Category: Point of view


I saw a quote from a friend of mine on Facebook this week that said “We need a leader like George Washington, not Dr. Phil.” I found this interesting. What is wrong with the straight shooting approach of Dr. Phil? I imagine Washington would get along fine with Dr. Phil. Apples and oranges? I have utmost respect for Washington and the fact he wouldn’t allow the newly formed government to make him king. However, I do think we need leaders more in step with 2015 than 1776, that was quite awhile ago. The image of a leader coming in on a horse to kick ass reminds me more of another world leader I don’t particularly trust.

Disclaimer: I don’t personally think the machine of politics and business can be easily broken. It may never be. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to work towards a better more inclusive world.

The comparison of Dr.Phil and Washington got me thinking. What if we did have a nation led in a more inclusive way, understanding psychology and sociology.

Are individuals that different from nations? In my journey I have chosen to spend many hours looking at the issues that have helped to make me who I am. The good , the bad and the ugly. Sharing the junk in vulnerability.  I have made many mistakes, outright sinned against God, neighbor, family and myself, also endured many a negative thing and suffered from what was beyond my control. I have come through these processes realizing I am a pretty awesome guy, an over comer and adventurer! I have also played the part of selfish prick as well. I want the better. I want to be transformed into all I have been created to be. I am also comfortable with the imperfection of the journey because I am held and guided by Love/God themselves. God sees the good and not so good and I am still His beloved. His judgement/conviction in my life burns away the crap and it hurts.The more I try to hold on to it or justify it the worse it hurts. The negative in my life had/has to be acknowledged consciously otherwise it works itself out unconsciously.

What if we had this attitude as a nation? What if we collectively dropped our defensive posture and honestly acknowledged our sins? What if we all got excited about the possibilities and opportunities we possess? What if we stopped looking for enemies within and abroad? I believe Jesus only gets lip service in our society because His ways contradict all we “know”. What if bravado and pride blind us from being able to heal the multi-generational sins? We, as Americans, all have guilt by association. If we lay claim to the greatness, let us also acknowledge where we have fallen short. We can no longer expect people to “get over” slavery and discrimination, extermination of native peoples, only country to nuke another, homophobia, chauvinism, xenophobia, self-righteousness, avarice, shaming the poor, etc.. Anymore than a victim of abuse can just “get over” what they experienced be it physical, mental, sexual or spiritual. When folks fool themselves into thinking they can do it all alone, without help from community, counseling, friends, they swallow down the pain and act in destructive patterns of addictions, abuse,isolation and judgmental ism towards self and/or others. Putting themselves on God’s throne as the arbiter of what is ultimately reality.

If every one would only agree with me, it will all be okay (Please see as sarcasm).

This is where the ultimate problem lies. We have no idea as a nation to live in humility. We (no matter the side) are always RIGHT!  Acknowledging our issues as a nation doesn’t mean hating or not loving our country. I have issues, yet I don’t hate myself! It means acknowledging reality. I believe God’s love for our nation is more about the people than how we do it, it is also a universal love of the peoples of all nations.

We are manipulated on every side to blame. We can change and move forward in this nation if that is what we want. I am afraid we would rather be right than effective. As I began the scary work on my own life and issues, pride would’ve gotten me no where. May we allow ourselves to be humble. Then we can truly Love our neighbors as ourselves and allow our land to heal rather than kill. Can we be vulnerable?

9but he (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Cor 12-9

Our culture and world have been in such an uproar with doom and blame around every corner,  So what’s going on?

The problem is…. everything we know and everything we don’t. The traditional Christian answer is that “sin”  is the main problem behind everything and does have some merit when looked at beyond the surface of the word. Most of the time it brings to mind a disgusted god who is watching and judging by a pure moral code that no one matches up to. This is the normal Billy Graham understanding that most American Protestants see as part of the Gospel. The word “sin” is more deep and it has more to do with setting up wrong priorities in life and the main goal and target. Priorities that are dead ends. Priorities that are rooted in self-interest and self-preservation. The other Bible words we gloss over as archaic are “iniquity and wickedness”  these both are a part of the problems in the world once we look beyond the surface. Iniquity is very similar to inequality. Wickedness comes from wicker and it is a twisting of what reality is good, think of the difference between love and lust.

I think theologically so track with me for a moment.  These things are a part of the problem in our world because they hurt and destroy our neighbors as well as ourselves.

We always want something to blame that simplifies the issues and removes any universal fault from the equation. We are still not “our brother’s keeper”.  I’m slowly learning from Rene Girard that scapegoating is the ancient , primal response to damaging things in a society. When a scandal occurs we must find a person to blame, then eliminate that person or cause and we can all go back to feeling “normal”.

Common things to blame these days: guns, being “crazy”, cultural decay, No official prayer in schools, culture of death, avarice, the poor, the rich, Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, Israel, religion, Christians, welfare, capitalism, socialism, communism, ignorance, too many prisons/prison as industry, lobbies, drugs, cartels, terrorism, Putin, slave labor, pornography, prostitution, sex slavery, poor schools, inadequate teachers, inadequate parents, too much discipline, not enough discipline, rap culture, the suburbs, the inner-city, ghettos, the 1%, the 99%, inadequate health care, laziness, LGBT, racism, white privilege, slavery, animal cruelty, broken homes, crack, self-righteousness, atheists, alcoholism, police, culture wars, climate change, pollution. greed, school loans, government corruption, personal responsibility,  warmongers, southerners, political correctness, video games, Bible-thumpers, churches, too much/not enough regulation, mental health, The Patriot Act, ISIS, abortion, death penalty, domestic violence, rape, stand your ground, “sinners”  NRA, NOW, Unions, business owners, taxes, homophobia…..and on and on it goes.

Some of these things are clear-cut and others follow an ideology.  The ideological driven are what cause most division and the most comfort. Find some folks who agree with you and sit back and judge the world. Ideologies are also a subtle way to keep self-interest hidden, as well as bigotry and to be as judgmental as one wants because they are on the “right” side.

This is why I love the old story about the tree of “knowledge of good and evil”. One could call it the judgement tree. Originally, EVERYTHING was good. Then we became the judge. Judging ourselves internally, then judging everything around us.  Still, I think a society can rally around the biggies (murder, rape, kidnapping, etc.) and then choose to acknowledge our limited view thus our inability to judge rightly. Humility is the quality we all need, (myself especially) The list above will continue to grade on society. As long as we get in our little groups and continue to judge “the other”  our society won’t evolve to seeing our neighbors as those made in the image of God and worthy of the benefit of the doubt.  We personally do not hold all knowledge, I encourage us all to hold opinions loosely and love tenaciously. Judgementalism inhibits love, every time.

The problem is…all of us.  The solution is in the mirror. Can we learn to love? I believe so. As we learn to love ourselves, we genuinely grow in love for our neighbor. The Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.  This Good News is for the here and now. The Kingdom of God is present within you, right now. When we love, forgive, encourage,co-suffer alongside/have compassion, leave all ultimate judgment to God (who knows the whole story), fight for justice and mercy, feed the hungry, visit the sick, visit the prisoner, sing a song, go for a run, go for a walk, hike, go fishing, make love, meditate, pray, mourn, live in empathy, read, rest, party, have fun, worship, put down the phone,grieve injustice, rejoice in mercy, learn from our elders and our youth,  have a picnic, eat something new, plant something and help it grow, be a shoulder, lift up the fallen, share hope, cry for lost dreams of your own and the lost dreams of others, give life to new dreams, smile at a child, smile with the aged, have a beer or tea with a neighbor.

Life is NOW, live eternal life on this side of the grave. If you don’t feel loved now, know this, YOU ARE LOVED!  Find community, we are not meant to be alone. To love and be loved is the Kingdom come.

A modern telling of a classic story.

A political know-it-all asked the Teacher “How do I get the into heaven?” The Teacher replied, ” Love God and Love your neighbor.”  The know-it-all didn’t really like people different from himself so he sought clarification. “So, in this globalized world, who exactly is my neighbor?”

The Teacher told a story

A man was walking through the plaza in Kansas City one evening when suddenly he is attacked. He is beaten badly by a group of men who rob him, steal his cell phone, shoes and jacket and leave him for dead. He is leaning against a wall behind a dumpster, almost unconscious and bleeding. He can be seen but also can be overlooked.

As he is laying there a local pastor is out with his family, heading to dinner. Seeing the man, he fears for his family’s safety and crosses the street to the other side, shields his wife and children’s eyes and heads to dinner…

Again a successful businessman was walking by saw the man suffering and kept right on moving, this wasn’t his problem. He considered a call to the police but got distracted.

Then a retired, baby boomer couple, on their way to a movie passed the man and found themselves afraid of him, and quickly crossed the street. “What if he attacks us?”  “It’s just not smart to get involved, you never know these days.”

As the man lay there, giving up hope, he saw a young middle eastern man with a long beard coming up to him and then he passed out.  The young man was a Palestinian immigrant. He took water and cleaned his wounds and bandaged them the best he could then he physically picked the man up and put him in his own vehicle. Then the young man found a local hospital and took the man inside. He explained that he did not know the man but gave them his credit card information to insure he was well taken care of as he had prior commitments he needed to attend to that night. He said he’d back to check on the stranger in a few days.

Tell me this, who was the beaten man’s neighbor?

The one who showed mercy to him.

My modern take. Originally, The Good Samaritan parable Luke 10:25-37

Our society is in pain.

I’m a white guy in an middle-upper middle class suburb. I was raised here and really enjoy living here. We have awesome opportunities for all people to enjoy. Low crime rates, lower unemployment, good schools, shopping galore and jobs. We do have people that struggle and have money issues, poor folks but in general,  it’s a fairly successful area. The American Dream.

As a white guy in a dominant white culture, I don’t have any real idea what it is like to be a non-white person but I can share what my perspective has been. It has definitely shifted over the years. Growing up I was aware of the evil of slavery and in the Civil War that over 600,000 lives were lost to settle the issue. I was aware of discrimination in the south and the courageous work of MLK and that generation to bring about the civil rights movement. My schools in KS had maybe a handful of black students but I did have a black friend on my block as a kid.

All I’ve known is white culture. As a teen the music scene was embracing rap and I was a metal head which kinda annoyed me. Why? I don’t know but somehow I felt a sense of unfairness. I actually liked rap but something within me was afraid so I made fun of rap as not talented and “black” music. Once again, why?  Looking back, I can see some horrible popular music at the time helped me develop a slight racist attitude.  I was a big Guns’N’Roses fan. They had and album called Lies that the popular song “Patience” was on, a top 40 hit. There was another controversial song on the album called “One in a Million”. It had a smooth sound and was easy to get to know. Here’s the lyrics;

“One In A Million”

1,2,1,2,3,4
[Whistle]
Guess I needed sometime to get away
I needed some piece of mind
Some piece of mind that’ll stay
So I thumbed it down to Sixth and L.A. —
So I thumbed it down to nine o six ten L.A. (“90610”)
Maybe a Greyhound could be my way

Police and Niggers, that’s right
Get out of my way
Don’t need to buy none of your
Gold chains today
I don’t need no bracelets
Clamped in front of my back
Just need my ticket; ’til then
Won’t you cut me some slack?

You’re one in a million
Yeah, that’s what you are
You’re one in a million, babe
You’re a shooting star
Maybe someday we’ll see you
Before you make us cry
You know we tried to reach you
But you were much too high
Much too high, much too high,
Much too high, yes, ow!

Immigrants and faggots
They make no sense to me
They come to our country
And think they’ll do as they please
Like start some mini Iran,
Or spread some fuckin’ disease
They talk so many goddamn ways
It’s all Greek to me
Well some say I’m lazy
And others say that’s just me
Some say I’m crazy
I guess I’ll always be
But it’s been such a long time
Since I knew right from wrong
It’s all the means to an end, I
I keep it movin’ along

You’re one in a million
Oo, you’re a shooting star
You’re one in a million, babe
You know that you are
Maybe someday we’ll see you, Oo
oh, Before you make us cry
You know we tried to reach you
But you were much too high
Much too high, Oo, much too high
Yeah,
Much too high, huh, no, no, oh
Ow!

Radicals and Racists
Don’t point your finger at me
I’m a small town white boy
Just tryin’ to make ends meet
Don’t need your religion
Don’t watch that much T.V.
Just makin’ my livin’, baby
Well that’s enough for me

You’re one in a million
Yeah that’s what you are
You’re one in a million, babe
You’re a shooting star
Maybe someday we’ll see you
Before you make us cry
You know we tried to reach you
But you were much too high
Much too high, ow, much too high,
Much too high, much too high
Yeah, yeee, yeah, yeee, igh!
Ow! Much too high
(Oh, much too high, ah,
much too high, ah, much too high
much too high, ow, much too high)

I remember there being some controversy and negativity about the songbut no real challenge. On the other side Easy-E and NWA were promoting a real thuggish culture with “Fuck tha Police” and “Boyz in da hood” etc.  Music may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things but I believe it is important to pay attention to what we feed our minds. Our pastor said our liturgy is an experience of marinading in what we believe. Music can be the same.
This music and being sent to live outside of LA as a partying teen right after the riots added fuel to racism within me. Once again, why?  I had never really experienced anything negative at the hands of black folks. One time my black friend and I were in an actual fight and his Mom angrily broke it up and jumped my ass about it. Looking back that may have been a seed but I was beating up her son in his own garage. I clearly was wrong. My family wasn’t overtly racist growing up but said I should be thankful to be white. Maybe another seed?
I was ignorant as a teen and am ashamed of the racist culture I was a part of.  Thankfully I moved a few times and my Dad, the genius that he is, sent me to Job Corps in D.C., 500 folks about 15 white. This experience changed everything. The lie I had come to believe was that I was racist in response to black prejudice. During my 6 months at Job Corps, I heard one anti-white comment, one! Kinda forced a shift in my opinions and removed the chip on my shoulder.
I have since repented of any and all racism and prejudice, recognizing it as the evil it is. I think it is easier for me to recognize the overtly wrong parts of my journey. The harder parts are the subtle, cultural influences that helped fuel it to grow such as the music scene, differences in urban culture,etc.. I am a white guy but my call is to embrace the family of all humanity, regardless of difference. I think this is God’s call to all people. Jesus is behind the eyes of everyone you lock eyes with, he shares our common humanity.
All lives matter, but if my black brother doesn’t feel as if his life matters as much as mine I want to do my part to stand in solidarity with him so I agree #blacklivesmatter.  Just because of the progress we’ve made doesn’t mean the work is done. I don’t know how to fix it but I know how to love. If us white folks can slow down in our defensive responses and learn to listen rather than accuse. Healing can occur. If we all cling to our pride, no progress can be made. Justice must be equal. Forgiveness can only be given (culturally) if the truth of the wrong is admitted.
Lord,
Give me eyes to see and ears to hear.
Show me my blinders and quiet my noise.
Return my heart to flesh and break its stony facade.
That I may know the Real.
Amen

Thought I’d share what I’ve been chewing on which I think may be an encouragement? 🙂
In light of dealing with my Mom’s care , this thought has been going through my mind; Intentions without actions are worthless. It feels harsh to say out loud but it is what I am feeling.

In my early adult journey of faith I  would normally avoid the book of James in the Bible because I was stuck in a heaven/hell understanding of Christianity. In this book, he declares “Faith without works, is dead.”  My immature mind only saw fear of hell in this book and dismissed it. I always was pitting James vs. Paul and you know Paul wrote most of the New Testament so I don’t need to take James seriously.  The passage I am referencing, has much to say to say to us today.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.  – James 2:14-17

Let’s  just take the normal heaven/hell understanding out for a bit. You can place it back later if you so desire.

What if this statement is more about whether or not faith is “something you believe” only or something meant to actually form us? What does faith infused with action do to “save” us? I believe it gives us eyes to truly see and ears to truly hear. Otherwise we only hear the noise of our own ego and desire to keep ourselves as primary in the universe.

I think this passage also has a strong message to our political climate but lets not go there today.

What if being “saved” is more of being saved from being sucked in to the worlds system? What if it is more counter-cultural? I believe it is.  I believe nothing can separate us from God’s love. I also believe we can be completely blind to it. What if salvation is meant to be here and now as well as later?

It is weird  to me to have that thought about intentions without actions being worthless. But isn’t it true? Think about any time you’ve broken an agreement with someone. Or if someone broke an agreement with you? Did their/your intentions stop the pain or disappointment? Or did your/their intentions get what needed to be done fulfilled?

Believe me, I DO NOT have this mastered at all! I don’t always follow through, just ask my wife!  It is a journey to get our hearts, minds and souls to combine with our physical body to actually accomplish what we ultimately so deeply desire…. To see love in action.  It is happening. It is about conviction not condemnation. Our actions do not affect our ultimate value and worth, they do show what we ultimately value and love.

 

“Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”- Jesus

Ouch! This little bit of scripture has always felt heavy. Early on in married life, I would proof text it as a way to guilt and shame my beautiful, young wife (who thankfully was new to “churchy” life and forgave me being an ass) as a way to show her she would always have to be second and she should put me second too. What a drag?!!? This was my ego “doing what I should”, and my own insecurity. She naturally rested in God’s love far more naturally than me.   Have you ever been beat up with these verses?(sorry babe) Or beat yourself up?

What does Jesus mean? Under the influence of reading Robert Farar Capon (amongst others), I have found new insights on these hard words.  Let’s dive in!

Is there ever a time when so much is demanded? Think about it…it sounds so exclusive and limiting then becomes all-inclusive.

There is a time, not one we like to ponder. Ash Wednesday and Lent begin this week which point there. The most demanding thing is our eventual physical death. The journey Jesus is pointing towards is the first death of our ego which as we let go we can eventually face the physical death without clutching and grasping against inevitability.

I always saw this verse as a way to hate on myself for loving those close to me. What?!? I don’t think I am alone here on this. What if Jesus is suggesting our entire way of holding on, is more a projection and attempt to control? I can almost see a twinkle in his eye and a grin as he could say “You know you will die, right? Why not let me show you a less grasping way so when it comes, you’ll be more ready. It will feel like your dying, but you’re not, not yet anyway?”

On Google, ego is defined as a person’s sense of self. I am not a psychologist so anything I write is my opinion and experience :).  I would say the ego is who we think we are, not really who we are…deep…right?! It is our self-image, the mental projection of who we are. Our job/career, country, religion/spirituality(or lack), our family, our kids, our political opinions, intelligence etc. are how we experience the ego much of the time, unaware of its influence.

Here’s the rub…while those things are good, NONE of them define your worth! Not one. Look at little children. Any pretense? Any proving? Any ego? Jesus also said “Unless you become as little children, you will not see the kingdom of God”  The ego-lessness  of children shows the reality of the Kingdom in the here and now! Then we grow up and together with our environments fabricate our ego or false self  and it becomes harder to see the Kingdom.

This part of you will die, it will. The good news is, it’s NOT you! You are more than any projections! You are more than your image! “You cannot offend the True self. Any offense is the false self/ego.” – Richard Rohr

Learning to let go of who we think we are is the daily taking up of the cross.  The True Self is who we are “Hidden with Christ, in God” We can’t live aware of that all the time. It is the necessary work of suffering and dying. I don’t like it! But I also don’t like the ego’s lies of separation and alone-ness!

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” -Jesus

This Lent may you find you are more than you think, so much more. May you find lies dying in the Light.  May you see your true worth and the true worth of all you lock eyes with.  May you live loved. May you learn let go.

 

Last night we were watching a new show on PBS called “A Path  Appears”. The topic was sex trafficking in the US. It was horribly sad  although many good folks are working tirelessly to help rescue these women, men, and children.  The vast majority are NOT consenting adults. It was so sad to these woman (primarily) who society has deemed to be quite worthless, when they are the truest victims. This along with all the tragedies in the world grieves my heart so and makes me wonder….

How Long?

How long, O Lord, will your children be used as objects?

How long. O Lord, will self-interest rule the day?

How long, O Lord, will parents be able to abuse their children?

How long, O Lord, will money be our master?

How long, O Lord, will those who are insecure continue to murder in your name?

How long, O Lord, will the use of force be seen as greater than love?

How long, O Lord, will I be blind to my own complicity?

How long, O Lord, will the poor be left to fend for themselves in this world of plenty?

How long, O Lord, will the Good News of your unconditional love be the negative news of fear of hell?

How long, O Lord, will your Church sit in judgement rather than extend love without agenda?

How long, O Lord, will vengeance be seen as justice?

How long, O Lord, will the pain of life be numbed by drug, work, sex, religious addiction rather than healed by love?

How long, O Lord, will the sick suffer alone?

How long, O Lord, will our eyes be blind to see ourselves (and you) in every person we see?

How long, O Lord, will we listen to fear over love?

How long, O Lord, will it be before our personal nationality deems us more worthy than the rest of our human family?

How long, O Lord, till all your creatures are not seen as expendable?

How long, O Lord, will the earth we live on be seen as something to exploit rather than care for?

How long, O Lord, will mental illness have stigma?

How long, O Lord, will personal gratification and freedom be more important than the love of many?

How long, O Lord, will the ability to kill be seen as a fundamental right?

How long, O Lord, till your Kingdom comes fully, on earth as it is in heaven?

How long, O Lord, till the Prince of Peace softens all hearts?

How long, O Lord, how long?

Nevertheless, I have seen  and experienced your love in action Lord, I do not hope for you to destroy. I hope for your universal love to flow like a mighty river through all and in all. As you have shown me, love never fails.

Seek and you will find -Jesus

What does this mean? Most of my adult life has interpreted this verse in the typical “churchy”  way. In terms of seeking God and those sorts of things. The “seeker sensitive” churches are all about this for sure. But what if we are overly-religious in how we look at what Jesus said and miss the clear wisdom of the statement?

Observing my diverse group of friends as well as myself has brought me to the conclusion that folks really do ultimately find what they are seeking. We all tend to see what we want to see. For example; when I was a younger man and really into Left Behind type of spirituality I could see the end of the world looming behind every single news story. Also, when I thought humanity was really evil on the whole I would see evil behind everything as well. I liked politics back then and could always see how ‘my side’ had it right.

I never saw that my mind was already made up as I interpreted everything I saw so…..seeking, and I was finding. Thankfully, my journey has been one that has experienced much healing and over the past several years I had found what I had been seeking to be lacking and also a bit depressing. The hard part is that what I was seeking was always being confirmed so it made it hard to evaluate fairly other points of view. This isn’t just true for me on the ‘religious right’ though. I hear skeptics, secularists and cynics finding everything they are seeking to validate their own worldview as well.

I began to want and seek healing, love, truth, beauty and community and guess what, I keep finding it!  As I began to seek healing for the various issues of my life such as; family of origin, poor choices, shame and guilt, I found these areas being healed through the process. Life still hurts and often times these issues have to be re-addressed but that is ok.

I also saw healing in the lives of those who were seeking it. The power behind what I saw was their vulnerability in places that were loving and safe. Vulnerability, in many ways is simply being secure enough to admit we’re unsure about stuff or how to handle it and then asking for help. Seeing Love in action is the most powerful thing in the universe. Love never condemns, especially the vulnerable. I also have seen the Truth in action as people learn of their worth and live in that truth. When we are open and seeking Truth, even if it seemingly contradicts what we “knew”, we become astounded at the Beauty all around us. Although, I do still love the quote “The truth will set you free but tends to piss you off first.”  Then as all these things coalesce the community arises! I have my community of family and friends. This helps me see the vast community of humanity and include all.

If we seek division, we’ll find it.

If we seek negativity, we’ll find it.

If we seek to numb ourselves, we’ll find it.

If we seek to look down on others, we’ll find it.

If we seek to exclude, we’ll find it.

If we seek darkness, we’ll find it.

I encourage you to be aware in 2015. Aware to that which you already seek. Aware to new things to seek. Life is Good and life is tragic all at the same time. It does take eyes to see and ears to hear to catch glimpses of the bigger story. Continue to Seek and you will find.

Recently, we have all been reintroduced to the idea of “Death with Dignity” otherwise known as physician assisted suicide. The high-profile case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who ended her life this past Saturday, has brought it back to our minds. First off, I in no way feel as if I have the right to judge or condemn anyone who makes this choice. It is truly heart breaking to have to deal with the questions those folks have had dealt with. I simply only want to ask questions and see where it may lead. Once again, no condemnation!

The difficulty this places within me is how we view suffering. Is suffering just bad and wrong, therefore to be avoided at all cost? Most of our issues in society are the results of pain avoidance. The majority of drug addicts, alcoholics, workaholics, food or sex addicts, t.v. addicts etc., I believe began their journey due to their personal pain and suffering.  These things are not automatically sought by those who a prone to bad choices, the reality is that these things alleviate suffering, even if it simply prolongs it and causes a different kind of suffering.

Our society doesn’t place much value in “suffering well”. Maybe it is our sexy, youth obsessed, ultra vital mentality. Or maybe our individuality being the focus to where we don’t want to bother others with our pain.  Maybe it is because suffering brightly highlights our illusion of control.

A sad thing to me is the slippery slope of suffering lacking value in our culture.  If suffering is inherently bad and wrong and thus must be avoided at all cost “Death with Dignity” is the road we will embrace. But what is the cut off? What if we begin to judge (as humans do) that to end misery is the most compassionate thing to do?

What about the homeless person suffering with sickness, sleeping on concrete?

What about the suffering single parent without enough food to go around?

What about the famines around the world that cause widespread suffering?

What about the suffering of the young women doused with acid across their face, guaranteeing  a lifetime of certain suffering?

What about the poor?

What about the disabled (mental or physical) war veteran?

What about the unemployed, who just can’t catch a break?

What about the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, the naked?

 

So, does suffering have value? All of us have experienced suffering in our lives and I would say that suffering produces the truest character of our souls.  My challenge is to see that all humanity is suffering, all of us. It is a season we will all share in. Jesus shared it with us. What if His abuse and crucifixion was an act of total solidarity with human suffering? Even if you don’t believe, consider what I believe for a moment. The Creator allowed Himself to experience our deepest pain, He is not distant from us. In my suffering I have found Him to be close, very close.

I know it’s a touchy subject and I subscribe to a consistent ethic of life but my only aspiration is to cause thought and hopeful dialogue so that we can all lean on one another when suffering comes our way.

 

We have all heard those wise words of Jesus ” Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1 or the good old King James version ” Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  I have been struck by the wisdom of these words in a different way recently. It may have always been clear to you but to me it is new.  So bear with me a bit.

When I was around 21 I “rededicated” myself to Jesus and became a bit of a conservative, evangelical zealot. During this time I always drew a distinction between judging and condemning.  To judge; was to define something as wrong. To condemn; was to suggest punishment was needed (as in hell).  It is true that these terms can be synonymous. Seeing Jesus’ words more as an admonishment not to condemn, I felt quite justified judging the heck out of everything for several years. All the normal ones; Clinton, Disney, LGBT, liberals, the media, Democrats, folks from the coasts, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, Catholics, Buddhists, criminals, and on and on. I felt completely okay doing this because in my mind I wasn’t condemning them. That was God’s job.  This was the camp I was in and bought it hook, line and sinker.

Thankfully, God is in the heart softening business!!!!

As I think back on my worldview in those days I only saw Jesus’ words in terms of condemning to hell. I would’ve clearly stated God’s grace was sufficient enough to “save” all those I was judging but “wrong is wrong”, right?!? I wasn’t judged anymore because I was under grace so it was my job to define what is wrong.   Huh?!?!

What I never realized was that Jesus’ words are simple facts about interpersonal relationships. Once we start judging or condemning we invite the exact same treatment and it is a vicious cycle. This is why (I believe) the Church has lost credibility. We (Christians) judge and condemn and so the world judges and condemns the Church.

Judgment implies perfect knowledge which by nature is exceedingly arrogant. I am not talking about crimes here such as; murder, abuse or rape. I am talking about assuming we know better than someone else or everyone else about anything or everything. It is the tyranny of opinion. All opinions are valid and should be heard even if we have no actual study in the subject. The need to be “right” over being effective. Therefore we become exceedingly opinionated and judgmental and completely miss the point of the Gospel.  Mother Theresa said ” When you judge, it is impossible to love.”

I am not judging or condemning where I came from. I am thankful for the journey. I am thankful it IS a journey. However, if this causes a person to be uncomfortable I make no apologies. The words and actions of Jesus are a judgment on the ways of the world, of every political system, of every religion (definitely Christianity) or culture. He always makes me uncomfortable when I think I know what’s up! Our call is love. Plain and simple. To love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

Next time you are tempted to judge, remember it bounces right back!

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