Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Life Soundtrack 26

Nothing Left to Lose, by Mat Kearney

For me, this song evokes feelings of a fresh start, of embarking on a new journey. Leaving behind the familiar and facing the uncertainty of a universe of previously unseen possibilities can be both daunting and exhilarating. I don't know when I'll next be forced out of my comfort zone to begin a new leg of my own journey, but part of me secretly yearns for it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Kathy Baldock has generously contributed a considerable amount of her time to read and review the latest book by a Christian purporting to offer a "compassionate" response to the issue of homosexuality. Among other things Kathy observes that, while the author (Michael Brown) appears to sincerely believe he's being compassionate, she found nothing in the content of the book that any outside observer would be likely to interpret as compassion.

Based on my own experiences growing up in fundamentalistic churches, I don't find that surprising. While believers in such churches are routinely exhorted to harbor warm thoughts toward others in the name of love, compassion is inevitably divorced from empathy (and thereby reduced to an abstraction) since the idea that anyone could genuinely view and interpret the world differently than they do borders on heresy. Such differences of perspective must be denounced as either willful rebellion against "the Truth" or satanic deception. Any factual or experiential evidence that contradicts what they have defined as Truth is likewise beneath consideration.

In the twisted version of the Golden Rule that emerges from such conditioning, fundamentalists are taught to "do unto others" by first projecting their own feelings and opinions onto everyone around them and then demanding absolute conformity to that narrow vision. That they are conflating God's will with their own never occurs to them, since they have been armed with a list of Bible verses that appear to support their arguments.

While individuals trapped in this mode of thinking are not irredeemable by any means, it's not always feasible to remain in relationship with somebody who considers you to be a hell-bound apostate. But at the very least we can temper our reactions with an understanding of where they are coming from, extending the same grace we would hope to receive were our positions reversed.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

What Matters Most

If I'm to pass some sort of exam on what it "means to be a Christian," theology and belief aren't relevant to the test. What is relevant is what Genie and my children can tell you about what I'm like to live with, and whether my years spent on a sacramental path have made me less of a self-centered idiot. That is what faith in God is about, just as that is what being a moral atheist is about.

-Frank Schaeffer, Patience With God (page 44)

Put another way:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

Saturday, April 02, 2011


As anyone who knows me in real life most likely knows (and as I mentioned here some years back), I'm a big fan of the Amazing Race. Although I doubt I could physically handle being a contestant on the show myself, I still enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of those who do get the opportunity to compete.

One of my favorite teams on the show's current season is Zev & Justin, two guys I could imagine hanging out with in my own circle of friends. Zev has Asperger Syndrome, a condition that, among other things, makes it a challenge to form close friendships with others. Justin is the friend who looked past those surface difficulties and embraced the valuable person he saw underneath.

In that respect, Justin has acted as a follower of Christ more truly than many who call themselves Christians. (I don't know anything about Justin's beliefs, but Matt. 25:31-46 and other passages suggest that our actions are more important than our words.) In my own life I'm deeply grateful for the Justins that have come along and accepted me as I am, sometimes at times when it wasn't easy to see that I had anything worthwhile to offer in return.

That simple act of unconditional acceptance is so much more powerful than we like to give it credit for. In the long run it's far more transformative than any number of well-intentioned efforts to force a person to change - and it ultimately earns us that platform that we so strongly covet to be an influence in the lives of those around us.

Conservative evangelicals have become our poster children for those who like to pick on other people's sins, but we've all done it at one time or another, either directly or through acts of rejection. For my own part I like to think that I've succeeded at least a few times in unconditionally accepting others (an act of self-sacrifice, to be sure), but I still have to face the fact that I've failed to do so many other times.

The world has plenty of moralists; what it really needs is more best friends.