Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"If you do that, you're going to hell!"

When someone is seeking Truth or the Good, we have to allow them to wander paths we would never go. Perhaps they go that way and will come to the path we travel. Or perhaps we will join them on their path that we find so offensive.
We don't know. All we do know is that they have to walk in that uncomfortable (for us) place for a while. The only thing we can do is accept it.

Monday, September 12, 2016

What are the Key Faith Differences between the Three Abrahamic Religions?

Judaism: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your strength.”
Christianity: “Jesus is Lord and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Islam: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday

Today, the church celebrates Holy Saturday, the day that the disciples of Jesus lived with grief, anger and confusion. The day that God allowed them to live with their questions, and didn't answer them. The day their faith was transforming.

What questions do you have for God? 

Please, only ask, don't answer, don't judge others for their questions. 

Only if we ask our questions will our faith be transformed into truth.

Here are some of my questions:

If you are concerned about the oppressed, why don't you just deliver them all now?

Why do you allow the church, who speaks the gospel in your name, continue to oppress the poor without correcting them?
If you are a God of love, why is there so much hatred done by your hand in the Scriptures?

If you are a God of love, why do we have two ethic systems in our brains-- one of compassion and the other of judgment?

Can't I just get some rest for a change?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday

In the church, today is Maundy Thursday. A celebration of the last supper of Jesus, and a day in which people will ritually wash each other's feet.
The thing about foot washing, is that it isn't about clean feet. Or general servanthood.
Any homeless person will tell you how essential foot care is, especially when you do miles of walking a day. Foot washing is basic hygiene, like brushing your teeth, in a walking culture. Having someone care for your feet is an essential luxury.
In the ancient world, foot washing was the first step in a whole process that the ancient world called "welcoming" or "receiving" and we might call "hospitality." It is taking a person who walked all day, has no indoor place to sleep, no full meal and inviting them into your home. You would take this vulnerable stranger, wash their feed, feed them well, listen to their stories and let them sleep a night in your home. So when Jesus said, "Do to each other as I have done to you" he's not talking about washing feet. He's talking about the full process of welcoming. He washed their feet, he fed them, he granted them sleep and he taught them truth.
Jesus specifically tied this hospitality to our faithfulness to Him. "Whoever receives one whom I sent receives me," and "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me... I tell you, whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these vulnerable ones as a disciple, they will not lose their reward."
Instead of embarrassingly washing each other's feet in church on Maundy Thursday, we should obey the intent of what Jesus intended. Find a vulnerable person, invite them into your home. Allow them to shower, to have a good meal, to sleep, and then offer them peace as they go on their way.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Creation Blessings in Church

Woe is me for my children are more concerned about timelines
Than the system with which I established my creation.

I made the rain to fall for free
Upon the mountain to capture it
For the tree upon the crag
For the rock to cup it
For the goat to drink it
For the human to milk it
For the cat to drink it.
For the bladder to piss it
For the heat to evaporate it
For the sky to gather it.

I gave creation for all to give for all to receive.

But the church is a churning machine.
Take the tithes
Take the volunteers
Take the hopes
Take the land
Take the tax exemptions
And churn, and churn and churn
And regurgitate into something lacking divinity.

Into salaries
Into empty buildings
Into bureaucracies,
Into doctrines
Into death
Where grace is a paltry thing:
A spirit without substance;
A hope never realized.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A New Law

God gave us his Son, without cost.
God gives us healing, survival.
God gives us parents and relationships.
God gives us wind and rain.
God gives us thoughts and intelligence.
God gives us forgiveness.
God gives us truth and hope.

All he asks in return is this:
All that we received, we must give
To those who need at least as much as we
At least as freely as we received it.

"Freely you have received, freely give."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

New Creation

Jesus’ country is like none ever seen.

The only law is love.

For every sin is the opportunity for forgiveness.

Jesus gives 77 x 77 chances for repentance.

Discipline is to transform, never punish.

Every empty church is open for the homeless.

Every unpurchased morsel free for the hungry.

Every Goodwill is an open field to the needy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Jesus didn’t die for America.
Jesus didn’t die for England.
Jesus didn’t die for Rome
Jesus didn’t die for empires.

Jesus died to free the black man in prison.
Jesus died for the refugee.
Jesus died for the cop who no longer wants to oppress.
Jesus died for the soldier who doesn’t want to kill.

Jesus died for those trapped in a system of oppression
Jesus died to deliver us from empires.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Became Sin

Jesus didn’t become adultery for us
Jesus didn’t become an axe murderer
Nor a pedophile, nor even a thief.

Jesus became the object of scorn,
The innocent oppressed.
He became the sin of the black man killed by the police.
He became the sin of the single mother on welfare.
He became the sin of the child beaten to half-death.
He became the sin of the homeless
  The sin of the Muslim
  The sin of the poor.

Which is no sin at all
Except in the mind of the oppressor.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


The idea that we are born in sin
And so must be punished
Is the theology of the abused child
Convinced that they deserve their regular beatings.

Jesus never claims a human is born in sin.
Rather, he strives to convince us
And all those around us
That we are going to be the focus
Of God’s unbelievable miracle. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016


God loved, but he did not really understand love.

The powerful, even the Greatest Power,
Can never grasp the weakness of the weak
Until they become weak.

Until the Lord of Heaven and Earth
Creator of Worlds and Words
Whose every Command was carried out
Became a single, helpless infant
He never truly understood weakness.

Before that moment, he felt that command would rule.
Until he was in a place where command was meaningless.

He could command his body
He could create with his mind
He could form atoms and call up mountains
But he could not control his arm without practice.

It would take months before he could walk.
Years before a single word was clear enough to be understood without interpreted.

It was not until the weakness of a body
Limited the Supreme of Supremes

That the kingdom truly belonged to the poor.

At that moment, Love wasn’t just an idea
It was reality.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Rumi on Valentines Day

Rumi is the true poet of love, bringing the spiritual language of the ancients and the passionate desires of erotic poetry into one being.

If anyone wants to know what "spirit" is,
or what "God’s fragrance" means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.

Like this.

When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.

Like this.

If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don’t try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.

Like this. Like this.

Intellectuals plan their repose;
lovers are ashamed to rest.
The lover is always alone.
even surrounded by people;
like water and oil, he remains apart.

We must remember that Islam is not primarily violence and power and law.  For millions of people, Islam is love and Rumi is their spokesperson.

This is a simple truth—whatever you love, you are.


When the rose is gone and the garden faded
you will no longer hear the nightingale's song.
The Beloved is all; the lover just a veil.
The Beloved is living; the lover a dead thing.
If love withholds its strengthening care,
the lover is left like a bird without care,
the lover is left like a bird without wings.
How will I be awake and aware
if the light of the Beloved is absent?
Love wills that this Word be brought forth.


Love is the bridge between you and everything

Rumi is both Muhammad and Jesus, both strict monotheism and an ethic of compassion.

O Love, You who have been called by a thousand names,
You who know how to pour the wine
into the chalice of the body,
You who give culture to a thousand cultures,
You who are faceless but have a thousand faces

Rumi is what fundamentalism—whether of Islam or those opposed to Islam—cannot understand.  The narrow-minded cannot understand the poet.  But without poetry, the law-giver, the scientist cannot seek truth.

Those who don't feel this Love
pulling them like a river,
those who don't drink dawn
like a cup of spring water
or take in sunset like supper,
those who don't want to change,

let them sleep.

This Love is beyond the study of theology,
that old trickery and hypocrisy.
I you want to improve your mind that way,

sleep on.


In this earth
In this soil
In this pure field
Let’s not plant any seed
Other than seeds
Of compassion and love.


A lifetime without Love is of no account

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Reflections on Ethics among the Marginalized

The following are quotes found in the first chapter of Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins by Miguel A. de la Tora

"For those doing ethics, the issue is not to determined some abstract understanding of what is ethical, but rather, in the face of dehumanizing oppressive structures, to determine how people of faith adapt their actions to serve the least among us.  Ethics becomes the process by which the marginalized enter a more human condition...."

"It is not what is said that bears witness to the good news of the resurrection, but rather what is done to those still trapped in the forces of death."

"Those who would eliminate injustice are therefore always placed at the moral disadvantage of imperiling its peace.  Privileged groups will place them under that moral disadvantage even if the efforts toward justice are made in the most pacific terms.  They will claim that it is dangerous to disturb a precarious equilibrium and will feign to fear anarchy as the consequence of the effort."
-Reinhold Neibuhr

"What is logical to the oppressor isn't logical to the oppressed. And what is reason to the oppressor isn't reason to the oppressed." -Malcolm X

She uses an analogy of society as a mental asylum, whose misguided doctors determine the exit of oppression, but they do not realize that the system itself imposes a "mad" system of behavior which would deny them freedom.

"Like patients in an asylum, the marginalized suffer from their own 'madness'-- their refusal to conform to the ethical standards of 'civilized' dominant culture.  In the minds of those with power and privilege their marginalization is self-imposed, a refusal on the part of the disenfranchised to assimilate to what is perceived as the common good.  When they behave, when they submit to the law and order of the dominant culture they are 'free'.  Those who reject the dominant view are eyed with suspicion."

"The marginalized do not lack the academic rigor to do ethical reflection, nor do they simply bypass ethical reflection altogether. Rather, their approach to the oppressive situation produces a different way of doing ethics."


Allow me to give few examples.  Today a friend of mine on Facebook accused the majority of people on welfare to be "in sin" because they are single mothers.  However, there is no clear evidence that sex before marriage is a sin, per say.  Marriage is not even a requirement in the Bible for a sexual couple.  Adultery, breaking one's commitment to one's spouse, is a big issue, but that doesn't have to include marriage.  However, marriage and the ability to divorce is a privileged game, costing from 65 to 200 dollars or more for the opportunity to have it legally done.  The poor bypass such ceremonies because it usually doesn't have as much meaning to them.  They will be faithful to their partner, and that is a solid agreement, but that isn't the same as marriage.

When two people who are both on disability want to get married, they will almost always do it "off the books", not in a legal manner, because they will be economically punished if they legally marry.  The system treats them to see legal marriage as something to avoid, even if they wish dearly to make the commitment.  They live according to a different ethical standard than the middle class. Still, the middle class will condemn them for acting practically.

Another example.  For many churches, getting drunk and even possibly drinking alcohol is a sin.  Yet the Bible says that one who rules shouldn't get drunk, but those who are poor should so they don't have to remember their suffering (Proverbs 30:1-7).  Here there is clearly two levels of ethics-- one for those who have to make just decisions for many and another for those who have not been able to care for themselves.

Smoking, drug use, sleeping in abandoned houses or parks, drinking outdoors and many other crimes are punished when found, but often the poor have no choice but to participate in these activities.  Why?  Because their life context is different from those who pass the laws.  What seems simple and basic ethics to the housed and privileged are often impossible for the marginalized.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dom Helder Camara

Bishop of Rio de Janiro, he believed that the power of the church should be used for the poor, and worked toward this end in Vatican II.  He led the Pact of the Catacombs, a group of priests devoted to the poor.  He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but the government of Brazil stood in his way.

His greatest work, however, were his poems in which he expressed his deeper life before God.  He wrote seven thousand poems in his life, and the far majority of them have not been published.  Here is a handful.

Become an expert
in the art
of discovering the good
in every person.
No one
is entirely bad.
Become an expert
in the art
of finding the truthful core
in views of every kind.
The human mind
abhors total error.

There are those
whose being 
is possession.
There are those
whose essence
is giving.

If you disagree with me,
if you have something to give me,
if you are sincere
and seek the truth
as best you may,
honestly, with modest care,
your thought is growth
to mine, correction,
you deepen my vision.

Hope without risk
is not hope
which is believing
in risky loving,
trusting others
in the dark
the blind leap
letting God take over.

When on judgement day
the angels call the artists in
they will be so proud
of their share
in God the Father's power
of creation,
that the Son
will find it hard
to judge them strictly
because poets especially
remind him of his Father.

isn't your creation wasteful?
Fruits never equal
the seedlings abundance.
Springs scatter water.
The sun gives out
enormous light.
May your bounty teach me
greatness of heart.
May your magnificence 
stop me being mean. 
Seeing you a prodigal
and open-handed giver,
let me unstintingly,
like a king's son,
like God's own.

Hear, O Lord
my special prayer
for my people,
the voiceless ones.
There are thousands 
and thousands
of human creatures
in the poor countries
and in the slums
of the rich countries
with no right
to raise their voices
no possibility 
of claiming
of protesting
however just
are the rights
they have to uphold.

-All poems taken from the volume Dom Helder Camara: Essential Writings, most are from the original volume The Desert is Fertile.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Jesus Godzilla

If your Jesus is untouched by lust or anger or fear, then your Jesus is too big.

If your Jesus cannot bear to be insulted or wrongly thought of, then your Jesus is too big.

If your Jesus dwells in a spiritual dimension and despises the physical, then your Jesus is too big.

If your Jesus is the controlling entity over all the world, and all events in it, good or bad, then your Jesus is too big.

If your Jesus is too powerful or holy to be imitated, then your Jesus is too big.

If you cannot walk on water or heal the sick or love your enemy, then your Jesus is too big.

If your Jesus is the same god who commanded nations and their children to be burned, then your Jesus is too big.

If your Jesus can support war and hated and prejudice, then your Jesus is too big.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Why did Jesus die?

Jesus didn't die to save us from breaking a petty law. Rather, he died to give us an option to live, apart from the "oppress or be oppressed" world we live in. He died to open up a new world-- a world of generosity, of mercy, where forgiveness actually works. He died to get rid of petty laws and vengeances, and replace them with lives of love and grace.
Most of all, he died to show us that we can give into oppression and win in the end. That surrender to death isn't the end of the story. Allowing an oppressor to step on us isn't what we should fear. Our greatest fear should be being forced to be hard-hearted and judgmental.

I believe in hell

I believe in hell. A real hell, not just a symbol. I believe that it is punishment for evildoers in this world. And I affirm that Jesus said that it will NOT be for people who believe the wrong things, the "wrong" religion or the "wrong" philosophy. It will be only for those who oppress the poor and marginalized and who judge the innocent.
Because if we don't see justice done in this world, we will see it done in the next.

The Gospel, as yet unheard

Modern evangelical theology is a form of Calvinism.  It claims that we were all born sinners-- drawing on the often false guilt of every child-- and that Jesus paid the punishment for our sin.  We believe (not follow, just have faith in) in Jesus, which allows us to access this payment.

Yep, I know that theology and it isn't biblical. There is no where in Scripture that says that every person who sins deserves hell. Even the scriptures that seem to say that everyone is a sinner has caveats, saying that they aren't for everyone.

What Scripture DOES say is that every person will be judged according to what thy have done, every deed, good or bad. It says that the world we live in, and those we are enslaved to make it difficult for us to live in the way we should, and easier to live lives of evil. Ether we live to get ahead, or we live desperate lives of poverty, which make us want to steal or do other desperate acts. Jesus' death creates a kingdom to escape this system of "bite or be bitten".

When scripture says to "believe" it is to believe in the Christ, the king. When we "believe" or a better translation is "to have faith in" a king, it means we place our allegiance in him, surrendering other allegiances. To "believe" in a king means to be a part of his kingdom, giving up on all other kingdoms, to follow his law, giving up on all other laws.

We are now in a kingdom that if we simply repent, we are forgiven. We are now in a kingdom in which the only law is to love. So there is no excuse for us to live otherwise, to live according to karma, we can... no must... live by grace.

And Jesus tells us that graceful, generous living is how we live eternity with him. It isn't a life lived according to a law, but a life of mercy, forgiveness and giving. That's how we escape the hell of karma, the hell of having to do evil. We give up on the system of this world, give up on the oppressions of this world, and surrender to acting out the grace that God had given us.

And the ones that God wants us to have the most mercy on is the poor, the needy, the innocent. Just like Jesus did.

And this is why, on the final day, the sheep are those who did acts of generosity to the poor, and the goats are those who refused to be generous. We show our fealty to God's kingdom by surrendering all we have to the needy.