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Category: Philosophy

This Bill Maher and Ben Affleck Exchange Is Incredibly Important For Liberals and Conservatives

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Let me first just say that I’m not sure if keeping score on something like this is good for anyone… But Bill had a strong point to make, but so did Ben actually.

Wow… I love a good debate, and this really was a huge debate to watch. On one side you have the liberal force of “tolerance” so that we don’t lump groups in a distortion of their true character (represented by Mr. Affleck), and on the other side we have the liberal cornerstone of an activism that has zero tolerance for any social and economic oppression subjugated by any ideology (represented by Mr. Maher). This article sums up a good portion of how I feel, but I think there is more to it. I think that what Bill was saying is incredibly important, and I think that what Ben was saying is crucial to actually solving the problem. Bill was pointing out that renouncing your faith should not be cause for being put to death, which it is perceived to be for many people. He quoted that something like 90% of Egyptians felt that leaving Islam should result in capital punishment, and I thought I’d heard the same about Saudi Arabia. That is astounding to me, and assuming that the polling is correct I am left terrified of how we might bridge the divide in our cultures.

Ben however, was taking a firm stance that you can’t just throw entire regions and cultures out like this – which I find admirable in terms of how we may ever have to address this problem. Where I find myself frustrated on this front is the double standard between the Middle East and the Heartland of America. Liberals like Ben (and maybe not him more specifically) almost predictably take this stance of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater on people and their cultures, until it comes to the Christian coalition (not the necessarily the actual organization with that name) of people across this country who are reamed constantly by the media for having faith. Some groups and individuals who call themselves Christians probably deserve some harsh feedback, but we don’t usually hear this same kind of nuanced approach with Christianity in America.

If someone wants to go after religion they don’t necessarily hurt my feelings – society needs people like that so you don’t end up with a population that thinks we should kill people who don’t believe in what we believe in and can’t prove. BUT, if you are going to do it you should remain consistent, and nuanced in your value judgements of these differing groups and their ideas. I wish Bill wouldn’t be so willing to throw people out like he does, and I wish Ben would clarify his standard, as well as recognize that what Bill was saying is scary. If those poll numbers don’t scare you then you must not be paying attention…

I will actually be taking a trip in November with my good buddy Gavin to Egypt, and I just want to say that I can’t wait to meet these people who are often villainized by the media – and who like me don’t have the world figured out yet. I’m sure we could come up with some astounding polling from the United States over the last century, so to side with Ben for a second I hope that we can work on finding our common ground so that maybe we can work on exchanging our best ideas, and not just harp on our differences.

So, here is the exchange, and below is a very interesting article about the whole thing. Please feel free to give me your feedback:

And due to neither of these men being representatives of Islam I figured we’d throw in this Reza Aslan interview that would most support Ben’s thinking for before you read an article about why Bill is right:

The Daily Beast
 

Bill Maher 1, Ben Affleck 0

The Real Time host’s spat with the Gone Girl star gets to the heart of a major and longtime problem within contemporary Western liberalism

Every once in a great while, something happens on television that you know while you’re watching it: Well, this is unusual. Those old enough to know what I’m talking about when I say “Al Campanis”  will remember that that was one of your more extreme cases. The exchange between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck on last Friday’s Real Time wasn’t a Campanis moment, but I knew instantly—watching it in, well, real time, as it were—that this was going to spark discussion,  as indeed it has.

In case you missed it, the two—both committed and thoughtful liberals—got into it on the question of whether Western liberals can or should criticize Islam. Mentioning freedom of speech and equal rights, Maher said: “These are liberal principles that liberals applaud for, but then when you say in the Muslim world, this is what’s lacking, then they get upset.” Sam Harris, the atheist author, agreed with Maher and said, “The crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of Islamophobia where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry towards Muslims as people. That is intellectually ridiculous.” Affleck, as if on cue, challenged Harris: “Are you the person who understands the officially codified doctrine of Islam?” And then: “So you’re saying that Islamophobia is not a real thing?” Right after, Affleck said that such criticisms of Islam were “gross” and “racist” and “like saying [to Maher] ‘you’re a shifty Jew.’”

It was cracking good TV, but it was more—it hit home because they were describing one of the most important debates within liberalism of the last…10 years certainly, as pertains to Islam, but 40 or 50 years as relates to arguments between the developed and the developing world, and close to a century when it comes to discussions of how culture should affect our understanding of universal, or as some would have it “universal,” principles. Reluctance to criticize the failures of other cultures has been a problem within contemporary liberalism, with negative consequences I’ll go into below. So this liberal is firmly on Maher’s side, even as I recognize that his rendering is something of a caricature.

Here’s some quick history for you. First, the Enlightenment happened, and humankind developed the idea of universal rights. ’Round about the 1920s, some scholars in the then-newish field of cultural anthropology started to argue that all rights, or at least values, were not universal, and that we (the West) should be careful about imposing our values on societies with traditions and customs so removed from our own.

A big moment here came with the debate over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which asserted the universalist position without apology and which was pushed mostly by mainstream political liberals (Eleanor Roosevelt most notably). There were many critiques of the declaration from what we would today call “the left,” but those voices had little juice in those days, and when the UN adopted the declaration, it was a great victory for liberalism.

Fade in, fade out. Then came the anti-colonialist uprisings of the 1950s, Frantz Fanon, postmodern political theory, Vietnam, the Israeli occupation, the intifada, et cetera et cetera. All of these and many other kindred events seeped into the liberal bloodstream, still rich in universalist cells but now also coursing with the competing cells of cultural relativism (invariably a pejorative these days, although it wasn’t always).

And so, yes, we have seen in recent years from liberalism, or at least from some liberals (a crucial distinction, in fact), an unwillingness to criticize the reactionary aspects or expressions of other cultures, expressions that these liberals would have no hesitation whatsover in criticizing if they were exhibited by, say, Southern white Christians.

The most obvious example that comes to mind is that of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Muslim-African-Dutch-and-finally-American feminist intellectual. She of course is famous, now mostly for some of her more incendiary comments, but recall how she first became so: She and her collaborator, Theo van Gogh, had made a film critical of the oppression of women in the Muslim world. He was murdered, and she received death threats. She fled to the United States.

Now, here was a key moment: When she came to America in 2006, where was Hirsi Ali going to plant her flag? As she tells the story in her book Nomad, she met with liberal and conservative outfits. She says the liberal ones were “tentative” in their support for her and her ideas, but the conservative American Enterprise Institute embraced her totally, even though on certain issues (like abortion rights) she’s no conservative.

Hirsi Ali, of course, has subsequently gone on to say, quite controversially, that not just radical Islam but “Islam, period” must be “defeated.” But here’s the question: Before she started talking like that, why was she unable to find a home within American liberalism? It should be, and should have been, a core part of the mission of liberalism to support secular humanists and small-d democrats from all over the world, but from the Muslim world in particular. Most of these people are themselves liberals by Western standards, and they are desperate for the United States to do what it can to oppose the theocracies and autocracies under which they’re forced to live.

Maher, and certainly conservative critics, overstate the extent to which liberals fail to make common cause with such folks. Christian evangelicals who do work on, say, genital mutilation (which Hirsi Ali suffered) get a lot more attention in the media, because it’s more “interesting” that white conservatives give a crap about something happening to nonwhite women halfway across the world. But as the writer Michelle Goldberg pointed out in a review of Hirsi Ali’s Nomad for the journal I edit, Democracy, numerous women’s organizations and feminist groups do work to advance women’s rights in the Muslim world.

Goldberg wrote: “A few years ago, I visited Tasaru Ntomonok, which is the kind of place Hirsi Ali would probably love—it’s a Kenyan shelter that houses and educates girls fleeing female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Among its supporters are the high profile feminist Eve Ensler, the feminist NGO Equality Now, and the United Nations Population Fund, a bête noire of many conservatives. There are similar grassroots organizations working toward women’s liberation all over the world.”

Even so, Maher has identified a problem within Western liberalism today. Debates about multiculturalism are appropriate to a later stage of development of the infrastructure of rights and liberties than one finds in some other parts of the world. That infrastructure has existed in Western countries for a century, and it is the very fact that it was so solidly entrenched that opened up the space for us to start having debates about multiculturalism in the 1970s and ’80s.

But in much of the Arab and Muslim world, that infrastructure barely exists. So—and how’s this for a paradox?—to insist that our Western standards that call for multiculturalist values should be applied to countries that haven’t yet fully developed the basic rights infrastructure constitutes its own kind of imposition of our values onto them. A liberated woman or a gay man who lives in a country where being either of those things is at best unaccepted and at worst illegal doesn’t need multiculturalism. They’re desperate for a little universalism, and we Western liberals need to pay more attention to this.

via Bill Maher 1, Ben Affleck 0 – The Daily Beast.

This Man Was Given 2 Years To Live With ALS In 1963, And He’s Still Alive… And That’s Not Even The Most Interesting Thing About Him.

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Stephen Hawking has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Did I just blow your mind? Discovering this bit of information was actually somewhat exciting for me, as I have always thought of the disease to be an absolute guarantee of death within a few years. I realize that a lot of people that I know do not like Mr. Hawking, and you don’t have to (no one can make you), but it is probably worth at least learning his story, and what makes him significant (other than the fact that he’s survived having ALS for half of a century). It will probably comfort a lot of my friends at least somewhat to know that Mr. Hawking isn’t as militant an atheist as some. He has actually been quoted saying:

“An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!” – Stephen Hawking

 

The recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign has been unbelievably successful. Much of the success of this campaign is probably correlated with the fact that there seemed to be a very simple, and kind of fun activity that tangibly allows people to at least do something, other than give money. The other side of the campaign that is probably responsible for having raised $94.3 million, in less than a month (as opposed to $2.7 million in the same time period the previous year) is the outpouring of personal stories. I recently read the book “You Are Now Less Dumb”, and in this book David McRaney attempts to establish that the most basic of human instincts is to have a narrative – we must make sense of it all. He tries to explain how we tell ourselves simple lies sometimes just to make sense of our environment. It might seem like I’m bringing this up to say that religion is an opiate, but that is not my intent. I simply want to describe the importance in the human condition of relating to others. This is what Stephen looked like before ALS took over his body:

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SO, here is my challenge to you: I challenge you to watch this and try to address your prejudices against Mr. Hawking, be they ideological or biological – or simply watch it and enjoy it. I believe there is a God, and that in principle is why I would want to hear as much from someone like Hawking as possible. If you don’t have time for the video I at least urge you to read about some of Mr. Hawking’s discoveries and theories, he is a pretty smart fellow. Now I think I’ll go listen to the audiobook for his record breaking best selling book “A Brief History of Time”.

via Hawking 2013 – YouTube.

“Justice: The Moral Side of Murder” with Michael Sandel, Harvard University

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Over the last few years of come in and out of playing around with iTunes U, the Apple based free classroom space, but I never seem to finish the classes. Well, recently I started a free class on iTunes U that I will absolutely be finishing. The course is called “Justice” and it’s taught by renouned philosopher, author, and professor Michael Sandel. Below I am including a link to this fascinating free course, and the first lecture, which I am watching for the 3rd time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am enjoying it.

Justice by Harvard University

You Can’t Handle The Truth: Why the World We Create is Increasingly Impossible to Understand

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How Big is the Milky Way?

The picture and the article linked above, as well as the video below, were created by people much smarter than I – so feel free to skip the rambling of this madman if you don’t have too much time. But reading/writing this post is/was fun for me, because it makes me feel enormous, and microscopic at the same time – and suddenly my day is more interesting, and hopefully more meaningful. I hope that this post can challenge/bless you, as these things do me.

I have had this thought for several years now, and as often well intended people try to impress me (not just me) with big gargantuan measurements and calculations about how things are and will be I try to repeatedly remind myself that not only am I not grasping this, but the person “blowing my mind” doesn’t understand what they are saying either. Please don’t take that statement as a condemnation of people trying to know things, I think that trying to know things is wonderful, but actually knowing and understanding many things might be harder than we tend to think. It seems to me that the ideas in our brains reach a critical mass that we don’t seem capable of truly understanding, at least not in the terms in which we tend to think that we can understand them.

The Arabic Numeral System (the one that we use that goes from 0 to 9, and then repeats it’s self) is a brilliant design that allows us to use our nostalgic brains to consider and relate quantities in relation to the number 10. 10 versus 100 is relatively simple for people to understand. One hundred is ten ten’s. Wasn’t it weird that I switched from the numbers to the letters? It was for me. Anyway, the point is that these numbers that we use repeatedly to quantify different things or ideas often to compare to one another can be great for our brains on a relatively small scale. I mean, I can count to 10 and then 100 relatively quickly, and I think that I get the difference in terms of consequence from one rather than the other. Say I have $100, rather than $10, I understand how much stuff I can get for that money. And I’m sorry if this feels silly, I’m trying to get to the point, I just think that it’s important to consider understanding the ACTUAL difference in these amounts.

Ok, now let’s keep with talking about money, because it’s way more interesting than most things that you might try to quantify because you can get stuff with it. I know that I think that I can understand the numbers 1,000,000 and 1,000,000,000, and the scale of both in comparison to one another. However, I’ve come to believe that this is just my ego and some basic comparison skills thanks to the Arabic Numeral System, and that I actually don’t get the comparison (and I don’t think that you probably do either). I am not saying that we can’t use the ideas of these numbers to compute and calculate, i just mean that i believe that our brains cannot full grasp the scale and impact of these kinds of numbers. I don’t mean to offend you if you think that you can and do fully understand these larger numbers, but I’m just being honest. Here are a few little tests to see how you feel about what I’m talking about, and again we’ll stick to money.

In this last Presidential election Sheldon Adelson was in the news for donating $10 million dollars several times to different campaigns. In the end he paid over $100 million to super pacs in the 2012 election. Now, that is simply a lot of money, but lets consider his net wealth really quickly. Mr. Adelson is worth roughly $25 billion, so as a percentage of his wealth his donations were about .4% of what he had to offer. In other words, if Mr. Adelson had $25,000 in the bank he offered $10 ten different times. Having that kind of influence for such a small portion of your wealth is a pretty wild thing, even though all of his candidates eventually lost. Ok, let’s try another example.

How long does it take you to run a mile? And there are 5,280 feet in a mile. Look at something that’s about a foot, and then count to 5,280. Ok, you don’t have to do that, but try to picture how big a mile is to you. Well in 1 second light goes 186,000 miles (imagine getting that many dollars in one second). And don’t forget those are miles, not feet. Light is so fast… I mean, in one second light could go across the united states about 60 times. Are you getting this? Me neither. We are talking about light in one second.

Alright, so as light travels 186,000 miles (not feet!) per second if you do the math light travels about 5.8 trillion miles in a year. I mean, 5,800,000,000,000. Or 5.8 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100. Surely you understand that, I used 100’s. Ok, I’m kidding because you can’t, and I can’t either. But there is the connection, if we try to break things down so that we can understand them then we just use a bunch of 100’s, and thus 5.8 trillion no longer feels so big. I mean, imagine going across the United States in a car. Now imagine doing it sixty times… Now imagine doing that every second of the day for 365 days…. I know, you can’t, neither can I. But that number is about 5.8 trillion…

Our national debt is about $17 trillion. That’s three times as many dollars in our debt as there are miles in a light year. And this isn’t just about debt, it’s about profits that reflect wealthy disparity that we can’t comprehend.

We live in a society with businesses and government which enact policies and creates profits that measure up to this scale – and we are then asked to vote with our ballots and wallets as if we understand what we are doing… I don’t mean to be a glum, but we really can’t… So, with that in mind it might be helpful when listening to people who seem to be trying to sell you a bill of goods so that you can acknowledge your own very necessary skepticism. This doesn’t mean that we can’t compute, test, and challenge ideas (we can), but when the scale is so large you might ask yourself why. Could it be so that those who maybe should be outraged wont know to be? I’m not sure, but it’s hard not to consider all of our worlds inflationary parts without thinking that it might be sick.

America’s Second Revolutionary War – VICE/InfoWars

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So there are 2 videos that I felt like I should pair together for this post. The first is an interview with InfoWars.Com’s Alex Jones on the BBC about probably the top annual event for conspiracy theorist community, the Bilderberg conference. The second is a video about some of the people who feel as Alex does about government and conspiracies.

Ok, so… Well, when I was a teen I used to look up conspiracy theories all of the time and thouroughly freak myself out on a regular basis. I mean I would really freak myself out… I could found myself believing most anything that had a lengthy explanation. With that said I feel that I’ve grown out of this stage of my life, mostly. However I’m left with a very real sympathy for the informed paranoid citizens of the world, such as Alex Jones.

I think that Alex and his group Info Wars probably knows some things that are very real, and that I would like to know about. However, I also think he is theatrical and doing some of those for the money. I just don’t know what to make of it in full… I listen to these groups and tend to find that I just don’t agree with them on way too much, especially their tone and approach – and ultimately I find them to be too gullible.

It doesn’t offend me that Jones and people like him go after Bilderberg, although I don’t intend to waste too much time researching them (especially if they are actually mischievous and are keeping tabs on this conversation and everything else that I do…), but I must admit that I am curious.

I’m posting these videos because, well it’s complex… I feel that many of my friends aren’t aware of the degree of some of the outrage that exists in the world, in particular on the conservative side of the aisle. Now that doesn’t mean that all conservatives are this outraged, or believe all of the things that Alex believes, but this is who they are being associated with politically.

I try to post about things that are helpful to discuss and learn about, and I really debated posting this, but in the end I think that it’s good to know that this is out there, whether it speaks to you or not. It doesn’t really speak to me, but if it does speak to you that is ok with me. But please try to stay calm so we can talk about these things… And yes, I understand that if you think that The New World Order is ruling us all that it is hard to casually discuss it, but please do try.

“And Then the Conference Uninvited Me to Speak” – Does Rejection Change Your Ideology?

This post is a topic that I will have to write more on later, I have plenty that I’d like to say, but for now I’m going to let Jen’s post do the talking for me because I feel so similarly. Having spent a lot of my life working in Christian organizations I have to say that I don’t take this conversation lightly. The question of where we all come from excites me, and if that’s not the case for you maybe you should poke that limp limb. Ask questions, and be patient when people lose their minds because they are scared of thoughts about where we come from, and where we’re going. If people having a sincere faith in something offends you on a personal level you might want to reconsider the whole thing… Just keep asking questions. This post is about interfaith community riffs, but this could be applied across organizational a interpersonal boundaries. Jen challenged me to think twice about my own comfort in rejection. Are you ok with rejection for the things that you believe? I hope you are.

 

And Then the Conference Uninvited Me to Speak

by Jen Hatmaker on March 18th, 2013
Like most graduating high school classes, mine rewarded our parents and educators by perpetuating Senior Skip Day right before finals. I can only imagine these satisfying gestures are why secondary teachers are able to get out of bed in the morning.In a slightly innocent twist, my class of clowns decided on the Wichita Zoo for our naughty excursion, so off we went in our scrunched socks and Keds, Z Cavaricci jorts, and oversized striped rugbies.

Note my cool shades on the front row that are so dated, they are now “ironic.”
My seventh grade daughter has a pair. Hold me.

I begged my mom to call in a feigned illness for me, and when she refused, I tracked the soft target, because Dad would’ve assuredly provided an alibi, but he was missing in my hour of need, so I…simply skipped. The only attendance bail in my high school history, and despite the breezy, cool aura I’m clearly projecting, I spent the day with my stomach in knots. (When I received the subsequent day of in-school suspension, I cried silent, hot tears the second I entered the ISS room, and the monitor found me pitiful and let me sit in her office playing solitaire all day.)

For such a prim rule-follower, it was surprising when they started strangling me.

I grew up immersed in typical Christian subculture: heavy emphasis on morality, fairly dogmatic, linear and authoritative. Because my experience was so homogenous and my skill set included Flying Right, I found wild success in the paradigm. My interpretations were rarely challenged by diversity, suffering, or disparity. Since the bulls-eye was behaving (we called it “holiness”), I earned an A.

But careening into adulthood, my firm foundation endured some havoc. I noticed very few of my Third Day Acquire The Fire Disciple Now Weekend Mercy Me compatriots stuck with church after high school. Evidently, that is absolutely the trend: According to Rainer Research, approximately 70 percent of American youth drop out of church between the age of 18 and 22. The Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be “disengaged” by the time they are 29.

80 percent. Gone.

A recent nationwide poll on religious identification noted that respondents citing “no religion” (The Nones) made up the only group that grew in every state, most numerous among the young: a whopping 22 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds claimed no religion, up from 11 percent in 1990. Worse yet: the study also found that 73 percent of Nones came from religious homes; 66 percent were described by the study as ‘de-converts.’

This gave me pause, because the mechanism was not holding. More precisely, the church I grew up in was not making disciples. The religion I knew was leaving young adults disinterested at best, hostile at worst. It failed to capture their loyalty. Dechurched adults cited grievances that gave definition to my own inner struggles:

  • Emphasis on morality and voting records to the exclusion of weightier matters like justice and transformation
  • A suspicious amalgamation of the American Dream and Armed Forces
  • A me-and-mine stance as opposed to you-and-yours
  • Persistent defensive posture, treating unchurched or dechurched people like enemies instead of future brothers and sisters in Christ
  • Narrow talking points that slice and wound and slash; principles over people
  • A boring religion of behaving instead of an adventurous life of true discipleship
  • An unreasonable opposition to science
  • Arrogance over humility, using the Bible as a bludgeon instead of a balm

But here was the Good News: upon heavy scrutiny, none of this remotely sounded like Jesus, so He wasn’t the problem, which was a relief because when having a faith crisis, you don’t want to discover your Main Character is a fraud. As far as I can tell, Jesus is still the easiest sell on earth, because if you don’t love a guy who healed lepers and pulled children onto His lap and silenced the religious elite and ate and drank with sinners, then you just don’t know Him.

Jesus remained politically neutral, unswervingly, despite the teeny tiny fact that the Savior was expected to engineer freedom through political upheaval. He never once pandered to the powerful and prominent. He was called a drunkard and a fool for the company He kept. Jesus committed His kingdom to the most unlikely: the sick, children, women, the poor, the marginalized. Everyone else? Blind, deaf, according to Jesus.

So if it wasn’t Jesus making enemies out of the adopted, it had to be the structure in which we contained Him.

This was the point my ministry took a hard left.

If you’ve been around me at all in the last six years, you’ve heard me pushing for reform, asking the church to stretch, to become the new wineskins my generation is begging for. I’m hungry for a church less known for sanctimony and more for their shocking intervention for hungry babies and human trafficking and racism and injustice. Christianity is too thrilling to reduce to middle/upper-middle class First World Problems, encapsulated in issues and gauged by a nebulous moral compass that lost its bearing decades ago.

People are starving – spiritually and physically – and this world needs some Good News, but they can’t decode what is actually good about us. Good is finding a safe place to struggle, to doubt, to ask hard questions. Good is food when you’re hungry. Good is warm, kind, genuine love extended, no strings attached. Good is clean water, medicine for your sick baby, education, family. Good is community, even before ‘belief’ binds us tight. Good is sustainable work, dignity. Good is Jesus and His backwards, upside-down ways.

I constantly ask these hard questions of the Bride, of myself, of my own little family.

Because of this, I was recently uninvited to speak by a large church. They cited my struggle with the church, concerned that “these disparaging glimpses at the church certainly can be helpful to a more mature follower but cause great confusion to those who are not quite so far along in their walk with the Lord.” In fact, it is the exact opposite. It is the young believers asking the questions and finding very few safe places to do so. Sanitized Christianity in which the church is propped up and healthy criticism is labeled as “spiritual attack” is the head-in-the-sand approach turning away the next generation.

Second, and not surprisingly, a blog was cited in which my hilarious friend jokingly brought a bottle of margarita mix to a Lifeway taping, hoping to cast us as boozers in front of my very conservative publisher. (To their credit, the filmmakers just laughed and carried on because, you know, it was a joke, and my LW peeps totally get me. We are guilty of many offenses, but taking ourselves too seriously is not one of them.) This satire pushed an envelope that is still licked shut, and the uninvitation was sent.

It doesn’t matter what church it was or where, but here is what I want to tell them:

I understand. I really, really do. Not only did I appreciate your gracious tone, but I genuinely know where you are coming from. I get the things that make you uncomfortable and why, and I realize we will likely never see eye to eye, and that is okay. Unquestioningly, you love Jesus and the church, and I have no doubt you are serving your community and each other. Within your tribe in your demographic in your city in your tradition, you are exactly how and where you should be. My feelings toward you are terribly warm, seasoned with familiar memories of the church that raised and loved me.

But what makes me unsafe to you is exactly what makes me safe to others.
The skeptic, the cynic, the doubter; my arms are wide open. Their questions and disbelief don’t scare me; I am unthreatened. The loosey-goosey, tambourine shaking, barefoot liberal who loves Jesus and the earth and votes straight-ticket Democrat? I love her. The young adult generation who is leaving the church but running to Jesus in unfamiliar, new ways – I gather them to me like a Mama because they are going to change the world.

I am not put off by creed or denomination or sexual orientation or terrifying doubt or outright anger or nationality or socioeconomic status or issues or weirdness or politics. I’m not going to make a deal out of a glass of wine when 25,000 people will die today of starvation. I just can’t muster the energy. (And since Jesus’ first miracle was turning 150 gallons of water into wine at a wedding in Cana, I’m pretty sure He hedges left here.)

With nearly 8 million people leaving the American church a year, we need some renegades closer to the margins, building bridges, creating safe spaces to question, wrestle, rethink.Plenty of churches exist to serve the 20 percent already connected. For them, I am grateful. Enough shepherds are on the ground for those sheep. They have a deep well of leadership, and my absence will not even be felt. They are brothers and sisters, and I’ll see them on the other side.

As for me, I’m throwing my lot in with the other 80 percent, the ones with their arms crossed, their hearts broken, their worth unrealized. The ones who shake their fists and shake their heads, but still crave hope and redemption, because we all do. Bring me your doubts, your fear. My Jesus can handle it all and then some. He is all of our dreams come true. If you don’t believe me, start in Matthew and read until the end of John. Jesus is a hero, a brother, a Savior in every since of the word. He is everything good and gracious. His love for us is embarrassing, boundless, without standards at all.

Along the way, if I make some of my brothers and sisters uncomfortable and we must part, I hope we can throw our arms around each other and promise to write. I trust you will do your part over there, and I’ll do mine out here where life is sticky and faith is less a blueprint and more a compass, gently leading all us ragamuffins north. I’m willing to wrap us all in grace, because one day we’ll both discover we got some parts right and other parts wrong. Jesus’ mercy is going to be enough for us all.

So if anyone wants to venture out to the margins, past familiar boundaries, through sanctioned Christian staples, beyond guilt-by-association fears, outside traditional approval – I’ll be here with my people, with Jesus, making others crazy and getting uninvited from things…

…unless it is a wedding in Cana and the wine has run out.

Words of Wisdom: Eisenhower on the Costs of War

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“Every gun that is made, every war ship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from
those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” -Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican President, United States General.

Pope Benedict XVI Resignation – Mea Maxima Culpa (HBO) – and Eckart Tolle on Children

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With the recent resignation of Pope Benedict XVI being announced, and hearing that it has been about 600 years since a Pope resigned (for political reasons), and 719 years since they did so willingly, this is obviously big news… Needless to say I thought it would be worthwhile to spend my night catching up on what seems to be happening. I have heard many people talk about this Pope being one of the more controversial Popes in some time due to his connections with the nondisclosure policy of the church about molesting of children around the world, but not being Catholic I haven’t really taken it upon myself to learn as much as I might otherwise. One of my dear friends informed me that he had just finished the new documentary on HBO about the Catholic Church, and that it was pretty heavy… I decided that I couldn’t hear that and not find out what he was talking about.

So a few minutes ago I just finished watching the documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (HBO Documentary), and it compelled me to look up an old quote from the book A New Earth, by Eckart Tolle. I have heard people say many times in my life that it’s funny to look at children and think about them just being little people, or little adults. I prefer however to do the opposite and consider the vastness of human incapabilities and consider all people to be on a spectrum of adolescence.

On a spiritual level I don’t see all things as Eckart Tolle does, but I do have profound respect for him as a thinker, and a person of transparency. As I was watching Mea Maxima Culpa I couldn’t help but think about how people seem to do very toxic things when they aren’t in environments that encourage or require transparency. And while transparency alone isn’t the cure to people doing bad things, we could still do terrible things, however the cleansing value of ridding one’s self of stagnation in the mind due to secrets and pain is much stronger than we might realize.

The following is a quote from the book “A New Earth” by Tolle, and I put this quote in my phone a long time ago for moving me to consider my respect for my brothers and sisters of all ages:

“In the human deminsion you are unquestionably superior to your child. You are bigger, stronger, know more, can do more. if the dimension is all you know, you will feel superior to your child, if only unconciously. And you will make your child feel inferior, if only unconsciously. There’s no equality between you and your child because there is only form in your relationship, and in form you are of course not equal. You may love your child, but your love will be human only, and that is to say; conditional, possessive, intermittent. Only beyond form, in being, are you equal. And only when you find the formless dimension in yourself can there be true love in that relationship. The presence that you are, the timeless I am, recognizes it’s self in another. And the other, the child in this case, feels loved, that is to say ‘recognized.’. To love is to recognize yourself in another.” – Eckart Tolle (41:50 into the audio book “A New Earth”)

I find this to be a very profound statement, and I recommend considering it’s meaning if you plan to watch the movie Mea Maxima Culpa. Anything in life that is worth fighting for is worth the pain that comes from those fights. If you are a devout Catholic, or Christian in general I think that watching this will maybe hurt your feelings some, but it will also re-instill the true tenants of what it means to be a part of a church. I recommend watching this no matter what you believe, but if it hurts your feelings I think you should examine what is causing you pain about this, and face it. The film is somewhat critical of then Cardinal Ratzinger (currently Pope Benedict XVI). Also, do remember that this is a trailer, and there is much more to the film.

I know that there are some websites where you can watch this film for free (possibly here), but just look online, it’s worth the search in my opinion. Also, if you watch the movie and want to watch something similar I know that Deliver Us from Evil (2006) tells a similar story, and I don’t encourage this begrudgingly, I simply think that we need to have open conversations about things this pervasive and heinous. If you are catholic and offended please let me know, I’d be very open to hearing more.

I did find this resignation and the release of this film coinciding so closely to be very odd, and the conspiracy theorist in my wants to know more, but I am adamant about not jumping to conclusions, as easy as it may be to do so. Please let me know if you have anything more to offer on all of this.

5 Simple Ways to Be Present

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This is from an old sermon from the preacher at my family’s home church. I think it’s pretty universal.

I am not perfect with all of these, but I think I’ll try to implement them before the New Year.

5 Simple Ways to be Present

1. Show up when you say you will.
2. Attend another person’s events.
3. Host people in your home or take them out to lunch.
4. Write handwritten notes.
5. Listen attentively.

FRONTLINE | The Choice 2008 (full episode) | PBS

FRONTLINE | The Choice 2008 (full episode) | PBS.

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This was a great special, and I think that it’s a great perspective builder to look back at things like this during an election. It definitely reminded me of a few things that I’d like to keep in mind.

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