Drawing in the sand; let go of the rocks you carry

Sand drawing

It seems to me that there are folks in various religious communities who are fascinated, and perhaps borderline obsessive, by the sexual orientation of others. While I cannot speak as a representative of faiths that aren’t my own, I’ll stick to Christianity because it’s what I know best (religion-wise) and to a certain extent I prescribe to the main tenants of the faith.

The church as a whole is not an over-the-top, black-and-white heteronormative environment (dare I say duh?). Sure it might try to maintain this image in some parts and denominations within Christianity, but that facade is being pulled back and off (thank God) albeit in some areas a little at a time.
Even in my lifetime I have been moved and prompted by God to change my mind and heart when it came what I thought about the LGBTQ+ community. I consider myself blessed for having my worldview altered with every Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender follower of Christ I know and have met.

My changed posture, both heart and mind, stem from being open to God and whomever I’m in contact with. Because I realize in my life it has come from engagement with those who make up the LGBTQ+ community. Over the years I’ve also come to realize that love requires proximity, and while God could have changed my heart and mind about what I previously thought about the LGBTQ+ community, I don’t think I’d be able to speak and live my truth had I chose not to engage intentionally in proxy. I could be wrong, bu that’s what I think in the matter.

The basis for why this post is called “drawing in the sand; let go of the rocks you carry” is because Jesus was called on by the religious leaders (as found in John 8) of his time to handle an issue they had. That “issue” they presented was a woman caught in adultery (the man isn’t mentioned, but that’s another matter altogether).
The religious leaders explain what needed to be done, on their terms, to such a woman. Stoning to death was the methodology,their perception as to how to bring about restitution. Jesus proceeds to sit down and draws in the ground, the religious leaders prompt him and egg him on, but Jesus instructs them as follows;

Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (verse 8)

He draws a bit more and then…”Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?

“No one, sir,” she said.

Then neither do I condemn you, Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (verses 10 & 11)

And with that the woman is set on her way, her dignity and humanity restored by Jesus.

***

I think this story speaks to the innate desire to focus on what’s going on in the lives of others while failing to address one’s own issues. When we do this, we are like religious leaders, we clasp onto our own “stones” with the intention to throw. Stones of bias, judgment, confusion, hatred, fear, ignorance, etc. We also sometimes hold onto these stones because we’re coming from a place of projection and not being at peace with our own selves.

So when it comes down to the passage where Jesus tells the woman to “go now and leave your life of sin” it is important to realize it’s Jesus making this statement to the woman, not the religious leaders. Yet at times the rebuttal to this is something akin to “yeah, well, the Bible clearly says…” and thus the paradigm of “what the Bible says” compared to “what Jesus said” takes place. Then there are times it becomes a moral “slippery slope” pertaining to rights, that if there’s acceptance or tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community it won’t be long till it’s extended to those who are into beastiality, incest, pedophilia, etc.
That is just fear-mongering and ignorance at work in one’s mind, there’s no comparison and that form of thinking is toxic and absolutely absurd.

It is for these reasons among others I deeply encourage those in the Christian community to let go of their rocks and move in the direction of proximity with the LGBTQ+ community. They’re our friends, our family members, our coworkers, and they’re also our fellow church goers.
God is in the midst of the LGBTQ+ community, isn’t it time that we do that as well?

~Nathanael~

Words to raise the dead

When I was younger I was fascinated by the Jewish legend and lore of the Golem. A monster made of the dirt who would come to life when molded by a Rabbi, and when truth/emet was inscribed upon it it came to life, when the “e” was removed death/met terminated the Golem.
A protector of the Jewish people when there were problems; pogroms, antisemitic attacks, and the like.

Given that with what little I know about my Jewish heritage, there were matchmakers and Rabbi’s in my family, so it would have been the latter that took the dirt and inscribed the emet and when the time came met would have occurred…

With that being said, despite centuries and cultures apart, I too raise the dead with my words!

No, I don’t take the soil in my hands and inscribe emet into it, but I do speak words of encouragement, comfort, and life over and into others.

Last week one of my students was in an emotional rut. She had a difficult day, it was known by all, but given some factors in her life it didn’t sink in until much later in the day. When it did, she was moping about and frustrated with herself for the choices she made for herself. Because I don’t work with her all that often, and I’m not in her classroom so I only see her when she goes back to her unit. It was there I saw her in a very despondent state of being, it was there I spoke life into her;

“This is a temporary setback, this doesn’t define you nor does this define your future.”

The light returned to her eyes, hope set back in, and she whispered a “thank you” to me.

***

That’s all it took for my student, and so often it is the case with most people who need words to raise them from their suffering or their metaphorical death. Yet I propose that within speaking life into others, sincerity is key; yes, sometimes the outcome might very well be bleak, and literal physical death could be on the horizon, but there is still room to speak from a place of truth and not one that merely glosses over reality.

Speaking encouragement and life into someone’s life doesn’t take much, but so often we don’t take the time to do this because we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we lose sight of anything that isn’t us. But we weren’t made to be solely focused on our needs, we ought to consider the welfare of others (more on this in my next post).

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Morning musing 4.24.16

Early morning musing 4.24.16

I’m thinking of writing for my eyes only an ongoing narrative called “What Bothers The F*** Out Of Me” or WBTFOUM for short.

Now while it might appear to be over the top, after all I’m using a variant of the “F Word” in the title, it’s a strong word because I have strong reactions to some things; such as social injustice, food deserts, racism, grace and forgiveness being withheld on my part, responding out of fear and not love, mental health stigma internal and external, et al.

All of the things that bother me in this life mainly pertain to human behavior, and not the human in and of himself/herself. Which I think is good, because I can work through reaction and respond with action.

I don’t see human beings as issues, their own or imposed, we all have faults and cracks. Yet this is how the light gets in (as so elegantly sung by Leonard Cohen in Anthem), and so I want to expose my cracks and be illuminated.

I have cracks, I have faults, I have an inner darkness, I have fear of true intimacy. But I have a desire for the light to expose all of me, I want to be seen for who I am and not some cheap imitation that’s “socially accepted” and that’s it.

I was made for more than that,
You were made more than that ☺

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

A service of Taizé at DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church

Last night I went to Dupage Unitarian Universalist Church because I found out via their Facebook page that they were going to have a Taizé service.

Taizé is usually a gathering that has elements of chanting, candle lighting, responsive reading, shared silence, and some form of a guided meditation.

In fact, the Taizé service I was a part of incorporated all of these elements. Initially I was a bit thrown off by the shared silence, but I was quickly relieved because despite several shared silence’s, they were no more than five minutes a piece. That I can do (and maybe someday I can level up to Quaker status).

The opening chant went as follows; come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. Ours is no caravan of despair. Come, yet again, come. (SLT #188)

I found beauty in this chant, and I did what I could to figure out which part of “whoever you are” most aligned with, I believe in that instance I was a “wanderer” and maybe perhaps I am that still.

From there a candle was lit in the center of our gathering. Apart from the dusk setting in quickly, the candle was a nice centering item for when my eyes were open.

Given that our shared silence time wasn’t that long, I found myself more engaged as a result. I mentally prepared myself for the night by mentally chanting a Latin phrase I’ve picked up in my own studying and partaking in Taizé; veni sancte spiritus, come holy spirit.

The highlight of my evening partaking in the service was the guided meditation. Our guide led us (with nature sounds in the background) into a deeper place found within. It’s hard to put into words, but I lived there and thrived there, it may have felt like a lifetime but in actuality it was probably twenty minutes altogether. I caught myself crying a little, because it was beautiful to simply be aligned mind+body+spirit, to simply BE.

After the service I made my way to the labyrinth that’s outside the building. The above picture is from that, as the path is illuminated when the sun is no longer out. It was another wave of much needed introspection and silence entwined. I took my time and meditated all the while, mentally chanting veni sancte spiritus.

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Unfortunately they’re going to be taking a break from this service until October. Until then I’ll have to partake in Taizé on my own or find others to do it with. It’s not often that I am stirred so deeply, so passionately, but I am willing to engage that deeper part of me that resides in the silence.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

There’s no place for bad theology

Occasionally my students will ask me religious / God questions, as I’m known by way of my BEing that I am a follower of Christ. I take all their questions in stride, more often than not I will answer their questions with even more questions.

However the questions gravitate sometimes to something dark, something more personal than not. It is evident in some of the questions that my students ask me about God and matters concerning God that they’ve been sold that God loves them with conditions. I have also addressed questions concerning the love of God, which sadly someone of my students believe God doesn’t love certain people.

When I address the question concerning God’s love for them I let them know why they think that, quite often they believe it’s what they do that earns God’s love, and if what they’ve done or what they are doing now isn’t good then God doesn’t love them. I do what I can to encourage them to do good, for themselves and for others, but I bring to light that there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more or make God love us less. God’s love remains the same whether we make good choices or bad choices, but that shouldn’t deter us to do the right thing when we need to.

When I address matters about God not loving certain people, I usually get several things about this question:
1. So often it’s someone in their own lives, past or present.
2. It’s something they may have heard often, at home or at church.
3. The moral highroad is taken. That they of course are loved by God, but x person isn’t.

Depending on how heated the conversation is, because sometimes it is and sometimes it’s a matter-of-fact statement made, I usually say the following;

There’s no place for bad theology

I let it be known that some views of God are really destructive, especially when marginalization and exclusion takes place. I bring it back home to them if they’re having issues with my thoughts, I bring up would they like to be the ones perceived as being unloved by God? It’s amazing how quickly NO is the given answer, and sometimes “but…” is followed with a rebuttal in tow, but that is rarely the case.

I have been affected others by bad theology in my life, I have also been the victim of bad theology, and I realize the ripples it has caused on my soul and for those who have been a victim to my bad theology I am truly sorry.
If you’ve been a perpetrator or victim of bad theology, it’s never too late to make a difference in the lives of others by sowing seeds of good theology. How does one go about sowing these seeds, I like the following acronym called THINK;

Sometimes…
A lot of the time…
ALL the time, we need to THINK about what we’re putting out to others and unto ourselves. It can be a laborious process, but I think (see what I did there?) with practice it’ll become habitual.

So be an agent of change,
be a THINKer,
and as Rob Bell so eloquently put it; “everyone should be everything they’re here to be.”

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

I am fearful of fundamentalism, but not fundamentalists (and so can you!)

 

Recently I and a friend were invited to a fundamentalist church to attend for my church incognito project, but as I was finding out about the church I was cautioned about some of its practices and corporate beliefs. Now it’s not that often I am warned about a church and honestly I find it interesting when this happens.

I had the opportunity to attend this past weekend, and as it closer and closer to the time for the service to begin I thought less and less of attending. I gave thought to contacting my friend to join me, but I chickened out in extending the invitation. As I backed out in going I started thinking of the reasons why.

First off, I was worried about what my friend would think; he heard the caveats but he didn’t understand it to the extent that I did, and so I was worried he might not get it until we were in the midst of the service and then the “a ha” moment might kick in. Secondly, I was worried about my interaction with the members of this church; I attend a spiritually and emotionally healthy church, and I “forget” (suppress perhaps?) that fundamentalist churches are still out there.

I do realize that Christian fundamentalism hasn’t always been the anti-science, anti-thinking, anti-Bible questioning, anti-smoking, anti-drinking, infallible / inerrant bible believing, substitutionary atonement, homophobic, misogynistic, patriarchal authority figure it appears to be nowadays (and granted, more or less of what I’ve just posted). It was once about the fundamentals of what following Jesus looks like, but as technology advanced and science explained more about the world and its origins, beliefs that were once held with an open hand became closed.

Instead of engaging in science and technology, walls were fortified and fundamentalism became a system of security responding out of fear rather than love. And over the years, more things have caused the typical fundamentalist Christian to build more walls. At times I wonder if the walls are built to keep them in or to keep others out, and I’m left thinking it’s a both/and answer.

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It’s out of this framework that I am fearful of Christian fundamentalism on a personal level, but at the same time I intentionally try to see the humanity and divinity of those who align themselves accordingly. I’m told I need to engage structures more, but personally speaking if I’m to do this I bound to make assumptions and lose sight of what actually matters.
I am also fearful of Christian fundamentalism and it’s marginalization of “the other” and I am someone who has LGBTQ+ friends, Muslim friends, Atheist and Agnostic friends. There isn’t a place for them at the table of Christian fundamentalism, and that’s why I bring it back to me; to widen my doors, to set more tables, because I am fundamentally inclusive to ALL.

This system exists, but I am glad it will not always exist. It sustainability depends on naivete, gullibility, fear, and power. When people pull back the curtain and see the wizard for all he is, there’s no need to pay attention to the man behind the curtain, and thus the fire of Christian fundamentalism will be snuffed out. Thanks be to God!

Onward and upward,
Nathanael