Religion, Ignorance the Problem, not Faith!

I was watching CBS Sunday morning last week (one of my favorite TV programs) and this particular segment on organized religion caught my attention.

Sometimes, I’m amazed at how many times we don’t think things through as a nation, as a people.  As advanced and thirsty for knowledge as we can be in other areas such as technology and science, we seem to be willingly prehistoric, simple and horribly less evolved when it comes to the subject of faith and religion than any other.

This all tends to create a major cluster-fu#! of ideologies.

Take this shirt for instance. (pictured below) After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, pictures like these flooded
Facebook and other social media timelines.  Let’s break down the dialogue and see if it jives with anything more than an ideological and political smokescreen:

dear-god-you-are-not-allowed-on-t-shirts

Dear God, Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?

Signed a concerned Student

Dear Concerned Student: I’m not allowed in schools.

God

This sort of message comes from the perspective of some Christians.  It’s directly related to the Supreme Court’s Ruling in 1962 via the Establishment Clause of the Constitution that made it illegal for the government to endorse religious practices in public schools. Since that decision the cries have been frequently ongoing from the conservative right lamenting that this law is somehow an affront to God.

The two scenarios are as follows:

1) That this law literally takes God’s divine presence out of public schools.

2) That tragedies are God’s punishment to the law.

Let’s examine scenario #1: This is the message of the t-shirt.  When I grew up in church I was taught that God was omnipotent.  That God’s presence is everywhere in the earth and the universe for that matter.  I was taught that the presence of God dwells not in buildings, but in the hearts of man. (Acts 7:48, Ephesians 3:17)

When I was in school, I prayed all the time.  I prayed to pass a test that I studied hard for, (or didn’t).  I prayed at lunchtime before consuming some of the worst foods that could be served to children.  My faith in the Divine was always within me.  There was no law that could ever legislate that away.  And so it is today.  If one honestly believes God to be all powerful, then to say God could literally be limited in some way by government is ridiculous.  It’s impossible, illogical and totally antithetical to any form of sound teaching.  I mean either God is or is not who those who follow God say God is.  And if God is, then how in the hell can one keep God out of schools or any other place for that matter.

Banning public school endorsed religious expressions actually does more to protect students of faith.  Seeing that not all Christian sects share the same specifics, how are children who aren’t raised Christian supposed to function healthily in a hostile Christian environment.  Are Muslims or Hindu’s going to get to pray their way too without ridicule?  (Well all know the answer to that!) And what about those whose parents don’t subscribe to prayer at all?

How can one expect to learn math and English if there is constant fighting about Muhammad vs. Jesus?  Since we obviously can’t play fair and respect anyone else’s views, as far as the classroom goes I’d rather keep faith expressions where they belong, in the privacy of hearts, and minds.

dobson

The latest example of the 2nd scenario comes from James Dobson who said that the shooting was a result of God’s judgment or revenge against the nation for allowing gay marriage and abortion.

There are so many things wrong with this kind of rhetoric.  It bastardizes the hurt of the families in Connecticut.  Dobson is doing what others like Pat Robertson have done for decades.  Blaming high profile crimes and natural disasters on God’s so called hate of ‘fags’ and a nation that has turned it’s proverbial back on God.  Its ignorant and blasphemous!  These false “profits” (yes I spelled it correctly) are in effect blaming God for evil; for slaying adults and children as some sort of payback.  Dobson is making himself out as God’s henchman.  Like a gangster movie where the muscle comes to extort the local business owner.  “The boss says if you don’t pay him his cut, well, I hope you have fire insurance.”

This is part of the reason why there are so many of the so called nones in the nation today as illustrated in the CBS piece.  People have grown tired and irritated of religious zealots with these hair brained ideas about who and what God is.  To these idiots, God is a finger waging children slaying gladiator out to uphold all things politically conservative.  These same ‘profits of rage’ never speak of hunger, poverty, racism, classism, racial injustices, cheating and lying preachers as reasons for ‘god’s punishment.’

If their theologies were true of God’s punishment of America, there wouldn’t be a nation on earth that doesn’t proclaim to be a Christian one in existence today.  Their God would have already destroyed them.  That would include Israel in that they don’t believe Jesus is The Messiah.

mafia

Religion: The Enemy of Faith

These religious wars have always been around and will always be.  Unfortunately faith and relationship with The Divine has gotten a bad name.

I have faith in The Divine.  I believe that I am an extension of The Divine.  I believe I have been created, that I have a purpose in this life and what I do, and how I relate to others who were created by The Divine matters.

My mother is a great woman of faith.  She will swear that who and what I am now is a direct result of years of nightly prayers for me.  Who am I to argue with that?

I, and many people like myself are people of faith who don’t subscribe to the character of The Divine being defined for us by people whose ideology are so flawed that only their own arrogance keeps them from recognition.  I support a faith that loves all of man kind.  A faith that comforts the lonely, feeds the hungry and have compassion on the sick.  I support a faith that protects, nurtures and trains children to inherit the next generation and take it as far as they can.  I support a faith that loves justice and compassion equally; that explores the individual and the collective benefactors of the human and humanity.  And I’m good with that.

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To Hell With Politics, This is WAR!

Several months ago I thought to myself, “You know, I hope President Obama wins a second term and I believe if he does he can get more things done than even his first.  But if Mitt Romney becomes president, it won’t be the worst thing that could have happened.”

Sure he’s pretty slick, but he certainly didn’t appear to be an off the chain loony like some of the previous candidates, i.e. Rick ‘Niggerrock’ Perry, Rick ‘No Birth Control’ Santorum, Michelle “Blame Obama for Everything” Bachmann and Herman “999 White Honeys I Screwed” Cain.  Romney seemed like the reasonable choice among republicans.  Much of his policies and politics in Massachusetts were fairly moderate for a Republican.

Since becoming the Republican nominee, I’ve done 180 on Mitt.  I’ve always said I don’t mind having a president whose policies I may differ with as long as I believe he/she truly cares about the nation and wants to serve it’s citizens.  Yes, one has to be ambitious to want to be the president, but ambition as the sole motivation presents a clear and present danger to the citizens of whom this person seeks to govern.

Mitt Romney is very rich. I’m perfectly fine with that.  However, when one has such a monetarily prosperous upbringing, it can be difficult to be in touch with or understand the plight of those who aren’t so prosperous.  Even that in itself shouldn’t be punished.  What is problematic instead, is when that same person has no interest in being made aware this plight.  What is downright unacceptable and morally reprehensible is when this same person goes out of his way to judge, demean and attack said people.  This is what we have in Mitt Romney.

Every time Romney opens his mouth regarding the majority of Americans he says something that either shows his willful ignorance or complete disdain for those who are not like him.

To college students at Otterbein University in Ohio he told them that if they don’t have the money to start a business to, “borrow money from your parents.”

****Keep in mind that the median family income for the 89 counties in Ohio is less than $60,000 per year. 

When he showed up in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, (I have no idea why because he couldn’t do anything about it) he consoled Jodie Chiarello, 42, who lost her home in Isaac’s flooding by telling her, “There’s assistance out there,” go home and call 211.”

**Well, he must meant her SECOND or third home.  Well as it turns out she doesn’t have one of those.

Now in speaking at a private fundraiser he really let his true feelings known.

Exhibit A: On the disadvantages of being a rich White male in America:

“My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico. And had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this… But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there a number of years, and I mean I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.”

**Apparently he believes this so much he painted his face in such a dark brown so that he can look the part!.  It’s hard to imagine this rich white man actually wants us to believe that he think he would be better off if he were Latino.  How amazing is that?

Exhibit B: On people who are not the wealthiest and richest in America:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”

…”So my job is not to worry about those people, I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what he looks like.”

Juxtapose that to what President Obama said about those not voting for him in 2008, “What I said on election night was, even though you didn’t vote for me, I hear your voices, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be your president.”

Look, this guy doesn’t want to show us his own personal tax returns over the last decade because he’s afraid of what they will reveal.  He has a shitload of off shore accounts to hide his personal fortune, and not only criticizes 47% of Americans who cannot afford to hide what little money they have in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands, but admitted that he doesn’t cares about them anyway!

As far as I’m concerned, the dye has been cast!  This is a guy who after passing universal healthcare in the state he governed, that the emergency room is an acceptable plan for folk who don’t have insurance now.  This is clearly THE most expensive way to handle ‘healthcare’.  Not only that, this defeats the purpose of the emergency room…which is to treat emergencies!  It’s not healthcare!

So memo for a few groups out there.

Racist White Conservatives: You can continue to believe the hype and buy into this racial crap if you want to.  But if you aren’t making serious bank Mitt’s policies are not going to pay dividends for your family!  Would you rather have a money in your pocket with a black man as president, or be broke as a joke with a white one?  I know many of you would take the former, but I’m appealing to some of you who have better sense and will think about your finances and get over losing the Civil War!

Black Conservative Christians: I’ve already talked to you before.  The bible says to get wisdom, and with that get understanding.  Mitt isn’t going to overturn abortion. And he can’t outlaw homosexuality.  That horse it out of the barn!  You’re going to have to deal with gays and lesbians for the duration.  Regardless of what you believe personally or scripturally, you still have a responsibility to vote on more than social issues.  We are already making less than white folks as it is for the same jobs. Unemployment and incarceration hurt us more than anybody else.  Don’t be fools and end up more jobless and broker than ever, only to end up praying in church to God about delivering you from financial ruin!  So many of the challenges we face are not the devil, it’s you and us making decisions totally opposite of what is in our own best interest.

Pastors, if your congregation ain’t working, ain’t no tithes and offerings coming through the door!  Smarten up and lead the people with a purpose beyond what mainstream White Christians and White Christian radio is telling you!

To the rest of us, I say make sure you get out there and vote for Barack Obama.  Make sure your friends and family members are registered to vote and do the same!  Don’t take anything for granted.  Mitt, the hard right Republicans and The Tea Party are not playing with you.  You better take this seriously and understand the ramifications of the times we are living in.  This is indeed war on American and American families!  You best to soldier up unless you want to get run over!

Think about yourself and your families! Participate in the destinies of our lives so that we can have the best possible chances at thriving in our America too!

The Politics of Race, Religion, and the Person of Jesus

This is a serious question for my Evangelical Christian friends who are hoping that Mitt Romney is the next president of the United States. I am not being flippant at all but wanting to understand a question central to your faith in Jesus and the way you generally express that faith as it relates to local and national politics.

My question is how do you justify supporting Mitt Romney for president when he is a Mormon?

My personal experience in church, evangelical churches in particular focuses on the central personhood/divinity of Jesus Christ as not only the Son of God but being God Himself.

Matthew 16:13-18

13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

This has been the litmus test for a ‘legitimate Christian’. And truth be told regardless of the denomination, this central core of the identity of Jesus at the very least united the fold.

Romney_2012_04285Mitt Romney

This is slightly different than Catholics.  Even the hard right ones tend to vote for the political persuasion of candidates rather than looking for them to specifically be Catholics.  JFK is the one Catholic president we’ve had.  Therefore, being Catholic is not a deal breaker when voting for president.

Evangelicals don’t share that same standard.  For instance, George W Bush’s conversion to Christianity after alcoholism was a really big deal to White and Black Conservative Christians.  In addition to his alignment with the pro-life, anti-gay, anti-stem cell stances, he was an easy choice religiously; so much so that the rest of his politics were automatically supported.

The subject of Mormonism had come up earlier in the primaries.  Initially the Evangelical community were tremendously reticent on supporting Romney for this reason.  It was only after the likes of Perry and Santorum were dismissed that the litmus test was rescinded.  

In the Christianpost.com, a potential conflict played out between the views of mega preacher Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston and Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas differed.  Osteen who many would consider a less controversial and less confrontational preacher said he accepted Romney as a ‘believer’ in Christ.

Said Osteen, “What I see about Gov. Romney is that he says ‘I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He’s raised from the dead and he’s my savior.’ I see him as being a believer in Christ like me.”

Contrast this with Robert Jeffress, who said, “Rick Perry’s a Christian. (Former presidential candidate) He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Mitt Romney’s a good moral person, but he’s not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity, it has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.”

Jeffress-copy-264x200Robert Jeffress

This certainly fits with what I understood Christians to believe for many years now.  I was taught this about Mormons in my own church experience.  More specifically, the differences centered on several scriptural beliefs that including the one aforementioned regarding the person of Christ.  Here are more from an article also posted in Christianpost.com.

Other differences that Mormons don’t believe that are key to Christian doctrine are items such as the Trinity.  Mormons don’t believe in it. Nor do they believe in original sin of Adam, salvation through grace and faith in Jesus Christ, and among other things that the Book of Mormon is equal to the bible.  Further study of Mormonism would reveal a lot more than that Christians would find strange and rather off beat in comparison to their own beliefs.  I won’t get into those specifics here but I wanted to focus on core doctrinal differences in posing my original curiosity.

Ironically enough, since Romney became the Republican nominee Jeffress has now changed his tune saying that he endorsed Romney all along.  He goes on further to say that President Obama ‘opposes biblical principals.’

Lets just see now… Barack Obama, Christian man who has been married to one woman, father of two, the quintessential family guy, claims Jesus Christ as his savior,  church going and former community organizer opposes biblical principals.  This president even targets his policies and campaign partially on issues that Jesus Himself found important according to scripture, i.e. the poor, the downtrodden, the sick and so forth.  But the Mormon whose religion Christians have been calling a ‘cult’ for decades, who has not done anything to show forth the works and concerns of Jesus in the marketplace should now get the vote over Obama?  It doesn’t add up!

First Family 2President Obama & Family

Strangely enough, Jeffress believes Romney and other Mormons are going to hell.  He also says that he believes that President Obama is a Christian.  But yet he will vote for the man he believes is going to hell not the one he believes serves the same lord and savior he claims to serve himself.

Now in hoping that my friends on the right are willing to give me honest and sincere answers, let me first offer two answers that won’t cut it.

A) Obama is not pro-life.

I have yet to meet anyone who is pro-abortion.  The ability for a woman to choose whether to carry pregnancy to term has several complicated factors within it.  They range from poverty, rape, incest, life of the mother and so forth.  Church denominations have always differed in the level of importance they’ve held to this topic.  Most do not see this as a central theme of faith but a personal choice whose merits will ultimately be decided by God’s providence.  Even former Vice President Dan Quayle said that if his wife were raped and became pregnant she would have a DNC.  This is clearly a distinction without a difference.  The truth is that rich women have and always will be able to obtain the safest care in terminating a pregnancy regardless of the laws or what they claim to believe in public.  With all of these factors, surely one cannot with a straight face make a presidential choice based on an opinion that he has that is already the law of the land anyway.

B) Obama’s faith is not ‘like ours.’  Look at his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Christians cannot legitimately rail on Wright as an excuse to say bad things about Obama’s faith.  Not when they have their own pool of radical preachers who’ve said controversial things like Pat Robertson, who said of the US State Department in Washington DC, "Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up."  Then there’s Jerry Falwell who said, "AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh’s charioteers … AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."  I can only imagine what would happen if Wright had said something encouraging terrorism and violence against American citizens.

Obama  has had one wife and two children.  He’s never had any family scandal, and his wife and kids are a reflection of the American dream.  They show what one can do when starting with little and making the very best of what they have.  They were not born into wealth.  They are both highly accomplished people in large part because they worked their asses off and on top of that, they used those talents to help others not just themselves.  Till this day.  President Obama’s biggest income generators has been the books he’s written.  This is more of an example of Jesus than any other candidate that has run for president in several decades in the least.

So I am asking for real answers.  It seems to me even when it comes to Christianity, many Christians are willing to compromise when it comes to the politics of race.  I can only imagine if President Obama were claiming some other religion where there was a history of polygamy, an unwillingness to ordain white men in ministry as recently as less than 40 years ago, there is no doubt to me that this religious thing would be a much bigger issue than it is now among White and Black evangelical Christians.  He would be perceived as having an un-American womanizing anti-Christ belief system. Right leaning Christians would easily be comfortable rallying against him all the way through November on faith principals alone.  Instead, right wing Christians have totally given Mormonism a free pass, while turning their backs on the Christian already in the White House.  I’m merely curious as to how it is justified.

Things of Faith, Man and the Search for Universal Truth

My faith journey has come a long way.

From a theological perspective, I was raised in the Judaea Christian traditions within various denominations. Through the years I have been taught by the church, inspired, motivated, fooled, disillusioned, angry, resentful, ashamed of, and even restored.

Regardless of my personal experiences with dogma and the organization of religion my faith in the Supreme has never diminished. My belief system is simple and complicated, spiritual and natural, scientific and unexplained.

I could never subscribe to the atheist belief that there is no Supreme Being. To me atheistic thinking dismisses a serious explanation for the origin for life. In other words, I haven’t seen evidence of any life form without their first being life to reproduce itself after its kind. Even if creationism from a religious perspective is not a viable option, just a look at the sun, moon and the stars, all of the living creatures, the way the cycles of the earth rotates, lives, nurtures, replenishes and sustain itself with its inhabitants; I find it illogical that all of that which we behold and witness is without thought, planning and design. In this way I don’t judge the concept of atheism. What I can say is that I don’t get it.

galaxy-1

As much as I like Bill Mahr and admire his political satire, I think he sounds like a fool when he arrogantly dismisses any possibility of a higher power. His brain is so creative, that he can actually talk himself out of acknowledging his own lack of having anything to do with it. He depends on air he breathes to live, and yet it does not keep him alive. Think about it. Oxygen is all around those dying every day. At some point everyone will take in their last breath. And all the oxygen on the earth can’t give you another breath once that last one has been exhaled. With all the riches, wealth and resources in the world one cannot give him more life. Nor does anyone have the power to ask and receive it initially at the beginning of a natural life.

A study of the massive sophistication and depth of DNA alone should prompt one to believe that this world, this universe, even our humanity was intentional. This is why I believe the atheist argument comes up horribly short. There is just too much genius around us that we had nothing to do with to call it all random.

What Mahr and I share along with others who believe as he does however, is the disdain for those seeking to validate and promote ‘God’ only as they see Him in such a fashion that it boxes his breadth and scope down to moral, theological and geo-political bents. I too scoff at the limitations and lack of critical thinking skills people subject themselves to in order to follow a bunch of laws and standards written by mortal, flawed, and often agenda driven men. I can resonate with his frustration of people who refuse to observe and work through critical issues with a reality based point of view as opposed to choosing to hide head-in-sand and quote scripture so as to eliminate the need of such deeper or even more simplistic considerations.

I get it. But that doesn’t answer the questions of life, the potential and capabilities of the human mind and body, the spirit world, and the universe. The fact that in the wild a lion and a deer will drink from the same water brook and if the lion is not hungry, not only will he not so much as bother the deer, but that the deer instinctively knows it. Man, in all of his ingenuity, intellect, skill and passion have only learned and understood so much of it. He certainly hasn’t been able to define it.

My basic understanding of myself, my surroundings, my instincts, makes me curious, and awestruck on the subject of the Supreme Being. Though I have identified my beliefs through Christian lenses most of my life, I have studied various religions and beliefs among men. Lessons from Christianity as well as other faiths have helped me greatly. Still I’ve rejected many pieces of doctrines. Through it all here I stand; still seeking, still desiring, and still stretching to find the source of my own significance.

black-jesus

As of now I don’t really claim any specific religion. Though if you pushed me, I would still lean towards a very loose and selective portion of Christianity. Not for any special reason. This is simply the environment I was brought up in and therefore most familiar with. It’s second nature. I love gospel music and can often find myself blissfully swept away in its messages of worship, submission and hope. One of my mentors the late Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was a Christian man who lived the most dedicated and faithful life I have ever seen in a human. Yet I admire and respect the life of Malcolm X especially after he split from The Nation of Islam and went in a direction that he believed was more beneficial to his perspective of the way he saw his Creator. Am I to say that Shuttlesworth knew God because he called him Jesus or that Malcolm’s aligning himself with Allah did not? There is hardly no religious sect that does not have within it members who believe and have evidence that their prayers have been answered. There are unexplained ‘miracles’ happening everyday regardless of faith type. Thing begs to question, “Does the Supreme have an exclusive name?” Only religious people think so. Or is He so awesome and self-assured that He is not hung up on and limited by that kind of thing? – Man actually giving Him a name that will sum Him up. Even as I write this I only say ‘Him’ as a reference point. I don’t know that The Supreme has a gender.

This proves that the biggest hindrance to understanding The Supreme is defining the revelation of His presence and purpose solely through a religious bent.

I have learned to settle in and take what I believe one step at a time; one lesson at a time; one experience at a time. And with those I focus on that which I am comfortable with. Which are a basic set of principles that I live by. (At least try to live by most of the time.)

Faith

Faith is first just an acknowledgment and recognition of a centralized presence. I don’t believe He/She/It needs to be called Jesus or any other religious or secular name. I believe in this Power that is so brilliant beyond measure, beautiful, and peaceful. The Universe has been created in such a way that it would take perhaps a million lifetimes just to scratch the surface of what is really going on out there. Names are too limited to describe The Ultimate. That is about as far as I am willing to take it as of now.

Do I believe this Universal entity cares about what happens to me personally? Yes. This is because I don’t believe all of this is by chance. If I’m correct then there has to be a purpose. Anyone who is aware of his purpose cares about fulfilling that purpose. With that I am able to give thanks and blessings many times per day to The Supreme for all that I am blessed to behold.  Sometimes, I even submit a few prayer request along the way.

Personal Purpose/Destiny

This is a tough one. Because most people either believe that they have a specific purpose on earth that a higher power has in mind or they don’t. Others believe we make our own decisions no matter what. I fall in the middle of both world views. For example, none of us had anything to do with us being here. That includes when we were born, where we were born, or to what family. We couldn’t decide what color we were going to be, whether male or female, and so forth. There are so many things that were not in our original control.

And yet as the species on earth we call mankind, we have the ability to create, build, reproduce, expand, grow, and it goes on and on. Our decisions shape the direction of not only our lives, but those around us as well as those who come after us. Decisions made by only a few throughout history have led to generational worldwide rewards and consequences.

With this I believe that many, but not every aspect of my life has been fully intentional. I am thankful for my time, my space, and my opportunity to do whatever it is I am supposed to do. I am abundantly grateful for everyday believing that my universe is saying something to me and beckoning me to respond for my own benefit, and the benefit of others. I believe that if enough of us do that, we will experience even greater awakenings, recognition, and access to this Universe.

            Islam7

Morals

Morals are a very subjective from person to person. I believe that morals must come from within, not just what is taught within a society to preserve order; though order is necessary. Some people are comfortable with doing things and living by certain principals that others are not. My morals are a combination of what I have been taught as a youth, as well as what I have grown to understand as an adult. Since I am still growing, segments and pieces of my moral code are still being refined. What has remained consistent is to live by a standard in which my conscious remains clear of guilt and that my life is one of freedom and not bondage. I believe that many of the unhappy, unsatisfied and destructive people on earth are ones whom live against their own conscious. I can’t speak for those whom seem not to have a conscious at all. Still I have to live by my own. I desire that my life continues to project that which is less harmful but more liberating to me as well as my environment.

Who is The Supreme Being/God?

I absolutely don’t know the answer to that. I believe that God is spirit as I am though much greater. I don’t believe God is fixated by what we call he/she/it like most organized religions i.e. Christianity, (Jehovah, Christ) Islam (Allah) and so forth. I believe that mankind has had various reasons for wanting to segregate God into something they are comfortable with. Certainly having a book such as the bible for instance, makes following God or expressing faith more focused. For now I choose experiencing and receiving whatever it is I may learn and absorb whether it be from a religious context or not. My trust is that The Supreme knows how to get a message to me when it’s time. And that I will receive it as long as I stay open. I’m not afraid to fail at this. I embrace all of the possibilities and resources imaginable at this point.

Organized Religion

In spite of my critique, I am not down on organized religion as a whole. I believe that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Zen, and many others has served millions well over the centuries. Organized religious morality has influenced many peaceful societies as most of them promote treating one another in a loving and civilized way. Most promote growth and spirituality. Most promote submission to a higher authority and less self-seeking. Most emphasize sacrifice and giving towards something much bigger than the individual person who claims its faith.

Most have had their downfalls as well. So many wars, forms of oppression, and crimes against humanity result from religious beliefs and zeal. This is not only true of Christianity and Islam. Human sacrifices for instance took place long before Columbus set foot on the shores of the Americas. Nobody’s hands are clean. There has been and continues to be both good and bad.

            Tian Tan Buddha

Afterlife

Since I don’t believe that our lives are our bodies, I don’t believe that life ceases without the body. I believe our bodies are Earth suits. With them we move about upon the land or the sea. The earth is our bodily home. We live here for a time and season. It is here that we eat, sleep, love, share, learn etc… Perhaps our earthly time is training for something else that has nothing to do with our bodies. I just don’t know. And I don’t know that anyone really does.

I know many people whom I trust said a relative who have died or have been released from their natural bodies visited them in a spiritual form. Perhaps those who are ‘dead’, in body, help watch over us who remain. Perhaps there are differing dimensions that continue in cycles past our earthly lives. I don’t have a clue!

But I’m OK with that right now. For now I want to concern myself with the form of life I am experiencing now. And I will have to let the other work itself out. It’s definitely outside of my pay grade. If I can make this one count for something good, then I trust things will work out in the end… well, if there is one.

In Faith, Me

 

Catching Up With Charlie Bubba

**Parental Discretion Advised

Been a long time since I caught up with my old friend from the neighborhood.  For those not familiar, Charlie Bubba is an old timer from East St. Louis who was a friend of my father’s.   A street philosopher if you will, Bubba has a funny way of seeing politics, religion, and just life in general.  Normally I catch up to him say once a quarter.  But with my schedule it’s been quite a while since I’ve had the chance to get his opinions on the comings and goings of America and the world.

I saw Charlie at Lincoln Park over the weekend.  As usual he had his potions with him.   And I brought a little something myself.  He was glad to see me; and I him.  So after exchanging pleasantries, and toasting a sad goodbye to the two young children shot to death by their mother a few days ago, I pulled out my recorder to get the latest. 

Me:  CB.  What have you been vibing on lately?  What you wanna talk about?   Jobs, POTUS… 

CB: The president?  You mean Beohner’s Bitch?  Ha!  That’s what I call’em.  I swear I think he must have some compromising photos of Bama or something. Cause he is one compromising negro!  I mean got’damn.  He’s the POTUS!  How you gone let a mufucka tell YOU when to announce a fucking jobs bill?  Security?  Shit.  He’s the fuckin president.  You got secret service under the bed when he’s doing Michelle.  You control security.  You spose to be running the motherfucker!  You don’t let congress tell you what the fuck to do.  Now he put his self up against the NF fuckin L.  On opening fuckin night!  Dumb!  You think imma be lookin at his ass?  Imma tell you what I’m gonna do.  Imma be lit up at the spot with some Henney in one hand, and some ribs in another, seeing what kinda JOB the Packers gone do against Breese nem’.  Shit.  I’ll catch up in the morning.  He’s putting himself last so imma put him last. 

Me: I heard they may move the speech up a bit time wise.  But speaking of Michelle.  Do you think she speaks her mind or shares her opinion on these things?  What do you think she thinks?

 CB:  Imma tell you what she thinking.  She’s thinking do she want to keep the drapes she’s got in Chicago when she moves back in 2012.  She’s thinking about what school she wants to send her daughters to.  That’s what she’s thinking.

 Me:  So who’s going to challenge?

 CB: Shit I don’t know.  Anybody with a back bone for starters!  In this country nowadays.  It’s who ever talks the most shit no matter how ignorant.  I guess Mitt or that Ken Doll country preacher lookin dude. 

 Me: Rick Perry?

 CB: Yea that mother fucker.  He’s a scary son of a bitch too.  Just on the gay thing a while ago he was like New York can do its own thing.  States rights shit.  Then after the fact, signs the marriage act.  He don’t know whether he wants to be a preacher or a politician.  Hell I guess they both the same right?  And what the fuck he talkin about he would do the fed chairman in Texas?  After he supported him?  He ain’t shit.

 Me: What about Palin?  Is she getting in or not?

 CB: Palin… oh that bitch is fine ain’t she?  I’d tap that Alaskan ass.  (laughs hysterically)  But she ain’t givin it up is she?  She is the ultimate dick tease.  Ridin buses every other month talkin shit.  ‘Imma run… maybe… maybe not.  Imma suck ya dick, no I ain’t.  Imma let you get it…. SIKE!’  Attention whore!  She should thank McCain every day for putting her on the squad.  I’d like to see her and Bachmann in a debate though.  Bet Bachmann would bitch slap her silly ass.

 Me:  But Palin knows bows and arrows.

 CB: Touché mother fucker!  (laughing) The point is that irregardless, they should do a reality TV where all them fuckers are in the house like The Bachelor or something.  You know some Survivor type shit.  Let America vote.

 Me:  (laughing)  I feel you on that.  Then throw Gadhafi  in the mix too!

 CB: Oh hell yea!  Is he the emperor with no clothes or what?  Talkin about, “I’m in charge.  Ya’ll keep on fighting.  I know they ran me out the crib.  Took all my guns, swam in my pool and stole my goat skin silk sheets and shit.  But I will not be denied.”   That dude been in the palace too fucking long.  That’s probably how Castro would act.

 After a few more sips and laughs I asked Charlie Bubba what else had his ear in the news besides the obvious.  He thought for a second and then his eyes brightened. 

 CB: Oh yea!  White chicks gone missing.  I ain’t even going there on how they report when blonde women goes missing vs. Blacks or Mexicans.  Fuck that.  What I wonder is when they show all these news reports about who dunnit, why and all that shit.  They never have a mother fucker on there saying, “Hey stupid bitches – stop meeting mother fuckers on the computer box and leaving the country with them!  Niggas is crazy.  You might get killed! I mean what these gals think gonna happen to them?  In these days and times?  Got-damn where they get their decision makin skills from?  They give the sob stories, but never talk about the dumb ass decisions in the first place.  That’s what they need to be talkin about.  Do a whole special report on it!  Have Soladad or Coop do a special on it.  They can call it, “Dumb bitches meet a man in public a few times, meet his friends, parents and shit then leave for Aruba.”  How about that?

 Me:  That’s kinda hard Bubba.  But I get your point.

Soon after that it was time for me to go.  Charlie Bubba’s getting old and not looking as good these days.  Physically, life has taken its toll.  But his mind is still sharp and his opinions haven’t waned a bit.  I wished him well and told him to stay up.  His last words…

CB: Flyers got that ass spanked in Georgia last week.  (East St. Louis Football Team) (Coach) Sunkett is dumb.  He shakes hands with the other coaches when he wins but walks off the field when he loses.  What he may not realize is that if any school ask the conference for tapes, they get them.  Cause everybody hates him for embarrassing these White schools.  Period.  They got that whip though again though.  Hope the kids be eligible so the state won’t fuck them over again.  Imma check them out tonight.  Playin some school from Kansas.  We’ll see.  If it ain’t one thing it’s another.

ME: Later C-Bubba

CB: C-Mac my dude!

 

‘Why I Refuse To Join A Church (Part 2)

Go to church but they tease us, with a picture of a blue-eyed Jesus!  –  Ice Cube

Well, sort of.  I don’t take these lyrics from Ice Cube’s rant from his classical African-American community critique “Us” as an issue of merely color; but rather ideology.

I tried to make this point in the last church I belonged to.  Our services were tailored in a fashion that allowed us to ask questions or make comments during the sermon.  As you can imagine, that made for some memorable experiences, both for the good and not so good.  At the time George W. Bush was campaigning for a  second term in the White House.  There was a heavy religious fervor regarding that election too.  Both Catholic and Protestant organizations were galvanized similarly (if not more) than they were in 2000.

My comment during the service was that I found the election season offered at least two different Jesuses.  Immediately when I said it there were cat calls from the other members.  “Oh no, there is only ONE Jesus.”  I think they thought I was being literal.  And I found it hard to explain, as I was cut off continuously.  My point was that while most Christian churches share the same basic bible for scripture references, Jesus’ points of emphasis and agenda seemed to go down racial, class, social and political divides.

I recall visiting a prominent church in South St. Louis when the subject of the election came up.  The pastor of the church said, “I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.  But I will say that I’m not voting for someone who is for killing babies.”

I thought to myself, “Wow, I can understand Jesus being bent about abortion, but he’s not bent about torture or bombings of civilian communities?  What about all of the other injustices and crimes against humanity out there perpetrated by men for political or ideological reasons?  Is that ultimately what this election is about?”  I’ll get back to that.

Later I attended a different church for a men’s breakfast.  As usual when the subject of men come up at such an event it’s natural for the meaning of manhood and how it’s manifested in society to be brought up.  Some of the speakers made a point of making sure that homosexuality and manhood had nothing in common.  In doing so words and phrases to describe gays or being gay were slung around.  They consisted of standards such as ‘sweet’ ‘sissies’ and ‘punks’ to name a few.  Then there was the usual reference to Adam and Steve.

While all of these black macho evangelical males “amen’d” and approved of this name calling, I raised my hand and asked a question:

(Paraphrasing)

“I hear all of this name and cat calling regarding the homosexual community.  And while I respect the fact that your brand of faith entitles you the right to have your own opinion that homosexuality is a sin, do you honestly believe that Jesus would endorse the name calling that some of you are using such as ‘sissy,’ ‘punk’ or even ‘fags?’ “ 

At that point the pastor was silent.  To speak boldly like this against the precepts of leadership in a powerful black church is not something grinned upon.  But one of the elders jumped in quickly to the rescue.  With anger he burst from his seat and started spouting off scriptures in Leviticus and how homosexuality was a sin and that God didn’t like it and neither should any Christian.  He was practically foaming at the mouth from the front of the sanctuary as he looked towards my way in the back.

I reiterated:

“I’m not discussing the validity or non validation of homosexuality as a sin.  What I am asking… is that if there were homosexuals in this congregation, (and chances are there one or more among this group of men) if I were a homosexual who was struggling with my sexual identity vs. what I believe my faith allows, would your words as well as your spiritual disposition attract me to you as a source of help, or would I be repulsed, insulted or put off by your tone?  Would Jesus address a person who happens to be a homosexual with the names you choose along with your mocking tone?”  

DEAD SILENCE in the congregation.  I think some thought a fight was about to ensue.

The elder grew more angry, then shouted something else before the pastor got up and addressed my question… sort of.

“I understand what you are saying brother.  And perhaps you are right that we can do better with the name calling.  But let me be clear, homosexuality is a sin.  Now let’s move on.” 

This, among other things at that time, drew me to the conclusion that as far as the evangelical community was concerned, all God/Jesus really cared about were what I called the ‘Big 3’  Abortion, Homosexuality, and Stem Cell Research- all of which He was against.

That’s right.  Let it be known henceforth that these are the bullet points on Jesus’ hit list.  But was it really? 

The question of Jesus and the identification of his agenda have been going on thousands of years, right?  In the scriptures he seemed to identify it himself:

Matthew 16:13-15

13 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is?

   14 And they said, Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

   15 He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am?

   16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

In my estimation, this question is still the most divisive among Christian believers.  Who Jesus is- a direct result of what he endorses- stands for, evangelizes, and lives by.  As Christians (followers or Disciples of Christ) by very definition that agenda should translate into their own.  And this is where confusion and division has obviously settled in.

Let’s take it step by step.  While these are not absolute, I think we can agree that these are generally the focus, missions, and nature of Jesus, depending on the demographics and world view of the worshipper. 

During slavery a certain segment of the population believed that Jesus endorsed the enslavement of Africans which included selling, beating, raping and murdering people that Jesus/God created.  During this same period the slaves (often taught Christianity either from Catholics in Africa or Protestant enslaver in America) believed that Jesus would deliver them from their oppression. 

Similarly, during the Jim Crow and civil rights eras, The KKK (who defined themselves a Christian organization) believed as they do today that Jesus choose them to be superior, while other nationalities are inferior. Many churches, both black and white, believed that Jesus created, loves and values all men equally. 

These days we face many of the same challenges.  Some upwardly mobile church dogma believe that Jesus favors the wealthy while others believe Jesus is concerned for the poor.  

Let me give you a biblical example and how it may play out today:

John 6:5-14

5When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

   6And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

   7Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

   8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,

   9There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

   10And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

   11And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

   12When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.

  13Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

   14Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

 Newt Gingrich

If something like this were to happen, one side of the Christian agenda would report it this way:

Boy donates food, Jesus takes the little and performs a miracle to serve thousands.  The people rejoice.

Another Christian agenda would report it this way:

Unemployed multitude threaten to mug little righteous boy who has food.  Jesus the self-appointed welfare socialist takes the food away from the one who had in order to spread the wealth.  Claims of a miracle go unsubstantiated, but Newt Gingrich says that Jesus should face prosecution for robbery.  Sara Palin said Jesus is an illegal alien- “just look at his name”- (Pronounced Hey-Seuss) and bad for American values.  Finally, Rush Limbaugh called him “The Magic Hebrew.” 

Ok (chuckle) I’m having a little fun with this.  But you get my point.  This conversation has political ramifications, but in this context it’s not political at all. 

I have attended many of these churches during my lifetime so I speak with experience.

The evidence shows that our depiction of Jesus, given his world view, is something either given to us by others or something we decide upon ourselves- based on our own background- sociopolitical, socioeconomic and dogmatic vantage point.  Christians decide which Jesus to follow based on what they are comfortable with.  That’s right.  Believe it or not, Christians have pretty much picked their own Jesus to worship and follow based on their own accepted set of criteria.

For those living in inner cities, their Jesus cares about the poor; thought not exclusively.  For many living in upper class neighborhoods, Jesus wants you to have riches.   Many ministers I know believe and teach directly that the level that God shows his favor and blessings upon you, and the very proof of your own level of faith is a direct result of the believer’s financial status.

 Rev Ike

Some Christians promote charity and believe that government should help with social causes.  Other Christians are for cutting any and everything having to do with helping those less fortunate.  It’s happening in this country in a big way right now.  I’m not making a judgment one way or the other but more asking why is it that so-called liberal Christians believe one thing while conservative Christians believe something else entirely – while reading the same bible?

I’ve heard it said that it’s up to moderate Muslims to speak out against radical Muslims who are for violent and other unrighteous acts done in their name.  While I agree with that I rarely see Christians doing the same. 

When have you heard of moderate Christians speaking out against Pastor Steve Anderson and Rev. Wiley Drake  for praying that President Obama dies?  Have you ever been up late and night and seen those ministry programs where they offer to sell you God’s blessing for $500-$1000?

So why not just join a church that chooses a Jesus I am comfortable with?

On the one hand, that sounds kind of attractive, right?  But on the other, I’m not so sure about that.  My own personal evangelical bent lends me to believe that God, by virture of being the creator of the universe (which includes my very existence), has the authority to demand without question first and foremost that he be in charge.  If that is the case I certainly don’t need to align myself with a church that simply makes me comfortable.  Furthermore, I can’t fathom believing in a gospel that is not transferable to any and all communities in the world.   I can’t believe a message in College Park, Georgia that could not be preached in the slums of Calcutta, India just because the economic opportunities are not the same.

The bottom line in my view is that Jesus (as we know him) has been bastardized and transformed into a political football, tossed to and fro by whoever wields his name.  He’s been labeled like soup, and packaged for consumption like a Happy Meal or an Ipad too often for the purposes of manipulation, domination, or deceit.  That’s not to say all churches, ministers, or parishioners, liberal or conservative, are all bad or good.   But what is the difference in that or any other religious group that have segments that do good work?   The point for me is that following God as I want to know him is so profoundly vital to my own spiritual growth and well-being, dogmatic preferences and spiritual limitations cancel my mere desire to belong in such a  group.

Read Why I Refuse To Join A Church Part 1 here.



Why I Refuse To Join A Church (Part 1)

 First and foremost I must say that this series is not so much a rant, as it is a possible plea for help.  Help in understanding what a church environment is going to give me with all of its many contradictions and hypocrisies.  I say ‘possible’ because perhaps it’s best after all if I don’t join a specific church organization.  Perhaps my faith is best developed at home and practiced as an example in the marketplace where it actually matters.   The problem is that I am just not sure.  Most everyone I know and respect tells me I need to be somewhere where there is corporate worship and spiritual advisement.  And while I’m not optimistic I haven’t totally given up.  I am hoping that some of the issues that I am addressing will attract some feedback that may help me to either change my mind or at least give me something to reconsider.

While I won’t bore you with all of the bloody details, keep in mind that I was raised in the church and experienced several different denominations as a child, teen and adult.  At one point I was that guy who carried his bible everywhere he went and openly ministered to co-workers and friends.  I even preached in services and did some college campus ministry as well.  I wasn’t obnoxious or spoke where I wasn’t welcome, but I was very earnest in sharing the faith that I bought into so much.  Several factors led to my straying most of them having to do with what I felt was the lack of true leadership and the belief that they didn’t really believe what they were teaching.  Instead it seemed that the real intention all along of leadership was to have followers and control over their congregants.

With that I will begin with my first example of why I refuse to join a church.

Yesterday I watched an episode of Unsung.  For those of you unfamiliar it’s a show on TVONE that chronicles the lives and careers of musical recording artist.  This episode focused on the female group The Clark Sisters, one of the most dynamic and significant gospel groups of all time.  Though they never sang pop music, their gospel success reached a milestone where they were able to perform at the Grammy awards.  Raised and groomed by Mattie Moss Clark, a hardcore purist pioneering singer, writer, arranger and director of the music for the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the sisters wanted their mother to share in this national stage.

At their Grammy performance these sisters represented their faith and their denomination quite well.  They strolled down the isle dancing and swaying giving praise to God towards the audience that were full of the biggest and most successful performers of our time.  They dressed to the nines in classic COGIC dress attire, (long dresses that covered their legs with the classiest of designs befitting black church traditions) and sang with a joy unspeakable as if it were Sunday morning without shame proclaiming the name of Jesus.

Their performance received resounding applause.  And it helped add another nail in putting gospel music on the mainstream map.  Their hit “You Brought The Sunshine” was even played at New York’s famous Studio 54. In other words, people were dancing to a gospel song in one of the most infamous clubs in the nation.  The group was invited to sing on stage at Stuido 54.  That was a bit too much for Mattie at the time.  She wasn’t having that.  But it said something about the gospel message doing something revolutionary; reaching a mainstream audience without compromising it’s message.

The COGICs are a very strict and conservative denomination however.  The women are not allowed to wear pants to this day.  Still one would think the success of the record and the free worldwide exposure of some of the best the COGICs had to offer would be a good thing.  But it was not.  Upon returning to their local congregation after the Grammy performance, Mattie Moss Clark was called in to the elders meeting and chided for their on stage performance.  The Elders felt that the women performing at a secular event was sacrilege.  And since Clark held a high position within the COGIC hierarchy she had to vow never perform publicly with her daughters again.

(pictured l-r, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Elbertina ‘Twinkie’ Clark-Terrell, Jacky Clark Chisholm and Karen Clark Sheard )

Now I ask you what kinda shit is that?

First of all I thought the purpose of the gospel was to preach it all over the world.  If one is getting his drink and freak on at the club and a song speaking about the love of Jesus is played, isn’t that where you want the message to be exclaimed more than anything.  I believe it was Jesus who said that those who are well do not need a physician but those who are sick.  I know very well the COGICs feel that the clubber needs Jesus!

Second, the Clark Sisters have always been a very devout group and have represented the COGIC denomination well.   I saw Dorinda Clark-Cole preach myself in a small church in Illinois.  She came in looking like Miss America and by the time her sermon and singing was over with you would have through she ran a few country miles as she sweated her suit and hair doo out ceasing to care about her appearance while preaching the gospel and expressing her love for God.

I believe the issue was not the gospel at all for these Elders.  It was that the COGIC denomination like many others is a very conservative male dominated group.  They didn’t appreciate the shine these women were receiving and wanted to control it.  According to their own faith, it’s God who promotes and God who has the wherewith to get His Word across as He see fits.  God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son… or so they quote.  But in reality they don’t believe that as it relates to the Clark Sisters.  The church is a business, and far too many preachers are business men first.  One cannot rise in the Eldership of such denominations if he/she doesn’t buy into these same old school ways of thinking.  But here you have a group of pioneering and devout women arguably being used by God to present His message persecuted not by the world, but by their own church leaders for making a national impact that the preachers themselves could not make.

I’ve been around and heavily involved the COGIC denomination for many years and know the ins and outs very well.  I know some great people too involved within that particular faith that do outstanding work.  I could not on the other hand subject myself to the politics and limitations of faith this way.  If the organization itself is more important than the faith that it defends, then it’s going to be repressive more than progressive in my view.  This concept for me is a deal breaker.

This isn’t an indictment on COGICs either.  It’s merely an example of what I am talking about overall; the embracing of sexism and control over the very gospel that the organization was founded upon in the first place.