The Real Jesus?

Some reasons I always considered Jesus a good model for good Chaplains. . .

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As I asked on my Christmas Baby blog. . .

Why does it take a Comedian to tell the truth like this?  Why doesn’t the Church teach this?  Why didn’t we learn this in seminary?  Why indeed!

What happened to the “Real” Jesus?

 

Praying for the End of Prayer

“Pray for her.”

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What a tragic event.  Yet another school shooting and another in Colorado.  Epidemic.  Although we KNOW it isn’t the gun’s fault and certainly has NOTHING to do with MORE and MORE GUNS!

Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to write about THIS time.

Everyone is asking us to Pray For the young innocent girl who was shot by this violently sick individual.  “Please pray for her.”  We hear it over and over.  “We’re praying for her, her family, the school, the town, the nation, the universe. . .”  Hmm.  I wonder what millions of praying people are praying?

Here’s the thing.  I stopped praying a number of years ago, even while still a Minister (gasp!).  And this current trend to ask everyone to Pray For another person in need is precisely why I ended 40-some years of prayer (yet, honestly, I also quit because there wasn’t anyone listening!).

What is the Purpose of Prayer?  What are the options, the outcomes of praying?

1)  God heals the person.  Hooray, a Miracle!

2)  God does not heal the person.  Sadly, it’s God’s Will.

Either way of course, God wins.  No matter which way this goes, prayer works, right?  

Well, except. . .it doesn’t.

Here’s the thing, again:  Does the God of the Universe need, really require, millions of people pleading, begging for help and healing, in order to act with love and kindness and compassion?  What kind of God is that?  If you say God doesn’t “need” the prayers, then I guess WE need them, right?  But why?  What’s the purpose?  To SHOW how much faith you have?  Wait, why do you need to prove that?  To God?  To the rest of us?  I don’t quite understand.

If you simply want to show that you are “thinking” of the person, fine.  I am too.  But “saying a prayer” for them serves no real purpose that I can see, except to prove something or assure yourself that you have faith.  Seems very circular, doesn’t it?

I used to pray for others all the time.  I was actually pretty good at it!  People told me so.  I really had God’s ear.  Not that many “miracles” happened, but people felt much better after I spent time with them, listening to them and saying some words to God for them.  Ahhhhhhh.  That was the point, maybe?  Time spent.  Listening.  Speaking up for them.  Ahhhhhhh.  Yes, that WAS the point.

So, what if we drop the praying and just DO those things?  Just be WITH people suffering or troubled?  What might happen if we didn’t spend so much time “In Prayer” and spent more time “In Presence with Others”?  I wonder.

(this is related to my longtime question:  what if billions of people spent the time they devote to “worship” and “prayer” and reading their “holy books” to feeding hungry people, building housing or hospitals, ending gun violence. . .you know, practical and truly helpful things?)

I digress. . .or maybe not.

As I have said many times before:  I pray for the end of prayer (I love irony, don’t you?).  Won’t you close your eyes and bow your head open your eyes, raise your head up and join me?

Note:  The young girl died.  Very sad.  And very sad that all our memorials and prayers and talk of God’s love and power distract us from working together as diverse communities to Stop Violence, pass Responsible, sensible Laws and Teach our kids to Think and to handle their anger and illness in a healthier way!

Note 2:  Over the holidays I joined Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly who are working for meaningful gun laws:  Americans for Responsible Solutions.  Take a look.  Prayer will never stop the NRA and the Religion of God and Guns.

Secular Christmas

A Christmas Tradition
A Christmas Tradition

Reposted from Christmas Baby:

I was born on December 25th and I became a minister because of that day and the lowly-lord of long ago who shared the birthday. As a church leader I assisted in many a Christmas Eve candlelight service.  As a chaplain, I led many a seasonal celebration with women and men who didn’t feel much like celebrating as they sat in jails and stood on the streets (those outsiders who find “no room in the inn” holyday after holyday, in homes or churches. . .I always found that strange, don’t you?).  I used to love the candles, the greenery, the presents and truthfully, I still do.  But mostly, as a chaplain, I very much enjoyed what I came to call “the present of being present.”  Being with people who were outsiders, who felt lonely, depressed and outcast especially in a faith-saturated culture, was a present to me as well, and became, frankly, the most meaningful part of the holidays. . .MORE

Taking (and Giving) Shelter

Five years ago I was the Director of an Emergency Winter Shelter.  In a particularly frigid December I was asked to coordinate this effort after a local pastor opened the doors of his tiny storefront church to let in the freezing folks huddled on his doorstep.  I was impressed by this simple act of kindness:  people need shelter from the cold. . .open the doors.  For me, it was evidence of faith defined as “the right thing to do.”  My pastor friend said that, though he also said he was “trusting God” as a “follower of Jesus.”  I can admire that.  We worked side by side along with good-hearted people who were Jewish, Sufi, Pagan, Bahai, Unitarian, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Nothing in Particular.  Several non-profit agencies and the County got involved.  In other words, the emphasis was on “doing the right thing” rather than “believing the right thing.”  It was a great privilege (though exhausting) to be a part of the collaboration.

Most of the participating congregations (about 25 total), the Rabbis, Priests, Ministers and others didn’t know I was a Freethinker, a non-believer, and I think most wouldn’t have cared if they knew.  Many knew that I had been an Interfaith Chaplain on the streets and in the jails for many years.  They knew that I had been a Minister.  They knew me as “Chris.”  And, honestly, since the Winter Shelter wasn’t about me anyway, it made it easier to simply focus on the task at hand:  bringing people together to get to know other people and see if everyone could help each other, somehow, someway.  It was really wonderful to see that happen!

When we put aside our differences because we identify a need, for instance our neighbors needing shelter, we can lend a hand to others with a sense of ethical imperative–in a sense, it all becomes “secular”–very present and NOW.  Each participant may feel they are acting because of some “higher” cause or because they feel “called,” yet the boots on the ground approach reminds everyone that helping is the point, being a good, compassionate human being is the grounding.  Everyone becomes a shelter for each other.

We learned a great deal about sheltering.  We learned even more about the real people labeled and judged “Homeless.”  And we got some hints about our need for human community, our own need for sheltering, our own need for home.   

‘How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” (Pope Francis, quoted by President Barack Obama)

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Shelter Staff