Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Evel Knievel



My hometown newspaper, the Montana Standard of Butte devotes coverage to the death of Butte's own Evel Knievel.


Here is the obit in the Standard.

There were at least three movies about Evel Knievel. I remember seeing the first one when I was nine at the Drive-In. It was a pretty big deal since it was filmed in Butte. My brother's 1951 Plymouth was even in it. Evel was played by George Hamilton. Really crappy movie, but hilarious to watch. Evel was my hero as a kid.

Now I drop names. I went to school with his daughter Tracey. She was in my Spanish class. His wife bought hay from us on our farm in Whitehall. I don't know if he jumped over the bales.

Miss ya, Evel. You were larger than life.



"I am the last gladiator in the New Rome. I go into the arena and I compete against destruction and I win! And next week I go out there and I do it again."



Gay Man from Johnson City Poses Question to Candidates

Thanks to Tennessee Guerrilla Women for this. This is a potential question posed to candidates on the YouTube debate.




It was so good, I transcribed it:

Good evening, gentlemen. My name is John. I am twenty-three years old. I am a Christian. And I have also been an open homosexual since I was thirteen years old. But I am also an American and I strongly believe in the separation of church and state. And I offer you this challenge, all of you. Logically explain the reasons that you believe that gay marriage should be banned without referring to your religion or the Bible. Thank you.

Protesting Burger King in Miami

Here is a report from the Miami Herald regarding the protest against Burger King. The newspaper has a slideshow of pics.


This is from the Herald's news account:

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is holding the march to urge the fast food giant to require tomato farmers provide higher wages and better working conditions for the migrant workers who pick the tomatoes.

The goal is to get Burger King to follow the lead of Taco Bell and McDonald's, who have agreed to pay an additional penny per pound for their tomatoes. But Burger King and the tomato growers argue that those agreements violate federal anti-trust and labor laws.

''I think we're drawing a lot of looks from passersby,'' Julia Perkins, a spokeswoman for the coalition, said as the group headed past the AmericanAirlines Arena. ``We're just getting in the rhythm of things. There's a lot of great music and a lot of energy.''


The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been outspoken in its support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for several years. You can read more about this issue on the PCUSA website and from Witherspoon Society.



This is an important issue. We are talking about slave conditions in our own nation. Here is a helpful FAQ to familiarize yourself with this issue.

Here is a bulletin insert that also explains the significance of today's march.

The IRD has a different view. Jim Berkeley doesn't seem to think worker justice has anything to do with "the gospel."

Always good to know who lines the IRD's pockets.




The Boys Are Back!


Brewster and Bono are finished resting and are back on their quest to Walk Across America. They are in Florida these days. Follow their journey each day. You can have the strip sent to you via e-mail. Contact my friend and fellow radical, Paul Peterson to subscribe. Here is todays' strip:


Here was my all-time favorite strip (I wonder why):


For those of you who are new to Shuck and Jive, you can read about Paul, here.

There is even a song about us, Me and Paul.

Videos of Dances of Universal Peace


I gave a brief report of our Dance of Universal Peace the other day. Rebecca reminded me of the third thing that makes for peace and directed me toward some videos.

Here are the three things that make for world peace from the founder of Dances for Universal Peace, Samuel Lewis:

  1. Dance Together
  2. Eat Together
  3. Pray Together
Here are a couple of youtube videos of the dance.

This is a 22 minute documentary about it, Invitation to Dance

To get a sampling of what these dances are like this is a dance to the chant Om Mani Padme Hum

This is Beauty is Eternity.

These dances are always geared toward beginners. You are instructed as you do it. It is not about being perfect or about being a good dancer, but about using our bodies, music, and our willingness to step out of our own self-consciousness to see the Divine presence in the other, in the group, and in ourselves.

There is hope for the world
when it accepts the evidence of spirituality
not only as presented by, let us say, a guru,
but when it is reflected
in the awakening of hearts,
in the brilliancy of faces,
in the manifest joy and delight.

- Murshid Samuel L. Lewis
Sufi Vision and Initiation


Thanks to Rebecca, we are going to be able to have these dances on a regular basis. Go to the website to find a dance near you!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Burger King Wants It Its Way


Friday is a big day in Miami. There will be a march and rally at Burger King's headquarters to call Burger King to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to improve wages.




PCUSA stated clerk, Clifton Kirkpatrick, made this powerful statement on Thursday:




"In the course of history there have always been those who have opposed the advancement of human rights. But the fundamental truth of human dignity has always triumphed, if not immediately, then eventually. Burger King and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) are using their power to try and turn back the inevitable progress of human rights for farmworkers. And their coordinated tactics, which squarely target some of the poorest, most vulnerable members of our society, are as morally repugnant as they are in vain ….

"The intransigence and duplicity of Burger King and the FTGE may delay justice for those who supply their tomatoes. And as Dr. King said, 'Justice delayed is justice denied.' But they will not prevail. We are prepared to do what it takes, as long as it takes, walking hand in hand with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and all consumers of conscience to achieve the basic human rights for these farmworkers to which other industry leaders have committed." (Read the full statement)
You can read more from the PCUSA website.

Here is an excellent op-ed in today's New York Times by Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, that will catch you up to date if you don't know the story.






Bad press for the King of Kings.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Don't Feed the Trolls


Hey Kids, In the spirit of lightheartedness, please don't respond to trolls. Just ignore them and I will clean up their droppings. I will delete posts of trolls and those who respond to them. You know who they are.

Mad Liturgy for Advent One

I do enjoy the Madpriest. Here is his liturgical suggestion for the First Sunday of Advent:

Priest enters

Priest proclaims the bidding:

Jesus is coming soon.

To which the congregation responds in unison:

He'll be coming round the mountain when he comes. Amen.


First hymn

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Covenant Network Will Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians (the good Presbyterians) had their gathering in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. Leslie Scanlon of the Presbyterian Outlook has a couple of reports. It appears that they have decided to focus on judicial matters rather than to seek to remove G-6.0106b at this next General Assembly. With the new Authoritative Interpretation passed by the 2006 General Assembly, they are hopeful that some lgbts may become ordained thanks to the clarification of "scrupling" afforded in this recent GA action.

The Covenant Network's latest statement of purpose says nothing about legislative activities at the 2008 GA, but is putting its energy into judicial cases.

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians offers resources and assistance to individuals, congregations and governing bodies, as the church implements the Authoritative Interpretation and other recommendations of the 217th General Assembly.

We pledge our legal, advisory, and educational resources for those in the ordination process.


As we look toward the next General Assembly, we will continue to monitor both local ordination/installation practices and judicial decisions to determine which additional measures we should pursue at this time to achieve our longstanding goal: a church as generous and just as God’s grace.
Legal (lawyers)
Advisory (guns?)
Educational Resources (money?)

Not sure if that is exactly what Warren Zevon asked for, but you take what you can get.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Are Miracles Essential to Religion?

I do enjoy April DeConick's blog. Most of it is over my head. Some of it has to do with scholarly politics (ie. the shenanigans at the SBL and what not). But I like to check in now and then because she certainly is on the button (at least in my view) regarding history. In her latest post, Talking About Miracles, she writes:
When miracles are attributed to famous people in historical writings - and there are many examples beyond Jesus - historians start with the position that these are stories meant to attribute certain superpowers or status to the famous person, or are being used to show the ancient reader that the person being described was thought to be extra-ordinary, divine or godlike. Why should the historical study of Jesus be any different in terms of method?
Exactly. And she writes:
I am not going to get into the discussion about whether or not miracles can or cannot happen. I am tired of that discourse and all the false labeling that goes on with it. What I want us to face is the fact that we, as biblical scholars, are willing to suspend what we know about our world when it comes to Jesus and so-called historical research about him, but we are not willing to do so for other figures.
I think I have said the same thing off and on, but it is nice when a Ph. D. says it.

I have been wondering about all the miracle business for some time. Does religion need the miraculous? I personally find that all the miracle hoopla around Jesus detracts from his message(s).

Many cannot imagine a Christianity without the miraculous Jesus. If they were to recognize Jesus as an historian does, a person who had miracle stories attached to him like they were for other figures, then it wouldn't be worth their time to go to church.

I wonder how many people really feel that way. I suppose many do. I would say there are others who put up with all the miraculous stuff and attend religious activities in spite of it, not because of it.

What I find interesting is that this conversation is happening out in the open these days. It is incredibly frightening for some. Others are refreshed.

Miraculous-oriented Christians are pretty upset and defensive these days. They think that their version of Christianity (which they believe is Christianity) is being attacked by the non-miraculous-oriented Christians. We see this divide surface in popular culture over things like movies such as The Golden Compass.

Then of course there are the Christians who are in a half-way house. They understand the historical Jesus and so forth but feel the need to keep the miraculous story going. They are the most complicated as they have to do a lot of double-thinking. I find myself in this half-way position a great deal.

For instance, as we approach Christmas, we will sing about the Virgin and tell the Christmas story. None of this happened, as I see it. It is all part of the miraculous legend that was told about Jesus long after the fact. He wasn't born of a virgin any more than you were.

Yet I affirm both the incarnation and that Jesus was born of a humanly impregnated human being just like everybody else. The goal of the half-ways is to find the meaning of the incarnation. The half-ways have fun with the mystical aspect of God being born within us, and being among us, and one with us, and of course we love the pageantry and music, well some of it. We like it as we like a good novel, movie, or story.

Frankly, I love a good holiday, but I could do without the miraculous Christ. The historical study of early Christian origins is far more interesting. For me, it is not just interesting on an intellectual level, but also on a level of how to live my life, how I arrange my values, how I find my "center" if you will.

At some point, I wonder if the half-ways are going to need to make a decision. This decision is being forced upon us in one sense as more and more people are really seeing Christianity as a bunch of bunk. The growth of miraculous Christianity among the neocons and the credulous makes it even more bizarre (creation museums, anti-gay legislation based on the Bible, Armageddon and support for Israel, and so forth).

The divisions now surfacing in the mainline churches will increase I am afraid. It won't be because we are not nice to each other or can't get along. Some of it is that, I suppose. Eventually, the division will happen in the mainline churches between the miraculous-oriented and the non-miraculous oriented. I think it will reach a point in which it is obvious.

The two orientations will realize that they have very little in common with one another. It will come down to those who believe Jesus was actually born of a Virgin (or some other dogma) and those who don't.

I feel a little for the half-ways. They will eventually have to grudgingly go along with one side or the other. Or maybe the half-ways will somehow win the day. Perhaps the center will hold. I am not holding my breath.

DO NOT GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!!! DON'T SUPPORT ATHIESTS!!!! Have a blessed day. :)


The title of this post is a sampling of the wisdom circulating by e-mail and from comments on the Fandango website about a movie called The Golden Compass. I saw the previews for this film when I went to watch the touching and Christmassy, "American Gangster."

The Golden Compass is really bad because...





IN THIS MOVIE THERE ARE CHILDREN KILLING GOD!!!









Holy crap! Do you have to scream in my ear? I haven't seen the movie, of course. It isn't out yet. I haven't read the books.


I'm thinking if those crazy kids can kill god, then maybe god had it comin', ya know?

Sounds like a movie for our church youth group. It opens December 7th.

Thanks to Rev. Jane Spahr

Here is a nice article about Rev. Janie Spahr in the Pacific Sun (Marin County, CA). I loved the headline: Rev. Janie Spahr is going to change the Presbyterian Church if she has to marry every gay and lesbian couple in the nation!

Preach it, Sister! The article tells her story, her recent court cases (church court, that is) and of her compassion for those who are left out.



The article begins:

When she was 12 and captain of her softball team, the Rev. Janie Spahr intentionally picked the players usually chosen last. Even as a child, she reached out to the disenfranchised and preached that everyone deserves a chance.

"When you're not picked, you know how you feel," the 65-year-old Presbyterian minister says with trademark tenderness. "Everybody has within them greatness. My greatest wish is that people will see their own greatness and believe it."


I also just ran across this website-- The LGBT Religious Archives Network. Here is what it is about in a sentence:


The LGBT Religious Archives Network (LGBT-RAN) is an innovative venture in preserving history and encouraging scholarly study of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) religious movements around the world.

And while I am on the topic a thank you from Michael Adee and Bear Ride from More Light Presbyterians for your speaking out (in whatever way you do so) for inclusivity.

How Can A Christian Be a Democrat?


Ah, the question that has haunted the philosophers for ages. It ranks right up there with "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" and "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?"

The answer, Grasshopper, will be revealed this week at none other than King College in Bristol.




State Senate Democratic Floor Leader, Roy Herron, will deliver two addresses at King College in Bristol, on Tuesday evening, November 27, and on Wednesday morning, November 28. The Tuesday evening speech entitled, “How Can a Christian be in Politics?” will be delivered at 7:45 PM in the Student Center and will be preceded by a dinner beginning at 6:30. The Wednesday morning speech will be delivered in the King College Memorial Chapel at 10:30 AM and is entitled “How Can a Christian be a Democrat?” Senator Herron’s appearance at King College is a part of King’s “Stories That Connect” series.

Senator Herron represents the 24th Senatorial District. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Tennessee and Master of Divinity and Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University.

Westar Spring Meeting


Westar has released its lineup for the Spring Meeting in Santa Rosa, California. It will be quite a hit parade:

Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong, Amy-Jill Levine, Karen Armstrong, Milton Moreland, Sean Freyne, and Ann Graham Brock will all present! Wow! If you haven't been to a Westar gathering before, this would be a good one to check out!


They have published some new books as well.






I am thinking the parables book would be a good one for our Thursdays with Jesus class.







"What if the purpose or function of a parable is not to instruct but to haunt?" So begins Listening to the Parables of Jesus, edited by Edward F. Beutner, who suggests that, from time to time, even scholars scratch their heads in puzzlement over the yin and yang of Jesus' parables.

It also contains a guide for group discussion.

As I Was Enjoying My Onion...

I found this little essay...

Something is amiss in these United States. A pall cast over the land that forebodes a looming sense of dread. The laughter of average Americans is no more than a thin mask that barely conceals the anxiety we all feel. But to this, the greatest nation on Earth, I say: Why do you look so down in the mouth? Don't you know that tomorrow is another day? You're acting like there's a war on, for Pete's sake! And even if there is, you know what? That's something you just can't do anything about. So why dwell in Dumpsville when you can take a trolley to Happytown?

I know, I know. You're worried about global warming, aren't you? That's okay. If you live in a low-lying coastal area, like 53 percent of our population does, then you are in danger of having everything you love lost to flooding. Well, roll up your pants and wade right in is what I say, because if life gives you water, it's time to go swimming!
That's the Spirit! Here is a video to put it all in perspective!



Sunday, November 25, 2007

Just Danced for Peace

We just finished our Dances for Universal Peace at First Presby, the wild little church in the woods (or is it the little church in the wildwoods?)

The person who put Dances for Universal Peace together said that if we dance together, eat together, and one other thing that I can't remember, we would have world peace. Dang, what was that?

Anyway, here is a video of me dancin' the peace. I'm the guy in the middle. We already have it on YouTube.

OK, it was a great evening. Thanks, Rebecca, for leading us in this sacred dance. Rebecca is the only Dances for Universal Peace leader in Tennessee. It is a movement that is going around the world. Here is what they are about.

The Dances of Universal Peace are simple, meditative, joyous, multi-cultural circle dances that use sacred phrases, chants, music, and movements from the many traditions of the earth to touch the spiritual essence within ourselves and others. Based on the work begun in the late 60's by Samuel L. Lewis, they promote peace and integration within individuals and groups worldwide. There are no performers nor audience - new arrivals and old hands form the circle together. And, no prior experience is necessary!
It was a great way to start the holidays....

I'm Dreaming of a Debt-Free Christmas

Bobby said I should put today's sermon on the blog. OK...here goes:

Is Jesus Your Personal (and Political) Lord and Savior?
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

November 25th, 2007
Reign of Christ Sunday


If there is one thing that will get ministers in trouble, it is to bring politics into the pulpit. It doesn’t matter if they are correct to do so or not, or correct in their views or not, mixing politics and preaching is like mixing potassium and water--it is explosive.


Most ministers, wisely, avoid it.

The problem, for those of us who are wise, is that we have to ignore most of the Bible, we have to ignore Jesus, and virtually all of Christian history. Or if we don’t ignore it, we spiritualize it.

What I mean by spiritualize is this. When Jesus is recorded as saying,

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

..he meant that spiritually as in poor in spirit, captive to sin, blind in their hearts, oppressed by personal demons and so forth.

Theology over the centuries has largely been an exercise in de-politicizing the Gospel.

If an alien from the far reaches of the galaxy were to visit Earth, observe Christian preaching and report back what it is that preachers do, the alien would say something like this:

“Earthlings do an interesting thing on Sunday morning. They pay this guy to preach from a book and reward him when he completely misses the point.”

Or the alien might saying something like this: “The preacher preaches about a guy named Jesus without ever saying what Jesus said.”

Christianity over the centuries turned the spirituality of Jesus into a superstition about Jesus.

To put it one more way: Jesus preached about the coming of the Kingdom of God on Earth. The church said, “No thanks, we would rather just go to heaven when we die.”

I admit that what I have said so far has been pretty harsh. I have also used hyperbole. I think, however, my observation is valid.

Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich tells of her experience of visiting a tent revival in Portland, Maine. The preacher was preaching about Jesus on the cross. She looked at the audience, mostly impoverished people, and she thought:

“It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth.”[i]

Consider the cross. We have one here on the wall. It is huge. It is beautiful. Nice wood. A work of art. I see crosses everywhere. Madonna, the pop singer, wears a cross. I guess now her protégé, Britney Spears, wears one as well. I even wear one. The cross is the symbol for Christianity.

What does this cross mean? Most folks would answer that the cross represents the spiritual truth that Jesus died for our sins. Then those with more theological knowledge will talk about the sin of Adam and Eve that we have inherited just by being human. This sin is so damaging that it has dishonored God. We deserve eternal death and condemnation. A sacrifice is needed to satisfy God’s justice, this debt to God. We can’t pay the debt. Only God can, so Jesus the God/Man is substituted for us. He suffers and dies on the cross in our place.

I don’t mean to mock or belittle. That view may have its value for helping some people come to terms with their personal issues. But this theological theory is a major move away from what the cross was in the time of Jesus.

The cross on our wall is a replica of an instrument of torture. The Roman Empire for centuries tortured and executed thousands of people (perhaps tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands) of people by crucifixion. Jesus was one. We know that. We know the Good Friday story.

Yet, we know it in an incomplete way. The church has said that this one execution was more important than the others and this one had theological significance. With those theological moves, we lost, and we lose, the entire significance of Jesus in my view.

Rome, its Empire, its economic system, its methods of controlling dissidents and keeping peace, all were forgotten. Jesus, who criticized this system, who was tortured and executed because of this system, is forgotten. The people, their poverty and their oppression, are forgotten. The church lifted Jesus out of his historical setting and transformed him into a dying and rising God/Man.

The church was not concerned about the kingdom of God on Earth, but becoming a salvation machine so that people through the church and its sacraments alone, could enter the kingdom of God in Heaven after they died. Of course, without the church, they would end up in Hell.

Again, I don’t mean to belittle. It is not that that religion is a bad thing. It is just that it has nothing to do with Jesus. It has nothing to do with the reality in which he lived and taught. It has nothing to do with what really killed him.

I would also add that this popular myth of Jesus has nothing to do with the realities in which we live. The real Jesus does resonate with our reality.

Religious scholar, Marcus Borg, has pointed out that Christianity is the only religion whose founder was executed by established authority. Think of it. The person whom we follow was a political criminal. Such a heinous criminal in the eyes of the government, that he deserved death by execution.

Who deserves death by execution? Really bad people, right? Murderers, mostly. Jesus wasn’t one of those. Who else gets executed? Traitors and those who threaten the peace and security of the government. These are political criminals. Rome might have called Jesus an insurgent. I don’t think Jesus was violent. His insurgency was a non-violent insurgency.

His dream was the kingdom of God on Earth. What would our political, social and economic life be like if we were organized by the principles of justice?

Don’t think that Jesus didn’t deserve his execution. By Rome’s standards, Jesus was a threat. He had a following. He was about change. The Gospel of Luke records Jesus’ first sermon in his hometown. After he finished his own townspeople wanted to throw him off of a cliff.

You know he was not preaching about seven habits of highly effective people, how to get rich with the gospel or how to get to heaven when you die. He preached about realities, about injustice, and about change. He invited them to join. But they were afraid of him.

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

If you think that changing the health care system in the United States is a monumental task, imagine what Jesus was up against. “Come on board,” he said. “We can do this.”

But they didn’t like it. Too much politics in the pulpit. Jesus ran into that wherever he went.

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God, is in your hands, let’s do it. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. What are you waiting for?” Excuse my paraphrasing, but I think that is what he was saying.

It got him in trouble. He threatened the system. He threatened progress. Rome was doing quite well. They were building and building and building. The Temple in Jerusalem was Herod’s masterpiece. To fund it and his other projects required taxes. People had to give up their subsistence farms to huge absentee landlords and grow crops for this landlord. It made crop-growing more efficient. It moved the economy. The people lost their homes and their lands. Yet some folks did quite well. It is progress, after all.

Jesus didn’t play along with this vision of progress. He didn’t think it was the way to go.

In the gospels we find the story of Jesus’ disciples admiring the Temple. Like a bunch of country bumpkins from Montana visiting New York City. “Wow,” they said. “Look at this huge building!” Jesus wasn’t impressed. “One day there will not be one stone on top of another,” he said.

Jesus was not impressed with progress at the expense of people. He was executed as a threat to Rome and to the local authorities who ran the Temple which had been co-opted by Rome. Jesus wasn’t that much of a threat, probably. He was a local problem. Rome and the temple authorities used him as an example of what happens to those who disturb the peace.

It was good the church made a religion of him. In so doing, we preserved his story. The story has been altered beyond recognition, but it is still there. It has always been there. Throughout history, people have glimpsed his real significance. It has been repressed by the bearers of the mythical dying and rising salvation machine, but it is still there. We are at a time in our history, in which we can hear again the real story of Jesus, if we dare.

Jesus’ setting differs from our setting of course in many ways. Yet there are many things that are similar. Rome needed to grow. It needed to expand. It needed to be fed. It became an ideology of progress. One thing that is similar in our time is that we as well are supposed to value an ideal of progress. We are supposed to value this thing we call “the economy.” Everything else is subservient to its growth. In every newscast we hear the numbers of how “the economy” is doing.

I am not an economist by a long shot. But I marvel at how much we worship this thing. It must grow. It must expand. Every year it must get larger. How much larger can it get? What feeds it? We read the news that America is at war. I have been told that is not true. I have been told that America is not at war. The United States’ military is at war. America is at the mall. We are feeding the economy.

A new documentary entitled, “What Would Jesus Buy?” follows Rev. Billy who calls people to stop spending themselves into debt. He stages protests at shopping malls and big retail outlets about the evils of consumerism for ourselves and for our planet. I think it is ironic that a fake preacher is the one who is preaching the message of Jesus.

According to the film, last year Americans spent 455 billion dollars during the holidays. Consumer credit debt is 2.3 trillion dollars. For what? A bunch of stuff that will end up in the landfill.

What is sinister is that we are supposed to do all of this shopping for “the economy.” The kingdom of God is not the economy at least as the economy has been presented to us. The kingdom of God is what life would be like if we really lived the message of Jesus.

Today is Reign of Christ Sunday. Today we speak about the politics of God. What is God’s economy? Jesus told all who would listen: “The kingdom of God is in your hands.” He told us through his parables and sermons that it is a vision of life in which everyone has enough food, healthcare, shelter, peace, productive work, and joy.

Well, I will finish my sermon with my radical political message. Don’t play along. It is not up to us to save “the economy.” Enjoy the holidays. Get into the spirit of Christmas. But don’t go into debt over it. The wily serpent will entice you with that credit card at the mall. Like Eve’s apple, it will be a delight to the eyes. Don’t bite! Get yourself a budget for the whole of Christmas. Plan it out. Have fun planning it out. Do fun things. Get the kids involved. Try not to watch too many television advertisements. Give to an alternative cause, like the Heifer Project or something. But whatever you do, do not go into debt this Christmas.

If we have to go into debt, trash the environment, use up resources, for the sake of “the economy,” then perhaps “the economy” is not worth it. Just a thought. Now I know some of you don’t have a problem with this. But please, out of empathy, join the rest of us. I will conclude with a call and response. Repeat after me:

I will not go into debt this Christmas.
I will not be stressed by Christmas.
I will deepen my spirituality.
I will enjoy Christmas.

Halleleujah!


[i] Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity, p. 95-6.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Creation Museum?

As I have been reading the blog of my new religion, the Pastafarians, I came across this interesting entry about the Creation Museum. Here is an excellent entry with pictures regarding one Pastafarian's tour of the Creation Museum. It is called Your Creation Museum Report, by John Scalzi. A snippet:

Here’s how to understand the Creation Museum:

Imagine, if you will, a load of horseshit. And we’re not talking just your average load of horseshit; no, we’re talking colossal load of horseshit. An epic load of horseshit. The kind of load of horseshit that has accreted over decades and has developed its own sort of ecosystem, from the flyblown chunks at the perimeter, down into the heated and decomposing center, generating explosive levels of methane as bacteria feast merrily on vintage, liquified crap. (Read More!!!)
Here is his first stop on the tour:
In the first room of the Creation Museum tour there’s a display of two paleontologists unearthing a raptor skeleton. One of them, a rather avuncular fellow, explains that he and the other paleontologist are both doing the same work, but that they start off from different premises: He starts off from the Bible and the other fellow (who does not get to comment, naturally) starts off from “man’s reason,” and really, that’s the only difference between them: “different starting points, same facts,” is the mantra for the first portion of the museum. The rhetoricians in the crowd will already see how a card has been palmed here. The Museum is casually trying to establish an equivalence between science and creationism by accrediting them both as legitimate “starting points” for any discussion of biology, geology and cosmology. This would cause any scientist worth his or her salt to have a positively cinematic spit take, because it’s horseshit, but if you don’t know any better (say, if you’ve been fed a line of crap your whole life along the lines of “science is just another religion”) it sounds perfectly reasonable.
And so if you buy that, then the next room, filled with large posters that offer on equal footing the creationist and scientific takes on the creation of the universe and evolution, seems perfectly reasonable, too: Heck, we can both have our theories! They’re both okay. The problem with this is that creationism isn’t a theory, it’s an assertion, to wit: The entire universe was created in six days, the days are 24-hour days, the layout for the creation and for the early history of the planet and humanity is in the first chapter of Genesis and it is exactly right. Everything has to be made to conform to these assertions, which is why creationist attempts at science are generally so damn comical and refutable.
I could post his whole article, but that wouldn't be nice. Go over to John's site and give him a thank you for spending his day touring horseshit so that you don't have to.

If you want to tour something really worthwhile, and you happen to live near my mountain, check out the Gray Fossil Site in Gray, Tennessee (between Johnson City and Kingsport).



This is the real thing. Science not horseshit.


From Presbyterian to Pastafarian



I am giving up my Presbyterian ministerial credentials and becoming a Pastafarian priestess. I believe God is showing me the true path. I have also decided to fight the so-called scientific establishment with their evilutionary ways.

I now know the truth.

Anyone can open their eyes and see it. It is their blindness that keeps them from seeing and knowing the truth. We are created beings.





Our creator is the Flying Spaghetti Monster.




I doubted at first. I was cynical. I was wrapped up in my Enlightenment ideology with its "science." But the more I investigated and listened to the voices that had been muted by the establishment, I realized that the Pastafarians were speaking truth.

Don't believe me. Investigate for yourself. Look at the evidence.





Read the Gospel.



Check out the guide.




Then ask yourself, "Is it right to deny this view to our children?"

Of course it isn't! We Pastafarians are not asking to remove Evilution, nor are we asking to remove Intelligent Design by well-meaning but much misguided fundamentalist Christians from our classrooms, but to teach this view that is as scientifically as credible (more so really) alongside the other views, and let our second graders decide for themselves.

Once you are convinced of the TRUTH, spread the word!

Friday, November 23, 2007

See Me Dance For Peace!



Hey Kids,

Just in time for the Season, click here to watch me dance!

Here is a pic of me and some others (who prefer to remain anonymous)dancing for peace at the United Religions Initiative Thanksgiving Dinner.



You can read more about URI. It was a potluck. We were supposed to bring a dish from our own cultural tradition. Being a fast-food connoisseur and spiritual avant garde,


I brought Buddha Pizza. Lots of veggies.








It was a great night with great tunes.







Linda Sorrell (with braid) organized the event. The woman in black is my new friend and colleague, Jacqueline Luck, the new minister at Holston Valley UU
.


It's Luck and Shuck, your East Tennessee radicals.




We danced for peace and by gum, we will do it again.





This Sunday evening from 7-8 at First Pres., we will be led in Dances for Universal Peace by First Presby., Rebecca.

Read here for more information and join us!

Avoid the Shopocalypse


First Presbyterian of Elizabethton is a proud supporter of the Heifer Project.


We will have the Heifer Project table set up next week. Instead of buying others and yourself a bunch of junk they or you don't need and that will eventually end up in a landfill, here is a way you can make Christmas brighter for everyone.

Buy a goat or a sheep and give in their name.

You can even create a registry page like I did here.

It's Black Friday--The Shopocalypse Is At Hand!


Street Prophets (who is always one click away from being a potty-mouth) has this little tidbit for Black Friday and the War on Christmas.

The real battler against Christmas is Rev. Billy. Today, Black Friday, is Rev. Billy's big day. He has a new movie, What Would Jesus Buy?





Click the pic to view the trailer.


I think this guy is telling the truth...

The Mythology of the Church Calendar



Back to my project on Theology for the 21st Century. Other posts can be found to the right of this blog. I want to start with a few thoughts on Jesus. One of the first tasks, as I see it, is to begin to separate the myth from the man, the historical Jesus from the Christ of the creed, or the pre-Easter from the post-Easter Jesus (Borg).

For me to separate does not mean to discard either one necessarily. Many progressives (ie. Borg) are quite comfortable with the Christ of creed. Others are not.

One of the first steps is to take a look at the liturgical calendar in order to see how the Christ myth influences our worship and theology. Since Vatican II, Protestant churches have developed an interest in the church calendar. In 1983 ecumenical Protestant groups came up with the Revised Common Lectionary. Here is a visual:



The church calendar is based upon the Christ myth. It has nothing to do with the historical person of Jesus. The church is year can be both comforting and challenging. It puts one into a rhythm for spiritual development. Here is the church year in calendar form.



The year is divided into three cycles, Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost (Ordinary Time). The church calendar is further divided into three years, A, B, and C. In year A, the gospel readings are taken from Matthew. Year B is for Mark, and C for Luke. John is used in all three years as the Gospel text for the big hitter seasons such as Easter.

The Christmas Cycle includes Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

Advent looks the birth of Christ as well as his second coming. The readings contain apocalyptic texts and texts from the Hebrew prophets interpreted in such a way that they point to this mythology. The church (cleverly, I might add) co-opted the Winter Solstice, the darkest time of the year (at least for those in the northern hemisphere) to establish the birth of Christ, the "light of the world."

The Western Church celebrates Christmas on December 25th. The Eastern Church on Epiphany or January 6th. Epiphany is manifestation or revelation. The gospel readings following Epiphany feature his baptism, his call of the disciples, signs, wonders, and healings.

The Sunday that provides the hinge between the Christmas Cycle and the Easter Cycle is Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday. This is the fiction where Jesus goes on the mountain with Peter, James, and John and is transfigured before them. A voice speaks from the heavens that Jesus is God's son and everyone ought to pay attention.

Following this Sunday is Ash Wednesday and the Easter Cycle. It begins with forty days (excluding Sundays) of Lent. This is the way of the cross and discipleship. The Lenten season concludes with Holy Week and the crucifixion.

Easter Sunday celebrates the Resurrection. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox. Again, the church cleverly used the Spring Equinox to date the Resurrection. Spring, flowers, new birth, etc. Following Easter Day is the Easter Season. The gospel readings include appearance stories and teachings.

Thirty-nine days after Easter (the 40th day) is followed by the Ascension (always on a Thursday). This ends the Easter cycle. Forty-Nine days after Easter (the 50th day) is Pentecost Sunday. This is the day that commemorates the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. Again, none of this is historical. It is all myth or fiction. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is what it is.

Now we are in Ordinary Time. This is the season of the church or the Holy Spirit. Following Pentecost, the church threw in Trinity Sunday. Included in ordinary time are the readings from the whichever gospel is the one for that year. There is no particular order or emphasis.

The church year ends with Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday. This Sunday emphasizes that Christ is enthroned over all Creation.

In outline form:

Christmas Cycle
Four Sundays of Advent
Christmas Eve/Day (always December 24-25).
Epiphany (always January 6)
Baptism of the Lord Sunday
Season of Epiphany

Transfiguration Sunday

Easter Cycle
Ash Wednesday (followed by 40 days of Lent excluding Sundays)
Five Sundays of Lent
Palm Sunday
Holy Week (includes Maundy Thursday and Good Friday)
Easter Sunday (needs to be calculated by the moon)
Season of Easter
Ascension Thursday (forty days after Easter including Sundays)

Pentecost Sunday (forty-nine days after Easter including Sundays)
Trinity Sunday

Ordinary Time

Christ the King Sunday


A few points of observation:

1) None of this as I have said goes back to the historical person of Jesus or his earliest followers. This would be as foreign to them as the Toyota Prius. This took centuries of development by the church. A further complication for we children of the Enlightenment is that this schema was produced in a pre-modern, three-tiered universe.

2) That said, the church year, its holy days and seasons, if understood as symbolic, can be a tool for spiritual growth. The use of winter and spring for its major days, the birth of the divine child, suffering, injustice, vindication, rebirth, and hope for a blissful future certainly capture the heart, as well as our unconscious. In fact, I find much it helpful in communicating aspects of the Gospel that I feel are important. I especially like Christ the King (or reign of Christ Sunday) in which I can freely talk about Christ as your political as well as personal savior. It is a good Sunday to speak about Christ as king, as opposed to George W. Bush.

3) The 64,000 question(s). Is it enough? When we become conscious of a myth as a myth, does it lose its power? Is this a relic of the past? Are we in a time in which we need to find new myths and symbols that reflect our modern/post-modern situation? Is it time to re-think Jesus? Who is he for us today? I think that these questions, however we answer them, are the substantive questions for a theology for the 21st century.