The Theory of Everything MF
+Whiplash

Actor in a leading role
√Steve Carell — Foxcatcher
√Bradley Cooper — American Sniper
√Benedict Cumberbatch — The Imitation Game
√Michael Keaton — Birdman MP
√Eddie Redmayne — The Theory of Everything MF

Actress in a leading role
?Marion Cotillard — Two Days, One Night
√Felicity Jones — The Theory of Everything
+Julianne Moore — Still Alice MP
√Rosamund Pike — Gone Girl MF
?Reese Witherspoon — Wild

Actor in a supporting role
?Robert Duvall — The Judge
√Ethan Hawke — Boyhood
√Edward Norton — Birdman
√Mark Ruffalo — Foxcatcher MF
+J.K. Simmons — Whiplash

Actress in a supporting role
√Patricia Arquette — Boyhood MP
?Laura Dern — Wild
√Keira Knightley — The Imitation Game
√Emma Stone — Birdman
√Meryl Streep — Into the Woods MF

Animated feature film
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2 MP
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Cinematography
√Birdman — Emmanuel Lubezki MF MP
√The Grand Budapest Hotel — Robert Yeoman
?Ida — Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
+Mr. Turner — Dick Pope
+Unbroken — Roger Deakins

Costume Design
√The Grand Budapest Hotel MP
?Inherent Vice
√Into the Woods MF
?Maleficent
+Mr. Turner

Directing
√Birdman — Alejandro G. Iñárritu MF
√Boyhood — Richard Linklater MP
√Foxcatcher — Bennett Miller
√The Grand Budapest Hotel — Wes Anderson
√The Imitation Game — Morten Tyldum

Documentary feature
Citizenfour
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

Documentary short subject
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper (La Parka)
White Earth

Film editing
+American Sniper
√Boyhood MF MP
√The Grand Budapest Hotel
√The Imitation Game
+Whiplash

Foreign language film
Ida — Poland
Leviathan — Russia
Tangerines — Estonia
Timbuktu — Mauritania
Wild Tales — Argentina

Makeup and hairstyle
√Foxcatcher MF MP
√The Grand Budapest Hotel
√Guardians of the Galaxy

Music original score
√The Grand Budapest Hotel — Alexandre Desplat
√The Imitation Game — Alexandre Desplat
√Interstellar — Hans Zimmer
+Mr. Turner — Gary Yershon
√The Theory of Everything — Jóhann Jóhannsson

Music original song
"Everything is Awesome" — The Lego Movie
√"Glory" — Selma MP MF
"Grateful" — Beyond the Lights
"I'm Not Gonna Miss You" — Glen Campbell... I'll Be Me
"Lost Stars" — Begin Again

Production design
√The Grand Budapest Hotel
√The Imitation Game
√Interstellar MP
√Into the Woods MF
+Mr. Turner

Short film animated
The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Feast
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

Short film live action
Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)
Parvaneh
The Phone Call

Sound editing
√American Sniper
√Birdman
√The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
√Interstellar
+Unbroken

Sound mixing
√American Sniper
√Birdman
√Interstellar
+Unbroken
√Whiplash

Visual effects
√Captain America: The Winter Soldier
√Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
√Guardians of the Galaxy
√Interstellar MP
√X-Men: Days of Future Past MF (for Hugh Jackman's bum)

Writing adapted screenplay
+American Sniper — Jason Hall
√The Imitation Game — Graham Moore MF
?Inherent Vice — Paul Thomas Anderson
√The Theory of Everything — Anthony McCarten MP
+Whiplash — Damien Chazelle

Writing original screenplay
√Birdman — Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo MF  MP
√Boyhood — Richard Linklater
√Foxcatcher — E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
√The Grand Budapest Hotel — screenplay by Wes Anderson, story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness
?Nightcrawler — Dan Gilroy

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mohammed, Jesus Christ and The New Cover of Charlie Hebdo


There is reluctance on the part of many news outlets to share this cover lest they become the next victims of radical Muslims.  I cannot speak for the Muslims, but as a Christian, if my faith was used to inflict violence, which it has been repeatedly over the past 2,000 years, I know how I would feel.  A picture of Jesus Christ crying and holding this sign with "All is forgiven" over his head would be seen as an extremely generous response.

The era of forcing people to hold sacred the beliefs of oppressors is over.  Followers of Christ, Mohammed, Vishnu, Zoroaster, Buddha, God and any other deity/spiritual leader must take responsibility for hate exercised in their name.   They must stand up to those who degrade a message of love for all humanity.  If they can't do that they are worshiping a false god.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The New Jim Crow

Hobby Lobby is not a slippery slope, it's greased wall that will now have to be climbed before laws like Mississippi's new "Jim Crow" can be challenged.

The Supreme Court, well the 5 Roman Catholic Men on the Bench, have started to dissect according to particular beliefs of particular denominations.  If people are worried about Sharia law, perhaps the should broaden that to any law that is based on a particular set of religious sectarian beliefs.  That's the real issue in Iraq. America was not established as a theocracy. Separation of Church and State was particularly meant to avoid a theocracy.  It has struggled to hold it's own amidst many challenges. It has been eroded by "In God We Trust" and the addition in the 1950's of "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.  Prayers, specifically Christian, are now allowed in public meetings thanks to those 5 Roman Catholic men.

This stuff scares me...

Mississippi's Religious Freedom Restoration Act now allows businessowners to turn away LGBT customers if they claim their existence conflicts with their religion.
The law passed in April and was quickly signed by Republican governor Phil Bryant; it went into effect July 1. Several cities in Mississippi, including Jackson and Hattiesburg, are challenging the insidious law by passing resolutions affirming all patrons are welcome. Equality Mississippi is distributing stickers that proclaim, "We don't discriminate: If you're buying, we're selling."
The American Family Association has found a way to take umbrage with the stickers.“It’s not really a buying campaign, but it’s a bully campaign, and it’s being carried out by radical homosexual activists who intend to trample the freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture," AFA's Buddy Smith stated, according to Pink News.
Local merchants and professionals like chef John Currence bristle at the law's effect on the state's already inhospitable reputation. “We are not going to sit idly by and watch Jim Crow get revived in our state," he said, vowing to fight the law. Similar legislation is wending its way through Kansas.

From The Advocate July 6, 2014