Friday, July 31, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

“It is precisely through the onset of old age, through loss or personal tragedy, that the spiritual dimension would traditionally come into people’s lives. This is to say, their inner purpose would emerge only as their outer purpose collapsed and the shell of the ego would begin to crack open. The emphasis shifts from doing to Being, and our civilization, which is lost in doing, knows nothing of Being. It asks: being? What do you do with it?” 

-- Eckhart Tolle

Name unnamed, hidden and shown, 
knowing and known, Gloria!

Beautifully moving, ceaselessly forming,
growing, emerging with awesome delight,
Maker of Rainbows, glowing with color,
arching in wonder,
energy flowing in darkness and light:

Name unnamed, hidden and shown, 

knowing and known, Gloria!

Spinner of chaos, pulling and twisting,
freeing the fibers of pattern and form,
Weaver of Stories, famed or unspoken,
tangled or broken,
shaping a tapestry vivid and warm:

Name unnamed, hidden and shown, 

knowing and known, Gloria!

Nudging Discomfort, prodding and shaking,
waking our lives to creative unease,
Straight-talking Lover,
checking and humbling jargon and grumbling,
speaking the truth that refreshes and frees:

Name unnamed, hidden and shown, 

knowing and known, Gloria!

Midwife of Changes, skillfully guiding,
drawing us out through the shock of the new,
Woman of Wisdom, deeply perceiving,
never deceiving,
freeing and leading in all that we do:

Name unnamed, hidden and shown, 

knowing and known, Gloria!

Daredevil Gambler, risking and loving,
giving us freedom to shatter your dreams,
Life-giving Loser, wounded and weeping,
dancing and leaping,
sharing the caring that heals and redeems.

Name unnamed, hidden and shown, 

knowing and known, Gloria!

Brian Wren, 1936-, Copyright 1989 Hope Publishing Co.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

There is something I've been thinking for a few years but have never openly expressed until now.  I say this as someone who is nearing completion of a Master's degree in theology from a Quaker seminary, with an emphasis on Quaker studies:  Most of what is called "Quaker" or "Friends" (as in Religious Society of Friends) nowadays could more accurately be called "Quaker-influenced."  Quakerism--in the original form and ethos practiced by the likes of George Fox, Margaret Fell, Richard Hubberthorne, Edward Burrough, Robert Barclay, Hugh Barbour, Isaac Penington, Mary Fisher, et al--has evolved out of existence.  What we have now are various and diverse "Quaker-influenced" groups. - DC

"He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." 

-- Paul, 2 Corinthians 3

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It is a most astonishing thing to see certain conservative Christians speak of openly defying the government--despite what Romans 13 says--so that they can claim to be obeying what Romans 1 says.
- DC

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Ethical integrity requires both the intelligence to understand the present situation as the fruition of former choices, and the courage to engage with it as the arena for the creation of what is to come. It empowers us to embrace the ambiguity of a present that is simultaneously tied to an irrevocable past and free for an undetermined future. Ethical integrity is not moral certainty. A priori certainty about right and wrong is at odds with a changing and unreliable world, where the future lies open, waiting to be born from choices and acts. Such certainty may be consoling and strengthening, but it can blunt awareness of the uniqueness of each ethical moment. When we are faced with the unprecedented and unrepeateable complexities of this moment, the question is not 'What is the right thing to do?' but 'What is the compassionate thing to do?' This question can be approached with integrity but not with certainty. In accepting that every action is a risk, integrity embraces the fallibility that certainty disdainfully eschews."

-- Stephen Batchelor

Friday, July 17, 2015

"The human world is like a vast musical instrument on which we simultaneously play our part while listening to the compositions of others."

-- Stephen Batchelor

"Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out.  Is one's first feeling, 'Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible?  If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.  You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black.  Finally we shall insist on seeing everything -- God and our friends and ourselves included -- as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”

-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1952

(HT to Fred Clark)

"The greatest threat to compassion is the temptation to succumb to fantasies of moral superiority." 

-- Stephen Batchelor

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"What the persecution complex suggests is that conservative Christians only care about bullying, oppression, and discrimination when it happens to them. If it happens to LGBT people, or to people in other religious minority groups, it is of little concern (or is tacitly supported). Compassion and advocacy are rooted in self-interest alone and Christian privilege is guarded ruthlessly, even if it comes at the expense of others."

--Rachel Held Evans


I have discovered something over the past few years: learning from other faiths does not bring dilution to my own, but rather clarification.  -DC

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

"The antagonism of science is not to religion, but to the heathen survivals and the bad philosophy under which religion herself is often well-nigh crusted.  And, for my part, I trust that this antagonism will never cease; but that, to the end of time, true science will continue to fulfill one of her most beneficent functions, that of relieving people from the burden of false science which is imposed upon them in the name of religion."

--T.H. Huxley (1876)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"Zen is not about doctrines or beliefs.  It’s not about worship or devotion.  Zen is not theistic, but it isn’t atheistic either, or even agnostic.  Zen simply doesn’t address the subject of God. … Trappist monk Thomas Merton says that comparing Zen and Christianity is like comparing tennis and mathematics. … I would say that practicing Zen as a Christian is like playing tennis as a mathematician.  If you’re a mathematician and you want to play tennis, you just keep on being a mathematician and you also play tennis. … If you’re a Christian and you want to practice Zen, you just keep on being a Christian and you also practice Zen. … Zen practice can be a powerful way to help us see and let go of what gets in the way of loving God and all of God’s creation and what gets in the way of opening to God’s will." 

-- Kim Boykin, Zen for Christians

Friday, July 10, 2015

"It is by what we say about humanity that we very often make clearest what we believe about God."
— Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Thursday, July 09, 2015

"As I grew older, I realized—deep down in my spirit, where truth blossoms—that my heart longed for something more. All the faith-driven activity of my youth didn’t give me much space to question, to contemplate, or to excavate beneath the established foundation in search of nuance and deeper meaning. This was true of both faith and self. No one spoke of self-discovery—only of self-abnegation, in which personal desires and doubts, considered secondary to the omnipotent will of God, were often regarded as sinful rather than as spiritually insightful.  Without knowing it, I had been denying a part of myself in my spiritual journey: my natural introversion. It’s not that the spiritual nourishment offered by my youth group and my childhood church wasn’t authentic. It’s just the way in which I participated in it as an introvert wasn’t authentic to me. What was missing all those years was an invitation to the interior journey."

-- Lacy Ellman

Monday, July 06, 2015

Two Huge Lies...

This statement by Rick Warren has gotten plenty of mileage on Facebook, but it has some serious problems in its logic and integrity.
The first "lie" that Warren claims our culture has accepted is that if you "disagree" with someone's "lifestyle" you must fear or hate them (or, he implies, you will be accused of hating and fearing). But what does Warren mean by "lifestyle"? LGBTQ people tend to lead lifestyles identical to straight people. Non-religious young-adult LGBTQ people may be promiscuous and like to party, just as non-religious young-adult straight people do. Older LGBTQ people tend to lead the same types of stable, boring lives that older straight people do. LGBTQ people of faith pray and study scripture and go to church and participate in ministry just like straight people of faith. So what is this "lifestyle" that Warren speaks of? Of course, by "lifestyle" what Warren really means is "sex." That's what he is really talking about. And so by equating "lifestyle" with "sex" he is reducing people's entire existence down to sex acts. That is demeaning.

If the issue here really boils down to sex (which most people--gay or straight--spend very little time engaging in compared to the rest of their life's activities), then isn't it true that our culture tends to disagree with all kinds of sexual scenarios--such as exploitative sex or marital unfaithfulness--without hating or fearing those who engage in them? We (society) just think those behaviors are harmful. Rick Warren thinks that sex between people of the same gender (even those in a committed, monogamous relationship) is harmful. Ok, that's his opinion and and it is shared by many others. It is not as common now as it was a few decades ago, but there are still people who believe that sex between heterosexual people of different races is wrong. That's their opinion.

But there is a vast difference between "disagreeing" and actively trying to block people from having basic civil rights, such as marrying the consenting adult whom you love (regardless of their race or gender). The rhetoric used by many in Warren's camp against LGBTQ people *is* fearful and *does* sound a lot like hate to those on the receiving end. The use of a demeaning euphamism like "lifestyle" to refer to someone's sex life isn't perhaps hateful or fearful, but it certainly isn't kind or considerate. If Warren and other conservatives were simply "disagreeing" about other people's sex lives it wouldn't be so bad (even if it is none of their business), but lobbying to deny people rights is on a whole different level than mere "disagreement"--especially when for justification they rely upon an interpretation of scripture which most other Americans don't agree with or don't care about.

I disagree with a lifestyle built around over-consumption of junk food and mass media. I think it rots people's bodies and brains and contributes to the dumbing down of society. Plus I can provide good scriptural support against the sin of gluttony. But I don't hate or fear the people who engage in that lifestyle (and this is a more accurate use of the word "lifestyle"). I just think they're making bad choices. But I wouldn't call those people disgusting abominations or kick them out of my church or lobby to take away their access to McDonald's and cable TV (while making sure that others--those who consume the way I approve of--can still have Big Macs and CNN).

The second lie that Warren claims our culture has accepted is that "to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do." That is just silly. I don't know anyone who believes that. I pretty much disagree about something with every person I love. Some of my closest friends and relatives disagree with me vociferously (and I with them) on important matters such as religion, politics and pizza toppings.

Love is revealed by how we treat someone. Do we sacrifice for them? Do we forgive and forbear? Are we patient, kind, humble, honoring, not keeping record of wrongs? Is that how conservative Christians have treated the LGBTQ community? Conservative Christians can say all day long that they "love" LGBTQ people, but do their actions support or betray that claim?

So Warren's statement is disingenuous and absurd. And the LGBTQ community (as well as the majority of Americans who support LGBTQ equality) see right through it as a lame attempt to justify bigotry.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold, 1867

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

A brief open letter to Jack Hibbs, pastor of Calvary Chapel church in Chino Hills, CA.

Dear Jack,

You don't know me, and I don't know you.  I had never heard of you before last night when, while driving to Trader Joe's and flipping through the radio stations, I landed upon a Christian station broadcasting one of your sermons.  I have been a devout Christian and faithful church-participant for over 30 years and am also nearing completion of my Master's degree in Theology--so I appreciate a good, well-thought-out and well-delivered sermon.

Unfortunately, the sermon I heard given by you--which was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling about same-sex marriage--was none of these things and, in fact, stands as one of the most spiteful, misinformed and strident screeds I have ever listened to.  "Surely," I thought, "I am hearing this out of context," so when I got home I looked up your church's website and found the sermon there and watched it.  It was that second listening, in its entirety, which prompted me to write this brief message.

We may disagree--as many devout Christians do--on how we interpret the Biblical texts that pertain to homosexuality, but that is not my concern here.  As one who affirms the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons into society and church, I disagree with many of my fellow Christians, and we do so in a spirit of mutual respect and fellowship.  Conservative Evangelical Christians such as Matthew Vines, Justin Lee, Kathy Baldock, David Gushee and James Brownson (to name a few) have provided plenty of detailed and scholarly exegesis on the Biblical texts which offers a viewpoint different from your own.  So I'm not going to rehash those theological arguments here.

What I'm more concerned about is the spirit in which you address these matters.  It is certainly not a Christ-like spirit.  It is proud and haughty.  It is vindictive and mean.  It is Pharisaical.  It is ideological and fear-mongering.  It smacks of Fascism in the guise of the Gospel.  It is very, very ugly. 

And it is rife with lies and distortions.  For example, you claim that now that gay people can legally wed, "It is going to be like it was in the days of Lot: violent homosexuals knocking on doors threatening to sodomize people who disagree with them."  Really?

I know that, as a Calvary Chapel pastor, you place great emphasis on a particular eschatological framework.  Part of your eschatology includes a belief that in the End Times there will be a great apostasy; a great "falling away."  I would suggest that this great falling away is indeed happening, only it is a falling away from grace and from love.  And your behavior epitomizes this apostasy.  You come in fear and anger and accusation, not in the character of the Lord.  

From what I've gathered, you don't have much in the way of a formal theological education.  I find this is often the case with strident fundamentalists.  The ignorance would be amusing if it weren't so potentially harmful.

I realize that criticism such as this will only feed your persecution complex.  You seem to invite it and glory in it, believing that it is an indicator that you are following Jesus.  I would suggest that in this too you are mistaken.  Critical confrontation directed at you for your harsh rhetoric is not an indicator that you are being a disciple of Jesus, but rather that you are being an asshole.


-Danny Coleman

Addendum (added 3/23/18):  To my astonishment, this has been the most widely read post I have ever had on my blog.  I have not listened to any messages by Jack Hibbs since I wrote this post in July of 2015 but, judging from the comments left by his supporters, I would guess that he has not toned down his graceless, exclusionary, fear-mongering, assholic rhetoric.  In 2015 Hibbs claimed that if gay people were allowed to legally wed "It is going to be like it was in the days of Lot: violent homosexuals knocking on doors threatening to sodomize people who disagree with them."  Same-sex marriage has now been legal across the U.S. for two and a half years and, of course, Hibbs', paranoid pronouncement has not come to pass.  What has happened over the last two and half years is that there are a lot more happily married couples, and the massive shift among Christians from rejecting to affirming people who are LGBTQ has continued.  - DC

"Religion that provides all the answers results in superficiality."

-- Fr. Richard Rohr

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

"Everyone has experienced at some time in their life, when they were with the person they loved, or perhaps at a time of deep sorrow or pain that there is a peculiar power in silence.  Silence comes naturally at times of great significance in our life because we feel we are coming into a direct contact with some truth of such meaning that words would distract us, and prevent us from fully entering into that meaning.  The power that silence has is to allow this truth to emerge, to rise to the surface, to become visible.  It happens naturally, in its own time and fashion.  We know that we are not responsible for making it appear, but we know it has a personal meaning for us.  We know it is greater than we are and we find a perhaps unexpected humility within ourselves that leads us to a real attentive silence.  We let the truth be.

But there is also something in all of us that incites us to control others, to defuse the power we dimly apprehend in a moment of truth, to protect ourselves from its transforming power by neutralizing its otherness and imposing our own identity upon it.  The crime of idolatry is precisely creating our own god in our own image and likeness.  Rather than encounter God who is awesomely different from ourselves, we construct a toy model of God in our own psychic and emotional image.  In doing this we do no harm to God, of course, as unreality has no power over God, but we do debase and scatter ourselves, surrendering the potential and divine glory of our humanity for the false glitter of the golden calf.  The truth is so much more exciting, so much more wonderful.  God is not a reflection of our consciousness but we are reflections of God..."

--John Main OSB, Word Into Silence