A quick glance at social media and it seems to topic – or controversy – of the yesterday was the Franklin Graham attack on Pete Buttigieg for being gay.
I was pleased to see such pushback against this tweet from a person who is a religious leader through the coattails of his father, and who’s “brand” of Christianity is one of hate, misogyny, nationalism, and bigotry. I am especially bothered by his anti-Muslim rhetoric. That he supports a president who’s words and actions are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus lead me to hang my head in shame at the direction Christianity has gone.
So I agree with calling out Franklin Graham for his behavior. At the same time I am bothered that many of the Tweets and other statements are in the “what about your sin” category. This whataboutism is very subtle in its identification of “being gay as a sin.”
It is not a sin to be who God created you to be!
If we choose to go back to the creation story of Genesis, God created:
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” -Genesis 1:27, 31a
We can also remember those words of the psalmist:
“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” -Psalm 139:13-14
To all my LGBTQ siblings, you are good, just as you were created. You are wonderfully made. Your existence is not a sin. Your seeking and having relationships that are fulfilling is not a sin.
To all of us that are allies, let’s please be careful with our language so that in pushing back against homophobic rhetoric we don’t unthinkingly hurt our siblings.
There is much more going on below the surface! This iceberg analogy resonates with me. Maybe it will with you as well. Briefly, we experience feelings, emotions, and physical sensations all the time. Often we react to these emotions without having a clear understanding of where they came from or what precipitated them.
For much of my life, this reactionary activity resulted in my pushing these feelings aside with food.
Was I happy? Then eat!
Was I sad? Nothing like eating for this!
Was I bored? Hmm, what could I eat?
Was I angry? Nothing like something crunchy and salty.
The problem with this approach was that I was unhealthy…physically, mentally, and spiritually. Learning, instead to explore the “why” behind an emotion, has been a freeing (and difficult) process. I say process because I am still learning here and can safely say that it will be a lifetime of learning, of exploration.
The first step in exploring what was under the water line (the iceberg) was through faith. In knowing that God loves me unconditionally, I could safely and critically interact with old hurts, old failings, old disappointments. This was freeing, but it was mostly the spiritual and mental.
The next step for me came through endurance sport. It was here that I truly learned to love my body and the gift that it is. It was here that I learned that I could endure great hardship…and later say it was “fun” (see Fun? Endurance…Is it fun?). It was here that I’ve learned so much about the holistic nature of faith. It has changed my outlook and given me the desire to help others experience life through endurance and through grace.
Today…food can still be a struggle (The Never-Ending Struggle with Weight). Unfortunately that will always be the case because of biology. But mindfulness and movement can counteract the struggle. If you’d like some help here let me know!
Way back on October 31, 2018 I posted the first of what was to be a series on the above mentioned book. Then I got bogged down in all kinds of stuff…and to be honest the book is not all that easy to write about. Well, also, I’m only on page 38 so that’s maybe not the best excuse. Today, a few quotes that are important.
All of us, especially children, must be encouraged to listen to our bodies as teachers and not as enemies.
Somehow, as a child I learned that my body is the enemy. I was told that I was fat…ugly…lazy and I believed all this. It’s only recently that I’ve learned to love this wonderful body that God has given to me. It is indeed fearfully and wonderfully made…freckles and lumps and all!
I’ve learned this through sport…endurance sport…running to be exact. I wish I had discovered this earlier, but as I keep telling people, “it’s never too late to start.”
Important to my journey (which led to a pastoral call) I discovered the truth that God’s grace is an absolutely free gift. This knowledge has freed me from lots of self-doubt, but I must have thought of it more in the sense of feelings and heart. Today, as I fully realize this grace, I now believe, it can a should lead us to a holistic understanding of our bodies as gifts to be used and cherished and cared for.
What about you? How do you interact with your body today? Is it different from when you were a child?
I don’t have a history of being happy with my body. I started running to lose weight. I soon learned that running alone wouldn’t do it. I had to change my eating as well. Over the years I did lose weight. While its not always been easy, this is the first time in my life I didn’t gain it all back. At the beginning I didn’t expect the spiritual change that occurred.
Today I run as a spiritual practice. I work through problems. I pray. I even write sermons. I’ve also felt the deep call to help others to (re)discover their own bodies as pathways to experiencing God’s grace. I’ve struggled with language. So I’m thrilled to have discovered the book, “Rediscovering the Lost Body-Connection within Christian Spirituality,” by Edwin M. McMahon and Peter A. Campbell.
As I read, I will share thoughts and hopefully start some discussion. Today’s thought comes from page 1 of the preface:
During more than 45 years of our team research, we have discovered that the way in which people treat their own bodies and feelings becomes a reliable predictor of how they will then treat and interact with those around them.
I’ve been saying that if we can treat ourselves better, we will be able to treat others better. How might our world be in a better place if we cared for ourselves? Would we then be better able to care for others? I think so. I look forward to more discoveries in this book.
Last night I listened to a friend, Vic Thasiah, make a call for the running community to be more actively engaged in conservation efforts for our public lands. His presentation took place at Topa Topa Brewing Company, and since I was holding a beer while listening, I missed taking notes! I wish I had because his talk was inspiring.
He shared that, from a national perspective, runners, as a group, are not as involved in preservation efforts as are hikers, kayakers, mountain bikers, and skiers. We as runners, are not organized around this important issue as are other groups. As I listened to the presentation, I wondered how many of us runners consciously appreciate the beautiful places we can go. Or do many of us think of running as “exercise” and something to “get done” while also experiencing the added benefit of a beautiful view?
As a pastor, I pray my gratitude for this beautifully created world in our weekly worship, while also praying that we would be good stewards of all that surrounds us. I find myself envisioning some of the places I’ve run as I pray. I’ve also tried to encourage our getting outside for worship with a monthly Hike Church. This has been met with limited success… but maybe that’s because I’m not doing a good enough job of inviting people.
The other day, while running on one of our paved, but in need of much work, bike trails, I wondered about the feasibility of runners and cyclists fundraising to fix the trails. That’s a good endeavor and I’d support it. But now, I’m also thinking that we, wherever we are, should involve ourselves in to caring for, and helping to preserve, and conserve our public lands.
In my area, that care can be exercised through The Ventura Land Trust. I might even use my upcoming Thanksgiving to Christmas Mile a Day Challenge as a fundraiser for this worthy organization. Meanwhile, how do you see the running community participating in care for our public open spaces?
I’m not a movie critic. Sometimes when I read what others have written about movies, my own thoughts seem to be so inadequate. Maybe if I saw more movies, and then chose to review them I’d get better at it. But then, life as a movie critic is not my job.
My current job is both a job and a title, Pastor. Specifically, pastor in a Lutheran Church that is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We are one of the (if not the most) whitest denominations in America. The synod of which I am a part (Los Angeles and surrounding counties) is the most diverse, something to be proud of. But my congregation is not one of those diverse congregations I am sad to say. I am a white pastor in a majority Mexican immigrant city. I speak some Spanish and am continually working at it. But so far, my efforts to lead us to being a more diverse church have had limited success. This is just a bit of my context.
Today, for Labor Day, I went to see BlackkKlansman. It was a powerful movie. It bridges the past and the present in such a way that it is impossible to close our eyes to the ongoing evil of white supremacy in our nation.
I don’t use the word “evil” lightly. It was evil to kidnap and subsequently enslave people. It was evil to keep their children as slaves. It was a most horrible evil to sometimes rip children from the arms of their parents so that they could be sold again. Slavery in this nation was done under the guise of Christianity, my religion. This was evil.
This was not the subject of the movie. But I couldn’t help to think of it because this sin of slavery is at the heart of the racism that we continue to live with today.
BlackkKlansman is a story that is based on a memoir. I don’t know what of it is true memoir and what is added story telling.
An uncomfortable, for me, aspect of this story was the juxtaposition of scenes depicting calls for white power alongside demonstrations with calls for black power. I am uncomfortable because I often wonder how we will ever progress. The story also almost allows us (white people) to tell ourselves that we aren’t part of the KKK and thus we are not racist. It touches on the institutional aspects of racism but even there, it depicts a racist police officer rather than a system that is biased against people of color. Alas, there is too much to cover in a single movie.
As a pastor, I continually preach that we are allcreated in God’s image and that means us all people. I also lament the fact that too many of my fellow (white) Christians don’t seem to be able to see this beauty in all of God’s creation. I often wonder about my place among Christianity, because it seems as if the most vocal proponents of my faith are also vocal proponents of white supremacy. Even if they don’t use those words.
I’ve heard arguments along the lines of, “no, that is not us, but we just want everyone to get along.” But then the next line of the conversation is to attack Black Lives Matter as a terrorist organization. I don’t know how many times I have tried to explain the reason the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary.
I once had a very long dialog with a distant family member. He is an evangelical Christian and he had no desire to learn about why people are protesting. It was easier for his to condemn the protestors as members of a hate group. I went so far as to try and find people in his city for him to meet and to learn from. But once I made this step, it became clear that he wasn’t interested in learning. It turns out that he was just trying to figure out how “unchristian” I am because of my “liberal” positions. The conversation ended with his telling me that he’s learned a bit about ELCA Lutherans and it appears that I am where I belong (not a compliment from his perspective), and that he would pray for me. I wanted to scream that I don’t want these prayers. I didn’t scream, but I did say that instead of praying for me, maybe he could pray to see.
I’m tired and I’m white and I’m privileged and I’ve not done enough and I’m not doing enough and I’m tired.
I cannot imagine how exhausted my Black sisters and brothers must be in living with the structural racism that is so much a part of our culture. It is like the air we breathe. Don’t believe me? I suggest you read, starting with “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi. If anyone reading this would like to read this book as a group – in person gatherings or online, please let me know. I think we could learn a lot together.
Our learning the history of slavery, segregation, and racism from times past until now is necessary for us to be able to see the truth that is all around us. We need to learn so that we can see and so that we can work for a better today and a better tomorrow. I don’t believe that it should be the responsibility of our Black citizens to get us white people to change. It should be up to us! It is our continued collective sin in burying our heads as we try to say, “that’s not me” or “that’s not us.”
As I think of this I am reminded of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” I’ve often said that if I could, I would add this letter to the canon of scripture. I don’t’ have that ability, but I can still use it in matters of faith. And as I think about this movie, and the state of affairs in our country today I am reminded of his calling to account of the “white moderate.” For Rev. King, the moderate was in many ways worse than the overt racist because the moderate just went along with the status quo. This was not helpful then and it is not helpful now.
Well my friends, this was definitely not a review of the movie! Please see it. Please read what our sibling of color are writing. And please know that the God that I know is a gracious God. This God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. All our neighbors. It’s not easy to do but it starts with opening our eyes to see.
The other day I shared some thoughts regarding the Pledge of Allegiance (Our Flag and Independence Day). I also shared a song, written by a nun that speaks to my heart. It is so aspirational! Today we used the song, along with a litany that I’ve modified and used throughout the past few years. This year I was unable to say the words. It was so bad I asked the congregation to help by us saying the words with me.
My heart hurts for our country.
P: As we remember the birth of our nation, and the gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, let us offer our thanks and prayers to God, the giver of all good gifts.
For this land, with its peaks and valleys, coasts and deserts, fields and meadows. For the women and men who braved the long journey to come to this new world. For the tribes and nations who inhabited this land for generation upon generation,
How beautiful, our spacious skies, our amber waves of grain, our purple mountains as they rise above the fruitful plain: America! America! God’s gracious gifts abound, And more and more we’re grateful for life’s bounty all around
P: For patriots who dreamed of, and fought for, a free nation. For the men and women who laid the foundation of our democracy, and who pledged liberty and justice for all. For those who built this country brick by brick, road by road, and town by town. For the brave soldiers who have fought for our country, for all who paid for our freedom by their service, and those who paid by their sacrifice. For the innovators and artists, poets and teachers, farmers and factory workers; for all who labor and provide for the common good. For our own community, for those who came before us in this place, and for our neighbors near and far.
Indigenous and immigrant, our daughters and our sons; O may we never rest content till all are truly one. America! America! God grant that we may be A sisterhood and brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
P: For the United States, that we might always be a nation which defends and promotes liberty and freedom, truth and justice. That we might always be a nation where all are free to worship and pray. That we might be a beacon of freedom to all those who live under the shadow of terror and hopelessness.
That those who are elected to govern and lead, would be guided by you, and be ever aware of the trust that has been given them. That we would be a people who repent from our sins, and who always return to you and to your grace,
How beautiful, sincere lament, the wisdom born of tears, The courage call for to repent the bloodshed through the years. America! America! God grant that we may be, A nation blessed with none oppressed, true land of liberty.
P: Gracious and holy God of all nations, bless and defend us and our land; prosper the work of our hands, and increase in us your grace and compassion, and our offerings of thanks to you, our rock and our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
How beautiful, two continents, and islands in the sea, That dream of peace, non-violence, all people living free. Americas! Americas! God grant that we may be, A hemisphere where people here all live in harmony.