Category Archives: Ecumenical Monday

Teeny Tiny Lent

I didn’t mean to give up blogging for Lent, honest.  It just worked out that way.

I thought about giving up something big for Lent, even though the whole concept of the liturgical calendar is pretty much the opposite of the fiercely independent Baptist tradition I come from.  (Liturgy?  We don’t need no steenkeen liturgy!)  And, come to think of it, it’s probably not what you’d call a standard element of Quaker faith either, what with the pointed lack of symbols, rituals, and creeds.

I still feel a need for it, though – that sense of community that comes from knowing that a whole bunch of other Christians are doing this thing, at this time.  Granted, Lent looks really different, depending on who’s celebrating it – and that probably means quite a few of them are doing it right.  It ought to be individual, and play out differently in the faith journeys of different people.  Some people loudly and theatrically give up chocolate.  Some of the more traditional folks grumble and mumble and give up meat, while their more modern-minded cousins give up their favorite iPhone apps.  And you can always find a few students who want to give up homework for Lent.  (This rarely works.)

I thought about giving something up, thinking spiritual thoughts, and blogging about it, as many people seem to be doing these days.  I have loved reading their thoughts, but when I thought about doing the same thing here, all I could think of was that pesky verse about praying on the street corner in a loud voice.  For me, getting all holy and blogging about it was going to be the spiritual equivalent of standing at the corner of State and Commercial and hollering about what an awesome Christian I am.  Thankfully for my blog and the state of my soul, I frankly didn’t have the energy.

So I gave something else up.  It wasn’t this blog – that hiatus had more to do with several weeks’ worth of insane music schedule followed closely by a respiratory virus from the lowest pits of hell and a stomach bug which I will not gross you out by describing.  (You’re welcome.)  Instead, I gave up something small and silly that would register about a 0.001 on the Richter Scale of Sacrifice.  I did not have deep and holy thoughts about it, or at least not very many.  But I stuck with it, and every few days I thought, “Hey, it’s been a while since I … oh, yeah.  Lent.”  And I did think, “Jesus did a lot more than this.  That is pretty awesome.”  But that was pretty much it.  I didn’t have epiphanies or decide to give 50% of my income to the poor.  I just remembered, now and then, and I was thankful.

And really, that’s the point, isn’t it?  So maybe my observation of Lent was on a tiny, tiny scale.  Maybe next year I’ll give up something a little bigger, a little less silly.  Maybe the  year after that, I’ll be a better person and I can write about it.  Maybe those thoughts will bless others, and turn around and bless me all over again in the process of putting them into words.  But for now, I am just going to smile, close the door for today on my little metaphorical prayer closet, and try to keep that mental habit going:

“Hey, Jesus.  Thanks.  I haven’t forgotten.”


Ecumenical Monday – Disagreeing With Desmond Tutu

Today’s post comes from the key quote in the Huffington Post article “God Is Not A Christian: Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama’s Extraordinary Talk on God and Religion.

I’m going to start right out by disagreeing with Archbishop Tutu.  I get where he’s headed with his deliberately, delightfully provocative statement.  I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but I don’t disagree with every one of them either.  I do, however, take issue with his attention-getting statement that God is not a Christian.

In one sense, it’s true.  God isn’t a Christian, in the sense of someone who has accepted Christ’s salvation, because God can’t get saved.  God hasn’t sinned, so he doesn’t need Christ’s salvation, and also he IS Christ, and if your brain is starting to feel a little pretzelish then you’re on the right track.

But the statement is meant not only to challenge thought processes but to make a statement:  that God is somehow “above” Christianity, greater than Christianity, more than Christianity, more than … Christ?

And that’s where we run into trouble.  “Being a Christian” isn’t a state one can be born into, or randomly drift into because of a move to a new city or a change in the weather.  It is a becoming, a change, a decision.  To those who understand the term as “Christ-follower”, not “person who was brought up in a Western society and is nominally Catholic or Protestant and probably American”, it is a result.

God can no more become a Christian than dirt can get dirty or water can get wet.  Try to explain it, and you end up laughing and shaking your head in confusion because wetness IS water, water IS wet, you can’t separate them.  Dirt would not be dirt if it wasn’t made of dirt.  (Yes, thank you, brilliant bit of rhetoric, I know.)  It’s not like it can get MORE dirty if you rub dirt on it – it just continues being its wonderful earthwormy nutrient-filled life-giving self, regardless of the silly people standing on it and talking philosophy about it in the brief span of years before they return to it.

I disagree with Tutu’s statement, and with his unfortunate conclusion that God is bigger than everything including Christianity, since in doing so he reduces Christianity to another human philosophy that tries to point in the general direction of God.  However, several paragraphs into the article he describes God in a way that makes my hair stand on end, so I’m just going to paste it in verbatim and let him speak in his own words.  I might disagree with him, but there are some good reasons he has a zillion people listening to him and I only have about six.

He weeps when he sees us do the things that we do to one another.  But he does not send lightning bolts to destroy the ungodly.  And that is fantastic.  God says, “I can’t force you.  I beg you, please for your own sake, make the right choice.  I beg you.”

When you do the right thing, God forgets about God’s divine dignity and he rushes and embraces you.  “You came back, you came back.  I love you.  Oh how wonderful, you came back!”

Ecumenical Monday

Mondays are my least restful, least peaceful day of the week.  I hit the ground running when I wake up, and by the time I put in my work day at one job, take my daughter to her cello lesson and my son to Cub Scouts, get home at 8 p.m. and wrestle them through homework and baths and stories and tooth-brushing, and then spend another couple of hours dealing with emails from all three jobs while I’m pushing the laundry through as fast as possible …

… well, I don’t even get to sit down without working until about 11:30 p.m., and quiet restful meditation is a fast-fading memory.

So I think that on Mondays I’m just going to roll with it.  My gradual exit from the fenced world of conservative American evangelicalism has given me the sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, a few non-Baptists (and dare I think some non-Christians?) might have some darn good insights on faith.  Instead of bashing my tired head against my Kindle trying to get all inspired by George Fox and Hannah Whitall Smith and other people in interesting hats, I’m going to write about something from another faith tradition or lack thereof (including, like today, morally-questionable motorcycle-riding lunacy).  Today’s thought comes to you courtesy of novelist Erika Lopez, who was – entirely coincidentally – raised by a pair of lesbian Quakers:

“We all want to be remembered but we’re not going to be.  Even Bette Midler and Zsa Zsa Gabor will rot and eventually become obsolete like some sort of movie star during the Egyptian age.  And if you do happen to become remembered, you will only become chipped stone with pigeon s*** all over you like a statue of Marcus Aurelius.  No one will remember how good your chicken was or that your house smelled like strawberry incense or throw up.  None of that will matter.

No one has any pull, and I realize no one’s opinion of anything really matters more than yours until they figure out how to stay alive forever.”

There’s probably something slightly wrong with me that I find this thought so comforting.