Bigotry by any other color.

Bigotry is “a stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own” according to the Dictionary webpage.

Nothing is driving me up the wall more than seeing/hearing African Americans be bigoted about gay people getting married, and use the Bible to condone it. I don’t like seeing anybody do it, but it is especially vexing when it is from members of the African American community. Perhaps they forget that in the United States, in this very century, African Americans could not marry white people, and that the very same Bible was used to support that bigotry.

Once I was at a Japanese restaurant enjoying a hibachi dinner. There were 8 other people at the table, all strangers to me. There was a black man there who snapped his fingers at the Japanese waiter and called him “Boy”. He turned and said to me with a big smile “It feels good to call someone boy.” I was repulsed by how much he enjoyed that, and that he felt that it was something I would agree with. What is bad for one is bad for all. If it is not OK to call a black man “Boy” it is not OK to call anybody that.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is not anything Jesus ever said. It is the exact opposite of Jesus’ message. I am pro-gay rights BECAUSE I follow Jesus. Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality. He said a lot about not judging others. Saying other’s people ways of life and living is sinful is judging them. It is bigotry.

What was the sin of Sodom? The prophet Ezekiel has the answer.

Ezekiel 16:49
49 Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy.

Their sin was that they didn’t support the poor and needy. They had plenty and didn’t share it. This is why God destroyed them. Not because they wanted to have sex with the angels.

Jesus tells us how we are to serve others in these verses from Matthew.

Matthew 25:31-40
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger
and you took Me in;
36 I was naked
and you clothed Me;
I was sick
and you took care of Me;
I was in prison
and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’ 40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Jesus is referring to the words of the prophet Isaiah when he tells this parable. Here is the original – please pay special attention to verses 6-7.

Isaiah 58:5-12
5 Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer;
when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of the yoke among you,
the finger-pointing and malicious speaking,
10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry,
and satisfy the afflicted one,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.
11 The LORD will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose waters never run dry.
12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live.

Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Take care of sick people. Visit those in prison. Fight against injustice. House the homeless.

These are the jobs of Christians. Nothing else. To serve God by serving our neighbors.

Mother Teresa took care of everyone who came to her, regardless of their beliefs. They could be suffering from leprosy, malnourished from starvation, abandoned by their families because they were too poor to afford another child, or dying of AIDS, it made no difference to her. She said that she saw every single person in front of her as being Jesus himself, and served them accordingly.

It didn’t matter that they weren’t Christian. She was.

What are we to do as followers of Jesus? Start with the primary commandments –

Luke 10:25-28
25 Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. 28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”

Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Love. Don’t judge. Don’t call them sinners. Jesus never called anybody a sinner. Don’t “love the sinner but hate the sin” – because that is not a Jesus concept at all. He never said anything like that. He said to love people.

The story gets more interesting though. The person who is asking Jesus continues, because he wants to “justify” himself – in short, he wants to justify being less than neighborly to people he doesn’t like.

Let us read the rest of that section to find out the answer – who is your neighbor?

Luke 10:29-37
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day[l] he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

This story is significant because of the players. The man who was robbed and left for dead was Jewish. The two people who ignored him were upper-class Jews – a priest and a Levite. They were responsible for the maintenance of the Temple and the sacrifices there. The man who helped him was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans were enemies of the first class. They’d had a feud going on for generations by this point. There was no way that a Samaritan would have helped a Jew, or vice versa. But this man helped someone who his culture said he should hate. He helped him because it was the right thing to do.

How are we to draw people to the love of Jesus if we are calling them sinners? How are we to serve people like Jesus did if we are separating and excluding them? Jesus embraced lepers and made them whole by doing so. Jesus included the excluded. Jesus made us all equal.

I’m not saying for you to become gay. Straight people can’t turn gay any more than gay people can turn straight. But what I am saying is stop denying others their civil rights. Stop turning them away from your churches. Start showing love by being kind. We have enough hate in the world. Let us not join them.

Let them know we are Christians by our love.

(All Bible verses are HCSB)

Be wary of a self-centered faith.

I’m wary and weary of the new trends in spirituality that I’m seeing. I’m concerned and saddened that the current trend seems to be self-centered. Yes – you are important. Yes, you need to have a good sense of yourself. Yes – you are valued and loved by your Creator.

But so is everybody else. Every other person on this Earth was created by the same Creator. Every other person on this Earth deserves love and honor. I’m concerned that this current trend of self-centered spirituality will result in self-service only. It is fine if it is a start. It is fine if it is a seed that then grows into love and service of others.

I find that the “name it and claim it” trend is part of this. Wishful thinking. Magical thinking. Whether it is cloaked as New Age or spun into Christianity by Joel Osteen, it still feels like object-worship. It is materialism gussied up into religion. Don’t have time to be spiritual? Don’t think it is for you? But you want stuff – right? Well, here’s a religion for you! This way you can want stuff and feel good about it.

But stuff only leads you away. Things, material possessions, are a quick fix. Get what you want by praying for it, wishing for it, and you have more stuff. But then I feel you will still be empty. And then you’ll need to pray for a bigger house to hold all your stuff.

I think our Creator made us to be bigger than that. We are not born alone. When we are born, we are born into a community. At a minimum our Mom is there. In some cases it seems like the entire family is there – Dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings – where there is barely room for nurses and a doctor (if necessary). Our religions have prayers for welcoming new children among us. Why should our lives be any different?

I remember telling a lady about how Jesus stripped things down for us, because the Ten Commandments were just too hard for us to figure out. Love God, and love your neighbor. Easy. Everything else falls from that – you can’t steal, covet, or murder if you are showing love. How simple is that? Yet we’ve twisted it. It is becoming solely “love yourself” – and that love isn’t spreading outward.

I believe that God created every single one of us exactly the way we are because that is exactly the way we are needed. Variety is good. Eccentricity is good. We all have different talents and gifts. A garden doesn’t look nearly as interesting if it has only roses blooming in it. Add some zinnias and hyacinth and phlox and we’ve got something really cool. The same is true with a symphony. The trumpet may be a really important instrument, but it needs a tuba to round out the bottom notes, and there needs to be a drum section to keep the pace.

I believe that the best way to know God is to seek Him in his creation – and for some, that is in the wilderness. Some find insight and growth by working with plants and animals. I find however, that the most challenge comes in seeking God in people. Mother Teresa said that it was her privilege to serve other people. She felt that each person she served was Jesus in disguise. That the leper’s wounds were Christ’s wounds. That the baby dying in her arms was Christ himself. I think this is a powerful meditation.

About three years ago I started trying this at the library. I’m not doing earth-changing things. I’m creating library cards. I’m solving problems. But I decided to try this. To try to see each person as if they are Jesus, as if they are God made flesh, in front of me. To my happiness, it resulted in profound experiences. Almost every person caught that vibe. They responded differently to me – more smiles, more open. Each transaction was easier. This doesn’t mean that everybody was happy. Sometimes you can’t make that happen in a five minute encounter. But the old, crotchety, smelly, snaggle-toothed characters that populate the library became my favorites. I now look forward to meeting with them and helping them. The weirder they are, the more I have to look for God hiding within them. The more I look – the more they see my interest in them. The more they soften up and reveal themselves to me. It is beautiful.

I invite you to look outside yourself.

I invite you to know that you are loved, and to then know that everyone else is loved in exactly that same way.

I invite you, that if you are a seeker of God – if you desire to know your Creator better, you can do no better than to serve your fellow humans. Each one is a facet into the beauty and mystery of the Eternal, the Divine, the Truth.

(I originally wrote this 4-11-12. Somehow it sat in my files, unpublished. I’ve decided to go backwards through them and see what I’ve missed. Sometimes I have so much I’ve written that it gets buried. Sometimes it gets recycled into other things)

Renegade – meditation on a scooter.

I saw a scooter parked at my work. The make was “Renegade”. My first thought was that the manufacturer was trying to make a scooter seem tough. A scooter isn’t like a motorcycle. Motorcycles are for renegades. But scooters? Not so much.

renegade

But then I thought again. It takes a bit of counter-cultural thinking to drive a scooter. It uses less gas. Some are electric. So you are as far away from the Hummer mentality as possible. You are being environmentally conscious in a society that prides itself on big cars and big debt.

You are also risking your life. You don’t have two tons of 14 gauge steel insulating you from the vagaries of drivers. Driving in Nashville is risky business. People don’t pay attention normally, even when they aren’t texting and updating their Facebook and eating their lunch. Zipping around on a scooter is pretty brave.

So perhaps it is a renegade act to drive a scooter. I still think scooters look funny. But perhaps that is my problem. I think “tough” should look a certain way. I forget that Mother Teresa was tough, and so was Gandhi. “Renegade” isn’t about looks but action.