A family is lost in a mysterious world between life and death, not knowing what is reality and what is merely a dream. They find themselves caught in the middle of an ancient cosmic war between the agents of Darkness and Light.

‘Broken Scythe’ is a novella written by WOJ founder, Brett Gallaher, that will leave you guessing until the very end. Download it now. Your life may depend on it.

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img: Google

img: Google

 

The title of this post may have already triggered a series of other questions in your mind. Questions like:

“What do you mean by a fundamentalist?”

“A fundamentalist what?”

And: “I wonder if there’s anything better on TV?”

A little while back, prompted by some comments I’d made, a friend posted the following question on Facebook: “Is Jesus a fundamental Christian?” For whatever reason, his question didn’t attract a single reply.

So here’s my response to the question, which I’ve re-interpreted as:

“Is Jesus a Christian fundamentalist?”

Just to get the obvious answer out of the way first… Jesus couldn’t be a Christian, or he’d be a follower of himself. That conjures up an image in my warped mind, of a Messiah spinning in circles chasing his robe. So…no, let’s forget that.

But would he align himself with fundamentalist Christianity?

At this point, when I started writing this a couple of months back, I was going to give you my own definition of fundamentalist Christianity, followed by an opinion on whether Jesus would identify himself with that kind of religion.

But those ideas just didn’t sit right and I shelved this post till now. If we love Jesus, then the Holy Spirit has a way of directing the paths of our minds, and in this case taking my response to the question on a somewhat different path.

img: Google

img: Google

One anecdote that influenced this change of direction is a little Biblical episode I re-read, in which Jesus’ disciples are outraged that someone outside their group is casting out demons in Jesus’ name.

His reaction? It’s fine, relax. Whoever’s not against us is for us. So he belongs to a different group? He’s still one of us1.

In the past, Christians would pit evangelicals against Catholics (some still do). Nowadays it might be progressives and liberals versus conservatives and fundamentalists. But you know what? That other group that thinks differently from you also loves Jesus, also serves Jesus. They may have a different slant, but their goal is roughly the same. Like you and me, they want others to know Jesus and have life.

Taking that idea a bit further…I’ve come to realise that every single Christian (or person) has his/her own individual idea of who Jesus is. And it’s not just about the theology we’ve been taught or the denomination we belong to. Our concept of Jesus is influenced by our whole life experience, our personality, and our experience of church and of other Christians.

It’s dawned on me that, often, the Christians I disagree with theologically also differ widely from me in their personality, whereas Christians who are similar to me in nature are more likely to be like-minded in their view of Jesus and of the various thorny issues that we grapple with. Personality may play a bigger part than we realise in our theology and our view of Jesus.

A charge is sometimes made that humans make God in their own image. To an extent that can be true and is certainly a potential pitfall.

But supposing God actually does reveal himself differently to each of us?

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless,

To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.”2

Now that may be the psalmist’s poetic way of saying that to the faithful, blameless and pure, God is also all those things, but that the crooked need to beware, because God will come and deal with them in a similar way – rather than claiming that God will reveal himself differently to every individual. Or is it the latter?

After all, Jesus made this scary declaration: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others!”3

Jesus comes to us, in some sense, on our terms and deals with us as we’ve dealt with others. In the gospels, we see him dealing very, very differently with different individuals. A Samaritan woman, a Pharisee, a Roman centurion, a disciple struggling to believe…all receive very different treatment from the Messiah.

To the merciful, Jesus will appear as merciful – now and in the life to come.

The rule-bound – Jesus might judge them by their own rules.

To the fundamentalist, perhaps Jesus asks, “How have you measured up to your own message?” (Whatever that message may be).

What I do know is that Jesus longs for every type of Christian to know and love him and enjoy the life he gives, more than they love their theology, doctrine or even scriptures (which point to him):

“You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life”4.

And I also know that there is room in his heart for every type of Christian; in fact, every type of person. The good news is that he came and lived and died and rose again and gives his Spirit, in order to call everyone into his arms of grace.

In the prodigal son parable5, I identify with the wayward younger brother, embraced and accepted on his return. Maybe you do too. But don’t forget that the older brother – the legalistic, party-pooping son – held an equally precious place in the father’s heart – was spoken to by his father just as tenderly and generously.

If you see yourself as a progressive Christian, don’t be too ready to knock or write off conservative or fundamentalist Christians.

If you’re a conservative, don’t rubbish progressives.

If you see yourself as a fundamentalist Christian, whatever that is, that’s OK too.

As long as Jesus is our common goal.

How about we put aside our labels and pursue love, mercy and unity, and most of all Jesus, who embodies all those qualities.

Back to the question: “Is Jesus a fundamentalist?”

My answer would be: “Maybe to some”.

 

1. Mark 9:38-41

2. Psalm 18:25-26

3. Matthew 7:1-2

4.  John 5:39-40

5. Luke 15:11-32

 

IMG_1007RRoger (or ‘Roj’) and his wife Janine have 3 lively children ranging from teenager to toddler; he goes to work for a rest. A trained nurse, he’s in his ideal job, using his skills and passions to run a homeless healthcare service, and learns a lot from the people he works with, including the idea that God is far more inclusive and compassionate than people give him credit for. To let off steam, he runs reasonably fast around the hills of Hastings (England), where he lives. Now writing for We Occupy Jesus, he’s childishly enjoying being ‘Roj of WOJ’.

story2

My grandmother’s sister and her husband had 4 children.  They had both been married once before and brought one child each to their marriage.  They had a child together and adopted a daughter.  The family joke was that they had his, hers, ours, and someone else’s.  As I was thinking through a post about narrative, this family joke came to mind.

YOURS and MINE:  This is the story of our lives.  When we come together and share our stories – our past, our hopes and dreams – friendship, love, camaraderie, mutual support and cooperation can grow.  I was privileged to watch this happen last night.  A friend and I went to the Free Arts of Arizona Theater Camp performance, Our House. Free Arts of Arizona works with children in group homes, family support agencies, and homeless shelters.  The kids who performed last night were teens who had participated in a two week drama camp.  They used skits, music, poetry, and monologue to tell their stories.  Exploring what it means to be home for a young person who is temporarily or permanently displaced…  well, it was a powerful event.  And processing what stories mean, on the way back to my vehicle with Judy, is what got me thinking about this post.

OURS:
What kind of story belongs to all of us?
What stories can we all claim?
What stories bring out the best in us?
Do we choose our common stories or do we inherit them?

Part of the power of the children’s experience that they shared last night was this pattern:

  1. Caring adults create a safe space with care and intention.
  2. One person feels brave and safe and tells their story (of abuse, abandonment, neglect).
  3. Another person says, “that’s kind of like what happened to me…”
  4. Eventually, everyone’s story is out.

In the performance program, one young performer is quoted, “Every time I am able to tell my story, I gain a little more control over it.”

Scripture can be that kind of unifying, shared story that calls to mind our common humanity and history… where we’ve been, what we’ve learned.  It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine the Hebrew scriptures starting out around the campfire.
campfirestories

Let me tell you, children, the story of our people.  It all begins with the journey of Abraham.  He was the father of us all!

The ability of scripture to fill this role depends on our spending time in both reflection and community. It depends on responsible interpretation and trusted leaders who are able to model historical and metaphorical readings of scripture.  Scripture is not the only choice (at least in the United States) we have for shared stories.  We can also look to our nation’s founding, the writing of the Constitution, and our accomplishments as a culture for common inspiration.

Last week, I was embroiled in the issue of immigration (see previous posts on this blog regarding sanctuary).  At one point in a staff meeting, I appealed to scripture.  “Isn’t the concept of sanctuary in the Hebrew Bible?” I asked.  A co-worker felt uneasy about appealing to the Bible.  After all, we’re a non-traditional, progressive church.  We don’t like people using scripture to prop up their views of women, LGBTQ rights, economics, etc.  And I agreed with her… to a point.  At the same time, I’m not willing to give up my Bible.  It’s my story, and we have this treasure of documents in common with all other Christians.  I see scripture as a sacred conversation.  Every time I open the Bible, I’m talking with my spiritual forebears.  I’m sussing out what they had to say about their relationships with God and with all of creation.  I’m not swallowing their part of the dialogue whole, without critical thought.  I’m part of the conversation.

SOMEONE ELSE’S:  We can’t stop there.  Being fully human and fully humane requires that we engage compassionately with other people’s stories.  We can listen empathetically to our friends’ and neighbors’ personal narratives.  We can become open-minded students of others’ sacred scriptures, rituals, and cultures.  We can seek to understand others instead of seeking first to win an argument.  Listening and observing without judgment – this is what I’m trying to learn.

Not coincidentally, this is also the goal of the sanctuary movement.  To put a human face on immigration.  To tell a story of a family that’s not unlike yours and mine.  To appeal to what’s best and most hopeful in the hearts and minds of everyday people.

So, today, tell your story to someone.  Listen to the journey tale of another person.  Let this be your prayer.

beautiful

img: google search

 

This is one essay I have struggled to write because, while I could see the beauty in others, I could not see it in myself. I was also unsure that I could do such an open word justice. However, I have come far in my journey since I began toying with this idea, several months ago.

 

To many of us, when we think of beauty, we think of flawless complexions, thin toned bodies, or those that are still toned but softly curved. We view extra weight with scrutiny and push ourselves to be supermodel thin.

 

For beauty, we equate perfection to beauty. To be beautiful, we have to look perfect and be perfect; perfectly smooth, strech mark free skin, eyes that are wide and youthful, and a bow shaped, pouting mouth. For many of us, that is perfection. That is beauty because, to us, perfection is beauty.

 

Recently, I have had Someone (and it’s capitalized so he knows who he is) show me otherwise. Perfection isn’t beauty- beauty is beauty. Beauty is what is within in- your heart, mind, and soul- not just what is without. And, while beauty can be what’s on the outside, the most important make up of beauty is internal.

 

This same Someone, upon being asked what his favorite features of mine are, responded, “You mean other than your heart and mind?”

 

Beauty can be on the outside- a warm smile, a twinkle of laughter in the eyes, the soft, wrinkled cheek of a kindly grandmother, the long, slender fingers of a pianist dancing upon the ivory keys- but it should be searched for on the inside and recognized there.

 

You can wax poetic about walking in beauty or the curve of your lover’s breasts- but that isn’t the nature of beauty. The nature of beauty is, simply, a warm heart, a kind soul, and compassionate nature. This is the beauty that can be seen in the eyes and that doesn’t fade. This beauty deepens and becomes richer with age.

The Nature of Jesus

jordanmb08 —  June 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

sunflower

 

The last couple of years, I have been on a journey, learning about my faith and myself. I’ve realized two primary things:

  1. Faith is a never ending journey of seeking, learning, asking, and knocking.
  2. It’s okay to have doubts. Questioning is part of it and helps you grow and develop.

I’ve accepted these things and it has made my journey so much easier. I’m also thankful for all of the love, support, patience, and kindness from those who have helped me on this walk and who will continue to walk with me.

One thing that I have learned and explored deeply is the actual divinity and nature of Jesus Christ. I struggled with this for a long time, along with anger at the unfairness of my life- or the unfairness as I saw it, anyway.

But that is another story.

My Walk.

What my walk ended up showing me, though, was what I believe. I do believe Jesus was divine, and was the Son of God. I believe that we all have that divine spark inside of ourselves and that we are all the children of God. I came to find that dogma and tradition, while they can be lovely, should not be the ruling factors in our spiritual journey, but something to refer to and to help with understanding history and context. I don’t believe the Bible is the infallible word of God; that would be Jesus’s role.

What We Know.

We know the story of the Virgin birth, the teaching of the teachers at the synagogue, the beginning of the ministry, the death, and the Resurrection. People argue over whether or not this is stuff from other religions, or even real. It’s not focused on what the purpose of this could be.

Why would God need to become flesh to interact with us? Were we so bad and evil that it was necessary for us to be saved? Why did Jesus have to go through what He did? What is the purpose of this faith system?

The Purpose.

Fundamentalist Christians often preach that we are born sinful and that we must be saved, pointing back to Adam and Eve. This is not biblical, primarily because of,

“The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”

Ezekiel 18:20

 

“Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.”

Deuteronomy 24:16

The purpose of Jesus’s death and resurrection, whether it is allegorical, real or both, was because of the light needing to come back to the world, to the universe. We are interconnected with ourselves, the Earth, and the universe. Whatever we do affects everything else, just as the moon moving closer in its rotations affects the seas here, or solar flares from the sun affect our technology. While the sin in the garden is not visited upon us, it did open the door for more to come in.

Jesus as God.

Jesus presents to us the face of God, the nature of God. God, as a Spirit, as Creator, is solely energy- sexless, faceless, bodiless. but not voiceless and not without presence. God, as Creator, as Spirit, works on the atomic level that is invisible to the naked human eye. In the Old Testament, in a time when dominion was being fought for and religion was used for it, we are presented with a tribal, warrior God that wanted to convert everyone or kill them. Even breaking one law led to death, and there was no grace, no forgiveness. There was only death, fear, and war.

And then, in the New Testament, a new idea is presented, and a new movement begins. Jesus offers grace, compassion, kindness, and God in flesh. And Jesus even had to learn as we do; He could heal and had control over nature, but He acted through His relationship with God, but He still had to learn to walk, to talk, to get beyond prejudices, become enlightened, and grow. God experienced everything we do.

The Nature of Jesus

Jesus, whether metaphorical or real, has a unique nature.

The nature of God become flesh- love, compassion, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. Jesus came to enlighten, to save- but not save in the fundamentalist sense, but to save what the darkness began to destroy by bringing light into the world.

A Struggle and A Crisis

jordanmb08 —  June 27, 2014 — 1 Comment
prison cell

A prison cell in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland. flickr: decade_null

 

** NOTE ** 

At the time this was written, I was in a very dark place. I am no longer there, and this was more of a venting piece, as it were. I hope that it reaches someone though and maybe helps them through their dark time.

This piece captures the pain that it does take to heal and move forward in your life when something traumatic happens. The worst pain isn’t the actual act itself, but the pain of the healing. Don’t give up, peeps!! It will get better.

 

Jordan

**And, now, on to the post itself…**

 

Recently, I’ve been going through a struggle and a crisis. There are things in my past that I am having a battle with that has come back to the surface of late and it’s hard for me to work through this.

My past.

As I’ve written previously, in my first ever guest post on here, “Mother’s Day,” I have a little girl. At the time that I wrote that, my daughter was soon to turn 12. She is now soon to turn 13 this year, and I will not be there for that because I gave her up for adoption.

She was born of rape, of violence, and it was not her fault.

But I acknowledge that and I readily acknowledge that I am a mother.

However, what I don’t acknowledge or, that often, anyway, is the fact that I was raped and beaten daily.

The point of this is admitting that I am a survivor and was a victim. But when I was a child, after it was all said and done, I kept myself busy and didn’t deal with it, didn’t think about it, and no one even talked about it. I was also told that I didn’t need to even talk to my counselor about it because I would then be sent away and considered “crazy”. So, I buried it down deeply, and removed it from my thoughts. I trained myself to not think about it and to not even think about Madison.

When I did, I would cut my skin- the blood dripping from my body would feel cleansing. The pain would make me relax and erase the thoughts. Then, just bandage the wound and hide it from others.

And now my present- and the struggle.

In my present, after I had buried this deeply within me, it came flooding back: The anger at the injustice, at the treatment that I endured, at the hand I was dealt through others’ choices- never felt, never understood- it was all never acknowledged.

The grief that I never acknowledged was finally coming out to the forefront as well. I never grieved over the loss of Madison and not even over what happened. I never dealt with it. I just shoved it down.

Now, due to some things happening in the present, the Pandora’s jar has been shattered. It has been smashed and I am now curled up in a ball, unsure of where to begin with dealing with all of these feelings and these thoughts. I’m unsure of where to put them or how to process them.

I’m going through a lot of struggles right now, and I feel like I am even losing myself- who I am and what makes me as I am. I feel like I am shattering and falling apart. I feel like I am losing a crucial part of myself..

And that part is my faith.

The Crisis.

I am having a huge crisis of faith.

The reason for this is not my education, it’s not the research into other religions-

it’s the whole of why?

In the Christian tradition (as I was raised), we were taught that children are under grace and that they get special protection. We’re taught that they are shown love and grace.

With that being said, I wonder in the back of my mind..

Why wasn’t I protected? Why didn’t God stop it? Why didn’t God save me from that and from the medical problems and the subsequent depression, anxiety, and night terrors? Why haven’t I been healed?

And why do others go through this and far worse, that are children…?

In my previous post, I made a case for my church offering sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant and his family.  The moral case is the easy part.  Marco is my neighbor. I am instructed to bind his wounds and care for him, offering hospitality and generosity.  You see, Jesus doesn’t tell us the backstory of the traveler who was helped by the Samaritan.  It’s not relevant to his point.

no human is illegal

But there are more complicated nuances to this whole thing.  Consequently, this will be a less exciting and emotional post than the previous.  Sorry.

First, Marco is the poster child for immigration reform.  He’s young and handsome, with a beautiful wife and 3 charming sons.  He has a stellar work history, a valued construction worker in Phoenix (so much so that his employer is holding his job during the sanctuary process).  He at one time had legal status, a work visa that has expired.  He has no criminal record.  He’s come into contact with the worst parts of our failed immigration system:  an inept attorney and an ICE office worker who told him not to bother applying to renew his work visa.

I don’t mean to imply that Marco is unique in these ways.  Surely there are thousands of Marcos – hardworking family people who are here to provide for their children.  But what about people who aren’t as stellar?  What do we do?  What is our duty to these?

Shadow Rock is working closely with No More Deaths regarding our offer of sanctuary for Marco.  NMD workers (and others who are active in the New Sanctuary Movement) pick sanctuary cases carefully.  The idea is to form a different image in the minds of voters, leaders, and politicians:  a law-abiding parent rather than the images that usually populate our minds (and the media) when we talk about immigration:  criminals, drug dealers, coyotes, smugglers.  This image-changing or conversation-shifting is important work, but for me, it muddies the church’s moral response.  While I argued in the previous post that offering sanctuary is not a political statement, it will certainly be used by others to make a political statement.  Additionally, sanctuary works because law enforcement is reluctant to form a negative image, to be seen as disrespectful to houses of worship:  armed officers entering a church to take someone into custody.  It’s a war of icons, a battle of pictures.

new sanctuary banner

The church role then is both fully prophetic and simply welcoming. I fully support our offer of sanctuary, but it seems like a tiny step.  May it be a tiny step that empowers more steps – for us and for others!

Second, I feel the need to answer a couple of questions that have come up so far in our journey.

  1. Does a church have legal standing to offer sanctuary?  No, but there is a common law and biblical precedent.
  2. Is harboring an undocumented person a crime?  Yes, it is.  Offering sanctuary differs from harboring in an important way.  A church offering sanctuary is not hiding anyone.  On the contrary, a church declares openly that they have offered sanctuary.  There’s nothing secretive about the process; sanctuary is celebrated, not hidden.
  3. Is Marco going to be at Shadow Rock 24/7? Yep.  His wife and children are not subject to a deportation order at this time, so they will be free to come and go.
  4. Is anyone going to be arrested?  Probably not.  :)  On the other hand, our Unitarian friends do advise congregations to envision the offer of sanctuary as an act of civil disobedience.
  5. Are we at Shadow Rock UCC the only church doing this?  No, but we are the first church in the Phoenix area to offer sanctuary.  Read here about Daniel’s case in Tucson and here about Southside Presbyterian’s experience.  I’ve also heard recently that a church in Denver is very close to entering this process as well.

If you pray, please hold our congregation and the Tulio family in prayer this week.

We will welcome the Tulio family this evening.  Here is the announcement from the No More Deaths Facebook page:

People of Faith Join in Solidarity to Welcome Marco Tulio into Sanctuary at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ

Wednesday June 25th
6 PM Sanctuary Service to Welcome Marco Tulio
Shadow Rock United Church of Christ
12861 N 8th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85029
For an evening that expresses our faith through accompaniment and welcome

Background: Marco Tulio, his wife Laura, and his children want to make sure their family stays together and that Marco Tulio does not become one of the over 1,000 people unnecessarily deported each day under the current
administration’s policies. Marco Tulio previously had a stay of removal from deportation, but upon applying for renewal, the Immigration Custom Enforcement refused to accept his application, even after numerous attempts.

Sanctuary: Shadow Rock United Church of Christ, with the leadership of Rev. Ken Heintzelman, has decided to invite Marco Tulio into Sanctuary at the Church until ICE ensures Marco can remain together with his family.

Peace to all.