Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Decemberween!

Love that Homestarunner!

Remember, Decemberween is inside all of us! So says all the nasty ol' puppets. But it's still not better than your hot cousin.

It's a real statement on what the season has become. Hopefully yours will be filled with friends and family and no one tell'n ya to "Shut up! To one and all o' dang y'all!"

Happy holidays to all!

how cool is that?!

Advent message from: David M. Griebner, Riverside UMC

"During Advent I have chosen to reflect on some gifts you cannot put on a credit card. Today’s message is about the gift of forgiveness. If I had the time I would love to ask each of you a question. Here’s the question: what do you do just because you are a follower of Jesus? What do you do that you really can’t explain to someone except to say, I did that because I love Jesus? It might be some act of kindness, or generosity, or perhaps could it be forgiveness? In many cases forgiveness is one of those things you just can’t explain. The world around us is much more about keeping score; forgiveness is about erasing the score. So I think forgiveness qualifies as something we might do just because we are following the way of Jesus."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What I learned my First Semester

Now that I’ve had a chance to process everything, I feel that I can truly reflect on this first semester. Like everything else in my life, I relate things to other things. In many cases, I relate things back to stories. Here I will relate my first semester with the movie The Matrix.

The film describes a future in which reality perceived by humans is actually the Matrix, a simulated reality created by sentient machines in order to pacify and subdue the human population while their bodies' heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Upon learning this, computer programmer "Neo" is drawn into a rebellion against the machines.

To get out of the Matrix and into the “real world,” Neo has to choose weather to take the red pill or the blue pill. Morpheus says, “You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

The film as a whole and especially the choosing scene is deeply compelling. Why is the choice between what you believe you know and an unknown 'real' truth so fascinating? How could a choice possibly be made? On the one hand everyone you love and everything that you have built you life upon. On the other the promise only of truth. This first semester is this same invitation. We can take the blue pill and believe whatever we want to about faith, religion, and the Bible. Or we can take the red pill and wake up. Waking up presents a whole new realm of questions. We see the complexities of faith, religion, and the Bible. The red pill helps us wake up and realize that we’re in a matrix ourselves. We realize that we are in complex relationships and networks of beliefs. We are not an island, but plugged into culture and personal history. This realization is startling.

It is like the part in the movie where Morpheus says to Neo, “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. The truth is that you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”

We can become trapped in our assumptions about the world and react violently when they are challenged. We often make the assumption that our way is the best and only way. Seminary is causing us to look at these assumptions and realize that we filter things. We tend to hear what we want to and not necessarily what’s presented. Why take the red pill? Why then enter seminary?

The answer in short, is inquisitiveness. Many people throughout human existence have questioned and enquired. Most of them have not been scientists or doctors or philosophers, but simply ordinary people asking 'what if?' or 'why?' Asking these questions ultimately leads us to a choice. Do you continue to ask and investigate, or do you stop and never ask again? This in essence, is the question posed to Neo in the film.

So what are the advantages of taking the blue pill? As one of the characters in the film says, "ignorance is bliss" Essentially, if the truth is unknown, or you believe that you know the truth, what is there to question or worry about? By accepting what we are told and experience life can be easier. There is the social pressure to 'fit in', which is immensely strong in most cultures. Questioning the status quo carries the danger of ostracism, possibly persecution. This aspect has a strong link with politics. People doing well under the current system are not inclined to look favorably on those who question the system. Morpheus says to Neo "You have to understand that many people are not ready to be unplugged, and many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it." The system also has a place for you, an expected path to follow. This removes much of the doubt and discomfort experienced by a questioning person.

So if the arguments for the blue pill are so numerous, why take the red pill? Why pursue truth even though it may be unpalatable and the journey to it hard? In the film, Neo risks death to escape the virtual reality and discovers a brutal reality from which he cannot return. As he discovers the trouble with asking questions is that the answers are not necessarily what you want to hear. To justify taking the red pill we might ask what is the purpose of an ignorant existence? Further still, what is there in merely existing? Simply existing brings humans down to the level of objects; they might have utility or even purpose, but where is the meaning? Existence without meaning is surely not living your life, but just experiencing it. As Trinity says to Neo, "The Matrix cannot tell you who you are."

Seminary is teaching me to think in new ways. Sometimes I’m frustrated by the fact that others seem unwilling to do the same. I realize then that many people do not take joy in questions. They would rather be placated by answers, even if it were a false security. These blue pill takers may wish to seek the truth in a different way, or in a less mind jarring set of circumstances. They can choose the blue pill and not deny their consciousness, but to stop seeking the truth entirely would be to deny their consciousness.

As conscious minds we will always seek the truth. However, the choice over the red or blue pills is not solely a choice between whether to question or not, it is a personal choice on the method of discovering the truth. The question for me then is how to speak to the blue pill people from my position? How can I get people to understand that they are all plugged into a belief system, a culture, and a history? How best can I deal with my own and resist being realigned into another matrix?
These questions will drive my years here at seminary, and possibly the rest of my life.

I feel that Jesus is the Morpheus character calling us to transcend our limitations. Jesus wants to free our minds. His method is through loving God, neighbor and self. I really respond well with this message and hope to be a Neo in the cause.

Monday, December 17, 2007

CoExist comedy tour!

I gotta find out if this is coming to LTS. Maybe i can get the commitee on diversity to get these people here!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

To Clarify the Mountain

i want to be completely honest with you... The last post was loooong and i mentioned a group who I don't entirely know. I don't want to come across as targeting this particular group, i was just citing an example of the opposite of my thinking and this is what i found. Events in my life have called me to take a stance on this issue and it was by no means an all out attack on Xenos... merely they had something in writing that others were verbally saying in my immediate environment. On a reread, I think i came down hard on this particular church that is doing a great good for a large amount of people in the c-bus area, one that my sister gets a lot of joy out of... i hope this clarifies why i don't share their view.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a veitnamese buddhist, wrote the last post in a much shorter and better phrased way.

"Truth has no boundaries. Most of the boundaries we have created are artificial. Our differences may be mostly differences in emphasis.

You are born into your tradition, and naturally you become a Buddhist or Christian. Buddhism or Christianity is part of your culture and civilization.You are familiar with your culture and appreciate the good things in it. You may not be aware that in other cultures and civilizations there are values that people are attached to. If you are open enough, you will understand that your tadition does not contain all truths and values. It is easy to get caught in the idea that salvation is not possible outside your tradition. A deep and correct practice of your tradition may release you from that dangerous belief."

from Living Buddha, Living Christ pages 154-155.

My good buddy Ron emailed me that to show more of the relativity of mathmatics. He states, "I did however want to let you know that 1+1 is not always 2 in mathematics. Sometimes 1+1=0 in mathematics. How you ask? It's binary addition. It's what makes the switches and electronic stuff in your house work. Thought you might like that little bit of that inside information to blow your mind some more."

how cool is that?! yeah, not only do i have a reader, but he blew my mind! that is why the world is sooo cool to me. there's so many different ways of looking at something, why can't we rejoice in it? the world is not static and boring and is proof that a divine genius placed such an abundance before us. we should never be bored with our explorations. if i have other readers that don't share this view, feel free to comment! i'm open to all trains of thought.

i shall now end with Selections From The Bahai Writings on Peace that sound pretty close to my own Christian tradition:
“…Dedicate the precious days of your lives to the betterment of the world.”

"With the joyful tidings of light I hail thee: rejoice! To the court of holiness I summon thee; abide therein that thou mayest live in peace for evermore."

“The fundamental truth of the Manifestations is peace. This underlies all religion, all justice.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Can there be one way to God?

Sorry y'all.. you're getting two angry long posts right in a row. my last one was pretty firey and this one i fear is even worse. i never said that i would be happy ALL the time now did i? and seminary is hard and it makes my brain explode with ideas. i have trouble getting to sleep with all the thoughts my three brain cells are volley'n back and forth like some sad three way tennis match. but here it is in all it's glory! with lots of help in phrasing from a great book called The Phoenix Affirmations by Eric Elnes. it's a GREAT book and i've used most of what i remember about it here to help phrase the argument and terms...

I'm tired of being a "Christian But". Notice there is only one T in BUT. A "Christian But" is someone who says "I'm a Christian, BUT i belive homosexuals aren't evil, women are equal to men, i'm concerned with social justiceand global issues, (and the big one for me) i don't think that people who believe different from me are going to hell."

My idea is that there HAS to be more than one way to God. If God was so simple to have only one path to God, then this is a simple, black and white, and ultimately small god. This type of god is not one i'm willing to follow. To me, God is BIG! God made the earth and heavens and everything in it. God made every cell in my body as well as the stuff on Saturn or Pluto. God is universal. My belief in this is simple... it's commonly refered to as the MOUNTAIN VIEW of God. Here's the metaphor:

The major world religions are like hikers climbing up different sides of a mountain. Each tradition has discovered a unique route for reaching the top. In the case of Christianity and others, they have found a new route off of another established way up the mountain. Now while these hikers are climbing, they cannot necessarily see one another. individuals within the climbing parties may not even be aware that others are ascending the mountain. They think they alone are making the ascent. Yet when they reach the top, the climbers are surprised to find one another. Each party has reached the same goal by a different route. Here is where my deontology kicks in and says that all ethical routes reach the same moral end! the top of the mountain! all unethical routes cannot then reach the top (teleogy).

now people will try to accuse me of religious relativism. as stated in an article by a conservative columbus mega-church,
"Religious relativism is the belief that all religions are simply different perceptions of the same ultimate reality, or 'Many faiths are but different paths leading to one reality, God.' (DIFFERENT MOUNTAIN ROADS WHICH ALL LEAD TO SUMMIT)." this is found at

i really can't stand this. sure i have a bit of relativism in me... Einstein's theory of relativity generalises Galileo's principle of relativity — that all uniform motion was relative, and that there is no absolute and well-defined state of rest (no privileged reference frames) — from mechanics to all the laws of physics, including electrodynamics. To stress this point, Einstein not only widened the postulate of relativity, but added the second postulate that all observers will always measure the speed of light to be the same no matter what their state of uniform linear motion.

Okay.. even if you didn't get any of that, what it states is that where you are affects how you see things, HOWEVER, there is a truth or a constant by which to measure by. So i guess i could say that i'm a Religious Relativist through the school of Einstein. my constant then would be God.

the xenos website states: "The former (and biblical) definition of 'tolerance' made a distinction between people and their religious beliefs. It meant that people should have the legal freedom to practice the religion of their choice, and that you should personally respect and love them, even if you conclude that their beliefs are false. Today's 'tolerance' has removed the distinction between persons and their beliefs. It means that you must never call others' beliefs false or untrue, or you are an arrogant, intolerant bigot...No engineer says '8 + 32 = 40 or 8 + 32 = 53. Both answers are fine with me.' Would you want to trust a bridge this engineer built?"

I love this because it's a complete logical fallacy. they talk about what relativism is but then use strawmen and red herring tactics to defeat relativism without dealing directly, but that is another topic i could spend most of my life destroying. but let's keep to task here! A bigot, by its very definition, is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own. So yes, if you think someone else is untrue or wrong, then you are a bigot. Now you may see the double-speak here of "bigots are wrong because they call others wrong." Let me then add if one does not prove it logically invalid, then yes, a person is a bigot.

the website goes on to prove relativism is ignorant of logic by stating this funny math problem... i certainly would say that an answer is right and one is wrong due to the logic of mathematics.. now if we were talking about another situation, then i would have to look at the findings. what's the difference? well, in mathematics 1+1 is always 2. In other situations, say having a family, 1+1=3. or sometimes 1+1=2 or 3, and even 6! Depends on how many babies those two people produce, this is a question of genetics and fitness. and in Jesus' birth, these same people that shoot down relativism state that 0+1=2! seems like these people are selectively relative themselves.

now let's get on to the main bigoted statement against other faiths other than Christian from the website: "Therefore, the 'DIFFERENT MOUNTAIN ROADS WHICH ALL LEAD TO SUMMIT' analogy is simply untrue. The roads are on different mountains, they lead in fundamentally different directions and they end on completely different summits!"

last time i checked, Christianity was a monotheistic religion. meaning there is ONE God. Some people would state that there is just ONE TRUE GOD, the others are just idols. i would argue no, this argument by its very nature is polytheistic. it doesn't take into effect the gods that came before the Jewish god was ever thought of. so are those ideas of God wrong? No, our idea of God has evolved over time, due to our location and technology at hand. By this same argument, we then would still be on the losing side of the argument as our Christian God is actually the Jewish God in three parts. So who's right here? The Jewish one god of Yahweh, or the Chrisitian three-in-one God revealed through Jesus?

Could it be that God may allow for different routes, each with its own integrity? A Hindu may find a way to the top through withdrawl from the world, while a Christian may find it through immersion into the world on behalf of justice. Wouldn't God be in both places, if God is everywhere and created everything? Now a pure relativist will state "they're all just saying the same things. they're really no different." well no, they are REALLY different! The routes up the mountain engage different terrain, with different obstacles and challenges, different vistas, and different places of rest.

This illustates the fact that God's plan for the world is larger than our human minds can comprehend. Despite significant differences of approach to God, we are all included in God's love, which exceeds beyond our wildest imagination. Jesus states this in the bible as well.

JOHN 10:4-16 "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd."

Some believe this is for the conversion of other faiths to Christianity... but let's look at what Jesus is and is not saying. He refers to other adherents of other faiths (other sheep...) who ALREADY belong to him (I have...) and therefore when he calls them they will listen. Jesus isn't calling for these sheep to change shepherds, he is trying to get us to recognize that the human family is one flock, with one shepherd. What he is NOT saying is "different strokes for different folks" nor is he saying "anyone can worship the god of one's choice, it's all good, no matter what." Which faiths? They aren't identified. We may surmise that faiths that truly follow the ONE Shephred actively promote the love of God, neighbor, and self as Jesus did. Jesus also states that people shouldn't worry about what path others are on. He demonstrates time and time again throughout the Gospels for his disciples to concentrate on walking their own path and offering hospitality to those they meet on along the way... the Good Samaritan parable is the core here. Who is my neighbor? EVERYONE!

So given this, it is naive for a practitioner of any faith to claim that theirs is the only "true" path. Religions do this to garner power over those too fearful to think in this way. Now there is a difference between BEST path for a person to take, so long as this claim is on an individual level. i would hope that these travelers up the mountain investigated other paths before choosing to climb.. there's no shame in this.

Can we claim which paths are rabbit trails or authentic? A quick test is to look at the measure of love of God, neighbor or self. But how could we really with any integrity? It would be like a climber speaking with authority about paths on the other side of the mountain that he has never been on. The climber may read about these paths in books... or have talked to another climber on the other side. This then, would prove to the climber that all paths seem to be heading to the same place. But any serious climber knows that only those who have climbed the path can speak with authority about where it leads and how it gets there. once again, to say that there are "other mountains" is a poly-mountain idea.. i'm only talking in a mono-mountain context.

If people of other faiths want to swap faithful stories of their path and journey up the mountain, then great! In fact, i get a better handle on my faith when i hear these stories. If people of other faiths with whom we are in dialogue decide to convert to our path as a result of this sharing, fine! However, conversion is not the ultimate purpose here of interfaith dialogue. Sharing the joy and wisdom gleaned from our climbing experience is.

Happy Climbing!

Monday, December 03, 2007

For the Bible Tells Me So

A 5th grade understanding of God is okay... if you're in the 5th grade!

We had an LGBT week here at LTS! I'm excited and glad to be at a place that is both welcoming and affirming. I would point to an exciting transcript of Mark Jordan's speech entitled "The Witness of LGBT Christians."

The last post was a crazy angry one.. but this is part of the deal! it's hard and lots of ideas to process. i'm still making sense of things as well.. but i'm slowly coming to a systematic theology, that is getting the vocabulary to express my belief system. that will come in time.. and a big part of the base of the belief will come next week! so i'll hope you'll stick around for that! hope all is well out there! keep rawk'n!