December 15

#Prejudice !Pain &Perspective @Christmas

José y Maria

Christmas.  That sacred holiday, where, if but for a moment, time seems to stop and the world has a moment of peace, quiet, and joy.  The time of year when many people celebrate, give gifts to one another, and in general seem happier and more filled with gratitude and generosity.  For much of the country, Nature has begun her long Winter’s nap, and even the city seems quiet at times, especially when the snow falls and covers over the blemishes of this urban inner-city environment.  This is the season of light and a time to revel in family, friends, and the simplicity of things.  This, I know, is the experience of many.  It was once mine as well.  Then life happened…

As I’ve said here before, life has a way of teaching you hard lessons you never wanted to learn.  It does not allow you to deal with things as you wish them to be, but rather, as they are and in the moment that they happen.  Growing up, the holidays (as Thanksgiving and Christmas are often referred to here) were joyous occasions, where I would look forward to seeing friends and family and, naturally, the joy of opening gifts that had been picked, purchased, and wrapped just for me.  I grew up in a “normal”, small town, white Christian home and family, with parents who were still married and loved each other and my brother and I, and enough food, faith, friends and family to go around.  While we certainly were never wealthy, and even at times very poor, we never wanted for anything.  Food was always on the table, gifts were always under the tree, and all was magic and joy at Christmas.  I grew up, got married, and began my own family, with dreams and expectations galore, and with my wife’s upbringing being somewhat similar to mine, we made our plans.  Even as a newly married adult, I struggled to understand those who did not feel this way about Christmas, and was absolutely prejudiced against those who didn’t seem to “get it” and grasp what this great Feast was all about, my own friends included.  Then life happened…

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December 10

Level With Yourself

“If baking a cake for a gay wedding means you support gay marriage, then helping a pedophile get elected in Alabama means you support pedophilia.” – Scott Nevins

The logic is sound.  The statement pointed and poignant.  This is the world we live in and it is not pretty or easy to swallow.  With no facetiousness intended, the idiom that “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” seems àpropos here.  This is not a new debate and I know that by writing this I will potentially open the door to all kinds of political diatribe and the temptation to take “sides” in this imagined “culture” war so many believe us to be fighting.  Please forgive me – I do not intend anything here to be an endorsement of, or slander towards, any political party or candidate – that is not the issue at hand.  The problem presented is the absolute cognitive dissonance that so many Christians have fallen into, the moral irrelevancy, and the presentation of a “Christianity” that is absolutely devoid of the Christ, inconsistent, and utterly meaningless.  It has very much become a club for the chosen, a haven for the holy, and a menagerie for members only.

Yes, I have been and will continue to be “harsh” on the “church”, and I know what I write here often sounds condemning and critical and perhaps even seems as if I’m saying I no longer believe in or want to be a part of the very institution I call my home.  That is not my intent.  The church is full of hypocrites; how could it be otherwise?  It includes me.  I am a part of the hypocrisy.  I know this and accept fully that I have helped to create the problem.  I am not soft on sin; I am generous on grace.  However I am at a point, as one of my favorite singer/songwriters David Bazaan says in his song, “Level With Yourself”, finding myself reflecting on what it all means. Like someone who’s woken from a long nap, and knows that they are no longer asleep and dreaming, I want to deal with the real…with the now.  What I am asking, is for all of us who identify as “Christians” or “the Church”, etc., to do a FULL STOP, and consider our calling, our consistency, and what things like cake and political candidates have to do with any of it?!?!  When the world around us associates the word Christian with anti-gay, anti-abortion, and bigotry and all things that we are seemingly AGAINST more than loving, pro ALL life, welcoming to everyone, and what we are FOR, we must stop and consider what we are doing. As Rich Mullins once said, “All I ask of anybody is that you make a little effort to be consistent.”  What are we doing?  Perhaps we ought to level with ourselves…we have failed in so many ways to be the real thing and have become a shadow of the real.

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August 31

“Shepherds or Butchers?” Redux…

Clericalism suffocates; it makes part of itself into the whole sacred character of the Church; it makes its power a sacred power to control, to lead, to administer; a power to perform sacraments, and, in general, it makes any power a power given to me! Clericalism separates all “sacredness” from the lay people: the iconostasis, communion (only by permission), theology. In short, clericalism is de facto denial of the Church as the body of Christ, for in the body, all organs are related and different only in their functions, but not in their essence. And the more clericalism clericalizes (the traditional image of the bishop or the priest emphasized by his clothes, hair, e.g., the bishop in full regalia!) the more the Church itself becomes more worldly; spiritually submits itself to this world. In the New Testament, the priest is presented as the ideal layman. But almost immediately there begins his increasingly radical separation from the lay people; and not only separation, but opposition to lay people, contrast to them.  – Fr. Alexander Schmemann [Journals, pp. 310 & 311]

Redux. The time has come to say more about the problem of clericalism in the church.  Nearly 7 years ago I wrote a post entitled “Shepherds or Butchers?”  The post title comes from this short story, told by Fr. Tom Hopko.

“Clericalism: A policy of maintaining or increasing the power of a religious hierarchy.”  

It is a problem. Nay, it is a BIG problem.  Since writing that first post several years ago, I am now 7 years older and 7 more years “woke” to things I was not awake to 7 years ago. Over these past years, I’ve become increasingly more concerned as I have witnessed a steady trend towards more clericalism within the Church.  It is like a cancer that is silently growing.

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May 28

Pacing The Cage

“The truth is like a lion; you don’t need to defend it.  Let it loose; it will defend itself.” – Augustine of Hippo

Perhaps we live in troubled times, and perhaps things are just as they’ve always been and I’m just noticing more.  I don’t know which is the case, but I do know that most days I find myself baffled, bewildered, beat down, bedraggled, and overwhelmed with sorrow at all that I see in the news and in the world around me. The violence and sadness that top the news feed, as well as the loss of incredible musicians in the past two weeks, and so many more this past year, combined with the loss of dear friends to depression, disease, and simply old age and bodies wearing out, have me often considering the point of this mortal coil.  Musicians and poets can give words to our emotions when we have none to give.  As a musician myself, I have found that sometimes only music can suffice when feelings are raw and there is no way to describe what is welling up inside of me.  Bruce Cockburn is one of my most favorite singer/songwriters.  He has a way of weaving poetry, music, and a powerful message into beautiful soundscapes that easily capture me and draw me in.  The title of this post, as well as the subtitle of this blog, are both taken from titles of Bruce songs.  His song “Pacing The Cage” (song and lyrics below) adequately describe where I find myself of late; pensive and wondering how to bring light into such darkness.

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