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

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wondering Where the Lions Are


No church today at FPC Elizabethton.

With the combination of winter weather and it being the day after Christmas, it would be me talking to myself.

I was going to tell stories about Jesus' birth and childhood that didn't make it into the Bible, like this one from
The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew:
There is a road that goes from Jericho to the Jordan River, to the place where the children of Israel crossed, which is also where they say the ark of the covenant rested.

When Jesus was eight years old he left Jericho and headed for the Jordan. Next to the road, near the bank of the Jordan, there was a cave where a lioness was nursing her cubs; it was not safe for anyone to walk past it. Jesus, on his way from Jericho, knowing that that cave was where the lioness had given birth to her cubs, went into it in front of everyone. When the lions saw Jesus, they ran to meet him and worshiped him. Jesus sat down in the cave and the lion’s cubs ran around at his feet, nuzzling him and playing with him. The older lions stood at a distance with their heads bowed and worshiped him, showing their affection for him with their tails.

Then the people who did not see him because they were standing a long way off said, “He would not voluntarily have offered himself up to the lions unless he or his parents had committed serious sins.”

The people were thinking along these lines and were overcome by sorrow when, all of a sudden, in full view of the people, Jesus came out of the cave with the lions parading in front of him and the cubs playing with each other at his feet. Jesus’ parents stood a long way off and watched with their heads bowed. The people also stood at a distance because of the lions; no one dared approach them. Then Jesus began speaking to the people. “The wild animals are so much better than you are: they recognize their Lord and give him glory, while you humans, who have been made in the image and likeness of God, do not know him! Wild animals know me and are tame; humans see me but do not acknowledge me.”

After all this, Jesus crossed the Jordan with the lions as everyone watched. And the water of the Jordan was parted, on the right and on the left. Then, in front of everyone, he said to the lions, “Go in peace and harm no one; but don’t let anyone hurt you either, until you get back to the place from which you’ve come.” They told him good-bye, not only with their gestures but with their voices as well, and went home. Then Jesus went home to his mother.





A wonderful Christmas story is Dance in the Desert by Madeleine L'Engle. It is based on the Holy Family's journey to Egypt as accounted in The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew:




CHAP. 18.--And having come to a certain cave, and wishing to rest in it, the blessed Mary dismounted from her beast, and sat down with the child Jesus in her bosom. And there were with Joseph three boys, and with Mary a girl, going on the journey along with them. And, lo, suddenly there came forth from the cave many dragons; and when the children saw them, they cried out in great terror. Then Jesus went down from the bosom of His mother, and stood on His feet before the dragons; and they adored Jesus, and thereafter retired. Then was fulfilled that which was said by David the prophet, saying:

Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons; ye dragons, and all ye deeps.

And the young child Jesus, walking before them, commanded them to hurt no man. But Mary and Joseph were very much afraid lest the child should be hurt by the dragons. And Jesus said to them: Do not be afraid, and do not consider me to be a little child; for I am and always have been perfect; and all the beasts of the forest must needs be tame before me.

CHAP. 19.--Lions and panthers adored Him likewise, and accompanied them in the desert. Wherever Joseph and the blessed Mary went, they went before them showing them the way, and bowing their heads; and showing their submission by wagging their tails, they adored Him with great reverence. Now at first, when Mary saw the lions and the panthers, and various kinds of wild beasts, coming about them, she was very much afraid. But the infant Jesus looked into her face with a joyful countenance, and said: Be not afraid, mother; for they come not to do thee harm, but they make haste to serve both thee and me. With these words He drove all fear from her heart. And the lions kept walking with them, and with the oxen, and the asses, and the beasts of burden which carried their baggage, and did not hurt a single one of them, though they kept beside them; but they were tame among the sheep and the rams which they had brought with them from Judaea, and which they had with them. They walked among wolves, and feared nothing; and no one of them was hurt by another. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet:

Wolves shall feed with lambs; the lion and the ox shall eat straw together.
The Divine Child. Life without fear. It's Christmas.

And a tune from Bruce Cockburn:

I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren't half as frightening as they were before
But I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

And I'm wondering where the lions are...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Via Creativa--A Sermon

Via Creativa
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

Christmas Eve 2010

In the 14th century, a theologian by the name of Meister Eckhart was tried for heresy by Pope John XXII. He had the last word. He died before they could come to a decision. His status within the church is still discussed, as recently as of March of this year. Some have been attempting to clear his name. The word from the Vatican, apparently is that since he had never been condemned by name he is still considered an orthodox theologian.

But you don’t hear many orthodox theologians, especially men, saying things like this about Christmas. This is Meister Eckhart from the 14th century:
We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time. When the Son of God is begotten in us.
Another theologian, who was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church for his views, and is now an Episcopal priest, Matthew Fox, is a devotee of Eckhart. Matthew Fox and his ideas have made an impact on me and on many in this congregation.

He found trouble with the authorities because he challenged the notion of original sin. He didn’t find much that was original about it and instead he suggested we focus on original blessing. Creation is a blessing. Life itself is a miracle. That we exist is amazing. According to Fox, humanity’s primary identity is not depraved, fallen, or sinful, but that we are a blessing.

We homo sapiens can do some pretty incredible things. We can talk. We can think. We can write “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, compose Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and paint Mona Lisa’s smile. We can calculate pi to one thousand one hundred twenty decimal digits, make fire, text our friends during the sermon with our opposable thumbs, and we can show compassion to and aid a complete stranger who is not a biological kin and who is not in a position to aid us.

It took the universe 13.7 billion years to make you. So you ought to see yourself as pretty darn special. That is original blessing. Wow. Early thinkers on matters of theology were so impressed with themselves that they thought that they were created in the image of God. My guess is that they created God in their image but were too bashful to give themselves credit.

Nevertheless that is the spirit. Life is a blessing. When we take time not to take life for granted, we find that it is amazing. Matthew Fox didn’t say there wasn’t sin: that we do not fail to love, that we do not give into fear, that we do not do destructive things—yes we do certainly. But that isn’t primary. What is primary is life, joy, blessing. Life is teeming everywhere. It is a miracle.

Matthew Fox, inspired by Meister Eckhart and others throughout our various traditions, coined the term Creation Spirituality. It is a spirituality that is Earth-based, is appreciative of human knowledge, especially our cosmological and evolutionary history, sees other faith traditions as many wells dipping into the same river, and is deeply concerned with ecological sustainability and invites us to experience deep compassion for all living things. Matthew Fox wants to create a spirituality for a new millennium. One way to describe him is post-Christian. Which is why he got in trouble with the authorities. They are still operating religion 1.0 and he is at 2.0 at least.

He named four pathways or in Latin vias for the holistic or spiritual life.

The way of awe and wonder at creation and life itself. The via positiva.
The way of letting go and honoring darkness, death, and impermanence. The via negativa.
The way of creativity and imagination. The via creativa.
The way of compassion and justice-making. The via transformativa.

These paths are not a ladder climbed but a spiral danced.

At First Pres., your favorite tree-hugging church in the woods, we have been focusing on one particular path during each season.

Spring is compassion and justice-making.
Summer is awe and wonder.
Fall is letting go and impermanence.
Winter is creativity and imagination.

We have entered Winter. This season begins with Winter Solstice. It is no accident that Jesus was declared to be born at the time of Winter Solstice. Christians adopted it and called it Christmas. Honoring Earth’s return from darkness as the old sun dies and the new sun is born again far predates Christianity.

But Christianity has added some great legends, characters, symbols, and traditions. Christmas lives in legend and symbol, not in historical fact. The magic operates at the unconscious level.

The story of Mary giving birth to the Divine Child is generative, creative stuff. The via creativa is the bringing of light and creativity.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:1-5
All of that coming into being is language for creativity. Christmas is a celebration to honor that which makes us human, our creativity. Like Mary who courageously says to the angel, “Let it be with me according to your word,” we too, are invited to say “Let the Divine be born within me. Let the Light shine in me.”

As Eckhart said:
We are all meant to be mothers of God.
Creativity is about being creative with images. It is letting our imaginations run wild. It is giving birth to new ideas, to new ways of living, being, and relating. We need open our lives to creativity now more than ever. As our planet reaches its limits, the way we have been doing things cannot continue. We are in the midst of witnessing the birth of a major change in human history. We are experiencing the birth pangs of post-Petroleum Man.

One hundred years from now our descendants will be living on renewable and sustainable forms of energy. They will be living with Earth not against it. They will live in balance, renewing its life, not extracting is resources for a one time use.

Now not only are we witnessing this birth, we are participating in it. Now we need the creativity and the courage to give birth to this new reality for the sake of generations to come. Now is when we need to say “Yes” as Mary did and let Creative Wisdom be born in us. Maybe Christmas 2010 will be the time our descendants will remember when humanity woke up, recognized its denial and addictions, realized the danger we are in, took responsibility, and found the courage and creativity to give birth to a new human being—to be in Eckhart’s words—mothers of God.

In his book Creativity, Matthew Fox writes:
Creativity is who we are, creativity can redeem and save our species….All we need to do is release this creativity, get out of its way….What are we waiting for? Let us remove the obstacles, let go of the guilt, and get moving. We have nothing to lose but our pessimism and cynicism….Creativity is not in short supply. There is an abundance of it, plenty to go around. It has always been this way. From the original fireball to the birth of the atoms, galaxies, supernovas, stars, sun, planets, earth and her marvelous creatures. We humans are latecomers to the creative universe, but we are powerfully endowed with creativity. P. 229
That to me is a hopeful message.

For now, for this night, let it be enough to accept that Divine Creativity is being born. We don’t need to force it or calculate it. How creativity comes to one is not the same for another. We don’t need to mimic another. There is no creative act that is too small. We just need to open our minds and open our hearts to the possibility that there is a job for us to do. We are needed. We are a blessing. Each of us, in our own way and in our own place has creativity and light to share.

Like Mary, we have been summoned. Divine Wisdom, Divine Word, Divine Creativity is coming into the world. What Eckhart said 700 years ago is ripe today:
This, then, is the fullness of time. When the Son of God is begotten in us.
Let it be with me according to your word.

Amen.

Meaning of Life--Part 64 (Christmas Edition)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thanks for reading Shuck and Jive!


When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

--Howard Thurman, The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations

We Need More Marys

I will post a nice Christmas Eve sermon later tonight. But we should recall that the infancy narratives in the gospels are set in a time of Empire's paranoia and corresponding ruthlessness.

The "light of the world" comes from a humble place. It is difficult to find a more anti-Empire message than
Mary's Magnificat:

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
This is no schmaltzy Christmas rhetoric. This is an ancient writer using the character, Mary, to speak truth to power. That is the real Christmas story.

Our narrative is set in the global, militarized, corporate Empire. What Eisenhower warned could come--the military industrial complex--has come on steroids. As Empire's foolish infinite growth fantasy has reached its limits and the planet's limits, panic ensues.

Paranoid like Herod (in Matthew's gospel), those in power will do anything (and have done atrocious things) to maintain and take whatever they can for themselves before collapse.


We need another Mary. We all need to be Mary.

Your Christmas Eve movie is a speech delivered by David Ray Griffin in 2007 at Iliff School of Theology in Denver called 9/11 and Nationalist Faith.

"People of Faith" are often accused of allowing their faith to override evidence. This is sometimes the case. With regard to 9/11, the greatest obstacle to seeing the truth - that 9/11 could have been an inside job - is not the lack of evidence, but what can be called 'nationalist faith' - the belief that America is the "exceptional nation" whose leaders never deliberately do anything truly evil, at least to their own citizens.
If you haven't seriously considered doubting the official government conspiracy theory, you might start here.
Understanding the full truth of 9/11 seems to require two separate awakenings.

The first, awakening to the fraudulence of the "official 9/11 story," is a pretty simple brain function and only requires a little study, logic or curiosity. We can help a lot with that part here and it's a major purpose of this site.

The second step, however, consciously confronting the implications of that knowledge--and what it says about our media, politics and economic system today--is by far the harder awakening and requires an enormous exercise of nerve and heart. (As the Chinese say, "You cannot wake up a man who is pretending to sleep.") In other words, this part of the journey depends more on character than on maps and evidence so we can't help you much here, except to point out inspiring heroes and heroines who have courageously faced that truth, spoken out, and survived. (Though we might also point out the intriguing fact that our 9/11 heroines now outnumber 9/11 heroes by about six to one.)

David Ray Griffin is one of those heroes. Michael Ruppert is another. Cynthia McKinney is one of the heroines. As are the Jersey Girls.

Your Christmas movie:


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Best Definition of Hope I Have Ever Heard

This is an incredible speech by Chris Hedges on Hope at the Veterans for Peace Civil Disobedience Action on December 16th. His speech is mixed with clips of veterans speaking out against Empire's wars.

He is right on.




"Hope never makes sense. Hope is weak, unorganized, and absurd. Hope, which is always non-violent, exposes in its powerlessness the lies, fraud, and coercion employed by the state. Hope knows that an injustice visited upon our neighbor is an unjustice visited on all of us." -- Chris Hedges
Here is the transcript of his speech.

Light in the Darkness


At the darkest time in the year, the light breaks forth. The old sun dies and a new sun is born. The days begin to lengthen. Many holidays and festivals are ways of honoring Winter Solstice, including, of course, Christmas. This might be the first year that the darkness and the light has a particular meaning for me. Winter Solstice and Christmas refer symbolically to an age that is ending and a new one beginning.

We are witnessing the collapse of Petroleum Man. Before our eyes, if we open them, we can witness the demise of a bad idea. Infinite growth on a finite planet fueled by non-renewable, unsustainable, hydrocarbons. The dark is dark and it will be dark for some time.

Hopefully, what will be born is Post-Petroleum Man. One hundred years from now, human Earthlings will live by sustainable direct energy by the sun, wind, and waves, if there is a life system left for them. What is left could well depend on what we do (or don't do) now. Will Petroleum Man collapse consciously and graciously or with panic and weapons of mass destruction fighting for the remaining hydrocarbons
in a desperate attempt to sustain the unsustainable?

Chris Hedges is predicting US Empire Could Collapse At Any Time.

Hedges was one of the 131 activists were arrested in an act of civil disobedience outside the White House yesterday, even as Obama was unveiling a new report citing progress in the Afghanistan war.

Speaking to Raw Story on Wednesday night, he said the signs of US collapse are plain to see and compared the country's course through Afghanistan to Soviet Russia's.

"We're losing [the war in Afghanistan] in the same way the Red Army lost it," he said. "It's exactly the same configuration where we sort of control the urban centers where 20 percent of the population lives. The rest of the country where 80 percent of the Afghans live is either in the hands of the Taliban or disputed."

"Foreigners will not walk the streets of Kabul because of kidnapping, and journalists regularly meet Taliban officials in Kabul because the whole apparatus is so porous and corrupt," he said.

One day after this interview was conducted, reports hit the global media noting the CIA's warning to President Obama, that the Pakistan-supported Taliban could still regain control of the country.

Hedges predicted that President Obama's war report released Thursday would "contradict not only [US] intelligence reports but everything else that is coming out of Afghanistan."

His prediction came startlingly true: the CIA's own assessment was said to stand in striking contrast with President Obama's report.
There is a new possibility.

There is a new creation.

There is a light.

It has nothing to do with superstitions regarding Jesus coming again.

It has nothing to do with magic pill technology that can keep us happily motoring.

It is the creativity and compassion of human beings facing reality and adapting with grace.

One of the places I go to face reality is Mike Ruppert's Collapsenet. There is a charge for membership, $10 per month. For that ten bucks what I value most is World News Desk. Each day Ruppert and the staff search the web for news links and offer commentary. These links are to stories regarding the economy, energy, and politics.

Here is Ruppert's latest video for Winter Solstice.


WINTER SOLSTICE MESSAGE from CollapseNet.com on Vimeo.



Check his radio program, The Lifeboat Hour, on the Progressive Radio Network.

Also visit Transition United States. This is the kind of work that is the light breaking into the darkness:

The Transition Movement is a vibrant, grassroots movement that seeks to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis. It represents one of the most promising ways of engaging people in strengthening their communities against the effects of these challenges, resulting in a life that is more abundant, fulfilling, equitable and socially connected. We believe that we can make the transition to a more sustainable world. We hope that you will join us.
Carolyn Baker writes a column for Collapsenet. Her latest is how to deal with "Clueless Relatives During the Holidays."
I have discovered over the years that on some occasions when I cannot communicate about collapse with people I care about, what I can do is simply love them and savor the opportunity to be with them. While I may want to take care of them or protect them, I know that can’t, but I can fully engage in the present moment with them. The future becomes less relevant and urgent when we can become fully present to another person, and whatever happens in the future, we can enter it with the comfort of knowing that we really saw, heard, and felt the person who was not able to open to the unprecedented changes of our time and talk about them with us.
Pretty good advice. This is going to affect us all and change us all. If Ruppert if right (and he has been much more right than wrong) this change will happen soon.

I do put a big dollop of hope in humanity. I don't hope for some technological trinket that will enable us to continue our lives of Cheetos and football. Petroleum Man is going away.

I do put hope in regular people who respond to change with creativity, compassion, and a cool head.

I call that Light.

The darkness will not overcome it.






Saturday, December 18, 2010

Do Tell!


Well how about them apples?


The Senate voted today 65-31 to remove Don't Ask Don't Tell. Don't believe me? Check it for yourself!



"It is time to close this chapter in our history,'' Obama said in a statement after a test vote cleared the way for final action. "It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.''

The Senate vote was 65-31. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, on Wednesday.

Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the military and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.

Now that the military says gays can be soldiers, I wonder when Presbyterians will allow them to be preachers of peace?

FPC in the Star

Thanks to the Elizabethton Star for a nice write-up about our Christmas/Solstice events:


First Presbyterian sets Christmas events


The Chancel Choir of First Presbyterian Church will perform a special Christmas version of the Messiah during the morning worship service as its annual gift to the congregation on Sunday, Dec. 19.



The church family Christmas dinner will be held on Sunday at 6 p.m. The dinner will feature great food, entertainment and lots of fellowship. Session members are providing meat platters of all sorts. Attending families are asked to take a side dish to feed at least four hungry folks. Those bringing dishes to put on the vegan table are asked to list the ingredients beside the dish for clarification. Entertainment will be provided by the young folks under the leadership of Linda Sorrell and Paul Gabinet.

A yule ceremony will be held on Monday, Dec. 20, at 6:30 p.m. to honor ancestors and celebrate the Solstice. A news release states, "We will light our fire outdoors, unless the weather is really bad, in which case we will be in Martin Hall." Participants are asked to meet at the church at 6:30 p.m. to carpool to the site and dress for the weather. For more information, e-mail 1stpres-eliz [at] embarqmail [dot] com. The news release states, "This year's solstice (Dec. 21) will be especially magical as it coincides with a full moon and a total lunar eclipse later that night!"

A Tidings of Comfort Service will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m. The news release states, "The holiday season isn't all bright and cheerful for some of us. This service is designed to let you know that it's OK to not be 'in the spirit' all the time. This beautiful and reflective service also commemorates the solstice and the transition into winter."

Members of the choir and congregation will go caroling to shut-ins on Wednesday, Dec. 22, at 6 p.m. Participants will meet at the church to get music, an itinerary, and to carpool. For more information, e-mail Deb Ilves at twinpinedeb [at] gmail [dot] com.

A Christmas Eve Service will be held on Friday, Dec. 24, at 10 p.m. The service will feature readings, music, prayer and candlelight to celebrate the birth of Christ, "as well as begin the via creativa, the Divine Creativity within."

Youth are gathering mittens, hats and other cold weather gear, as well as household items, for The Shepherd's Inn. The Tree will be in the Narthex through the holidays. Visit the Web site for a list of other items TSI can use.

The Rev. John Shuck is the pastor.
I am that. Have a Happymerrysolstikwanzamas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Imagine Peace--Playing for Change

Thanks to Rebecca for alerting me to this latest from Playing for Change.

Here is a little bit about the video:

In the beginning of 2010 the Playing For Change crew began work on a new Song Around the World, John Lennon's "Imagine." It has been an amazing year of production, taking the crew from the favelas of Brazil to the shrines of southern India, from villages in Nepal to the glittering urban landscape of Tokyo and New York, and beyond.

This song is the Playing For Change Foundation's gift to the world. The Playing For Change Foundation feels honored to have the blessing and generous support of Yoko Ono as music lovers around the world join together to launch the Power to the People campaign. The campaign seeks to advance John Lennon’s vision of peace by engaging artists and audiences to contribute to music education programs worldwide. Proceeds raised will help build music schools, support teachers and music programs, purchase instruments, and connect schools for cross-cultural learning and conflict resolution across borders. Music IS the power: Power to the People.

To stay informed about the PFC Foundation, the schools we are building, the lives we are touching, and how you can participate, please join our mailing list at playingforchange.org, and participate in this global movement.



Early Winter News From Your Home Church

The Early Winter White Spire is out. You can download it in pdf and read it on-line.

It contains all the heresies that are fit to print including our Christmas/Solstice schedule, my worship guide for the season of Winter, the via creativa, and other newsy items about your favorite tree-hugging church in the woods.

We will be welcoming new members on January 9th, so I thought I would use that opportunity to share my thoughts about our congregation's place in the cosmos. This is From the Pastor's Computer:

Dear Friends,

On Sunday January 9th we will be welcoming new members to our congregation. John and Jennifer Gardiner, Gerald Tolley, and Jo Wyckoff have indicated that they will join our congregation on that day. If you would like to join them in joining us, well then, let me know at johnashuck [at] embarqmail [dot] com. After worship, the deacons will prepare a reception for us.

About three times a year we have a Sunday to welcome new members. It consists of having someone introduce you to the congregation during worship. There is no exam. No hazing rituals. So why join? What is the point? Joining does allow one to become an officer in the church and to vote at congregational meetings. That is probably not that big of a deal. There are a number of folks who attend but never join. That is fine. What I really think is important is for folks to participate, whether one is an official member or not.

I do think that joining does indicate a willingness to stand with a community through thick and thin. It indicates a willingness to be part of a community with shared ideals and to support that community as it carries out its work. We hope and expect that members will support our work with their time, talent, and treasure. In turn as connections are made, folks may find that the community will support them as well. Friends will be made, fellow travelers in whom we can confide and share our joys and struggles. Becoming a member is saying, “I believe (for the most part at least) in what you all are doing and I want to put my name on it.” We are looking for folks who are ready to offer what they have to make a more compassionate world.

In many ways we are a typical congregation. In other ways we are not. We don’t make a big deal about doctrine, dogma, or creeds. Someone once quipped that we are BYOG (bring your own god). Our roots are in the Jesus tradition but we find value and seek wisdom from other faiths as well as from the store of human wisdom as expressed in the arts and the sciences. We are located within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We appreciate and engage with that tradition even as we push back at it.

We are affiliated with The Center for Progressive Christianity and the United Religions Initiative. Creation Spirituality as articulated by Matthew Fox and others has made a big impact on our life together. We are informed by historical Jesus scholarship such as found in the Jesus Seminar and others who are helping us redefine a faith for a new millennium.

We are active and outspoken regarding environmental justice, economic justice, social justice, and peacemaking. We are a More Light congregation that advocates in word and deed for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. We are all these things because people have BTOG (brought their own god) to the mix. To use that old Presbyterian standby: “we are reformed and always being reformed.”

We are also folks who get together to enjoy a good potluck and some good tunes. We like music and hope you’ll add your voice to our critter choir. We are nothing special here. Just Earthlings. In time you will find that we have all the same struggles, doubts, foibles, and inconsistencies as you’ll find with any group. We try to challenge each other to be real. Spending time together is good for that.

You will find a lot of talent and creativity here. We welcome your talent and creativity. I think we try to be a “permission giving” congregation. What I mean by that is that we won’t burden your creativity with a whole lot of red tape. If you see a need and think you might have a way to address it and would like to use the building, we will likely give you permission. Unless it goes directly against who we are or if it looks like your activity might burn down the place, we’ll probably give you the OK.

If you want to host a concert for a benefit, start a healing ministry, take on a social justice cause, we will give you the space, help you print up a flier, and give you the spiritual mojo to get going. What we are less likely to do is do it for you. So if you have a good idea and that good idea means that some other alpha male or alpha female has to do it, it probably won’t happen. You are your own alpha.

I hope you will find fellow travelers here. I hope you will take the initiative and keep reaching out to make friends. We won’t invade your privacy. We won’t push. If you don’t show up for a while we probably won’t call you. But if you have done the work to make friends here, they might. In many ways we are kind of like a bar or tavern. We won’t make friends for you, but we will create the space so you can do that important work. If you see something missing in our community, come talk to me, and maybe I can offer some resources so you can create something new. For my part, my door is open. You can reach me and find an empathetic ear.

Not everyone likes this kind of church. Some folks want a church where they can “be fed”. There are many feeding troughs around that will take care of that. We might encourage you instead, to hunt. You’ll be challenged here to think. Rather than prop up your faith, we might instead take a few whacks at it so you can build up a stronger one. Rather than give you Sunday School answers, we will invite you to ask adult questions. We think the joy is in the struggle and the quest.

If this sounds interesting, give me a call.

Blessed Be,
John

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Proud of My Peeps

One of my First Presby Peeps had her letter published in today's Johnson City Press. She tells the truth:

Republicans Want to Help Wealthy and No One Else

I couldn’t be a Republican, but I value their vital historic role in our story. The party I see today saddens me as it owes so much of its gains to shallow, mean-spirited, greedy forces within its constituency.

The tea party presents poorly considered, often intolerant, quasi-libertarian philosophy. It’s no secret primary funding comes from multi-billionaires who intend to manipulate it to repeal all safety nets, including Social Security and Medicare, and federal regulation in general.

Secure in his astronomical salary, Rush Limbaugh callously states Americans deserve only the health care they can afford. Savvy Republican legislators don’t cross this “entertainer.”

Fox News, blatantly partisan, assumes we don’t care corporate policy is to ignore inconvenient fact.

Their poster clown, Glenn Beck, with twisted logic, commanded listeners to flee churches that reference social justice, for that’s a first step toward communism and fascism. Bill O’Reilly categorically labels the unemployed as lazy and irresponsible.

Sarah Palin, who is no fan of rational analysis, hides from responsible media, perpetually spars with critics and waits to take the reins.

Most troubling are secret donors who contributed almost $120 million toward Republican midterm campaigns.

NBC news identified key contributors as wealthy hedge fund managers angry with Democrats for trying to close the loophole that provides a tax rate half that of their chauffeurs.

I hope it’s unnerving for a venerable institution to realize such as these hold and effectively direct its course. It explains Republican priorities: lowering taxes for the wealthy, repealing health care and scaling back Wall Street reforms.

We have become the nation with the widest gap between rich and poor. One-fourth of our children are hungry. This is our shame.

The enablers of the greedy and profit obsessed cannot distance themselves from the sin. Somewhere, surely, are our better angels.

JENNIE YOUNG
Elizabethton

Thanks, Jennie! Direct and to the point.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Have Yourself a Progressive Little Christmas




We have a sleigh full of activities for your Yuletide cheer. All of the activities are open to everyone.




Here is what's happening at FPC Elizabethton:


December 19th:

Chistmas Cantata, 11 a.m.


Our choir, conducted by Beverly Shuck, is presenting Handel's Christmas Messiah: A Cantata during Sunday worship.

Christmas Dinner, 6 p.m.

We will have our Christmas Dinner with communion and a presentation of "The Friendly Beasts" by children and youth. Bring a dish to share.


December 20th:

Yule Ceremony, 6:30 p.m.


We will honor our ancestors and celebrate the Solstice with our own ceremony on the eve of Yule, December 20th. We will light our fire outdoors, unless the weather is really bad (in which case we will do it indoors). This year's Solstice (Dec. 21st) will be especially magical, because it coincides with a Full Moon - and a total lunar eclipse later that night! Please join us. We will meet at the church at 6:30 and carpool to our site. Dress for the weather! If you are interested, or have questions, please contact Elaine at the church. Yule blessings!


December 21st:

Tidings of Comfort, 7 p.m.


The holiday season isn't all bright and cheerful for all of us. This service is designed to let you know that it's okay to not be "in the spirit" all the time. This beautiful and reflective service honors the via negativa and commemorates the solstice and the transition into winter.


December 24th:

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, 10 p.m.


Join us for a beautiful evening of readings, music, prayer, and candlelight as we celebrate the birth of Christ as well as begin the Via Creativa, the Divine Creativity within.





Put on your Santa suit and join us.


Snickers sez, "Arf."

(What he means by that is whoever put this outfit on him will pay when they least expect it.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The LayMAN Whines Again

I wonder when the homophobians at the LayMAN will finally give it up.

Carmen
"The Millstone" Fowler is crying about Apple Computer. Apparently, the iPhone and the iPad have discontinued an app for the Manhattan Declaration. (The Manhattan Declaration is a statement of bigotry that seeks to deny marriage equality using religious freedom as a cover for prejudice).

According to the Millstone, enough people made noise and Apple peeled the app. Now she is asking her tribe to complain to Steve Jobs and get the app reinstated.

I have no love for corporations, including Apple. I am happy they have no app for bigotry. Now that could change. Apple will do what is best for its bottom line. The truth is that prejudice against gays is becoming less profitable as rational, reasonable, everyday people see through the ignorance, nastiness, and religious intolerance of the LayMAN and its comrades.

What the LayMAN and its band of bigots don't get is that the wind is not blowing in their direction. Second class status for gays is ending in America. The ones holding up the banner for prejudice (like the LayMAN) will only become more marginalized as they become more shrill.

The Fun's in the Fight: A Sermon

The Fun’s in the Fight
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

December 12, 2010
Third Sunday of Advent

Gospel of Jesus 6:1-14

King Herod heard about Jesus’ exorcism and cures---by now, Jesus’ reputation had become well known. Some spread the rumor that he was Elijah, while others reported that he was a prophet like one of the prophets.

Earlier, Herod himself had sent someone to arrest John and put him in chains in a dungeon, on account of Herodias, because he had abandoned his first wife and married her. So Herodias nursed a grudge against him and wanted to eliminate him, but she couldn’t manage it, because Herod was afraid of John.

Now a festival day came, when Herod gave a banquet on his birthday for his courtiers, and his commanders, and the leading citizens of Galilee. And the daughter of Herodias came in and captivated Herod and his dinner guests by dancing. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish and I’ll grant it to you!” Then he swore an oath to her: “I’ll grant you whatever you ask for, up to half my domain!”

She promptly made her request: “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist on a platter, right now!”

The king grew regretful, but, on account of his oaths and the dinner guests, he didn’t want to refuse her. So right away the king sent for the executioner and commanded him to bring his head. And he went away and beheaded John in prison.

Jesus began to talk about John to the crowds: “What did you go out to the wilderness to gawk at? A reed shaking in the wind? What did you really go out to see? A man dressed in fancy clothes? But wait! Those who wear fancy clothes are found in regal quarters.”

Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, The Gospel of Jesus (Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press, 1999), p. 37, 39. Mark 6:14-29; Matthew 11: 7-8; 14:1-12
Luke 7:24-25; Thomas 78:1-2

"Salome"
Elizabeth Creamer

All I would say was not said in the dance

which, despite the reviews, was not me wholly

but a mimicry of what I learned as a girl

in the market following my mother
through back alleys to low-ceilinged rooms

where shrouded women whispered of power

as the starting salary for a beauty like me

who could polish her act until it gleamed

so bright it would mirror a man's self-image

like the silver platter at the feast that night.

No, all I would say was not said in the dance
but the bump and grind was my mother tongue,
breasts and hips an ingenue's scripted part.

The Baptist risked his neck to exhort a wasted king,

but for me, the daughter, he offered not one sermon.




If the man had only thought that I might think,

I would have chosen a different veil.

As it was, I danced.

It was the only way I knew

for a girl like me

to get a head.



The theme as you can read from the bulletin cover for this Third Sunday of Advent is Joy. That fits quite nicely don’t you think with the beheading of John the Baptist? It is a happy little story filled with drunkenness, sexual politics, the arrogance of the powerful, and violence.

It is a heartwarming tale for Christmas.

Most preachers will tell you that Advent is the most difficult season. Hymns are in a minor key, the texts are depressing, and the season itself has overtones of an apocalyptic end-times scenario.

Then of course there is our reality. Christmas is the season that is the driving force behind our consumerist economy. Forty percent of all retail goods sold during the year are purchased between Thanksgiving Day and December 25th. Ministers are supposed to make you feel bad about that, too. Even though many of us, in fact, probably all of us, count on high retail sales for the success of our businesses, investments, and incomes. We are, after all, interconnected. The Wise Men had no idea what bringing gifts to the Christ child would become.

And we have our own worries. Health, family, livelihoods, drama. Drama is a word I picked up from middle and high school students these past few weeks. They use that word often. Drama. It has to do with volatility and angst in social interactions. Drama. Drama at school. Drama at home. Drama at work. Drama at church.

Christmas with all of its pressures and expectations is certainly a season of high drama.

In that sense, maybe this story about John the Baptist does fit. Who doesn’t fantasize about beheading someone right about now?

If it makes it easier, the story is likely fiction. According to historical Jesus scholar, Dominic Crossan, Mark probably adapted it from an earlier well-known story.

According to this story set in 184 BC, a Roman Senator, Lucius Quinctius Flaminius was expelled from the senate for this atrocious deed. It has to do with a woman. Flaminius was infatuated with the lovely Placentia. She was a notorious woman. Flaminius invites her to dinner. He is trying to impress her by bragging about how many people he has in his prison that he intends to behead. Placentia is reclining below him and tells him that she has never seen a beheading and wouldn’t he mind entertaining her?

According to the text, “the generous lover, ordering one of the wretches to be brought to him, cut off his head with a sword.”

This is all in the context of feasting and drinking. Flaminius is expelled from the senate for this not because the guy was innocent—he would have been beheaded anyway—but because that is no way to exercise power. You don’t execute justice to please a mistress at a party.

Mark’s story of Herod’s misuse of power likely recalls that story. Crossan, Jesus, pp. 35-39

John the Baptist was probably not beheaded because he criticized Herod for taking his brother’s wife. He was, however, executed by Herod. First century historian Josephus hints that Herod was worried that John and his wild-eyed preaching was going to lead to an insurrection.

John probably was an apocalyptic preacher who thought God would finally act (as God acted in Old Testament times) on behalf of Israel over its enemies. John is preparing these people through baptism to stage some sort of protest in anticipation of God’s activity. There were many who did similar things during this volatile period. It usually did not end well. The Romans simply massacred them.

Jesus hears that John is executed. John who baptized him. The writing is on the wall. You follow John the Baptist, you will likely end up like John the Baptist. According to our text:
Jesus began to talk about John to the crowds: “What did you go out to the wilderness to gawk at? A reed shaking in the wind? What did you really go out to see? A man dressed in fancy clothes? But wait! Those who wear fancy clothes are found in regal quarters.”
I think what Jesus is saying is that this is serious business. Standing up to Empire is dangerous. This could be your fate as well as mine. This work is not for those who wear fancy clothes or who are easily shaken like a reed in the wind.

Crossan and some other historical Jesus scholars say that Jesus had a different approach than John. Whereas John was apocalyptic thinking that the kingdom of God would come in a dramatic supernatural way (an analogy would be the modern day rapture believers), Jesus saw it differently. Jesus saw the kingdom of God as already present, within you and among you. He was like John in that he saw the present order of things as corrupt and unsustainable (to use a modern word).

Jesus, like John, rejected the values of domination and exploitation and peace through violence. Unlike John, Jesus saw this new reality, this new way or relating as something that exists now and that we can participate in now. As we look at the things that Jesus did we get a glimpse of what it might mean to participate and to anticipate this kingdom he spoke about.

What did he do? He welcomed all at the table. He transcended ethnic boundaries. He provided healing for families and communities, he resisted oppression not with violence but with non-violence. He declared that the poorest and the left out were the favored ones. He inspired people to hope and work for economic, political, and social justice.

For Jesus, the miracle of the kingdom coming is not a lightning bolt from the sky that wipes out the bad guys, but a gradual awakening and awareness of people living out the values of justice, peace, compassion, and truth.

This work by Jesus is no less risky than that done by John. Jesus was executed as well. Jesus is reported to have said,
“If anyone wants to follow me, let that one pick up a cross.”
  • There are forces in the time of Jesus and in our time that do not want equality.
  • There are forces in the time of Jesus and in our time that are exploitative of people and of Earth.
  • There are forces in the time of Jesus and in our time who think that a very few are destined to control the wealth of the planet.
  • There are forces in the time of Jesus and in our time who advocate for endless war to achieve their ends.
  • There are forces in the time of Jesus and in our time that have no regard to the future beyond their own immediate future.
  • There are forces in the time of Jesus and in our time that will destroy lives and life itself to get their way.
Naming, resisting, and working to change these forces is risky business. It is not for reeds shaken by the wind. The question for each of us is this: Is it worth it?

Picking up the cross doesn’t sound like fun.
What is the difference if it is a losing cause anyway?


First, regarding losing causes.
I quoted Reinhold Niebuhr
last week and will do so again.
This quote from Niebuhr makes it into my loose-leaf Bible:

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime;
therefore, we are saved by hope.

Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we are saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love.
It is not up to us to decide beforehand what is or is not a losing cause. What is up to us is to decide what is the right thing and to do it. The outcome is not up to us. We cannot know in advance what our work today will produce tomorrow.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s last book before his death, A Man Without a Country, he tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor. Vonnegut said that Ignaz Semmelweis was his hero. He was born in 1818. He became an obstetrician, devoting his life to the care of mothers and babies.

Vonnegut also told the story of Ignaz Semmelweis during a commencement address. Vonnegut told this story in the context of the “forces” that I mentioned above, who Vonnegut called “the guessers”. Ignaz Semmelweis stood up to the guessers. Here is Vonnegut’s telling:
Ignaz Semmelweis …believed that germs could cause diseases. He was horrified when he went to work for a maternity hospital in Vienna, Austria, to find out that one mother in 10 was dying of childbed fever there.

These were poor people - rich people still had their babies at home. Semmelweis observed hospital routines, and began to suspect that doctors were bringing the infection to the patients. He noticed that the doctors often went directly from dissecting corpses in the morgue to examining mothers in the maternity ward. He suggested as an experiment that the doctors wash their hands before touching the mothers.

What could be more insulting. How dare he make such a suggestion to his social superiors. He was a nobody, he realized. He was from out of town with no friends and protectors among the Austrian nobility. But all that dying went on and on and Semmelweis, having far less sense about how to get along with others in this world than you and I would have, kept on asking his colleagues to wash their hands.

They at last agreed to do this in a spirit of lampoonery, of satire, of scorn. How they must have lathered and lathered and scrubbed and scrubbed and cleaned under their fingernails. The dying stopped - imagine that! The dying stopped. He saved all those lives.

Subsequently, it might be said that he has saved millions of lives - including quite possibly yours and mine. What thanks did Semmelweis get from the leaders of his profession in Viennese society, guessers all? He was forced out of the hospital and out of Austria itself, whose people he had served so well. He finished his career in a provincial hospital in Hungary. There he gave up on humanity, which is us, and our knowledge, which is now yours, and on himself.

One day in the dissecting room, he took the blade of a scalpel with which he had been cutting up a corpse, and he stuck it on purpose into the palm of his hand. He died, as he knew he would, of blood poisoning soon afterward.

The guessers had had all the power. They had won again. Germs indeed. The guessers revealed something else about themselves too, which we should duly note today. They aren't really interested in saving lives. What matters to them is being listened to -as however ignorantly their guessing goes on and on and on. If there's anything they hate, it's a wise guy or a wise girl.

Be one anyway. Save our lives and your lives too. Be honorable.
That was Kurt Vonnegut recounting the story of Ignaz Semmelweis. A sad story, on one level, for him personally. It shows that we do not know in advance if our cause is lost or not. An important story for us. We need to take the risks to stand up to the guessers-- the forces-- for what is right and good and decent.

That is why it is worth it figuratively, or perhaps literally, to pick up the cross and take the risk.

I am going to suggest that there is a bonus.

Beheadings notwithstanding, fighting the good fight can be fun and downright joyful.

I think another difference between Jesus and John the Baptist is that Jesus might have had a bit more fun. The gospels recount that people criticized Jesus because he and his followers feasted and ate and drank while John’s followers fasted and looked gloomy. Maybe that is why Jesus outlasted John. Jesus resisted the guessers—the forces—as much as John did, but Jesus had fun doing it.

Don’t forget to enjoy life—to consider the lilies—to enjoy what you can.

Joy is not found in the absence of drama, but in its midst.


This Third Sunday of Advent is for Joy. I think it is the joy of a good scrap.

Another individual who has made it into my loose-leaf Bible is Molly Ivins. Those who have been paying attention at sermon time, know that I have quoted Molly before. But as with all Scripture, it is good for the soul to hear it more than once. This is from an article whose title I borrowed for my sermon title, “The Fun’s in the Fight”:
So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.
Let us pray:

Tender God, touch us,
Be touched by us,
Make us lovers of humanity,
Compassionate friends of all creation.
Gracious God, hear us into speech,
Speak us into acting,
And through us, recreate the world.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Griffin, Sunstein, "Cognitive Infiltration", and 9/11 Truth


David Ray Griffin will be remembered as the Dietrich Bonhoeffer of the early 21st century. It may not be until long after he is dead. It may not be until long after I have breathed my last and the readers of these words have breathed theirs that we will recognize that Griffin was right to challenge the official conspiracy theory of 9/11.

I am proud that the intellectual leader of the 9/11 Truth Movement is a theologian. In a time in which theologians have become little more than peddlers of antiquities at best and superstitious quacks at worst, along comes one who knows what it means to be a theologian. A theologian speaks truth to power. That is enough. It is, however, more than the vast majority can do.

In addition to his books on theology and philosophy, David Ray Griffin has written ten books on the events surrounding September 11th, 2001. I regard these ten as theology that matters. The previous books were preparation.

His books on 9/11 include:

  1. A New Pearl Harbor (2004)
  2. A New Pearl Harbor Revisited (2008).
  3. The Mysterious Collapse of the World Trade Center 7 (2009)
  4. The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (2004)
  5. Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11 (2006)
  6. Debunking 9/11 Debunking (2007)
  7. 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter to Congress and the Press (2008)
  8. 9/11 and The American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out (2006)
  9. Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive? (2009)
However, his latest is the one I recommend that folks who have yet seriously to consider this question read first.


In his most recent book, Cognitive Infiltration: An Obama Appointee's Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory, Griffin responds to an article by Cass Sunstein.



Stephen Lendman sets the stage in this opinion piece for the Baltimore Chronicle, David Ray Griffin v. Cass Sunstein.

Cass Sunstein is an interesting character. President Obama appointed Sunstein to be the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

In his 2008 essay, Conspiracy Theories, Sunstein advocated infiltrating the 9/11 truth movement in order to discredit it, much like the FBI's counter-intelligence movement in the 60s and 70s, COINTELPRO, against civil rights groups. Here is a sample of what he proposes:

[W]e suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of believers by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity. (Page 219.)

In other words, secretly break into groups and illegally disrupt their activities. If you cannot prove their case wrong with reason, then use subterfuge. This is the guy Obama appoints?

Elsewhere, Sunstein contemplates censorship:
We could imagine circumstances in which a conspiracy theory became so pervasive, and so dangerous, that censorship would be thinkable. p. 133 (Griffin)
Griffin writes:
Which is more dangerous, people who believe 9/11 was an inside job, or people occupying influential positions within our government who can calmly contemplate canceling the First Amendment? p. 133
Griffin's book is a careful, point by point critique of Sunstein's essay. As he critiques the essay, he makes the case for questioning the official 9/11 conspiracy theory. This book will show that the search for the truth behind the events of September 11th, 2001 is not going away.

There is an obvious answer to "dangerous" conspiracy theories such as 9/11 Truth. Answer the questions. Have a public debate. Have a truly independent commission investigate.

Griffin writes:

What Sunstein's essay comes down to, therefore, is a proposal to use tactics of questionable decency and legality to undermine a movement that could not be defeated through the normal tools of his trade, evidence and argumentation. Besides being appalled by Sunstein's proposal, those of us in the 9/11 Truth Movement should also be grateful for it. Why? Because this proposal, which is encapsulated in the phrase "cognitive infiltration," almost explicitly acknowledges that the government would be able to undermine the 9/11 Truth Movement only through surreptitious means, not by using evidence and argumentation to discredit it intellectually.

The Truth Movement should, therefore, take Sunstein's proposal to use "cognitive infiltration" to undermine it as a compliment--as a Harvard law professor's recognition that this movement, which claims to speak the truth about 9/11, actually does so. The movement should, accordingly, publicize this phrase, using it to educate the public about his law professor's implicit admission that, if the government had to defend its account of 9/11 in a court of law, it would not have a winnable case. pp. 155-6
Griffin's book is a piece of art. Well-written, clear, incisive, even humorous. It is an excellent introduction to the rest of his books on 9/11. Sadly, Professor Griffin's health is not good. This could be his last book. You can read an account of his recent illness.

As I wrote at the beginning, David Ray Griffin will be remembered among the great ones. When he was needed he used his gifts and skills and with courage spoke truth to power.

SPLC: Gays Under Attack


In today's mail I received the latest issue of the Intelligence Report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center.




The cover story is Under Attack: Statistics Reflect Grim Reality: Gays Remain The Most Targeted Minority In America.



Responding to the wave of teen suicides — including, most dramatically, that of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who leaped off the George Washington Bridge in New York City in September — anti-gay leaders instead blamed those who sought to protect students from bullying.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said gay rights activists “pressure these students to declare a disordered sexual preference when they’re too young to know better, [so] they share some culpability.” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a key critic of anti-bullying programs, said gay activists were “exploiting these tragedies to push their agenda.” He said that gay kids may know “intuitively” that their desires are “abnormal” and that the claim, pushed by gay activists, that they can’t change “may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.” Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel said those activists want “to use the tragedies to increase pressure on the real victims: Christians.”
Can you believe that? Christians are the "real victims" according to these anti-gay zealots. You will also want to read
  1. Ten Anti-Gay Myths Debunked
  2. Anti-Gay Movement Fuels Hate Violence
  3. 18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda
  4. Anti-Gay Hate Crimes: Doing the Math
  5. Jamaica's Anti-Gay "Murder Message" Carries Violent Message
Thanks to the SPLC for this issue.

The best way to counter this is to stand up and be counted.

In Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia please support:
  1. PFLAG Tri-Cities
  2. PFLAG Abingdon/Washington County Virginia
  3. Tennessee Equality Project (Tri-Cities)
  4. Northeast Tennessee Pride
  5. LGBTieS (ETSU)
  6. Open Door Society (Tusculum)