Monday, July 23, 2007
Meg Barnhouse, Ralph Ovadahl, and the Most Important Work of the Christian Community
When I was at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Portland last month, I enjoyed hearing Rev. Meg Barnhouse read from her new book Did I Say That Out Loud? The chapter she read from was called "If I was the Devil," and it rang so true that it hurt. (E, I bought you a copy. Maybe I'll send it next time I'm in a sending mood.)
This chapter was about the misplaced efforts of the Christian church. To loosely summarize:
"If I were the devil, I'd do my darned-est to get people not to help the poor and needy, or to build real connections based on an interconnected community. To that end, I will tell preachers to teach people that the important work of the church is to proselytize to people based on the Gospel (while disregarding the merits other faith beliefs), and to teach that saying "Happy Holidays" is a heathen message, while saying "Merry Christmas" is always more appropriate. And I would teach that certain behaviors are sins--including homosexuality, abortion, and stem-cell research. The people who faithfully follow my preachers will be picketing pride parades, abortion clinics, and department stores; Meanwhile, all of the social ills such as poverty, war, disease, hunger, and homelessness will go unchecked. Thank you, my work here is done."Today, I stopped by the website of the Care Through Touch Institute, and realized (not for the first time) how amazing that program is, so I'm leaving a permanent link to it at left. Another awesome program (there are hundreds, I'm sure, but I'll only mention two that I can speak from experience on) is Faithful Fools, an organization whose street retreats I've blogged about before.
Meanwhile, as one of (sadly) many led in some way by the devil described in Barnhouse's chapter, Rev. Ralph Ovadahl of Monroe, WI, is just preaching it loud and proud according to their shared interpretation of the Bible. During a rally in support of gay civil rights at the Wisconsin State Capitol, I met him once, and had a brief and frustrating "conversation" with him. Somebody snapped a picture and put it in the paper.
To summarize my thoughts on all this, some notes from my personal journal: "Every time you talk about Christianity in that way [as if the Bible of the Word has more authority than the bible of the heart], speaking in inflammatory terms [as if the inflammatory elements of the Bible are the blue chips among your religious practice], you're doing Jesus an injustice that [upsets me quite a bit]! It infuriates me. God it?! According to my theology, Jesus burned (and Christ burns still) for the good of humanity, and as a result of the bad of humanity. My fellow votaries and I are here for the purpose of bringing Christ back out of damnation, giving angels their voices, and setting the planet to a state of restoration resembling "apocatastasis." I aim for us to achieve this by the year 2025, the year in which I may die."
All I'm saying is... If we could just get the great mass of Christianity to depart from this (IMO) misguided morality-slinging contest, and toward participating as/with organizations with programs and policies reflecting the values shown in the life of Christ by creating connected communities which engender genuine security and well-being because we'd all know we have someone to turn to and to count on. If Christianity becomes that, maybe it would be worth salvaging. Somebody please tell me that's possible. Can I get an 'Amen' from a Roman Catholic representative? A Lutheran representative? A congregationalist? A UCC? A UU Christian, a Jew? A Christian Buddhist, a Mormon, a Seventh-Day Adventist, a Humanist, even? A Nirvana fan? Any others? Once Xtianity gets its business together and coherent we can present a unified message/covenant with Islam and the rest of the world. That's all I'm sayin, sis(bro*)...
*My sincerest condolences to all who have suffered in some way as a result of the man mocked by the linked site.
"Forced into a reign of faith
As will succumbs to predestined ways
Beliefs forged to achieve control
The suffering is endless"
Hollow Beliefs, by Ribspreader, from "Bolted to the Cross" (2004)
"Another blasted customs post,
Another bloody foreign coast,
Another set of scars to boast,
We are the Road Crew"
(We Are) the Road Crew, by Motorhead, from "Ace of Spades" (1980)
BTW, is there a "proper" bibliographical form, for when one wants to quote song lyrics as a source in a theological paper or blog? I guess there is now, though I suppose one could append the name of the "record" label, if there is one....
colors: still gray with rainbows....
chant/prayer/mantra: okay, okay, okay, okay, okay,....
Or you could just purge the world of biblical literalists, send them all off to their god and let him do the sorting. The Christian god was pretty good at leveling cities, killing everybody but the folks on Noah's boat and at dispatching vengefull angels. You'd just be modeling your actions after his, and don't most hardcore bible freaks suggest being more "godly"?
Of course, once you started sending those people to god, it might be kind of hard to stop. The wonderful Christians who gave us the crusades and the Inquisiton found that out.