99 Problems But Gettin’ A Gun Ain’t 1…or Fear and Idolatry Run Amok

Those of you who listen to rap know what the real line of the song is, and I thought about using the real line but knew that if I did the point of this post would get caught in the crossfire. Anyway…

If the news reports coming out of Colorado are correct (and I have no reason to believe that they are not), then it looks like Coloradans are running after their false god of guns in order to feel less afraid the next time they go out in public. No matter that this fear is irrational and will only breed more violence. Which in turn will breed more irrational fear. Which in turn will breed more violence.

Fear and idolatry are running amok right now. What gospel are we religious liberals preaching to counter them?

Here’s what we religious liberals need to be preaching…true security does not come from running after false gods. Following after false gods only leads to isolation, exile and fear. Following after false gods leads only to more violence.

Here’s what we religious liberals need to be preaching…

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

I shall fear…NO…evil

For thou [God, Love, Spirit of Life, whatever you choose to call it] art with me

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies

Thou anointest my head with oil

My cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord [Love, Spirit of Life, whatever you choose to call it] forever.

Here’s what we religious liberals need to be preaching…

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.

Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Here’s what we religious liberals need to be preaching…while we humans know that we are going to die, there is no reason to create a culture that celebrates thanatos/the violent expression of the death instinct. The drive towards death destroys everything in its way.

Here’s what we religious liberals need to be preaching…you might have 99 problems, but getting a gun will not solve 1 of them.

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Idolatry and Why Liberal Christianity Cannot Die (or What A Mass Shooting In Aurora Shows Us)

This is not the time to have a discussion about gun rights and gun control policy; that time will come in light of this tragedy, but it’s not right now.

So if this is not the time to talk about gun rights and gun control policy, what should we talk about? May I suggest that the tragedy that happened in Aurora shows us why idolatry is the real issue.

In order to have idolatry, one must have idols. What were the idols in this situation? There are four that I can see  at first analysis:

**Guns

**Individualism

**Militarism

**Celebrity

Let’s look at these one at a time.

Guns…can there really be a debate that this country, more than any other country, has such a fascination with guns that one would be hard pressed to not see that for many people the equation is not God+Guns but rather God=Guns (or more precisely God’s Power=Firepower)?

Individualism…if I really wanted to go there, there is an analysis that can be made that this shooting happened at the opening screening of a Batman movie. However, this country’s dark fascination with individualism (as opposed to individuality) goes back a long way. Look at Westerns, the genre that the U.S. gave the world. From the earliest ones that made it seem as if the only civilized people were white and wore white hats and Wyatt Erp or Shane or whomever John Wayne was portraying is saving the town to modern ones where the only civilized people are white and James Bond or Jason Bourne or whomever Harrison Ford is portraying is saving the town/world/civilization, this country promotes the lone/loner to the detriment of the communal.

Militarism…in what other country would access to standard-issue military or specialized police gear (i.e. full riot gear) be as easy as accessing the basic necessities of life? In what other country is it encouraged that the answer to fear of the other is alleviated by becoming as forceful/equipped as the country’s military? And that we offer training in the use of this equipment to hobbysts?

Celebrity…this country makes celebrities out of people who do horrendously unexplainable things. We spend days trying to figure out why they did it instead of focusing on the victims of their actions. Even more than that, the country remembers their names long after the victims are forgotten.

 

This is why Liberal Christianity cannot die. Liberal Christianity can preach that love conquers idolatry. Liberal Christianity can preach that where true love resides there can be no idols. Liberal Christianity can preach that idols and idolatry get in the way of love. Liberal Christianity can preach that idols fail, but love never does.

I pray that Liberal Christianity preaches this loudly.

 

Liberal Christianity Is Like BeBe’s Kids…It Doesn’t Die, It Multiplies

Back in the day, the late great comedian Robin Harris (may he rest in peace) had a routine about BeBe’s (pronounced Bay-Bay)kids. BeBe’s kids were/are the kids that everybody wants to avoid, but nobody can. Hence the slogan…”We BeBe’s kids; we don’t die, we multiply.”

So on Sunday, Ross Douthat–columnist for the New York Times–asks the question “Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?” At first I thought it was a silly question that deserved the most curt “Yes” that could be given. The response to the article though, has made me rethink.

Liberal/Progressive Christians seem to always be anxious; worried that somehow they are losing the battle about what Christianity is about/for. I think that has to stop; worry/worrying gets nobody nowhere.

Conservative/Non-Progressive Christians on the other hand, seem to be overconfident; entangling themselves with powers and principalities in ways that makes it hard to know when the state stops and when the church/religion begins.

This, my friends, is the problem; American Christians too often confuse liberal and conservative politics with liberal and conservative religion (conservatives do too, this post just happens to be about the liberal side of the coin). As long as Liberal Christians continue to allow the definition of liberal or conservative to be framed ONLY by how one comes out on a small set of social/political issues, the anxiousness will never change.

Here’s a little secret though. No matter how much today’s liberal Christians might bungle it, Liberal Christianity is like BeBe’s kids; it doesn’t die, it multiplies. But the only way to notice it is to look outside of your little sphere.

Liberal Christianity is more than just Borg, Spong, Erhman, Butler Bass and Brown Taylor. How many liberal Christians have read Monica Coleman’s “Making A Way Out Of No Way”? M. Shawn Copeland’s  “Enfleshing Freedom”? Rita Nakashima Brock’s “Journeys By Heart”? (which was written before she was writing books with Rebecca Parker) Or even Shane Claiborne’s “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals”?

Liberal Christianity is EVERYWHERE!! It just looks different from the WASP forms of the 1950s/1960s/1970s. Liberal Christianity is Rev. Don Robinson and his work at Beacon House in Southeast D.C. Liberal Christianity is Rev. Ron Robinson and his work in Turley-North Tulsa with A Third Place. Liberal Christianity is the modern monastic movement. Heck, Liberal Christianity is the old monastic movement.

Liberal Christianity is anyplace that preaches that love ALWAYS wins. Love conquers all.

Liberal Christianity is anyplace that preaches a gospel that increases the love, peace, joy, mercy, grace and beauty in the world and says that it is available to all.

Liberal Christianity doesn’t need to be saved. BeBe’s kids never need to be saved. They don’t die, they multiply.

 

 

Where Is The Love?…or What The Principles Miss

A lot of the post-GA talk has implicitly invoked the seven principles…primarily the first and second ones. Don’t get me wrong…justice, equity and compassion are good things. However, in the all of the talk about justice, equity and compassion there seems to be something missing.

The principles state…

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Yet there is no mention of promoting love. But the Apostle Paul tells us…

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

In all of UU-speak about standing on the side of love, do we actually have it? Do we really love people? Are we patient? Are we kind? Are we not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude? Do we not insist on our own way? Are we not irritable or resentful? Do we not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoice in the truth? Do we bear all things; believe all things; hope all things; endure all things? (we can debate what it means to believe and hope all things) Do we actually understand that the greatest of these is LOVE?

So…where is the love?