Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Observations Surrounding Circumstances

What I find interesting in the Facebook would is that people have difficulty with a clergy person having difficulty with life.

I stated that I find solitude most complete while being surrounded by people.  The return comment was, "you can find that in church."

I commented about not getting a call; the comments were "God has something better for your."

What I find telling is that a clergy and a therapist were the only people who said anything like, "that sucks!"

Sometimes the best thing you can do for a person is affirm that sometimes the world sucks.  People want a clergy that is all "happy, happy, joy, joy," but sometimes life isn't that way.  Sometimes life just sucks.

I would hope that my journey could be  means of creating a more realistic faith.  Being a person of faith does not mean that everything will be wonderful, but it does mean that we have tools for dealing with the difficulties.

If I said that I have never thought of pitching my faith out the window, I would be lying.  More than once I wanted to tell the world to just go to hell.  I have contemplated "shedding this veil of tears."  (Some might find that shocking, but if you have been reading this blog, it should come as no surprise.)  Still do consider shedding it, at times.

But I am one of those silly people who believes that if we want change, we need to be the ones making it.  I do believe that anger should be focused on changing the things that make us angry.  I am also a big picture person which can make life very frustrating.

I think it is possible to be a person of faith and to also doubt in the existence of God.  David did it.  Moses did it.  Even Jesus did it!  (Think Garden of Gethsemane.)

No wonder the Christian faith is failing:  We can't be Christian and be human.  How sad for us.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Another Rejection Letter

Yes, the position that seemed to have it all (literally!  Good location, good outreach, good social justice) turned me down.  I saw it posted on the church's Facebook page before they informed me.  Not necessarily the best way to find out things.

I am getting really tired of this.  Digs up all kinds of buried skeletons in my psyche.  My father's voice is the loudest with, "You can't do anything right.  Everything you touch, you break."  So, of course, this is all my fault.  My brain just keeps repeating how I am nothing but a failure.  I will never amount to anything because I will break anything I touch.

My rational mind tells me that this is all bogus, but the cowering little boy just wants to do something right so daddy will love me.

Yeah, I know, it is three months 'til Christmas.  But I am not really excited about that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Been Thinking

Lots of things have been going through my head over the past week or so. Being a clergy person in this world is not easy.  There are no quick answers.  There are no easy solutions

I get so frustrated with people who call themselves "Christians" yet act in a manner that I find totally at odds with what I think "Christian" should be.  I do not think "Christian" has anything to do with hatred or attacking others.  I do think "Christians" are to be about loving others.

I have been asked how I would respond to people who are of the Republican bent.  If they are not about social justice, I find it difficult.  Am I supposed to say that being selfish is ok?  Am I supposed to tell people that we are not to care for the widows and orphans?  Am I supposed to tell people that we are not to welcome the stranger?  I cannot see how one can be Christian and not do these things.  However, there is a large group of people who feel that one cannot be Christian and be about these social justice issues.  Am I supposed to tell these people that what they believe is ok, just so they will keep contributing to the church.  I can't do that with a clear conscience.

I also get frustrated when people think that those who would blow up consulates, or abortion clinics, or pretty much anything else is the proper way to spread the love of God or Allah, or whatever you choose to call a divine deity.  And then people assume that all "Christians" think this way and respond to me in sometimes rude and cruel ways.

Then there is the whole thing of trying to find a call at a church.  Wondering if it will ever happen and wondering if it is worth the effort.  Frankly, I am tired of the effort.  I keep saying that I can't go on, but I keep finding some way to do it.  Now, I am getting to the end of my rope.

Oh, and we have to move again by the end of October.  Where?  Who knows.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Life Was Getting Just A Little Too Comfortable

Last night, Nic came home from across the state as said, "Did you check your e-mail?"

When I checked, I found an e-mail telling us that the owner of the house we were housesitting was returning at the end of October.  Now, this, in and of itself, wouldn't be a bad thing.  However, with all the stuff that is in the air, it is horrible!

We don't quite know where or how we should move.  I am waiting on a possible call to a church in NC.  If that one falls through, there is the possibility of a place just 70 miles away from here.  The second one won't come about, thought, for almost 6 months.

Does Nic look for an apartment in the Detroit area?  If so, what size?  Do we move all of our stuff?  Do we put it in storage?  Should I rip all my hair out?

Never a dull moment.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Was Jesus a Racist?

There are some things in life we just do not like to talk about.  And often we get reminded that certain subjects are not appropriate for “polite company.”  But if we do not speak about them, then how do we grow?  If we don’t speak about them, then falsehoods and misinformation abounds.
Today’s gospel and epistle readings are just such topics.  These are not really pleasant things to talk about, especially in front of congregation of people, and a diverse congregation at that!  But I am going to press on here and hope that I don’t irreparably offend anyone.  I will probably offend someone along the way, but that is bound to happen.  I guess it is better to offend someone and get the topic open than to never ever bring it up because we want to be nice.
The topic I want to discuss is prejudice.
It is really kind of fun to read the commentaries about today’s gospel reading.  People do so many mental gymnastics to try to take the sting out of Jesus’ words to the Syropheonetian woman.  There are attempts to make it into a series of jokes.  (Ha ha, you dog!)  There are attempts to say that the “dog” that Jesus is talking about is a lap dog like a Yorkie or something.  (Which is still offensive, in my opinion.)  And still others who say that Jesus was rude to make a point.  (To make a point at the expense of a grieving mother is just wrong!)  We cannot get around the point that Jesus does something very un-Jesuslike. 
What we need to remember is that prejudice is not a new thing; it is as old as people.  In Jesus’ time, gentiles were considered on a par with dogs.  To be Jewish during Biblical times was to consider oneself on a higher level than non-Jews.  It was just the way things were; it was just part of society.  And I am guessing it was not something people questioned much.
Who are the people we consider below us?  This is a difficult question to ask and an even more difficult one to answer.  I am sure we like to think of ourselves as kind and loving people.  We do not want to consider that we might lift ourselves to a higher level than others.  However much we would like to think we are above prejudice, we all have our biases.  I will admit that I am prejudice toward Caucasian people.  Being born white and spending most of my formative years around white people has instilled prejudices in me.  I am prejudice toward intellectuals.  I have spent many years in college and have grown quite accustomed to people with advanced degrees.  I am prejudiced toward the middle class and toward moderate Christians.  Guess how I grew up?  That’s right!  I grew up in a middle class, Christian, home.  The things that surround us become the things that are accepted and become the prejudices that we really need to work to uncover.
For the sake of argument, since Jesus was fully human while being fully God, we can assume that Jesus also had some prejudices.  Jesus, being part of his society, made assumptions about situations.  And like us, these assumptions may not have been entirely accurate.  Now this may be making some people uncomfortable.  We do not like to think about Jesus having human foibles.  But in seeing Jesus work through one of these foibles, we can learn how we may grow in faith and learn to deal with others around us.
You will notice again, that the interaction with the woman occurs face-to-face.  Jesus must confront the person, she is standing right there.  With the woman standing there, Jesus must put a face and a story to the prejudice he is feeling.  He can’t just call her a gentile dog and move on.  She is there, she has a story, and she has a request.
Our prejudices thrive when we isolate ourselves from the object of that prejudice.  It is easy to think that a transgender person is just a man in a dress, or that Republicans are just old white men.  It is easy to think that black people are lazy or that gay people are all effeminate.   It is easy to think that Muslims are all terrorists or that Christians are judgmental bigots.  I sure we can come up with more stereotypes.  If there is a group of people out there, there is a stereotype for them.  And as long as we don’t ever have to come face-to-face with these groups, we don’t ever need to challenge our prejudices.
I think another danger is the assumption that we don’t have prejudices.  One woman in one of my past congregations said to me concerning gay people, “Most people are not like me.  I have no problem with them…but they better not want to come here and change everything.”  She did not catch it within herself.  In her mind, she was totally open and accepting of THEM.  But also, the people she spoke of would always be THEM.
When the Woman started talking to Jesus, he thought of her as THEM.  And if she would have walked away, Jesus may have continued to think of her as THEM.  But the Woman continued and her persistence helped Jesus to see that the distinction he was making between the Jews and the Gentiles was an arbitrary distinction. At the core, we are all people who need to rely on each other to make it through life.
A trend that you hopefully noticed over the past weeks is the trend toward relationships.  So often we think that all we need to do is throw money at situations and they will get better.  But Jesus invites us into relationship.  Jesus calls us together, to sit down together, to talk together, to listen.  Jesus calls us into diversity, not to impose our beliefs on others, but to learn from each other; Jesus does not force the woman to become a Jew before helping her.  He is reminded of her humanity and therefore changes his mind and helps her.  (This is the only place in the gospels where Jesus changes his mind!)
I think it is wonderful that you are reaching out into the community.  Having meals for the local people is a great thing!  But it is just the beginning!  Going to Haiti is a great thing!  All of these things are wonderful!  But this is not the place stop.  I have seen congregations hang their whole outreach on a Thanksgiving Dinner; it is a good place to start, but we are continually called to reach out into our community.  How else do we get to know people, face-to-face?  How do we move beyond thinking of another as THEM instead of as one of US?
We are called to look beyond our prejudices.  We are called to honestly face judgments and stop making excuses for the ways we belittle others.  Jesus gives us the tools to look beyond our preconceived notions and truly opens our eyes.  We may be uncomfortable with Jesus’ actions in this reading.  We may not like what he does.  But this needs to remind us of our own actions and should make us just as uncomfortable.  In the end, all are still called to the table and all are welcomed by Christ.  But how about us, Christ’s hands and heart in the world.  Are we willing to accept all in the same way?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


Well, I am at that spot in processes that is a little scary.  I had a phone interview with a church at the beginning of the month, and their application time was through Labor Day.  So now comes the waiting period.  Will I receive a phone call, an e-mail, or a letter.  The first two are good things, the last, usually not so good.  So I get to wait.

I have been supplying around, and that is a good thing, it keeps my skills in shape.  Although I do find that some of my critical thinking skills have seemed to slip somewhat.  I also find that the specter of depression is always in the wings.  I guess that is just going to be something that I will have to live with.

I am feeling better about all the stuff that happened at my last church. Maybe someday I will write a book about clergy abuse.  (Isn't that what we all do, write a book?)  People can be so mean.  And when they get mean, they get abusive.  I know that I was just the car in the way, but it often feels so intentional.  I really have to question what people mean when they say they are Christian.  Such hate and anger does not strike me as kind.