To answer your question… Number 2

This post is part of a larger dialogue. You can see the first post here To answer your question…number 1
I’m glad you returned safely and I hope you and Scott had a good time on your vacation.
It sounds like we both agree that Jesus doesn’t micromanage our lives but I’m sure you also agree when looking at verses in Proverbs, Jeremiah and other books of the Bible, that Jesus does have a plan for our lives and establishes our steps. Your quote from Paul affirms this very idea that God will bring good out of evil, not as a puppet master but as someone that “…will fulfill his purpose…” for us.
I heard it was 2 – 3 million, legal and illegal votes that Hillary got, which proves that the Russians helped Trump win; wait a minute, if the Russians helped Trump, why did Hillary get that many more votes, very confusing; maybe the Russians were actually attempting to help Hillary?
I am familiar with Hobby Lobby; that is where the Obama administration thought it was wrong for Hobby Lobby’s health insurance plan to provide for only 16 different types of birth control. His administration thought they should provide for all 20 types even though the remaining 4 types kill a fertilized egg. It sounds like the Green family believe as I do, that not only are we created in the image of God but that life begins at conception, when do you believe life begins?
Thanks for your good thoughts regarding my trip to Europe. It was 2/3rd work and 1/3rd vacation…but all in all a very good trip. The seminar regarding Luther was very enlightening and helped to remind my of why I am Lutheran. One reason is that we value reason. I will most likely write some posts on some of the discussions that were part of the seminar.
We don’t agree at all on how we see God’s presence in our lives. As a Lutheran I recognize the idea that paradoxically God is present and active in the world, while also not micromanaging the world. In fact, if I believed that God was directing our steps in such an ordered way I would need to become an atheist because I would have to reject such an awful, capricious, judgmental God. If I believed in this God, I would have believe:
  • that the violence that plagues our world is God’s plan
  • that a society that chooses to withhold healthcare from millions is doing so because they are just following God’s direction
  • even that abortions are God’s plan…since God is directing our decisions
  • that racism is desired by God regardless of Jesus’ call for us to love our neighbor
  • and on and on and on…
The God of my faith, sent Jesus out of great love for, not just me, but for the world in which we all live. This Jesus taught us that the ultimate in following him is to love God and to love neighbor. He taught that our neighbor is not only the one who is familiar to us, but also includes those we don’t know, those we fear, those we dislike, and those who are our enemies. I often think that if we could truly love God and neighbor, we wouldn’t really need to know anything else because we would naturally be following the rest of the law. Unfortunately, on our own, we are not capable. For this I am forever grateful for the grace and forgiveness that is ours through Jesus. It is this grace and forgiveness that propels me to keep trying, even (especially even) when I fail to love. I fail because I have the freedom to fail.
Also…is it God’s plan that I am a pastor? Conservative evangelicals, in their patriarchy would say “no.” Given my history, I say God has a wonderful sense of humor! I know that I have a Call from God to serve, even when I look at the state of the white church and its support for a racist, misogynist, bigot for president and wonder if there really is a place for me.
As for your claims about Hillary Clinton and Russia. The only people who think that illegal votes were responsible for Clinton’s earning more popular votes than Trump are Trump and his supporters. It is also quite clear to our law enforcement and intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the election to help Trump. If you want to believe otherwise, I don’t really care.
Last, regarding Hobby Lobby. Yes it was regarding specific forms of birth control. You asked me when I believe life begins. My answer is that I don’t truly know. I believe that the potential for life exists at conception but at conception this life is not viable. In fact, looking at studies, the estimates of miscarriages each year is 10-20% (Mayo Clinic). The number, according to professionals, is probably higher than that because many women don’t even know they miscarried. I guess the God who is controlling everything is murdering babies? Of course this is a cynical statement, but it is also the logical outcome of believing that God controls everything.
Regardless of what I believe, the reality is that there are concerted efforts by Republicans to remove access to reproductive healthcare for women, especially poor women. The ongoing efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are attacks on such access. The government already prohibits federal funds to be used for abortion, so those who say they are seeking to stop any funds from going to Planned Parenthood to prevent federal dollars being spent on abortion are lying. It looks like they may succeed however, so poor women will have no place to go to receive needed healthcare. This is incredibly sad. My prediction is that, because of changes that are happening that will effectively take away access to reliable birth control, the rate of abortions will increase. Currently it is lower than pre Roe v Wade.

To answer your question…number 1

A distant family member has been sending me questions about my beliefs. When he started doing this I confess that I often responded angrily because I sensed accusation in his questions. My sense is that he thinks that because I’m a pastor I should believe the same things he as a conservative Christian believes. For me, I just remember all those conservative Christians of my youth who made sure to let me know that I was not acceptable to them and thus to their God. This no being accepted was due to my family circumstances and a general “you’re not living a godly life” accusation. We don’t really know each other (live in different parts of the country). The organization to which he refers is the Democratic Party

The most important question I had was about your support for an organization that promotes killing the unborn. I don’t understand how that can be justified especially by a pastor; can you help me understand that please? When I think about these two issues, I wonder if Jesus is more grieved by racism in this country or the legalized taking of innocent lives of the unborn.

Dear _______,

I have to confess that in re-reading through the discussion up to this point I hadn’t noticed that in addition to saying above that the Democratic Party “promotes killing the unborn”, you stated that I thought abortion was an effective means of birth control. I never said that.

What I did say is something to the effect that I am amazed that some people who claim to be against abortion are also, when you get into the details of their positions, against the use of birth control. It makes no sense to make it difficult, or impossible, for women 20170121_woc633_0to obtain what they need to prevent unwanted pregnancy. More pregnancies will only lead to more abortions. This leads me to conclude that many so called “right to life” people are actually just against the freedom of women.

I start with this because in the last month “The Economist” published a chart from the CDC that shows that abortion is now at a lower level than it was before Roe v Wade. How has that happened? According to the accompanying article:

A study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that this pattern was probably behind a decline in the abortion rate of a similar magnitude between 2008 and 2011. In turn, it attributed the falling numbers of unintended pregnancies to increased use of contraceptives. During that period, birth and abortion rates dropped in tandem. Data on unintended pregnancy rates are not yet available for 2011-2014, but the authors suggest this may be a continuing effect. (http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/01/daily-chart-16)

As to me “supporting an organization that promotes abortion”

There is a difference between saying that women have the right to make decisions regarding their own bodies, while also working very hard to provide women access to full reproductive care and “promotion of abortion.”

I don’t know one person who promotes abortion and I know a lot of people who are far  more strident than me. The reality is that whether legal or not abortions have happened and will continue to happen. I don’t know statistics but I have read tragic stories of women who found themselves in desperate situations. I have also read firsthand, heartbreaking accounts of women who, for reasons of health, have had to undergo an abortion. These women were celebrating the pending arrival of a child only to discover that something was incredibly wrong. I will err here on the side of compassion.

As a human being I value life. I don’t limit that valuing of life to the fetus and this is why I think that those who claim moral superiority are in many ways morally repugnant.

This is what I believe:

  • I believe that life is precious and hard, and that the ability to think critically is important.
  • I believe that providing women (especially those without financial means) access to comprehensive reproductive health that includes education and birth control is the most effect way to eliminate abortion.
  • I believe that sometimes women make poor choices (as do men) out of desperation and fear, thus we must have social services that help to provide stability in the lives of people living in poverty. (I don’t see the Republican Party doing anything here except saying that people living  in poverty don’t deserve help)
  • I believe that children are deserving of life. That means adequate food, shelter, clothing, education, and a safe environment.
    • So I support welfare programs for poor families. And sadly, the Republican Party in this country seeks to punish people for being poor and it is the children who suffer most.
    • So I believe that we must accept the refugee child and her or his parents.
    • So I believe that people deserve an environment that if free from harmful pollution.
      • I find it amazing that Republicans in Congress are going to authorize 20 billion dollars to pay for an unneeded wall but for two years have not come up with the 50 million dollars needed to fix the water lines in Flint, MI.
    • I believe that children (and all people) deserve to live free from the dangers of gun violence. Far more people have been killed in this country by guns than by terrorists (and far more people have been killed by white Christian terrorists than Muslim terrorists).
  • I believe that in their desire to affect the Supreme Court the Republicans in the Senate have destroyed the norms of that institution by refusing to vote for almost a year on President Obama’s nominee.
    • I believe this is a combination of a desire to overturn Roe v Wade as well as racism that has been directed against President Obama from before he took office.
    • I also believe that many Republicans have made a faustian bargain in their hunger for power and that we all will suffer. I wish I were wrong here, but each day brings more news of norms destroyed, ethics ignored, and hatefulness directed against minorities, especially Muslims. As a white middle class woman I could choose to ignore this and I would be ok for a time. But I would be deceiving myself because our country is going down a very dark road and we all will pay the price eventually. But as a pastor I don’t have that choice and so I will continue to work as long as I can in loving God and loving my neighbor and I will proclaim the love and presence of God to those who desperately need to hear it.

Getting back to your question about how I can support an organization like the Democratic Party. I am actually registered to vote as unaffiliated. Prior to that I was registered to vote as a Republican. It was through my study of scripture, prayer, seminary studies (at an Evangelical seminary), and immersion in a community other than white suburban middle class that I came to the realization that the Republican Party is “pro-life” in name only. While not all Republicans may feel this way, the party’s policies are pro big business and their message is one of disdain for people of color, poor people, women, and religious minorities.

So while you may not approve of me and my beliefs “as a pastor” I know that I am right where Jesus wants me to be.

May the peace of the Lord be with you,

Nancy

Blessings?

Yesterday I help with the Ventura County Homeless Count. The geographical area for counting that was assigned to me didn’t have too many people in it yesterday…maybe because it was so cold that people weren’t yet out on the streets. Yes, it was cold and we were counting (interviewing) people who had no place to sleep the night before. It is a sad state of affairs. There are many reasons for homelessness and thus need to be many solutions. I know that many people dedicate their lives to helping in any way they can. Participating in the count (for 2nd year in a row) reminded me that we need to do more and that we need to actually “See” the people who seem to be invisible as we go about our daily lives.

14364767_10154005598513775_7633342390373738549_nOne of the people I spoke with was a young man who was sitting in front of a fast food restaurant with a sign. You are familiar with this as we are all familiar with this. This young man told me that he wanted a job, but that nobody would give him a job because he was homeless. “So here I am (pointing at sign), I don’t want to do this, I just want a f—n job!” I had no adequate words while I also fear that things will get worse.

Sunday I will be preaching on “The Beatitudes” or blessings that Jesus offered at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. According to these, this young man is blessed, as are those who advocate for him and all the homeless. May we all begin to live and act as if he truly were blessed so that he would then know it in this day.

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:1-12

These “blessings” are radical because then, and now, to “be blessed” is often equated with having an easy life…having riches…having power. The blessings that Jesus pronounces here are for those who struggle in all kinds of ways.

In seeing the direction our country is heading I feel the “blessed are the poor in spirit” in ways I’ve never felt before. My faith tells me that we are to be advocates for the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, the orphan, the widow, the prisoner, the outcast. These groups are explicitly mentioned numerous times in scripture. Yet, we as a nation are about to officially turn our backs on these people and I am saddened.

As the words of Jesus tell me, I am also blessed and it is that blessing received that is leading me to speak up, to march, to protest, to call, to write…the join the resistance to what betrays my faith as well as the founding values of my country. It is this being blessed by Jesus that will help me (and others) to stand strong even when attacks come and guess what…we’ll just be more blessed…Jesus said so!

Gratitude 1/23

Yesterday I had the honor of preaching at a friend’s installation as pastor of Shepherd of the Valley in Simi Valley. I talked a bit about heroes…those who impact our lives as well as our own opportunities to be heroes for others. Who have been your heroes? How have they impacted and inspired you?

Today I am personally thankful for: the women (and men) who battled the sexism that once made it impossible for women to serve as God has called them, I serve as a pastor because of them; the pastors and other leaders of New City Parish who allowed me to experience the vibrancy and richness of the inner city; and the millions of Americans who are making it clear that the current president and congress do not have a mandate.