Category: Community

“Black And White In A Gray World”

2004 vacation 095 - Version 2In the 1980’s Christian singer, Leslie Phillips sang “Black and White In A Gray World” describing the challenge of living with a distinction between right and wrong in a world that is becoming increasingly ambivalent regarding good and evil.

I do not advocate a gray world but we should acknowledge that there can be different shades of both black and white.

What do most Christians really know about Islam? We are quick to point out verses from the Qur’an calling for violence against “infidels”. I acknowledge the existence of such verses but can we really judge the entire religion and its practitioners based on these hand-selected passages?

Have we forgotten the murders of abortion doctors, the bombings of abortion clinics (Granted these have largely declined in recent years) and beatings of homosexuals all in the name of God?

How do we respond when a new skirmish in the Scripture Wars erupts with…

“’Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”  1 Samuel 15:3

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13

As Christians, we understand the contextual application of such verses but it is difficult to generate a solid position regarding handpicked verses in the Qur’an when we see how our own Scriptures are misquoted, misused or simply taken out of context. It would serve us well to recognize that all religions have their own “Westboro Baptist Churches”.

The Muslims I know personally are devout and they are kind, peaceful, friendly and often exhibit a warm and welcome sense of humor. They choose to live in the United States because they want to peacefully practice their religion in a nation where all religions are free to worship according to the dictates of their particular creeds and scriptures. They are fully accepting of me as a Christian and respect my devotion to Christ. I am quite certain that they don’t believe that I will go to paradise upon my demise but they are supportive of my devotion to my faith and to my Savior. I can accept that. I don’t have to affirm heaven as their eternal destiny in order to respect them as people created by God, loved by God and worthy of respect.

Should we be any different in our treatment of the practice of other religious observers when there is no violation the laws of our land?

I am not naive – ISIS and Al Qaeda among others have clearly revealed a clear and present danger but doesn’t mean that we should paint all Muslims with the same brush.  We are to consider them individually through the lens of God’s love.  We need to follow Jesus’ council to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”.

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“On Gum Control”

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2004 vacation 095I love Seattle! Few cities have the character and unique charm of the Emerald City. Some might even describe our fair city as quirky. Where else can one find a giant cement troll “hiding” under a bridge? I know of no other city in America that displays a 20-foot statue of Lenin; not John Lennon, Vladimir Lenin!

One of the quirkiest features in Seattle has to be the Market Theater Gum Wall known locally as simply the Gum Wall. Located Post Alley just a few steps south of the iconic Pike Place Public Market the Gum Wall is exactly what one would imagine. Standing fifteen feet high it stretches  50 yards and is an artist’s canvas where patrons of the nearby Unexpected Productions Theater began sticking their chewed gum around 1993. The tradition stuck. Public Market officials named the wall a tourist attraction in 1999. In 2009, the Gum Wall earned the distinction of being named one of the world’s “five germiest tourist attractions” second only to Ireland’s Blarney Stone.

Some people consider the Gum Wall disgusting and unhygienic. Others find it quaint and endearing. Then there are those of us who say “all of the above”.

When I initially heard that the Gum Wall was going to be pressure washed on November 3 of this year for it’s first ever cleaning I was mildly disappointed but was then relieved when it was revealed that the cleaning was not the end of the Wall and that once it is clean the tradition will begin again.

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People are a lot like the Gum Wall. We are at once unhygienic and disgusting as well as quirky, unique and endearing. Fortunately, God sees us as the latter. Some see us as one or the other and others label us “all of the above”. Every so often, whether physically or spiritually, we can all use a good cleansing affording us a fresh start and return to our life experience anew.

“So, I Guess I’m Purple”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgThe death of “ism” is exceedingly liberating.

Somewhere in American history, Republicans were painted “Red” and the Democrats tinted “Blue”. Republicans aligned with conservatism and Democrats sided with liberalism. (Of course, they have traded positions from time to time.) Based on this palette I have euthanized my “isms” and assumed the color “Purple”.

My blood may be RED but not RED enough for Fox News junkies and my alignment with the RED Party withers daily. My one-time connection with the BLUE Party as an 18-year-old was merely a rebellious reaction toward my very RED parents and didn’t survive a full term.

My individual opinions are unique treasures.

I oppose abortion – RED.

I oppose the death penalty – BLUE.

I support conservation – BLUE.

I support infrastructure progress – RED.

I advocate for the second amendment – RED.

I advocate reasonable gun control – BLUE.

I cheerlead the search for alternative energy sources – BLUE.

I drive a vehicle that is lucky to yield 20 MPG – RED.

I love Jesus Christ – REDDISH PURPLE.

I respect a Muslim’s right to worship openly in America – BLUISH PURPLE.

Politics frequently inspire division so I endeavor to avoid bitter and futile discussions on the subject. However, responsible citizenship requires one to participate in such muddy conversations in order to further the social and cultural common good. To do so one must occasionally dance into the political ballroom in order to be aware of the issues that affect society .

A possible next step would be to invent new words like “Libervative” or “Republicrat”.  But for now…

I am free! Color me PURPLE!

“What Lives Matter?”

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Black Lives Matter!

White Lives Matter!

Brown Lives Matter!

Yellow Lives Matter!

Red Lives Matter!

Cops Lives Matter!

Gay Lives Matter!

Straight Lives Matter!

Unborn Lives Matter!

Unwanted Pregnant Lives Matter!

Women’s Lives Matter!

Men’s Lives Matter!

ALL LIVES MATTER!!!

“I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”

-Jesus Christ-

“Happy Birthday”

2004 vacation 095 - Version 235 years ago today I surrendered to Jesus Christ. I didn’t even know that we were at odds. Its not about politics, it’s not about being conservative or liberal. It’s not about gay rights or gun control. It’s not about immigration or border definition. It’s about recognizing that a perfect God loves and desires relationship with imperfect man of which I am the most imperfect. It’s not about joining a church or a denomination; it’s not about aligning with a certain belief system, it’s about knowing that I am a selfish person who desires the best for myself and that I am passionately loved by a God who would rather suffer Himself than see me or anyone else suffer. Thank you Jesus for loving me when I didn’t love you. Thank you for giving me hope and destiny when I was certain that I had no hope.

You are not a religion or a religious figurehead; you are what God looks like when He puts on humanity for clothing. Holy Spirit of God, help me to love unconditionally as you do. Help me to love others as much or more than I love myself. Help me to love God with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength. Help me to treat others as I want to be treated by them even if I don’t agree with them or they don’t agree with me.

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No one has to agree with me or disagree with me. Jesus delivered me from drug addiction. He freed me from fear of the future and self-doubt. He gave me hope and a destiny. No one can take that away from me. He didn’t call me to a congregation or a denomination; He didn’t even call me to a religion… He called me to love Him because He loved me first. He didn’t call me to behave; He called me to love Him and those whom He loves – who are everybody. He didn’t call me to change my culture or nation or society. He called me to love everybody.

Jesus. you can heal ALL wounds! You can fix ALL relationships if we will simply love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Treat others the way we want to be treated. If I want to be treated with respect and dignity by those who disagree with me then I must treat those with whom I disagree with respect and dignity.

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I choose to extend love and grace and leave judgment to God!

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“Overcome Evil With Good”

2004 vacation 095 - Version 2(*This post was in response to a Facebook thread that continued to receive contributions for over a week. It began with a photo of Christians offering apologies for mean spirited abuse on the part of Christians toward the LGBTQ community during the 2015 Chicago Pride Parade.)

A colleague once asked me to explain the difference between communism and fascism. I explained that one personified the extreme right side of the political spectrum while the other represented the extreme left. His response was, “yeah, I get all that but what is the practical difference? They both seem to be equally tyrannical”. He was right. That concept is clearly illustrated in this thread. A week ago I shared what I feel is an inspirational photo of people with divergent opinions humbly and respectfully tossing aside their differences and focusing on mutual respect based on our shared value as human beings.

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What happened? The hateful responses from all sides of the “debate” that erupted tainted if not fully annihilated the high-minded intent of that photograph. Opponents of the LGBTQ movement took this as yet another platform from which to scream the tired accusatory message that is not new and is well understood. No one is unsure of the position of conservative evangelicals regarding same sex marriage and with all that it is associated. Many LGBTQ activists, with equal vitriol sarcastically and with mean spirit mocked the God and the faith that many of us hold dear. Such a reaction places you in the same camp as the “gay bashers” you despise as you render divisive hatred offering nothing to contribute to the edification of society. You dismiss us as irrelevant and out of touch in the same manner that you assert Christians have dismissed the LGBTQ community.

As communists and fascists hold divergent political views while employing the same brutal and cruel tactics to attain their ends. Hate-filled and toxic diatribe from evangelicals and LGBTQ advocates alike offers nothing to improve the state of our community. Hatred and prejudice have existed since the beginning of time (whenever you may believe that it may have occurred) and, sadly it will continue to exist until the end of time. (However, you might believe that will occur). Society does not need more insolent, spiteful hate mongering – we have an overabundance of that. We need more people of good will who are dedicated to constructively working together in a spirit of mutual respect, willing to agree to disagree on significant and deeply held personal issues in order to strive together to make the best of this world on which we live.

To my fellow Bible believing Christians, we believe in the coming of a new heaven and a new earth and that this earth will one day pass away. Why are we so hell-bent on driving people away from the God Whom we believe embodies the fullness of perfect love in an effort to save this entropic planet and to defend a theological position?

Social activists, you want mutual acceptance, respect and tolerance but you are unwilling to afford that same courtesy to people of opposite beliefs. How, in God’s name does that separate you from the gay bashers you so maliciously slam? If you encounter clergy, caterers or florists who, with respect, elect not to provide services for your weddings, why not take the high road, wish them well and move ahead? There are countless professionals who will gladly provide those services to you. Or do you feel some inexplicable need to engage in a social war mirroring the activists who are committed to attacking you?

The lines have been drawn, the positions and messages are clear. Very few people are yet to be “won over” or converted to any side of this “debate”. We have come a long way but racism still exists. Acceptance of, in spite of disagreement with the LGBTQ community is rapidly increasing but there will almost certainly always be militant antagonists.

It has been both amusing and disturbing to view the “Scripture Wars” that have threaded throughout this post. Both positions accuse the other of hand picking Scriptures to defend their own position when in reality both positions have employed this vain and useless practice. We need for people who claim that they want a free and respectful society to…

  1. Recognize that we will always have antagonists and people with whom we disagree.
  1. Lower the priority of our differences and raise the priority of love and mutual respect in an effort to develop a more peaceful community.

Christians will continue to preach the Gospel, the appealing and unappealing aspects alike but my heartfelt prayer is that we can do so with love and respect without abandoning our deeply held religious beliefs. To be fair, there has been a small contingency of people from both positions who have contributed posts with the same encouraging spirit that inspired the initial photo that was posted; a spirit of reason and respect that seeks to encourage and edify rather than belittle and deride. To you I say thank you, carry on and well done.