Tag Archives: religion

All this soul-searching from a baseball game?

November 2, 2013

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But here’s the punch line: I didn’t appreciate any of that while I was there. Scratch me and you’ll find a frustrated visionary. We visionaries conjure up pristine futures and, if we’re not careful, contrast them with the exasperating present. We pout. We annoy everyone else and we blind ourselves to this morning’s blessings. I couldn’t see the city’s pleasures and opportunities through the fog of my utopian dreams.

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Finding true mentors: They’re next door and down the street

October 27, 2013

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… they’re given a volatility license because their ministries are bloated and loaded. Hats off to them for drawing those crowds and their indisputable communication and organizational skills, but there’s more to Christian success than fund-raising and reaching a target audience. Otherwise, we’d be scolding Jesus for losing his following as he hung on the cross. Christian success would at least embrace Proverbs 14:17: “A quick-tempered man does foolish things” as well as James 1:19-20: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

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De-mangling political religion, Part One

November 25, 2012

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We’re beyond the mere need for civil discourse. Our minds are askew. We actually believe our own rhetoric as an article of faith. We no longer know how to talk because we no longer know how to think. We’re thrusting religious categories onto politics, and that’s true of both pious and secular fundamentalists. Classical politicians are pragmatists in their heart of hearts. They’ve wended their way through local and state governments, where the grand debates center around zoning regulations, potholes, sewer lines, schools and budgets. Old school city pols made sure Mrs. O’Leary got her groceries and medicine. It was practical vs. impractical and useful vs. unworkable, all under the umbrella of the law and agreed-upon values. We’ll compromise with our opposing “friends” because the people elected them as well. Sure we have ideals, and we’ll salute Old Glory with relish, but that’s because Old Glory symbolizes our practical approach. Political ideals serve people, not vice versa.

No longer. We’ve forgotten something subtle and yet crucial, articulated well by Dutch theologian/statesman Abraham Kuyper: Politics and religion occupy two distinct, although sometimes overlapping, spheres. Our religion can and should inform our political beliefs (remember Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi and Martin Luther King: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.”), but the two categories cannot be confused. They’re linked but not enmeshed. Otherwise, we view fundamentally practical questions (should we repair that bridge?) through a spiritual grid. Everything is moral vs. immoral and evil vs. good. We demand Messiahs, not effective representatives and administrators. We insist our presidents become pastors.

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“Almost Amish”: Cultural and spiritual wisdom in a horse-drawn buggy

June 13, 2012

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Nancy Sleeth has eaten the fish and spat out the bones. She looks beyond the group’s obvious flaws, learns from their attributes and applies their lessons in “Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest For a Slower, Simpler, and More Sustainable Life.” The result: An entertaining, thought-provoking, refreshing, nuts-and-bolts manual for those of us who feel enslaved to the grid and our gas guzzlers.

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A shocking, real-life drama: calmness and tranquility may be round the next bend

July 18, 2011

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Run – do not walk, but run with blistering, heart-attack speed – to the mall’s Rock-em Sock-’em Religious Magazine Store and pick up the latest copy of Christianity Today. There’s hope. Gobs of it. Sanity is making a come-back even amid the shrill cry of the shrinking religious right (“I’m melting!”).

First is the cover story profiling the new Focus on the Family boss. Read the tag line: “Why Jim Daly doesn’t care whether you know who he is or whom he supports for president.” Say whuh? The organization is returning to its original purpose and calling: Nurturing godly families and helping children. No one says Focus employees will be wearing Che Guevara T-shirts (although the old formal dress code has dropped to “business casual”), but at least they won’t implicitly christen the GOP as “God’s Own Party.” Daly’s own compelling personal saga of alcoholic parents and foster-care abuse gives him empathy for the downtrodden.

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Life Would Be More Simple If Our Dead Ancestors Followed The Script …

June 6, 2011

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Let’s say hundreds surround you while cameras snap and fans grovel and journalists bark. You might commit a gaffe. You might say “British” when you meant “American.” We’d all understand. Joe Biden put televisions in our Roosevelt-era homes and Jimmy Carter said “Huber Horatio Hornblower” and President Obama called a senator a “jackass.” It was an “oops” moment. Shrewd leaders immediately correct themselves and throw in self-deprecating humor: “I meant to say ‘American,’ but I was distracted because I can see Russia from my house.”

Take that, Tina Fey!

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A theological/sociological/anthropological Kim Kardashian interval

May 22, 2011

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This weekend was the weekend of the un-moment, the weekend of the non-event event, the weekend in which television hosts and writers frazzled themselves over a looming non-incident everyone knew would not occur – and, when it did not happen, bloggers blogged about how a predominantly silent clique should think twice before it fanned the flames of panic again. Never have so many talk-headed so much for so long about something they all knew was nothing.

I speak, of course, of Harold Camping’s prediction that the so-called “rapture” would sweep born-again Christians off the Earth and into the sky on May 21. I write this on May 22 – and I’m totally non-surprised to be here a day after my un-disappointment. What’s more, I preached at my church of mostly born-again Christians this morning. Almost all were there (a few had the sniffles; a couple temporary heathens played hooky; no one was in the clouds). We all knew Brother Camping was the equivalent of the bearded doom-and-gloom guy with the sandwich board in LA’s Griffith Park – or the poor soul who bundled up in winter clothing in August and marched the city streets where I once lived, screaming, “REEEEEPENT! THE LAWD IS COM-ING!” We’re aware of Acts 1:7: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority,” and, like many evangelical Christians, we doubt all this talk of the “pre-tribulation rapture.” We think Left Behind should be left behind.

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Life in the Spirit Verses Dead Religion

March 23, 2011

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The title of Jessica Mokrzycki March 3rd “Ascending The Hills” blog has my head spinning: “Lose Your Religion and Find God.” She quotes Thomas Merton, the late Trappist monk, who says contemplative prayer is not escape but engagement. I’d love to plow that theme, but I’m riveted on the title. I can’t escape. It’s captured me. It’s the scalpel clearing my cataracts. I now see the gulf between living Christianity and mildewed Churchianity.

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Desolation in the Land of Logic

July 31, 2010

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Try prying the lid off the mind of the enlightened and open-minded. Discover their pitch-black darkness while they spray clichés like squid’s ink.

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The Antidote For Our Cultural Poison

July 15, 2010

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Alan Simpson sees the acid running in our culture’s veins: “No one forgives anyone for anything anymore. People get angry just for disagreeing with them.” He tossed in AA wisdom during a Newsweek interview in April: “If you can’t forgive a person, it’s like letting them live in your head rent-free.”

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