"Uh... Sorry about that guys..."

Well-timed given the current presidential race, and CNN's recent broadcasting schedule -- but unconscionably late in the scheme of American history and world affairs -- the House of Representatives finally passed a resolution, apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and Jim Crow laws. Maybe an apology from the White House? Don't worry, I'm sure there are no hard feelings...

WASHINGTON (CNN) -
The nonbinding resolution, which passed on a voice vote, was introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen, a white lawmaker who represents a majority black district in Memphis, Tennessee.

While many states have apologized for slavery, it is the first time a branch of the federal government has done so, an aide to Cohen said.

In passing the resolution, the House also acknowledged the "injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow."

...The resolution states that "the vestiges of Jim Crow continue to this day."

"African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow -- long after both systems were formally abolished -- through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty, the frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity," the resolution states.
The House also committed itself to stopping "the occurrence of human rights violations in the future."


The resolution does not address the controversial issue of reparations. Some members of the African-American community have called on lawmakers to give cash payments or other financial benefits to descendents of slaves as compensation for the suffering caused by slavery.


Click here to read more.

As I have said before, I fully support reparations for slavery. Not only because we, as white Americans, have much to repent of. It goes far beyond that. As the CNN article says, "African Americans continue to suffer..."

There is no statute of limitations on sins of our fathers, past down generation-to-generation. An emerging Christianity recognizes the nails pounded into palms and feet of the past. A postmodern Christianity humbly rejects the corrupton of absolute power over a person or a people. As long as the wounds go unmended, unhealed, we have an obligation as a nation to make reparation for a country and economy built on the back of forced free labor.

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Now You're Living the High Life...

1. I drove past a church today with a readerboard that read:

"Will you really vote for the ANTICHRIST?"

Really? Really? That's the kind of country we're living in? I guess it is. My wife's hairdresser is a punk rock dude with a mohawk - in his 30s, and married (to a woman). He went to the local "rodeo" at a nearby town and a big 20-year-old kid called him "faggot" again and again. He went to the security guards and asked them to do something, but they wouldn't unless there was an actual fight. It's the same underlying reality: fear-based intolerance and "righteous anger." At faggots. And a black candidate who inspires hope.

We know the goodness of a tree by its fruit.

2. I am drinking a big frothy can of Miller High Life: The Champagne of Beers. Man, does the taste bring back memories. I haven't had one of these since I lived in my dirty, stinky fraternity house at Linfield College - Pi Kappa Alpha. It tastes just like I remember: just like my wife describes in disgust: "a fruity, hoppy flavor with a sweet-vomit aftertaste."

Mmmm... now I'm livin' the High Life.

3. I spent last weekend at the Benedictine Sisters' Abbey in Mt. Angel on a personal prayer retreat. It's incredible what a few days of silence and solitude can do to a person - it can be quite terrifying. And beautiful. And absolutely vital.

Marriage is a beautiful thing, but it can make us forget what it's like to be alone. And when we forget aloneness, we can forget ourselves alone in the presence of God. And it looks different than when we're in the presence of God, in the presence of our spouse. It feels very different. So we have to have both - thankfully, I think, less of the alone than the together...

There you have it. Three important items of note. All three equally impactful.

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Obama's Prayer...

I've tried to avoid being overtly political on this blog. I prefer to post more openly political rants at www.essenceproject.blogspot.com. Here's an exception: (I've already admitted being a somewhat-guilty sellout to the emerging Religious Left, though I don't approve of myself for it...)

Someone pryed out the slip of paper that Barack Obama scribbled his personal prayer on, and inserted into the famous Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The prayer was handed to a newspaper.

Time Magazine writes:

Obama didn't pray for an election victory, a lottery win to help pay for his campaign, or for his Republican rival Senator John McCain to be felled by lightning or a pecadillo. On the contrary; his prayer hints at the struggle within, how Obama is seeking divine guidance to surmount the obstacles that lie ahead of him in his lonely, awesome challenge to become the next president of the United States.

On hotel stationary, he penned the following prayer, according to Maariv, which ran a photo of the note:

"Lord, protect my family and me," Obama wrote. "Forgive me my sins and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."



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Black in America...

The past is not passed...

I've been following a mini-series on CNN lately: Black In America.

I'm an awkward white dude with only a few friends of color throughout the years, mostly during college, so it's hard for me to know how some of these larger discussions impact individuals in local communities.

One of my wife's friends says the series is "offensive" because it plays on negative black stereotypes. She and her brother think it feeds into misperceptions and generalizations, rather than illuminating them.

So issues of race, repression and inequality are hard to talk about. People rightly get offended, and folks understandably have many, many different vantages from which to view the problems. There is no single "Black Perspective" because Black America is not a giant, homogenous culture (even if white, suburban America is).

Nevertheless, I'm reminded of a book I read several years ago entitled The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, by Randall Robin. Most striking for me, was the transformation of my personal beliefs, into full support of American reparations for slavery. I realize that even saying I support reparations may suggest a sort of arrogance - an elitist "sensitivity" to the "less fortunate" of society. I have a hunch (from seeing, firsthand) that many ultra-liberal, financially generous philanthropists enjoy their humanitarian efforts out of the inherent identification they are able to achieve: the opposite of them - the benefactor of the other.

So I contend for reparations in humility, in a sense of Christian justice and equity, and in personal responsibility - recognizing there is blood on my hands for what I have been given without merit, by virtue of race, upbringing, and luck-of-the-draw, alone.

My friend Adam says "white guilt" is the central reason most Americans want to vote for Obama - or vote as liberals at all. Whether that's true or not, (I don't believe so) it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. White America has blood on its hands, and we need to repent of an awful ot - and work to redeem amidst the mess we've made.

  • I'm convicted as CNN proclaims that 33% of black men will be incarcerated in their lifetimes.
  • I'm shocked to hear that black men, with no criminal histories, have the same chances of employment as white men who have served prison time.

No one can respectably argue that Black America would be the same today if slavery had not been the driving force of the early American economy. Today's African American community would not face the striking disparities it does if emancipated slaves had received, as they were promised, "40 acres and a mule." Can you imagine the impact of generations of black landowners - from 1865 to today - how that heritage would impact 21st Century USAmerican reality?

The Debt opened my eyes to this fact: the past is not passed.

We carry it with us. Sins of the father, passed down for generations. Past abuses haunting children, grandchildren, and so on...

Can't we do better than the de facto segregation that still persists in much of America today? I may not be articulating any of this in a progressive or sufficiently sensitive, nuanced way. But how does an emerging, postmodern, POST-COLONIAL Christianity better-approach race relations than modern Christianity, with it's striking racial divides, congregation-to-congregation?

We have to do better.

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What to do with Evil...

I watched The Dark Knight tonight and thought about the classic "problem of evil" as exemplified in the character of the Joker.

Yesterday I read an article on CNN.com about a woman who was imprisoned in Bosnia and raped and tortured by soldiers every day, for a year. She was one of many.

My new online friend Ian Stone of the Metaphysical Institute commented last week:

"You talk about evil, however there are only guided and misguided decisions, these are neither right or wrong."

I've enjoyed my brief online dialogues with Ian, and I can tell he has a truly caring, loving heart. But I don't know how to reconcile both the fantastical-fictional evil of comic books, echoed in the horrific, systemic and sadistic evil of reality, with an idea that evil is an illusion of some kind.

I do tend to believe that most sins that most humans struggle with are not evil as we commonly tend to characterize evil, but rather unhealthy. Much as Ian identifies as misguided.

But then there are those things which seem - to me - to be truly, plainly evil.

I am not a Genesis-literalist, but I believe that somehow God has allowed humanity to develop a genuine "knowledge of good and evil." The author of Job writes: "Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction." (36:21)

There is something dark that haunts our reality... something that seems plainly different from the fear, the selfishness, the pride, impatience and greed that corrupt us all to varying degrees. There is a sadism in the world that seems characteristically different. I wonder how an Emerging Theology will develop around the problem of evil.

Brian McLaren, in his latest Everything Must Change discusses "Suicide Machines" and systems of destruction. Rob Bell discusses the "Anti-Kingdom." There is a cynicism inherent in postmodernity that seems somehow yet lacking in Emergent language. That is, dealing with individual, personified evil.

Ian, if you have a chance to read this, I'm curious to learn more about how your beliefs reconcile with particular injustices in the world - as well as the development of what most would label evil men: Hitler, Stalin, Nero, Herod...

I've enjoyed reading from your website - thanks for the conversation, and the thought provoking ideas!

Blessings,
Peter

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3 Catholic Women to be Ordained...

At times I forget, in 21st Century USAmerica, that we are still so backward as to yet be fighting civil rights battles settled by our own culture decades ago (apart from some resistant, though vocal, enclaves scattered throughout).

But fight on, we must: I cannot speak for my Catholic sisters and brothers, but I am convinced and convicted that women must be given equal standing in the church - equal opportunity to serve and lead as the Holy Spirit ordains.

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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BOSTON -- Three Catholic women will be ordained as priests in a Back Bay neighborhood church this weekend, despite the Vatican's admonition that the trio will be excommunicated if they do so.

"Excommunication or not, I will still be a validly ordained priest and still will be able to serve the people of God," said Gabriella Velardi Ward, 61, a Staten Island architect and mother of two.

Also a grandmother of three, Ward said she has wanted to be a priest ever since she was five years old and once considered becoming a nun, but felt the priesthood was her true calling because she wants to be able to celebrate the sacraments.

She will be joined by Gloria Carpeneto, of Baltimore, and Judy Lee, of Florida. Mary Ann McCarthy Schoettly, of Newton, N.J., will be ordained as a deacon.

The Vatican, however, said the ordinations would be illegal and the Boston Archdiocese sent out an e-mail to all priests saying that women who try to receive sacred orders and priests who try to confer them are automatically separating themselves from the church.

The Catholic Church has always said women cannot be priests because Jesus did not have female Apostles.

The ordination ceremony will take place Sunday at the Church of the Covenant on Newbury Street, which is affiliated with two Protestant denominations, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ, the Boston Globe reported.

The church, which has a female pastor, offered to let the ordination take place there as a way of supporting and encouraging the women's group.

The trio will be ordained by Dana Reynolds, of California, a woman who was consecrated as a bishop in Germany in April.

They are all part of an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which has been holding ordination ceremonies for women since 2002; the organization says there are now 28 women Catholic priests in the United States, according to the Globe.

The group says its ordinations are valid because its first female priests were ordained by bishops who were in good standing with the Vatican. They won't reveal the names so those bishops can avoid sanctions.

The Boston ordinations will coincide with the first Boston conference of four organizations that are pushing for the admission of married men, as well as of women, to the priesthood.
Jean Marchant, who once worked for the Boston Archdiocese's healthcare ministry, has already been ordained and, together with her husband, serves a small Catholic congregation in Weston, Mass.

Copyright 2008 by TheBostonChannel.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Am I Too Jaded?

Sometimes I'm a real jerk. I preach and rant on the "evils of fundamentalism" and forget to check my own gauges...

hmmm... I'm due for a tune up.

My friend James North (Fuller Seminary shout out, yo) says you can be "ex-fundamentalist," but as soon as you become "anti-fundamentalist," that antagonistic posture pits you hopelessly back in a position of fundamentalism. You become what you hate. Two sides of the same coin.

So last Friday I was driving on Highway 22 where it pours out of the Cascade Mountains into the Willamette Valley. On the side of the road I see this white-haired middle aged man dragging a cross behind him. He was on a long stretch of the highway without any towns or buildings for miles.

Yes I'm a Christian, but here's my first thought: "Great. Another asshole, beligerently making a spectacle out of his Christian faith."

I feel embarrassed to admit how reactionary - how intolerant - I can be. Today I found an article in the local newspaper with a picture of the "Cross Walker," describe his journey: the man has literally walked from the east coast to the west coast, dragging that cross!

He's an ex-cocain addict, and the newspaper article links to his website (linked here). God has done a lot in this man's life, and for whatever reasons, he's chosen to proclaim his faith in a cross-contintent trek. On one hand, it may be a good example of modern evangelical spectacle. On the other hand, it's an interesting parallel to some of the spiritual pilgrimages, treks and trials many of our ancient Christian ancestors practiced.

Whatever the reasons for this journey, the most important message the Cross Walker offered me was a look inside myself - to find that I must be gentler, more loving, and more tolerant of brothers and sisters on a different spiritual path than my own. Name-calling and knee-jerking is the kind of rubbish I am praying the Lord will help weed out of this stubborn heart.


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Fasting...

I recently read The Holy Way by Roman Catholic writer Paula Huston. In it, she discusses many of the spiritual practices of the saints and how they can be related to our modern-day lives. One particular chapter on fasting stuck with me enough that I made a decision (some days a regrettable one!) to fast one day each week.

I first chose Fridays as my day to fast, but quickly found it very difficult to avoid eating on Friday nights when events or social gatherings so-often brought me into the midst of food... it was too painful. And after a long week of hectic work and school, Friday nights offer my wife and I an opportunity for escape to a restaurant to unwind.

I find that if I have to explain my fasting to others, it becomes something of external focus - attention I want to avoid.

I've switched to Tuesdays, and so far it's been good. I think today is week four, and I hope to continue. It's amazing what a strong hold food can have over us - well-fed (over-fed) Americans with no danger of going hungry. By the end of the day, it begins consuming my attention and I have to continually pray that my day might be pleasing to the Lord, and that this small sacrifice of comfort would help my mind and spirit sharpen to the presence of God.

And I do find a sense of "sharpening" in the evenings of a fast - despite the stomach's attempts to grab my attention. It's almost a "buzz," whirring behind my ears. There's something to this fasting thing, though I can't quite put my finger on it...

Damn I could go for a greasy burger right now.

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Divine Energy Pt.3

Christine wrote...

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In the book I'm reading, Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas, it says:

"The notion of the Holy Spirit as a divine principle of revolutionary spiritual power, immanent in the human community and moving it toward deification, [was] diminished in Christian belief in favor of a notion of the Holy Spirit as solely invested in the authority and activities of the institutional Church."

I guess the early Church saw this "revolutionary spiritual power" as a threat to its mediating role as the provider of human redemption from sin?

What I was saying in my email... is that I think there is a universal energy (call it Tao, God or whatever) that can unite with a human being. Tarnas says: "Through a continuing influx of the [Holy] Spirit, a progressive incarnation of God into humanity was being effected ...although a human being's mortal reasonings were valueless ...with the inspiration of the Spirit, one could attain divine knowledge."

And with that, I'm thinking that a human's ability to resist temptation to sin probably also becomes stronger. Just as Christ had a strong ability to resist temptation in the desert. Even though we humans may think we are not good enough to attain this kind of transformation, we could, if we have a highly evolved enough consciousness, which means that some people (probably through reincarnation and karma) have just become more moral in this lifetime than others.

Also, I don't think many people believe in this universal or cosmic energy anymore. Mainly because we have become separated from nature and other living things. Our current worldview is mostly material and mechanistic. Tarnas concludes his chapter on the Holy Spirit by saying: "In the long run, the Holy Spirit was conceived rather in more general and impersonal terms as a mysterious and numinous power, whose intensity seemed to have radically diminished as time grew more distant from the generation of the first apostles..."

I was interested to learn about "the descent of the Holy Spirit" into Jesus' disciples. Supposedly it was "like the rush of a mighty wind filling the house" with "tongues of fire" appearing above the disciples heads. To me, this seems similar to the yogic experience of kundalini energy entering a person who meditates. Supposedly there is a roaring sound and it feels like energy is rushing up the spine and pouring out from the top of the head. In my practice, we practice Taoist alchemy to cleanse the body's energy channels and chakras (which are similar to the neural pathways and glandular centers of the body but on an energetic level) in order to receive this cosmic or kundalini energy. Our Grandmaster, who lived as a hermit in the mountians, compared Taoist alchemy to a burning candle to explain the unification process of body, mind and personal spirit with the Tao or Holy Spirit energy. I'm not going to type it all out but if you're interested you can read more about it on this webpage: www.sundo.org/sundo-higher.htm.

I hope people don't get nervous with me talking about esoteric practices. I'm really serious about everything I've said. When I was 12 years old, I had never been to church but I wanted to know, "What is God?" It really bugged me because I used to think God was a person and I wasn't satisfied with that. So I started reading books about buddhism, shamanism, psychology, etc... I practiced martial arts and studied different pagan religions until I found this Taoist practice. Now I think I understand what is common in all religions. I used to think Christianity was ridiculous, oppresive and boring but after reading Tarnas' book, I now realize Christianity started out as a great religion but got corrupted by selfish and small-minded people just like a lot of other religions did. You are doing great work in talking about what unites us rather than what separates us.

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Some really facinating ideas and concepts here Christine. For my part, I don't get nervous at all - reading some of your personal testimony is a blessing and a challenge to kep looking deeper into some of these spiritual concepts that so many of us take for granted, via what is often surface level pop-theology/pneumatology. Thank you again for the friendly dialogue - I hope you'll keep visiting and adding to the conversation! There are about a dozen points you bring up here that I'd like to comment on, but in good time.

Blessings,
Peter

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Online Friends...

Only 10 years ago, suggesting that Christians might have genuine fellowship online probably seemed laughable to most. Today, it's still a stretch for many to accept: that a shared spirit of love, hope and Christian sister/brotherhood can exist via text. And then I think of so many spiritual giants whose lives were filled with letters from brothers and sisters all over the world. Merton, Nouwen, Foster... the list of Christians who clung to long-distance fellowship is endless and it always has been so. Think of Paul's letters.

The tradition of encouragement and even accountability through the written word is unquestionably orthodox.

I almost had the opportunity to cross paths with one of my e-brothers recently in Portland. Schedules didn't align, but my friend Joel, a.k.a. HCJoel a.k.a. Bottlebreaker a.k.a. Bart Wang (sounds like a porno name doesn't it? Hmmm...) was visiting the Northwest from his Canadian homeland. Though we didn't have a chance to meet up, it's made me think about some of my other online friends I'm thankful for - even though I do a poor job of keeping in touch...

My friend Darren King has been running a great site called "Precipice Magazine" that I have enjoyed visiting for years. Google "Postmodern Christianity" and you'll always find him in #2 or #3 placing - kudos Darren! Darren lives in Central Oregon, so I hope we'll have a chance to connect sometime in person.

Nate Watson is another dude who blesses me with visits to this site, and always has something thoughtful and reasonable to say.

To all of you and dozens of others I've met with, shared with and prayed with online via theOOZE, Off The Map and elsewhere, keep doin' what you're doin', and stay in touch!

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Freedom

Romans 8:20-21
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

In the Kingdom, everything is backwards. Down is up. Mourning is rejoicing. Dying is living. Freedom is bondage...

I'm not sure what I really think about freedom. I try to be respectful, but I know I don't appreciate America's freedom the way my grandparents do. I haven't fought in a war, or lived at a time when our national security was honestly in jeopardy. But I do live in a time where most of us are comfortable and asleep. Myself included. I would weep, were my "freedoms" (middle-class comforts) taken from me. But I would wake up.

Christianity was never meant to be a religion of the powerful, so there is something sick and contradictory in me. I don't understand what Jesus wants because I can't conceive giving up what I have (yea though I walk in bondage to bills, payments and monthly statements... they comfort me).

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