Easter Reflection: For God so Loved. . .except when

God loves you

In my Evangelical days I gave out Christian booklets and bibles all the time.  The more I spread around—the more I knew God was happy with me.  God loved me so much.  God loved everyone. . .except. . .when they didn’t believe in Him the way I believed in Him.  God was So Hurt when someone didn’t believe.  In His deep grief, he spent one of His days of creation (or a late-night hour?) constructing a fiery prison to torture His unbelieving children for eternity.

My old self and my “brothers and sisters in Christ” would quickly correct me here:  “No!  You have it all wrong.  God loves everyone, even nonbelievers.  People CHOOSE to be punished when they turn away from His Love.  It really hurts God so much to see someone turn away from Him.  It’s their choice, and it’s very sad.”

As I’ve said for years, just imagine YOU were God.  You loved this little girl (see photo)–maybe your own daughter–and she didn’t love you back.  You felt sad, grieved, maybe angry sometimes.  Would you build a special torture chamber to burn her alive for eternity?  Of course not, I hope!

The Christian message, made graphically clear every “Holy Week,” is that “God so loved the world” that He sent His Son Jesus to die for you and me because of our terrible sin of not loving Him enough.  If you spend a few minutes and really think about the message, it’s not really very loving, is it?

Don’t you wish just once. . .just once. . .a minister or priest would stand before their congregation on Easter and tell the story this way?  Do you think people would walk away thinking this is “Good News”?

Have a Wonderful Spring.  Enjoy the Beauty of the World and the Goodness within yourself and others.  Maybe these ancient stories need to be left in the tombs out of which they emerged?  Then more people might feel free to really love.

Bird Season

On a short walk today, in this green season, my companions were ospreys, swans, egrets, ducks, red-wing blackbirds, hawks, turkey vultures and many more wing-things I can’t name.  The Beauty of the Secular Sanctuary is astoundingly delightful.


Heaven or Hope?

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Hopeful? (Highland photo)

I may have made a mistake today.  I took a walk with a gentle young man who used to live on the streets of this town.  He knew me back in my Street Chaplaincy years.  He has a small, cluttered apartment now, where he spends a lot of time alone.  Since I like him and he struggles with some health challenges, I usually try to encourage him.  We get together for a walk now and then.  Today we sat on a wobbly bench under a huge tree at a local university and talked about life.  At one point I told him about my teaching and about this blog.  He was puzzled when I said I consider myself a Nature or Secular Chaplain.  Here’s how the conversation unfolded:

“That doesn’t make sense.  A Chaplain is grounded in a historic world religion.”

“Yes, traditionally, but the word ‘Chaplain’ is now used by people of many faiths and no faiths–remember, I was an ‘Interfaith’ Chaplain, and now we have ‘Humanist’ Chaplains.  They have those at Stanford, Harvard, Rutgers and other schools now.”

“So you don’t have a religion, but you’re grounded in Humanism or Humanities?”

“Yes, kinda.  I’m more a Nature person.  Aren’t we all grounded in the natural world?”

“I suppose.  But ‘Chaplain’ means spiritual, doesn’t it?”

“Usually, but now it’s used in some new ways.  It’s really about caring, listening, being with people to help.”

He was skeptical, and I welcomed his questions.

“So you don’t believe there’s a God?”

“No, not anymore.  I don’t believe in the super-natural. . .something greater than Nature.”

“No other life; no heaven?”

“No.  I think this is it.  We are ‘compost,’ as Whitman put it.  And I think that’s wonderful and good enough.”

He was quiet for a moment.

I asked, “What do You believe?”

My friend looked up at the sun filtering through the trees.  He grew pensive.

“I don’t know.  Isn’t it kinda nice to think there’s a heaven?  I like to think there is. My life has been pretty shitty.  I haven’t really lived.”

This was the moment I wondered if I’d said too much.  I took a breath.

“That’s very honest.  I hear you.  I understand.  It’s good to have hope, and life can be pretty shitty sometimes.  There are millions who live that, and believing gives them hope.”

We decided to walk back into town and the conversation drifted away from those things.  I asked him to play one of his songs he wrote back when I first met him.  I was smiling and singing along.  It brought back some good memories, when I was his Chaplain.  I thanked him, encouraging him to write more music.  He smiled and hugged me.

As I left him and walked down the street, I had to ask myself some hard questions:

Are there times when it may be best to keep my disbeliefs to myself?

Was I taking my friend’s hope away, causing him to doubt the beliefs he holds to, beliefs that help him get through a difficult life?

Usually, I’m ok with stirring up some hard thinking about these issues, but when an “issue” or a question hurts another person in some way, maybe it’s best to hold it back and simply listen?

I’m not sure if I made a mistake.  Maybe you have a thought?

America: A Corporation, A Church or A Country?

While the world watches (or yawns), the Election Show is on every screen, every channel.  Clown Act, or Serious Business?  Unfortunately, a mixed up mix of it all.

I don’t venture much into Politics, but leadership matters.  In my opinion, many “leaders” are undeserving of the convenient label, but now and then someone appears who seems to take the title seriously, with a “humble sense of pride” and maybe some good old fashioned Common Sense.

Anyway, I’ll spare you the rest, for now.  Here’s what I woke up with this morning after so-called Super Tuesday.  Now, it’s just What’s Next Wednesday.

Seems some clear choices are before the American People.  The Divider-in Chief, the Diplomat-in-Chief or the Dictator-in-Chief:

Fairly easy to guess my choice. . .and it only makes it clearer when I consider that:  America has had 44 Presidents in its 240 year history and they have all been men.

We’ve had one of the smartest (mostly freethinking) presidents in our history for 8 years.  I found myself many times being very proud to be a citizen of the USA during Barack Obama’s terms.  He’s made mistakes and could have done more. . .but then again, a president cannot (and should not) lead alone.  I wonder how anyone else would do up against the whining Party of NO–the Piety Party?

Personally, I think it’s time for Her. . .the Diplomat-in-Chief.  Reasonable people are holding their breath.  We’ll need more than prayer and “God’s help” if the Preacher Politicians get the Power they crave (Theocracy here we come).

Is America a Corporation, a Church or a Country?  The choice has never been more graphic.  Please, vote.  And vote with Common Sense and Reason, the “Party” we most need now.

{btw, I think Sanders’ voice needs to be heard.  I think he has some good ideas and his economic views should be considered, but I just don’t see him working with others, and I don’t think he is the kind of diplomat we most need.  He will only drain votes from the only one who can send The Donald back to his Corporations and The Ted back to his Church}