Sunday, July 8, 2018

To live within promise - we cannot be alt-f(right) or christian f(right)

Ah, I have started referring to those who see themselves as the white saviors of the land by tweaking some words they often use. Even though a one one-time devotee to the white supremacy movement has strongly urged people to never use the alternative labels for white supremacy - alas I found a way to corrupt their labeling preference. He said that all the labels like alt-right and nativists - for example - are labels white supremacist have put out there to soften what they are. They want us to use their words to cover up who they are: white supremacists.

After he laid out his history in and then his movement away from white supremacy thought and life, I considered putting his suggestion into my working vocabulary. So I have been using white supremacist much more. But now, I found my way to confront the beast of white supremacy and their racist antics by pointing out the power that keeps it alive. Therefore, my substitutes for white supremacy will be the alt-f(right). A similar change will work well for the religious folk who have an interesting way of making their faith white, exclusive, judgmental, and accusatory: the christian r(fright). The power of fear is great - but it is not the final word (read the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures).

The more I listen to people in both f(right) groups (yet, often their devotees overlap one another), I hear the voice of fear and then the anger that fear generates and then the threats that anger ignites and then the threats that are meant to exclude and demean and objectify. The christian f(right) has become a master of taking the words of love and grace and endless forgiveness and using them in a conditional manner. In that way, fear rather than love, becomes their gift to the world - but it is a nasty and corrupt gift. It is wrapped well in words of love - but, please note, whenever love is forced to flow through filters like if you... or when you... or unless you... their use of love may be the love they use to control their own little world - but it is not the love that is to be the image of our lives to which the Scriptures give witness.

The alt-f(right) masterfully tells us how 'those other folks' are making it impossible for us - to be us. And yet, with all their alt-f(right) words and action they are indeed being just who they are - fright-full racists who have never learned to see the world through more lenses than the one that was given to them at birth. Therefore, a story line outside their polaroid snapshot of only those who were able to fit into their family picture, is a foreign story and therefore a story to be ignored. But, when  those other story lines cannot be ignored because they are filled with the lives of neighbors and fellow citizens and those longing to a part of the melting pot of this country, the alt-f(right) freaks out. They gnash their teeth. They try to tell us and show us how strong they are but their fear-filled emperor has not clothes.

The alt-f(right) and the christian f(right) are unable to see the coming of that peaceable reign of life that is referred to as the Holy City coming down to earth in John's apocalypse. They are blind to the creativity of God who takes humanity - the whole spectrum of folks who often do not even look or act as though we are one people - and they attempt to demonize those who are created in the image of God's Peaceable Reign - but not their image. The f(right) must be nurtured into a life in which we need not fear - we need to touch and love and welcome and listen and share and offer up out lives so that the other may live in peace with us - as one of us. To resist fear we must be present with open arms. That is not easy - that has even proven to be dangerous - that can be life-changing for all sides.

It is not easy to resist a world built by those who can only hear and live by stories from the far f(right). The risk can be great. In addition, it may even mean confronting those who claim to be the opposite of the devotees of the world of f(right). Yet within their multicultural - open arms posture - and rants (like mine) they still find that f(right) finds a way into our living and talking and condemning.

To resist the f(right) that longs to rule all of us - takes work. It is work that demands our attention every day - listening again and again - saying yes and saying no - offering something new when we are living as people content with what has been. I do not want our country to be run by people who cannot see beyond their skin color or ethnic background or cultural patterns or the way they think it has always been (which is usually a non truth). That, takes work. I find it also means we live within the realm of promise not one of control. Damn, that's hard. Yet we are meant to put our whole humanity into it so that we will become (all of us) truly human. For many of us, it is almost impossible to do that - yet we must.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Facing the faces we have learned are right and good - and racist

Is the church really a people who bring new life to the world? Maybe I need to ask if your congregation is a gathering of people who bring new life to the world? Then again maybe I need to look in the mirror and ask if I am a part of the church - of our humanity -the brings new life to the world?

Even in retirement - and more so when I served as a pastor in a parish setting - it seems as though we are too often involved in the sacred exercise of keeping things as they are. Obviously that is not true. Many folks will point out how much the church has done to change the world. Then again, just like the steamboat that keeps on rollin, the character of our society keeps on the path of keeping on the path of what has been - and with that - following the path of how it can keep on keeping on just as is - that is often the violence of a humanity that wants nothing to do with the peaceable Reign of God - whether religious our secular.

What is the new life we bring to the world? Is it a uniform and universal stance against racism? Not yet. More and more, it seems as though we speak well of the end of racism yet the church too often fades into the wall when race is brought into a conversation trying to uncover the ongoing game of racism - a game in which we - are the active pieces on the board. I am working my way though Tim Wise's book White Like Me. It is a life story that open up the subtle yet powerful way that we white folks are sucked into a false reality - a reality that closes off the wide wonderful spectrum of the diversity of our humanity. Wise presents an honesty and painful personal history that too many of us white folk try to dismiss - too, too easily.

When recalling a story of how his very, liberal thinking and living mother - having had too much to drink - said, Goddamn nig...  He shut her down. It was a point of painful recognition. When I read it, it made so much sense - painful sense. Let me quote something Wise wrote:
Racism, even if it not your own but merely circulates in the air, changes you: it allows you to think and feel things that make you less than you were meant to be. My mother, by proving her own weakness and exhibiting her own conditioning, taught me that one can never be too carful, can never enjoy the luxury of being too smug of believing oneself so together, so liberal, so down to earth with the cause of liberation that it becomes impossible to be sucked in, to be transformed. 

Then he writes; People never hurt others in moments of strength and bravery, or when we're feeling good about ourselves. If we spend all of our time in places such as that, then fighting for social justice would be redundant - we would simply have social justice and be done with it, and we could go swimming, or dancing, or whatever people do. 

Within our diversity - within our world that draws lines between neighborhood - within the places we claim as safe as we point at those that we see as dangerous - within the wonderful way our humanity is expressed in different colors and languages and life experiences, there is one truth that too many of us are afraid to hold onto and not lose our grip: we are one. But that, that truth, is something we have learned, somehow, is not true. Where in the hell did we get that? Well, we were born into it and we drank its poison even as it was hidden within the love of wonderful family and friends. Today, we must not accept poison or lies. We must be vulnerable people who question. We must be  people who know how to bend and bow and not make others into our image - but listen to the story of their humanity that is as human as ours - maybe more so.

We have come out on the other side of of another Independence Day. We, especially people of faith, need to divest ourselves of the stuff that has given us so much. So that - we will be open to the humanity of those we have been taught - however subtlety - is not like ours. Until then, the same old power of death will lead us - we will draw lines - we will move away - we will talk about them - we will see ourselves as the blessed norm. Yet, the norm has never been blessed. It has always been the power of the beast that the Lamb - through its love - dismantles through sacrificial living.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Please, continue to inspire me

When we are seduced by fear, by what will come, it is easy to restrict life by closing in our minds - closing in our circles of acquaintances - closing our doors - closing off our hearts - closing our borders, and making up boundaries that we come to trust as the way our lives will be saved. 

When we are seduced by fear, we search for ways to be saved - saved from them - saved from all that is different and unknown - saved from harm - saved from the influences of that which is new or previously beyond our experience and our desires. In all these ways, we are fooled into believing that being saved has to do with keeping life as we want it.

When we are seduced by fear, we lose the vision of how scripture uses the word saved or save. Fear attempts to twist our minds and hearts into trusting that God saves us from a scary and troubled world - saves us from those powers out there - saves us from the life that is here and now - saves us from a Hell of a place - saves us like fragile figurines that are quite lifeless.

So, when fear attempts to seduce us, we must remember that we are saved for a life that faces trouble - opens our hearts and minds - risks harms way even when it means stepping out of our safety net to rescue others - greets and protects the alien - sacrifices what is, so as to enter what might be - and even breaks wind at threats of Hell. It is within this kind of a saving adventure that religious lines are able to be crossed and the brutality and bigotry and condemnation that upholds those lines can be exposed for the violence they proclaim and produce. 

When fear attempts to seduce us, we are invited to turn and face the lies that attempt to keep the world around us within the grasp of the many beasts of violence. Such beasts, never want to be seen as beasts. They want to be seen as upright - pure - law abiding - keeping the world safe and sound. In the face of such beasts, we are invited to pull the veil back on such images that attempt to color the world with the lies of self-righteousness. In other words, we are invited to get off our butts and act contrary to any and all laws - norms - society assumptions - and religious mandates that adhere to the violence of the culture. That, for instance, is why the great prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures were great. They uncovered the brutality of the acceptable and that which was considered holy and above reproach. We also saw such action from Jesus as he walked through the living lies of the religious and cultural establishment of his day that were sold on and were selling fear and death rather than saving folks for a boldness of life that is vital to crossing all boundaries and borders and walls in order to being peace - shalom - and wholeness to all people. 

When fear attempts to seduce us, we are invited to, toss off the threats that come from the beasts around us and that live under another rule - another way - another power that promises some kind of salvation - a promise that has never been fulfilled throughout history. The beasts around us are like foxes - able to trick us into their ways - always bringing about violence and death and control and more fear. Yet, I am overcome by the Hen. When the beasts and  foxes come dressed up as old-time religion or patriotic warriors in order to have their way - the Hen does not follow. The Hen gathers its young - places them beneath her and shelters them. The Hen will not be seduced. The Hen will not follow. The Hen will protect the future by being a nonviolent witness that sits down - resists - takes the hit and gives the future a picture of life that fears not. That is life that is not undone or seduced by fear. That is life that sees a gift in bending to serve all - no matter what the cost. That is life that needs no affirmation from the structures of the day - for those structures keep everything as is. That Hen life is life that knows that no power - no beast - no well-mannered rule - will bring about the well-being of all. 

Fear is attempting to win the day around us even today, and unfortunately, it is so easy to be seduced and to keep things as they have always been. That always seems safe - yet, such safety is a lie that offers comfort supported by endless lies.  That is why people are so taken back by the words of visionaries who are able to speak of another way to be truly human. That is why just a few words from a prophetic voice are able to turn our heads and, at times, our hearts and, at times, the whole way we step out into the day at hand. 

I have found that it is not easy for a self-described coward, to speak about the boldness of a Hen and the need to confront lies and speak in words that offer a new world and a new life. Yet, with the voices of discrimination and hate and intolerance and self-absorption and fear attempting to seduce us yet again, I know I must face my fears and become the unending love I claim to hold dear. Today, I was driving along and I was quite overwhelmed with fear. I started to think that my voice should become softer - my presence less noticed - my advocacy for and with the least among us more controlled. I became so upset with myself I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt threatened and disposable. That can be enough to make ordinary folks, like me, into a piece of the beast that thrives on fear and anxiety. It sure had me by the chest while I was driving. But then, I thought of you - and you - and you - and you - and you - and those others I know only by the stories I hear. I need stories of Hens who do not give up - never give in - resist unto death - offer up new life. So, continue to inspire me so that fear will have no power to seduce me.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Fences - Walls - only create a hell among us

Each time I volunteer as a Clinic Escort for Planned Parenthood, I expect I will have at least one person from the other side of the fence - among the protestors - tell me how I will rot in hell or face eternal damnation or have to deal with the wrath of God. These 'kind' words are magnified for those protestors who have found out that I am a retired pastor. It is quite odd that these followers of the Prince of Peace - the Lamb of God - really get off on images of apocalyptic destruction and condemnation. Since I am on the wrong side of the fence in their eyes - I'm dirt - I'm misdirected - I'm a follower of Satan - I'm vile. Words of grace are not for me or any of the women and men who enter into the clinic - unless we abide by the rule of death from the other side of the fence.

At the fence, if you listen closely, you will hear how the peaceable Reign of God is turned into a way of intolerance - distain - condemnation - promises of death (horrible death). Unfortunately that is how the Scriptures are perceived by many folks today - both young and old. Many have turned the bible into a book that nurtures violence. The violence is always against them. The them are people who must be saved. I suppose I am one of them for I do not follow along with the words and images at the fence. At the fence (as in most other contexts) being saved has nothing to do with being made whole and well and restored into the fullness of our humanity in the image of God. It is a word of threat. So someone is saved if that person goes along with the notion that some get to go to heaven and the rest are to go to hell. Get it right (our way) or to hell with you. Doesn't that just sound comforting? Get it right (our way) or God's wrath will come down on you.

Some colleagues and I read Compassion or Apocalypse (James Warren) last year. near the end of the book Warren turns to the John's Revelation. That's the last book in the Christian Scriptures and it is a book that is often used to try to scare the Lord Jesus into your life. First of all - just to be clear -the peaceable Reign of God that was embodied in Jesus is not brought about through fear or threat. But in that book, we hear about the kings and rulers and magnates and generals and the rich and powerful and everyone, slave and free running and hiding from - get this - the wrath of the Lamb. The Lamb, he writes is the hero of that last book. The hero is utterly vulnerable. The hero only practices a life of peace and reconciliation. The hero embraces all - without partiality. The hero will be slaughtered for the well-being of any and all. Now, why would one be afraid of a figure who gets nailed. Well, it is one of a judge who judges in favor of us - even when we are on the wrong side of the fence. The Lamb models a new humanity that never abides by the powers of the world and those who really, really want to be able to pass judgment on others - because this  judge - the Lamb - refuses - at every instance - to be on the side of the powerful and rich and rulers and all who have a whole world history of bringing about the same old - same old - kind of world without end. As one writer noted, all hell (literally) breaks out around the Lamb - because they cannot abide by such a world - such a vision - such a unending welcome and embrace and forgiveness and healing.

But at the fence, folks seem to thrive on the battle - the zero sum game - the us and them - death or life - and, of course, their own biblical literalism that is always ready to support their need for control over the lives of others - most often noted as in the name of Jesus. One of the aspects of being a Clinic Escort is that we do not engage those folks at the fence. That would be an endless back and forth that is nothing more than hell itself. Instead, I have witnessed men and women whose focus is on the well-being of those people who have come to the clinic. Yes, some come for abortions, some come for other forms of medical attention, some come for educational materials, some come for contraceptives, but all come from a world that often violently rejects who they are and the lives they choose to live. I have also noticed that our silence - our hospitality toward people coming to the clinic drives those folks at the fence into a fiery frenzy that, in many ways, portrays the hell in which they choose to live and try to pull others.

We are such a divided society that the fence becomes a metaphor for our differences. These will not go away. No wishful thinking. No prayers. Unless, of course, we stumble upon and enter into a miracle of dialogue that is utterly beyond us - as long as we know only the violence of a life that manufactures division - blame - hatred - and self-righteousness. God is not violent. God is love. We are made in the image of God. How is it that we keep looking for life that is not within that image? Maybe we love our fences and the hell they create more than the open spaces of reconciliation and kindness and sacrifice of life for the welfare of our sisters and brothers and any who may even be our enemies today.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

They 'did not do what the king of Egypt commanded them'

In a prominent place in our kitchen is a big multimedia piece of work done by one of my favorite local artists - Cody Miller. Women and babies are placed throughout the work. It is very colorful painting. With the use of lips and eyes and clothing cut out from magazines along with his brilliant and life giving use of paint, Cody brings to canvas - the great imagination of Scripture. He makes you see Scripture in a new way. His paintings are not the mere repetition of memorized verses for which people rarely know the context and even more rarely have a notion of the context of the story before any storytelling was put to paper. That's the key. He blows open the viewers mind so that we will no longer look with eyes that claim to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Years ago, we had our sanctuary filled with Cody's original works. During that month, I knew that folks were drawing inspiration and vision and hope and joy and a call for justice from simply gazing around the sanctuary. Wonder-filled images. My words were probably secondary - if that high on the list.

This morning as Karen and I were going over the news from my periodontist and attempting to make some kind of plan to pay for it, I was once again looking at Exodus 1:17 - Cody style. 'But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.' The great and mighty Pharaoh was afraid and troubled. There were all these damn immigrants - slaves - foreigners  who had wandered from their home during hard times and made it to Egypt. During their sojourn, they had grown great in numbers and therefore the king put hardships upon them. (Note: there is a long history to rulers who fear those not like them - especially the foreigners. That is why we are told throughout Scripture to take care of the foreigners and travelers and neighbors - do not fear them - care for them. That is what makes us a biblical people.)

Well, the midwives - the weakest of folk within the domain of powers - did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them. The text says they did not act as the king demanded because they feared God. No. They honored and were in awe of and understood who is the eternal author of life. So, they simply blew off Pharaoh's pompous policies. They were going to protect those Hebrew boys - the seed for the future - those little ones who caused this ruler, who thought he was the greatest gift to the world, to be anxious and full of fear of that which he did not control - life. Yes, Mr. Pharaoh, Mr. President, Mr. Supreme Leader, Mr./Ms in charge and in power - the midwives will keep out of your deadly control the most vulnerable - the infants - the easiest to destroy. Ha!

This depiction of Exodus 1:17 also drew me down to the border that the U.S shares with Mexico. Fearful rulers and policy makers need to attack the children - weakest - least - lost. That is who the powers of death like to defeat - that is usually all they are able to defeat - that is a frequent target. For when they are able to do that, they also have gone a great way in killing the soul of a people - a nation - a country - a family - right when they thought they were making a nation great. When those who are fearful and in need of self-aggrandizement and self-security and self-adoration act; they act-out. Like bullies. Like a Pharaoh who cannot see the worth of all people. Therefore, they gather up stories that make themselves seem as though they are doing what is just and right and greatly needed to protect the privileged of the land from the hordes at the boundary.

Let me switch gears. When we are able to suggest the building of a wall - one that cannot ever be completed as promised or able to do what it has been promised to do - and, when we are being promised a parade of military might so that our supreme leader can stand there and act like they represent his strength and power, then - I would suggest - we have the funds to do that which walks the moral high ground in regard to border and immigration action. But, what in the world is going on with Pharaoh? In the land of the free and the home of the brave, why does Pharaoh fear frail children fleeing lands of violence. We have been and still are a land full of hope. But to the world, we are becoming a land where  a vision of hope is becoming one that is led by a person afraid to risk offering a life full of hope to the hopeless. Also,  I want to pose the same question to congress. When our supreme leader lacks moral substance, how is it that the hundreds of men and women with leather seats and lifetime salaries and healthcare will not stand up and take over their respective sides of the Capitol and demand that we let the children go and when Pharaoh whines - veto him!

Just to throw in another rant, I really think it does not help to use the same color to paint a picture. So, when I dislike how a station like FOX will have each of its employees engage the same word to describe a situation - other cable stations like MSNBC and CNN fall into the same ugly language trap. I have been keeping track of how often 'Ripped' has been used - as in children ripped from the arms...' Please expand your vocabulary - give us details, and if you don't have the words,  don't fall into the trap of a loss of words. A teacher and mentor used to say that folks who would call everything a this or an that - simply had a limited command of adjectives. We can do better to describe the events around us. Paint a better picture.

Like comics and writers and poets, I find artists relentlessly draw us various images that attempt to pull us out of ourselves so we can be self-critical and self-aware and then see the world around us a bit more clearly - honestly - compassionately. With eyes wide open. Paying for my oral repairs are nothing to the price the soul of our country is taking when we go after the children and families fleeing danger for a land of hope.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

It will take me a few days to be able to hear again

So I was clanging my cowbell - mostly in a way that blended the cadence of the Hater on his portable megaphone and whatever music was passing by our spot along the Columbus Pride parade. It would be only partially correct if I said the guy on the megaphone was pissed at me. He had a memory - we were in this same position last year - me on cowbell and him on megaphone. I must say that once he told me not to do what I did last year - in a tone and with language that was pointed and bitter - he then said, 'I like your sunglasses.' I'm a nut in some ways because even when things are quite black and white and tend to be quite obviously so, I am able to see and hear some of the other colors. It is an odd place to be.

It was my task to drown out the hate talk. For me, plain old hate talk is hard to hear. It becomes a matter of a mission when the hate talk is being ascribed to Scripture - especially when the Scripture being used - is not meant to be hateful. For example, within a few breaths, this self-righteous preacher cursed those walking by and reminded them how much his God hated them for who they were and what they do. Then he read from the creative verses of the prelude to John's gospel. Within moments, the creator of all things - the one who creates with a word - is cast as one who destroys and condemns. Which word was this guy using - Hmmm.

It sounded a bit like Jeff Sessions quoting the opening verses of Romans 13 and using them as though they give credence to the separation of children from their family because Paul said we should abide by the governing authorities of the day.  Yet, Sessions quote doesn't go far enough - as biblical scholar Stephen Colbert noted when he said Sessions should have read Romans 13:9 and 10. There it speaks of love - the law of love - the one law we are to abide by - love of neighbor. It will be those verses that instruct us to follow that new command - to love - over any laws in any place and time. THOSE verses show the fulfillment of the law of love.

But, let me not digress, while I was a clanging cowbell trying to tame a clanging cymbal of hate and - in my understanding of the good news of the Reign of God presented in Scripture - silence a bit of biblical literalism that demeans scripture and tries to create a life that can be shoved on folks, the woman next to me kept telling me to listen to what he was reading. I looked at her and in one of my very few words of the day said, 'I know those words quite well already - that's why I'm here playing this cowbell.' Our band of ragtag bells, horns, toy xylophones, kazoos, and one nice drum corp drum were on site to attempt to put a lid on the words of hate that were intended to intensify the words of condemnation and biblical confusion that was printed on their many signs.

I've walked in the Parade in years past - with a cadre of ELCA congregations. The haters who find it necessary to come to Pride to harp on their vision of the good, the bad, and the ugly have a knack of simply making everything ugly. And yet, in a crowd of 500,000 their voice is but a drop in the bucket - we must remember that. Yet, it is a drop that too many of us find acceptable - or - we simply say nothing - we let it go on without offering another word. These folks cannot be simply dismissed. We must speak a different word - I will call it the Good News of the Reign of God - sound familiar? I will also call it the words of peace that come from other faiths and the voices of atheists whose arms are dedicated to being open wide rather than ready for a fight against all that differ from us. The haters do not think they are haters. In fact, a few of the folks I did talk with were just like me - committed. Yet, we are committed to a different reality - a different vision - a different way of walking in and being part of the way of endless love for neighbor, any neighbor.

One of the men within the haters group who was trying to encourage the preacher, came at me with the claim that I was afraid of what his colleague was saying. He then went into a bit about first amendment rights - why was I not honoring their right to speak. Without getting into it, I simply said, 'I'm interpreting his words into cowbell.' That was not appreciated. Thing is, they can rant all they want. But when they do it in the public square and attempt to use their words to batter and beat down and demean and dump a vision of life on others not wanting their vision, I suppose our band can play along with them just as freely. It is unfortunate that those folks who got all dressed up in their cross baseball hats and red, hate shirts have to hear this kind of biblical interpretation in their own churches, and yet it is shameful that they bring it out onto the street to bash others. I have never witnessed them convert a person at Pride to their vision. I don't think they are there to convert nor do they have the ability. Many of those in the parade are free thinkers and would never by into such violent speech. Image a group of Pride folk going to their church and hearing about a love of God that is ready to condemn. I would think those folk would be quick to leave.

There are so many different people who take part in the Pride Parade. Even as I look at and walk with and talk with so many folks, I really don't get some of their actions or words. Yet, I will be their ally and march with them for I have seen the many ways people have been saved by the work of the GLBTQ community - in the church and on the outside of it. I know, you may have a knee-jerk reaction to my use of the word saved - especially if saved simply has to do with getting to heaven. So hear in that word - healed, made whole, welcomed and nurtured into life that knows no end - love. I find that such a community as this has saved me - made me whole - helped me love more than the limits I tend to put on love - given me breath for another day - turned me from being controlling to jumping into a world of creativity and hopefulness. Clang - Clang.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

New credibility - wearing jeans and no sport coat

So the new leader of the Southern Baptist Convention may be a guy who 'sometimes preaches in jeans and shirts with no sport coat'. Well, glory be to God - all is well with my soul.

Supposedly, this makes him a really an innovative dude. He goes so far as to take the SBC notion of complementarianism (make leadership in the home and in the church something a man must take hold of - and certainly not a woman) and simply tries to soften it by saying 'it must be observed in a way that's respectful of women and encourages them to play an active role in church affairs'- wow, what a wild man. In other words, women can only have a place and a say if a man - like him - says there needs to be a way woman can do more in the church. In other words, this is still 'a man's world' that may let women do more. Ha - in other words - he disrespects women by his comments that he thinks respects them. Ha.

The notion of complementainism is an ancient and tribal way to structure a culture. It has nothing to do with the Reign of God - the way of Jesus - or the life of the followers of Jesus. It is the foolishness of those who read something in Scripture and cannot see the stories as they sit in another time and culture. Therefore, a mere sentence can become a rule - a law - that must be followed even if it only has to do with ancient ways to build a culture on power and submission and ill founded stereotypes of men and women.  By the way, these folks have no clue what to do with GLBTQ followers of Jesus - so they just refuse to see their lives as lives just as glorious as the rest. But that is not the issue at hand here - but it does tie in a bit.

The guy who may be the new SBC leader and his dress and his attempt to soften their practices that are dismissive of sound biblical scholarship struck me because it appears as though a clergy person's dress may give him (him - in this case) some credibility in our culture. So, hey, this must be a real follower of Jesus because he can talk and preach while wearing jeans - and no sport coat. Cool. Over the years I have heard and seen a number of 'casual' preachers gather a crowd around them - pull together a bunch of solid musicians - do their church thing outside the setting of a traditional church building, and they preach and teach and raise their voices and make it sound like they are the true voice of God and the sidekick of Jesus in our day. And yet, their teaching and preaching lights up an old world that does not know how to bring the love of God into the present and leave the garbage of ancient tribes and cultures behind. Let me also say - I have heard many voices - offering up the same garbage - dressed up in robes and prancing inside church buildings. Just saying.

When the bible is seen as a magical book - as a book of law mediated by a word of grace that is only accessible to some (duh, no grace at all) - the message may sound good - it may fit the old vision for life we all took in and accepted as children, but it leaves out the life within the vision of the Reign of God, in which, no one is less or left out or put under the rule of another person. I often hear young 'preachers' - who come out to protest at clinics that see to the accessibility of women's health care that may include abortions - and these young, jean wearing preachers only know how to repeat words from the bible - they have little if any understanding of the life within the Reign of God. For them it is still the same old religion of threat, fear mongering, work your ass of to get God to love you but they cover over their vile words with words of love that leave people confused and often angry at everyone who reads the Bible and takes away a vision for life.

As I read that article in the Dispatch, I thought of clergy whose dress is quite traditional and yet their words about the living Reign of God transform life among us. Look at Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry - look at Bishop William Barber, a leader of the Poor People's Campaign - they are examples of the words of Scripture being held up as a way to transform our day - by letting loose old images and rules that keep our world divided and then take the risk to bind us to a vision for new life in which ancient ways - tribal fears and practices - are dropped. Make this one mental note, if a preacher - no matter what s/he is wearing (although you won't hear many women use this  word) refers to humanity as man walk out - turn off the TV - move to another podcast - or better yet, talk to that preacher about how God creates humankind - and we - all of us - bring forth the Reign of God in our day as we let loose of the shit that always leaves some out or puts them 'in their place'. Or, on a more positive note, listen to those who preach about God's Peaceable Reign - in which their no violence or prejudice or sexist stereotypes or need to control their folks - and simply thank them and return to listen with a critical ear always willing to question ancient cultish ways that must we let go for the opportunity to live within God's unfolding Reign.