We Are Sick

My opening remarks to Camas Friends Church this morning, more or less…

Brad told me that a theme of his reflections this morning on his experiences working with refugees in Greece would be “restoring my faith in humanity.”

As is often the case with sermons—maybe this is true for you too—that feels like the exact message I need to hear today. And to have faith in humanity is to also, I think, have faith in the God who created humanity, cares for humanity, and sticks with humanity, no matter what horrible things we say or do.

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Mediocre Grace, How Bland the Taste

It is difficult to imagine Christianity without grace.

While opinions may differ about what is non-negotiable in Christianity—the things a person must believe, value, or practice to remain within the boundaries of the tradition—grace seems about as essential as anything.

A shorthand for grace I heard as a teenager was “getting something you don’t deserve.” That feels like a harsh way to put it! That wording works well if the best metaphor for our relationship with God is one of, say, benevolent but strict parent to fundamentally naughty child.

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The Bible Doesn’t Condemn It, You Do

Yes, I know those verses. But why don’t you tell me what they are anyway? There’s nothing I love more than a good old-fashioned verse war. You know, that game where Christians retrieve and deploy the verses that affirm their current beliefs and values to take down their theologically-misguided opponents.

A dash of I Corinthians here, a dash of Genesis there. While it sure seems like you—verse warrior—are selectively hurling Biblical texts at me that affirm you and your ideas, you know you are simply and kindly pointing me toward Truth.

Boy, I really feel for the Bible. Poor Bible. If the Bible were a human, even the most racist, oppressive, violent, commodifying, and manipulative person would feel sympathy for what the Bible has had to endure. Abuse. Twisting. Selective listening. Self-serving agendas. Used to bully and pick on others against its will. Misrepresentation.

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Why I Call Myself a Pacifist

My son, Teddy, was having a difficult time falling asleep last night. And he let the rest of us know with assaulting shrieks of discontent.

So, naturally, to silence him, I walked up to his room, lowered my face to about an inch from his, and shouted: “Blaaahhh!!! Don’t do that!!! Blaaahhh!!!” That showed him. I also flicked his earlobes, just to make sure he got the point.

No, of course that’s not what I did. Instead, I wooed him back to sleep with a combination of holding, swaying, speaking softly and reassuringly, giving him his aptly named “pacifier,” and patiently waiting out his crying until he had voiced what he needed to voice.

Not only were aggressive screams and ear-flicks not the only ways to deal with Teddy’s attack on the quiet post-kids-in-bed phase of my evening, these were possibly the least effective ways (not to mention the least rational and least creative).

I would call myself a pacifist. It is fitting, then, that I am a Quaker. The commitment to peace is often a significant part of what compels and entices people to participate in the Friends (Quaker) tradition.

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Why “God Loves You” is Decent News but Not the Best

“God loves you.” It is assumed, I think, when these words are spoken or printed, that this is the message we most need to hear. The answer to our core question. The solution to our fundamental problem. And it’s a great message. But not the most important one.

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