Tag Archives: christian life

Ghosted by a Former Band of Brothers


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I read an article yesterday by a pastor who experienced a phenomenon known as ghosting. This is where people who once were friends, maybe even close friends suddenly disappear from your life by silently shunning you. When I read his experiences I could relate and the article brought back painful memories of when it happened to me and for the first time I am going to really open up about what happened to me. I have to do it because I have held in the rejection for years, mostly because the people involved never gave me a chance to deal with them in person about what they did. But that is the dishonorable and cowardly thing about ghosting; it leaves people with wounds that they are unable to address, and it causes them to be more distrustful of others, as well as more guarded and careful about entering into new relationships. 

When supposed Christian friends do it to people they often leave the church and never come back. 

In the past I have mentioned what happened to me after Iraq and in the aftermath of being thrown out of a church I had served as a Priest for 14 years in rather oblique ways; ways that allowed people an easy out. But today I really feel the need to open up about it and mention some of the people by their first names. I won’t mention their last names because I don’t want people who don’t know them, or are their current friends to write them off. But I need to mention the first names just in case any of them end up reading this they will recognize themselves and perhaps have an attack of conscience whether they want to have anything to do with me or not. I figure that doing this will remove any ambiguity about who I mean and not allow them any wiggle room to think that maybe they did nothing wrong. If I really wanted to be a jerk I would share their last names, but that’s not my intention, I just want them to think of the consequences of their actions, especially since most are still in some for of ministry. 

Some people may wonder why this and why now? That is a good question. Some people might think I’m being petty or harsh, and maybe even unforgiving by writing this, but truthfully it’s the only way for the truth to be told and maybe for them to wake up and realize that relationships matter. 

In the 14 years I spent as a Priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church I built what I thought were lifelong friendships with many of our fellow chaplains. We enjoyed our times together, frequently talked by phone or corresponded in other ways, sharing our faith, our struggles, discussing theology, ministry, and the military. We called ourselves a band of brothers. 

My closest friend was a Priest named Bill. We entered the church and were ordained about the same time and for years I considered him my closest friend and confidant. There were others in that early group, Ken, Jeff, Jon, Greg, John, Phil, Bob, Steve, as well as others, including Stu, and David, but we were kind of the core. Over the years others came along, and some for whatever reason went their separate ways but even then, most of us tried to keep in contact. 

For me that began to change after I returned from Iraq. I have to admit that I had changed in the course of my time there but I never thought I would be ghosted by so many of them in the aftermath of Iraq and after I was told to leave the church in 2010. Even when I left, most said that we would still be friends and stay in contact. Maybe I expected too much by thinking that the visits, correspondence, and phone calls would continue. Maybe I expected too much by thinking that they would be there for me when I needed them, after all we claimed to be a band of brothers. But words are cheap, simply saying that you are a band of brothers doesn’t mean that you are. 

Within two years of my departure I discovered that phone calls and emails went unreturned, and even though I lived and worked just a few miles from Bill and Ken for three years while I was stationed at Camp LeJeune without Judy, I almost never saw them. I’d ask if we could meet but be told that they were too busy. I haven’t heard from either since I came back to Norfolk in August 2013. Others simply never returned my calls, one of which surprised and saddened me more than most. Thanks Jeff. 

Of the others a couple remain as Facebook friends but I seldom have any meaningful contact with them. Of all of them, only David, a fellow Iraq vet who has gone through similar PTSD issues and much worse physical issues remains in regular contact. We had a wonderful talk Friday night. He’s just finished his first year in medical school and is dealing with a teenage son who is in a lot of trouble. David is a rare soul and I love him, we can talk about anything, share anything, and be absolutely transparent with each other. Of the band of brothers, he is still my brother. 

The most hurtful losses were Bill and Jeff who simply disappeared from my life, and Stu who I had known longer than any of them. Stu had left the church to become a Roman Catholic Priest but he had nothing but condemnation for my announcement of my departure. I haven’t heard from him since he blasted me and called me disloyal to the bishop who threw me out after defending myself on my blog. By the way, speaking of loyalty the Bishop got himself thrown out for going behind the back of his fellow bishops by trying to abscond with all the military chaplains to another denomination. 

I do miss them and I hope that they will read this article if nothing else so they don’t do what they did to me to anyone else. Likewise, while what they did hurts I would not turn any of them away if they wanted to get back together. Although I am still hurt and angry I cannot hate them, and I only wish the best for them. But I think what they did was shameful and I hope that they never do it to anyone else.

On a different level what they did is not uncommon in the church. Christians tend to be the worst advertisement for Christ and after watching the antics of Christians since I returned from Iraq I don’t plan to darken the door of a church when I retire from the Navy Chaplain Corps. I find my less than religious friends to be far more reliable and caring than most of the Christians that I know. 

Now I am certainly not indicting all Christians in this post, or all Priests, chaplains, or ministers. There are many who would never do such a thing, but I don’t know a lot of them. 

So anyway, I know I am not alone. This form of silent shunning and shaming is all too common and not just in the church, but I would say that the damage inflicted by Christians is worse than others. Today I took the opportunity to publicly let these men how badly they wounded me because none of them gave me the opportunity in private. If people think that is inappropriate for me to do then fine, I’ll live with it but now I can finally let it go because after years of holding it in I have at last said my peace and I’m done with it. 

As difficult as the article was to read, and this to write, it has brought me closer to closure and hopefully maybe will open up a chance for reconciliation if any of them desire. That however is up to them. 

I would love to discuss the subject over a beer with any of those involved, but today I needed to finally let it out. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith, Pastoral Care, Religion, remembering friends

Ash Wednesday 2016

cross-ash-wednesday

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a shot note to start this Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is the traditional beginning of the season of Lent in the Christian tradition. Lent is a season of penitence, and if one is doing it right a season of examining their lives, and seeking to do better with the help of the grace of God. Some of the traditions during the season of Lent include going without meat on Fridays and if you are more strict on Wednesdays too, and doing other acts of penitence and contrition. However, that being said, to some I am not a very good Christian, and they may be right for I know that do not claim to have a lock on the mind of God.

Sadly, I have never been very good at observing the season of Lent, at least as far as the external rituals are concerned. My own sorry observance of them does not mean that they are without value, but having tried and tried to observe them and only being more miserable for my efforts, I have simply decided to do my best and let the chips fall where they may so far as the grace of God is concerned. I figure that if God is petty enough to punish me for eating a hamburger on a Friday during Lent that God’s grace really doesn’t matter. So I don’t worry about it. If I am wrong and God really is willing to send me to Hell for something like that, then the rest of my life doesn’t matter that much.

So, that being said I will conduct an ecumenical Ash Wednesday service for our students and faculty at the staff college today, and when I go home I will have a beer or two as I figure out just what I will eat. It might be soup, or a salad, possibly pasta, and may or may not include some kind mom meat. It will not be extravagant, and like today I will probably hand some money to a panhandler figuring as C.S. Lewis did that I would probably just buy a beer for myself with it anyway if I didn’t give it to someone willing to subject themselves to the ridicule and abuse of people that make a good living and for whom five or ten dollars doesn’t matter that much. However, having once been in the place where five, ten, or twenty dollars paid for a tank of gas, a prescription, or a sack of groceries, and having been the recipient of the goodness of people, I have a hard time sitting in judgement over people who struggle. I figure that if they are swindling me then they will have to deal with God about that.

Anyway. today is Ash Wednesday and I hope that Christians will use the day as a time of reflection and a time to renew their faith and trust in the grace, mercy, and love of God, rather than a time to look down their noses at, reject, and condemn other people desperately in need of the grace, mercy and love of God.

Maybe according to some of my more legalisticly observant readers I am not much of a Christian, and for some I am not a Christian at all. God knows that I have been told by quite a few people that I am going to Hell, and most of them are not joking. But, even so, despite how badly I observe Lent, despite what a sorry example I am to some people, I still believe that this season can be of value. I may not observe all the legalism that some do during this season, but I do try to scrutinize my life, and how I treat others, even if I do eat an occasional hamburger on days when I am supposed to go without meat, or without an alcoholic beverage, but as my favorite heretic Martin Luther once said,“It is better to think of church in the ale-house than to think of the ale-house in church.” 

So have a wonderful day, and do the season of Lent as best as you can and as benefits others the most, even of some people condemn your for not doing it perfectly.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under christian life, faith, Religion

When Generosity is Viewed as Oppression

gettysburgpickettscharge

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I decided to weigh in last week about the Recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, Mrs. Kim Davis who now sits in jail on a contempt of court citation while her supposedly Christian lawyers make appeals and gather money for their next case. Sadly they will throw Mrs. Davis to the curb when she no longer is profitable, but that is modern American Christianity. No wonder people are fleeing the church, and why most non-believers have such a negative view of Christianity. That, my friends, as unpalatable as it may sound is the truth, and the numbers bear it out.

Now my endeavor wrought several articles, all of which were based in fact, reason, and a dispassionate attempt to wade through the morass of what was happening. I expected some negative comments from conservative Christians but hoped, maybe beyond hope that most would actually take the time to read, think through and consider what I said; but that was a forlorn hope. What passes for conservative Christianity in this country is little different than what passes for fundamentalist Islam in the Middle East; the followers of both major in the minors of their religion and fail to follow the basic tenants of their belief. Most, given the chance and government sanction would kill any who they deem heretics.

That is why I totally agree with Mark Twain, who said, “Concentration of power in a political machine is bad; and an Established Church is only a political machine; it was invented for that; it is nursed, cradled, preserved for that; it is an enemy to human liberty, and does no good which it could not better do in a split-up and scattered condition.”

That, at least to my conservative religious readers may seem like heresy; but it is true. It does not matter what the religion is, or whom they call “God,” when it becomes an Established Church and political machine, as are the heavy hitting politicians, pundits and preachers supporting Mrs. Davis, it is an evil that must be confronted by any person of conscience.

A couple of days ago I posted a new policy regarding comments. It was met by the scorn, hatred, and derision of a number of supposedly Christian people. The fact is I don’t have to allow abusive people to try to hijack my site for their purposes.

I tried to be nice. I tried to be polite, and I tried my best to understanding and to listen to them. That got me nowhere with these people. Instead they played the aggrieved victims of my “intolerance.”

So here is the deal. I am not even going to allow such comments on my site, comments, which though masked in the gentle words of faith, are hateful and intolerant, nor am I going to respond to them. I tried. I tried reason, I allowed the comments, I attempted dialogue; but such is not respected or appreciated by these “true believers” and it is a waste of my time and effort to attempt this. Even Jesus told his disciples to shake the dust off of their sandals when they encountered such people. It is sad that the current so-called disciples of Jesus in this country don’t understand this important distinction.

The thing is that while these people claim the mantle of God and desire the power of the state in order to impose their beliefs on others, they do so from the aspect of weakness because they want power but have lost it.

Eric Hoffer wrote, “It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from their sense of inadequacy and impotence. We cannot win the weak by sharing our wealth with them. They feel our generosity as oppression.”

I have been generous. I have been kind, and I have been gracious in allowing such people a venue. That generosity was scorned because of their sense of inadequacy and impotence. I cannot fix that and I have a life, I don’t need to waste the time I have responding to such people. Jesus didn’t. Why should I?

Have a great day and take care,

Peace

Padre Steve+

9 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion

God’s Going to Get the Church for Its Greed

JoelOsteen_FOR_PROSPERITY

Back when I was in seminary at Southwestern Baptist, before the Fundamentalist takeover of that once proud school, my Church History professor, Dr. Doyle Young made the comment “God’s going to get us for our stained glass windows.” It was in the context of the rich and indolent nature of the American church. This was back in 1988 and 1989, sadly, things have only gotten worse.

In his various lectures Dr. Young was always able to weave church history into contemporary issues. He was really an amazing professor and he understood human nature more than most theologians. As such his lectures always had a profound amount of biography of the men and women who influenced church history. In fact, that biographical narrative is something that I have adopted in my own teaching and writing about history. That biographical emphasis helps keep me grounded and allows me to see that some things never change.

 

I noticed this again tonight when I posted a meme on Facebook about the televangelist and mega-church “pastor” Joel Osteen purchasing a 10.4 million dollar home. All of a sudden I had two men, one the son of a prominent televangelist that I worked for in the early 1990s, and the other a man who served with me as a Priest in my former denomination and now is a fairly high ranking priest in a diocese of the Episcopal Church open fire on me and defending the opulence of Osteen. When I asked what Jesus would do the televangelist’s son made comments made comments which were almost mocking of Jesus and his death for us. The Episcopal priest continued his defense and finished his post with the comment “cheers!” Frankly I found nothing to cheer about in their comments. When one of the men who served with me at war commented on the post, the Episcopal priest attacked him.

Do I really care what these men think of me? The hell no, not anymore. I invited both of them to drop me as “friends” because frankly I don’t want to be associated with people who make their living off the backs and hard earned money of the tithes and offerings of people who often cannot afford it and then defend the greed and opulence of wealthy minsters. I cannot do that. In fact when I retire from the Navy I will help other ministers and churches but I will not take any salary. I cannot do that, it seems to me that the Gospel which is supposedly freely given to us, should in turn be given.

Does that mean that I think that ministers should not be paid? Not at all. But there is a point, which is different in every church where what a minister makes is too much, and when the money that is sucked into a church or ministry only serves to prop that church or ministry up without helping any of God’s people but the livelihood of the minister.

I have heard so many rationalizations for this by ministers and Christians that it makes my head swim. I just remember reading the notes, letters and phone calls from poor people giving what they could not afford to the televangelist that I worked for in the early 1990s. Thinking about what those people gave and wrote breaks my heart to this day, especially when I see that man on television and radio talking about and actively backing the politicians who do the most to further impoverish the poor and support war without end.

Barry McGuire, the rock and roller who wrote and performed the song Eve of Destruction wrote another song after he became a Christian in the late 1960s called Don’t Blame God (for the Sins of America). Some of words in that song, a song of protest by a new Christian at the American church are even more accurate today.

On every worthless coin
and every dollar bill
you see the words in god we trust
but outta fear we kill

we got million dollar churches
but nobody’s on their knees
we got too many selfish people
just doin what they please

Sadly, because of the lives and actions of such people, many are fleeing the church, even those who grew up in it, the baptized. The fastest growing religious demographic in the country is the Nones those who ascribe to no religion. Many people blame God for the action of such people, but if I understand the message of justice of Jesus, John the Baptist and the prophets I know that it’s not God to blame. Instead it is us, those who claim to represent God while making our living off the backs of the weak and supporting the powerful. The Price Bishops of the Middle Ages would be jealous at how well we American Christians do this.

The song’s chorus would be banned in most churches especially those who have sold their souls for political power and economic wealth:

so don’t blame God for the
sins of america
america is fallen from the ways of the Lord
Don’t blame God for the
sins of america
livin for the dollar, she’ll be dyin’ by the sword

 

Anyway, this was one of those articles that I had thought about writing for a while and just needed a trigger. I guess I got it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

3 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith, Pastoral Care, political commentary, Religion

The Wrong Train: The Christian Culture War

itw2

Yesterday, I wrote about the scary similarities that I saw in the weekend gathering of Christian Right leaders at the Iowa Freedom Summit, to the prayer meeting in the classic film Inherit the Wind. I find those similarities amazing.  But even more troubling I find the fear, hatred and paranoia they display to all opponents to be reminiscent of church leaders in Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s.  These men, including Protestants and Catholics supported Hitler, because Hitler promised to fight against the things that they hated. Martin Niemöller, a man who now is nearly universally lauded for opposition to Hitler initially supported him. Later Niemöller, regretted that support and wrote:

“I hated the growing atheistic movement, which was fostered and promoted by the Social Democrats and the Communists. Their hostility toward the Church made me pin my hopes on Hitler for a while. I am paying for that mistake now; and not me alone, but thousands of other persons like me.” 

The statistics don’t lie. The United States cannot and should not be considered a Christian nation and any sense of the definition. To be blunt that is not the fault of secularists. It is the fault of Christians especially those political partisan pastors and pundits of the Christian Right that for the past 40 years have sold their souls for political power at the expense of the Gospel.

ap_iowa_freedom_150124_16x9_992

Freedom Summit 2015

While many people, even a majority describe themselves as Christians the fact is that what is now believed is not a Christianity that is in any sense Biblical, Catholic or Orthodox but rather a packaging of certain “Biblical values” that happen to be great political wedge issues for Christian leaders seeking political and economic power.

313-1qRzQm.AuSt.55

Mike Huckabee: Preacher, Pundit and Politician

Nowhere was this shown more than the brazen flip-flopping of Christian leaders during the last Presidential election who first adamantly opposed the nomination of Mitt Romney. Not on political but on religious grounds,  so long as there was a chance that a non-Mormon had a chance at the Republican nomination. Of course those leaders, even those that opposed Romney on theological grounds rapidly gave him their blessing once he won the nomination. The theological gyrations made by those leaders of the Religious Right in that process were fascinating to watch, much like a train wreck, but fascinating nonetheless.

A recent Barna survey noted that less than one half of one percent of people aged 18-23 hold what would be considered a “Biblical world view.” This is compared to about one of every nine other adults.  Other surveys bear this out.

This should not be surprising to anyone that has watched the growth of what passes as Evangelical Christianity in the Mega-Church age and the retreat of conservative Catholics into the Church culture and theology of the 1400s. It is the same ideology that brought about the Reformation. But then maybe that is not a bad thing.

What has to be said is that the American Church cannot really be considered Evangelical or Catholic. Rather American Christians have subscribed to an Imperial Church model that must throw itself at those that hold power in order to maintain their own political, economic and social power.

While these leaders talk about and rail against things that they believe to be “sinful” such as homosexuality, abortion and birth control they willingly turn a blind eye to the treatment of the poor, advocate wars of aggression and bless cultural and economic norms that go entirely against the Christian tradition as they go about with a Bible in one hand and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in the other.

One can have legitimate debates in the Church about what the Bible and Christian tradition define as sin and we should have those debates taking into consideration Scripture, Tradition as well as what we have learned from the Sciences and the Social Sciences. But the fact is that those in the Religious Right are terribly inconsistent in this, much like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who he condemned for the same type of hypocrisy.

Think about it: The Barna Group in another survey of people 18-29 years old asked what phrases best described Christians: The top five answers “Anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical and too involved in politics.” This view was held by 91% of non-Christians and a staggering 80% of young churchgoers.

This hypocrisy was again demonstrated this week. Many of these politically corrupted religious leaders turned a blind eye to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 by the Supreme Court, or cheered that decision despite the fact that many of not most of those adversely affected by that decision are African American Christians. The next day after cheering this result they lambasted the same justices for overturning the Defense of Marriage Act and refusing to hear a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, dealing with the Federal recognition of Gay marriage. The histrionics exhibited would be comical if the men and women ranting away were not so vehemently hateful towards their opponents. The tragedy of their behavior is that even more people will turn away from even reasonable Christians.

The fact is that young people are leaving the church in unheard of numbers and it is very evident to me why they are doing so. The Church has embraced the culture wars over preaching the Gospel, which if I recall correctly is based on loving people, even ones enemies.  Jesus said it so well: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NRSV.

The leaders of the Christian Right were able to bring enough culture warriors to hold their majority in the House of Representatives and gain the majority in the Senate. Admittedly it was an election where less than 40% of eligible voters voted and most of the contested seats were in areas where they dominate, which magnified their strength. However, in the coming 2016 Presidential election the demographics among voters will go against them, and even though these leaders know this, most continue on and with greater zeal wage the culture war.

But at what cost? Here I am not even dealing with the politics, as one can debate the merits of the Obama administration as well as its decisions and policies, even many progressives criticize the President on a wide number 0f issues, so that is not the point.

But the question is can Christians be an authentic witness in the political arena by simply being the religious appendage of a political movement whose leaders hold the Church and religious people in general in distain? It is amazing to watch as people mobilize Christians to support policies that are in the long term detrimental to those who claim the name of Jesus, and which are against many supposedly Christian or Biblical values. It is likewise astounding to see conservatives, including conservative Roman Catholics condemn Pope Francis  for having the gall to take issue with them.

vatican46_35

In the 1920s and 1930s the Churches of Germany and many parts of Europe did the same thing. They felt that their values were under attack by Communists, Socialists, Jews and yes, even Homosexuals. In order to maintain their influence and power they willingly allied themselves with the Nazis. When they spoke up against the Nazis it was seldom because they were defending anyone but their own ecclesiastical power and place in society.  When the war was over and young people began to question the actions of those that led the Church in Germany it began a process that has led to the de-Christianization of that country.

The current leadership of the Christian Right, especially those with yearnings to be the next President, are doing the same thing as their German brothers did in the 1920s and 1930s. The constant hate filled attacks of Christian leaders on those that are not Christians will come back to bite them. This is not fantasy, it is reality. One only has to look at the history of the Church to see it played out time after time. But then, unless we decide to re-write history like the fraudulent pseudo-historian David Barton does so well, why bother reading it?

The actions of many Christian leaders are dangerous to the faith as a whole, but it seems that they are willing to throw that away in order to gain political power, and as Gary North said “. The political opportunism is short sighted and ultimately will hasten the decline and fall of what we know as Christianity in America.

Perhaps Christian leaders who have sold their souls for such paltry political gains should be asking these questions: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul and what does it profit the Church to wield political power but lose its soul?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once noted “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” 

It is something to consider and they are questions that have to be asked.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under christian life, faith, film, History, leadership, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary

Religious Monsters

IMG_0230.JPG

Yesterday I wrote about an experience with a Christian who decided hat his purpose as a military officer was not to learn the craft of his trade but rather to “do the Father’s will” which in his case was to tell me that my faith and experience as a Christian suffering from PTSD was, in one word “garbage.”

To say the least I am offended, but not by God, or Jesus, or the words of Scripture, but rather a religious monster created by an aberrant and heretical brand of the Christian faith that is being sold as absolute truth by Christian Fundamentalist extremists in our country.

The problem is those that become “religious monsters” rarely realize that they are such. Instead they are the salt of the earth, simply proclaiming “the truth” and heaven help you if you don’t agree with them. Holocaust survivor and Italian philosopher Primo Levi wrote:

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions.”

Levi was right, but at the same time he was wrong. Sometimes these monsters are the same people that end up being the functionaries who are ready to believe and act without asking questions.

Sadly, there are many leaders of the political-religious movement loosely defined as the “Religious Right” in the United States who preach a “gospel” of hate and intolerance that demonizes anyone that dares to interfere with their message. Sadly this doesn’t just extend to their politics, but also to the basics of the Christian life of which many of these leaders seem ignorant.

Personally I believe that the virtue of living a good Christian life might be equated with living a good life regardless of one’s religious or secular beliefs. The call to “love God and to love your neighbor” is universal.  It has been my experience that even people that chose not to believe in God, subscribe to the principle of loving or at least respecting one’s neighbor.

I grew up from High School to adulthood in the Christian Right. I know the politics, I know the language and I know the hypocrisy and intolerance. What happened last week, something that I did not plan but was forced on me by one of these fanatical and ignorant “true believers”
has hardened my resolve as a Christian to oppose these American “Christian” versions of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or the Islamic State at every turn.

I have to, because most people, including many moderate and progressive Christians look the other way and do not confront these monsters. People don’t want to believe that good religious people can harbor thoughts of evil, demean, or actually harm others.

But all too often that is the case and we have to call them what they are; not saints, but monsters who use their “faith” to demean, dehumanize and destroy anyone that does not agree with them, even if they are ignorant and unlearned about what they are criticizing in others.

The terrible thing is that most of these “monsters” are actually decent people who really do not understand the implications of what they are doing or the “faith” they are championing. They are basically good neighbors who want to do right and believe that they are doing so. Their leaders on the other hand often manipulate such people into believing that in thinking and even promoting evil, they are doing right.

Thus otherwise good people become unquestioning servants of the real monsters, religious and political leaders that distort the Christian faith and use it to bludgeon those that they hate in the political and judicial process.

The leaders of the Religious Right are a malignancy that will kill any authentic expression of the Christian faith if they have the chance. Their goal is no different than to what the leaders of the Islamic State aspire, but they wear better clothes and appear to be more socially respectable, if only because they are not yet allowed under American law to chop the heads off the people that they oppose. Knowing the history of Christians who controlled the state in past generations, I know that these people only await the chance to do this. It has happened all too often for any of us not to believe that it couldn’t happen again.

That my friends may sound harsh, but it is all too true. Hannah Arendt spoke of the banality of evil by which she meant the people who just went along with evil without really thinking about or understanding the consequences of their actions which they in their hearts believe are right because their religion or ideology says so. But all too often, the people who absorb and adopt these views, who become “the willing executioners” of the policies of those that promote them are just as guilty, and just as responsible for their actions as if they had thought of them on their own.

In the movie Judgement at Nuremberg Spencer Tracy playing the presiding judge made a most interesting and provocative comment. He said:

But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary – even able and extraordinary – men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat through the trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen. There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” – of ‘survival’. A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient – to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is ‘survival as what’? A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”

I choose to stand for Justice, truth and the value of a single human being over the doctrine of those that will use faith to depreciate, devalue and dehumanize those that they feel have departed from the truth.

With that, I go back to my beer and on the game two of the National League Championship Series where I hope that my San Francisco Giants will win.

Peace

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under christian life, faith, History, Loose thoughts and musings, PTSD, Religion

The Enduring Message of Lent for those at the Mendoza Line

cross-ash-wednesday

Jesus said to his disciples:“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them…”

Today was Ash Wednesday the beginning of Lent. For those who do not know me or are not familiar with my life, story or writings it is a time that I best describe as one where I am conflicted. Lent is my least favorite season of the liturgical year.

But before you start picking up stones, arrows or even bullets to schwack me, let me tell you why…

You see I have no issue with what Jesus said, which is at the heart of the Ash Wednesday Gospel reading from Matthew Chapter six. In fact I totally agree with what Jesus said in the passage because I know that I am a total screw up and as far as the Christian life goes I am a “Mendoza Line” performer.*

I am always amazed when I read the words of Jesus and compare them with the way many American Christians do the Christian life:

“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them…”

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them…”

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting…”

What has become apparent to me is that many Christians are quite proud at being the new chosen people and many actually look down on unbelievers or for that matter even other Christians who do not fit with interpretation of either doctrinal correctness or personal holiness.

I can no longer do that and to think that for quite a few years I did is something that bothers me.

You see I am not bothered by people who really know their faith, nor am I bothered by those who those who live a beautiful life of personal holiness and piety. Such would be petty especially because people who are able to do this are probably doing better than me. What bothers me is when people hold their holiness over the heads of other people as if they were better than others.

Such attitudes are not the Gospel, but they are all too common and sadly the world can see right through Christian hypocrisy. That might be what people inside the church, especially young people are fleeing it, and why more and more people are rejecting what they see in the visible church, while still wanting to seek God and a spiritual life.
I have to admit that if I was not already a Christian in the face of so many intolerant, vile, hypocritical people who claim to represent Jesus that I would reject the Christian faith out of hand. There is nothing that I want from people that feel that they are superior to others when all that we have as Christians is from the “free gift of God.”

I really don’t need to be reminded that I am a screw up. At the same time there is something liberating in the message of Lent. It runs counter to the message of our culture. As I mentioned last night I will be giving up some things, but not because I am any better than anyone else, but to remind me of my humanity and my need for God.

I doubt that I will ever really look forward to or enjoy Lent, but I don’t have to look forward to it or enjoy the season in order to have some spiritual growth and benefit from it. I hope to have some spiritual growth during this season of Lent. For the first time since I returned from Iraq I am going to try to do a few of the more external observances, but will not get stuck in them. Instead I will seek to learn and grow spiritually during this time.

Pope Francis mentioned something last year that I think is relevant to us during the Lenten season, especially of we in our efforts to seek God find a way to exclude him through our own self righteousness:

“Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being.”

To be honest that expresses the frustration I experience during Lent and I pray that somehow in my life and witness of Jesus the Christ that I will not through my own self-righteousness drive people away from him.

Peace

Padre Steve+

*Note: Mario Mendoza with a shortstop who played with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was an excellent defensive player but his hitting left much to be desired. In the course of his career he hit for an average of .215. To this day a ball player who hits at the .200 level is known as a Mendoza line hitter, it is the level that a player can hit at and still stay in the major leagues.

3 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith