Monday, May 25, 2015

There are over 500 war museums in the USA, but only a handful of peace museums.

According to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the civilian to soldier death ratio in wars fought since the mid-20th century has been 10:1, meaning ten civilian deaths for every soldier death.

Memorial Day ought to be a day to soberly and regretfully remember and mourn *all* those who died in war, not a day to celebrate militarism and nationalism.  


Sunday, May 24, 2015

"The economy of war requires of every soldier an implicit submission to his superior; and this submission is required of every gradation of rank to that above it. This system may be necessary to hostile operations, but I think it is unquestionably adverse to intellectual and moral excellence.

The very nature of unconditional obedience implies the relinquishment of the use of the reasoning powers... Now I think that this is important. He who, with whatever motive, resigns the direction of his conduct implicitly to another, surely cannot retain that erectness and independence of mind, that manly consciousness of mental freedom, which is one of the highest privileges of our nature. The rational being becomes reduced in the intellectual scale: an encroachment is made upon the integrity of its independence. God has given us, individually, capacities for the regulation of our individual conduct. To resign its direction, therefore, to the despotism of another, appears to be an unmanly and unjustifiable relinquishment of the privileges which He has granted to us...

To what a situation is a rational and responsible being reduced, who commits actions, good or bad, mischievous or beneficial, at the word of another? I can conceive no greater degradation. It is the lowest, the final abjectness of the moral nature. It is this if we abate the glitter of war, and if we add this glitter it is nothing more. Surely the dignity of reason, and the light of revelation, and our responsibility to God, should make us pause before we become the voluntary subjects of this monstrous system."

-- Jonathan Dymond (1798-1828), An Inquiry into the Accordancy of War with the Principles of Christianity, and an Examination of the Philosophical Reasoning by which it is Defended, with Observations on some of the Causes of War and on some of its Effects

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What has happened today in Ireland is absolutely astonishing and historically unprecedented. In the once Catholic-dominated Republic of Ireland, same-sex activity was illegal until 1993. But today the people have, in an unusually high turnout, overwhelmingly voted to allow gay marriage. This makes the Republic of Ireland the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote (and is indicative of what would occur if national referendums on same-sex marriage were held in other nations, including the U.S.). This is also a profound rejection of the anti-dignity and anti-equality teachings of the Church.

Congratulations Ireland!

Photograph: Robin English/Demotix/Corbis

Friday, May 22, 2015

Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, idolator, worshipper of fire,
Come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,
Come, and come yet again.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.

- Rumi

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

After 30 years of close observation I have concluded that what is often called "Christianity" is actually an entirely different religion that might best be called "Biblicism."

- DC

Monday, May 18, 2015

Adventures in Charismania: The Pastor/Realtor

It was the early 1990's. Carla and I (and our toddler son) were living in Denver and looking (on a very tight budget) to buy our first house. A pastor we knew was starting a church in a "marginal" neighborhood of Denver and some of our friends had moved into that neighborhood--which had beautiful but neglected old brick homes--to be part of the "church plant." We were intrigued and the pastor was interested in having us as members of his church, due in part to our usefulness as worship musicians. Additionally, the pastor was a licensed realtor--so we engaged him to help us find a house near the new church.

This was in the days before the Internet--back when real estate listings were in MLS books and classified newspaper ads and little newsstand catalogs with grainy pictures. It was in one such catalog which I had picked up at a supermarket that I found a house which looked very interesting and (amazingly) was in our price range and mere blocks from the new church. I called the pastor/realtor and gave him the address and we arranged for he and Carla to go look at the house while I was at work. If Carla liked it, I would come after work to see it and if I liked it too we would write up an offer.

They toured the stately old house and Carla really liked it, but as they walked out the front door the pastor/realtor turned to Carla and said, "I'm buying this house for myself." She was shocked, but he was insistent. When Carla got back to our apartment she called me (this was before cell phones) and told me what had happened. I called the pastor/realtor and he matter-of-factly said the house was perfect for him and he was already in the process of submitting an offer. My appeals to his sense of ethics fell on deaf ears and, as far as we know, he bought the house.

Needless to say, we found another realtor and another church.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A (somewhat edited) Blog Repost on this International Day Against Homophobia:

I do not like it when Christians who oppose LGBTQ equality are accused of "hating" or being "homophobic." I used to be one of those conservative Evangelicals, so I think I understand how many of them feel. They do not hate or fear LGBTQ people. They fear God. They carry a perception of the wrathful Old Testament God who will destroy cities or nations if "sin" is permitted (in the Hebrew scriptures, the "sin" which provoked such divine reprisal included idolatry, intermarriage with Gentiles and not thoroughly slaughtering other tribes). Attempts to reconcile this ancient tribal wrathful God with the universal God of love and inclusion that Jesus represented tend to create a sort of cognitive and spiritual dissonance. We see that, for example, in the way that some Christians claim to follow the Prince of Peace while supporting war and torture.  And when it comes to LGBTQ persons, I would suggest that most conservative Christians don't hate and fear them--they really do want to love them and, in fact, think that they already are loving them. But their "love" is warped and twisted by fear of God's wrath.  They believe that God (the tribal, wrathful God) will bring down destruction if LGBTQ people are accepted. They have an earnest desire to be faithful and obedient to what they perceive God's will to be, but their image of God creates a barrier to loving as Christ loved.  It is a mindset that is actually very similar to that which was held by the Pharisees in the time of Jesus. Their problem was and is theological and the solution is a deeper revelation of God's all-encompassing love, mercy, grace, compassion and inclusiveness.  This revelation would, in turn, open up a greater understanding of scripture beyond reading it as a set of rules and stipulations.  The irony is often lost on these devout believers that the strident and legalistic manner in which they are attempting to follow Jesus has caused them to look and act very much like Jesus's arch-opponents, especially when it comes to the treatment of God's beloved children who are LGBTQ.