UMC During A Time of Winnowing

One of the most divisive topics is now “threatening” to divide the United Methodist Church.  You can read about it here if you haven’t been following along; United Methodists Edge Toward Breakup Over LGBT Policies.  I don’t understand the “edging” bit, as the Methodists as a whole already discussed this and voted on it at their conference back in February.  The vote was clear; the traditional stance on marriage stands.

I get that if this continues to stand that the UMC is going to lose a lot of congregations and individuals, but why would the UMC be forced to split?  It’s been voted on; here are the beliefs of the UMC.  That means if you disagree with that, and are not going to follow the guidelines, then why are you clinging to the title of Methodist?  I would like to think it is out of some type of moral hesitancy to further split the body of Christ, but I’m not that naive.  What do I think is going on?  It’s one more way to tear down the Church from the inside out, it’s a way to take the UMC and publicly force it to bow to progressive ideals that do not accept the New Testament God-given and traditional Christian definition of marriage.

Make no mistake, this is a “Winnowing Topic;” it does separate the wheat from the chaff.  As you winnow, the wind carries away the chaff as it is not built to withstand the wind, rather it is driven before it.  The question of Homosexual marriage is one that cannot be skirted.  And, to be clear, I’m talking about God ordained marriage, not state ordained.  Just as we don’t rely on the state to baptize, nor to tell us who is baptized, believers should not, cannot, rely on the state to tell us who is or is not married.  This is why it seems traditional Christians are always harping on homosexuality; it’s not something that can be danced around.  It’s too much of a prevalent topic in society that those who deny that two men or two women can be married in the eyes of God stand out like a sore thumb.

Progressives can’t tolerate dissent, and anyone who does not agree must be taught a lesson.  That’s why I think there is so much “angst” over trying not to leave the UMC intact.  If it’s left intact, and it’s the progressive liberals that must leave, that is an admission of defeat of the ideal, and that is the unforgivable sin in progressivism.  The traditional Methodist are clear; they love and welcome anyone into congregations, and to some extent even the pulpit, but they are commanded by God not to love or approve of certain actions; hence, it is the actions that are not welcome and need to change.  One of the premises of Methodist belief is that we do have free will in that with the help of God we can choose our actions.  The liberal progressives within the UMC want to change the unchangeable.

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He is Risen!

In historical fact and in truth, He is Risen, He is Alive!  God bless all my brothers and sisters in Him on this Easter…

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First the Cross

It’s Good Friday.  There are a lot of thoughts out there on what Good Friday means to us, so I thought I would add mine.  Here are some of my takeaways as to how to apply the lessons of Good Friday to our lives.

Even though you know what’s coming, keep pushing forward.  Avoidance only works in our lives in the short term.  If there is a rough road ahead we sometimes try to skirt around it, and then wind up in a ditch.  We need to logically look at the facts around us, pray to God that His will be done, and then move forward.  Sometimes life flat out stinks… if you see someone preaching that life is roses and kittens 24/7, run the other way.  We, as Christians, are to be made over into “little Christs,” well, that means sometimes first the cross.

Even though you are anxious, keep pushing forward.  Read the scriptures about Jesus in the garden.  Courage isn’t about a lack of anxiety, it is about having anxiety and acting anyway.  Humans get anxious when confronted with hard things.  That’s ok.  Seek out people that can help you with the burden of anxiety, seek out the Father that is always there, always listening to our fears and desires.  And, if you are anxious about everything, it’s time to get some help with that, and I’m saying that sincerely.  Anxiety can turn into a beast that we start to feel we can’t control, and there’s lots of reasons that anxiety can take over, but it can be fought and put back into perspective.  For rational anxiety; things work out, but first the cross.

Even though you are going through excruciating times, you can be right in the middle of God’s will.  Isn’t that one of the ultimate messages?  Don’t let other Christians shame you into thinking that we only suffer if we sin… did not Jesus suffer?  Was not Jesus sinless?  It rains on the just and the unjust alike, and the sun shines on both.  I would love to say that if you convert to Christianity that you won’t suffer… I can’t say that, it would be a lie, but what I can say is that as Christians, suffering has meaning.  Suffering also has an end.  We aren’t to seek suffering out in some masochistic manner, but when it comes to us, we hit our knees, seek His will, and remember His cross.  The resurrection is coming, but first the cross.

Hang in there my fellow humans, it doesn’t end at the cross.

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Seeking the Divine in Architecture

I’ve hunted down and read people’s comments on a lot of different sites about the Notre Dame fire and its restoration.  Most of it is supportive, but there are a few fellow Christians (and others of course) out there hung up on the money it will take to restore Notre Dame, and the fact that “it’s just a building.”  I do my best to empathize with my fellow human beings, especially when there is a dearth of that on the interweb, so I do get the point they are making, but they are missing The Point of structures like Notre Dame.

Yes, it will take loads of cash to rebuild the Lady, yes, that cash could go elsewhere (I suggest putting your cash wherever you like if it bothers you so much, and make sure you are eating beans and rice, and not anything more expensive so you can give even more money to your causes), but do you seriously think that a structure is all that the money is going toward?  What good are buildings anyway?  Does God disapprove of buildings? Of beauty? Of Architecture?

We already know from Art Appreciation 101 that the human eye, hence the human mind finds certain ratios, and shapes pleasing.  It evokes something in us at a level that we are hardly aware of.  There are many articles out now about the impact of architecture on the human brain, even neurobiologically speaking.  Interesting isn’t it?  I don’t think God does anything frivolously, especially in the laying down of laws or guidance, so all of those structures he ordered humans to build in very specific ways can’t have been capricious.  We are not Gnostics; the physical world (including our bodies) started out good, we are physical beings, and after the resurrection we will have perfected physical bodies.  The physical is important, it always has been since the beginning.

God even gave specific instruction dealing with physical things all the time, including buildings.  The way He instructed the Jewish tribes to arrange their camp, the instructions for the tent, and then the temple.  Noah’s ark, the ark of the covenant, and Nehushtan the bronze serpent.  God knows us and our minds because He made us and He recognizes the need we have for physical-ness.  No, He is not limited to physical place and clearly when Jesus walked the earth, was crucified, and resurrected things did change, but there was never a proscribed ban on buildings built to hold worshipers.

Notre Dame was built with worship directed toward God.  The artisans and workers poured themselves into it and made their praise physically manifest.  The windows were the Gospel writ large in living color.  Symbols are important, they are not impotent signs, but rather something that has taken on the true essence of the thing it represents.  Symbols have power.

There are people that owe their belief in God to capitulating to His call put forth in beauty.  People have felt His call in churches, before great works of art, or listening to music.  I know the stories of people who were agnostic, but upon traveling to all the great old cathedrals in Europe said they came away knowing He existed, and have followed Him since.  When humans allow God to work through us, or to inspire us, the result can be a glimpse of heaven.  We can definitely see that in nature as well, but when we see something that comes from the effort of a group of humans working together to build instead of destroy… well, we recognize a truth in that.  Civilization.  Civilization directed toward God and in His service.  That’s important.

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Watching Notre Dame burn…

Watching Notre Dame burn, I wept.  I’m not Catholic, nor French, but none of that mattered as I watched The Lady of Paris light up the night in horrible flame.  It surprised me how strong the reaction was inside my heart, and then my head.  I’ve never been to Paris, I’ve never seen that venerable cathedral, and honestly, I think that made me hurt worse.  I feared I would never see it stand again in my lifetime, that I would never get to see the rose windows for myself with my own eyes.  Yes, my first responses were based in selfishness.

My second response was to see a terrible metaphor played out on my television.  It’s okay, dear reader, if you don’t agree, but I find it self-evident that Europe, and the West has lost it’s soul.  It’s lost it’s mooring in Truth, and by that I mean absolute truth that has one source; God.  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the one true God Who is triune in nature.  Bastions of the Christian faith that have held out for thousands of years have slipped from their moorings.  They don’t recognize the One Who bought them… and here burns His Cathedral right in the heart of France.

Yes, yes, I do know and truly believe in the end all will be put right, but that’s not where we are right now.  Right now the world is groaning, you could hear it while Notre Dame burned.  Not only was she burning, but burning and toppling at the beginning of Holy Week.  Call it what you will; a metaphor, a sign, a wake-up call… it hurt.  I’m left mumbling like Richard Dreyfuss’s Roy Neary, “This means something.”  It’s not the building burning that made me weep, but the neglect of the Faith amongst the faithful that has lead to the state of disrepair the whole Church catholic is in, no one noticing until it’s being destroyed right in front of us.

Then the morning comes and shows us a new image; fire out, cross still shining.  Yes, the roof is gone and the cathedral is now exposed to the elements, but the heart of the church is still there, and the glorious windows depicting the gospel along with man’s love of God, man’s creative gift from God as we are made in His image.  The devastation is vast, and it will take time and money and expertise to mend it all, but it will be mended Lord willing!  Will the Church, all of us believers of every stripe wake up?  Will we start living and reviving our faith by allowing God to live in us and move us?  God, I hope so.  I beg so.

The other things in the world going on faded out, and for several hours everyone’s eyes were glued to the news and the coverage of the fire.  Now, you see the pictures of the cross, and the parts of the cathedral that have survived.  Some will move on and the images will fade and they won’t act on what they felt when watching it burn, some laughed and cheer while it burned, but some wept. It hit me hard enough that I came back here to this blog of mine that has set idle for three and a half years… and what did I find?  My last post was all about France, about the attack by Muslims on civilians, and hence on civilization, and I said what I will say again; my sentimentality can be a good thing, so can yours, as it can be for everyone that felt it… but it’s not enough.  We have to start acting like Christians, and that means learning the mind of Christ, begging for the mind of Christ, and following the Spirit, doing as He says.

As for me, it meant coming here and writing this, it meant searching out a legit way to give to the restoration of Notre Dame.  It also means to keep living my faith, to broaden my actions, and pray for depth of understanding in order to live out the faith.  I don’t know if anyone still reads my blog… if you are here right now, and you’ve read this far, and you agree with anything I have said… just know you aren’t alone.  Just know there truly is hope, and we can live like there is.  Just know there is Truth and Love, and we can actually live our lives in accord with that, and it is all meaningful.  Christ did indeed die on the cross, but let’s not forget He rose three days later!  I hope I’ll have more to say about all this very soon.

As for me, it feels like another sign that my last post was about France, I’ll have to seriously pray about and consider the import for me, because I do believe, “This means something.”  Don’t forget, it turn’s out Roy Neary was right even when the world around him thought he was nuts…

Grace and Peace to my brothers and sisters, especially all of you over in France.  Revive us again, Lord.

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No, I’m not French, nor a Parisian…

Hang with me here… We just saw another attack against civilians made by Muslims.  They are extremists and they are terrorists and they are Muslim.  They went into Paris and targeted civilians.  They went into Paris with their ideology and they sought wreak as much havoc and kill as many people as they could.  They targeted a free people with the intent not just to kill, but to punish freedom itself.  They worship a false god, and follow false teachings in a book filled with philosophies antithetical to Truth, justice, and freedom.

I’m not French, I wasn’t a New Yorker after 9/11… I’m a small-town American and I won’t pretend to know the level of fear and pain that those innocent people suffered in those cities.  Yes, I stand with them, yes, I pray for them, but I won’t tarnish their experiences by using a pat phrase.  Perhaps instead of wasting our empathy with phrases and hashtags we can instead, or alongside of that, educate ourselves on the threat we all face and what can be done about it.  This can’t be handled in cyberspace.  This can’t be handled by sentiment. Before it can be handled we have to be an in formed populace.

Have you not followed the refugee crisis in Europe?  Have you not learned why ISIS is doing what it is doing?  Have you not read and studied the Koran and the various volumes of the Hadith to understand what is fueling their attacks?  As bad as it was in Paris, do you realize Christian children are being targeted for crucifixion in ISIS controlled territory?  People are being raped, tortured, and killed all for their witness to the true God.  Genocide has happened and now the perpetrators are exporting death.  Russia is on the move and Putin is actually being called upon by Americans to do what we won’t.  We don’t owe it to the victims of these heinous acts of terror to label ourselves with their labels, but rather to respond with knowledge, wisdom, and courage.

I’ve just read an article that was acting offended that the Republican candidates were “politicizing” the Paris attacks… um, yeah, because you are seeing the ineffectiveness of Democratic leadership in the face of an exploded Middle East, an exploding Europe, and an America that can’t control it’s own borders.  I hope that all the candidates both liberal and conservative tell us what they would do about the Islamic threat.  Now is the time folks.

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Here’s Not Here… A Walking Dead Review

Yes, yes, I’m a fan of The Walking Dead.  If gore is one of those things you (as a believer) are lead to stay away from, please don’t go out and watch The Walking Dead just because I’ve mentioned it on my blog, and I also know the various arguments presented for Christians not to watch such things in the first place, let’s just skip ahead to the part where I disagree with blanket restrictions on watching TV shows (though I do think there are some movies, books, shows, etc.. that have no redeeming qualities, I don’t think The Walking Dead (TWD) is one of them for me).

So, this is an episode review and it is written solely for one reason… I can find no other reviews close to my thoughts on this episode and I had to ask myself why, and then blog about it.  I think I have the answer… it’s because many out there on the ‘net writing reviews are not Christian, nor do they have a degree in psychology, nor have they taught college philosophy courses, nor studied comparative religions.  In short, I found this particular episode one of the best TWD episodes ever for many and layered reasons and I’m not seeing others “get it” in quite the way I expected.  This review is going to proceed as if you, dear reader, have seen TWD on a fairly regular basis and have seen the latest eppy Here’s Not Here.  So, if you are not a fan you can stop reading without any guilt.

SPOILERS for all past episodes ahead, you’ve been warned.

If you are a watcher, you realize that Glenn’s “death cliffhanger” was the previous episode, and there is a  certain group of fans out there in TWD fandom whose heads were exploding because Glenn was not directly in this episode.  We still don’t know if he is alive or dead, or is now zombieGlenn, and that is apparently an unacceptable situation for many fans to be put in.  There are indeed several reviews praising the episode but hating the timing of it.  Here’s what they are missing: that’s one of the points of this episode.  The powers that be wanted you to go through a car wreck… not for sadistic reasons, but for effect.  They had everyone hurtling 80 miles an hour down the road, only to come to a dead stop with a seemingly out of place episode all about good ol’ crazy Morgan-gone-Zen.

One thing I thought everyone agreed on (Rick spelled it out for the group and the audience blatantly in an episode) is that “The Walking Dead” does not refer to the zombies, but rather to the humans having to live in, and adapt to, this new world.  The humans going through Hell on Earth are indeed the walking dead, and most of the characters we have come to know and love are suffering from PTSD.  The two characters in the latest episode, Morgan and Eastman, are the two characters picked to showcase the roller coaster that all the characters worth anything on TWD are on.  This show was not “just about Morgan” nor was it just about his backstory.  Morgan is the character chosen to carry the psychological and philosophical revelations for the whole audience.  Glenn was in the show.  Rick was in the show. Carol was in the show, etc… etc…  They were all represented, one just has to look for them.

This eppy raised deep philosophical and practical questions that have been around for thousands of years.  Our religions debate them, our fellow humans struggle with them, and to be truly human I hope we’ve all at least pondered them at some point in our lives.  Are you a pacifist?  If yes, are there times when your pacifism is actually morally reprehensible?  If no, when is killing ok?  Is killing animals ok?  How about people?  Only when necessary?  Are you for or against the death penalty? Under what circumstances?  Can humans be forgiven?  Can they be redeemed? Is there such a thing as evil?  What is PTSD?  How is it cured?  Is it possible to be mindful during a zombie attack?  And on and on… how can someone watch such an eppy and not be philosophically geeked out?

Let’s look at the character “Eastman.”  East-man.  He was used to show what the eastern philosophies may look like in this world of TWD.  I’ve seen people mocking the Way of Peace online (the book Eastman leans on for his own philosophy and the book Morgan uses to help return to sanity, and yes, the book is real), in essence arguing that some of the most ancient practices and philosophies “are like so stoopid, no, man, like really reallllly dumb, Carol should just off Morgan, cuz stoopid.”  We’ve ran into humans in the show that have given up their compassion and humanity and we’ve seen how they’ve turned out (Termites anyone?  How ’bout those Wolves?)  Did literally the whole internet miss that Carol was having this very revelation in the previous episode?  How ’bout Glenn’s treatment and forgiveness of the despised Nicholas?  How ’bout Rick’s descent into darkness?

In Eastman and Morgan we have two characters that are not cowards, are not stoopid, are not naive, and yet decide to not kill a fellow human unless absolutely necessary.   We also have these characters showing us a different side of nature (again, a central theme in eastern philosophy); we are used to the beautiful environment of Georgia turning into a enemy at the worst of times, and a forgotten background the rest of the time.  In this eppy we have the environment reintroduced as a thing of beauty and life.  It’s all about balance and this season is centered (pun intended) on that theme.  Eastern philosophy captures that perfectly.  Life/death, black/white, good/evil, male/female, love/hate, active/passive, bravery/cowardice… and that is just scratching the surface.

This episode had it all; the themes of man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self, and I just happen to think the powers that be did a wonderful job presenting those themes in a way that was trying to force the audience to stop and think, which again is why we were slammed to a stop with Glenn’s cliffy.  This eppy was to help us see that there are other ways of dying, and there are other ways of becoming a walker, rather than just in the literal sense.  The fact that many on the net are howling in anguish and are now spitting on Morgan, but holding Carol up as the perfect human are proving that this was a much-needed episode.  I have no idea how it will all turn out. Perhaps the writers are all nihilists.  Perhaps they are all naturalists/materialists.  Perhaps they will paint a picture of the world I’ll disagree with, but man, Here’s Not Here was surely one of the writing highlights of the show that put forth that humans have a choice to become animals, or to rise above.  As a Christian this episode was everything I had wished for Gabriel’s character, but, I’ll take it in eastern guise if I have to.

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