Thursday, August 29, 2013

[the cross in the closet]

"Timothy Kurek, raised within the confines of a strict, conservative Christian denomination in the Bible Belt, Nashville, Tennessee, was taught the gospel of separation from a young age. But it wasn't long before Timothy's path and the outside world converged when a friend came out as a lesbian, and revealed she had been excommunicated by her family. Distraught and overcome with questions and doubts about his religious upbringing, Timothy decided the only way to empathize and understand her pain was to walk in the shoes of very people he had been taught to shun. He decided to come out as a gay man to everyone in his life, and to see for himself how the label of gay would impact his life. In the tradition of Black Like Me, The Cross in the Closet is a story about people, a story about faith, and about one man's "abominable" quest to find Jesus in the margins."
(from the back cover)

This book was a fascinating read, and is enlightening in terms of how a person is able to not only gain a deeper understanding of others and to make a space in his or her heart for them, but to have love where before there was hatred and rejection. Definitely recommended.

Online preview available.
BlueHead Publishing (October 11, 2012)

p.s. Summer has given more opportunities to read, so I've been recommending books lately. In the next months, I plan to share quotes from Thurman's Jesus and the Disinherited along with more new cartoons.

Monday, August 26, 2013

cartoons about serial killers

How do you decide when a cartoon or joke is harmless, or when it hurts people? Of course, the same cartoon can amuse one person, offend another person and confuse yet another. But overall, are there principles or ways of determining where a cartoon stands?

Take this cartoon from Matta as an example:

Napkin #515 Serial Killer from Matta

Should a serial killer be offended by this? Does it make fun of him or her? Or it is simply a funny idea which happens to be about serial killers and their weapons? After all, it's not like one of those jokes that starts with a line like "Serial killers are so disgusting that ...."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

one true voice

one true voice cartoon by rob g

Whose voice will be heard by the parishioners?

How true is that voice?

How can we listen to one another, and together as the body of Christ with the leading of God's Spirit discern what is true?

Monday, August 19, 2013

[single stories]

There often seems to be an aversion to hearing the stories of others. I'm not referring to hearing the stories of a poor widow in the Sudan, of a homeless family in Toronto, of our friend's weekend camping adventure. No, our aversion is to the stories of those whom we dislike and whom we often despise, those whom we see as being sinful and out of line, those whom we see as being beyond hope or unregenerate.

We like to hear one side of the story. It keeps things nice and tidy for us; it avoids disrupting our world.

But it is narrow and limited. And it negatively impacts those whose stories are not being told.

Richard Beck, in his review of Michael McRay's Letters from Apartheid Street, refers to these single stories and how hearing the other stories – or, to put it differently, the stories of others – counters the effects of the single story:
Reversing the dynamics of dehumanization, Michael describes this as a process of rehumanization (pp. 25-26):

...the danger of the single story. Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie warns of the danger of single stories--that is, stories which depict only one side to a person or event. Such stories, when repeated often, convince the audience that the description within the story is the whole truth...

 ...I must confess...I have a single story of soldiers...

 ...I want to take seriously Jesus's call to love my enemies...[But without] another story to add to the original, though, I cannot create a fabric of humanity in which to clothe them. I have needed a story to re-humanize the Israeli soldiers occupying this land...
Michael finds this second story in conversations he seeks out and recounts with some of the Israeli soldiers. It's a wonderful example of how you, practically, go about learning to love your enemies.
From, (quoting from Letters from Apartheid Street: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine by Michael McRay. Emphasis added.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

[jesus freak: feeding, healing, raising the dead]

"I came late to Christianity," writes Sara Miles, "knocked upside down by a mid-life conversion centered around eating a literal chunk of bread. I hadn't decided to profess an article of doctrine, but discovered a force blowing uncontrollably through the world."

In this new book, Sara Miles tells what happened when she decided to follow the flesh and blood Jesus by doing something real. For everyone afraid to feed hungry strangers, love the unlovable, or go to dark places to bless and heal, she offers hope. She holds out the promise of a God who gave a bunch of housewives and fishermen authority to forgive sins and raise the dead, and who continues to call us to action. And she tells, in vivid, heartbreakingly honest stories, how the ordinary people around her are transformed by taking up God's work in the world.
Sara Miles offers a fresh, fully embodied faith that sweeps away the anxious formulas of religion to reveal the scandalous power of eating with sinners, embracing the unclean, and loving the wrong people. Jesus Freak: Feeding Healing Raising the Dead is her inspiring book for undomesticated Christians who still believe, as she writes, "that Jesus has given us the power to be Jesus."
(description from Amazon)

This book by Sara Miles has been a fascinating read, full of real people and experiences, and I recommend it to you. It's an easy read and challenging at the same time.

Here are three quotes that are samples of what Sara is teaching us through what God has done in her life and the lives of those around them. The bulk of the book, however, is about real life experiences:

In stories that still have the power to scare us, Jesus tells his disciples to live by the upside-down values of God's kingdom, rather than the fear-driven values of human society. He shows how family, tribe, money, violence, and religion--the powers of the world--cannot stand against the love of God. And he tells us that we, too, are called to follow him in breaking down all worldly divisions that get in the way of carrying out his instructions. Sure, it's impossible to feed five thousand people, make a deaf man hear, bring a dead girl to life, as long as you obey human rules. So do it God's way instead, Jesus teaches. Say yes. Jump right in. Come and see. Embrace the wrong people. Don't idolize religion. Have mercy. Jesus' tips cast a light forward, steering us through the dark.
(p. 3)

The truth is that suffering can become the foundation of faith, if we're not scared to touch the sore places with love. If we don't hide ourselves away in fear, but get close enough to others to feel God's breath on our skin. Everything that hurts the body of Christ can let us know, past doubt, that new life is possible--not by forgetting evil, but through, in terms that are both religious and secular, truth and reconciliation.
(pp. 122-123)

Yet all religions, at one point or another in their evolution, tries to proclaim their single, inerrant consistency. All religions, even the most liberal, were  tempted by the reactionary impulse to freeze faith in place. Because, as Jesus teaches, it's easy to be threatened by the reality of the complicated, messy, syncretic, God-bearing truth that becomes incarnate among us and makes things new. We'd rather have a dead religion than a loving God.
(p. 137)

jesus freak: feeding, healing, raising the dead by sara miles
(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010)

Monday, August 12, 2013

[jesus and the disinherited, by howard thurman]

"First published in 1949, Jesus and the Disinherited is a brilliant and compassionate look at God's work in our lives. As we struggle today with issues of poverty, racism, and spiritual disengagement, Howard Thurman's discerning reading of the message of renewal through self-love as exemplified in the life of Jesus resonates powerfully again.

Challenging our submersion into individual and social isolation, Thurman suggests a reading of the Gospel that recovers a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised. He argues that within Jesus' life of suffering, pain, and overwhelming love is the solution that will prevent our descent into moral nihilism. For although scorned and forced to live outside society, Jesus advocated a love of self and others that defeats fear and the hatred that decays our souls and the world around us."
(from the back cover)

Howard Thurman was at college with Martin Luther King Sr., and it is said that Martin Luther King Jr. carried this book around with him. That along with the title is what caught my eye about this book. In a little over 100 pages, he says so much about this topic and discusses it in ways that I have not come across before. I will be reading it again, as soon as it is available from the library. Definitely recommended!

Jesus and the Disinherited
Howard Thurman
(Beacon Press, 1981).