Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Setting aside for the moment all the debated aspects of this topic, I'm curious about something. From time to time I hear or read comments from homosexuals and from those who are sympathetic to the cause of homosexuals about those on the other side of the issue, calling them "homophobic." I have no doubt that homophobes exist and are accurately identified as "homophobic." However, often the word is used to identify those who, based on their religious beliefs, express their opposition to homosexuality. Does opposition equate to fear? Granted, fear can prompt opposition. But that isn't always the case. Would those who oppose Christian opposition to homosexuality accept being identified as "christiaphobic"? or those who think belief in God is quite irrational, as "theophobic"? I don't think so.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

If You Love One Another

I find myself in and out of agreement with Brian McLaren -- more in with The Secret Message of Jesus and more out with Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crisis, and a Revolution of Hope. In his recent "An Open Letter to Conservative Christians in the U.S., On Health Care," I once again found substantial points of disagreement, but in a couple of areas he was spot on.

I have been growing more and more deeply troubled by the way so many from my heritage in conservative Christianity -- in its Evangelical, Charismatic, and Roman Catholic streams -- have allowed themselves to be spiritually formed by various conservative political and economic ideologies. It's been disturbing to see how many Christians have begun to follow and trust leaders who live more by political/media/ideological codes than by moral/spiritual/biblical ones.

As a result, I sometimes think that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Fox News may now influence many conservative Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Catholics even more than Billy Graham, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Pope Benedict, or even the four gospels.

Now in a free country, people certainly have the right to choose their ideology. But Christians of all sorts, I think we all can agree, have a special calling -- to increasingly harmonize our lives (including our lives as citizens) with the teaching and example of Jesus. My concern is that many of my sisters and brothers, without realizing it, have begun seeing Jesus and the faith through the lens of a neo-conservative political framework, thus reducing their vision of Jesus and his essential message of the kingdom of God. As a result, too many of us are becoming more and more zealous conservatives, but less and less Christ-like Christians, and many don't seem to notice the difference.

Amen, Brian. When we
equate our political framework of choice (or, dare I say, our geopolitical situation) with our Christian faith, we're on shaky ground. Though McLaren doesn't mention it, I think he would agree with me that this applies to Christians on the other end of the spectrum as well. "My kingdom is not of this world" covers the entire spectrum.

If one does not "notice the difference," one may make statements like the one I have heard a friend make more than once: "I don't think a person can be a Christian and a Democrat." I suppose it's possible that someone might say "I don't think a person can be a Christian and a Republican," but that hasn't passed the lips of any of my friends . . . in my hearing. [Now, I have heard some rather disparaging things said about those who claim to be Christians and Republicans, but not that particular statement.] McLaren points us to a more charitable way:

[P]eople are free to disagree humbly and respectfully with their fellow Christians and their government. ... But we Christians, it seems to me, have a high calling -- to be radically committed to integrity and civility, even (especially) with those with whom we disagree. God, after all, is merciful, generous, and kind to "the just and the unjust": how can we not have that same obligation regarding those with whom we disagree? Even if others resort to dirty political tricks and distortion of the truth through exaggeration and fear-mongering, we simply cannot. At the very least, we should be seekers of truth, seekers of wisdom, not consumers (or purveyors) of propaganda -- even if it comes from members of our own political party and people who quote a lot of Bible verses (often out of context). We have a higher calling.

The Apostle Paul might suggest "speaking the truth in love." We should feel free to express our disagreements with our brothers and sisters in Christ. But when we do so, we must make sure what we are speaking is truth (rather than something passed along to us in email, that is so deliciously deprecatory of 'the other side' but unsubstantiated) and in love (rather than because 'they said nasty things about our guy when he was in office').

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

When Not to Blog

[Not that I have been active enough to worry about when not to blog, but I think this piece by Donn Johnson is worth reading.]

My son commented that I have not been posting as often as in the Winter and Spring. Last night I sat and reflected on when not to blog. My blog postings are, chiefly, idea-based and discussion-starters. When there is an interesting article or book that warrants discussion, I blog. When there is a newsworthy event that bears on church life and the faith community, I blog. When there is something happening in the culture that is intriguing, I blog.

But here are some of the areas off-limits for me:

1. church members in crisis
2. church staff issues that need discussion and resolution in-house
3. family matters
4. most things political
5. church conflicts
6. any confidentiality
7. something that makes me uneasy

The purpose for my blog is to add to the conversation already happening in churches among believers. I'm not sure how many non-believers read this. I think it's mainly those of us who are committed to life in the local body. The health and vitality of local churches is one of my highest concerns. Blogs that rip on the local church are not helpful. And the local church is fragile. So any blog I write that could plant a seed of suspicion or distrust is also not helpful (and I think I've done that in the past from some emails that came later). Blogs that poke at other churches are not helpful (I'm not the pastor of any other church but this one and don't know the stories behind the stories).

I've heard from a number of my pastor-friends this summer and it's tough going for many of them. So I'm doing a bit more praying and reading, reflecting and sitting.

(posted by Donn Johnson on the Jibstay blog, 1 Aug 2009)


Yahweh is a redeeming God, bringing joy out of sorrow and triumph out of tragedy. He has brought into my life a woman who loves me more than she loves herself, and who loves him more than she loves me: Lynne Madison. On September 6, Lynne and I will join our lives for the rest of our lives. This will occur publicly yet simply after the 11:00 a.m. worship gathering of the Church at Brook Hills.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


From time to time I read things or hear things that really stick with me. I know they do because, though I'm not aware of their presence deep within my mind, they pop out effortlessly when the appropriate circumstances arise. One of those things was spoken by or written by Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly, which along with Robert Bly’s Iron John, has been credited with kick-starting the "men's movement." I seems to recall that it was on an audio-cassette a friend gave me almost a decade ago, but which was lost in one of my moves. You'll forgive me if all the details aren't accurate; I have it on good authority (Sam Keen himself) that he has "certainly said something of the kind many times."

Keen was talking about people dealing with emotional issues in their lives through therapy and seminars and self-help books. He noted that he was aware of people who had engaged in such activities for years with no perceptible improvement, yet they persisted. In fact, these activities had become part of the people's identities. What stuck with me was Keen's observation (no pun intended) that though there is value in the therapy and the seminars and such, at some point those engaged in them "need to graduate." They need to move on in their lives to an identity that isn't defined by "healing" or "recovering" -- they need to be persons who have healed or have recovered. I'm not a mental health professional health professional, and I won't even pretend to know the specific circumstances of every person, but I think Kee's statement has a ring of truth to it.

What brought this to mind was a conversation with a friend about single people . . . specifically, people who married and subsequently divorced. Again, I don't know everyone's circumstances, but I am one of those people, so I do understand something about the matter. It seems to me that some of these people get stuck in the "divorced person" stage and never graduate. I don't mean they don't get un-divorced (though some do, reconciling with the spouse whom they divorced) or that they remarry (though some do). I mean they continue to wear that big "D" prominently on their chests, so that all will know. It is an integral part of their identities. This allows some to continue being victims, and to continue telling the world that they are. Someone divorced me or did something to me that made divorce an option . . . and here's who it was and what they did to me and how I feel about them (not usually warm and fuzzy). I don't think this is healthy. And I don't think it's the way God intends them (or me or you) to live.

I don't have "book, chapter, and verse" for this, but I think there's a better way, a way God took me (though I didn't detect the movement except in retrospect). God took me through "recovering" into "recovered," through "healing" into "healed." I graduated. I moved from being a divorced person to being a single person and finally to being just a person. I'm not un-divorced, nor have I remarried. But the divorce that broke my family apart (and, granted, still affects our lives) no longer defines me. I'm forgiven and I'm released from the burden. Child of God and follower of Jesus -- that's my identity.