Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Great pictures

I have found a few pictures on the Internet (from different blogs) that I'd like to share with you. I have already saved them to my computer and am using one of the new pics as my wallpaper on my computer (thanks, Paul).

And one more...

My Favorite Band of All Time

Okay, so who cares what music we like, right? Still, as I am sitting at my desk in the pastor's office, I am listening to Erasure on my stereo. I have been a serious lover of their songs ever since I first heard of them in the last 1980s and into the 1990s. Their music touches me in my soul is ways no other music ever has. And, it's fun, poppish- and yet, deep enough to satisfy a person seeking that deeper connection.

I find it odd that so many people actually can't stand Erasure. I look at them as if they are from a different planet or something, "How can you not even like them?!" I say in exasperation. Still, we all have our tastes, right?

I mean, my grandma loved Lawrence Welk and my folks loved Kenny Rogers (okay, so I like him too but not like I like Erasure). So, yeah, I can understand that tastes vary and can be sometimes completely off the wall. Maybe I am off the wall. Eh, who cares. I love Erasure, dang it!

...and Bruce Springsteen. I love him too.

There are still Prophets among us

With the passing of William Sloan Coffin, one may be tempted to think that we are losing too many of our prophets. I have always thought that when one prophet passes, God raises up another and another and another. In some ways, I even look at my ministry as one where God will raise up my successor when it is time for me to move on, or move beyond this world.

In some ways, being a servant of God is a little like a mantra I learned while I was in the military: "Boys, you are all expendible." At first, I took such a declaration as if all I did and said would be futile, especially in the grander scope of things. As I have grown older though, I actually like the idea that I am expendible. And not only me, but others. All those who work for God are continuing the work that God has begun for a millenia. And, God will continue God's work until 'that final day.' Maybe some of those old Calvinistic doctrines are still brewing inside of me but I remain convinced that what God has begun in us, God will complete--and to me I find hope in that. And, as long as I remain doing what I think God would have me to do, I don't feel any pressure that "it's all up to me to do or accomplish great things" because God is at work doing and accomplishing--and I am just being one part of the much larger mechanism that God is working and doing.

Anyways, as I was surfing the 'net this afternoon, I came across this wonderful quote from Cornel West.

"To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely - to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away. This is the kind of vision and courage required to enable the renewal of prophetic, democratic Christian identity in the age of the American empire." [Cornel West, Democracy Matters, 172]

See--God is still using men and women to proclaim the Gospel and tell the truth while they're doing it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Please, do NOT let this happen to me

Not that there is anything wrong with becoming an "old queen", I just think that the thought of it scares me silly.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Breaking Up with Jesus

Here is an interesting story (I don't know if it's true or not) written by a guy who is a fiction writer. In the story, he writes about his breakup and love affair with Jesus. I find it poignant because I know so many people like him. These are the people, in my opinion, who have misunderstood that what is written and interpretted about Jesus can be very different (and sometimes very confusing) about the God and Christ who lives and reigns among us.

Admittedly, I also wonder if what this guy wrote would have been me, were I to have succombed to the temptation to let others decide for me what a Christian is and is not.

In any event, this link is another thought-provoking post. If you're offended by such posts, please do not read it (and then blame me because you did).

The Passion as Macabre

There is a church that puts on its annual Passion play every year that has become something more than you'd expect from your local parish players. This passion story features gruesome horror-like creatures, stunning visuals, and zombie-like characters. Check out this link to see what the play is about and to check out some behind the scenes pictures.

The Art of TV Vegging

Moving to the suburbs, I was scared (and remain so) that I would be as bored as 'a frog on a log'. Leaving NYC where there is considerably more to do at any hour one wishes to do it, the suburbs of New Jersey are much quieter. In my town, everything except the one supermarket closes up at 8pm, and the supermarket closes at 9pm.

Fearing that I'd start poking myself with an icepick just for fun, I ordered the full package of cable tv (minus the premium channels, I am still as poor as a church mouse). And you know what? The tv is facinating and I can understand why so many people veg in front of it after a long day at work. I haven't yet mastered the art of vegging in front of the tv yet but I am working on it.

One way that I am learning the art of vegging is that I am finally getting interested in whatever is supposed to come on at a future time. I am even leaving myself notes that there will be a special on the History channel or, to remember to watch Evangelion on the Cartoon Network at 11:30pm on Thursdays (if you haven't seen this animae, you'll be blown away by it). And, Evangelion is part of the Cartoon Network's [Adult Swim] lineup of grown up cartoons. Unfortunately the Evangelion series played out but it is supposed to rerun soon. They are supposed to show the series (I am told) several times a year. (See, I am beginning to be a good tv veg already.)

And now I have a new show to watch. A&E is offerng a 5-part reality show about 4 young men who are at the time and place in their lives right before they need to make the final decision to become a Catholic priest and take their vow of celibacy. The show is called "God or the Girl" and it is supposed to chronicle four men, who are all in their mid-20s, optimistic about their futures, wear their hearts on their sleave, and from one commentary that I've read about the show, are incredibly annoying in their self-righteousness. Still, I think the show sounds very interesting and I can imagine myself being glued to the tv rather than standing in the kitchen with an ice pick in my hand.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bush Won't Rule Out a Nuclear Strike on Iran

It seems Bush and the White House is thinking about a nuclear strike on Iran. That's all we need--another terrorist nation empowered by their god to retaliate against us "infidels". I sure hope a peaceful resolution occurs before it comes to anything as serious as another war on different soil against a nation who feels they have as much a right to do what we have been doing all along.

U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Israel's Jerusalem Post the United States probably could not destroy Iran's nuclear program but could attempt to set it back by strikes as a last resort.

"I think the only justifiable use of military power would be an attempt to deter the development of their nuclear program if we felt there was no other way to do it," he said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking at an annual military parade, said the army was ready to defend the nation. "[We] will cut off the hands of any aggressors and will make any aggressor regret it," Ahmadinejad declared.

Read the whole story here.

A Thought from William Sloan Coffin

As people everywhere (or at least, here in NYC) are thinking about and mourning the death of William Sloan Coffin, a friend of mine (who lost her young nephew) recounted the story how she was comforted by a meditation he wrote following the death of his son, who was found in his car at the bottom of a lake. This was her paraphrase of what he said,

"God did not "take him" or "call him home." It is not God's will that young people die. But when the waters closed over my son, I know God was the first to mourn. And God was there with him."

It is amazing to me how our life realities often change our early perspectives on life and death, on God's will and human folly, on what we know and what we cannot know. My perspectives have changed pretty dramatically over the last 10 years or so, and I am guessing they'll continue to change as I grow older. Coffin's meditation represents to me all the new ways that I have been looking at and to God. I am discovering a faith perspective that doesn't look for answers to assuage my frustrations; rather it looks to God in a way that answers do not.

Admittedly, I might find comfort in thinking that all things that happen are "God's will" and find a way to take comfort in that--and yet, as I grow older, I find it more offensive to look at life that way. Instead I am learning to accept the things I cannot change. I wonder if this is what the Serendipity Prayer meant when it asked,

Lord, grant me the courage to change the things I cannot accept; patience to accept the things I cannot change; and wisdom to know the difference.

A Curious Thing to Ask

A friend of mine is the pastor at All Souls Bethlehem Congregation in Brooklyn, New York. His congregation is a mix of the UUA, UCC, and Disciples of Christ. In a sermon he recently preached, he recounts the question of a recent visit to a church member. My friend recounted the question this way in a sermon he put online:

"I can’t write, but if I could, I would write a book asking the question: ‘What kind of religion would you have if Jesus wasn’t killed?’" What a courageous thing for a parishioner to say to his minister!

Now this IS a courageous thing indeed to not only ask a minister, but to ask in general. I have actually thought of several witty responses (witty as I understand witty, that is); it is a good question to ask, especially during the Lenten season (when this question was recounted to my friend's congregation).

The more I think about what this parishioner asks, the more I ask the same question and then begin asking other questions. What kind of religion would we have if Jesus wasn't killed? How would our concept of God change is we look at his death as the result of his living rather than the fulfillment of something else entirely?

Asking questions is good for the soul, for it challenges us to think and rethink our claims, whether spiritual or theological in nature, it is also a good exercise of our faith. I will have to keep this question for the next Lenten season.

The Call and Repercussions to Hospitality

When Christians live their calling to an extravegant welcome, showing forth Christian hospitality to strangers, we are living and doing something both Jesus and our ancestors of the Judeo faith have practiced for millenias. But that is not without risks. It might be surprising to some to discover that not everyone believes that offering help to strangers is a good thing. For one thing, some people may fear that aiding strangers is akin to accepting everything about that person--and condoning their lifestyles and behaviors. Which it isn't of course, showing hospitality is giving aid and welcome to people regardless of their situation(s) in life.

Another reason people are hesitant to be hospitable to strangers is fear. These people fear the unknown and fear anything that represents change or a modification to a consistent life.

And currently, the new excuse to be inhospitable to strangers is our American nationalism which has the false notion that if you give aid to an immigrant, you are being unAmerican and unconcerned about our economic entitlements earned by our American ancestors as well as "taking away our jobs" as if our people are willing to be migrant farm workers and restaurant cooks.

But as Christians, we must resist this form of nationalism and name it as idolatry pure and simple. We are called to live by the standards of love and hospitality; not rejection and hate. An article in this month's UCC News tells the story of a congregation in Arizona that is reaching out to offer aid and care for those immigrants who risk their lives sneaking into the U.S. How might Jesus respond to such a delimna? This congregation is responding pretty well.

Below you'll find a couple of paragraphs highlighting my rant; at the end of it, there'll be a link to the entire story.


Rowe is a longtime Humane Borders volunteer and helped found No More Deaths — a coalition of faith-based and human rights groups that maintain base camps in the desert from May through September, offering emergency first aid and sustenance to migrants in distress. Mayer's congregation supported one camp by bringing home-cooked meals weekly to volunteers.

As humanitarian efforts ramped up during the last six years, the groups communicated regularly with the Border Patrol. Each let the other do his or her job, and sometimes, Border Patrol agents would allow humanitarians to care for migrants rounded up for deportation. But when the Border Patrol got a new Tucson sector chief, the relationship deteriorated, Rowe said.

Last July, two No More Deaths volunteers were arrested for evacuating three migrant men in need of emergency medical attention. The volunteers followed the group's long-established protocol, which includes calling a volunteer nurse or doctor about whether to transport a person to a Tucson hospital.

The arrests are a misuse of laws intended to target human smugglers, Rowe says, and the goal is to make people afraid to help migrants. "People who would follow their Christian teachings and offer assistance are afraid to offer so much as a cup of water or food to anyone they encounter. If they find someone in a ditch at the side of the road, they are afraid to stop and help," Rowe says.

A trial is scheduled for April 25. The volunteers, Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss, are charged with two felony counts each, and could face up to 15 years in prison.

Read the entire story here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

This is Pretty Funny ...

... by that I mean, it might be funny, if you don't take your religion too seriously. If you do, then it may be very offensive to you and by all means, don't read any of this. Just wait until I write something else and you can read that (unless of course, I have another warning message). Now, you also might notice a little tongue-in-cheek humor too; but don't be misled, this guy don't like religion.

Having said all that caveat, I found this piece interesting and thought-provoking, and I hope you do too.

Oh, and this is a long post. I couldn't figure out how to do that hide/show thing on a blog, so that you wouldn't have to scroll down forever and ever and ever.

The Bible's All Wrong, Again
The surprising Gospel of Judas proves
you just can't be too sure about all that God stuff

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Friday, April 14, 2006

Is it not just tremendous heaps of casually blasphemous fun to learn, once again and for the thousandth time, that the Bible -- that happy mish-mashed messed-up hodgepodgey cocktail of myths and folklore and revisionist propaganda and who's-your-daddy reproaches intermixed with lovely stories of redemption and hope and oh yes sin and hellfire and death -- is so full of colorful holes it might as well be a bedsheet from Baghdad Target?

Is it not some sort of curious intellectual delight to hear about the discovery of yet another Gnostic gospel, this time the Gospel of Judas, a scruffy ol' tract that's been lying around for years, which would seem to reveal Christianity's second-favorite villain to be, well, not at all the sniveling ass who turned Jesus over to the cops for a fistful of hummus money, but actually a sly and secret conspirator of his pal Jesus, much in the way Biff helped young Christ learn Zen Buddhism and martial arts and got him drunk (and very nearly laid) in Christopher Moore's fabulous "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff: Christ's Childhood Pal"? Of course it is.

If the Bible is the gold brick in the American spiritual sidewalk, then you simply have to ask: What is the relevance in the fact that Christ might not have been betrayed at all? That he may have orchestrated his own arrest? What does this say about his divine wisdom? About Bible stories as a whole? More importantly, how does the new and improved Judas story pinch the ass of our collective mythology? Does it or does it not kick out one of the shaky support beams of the modern Church? Shouldn't it?

The answer, of course, is it depends on just how deep your personal stick is stuck in the divine mud. Because now more than ever, hard-core religious and political types think it's all clear and righteous and straight, that life's moral codes and cultural guidelines have all been correctly (and homophobically, and misogynistically) spelled out in grainy divine ink, in ancient ironclad stories that would deign to tell us how to think and feel and live.

It's the prevalent, simpleminded ideology: God somehow spoke in perfect English through some sort of giant megaphone (the original podcast), which was then beamed straight into a number of deep believers, whose myriad stories were then perfectly transcribed by some honest and devout and in no way corrupt or politicized or sexually frustrated bishop's pen about 2,000 years ago, and there is no debate don't you dare question its legitimacy and motives lest you be cast into the hellpit of Sodom. Or maybe, you know, San Francisco.

These are the Bible literalists, those who blindly take the Bible as the exact word of God (of whom our president is one, as are many of his fundamentalist minions), and they only look at discoveries like this new gospel and stare numbly, uncomprehendingly, as fluid divinity swirls around them like some sort of frustrated mist.

The truth is, the Church was formed to serve people just like this, those who are unable to grasp nuances and unable to think beyond a certain scope, those who are unwilling or unable follow what is perhaps the singlemost powerful and significant of all Christ's (and Buddha's, and the Tao's, etc.) teachings: that is, to seek God within. Not in a priest. Not in a building. Not in an organized institution. Within you.

So let us delight in how the new version of Judas reveals, merely by its very existence, exactly that. Let us calmly relish how we are reminded, once again, that belief and faith and the dusty ancient oral-tradition stories that attempted to define them are, and always have been, and always will be, suspect, and fluid, and problematic, and wonderful, and dubious and malleable as pita bread on a warm summer's day.

In other words, it may not matter that the Gospel of Judas entirely reframes the classic tale of Christ's betrayal and hence will keep scholars busy for ages as to what it might mean. It may not matter that the vast majority of "true" believers won't be swayed in the slightest by this discovery, that it wouldn't matter if Christ's body were unearthed tomorrow and Jesus were found to have an "OM" symbol tattooed on his sacrum and an Astarte pendant around his neck and an ancient iPod with lots of old Sabbath and Leonard Cohen songs. Most staunch Christians would still adhere to current codes like nervous kittens huddling in a leaky life raft.

But here's what does matter, now more than ever: We do not always know what we think we know. The Bible certainly does not always say what we think it says. Faith and divinity and even entire religions are not static and fixed; they should move and dance and inbreed and adapt with time, with culture, with intellectual evolution. Simple enough? Did you already know? Judas is winking in your direction.

Hell, it's only been about 65 years since the publication of the last earthshaking, goddess-cranking Gnostic tract, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, a truly landmark find that rocked the Christian world and sucker-punched the misogynist Church and revolutionized Magdalene scholarship and inspired Tom Hanks to grow his hair long so he could appear in "The Da Vinci Code," much of which was based on the discovery of Mary's truly astounding gospel.

It's a breathtaking piece of writing that essentially paints Jesus' favorite consort as quite deeply informed of a rich and particularly mystical version of Christ's message -- one that, it must be said, essentially defies just about everything the modern Church stands for, in how it extols the virtues of finding God, once again, not through a church or priest or blind faith but by raw self-exploration and unique individual spirit. You gotta love it.

And all this only 60 years after the big daddy of recent biblical discoveries, the massive Nag Hammadi library of Gnostic gospels, an astonishing collection of delicious, banned writings from one of the more mystical, pro-sexual, pro-women, open-minded sects of early Christianity, one of many that offered radically differing versions of Christ's story and message, but which, like the rest, eventually lost out to the more militant and dogmatic Church many of us know and recoil from today.

(Remember, like history, religion is written by the victors. It is then revised by the powermongers, leveraged by the fearful and wielded as a nasty weapon by the conservatives. Same as it ever was.)

Is it not perhaps the single greatest fallacy of all time? That mankind is somehow a meek and inferior quasi-deity ever struggling to live up to some hideously puritanical idea of the sacred and the enlightened? That morality and religion are somehow clean and flawless in their messages and that God is somehow scowling down every day, watching and taking notes?

Or that the Bible -- make that all bibles, of every shape and kind, from any culture, are merely ever-shifting kaleidoscopes through which you may observe the world and absorb some lovely wisdom and moral color, but which you should never, ever mistake for real life? Can I get an amen?

Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate and in the Datebook section of the SF Chronicle.

An Update on Jason Johnson

Remember the kid I posted about a week ago? He is the kid who got expelled from his Baptist college because he wrote about his sexual orientation in his weblog. It seems he's doing pretty good. He recently said,

"This case has become an outlet for me to speak out about Christianity and sexual orientation and how those two aren't mutually exclusive," Johnson said. "You can be a gay Christian. I know, I am one."

You can read more about what is going on with him by going here.

Happy Easter

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Seder Supper

Tonight, Thursday, we at church are hosting a Seder meal in honor of the Passover celerbation. We will be following the Haggadah, a 30 century ceremony that remembers the deliverance from Egypt of the Israelite captives. Following the meal, we have an addendum to include and explain why the Seder is important for Christians.

The meal itself represents the struggle the Israelites faced in captivity. Each food has a different representation. The plate at the left is placed on the Seder table. It's images involk the memories that the Israelites to this day, have not forgotten.

It is interesting that so few Christians celebrate the Seder or even Passover since Jesus is the fulfillment of the Messianic expectation that the Seder calls for. And Jesus, who gathered his disciples during the feast of Passover, and after that supper, he took some bread and broke it. After giving thanks he gave it to them and said, "This is my body broken for you, do this to remember me."

During the Seder, there is bread broken (the Matzot) and there is even the drinking of the fruit of the vine to remember the joy that God brought the Israelites. Toward the end of the service, there is a chalice with more wine in it. That chalice is called Elijah's cup and lifting it up is meant to celebrate the hope that when Elijah returns, he'll bring the Messiah with him (which is why the people had asked if John the Baptist was Elijah).

To me, the Seder represents God's divine circle; one that when observed can surely be a blessing to all who participate in it as well as the Easter celebration.

A Prophet Is Gone

William Sloan Coffin died yesterday at his home in Vermont. Coffin, the former senior minister at The Riverside Church in New York City, was an outspoken man for peace as well as an advocate for the homeless and impoverished. He wrote several books, was arrested many times for civil disobedience, and his words of wisdom inspired generations.

He likened his pastoral office to that of both priest and prophet. Summarizing his roles, he said, "Every minister is given two roles, the priestly and the prophetic. The prophetic role is the disturber of the peace, to bring the minister himself, the congregation, and entire moral order some judgment." Living up to this challenge is the task for any and all ministers- fortunately for many of us, we have a great example in Coffin of how to do that with dignity and humility.

A memorial is being planned at The Riverside Church although a date and time has not been determined.

To read one obituary, point your browser here to the New York Times.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

More Yahoo! Problems

Remember several months ago when I wrote about someone breaking into my Yahoo! email account and changing all my pertinent information and thereby blocking me out of my own email? Well, something new has happened. My subscriptions to Yahoo! Plus email features and my Yahoo! Briefcase were all cancelled. I got an email confirmation explaining what had happened. So I called the Yahoo! folks and they confirmed that my subscriptions had been cancelled. As a result, I won't have POP3 access or larger email and file storage anymore.

When I explained that I didn't cancel anything, they simply said, that I could just resubscribe (but I won't be able to retrieve my email, spam blockers, or files). And, I'd be charged again. And, when I asked if there is some mechanism that we could put in place to prevent this from happening again, they said, "No there isn't. This is just how we do things here." Sheeesh!

I am so 'this close' to cancelling anything and everything associated with Yahoo!. The trouble is, my yahoo! email is the basis for all my subscriptions to EVERYTHING online. Cancelling it would be very tedious as I look and replace it with something else.

But I am going to do it eventually. I just know it. I am so upset and angry that I doubt my frustration will subside.

I have been looking for an email to replace it and am having trouble finding something that is compariable to Yahoo! (when they are working correctly). I found a service called Runbox. They seem to be a great service but they are $50 a year! Surely there is something cheaper. Does anyone have a recommended email client they can recommend to me?


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

When Pledges Don't Work- Then What?

"The federal government is spending $167 million this year to spread that abstinence-only message. And there’s a law that says that for a program to receive government funding, it must not talk about the health benefits of using condoms -- only about how they fail. "

This quote is from a segment on 60 Minutes that discusses the Virginity Pledge and a recent study that explains that 88 percent of the kids who take the pledge, fail to keep the pledge. And when they fail the pledge, they engage in high risk sexual activity believing (because they've been told so) that wearing a condom is useless and won't protect them.

In the last few years since the pledge phenom has swept in the public schools, teenage sexually transmitted diseases have skyrocketed. More and more kids are getting pregnant and contracting HIV and other STDs. And the Federal Government is to blame. They are telling programs that if they receive money for abstinence-only education that they must:
1. Not to recommend condoms
2. Not show how to use them
3. Only teach that condoms fail (check out this site as an example and this one.)

Does it take a rocket scientist to see why STDs and teen pregnancies are up? What moron(s) conceived this program anyway?

Jocelyn Elders and C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon Generals of the U.S. both advance that abstinence programs are good but that they should include a simple statement:
"First, don’t have sex. Second, if you do, use a condom." It's simple and honest. And, it doesn't pretend that kids aren't having sex (which they obviously are).

Now, here is something really scary. "Adolescents who take virginity pledges – who remain virgins, that is, who don’t have vaginal sex, who technically remain virgins, are much more likely to have oral and anal sex," says Bearman, the guy who headed the study that found 88 percent of the teens who took virginity pledges failed to keep their pledge."

AND, "They're much LESS likely to get tested for a sexually transmitted disease. They’ve taken a public pledge to remain a virgin until marriage. The sex that they have is much more likely to be hidden," says Bearman. "It’s likely to be hidden from their parents. It’s likely to be hidden from their peers. And if they live in a small community, it’s quite likely to be hidden from their doctor."

And so, these kids who are not having sex, as they understand it to be, are actually doing it, and they're doing it without condoms because their being told they don't work, they're not getting tested (out of a fear that others might find out their having it) and then (surprise!) they're spreading their STDs to other kids.

When I was a youth minister at a large Baptist church in Texas, my pastor was furious at me for not jumping on the True Love Waits campaign to get the youth to make pledges to remain a virgin until marriage. I told him that as far as I knew, half of our teens already had sex and to stigmatize them as 'impure' would add to the pressure and alienation these kids already face. And, I told him, if they feel alienation in our youth group, they'll probably leave the group and go somewhere else where they feel less alienated.

I also explained to him that I doubted those pledges worked because I knew a lot of my peers who had taken the pledge but still have sex, it just wasn't procreative sex. I had said that I thought it was a sham and not spiritually honest. He agreed (to my surprise) and we didn't use the program. I thought it was crazy then, who knew that 10 years later, one third of all public schools would be embracing the program AND telling our teenagers that condoms don't work; with the hope that they'd be left with no choice but to abstain.

What clear headed adult doesn't realize that the powerful urges to have sex cannot be contained to the extent that the proponets of the abstinence would like? We need to be smarter adults and admit to kids that we'd like for them to wait but if they don't, then they must use a condom. If our Surgeon Generals (who are the highest ranked doctors in our nation) agree, then shouldn't our Administration follow their advice? To me, it's mindnumbingly stupid to continue advocating for abstinance without the caveat of condom use.

We're sacrificing our youth for an ideological religious position that is going to have serious consequences on our nation and our healthcare system. But I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, we're doing the same thing in Iraq by sacrificing our servicemen and women to the ideological whim of democracy from our President and Republican led House and Senate.

Anyways, I need to get off my soapbox and let you can read the the CBS pledge story by going here. There you can form your own opinions.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Kind of a funny thing to say

"These guys are alone together, some of them forever. We’re already running ‘Brokeback prison.'"

-Said Mr. Ken Ferullo, vice president of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union told the Boston Herald, in response to a
Norfolk State Prison worker who faces a disciplinary hearing for allowing inmates at the biggest penitentiary in Massachusetts to watch "Brokeback Mountain" before the movie was prescreened and approved by the Warden's office.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I've got dust EVERYWHERE

For the last two months, I have had two (and sometimes four) construction workers working in and around the parsonage. Outside, they rebuilt and installed a brand new covered front porch as well as building a small back porch and steps out back. Both look amazing.

Inside, the workers have completely rebuilt and installed a brand new bathroom upstairs. I now have a beautiful tiled bathroom with the most incredible shower head I've ever showered under. Now, the workers are downstairs remodeling a new bathroom located between the kitchen and the living room.

Doing all their work, they have been vigilent to put down plastic over the rug as well as trying to put up plastic to keep the dust from spreading throughout the house. However, good intentions have remained just that- I have dust everywhere. It is on my tables, all throughout my kitchen, on my appliances, coffee makers, plants, chairs, lamps, walls... everywhere. It is amazing.

And seeing how I am not as good a cleaner as I probably should be, I worry that I'll be finding dust long after the workers have left. I am thinking I should have a cleaning party with the church ladies--invite them over, have mops and dust rags available... nah, if they even think I am planning this, they'll be fit to be tied.

Just in case I actually do invite them over, don't say anything or refer them to this blog entry. Shhhhh....!

Another interesting quote

Upon reading the remarks of a blog rallying against our attempts at setting up an American theocracy, a commentor wrote to show his appreciation for the blog entry and left this quote:

As a psychiatrist once remarked after dealing with a few fundamentlists while visiting Jerusalem, "They need t-shirts that should state the truth - 'God told me to hate you.'"

I couldn't help but smirk that such a t-shirt would be very helpful in getting to the root causes of such hatred. But then, I wonder if such a t-shirt slogan is a justification or an excuse for intolerance and hatred?

Sacred Images and Interpretations

I am thinking that the time is approaching for me to change the artwork here on my blog. I am and have been searching the internet to find pictures that I like as well as those pictures that convey an artistic interpretation of my faith. The pictures I have now both show my faith as well as the nature of my faith experiences having lived in New York City for the past 10 years. I found those pictures doing what I am doing now. And, when I found them, I contacted the artist and asked her permission to post her artwork on my site. She was very supportive as long as I linked the pictures to her website, which as you know I did.

Now that I am searching for new artwork, I came across this interesting site that interprets the messages found in many sacred art paintings and iconography. To me, it is facinating how the artist might convey meanings both overt and "hidden". This might be one reason that I have enjoyed reading and rereading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

Another Student Expelled

I just read the story about a student at a small Baptist college in Kentucky who was expelled for posting on his internet blog on myspace.com that he is gay. I am sure the kid feels miserable and that his parents are embarrassed. While the school remains "unapologetic about its Christian beliefs", one wonders how such beliefs can be so callous to the havoc wrecked upon a 20 year old.

This story brought to mind my own experiences at a Southern Baptist seminary in which the school officials reminded me that their actions were meant to be redemptive, and not callous. And yet, I wondered how redemptive such an action could be for me if they were trying to expel me. I left feeling that the only redemption that occured was for the school itself by helping keep their reputation in tact.

A friend of mine was once the secretary for the Office of Student Affairs at my former seminary and he told me that the school routinely expels about 100 students a year for being discovered as gay or lesbian.

Still, leaving the Baptist seminary was the best thing that ever happened to me. For leaving it, I transfered to Union Theological Seminary in New York. I got a great education there. Being *out* and in a safe environment enabled me to make better grades and live an honest life. Now I am serving a parish as an out gay pastor in a small town in Northern New Jersey. For me, it is the fulfillment of such a life lived in honesty.

The kid who was expelled in Kentucky may find such an action to be better for him than he can presently imagine. He is probably feeling all sorts of guilt and anxiety. But going through such travails, as the old addage goes, may serve to make him stronger (albeit a little bit bitter too). And, it may also empower him to accomplish great things and enable him to have greater opportunities.

So maybe the actions of both my former seminary and this Kentucky Baptist school are redemptive after all. And redemptive for us the students rather than the institutions concerned about their reputations.

My prayers are with you Jason Johnson as you struggle and deal with this ordeal. May you find redemption and a life well lived with honesty, integrity, and hope.

The Were-Rabbit Lives!

This is one big rabbit, right? You can read more about this rabbit here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

New UCC "Ejection Seat" Commercial

The UCC's new commercial has been released, as of this week. While the commercial will not be available (again) on network television, chances are good you'll see it on your cable stations. And, you can see it here. I am linking the commericial via quicktime, if you don't have quicktime installed on your computer, go to http://www.stillspeaking.com and navigate to where the commercial is shown.


The commercial pretty much speaks for itself and this time, uses a bit of humor to get its message across. I have learned, however, that mixing humor with religion is bound to make some folks very angry--and this commercial is already doing that.