Archive for September, 2010

AOK Thursday: Judge’s Orders

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 by JEL

We’ve learned there’s nothing “random” about acts of kindness. They are intentional, chosen behaviors of goodwill toward others. This video takes the “not random” concept to the extreme: Judge Trudy White in Baton Rouge issues a court order to Aramis Jackson:

“The court is going to require that you do three random acts of kindness which you don’t have to come back to the court to report on. That’s between you and your maker.”

Watch the full story:

Who Knows the Most About Christianity?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 by JEL

If you guessed “Christians,” well, guess again. In a recent Pew survey, Americans didn’t fare so well on their knowledge of world religions.  Even worse, they scored poorly on knowledge of their OWN religion.

Atheists and agnostics did the best on the survey, followed by Jews and Mormons. Christians were at the back of the pack. In case anyone is looking to beef up their knowledge on what Christ taught in a really simple way, have we got a book for you!

Here’s some interesting commentary on the survey.

Don’t Forget the Animals

Friday, September 24th, 2010 by JEL

Laura Hobgood-Oster has a new book coming out on October 1 called “The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity’s Compassion for Animals.”  She is a professor of Religion and Environmental Studies (quite a combination!) at Southwestern University in Texas and makes a scripture-based argument that that “God created all living things to exist in relationship to humankind. We have a moral responsibility of kindness and concern to non-human beings. In turn, animals sustain our existence, both physically as food and emotionally as companions.  Turn a blind eye to their plight and we underwrite our own undoing.”

New puppyAs the owner of a new puppy, I am practicing (with great effort at times) the compassion needed to sustain a healthy companion relationship with a pet. But pets are (relatively) easy. What about the chickens with their beaks sawed off to avoid pecking each other in the packed confines of their cages, pigs with teeth removed to save the iron bars of their pens, calves prevented from having iron to keep their veal meat a more cosmetically pleasing white?

If I’m God and I created all these creatures, I sure wouldn’t be pleased with how we’re treating them.

No Yoga?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 by JEL

Wow, lots of Baptist news lately. Today, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in his blog that yoga is:

“at odds with Christian understanding. Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.”

Sounds to me like Mr. Mohler never took a yoga class. While I haven’t taken one myself in a couple of years, I did “religiously” for 8 years and still incorporate yoga poses in my stretching routines. What do I get out of it? A “looser” back, more flexible hips and hamstrings, relaxation, a clear mind, and a feeling that I’m about an inch taller. I’m not sure why any religion would have a problem with any of those things.

“Yoga is an exercise, health and wellness system. It’s so old that it belongs to humanity. It’s not based on a religion.” – Nicole Soteropoulos, yoga intructor in Louisville, KY

Amen to that.

Competing Christianities

Monday, September 20th, 2010 by JEL

David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, wrote a very compelling piece last week. The Terry Jones Koran-burning saga was the impetus, but he touches on a number of topics that hit home:

“I remember the first time it became crystal clear to me that there is no such thing as Christianity, but only competing Christianities. It was when I was working on my doctoral dissertation on Christians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. During that time I attended a most remarkable conference in New York on hidden children of the Holocaust. This gathering brought together the now-grown adults who had hidden from the Nazis to survive. Some of these children were saved by Christian families.

The most memorable speaker for me was a hidden child, and now a sociologist, named Nechama Tec. A Polish Jew, she survived the war hiding with Christians. She was asked after her address whether it was Christianity that motivated her rescuers. Her unforgettable response went like this: ‘It wasn’t just any kind of Christianity that would motivate a rescuer. Only a certain kind of Christianity would lead someone to risk their lives for us.’

A certain kind of Christianity — the phrase stayed with me. It is enormously helpful. From hard experience, young Nechama Tec learned the difference between versions of Christianity that teach hatred of the religious/ethnic other and versions that teach sacrificial and inclusive love. Her very survival depended on being able to tell the difference between these competing Christianities and the people who embodied them.”

Read the whole thing. His closing paragraph about competing versions of Islam seems right on to me.

The Top 11

Friday, September 17th, 2010 by JEL

The New Statesman published a list of the Top 11 most controversial figures in Christianity. If you’re like me, I recognized about 9 out of the 11. In ALL cases, however, clicking the link to see what acts earned them mention was incredibly educational. Give it a go:

  1. Martin Luther – The original protestant
  2. Henry VIII – The Tudor megalomaniac
  3. Pope Urban II – Eleventh century Dr. Death
  4. Guy Fawkes – Britain’s number one conspirator
  5. Joan of Arc – The bad-girl of French Catholicism
  6. Thomas Cranmer – The craftsmen of royal supremacy
  7. Pope Urban VIII – Inquisitor extraordinaire
  8. Thomas More – Enemy of the State
  9. Pope Pius XII – Hitler’s Pope
  10. Pope Pius IX – The Anti-semite
  11. Jerry FalwellThe televangelist

AOK Thursday: Where Kindness and Justice Meet

Thursday, September 16th, 2010 by JEL

Earlier this week Ft. Worth’s Broadway Baptist Church announced it was cutting ties with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Ties that ran long and deep, since 1886. The issue was one of the convention’s articles that denies membership to churches that “act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.”

Broadway’s Pastor, Brent Beasley, wrote a letter to BGCT saying that his church is committed to:

“welcoming all persons into our church, including the outcast, those on the margins of society, and those who have not found that welcome in many other places, including, unfortunately, many churches.” [As a result, Broadway Baptist Church has] “become a vital and diverse community of faith, coming from many different backgrounds and representing many different perspectives, but united in the love and grace of Jesus Christ.”

So how is this “radical,” very Christian stance working out?

“These are good days at Broadway. Our finances are strong — our giving is ahead of expenses and well ahead of last year; the spirit of the congregation is positive and healthy; our worship attendance is on the rise; new families and individuals are finding their place at Broadway.  We continue to serve those in need in a multitude of ways.  We are focused on our mission in the present and beginning to look to the future, which is exciting.”

AOK Thursday: Kindness Research

Thursday, September 9th, 2010 by JEL

The Dalai Lama created a minor splash in the news yesterday when he announce he is donating $50,000 from his personal trust to help fund kindness research at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Center will use the funds to continue its exploration “into how healthy qualities of mind such as kindness, empathy and compassion develop and might be nurtured.”

Pretty interesting. If you take a look around you, I’m sure you’ll agree that not everyone is kind. Or at least that some people are kinder than others. Maybe it’s genes, maybe it’s upbringing. But maybe, kindness can be taught.

“In Christ There Is No East or West”

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 by JEL

Music is a wonderful thing. It can uplift you, transport you, alter your mood, and express ideas and emotions far better than words alone.

Peter and I are both huge music fans and have loved Wilco since the beginning (including half the band’s precursor, Uncle Tupelo). Jeff Tweedy of Wilco recently produced an album for the legendary gospel and R&B singer Mavis Staples called You Are Not Alone. You can stream the whole thing here.

One song in particular I find particularly powerful. It captures the many things I’ve been trying to say in this blog. And the many things Jesus teaches in the gospels. Give it a listen–it’s not an assignment; it’s a little present to boost your day.

WWJD? Not This

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by JEL

Perhaps you’ve been following the story of a small church in Florida that plans on holding a “Burn a Koran” event this Saturday to protest the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In case you missed it, you can view a recap of the story here.

In a nutshell, despite pleadings from the State Department and the top US General in the Middle East, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center plans to go ahead with his event. Here’s what General Petraeus had to say about it:

“Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”

An interfaith group of evangelical, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim leaders also condemn the plan:

“This is not the America that we all have grown to love and care about. We have to stand up for our Muslim brothers and sisters and say, “This is not OK.’” – Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Pastor Jones has not been granted a fire permit, but remains undeterred. His lawyers say the First Amendment gives him the right to burn copies of the Koran.