A Mighty Rant

Rant alert, Rant alert.

If the thought of an big, bearded religion writer shouting at the top of his lungs about world hunger, the war in Iraq, and gay marriage, is disturbing to you, please leave this blog. (Try this one--it's make you smile.)

I mean it.

You have been warned.

Let's get one thing straight. I am one of those people who thinks gay marriage and practicing gay clergy are un-Christian ideas. That is, they fall outside the bounds of historic Christianity.

OK. Got that off my chest. Now let’s move on.

Someday, we can talk more about these serious and important issues. But right now, they are on the bottom of my to-do list. Way down, like maybe 25 or 26 million items down. And they ought to be even farther down on the church's list.

That's the point I wish the African Anglican bishops would get. OK you think Bishop Gene Robinson ought not to be sleeping with his boyfriend. You've made your point.

Now please can get upset about something that matters.

Like the five-alarm fire raging in your home continent.

What we need to hear more about, more anger and fire and outrage about-- from African bishops and US clergy of all kinds-- is the devastation that is racking Africa, and what we can do to help.

Tell us about the26 million people with AIDS and what we need to do.

Tells us about famine.

The catastrophic civil wars in Congo and Sudan. Especially Sudan, and the 100,000 people expected to die in Darfur.

Tell us till our heart break and burned and bleeding and we wake up. And we put away our childish infighting and do something.

Toward the end of his life, Jesus told two parables about the afterlife. They are the rich man and Lazarus where a rich man burns in hell for ignoring the poor man who lived at his gate, and the sheep and the goats,

That parable ends like this.

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

So here's the deal. By fighting over music, and homosexuality, and women in ministry, by building a consumer culture that eats everything is sight, while the world goes to hell in a hand basket, we have put our immortal souls in danger.

And we need someone to help us snap out of it before it's too late.

Two more thoughts.

There are two theological problems with this war in Iraq.

One is this--we thought Saddam Hussein was the devil. Turns out he was only one of the devil's minions.

I don't know who the devil is, but we can at least see where he's been the last few years. In Rwanda. In Congo. In Sudan. And anywhere there is AIDS.

Here's the other thing.

We are spending 87 billion dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan -- money that's being drained away from other desperate needs.

Even if you buy that Iraq was an imminent threat, here's the deal. We have decided that preventing a few thousand more American deaths by fighting terrorism is more important than saving hundreds of thousands of lives of people with AIDS, or starving to death, or facing ethic cleansing in Sudan.

It's good politics. It's good nationalism.

But good religion?

Not to the Jesus I know.

Heaven help us.


Some Columns I Like

A few columns that caught my eye this week.

First this one from Eva Stimson, a friend and colleague who is editor of Prebyterians Today,
on why evangelicals and liberal Presbyterians need each other. The column fits nicely with a cover story on evangelical Presbyterians.

Here's Stimson's main point, in a letter to Evangelicals who disagree with where the church is going.

Please don't leave. We need your passionate witness. You push us to wrestle with parts of Scripture we'd prefer to ignore. You remind us that God desires holiness as well as justice.

The Presbyterian Church needs you to help it become the strong body of believers God intends. And, like it or not, you need the perspective of some of us "liberals."

Then there was this from the Washington Post (by way of the Chicago Tribune). Ok, well, maybe it's not really a column, but it reads like one.

Here's a crazy idea: After all our ambitious child-rearing with Discovery toys, Suzuki piano lessons, conflict-avoidance classes, 4 a.m. swim practices, SAT prep classes, driver education and summer flights to study folk music in the Republic of Georgia, we might have done as well (and saved money) by just sending our kids to church, temple or mosque.

The piece is about a new study on religious teens, which shows that:

"they are less likely than non-believers to smoke and drink and more likely to eat well; less likely to commit crimes and more likely to wear seat belts; less likely to be depressed and more likely to be satisfied with their families and school.

This column from William McKenzie argues that African American churches can keep America of a seemingly growing culture war.

McKenzie says that African American church, by working through their theological and social difference could teach the culture at large to solve disputes civilly.

They could "steer us through the storm we’re flying into on gay marriage, Hollywood’s movies, the role of judges and the war in Iraq. They could temper the debate so we don’t blow ourselves up. Amen to that.

The black church has clout because it can move in between the Jerry Falwells and Al Frankens.

Lastly, I have been remiss in not blogging about the dynamite religion work being done by Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun Times. She's got a series running this week about how faith affects the lives of the two main candidates for the US Senate seat open in Illinois: Barack Obama and Jack Ryan. She also has a piece tomorrow about current Senator Dick Durbin.

These are meaty, insightful pieces that cut past the conservative / liberal labels. More papers ought to do pieces like this. If she got hold of George Bush and John Kerry, look out.

Falsani's weekly column is funny and thought provoking as well, ranging from the return of the Life of Brian and the phone calls and emails she gets from people claiming to be Jesus to writing about AIDS in Africa she gets religion.

Big time.


Finding God on NPR -- and Monster Movies

My commuting time this weeks been a bit more enjoyable, thanks to some thought provoking religion pieces on NPR.

Purist might think that Hellboy hardly qualifies as a religion story, but a movie and comic book about a orphaned demon baby who fights evil--it works for me. So does this Morning Edition piece on Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

If you've not seen Mignola's creepy, haunting, but humorous comic, you'll be in for a treat. And Morning Edition got the quote of the week for this from Hellboy director
Guillermo del Toro.

Like Mignola, del Toro believes that folklore is a way of making sense of history -- and the human experience.

"We both believe that anything you want to learn about people, you can learn from monster movies," del Toro says. "And anything about monsters, you can learn from the evening news."

You've got that right.

Chicago Public Radio' Eight Forty Eight is running a weeklong series called "In Search of the Soul" -- on how people define the soul and where it goes when we die.

Contributor Judy Valente talks with an undertaker who prepared her own mother's body for a funeral, a Catholic priest whose also a doctor working with terminally ill patients, a Muslim chaplain at a cancer center, the family of a Jewish rabbi who died, a Buddhist monk, and even an atheist facing death.

I wanted so much to hear this series that I was tempted to show up late for work --it starts when I'm supposed to be at my desk.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can listen to the series and still get to work on time. And so can you.


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