Category Archives: Religion

Are We Equal?

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It is impossible to say this without sounding snarky or motivated by lesser intentions. If you continue reading this, you’re going to have to accept that I’m not coming from a place of distrust or anger: I’m just perplexed. Unlike most social media, I only share what I own. Nothing is more ‘me’ than the words I take the time to share.

Some people will read this and become angry or defensive. That reaction should serve as an indicator of how dissonant the issue can be. If you are convinced I’m wrong, you will do yourself a disservice by either lashing out in anger or attempting to craft an argument to convince me otherwise.

I’m just one man sharing my opinion. It’s mine, based on years of reading, observation, and insight.

Anyone with sufficiently confident ideas couldn’t possibly be rendered floorless by my wild ramblings. Truth should never avoid the footsteps of inquiry.

The longer I’m alive, the more perplexed and confused I become in observance of the obedience and participation women have toward doctrine or churches which continue to discriminate.

For all those giving up something for an observed religious holiday, I would ask you to instead consider giving up any religious organization which prohibits women from having an equal footing from top to bottom of the organization.

I’m not asking you to give up your understanding or relationship with your creator or your religion. I’m asking that you instead pledge allegiance to an organization which doesn’t openly take you task for having been born the opposite sex.

Don’t be fooled by mission statements honoring your “alternate role” or anything other than full participation.

Less is lesser, no matter how gilded or prophetic the language used to disguise it.

It’s not a slippery slope; it’s a sharp cliff.

It’s hard to imagine being 52% of the population, yet accepting membership in a church which refuses to stop discriminating.

For men reading this, it’s important that I’m clear: you are wrong if you persist in your insistence that religion demands that women accept lesser spiritual roles. Religious texts have been used to justify all manner of behavior and norms that we now find to be ridiculous. Clinging to tradition or the expository religious texts of your church does not compel intelligent agreement. It’s time. I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument from a man regarding why a woman can’t be a leader in his church. I’ve certainly heard some angry arguments – and often at high volume.

Condemning me to hell only serves to demonstrate how so many fail to see that we only truly preach by how we live. I never learn from an angry voice or a snarled lip and I suspect that no one else does, either.

Each of us must make our own choices for our own reasons. I know that it’s complicated.

But it doesn’t have to be.

I have great difficulty trying to come to terms with the idea of some of the strong women I know who tolerate organizations which do not honor their right to be equals at the table. Some say they’ve found great peace in their respective churches. I find it difficult to imagine that they’ve done so without great stirrings of distrust as they witness being excluded.

These same women, going about their regular lives, would be outraged at the institutionalized discrimination found in their own churches if it were to infect their daily lives.

If your church tells you that cannot be a pastor, priest, or equal to any man in the organization, it deserves to be replaced by another, one without such ideology.

There are a great number of churches which recognize women as equals in all matters spiritual. Are we to believe that their doctrine is wrong? And if they are wrong, you must accept that for some peculiar reason, women are not a man’s equal where religion is concerned. Most of us see it and recognize that it’s wrong. We just don’t know how to get from ‘here’ to ‘there.’

Logistics aside, if even half of all the women in gender-restricted religions and churches stop tolerating it, these churches would wither almost immediately. There are few such social systems in which the fix is both glaringly obvious and available.

Just stop.

Take your intelligence, your presence, your love, and your compassion and let it grace the door of a church which honors women as equals. Let your sons and daughters know that God is an insufficient excuse to continue to practice spiritual discrimination.

It might burn to hear it, but many of us are waiting for the other shoe to drop and for women to stand up and demand this change. It would happen immediately if every woman currently attending a church which does not recognize women as total equals stopped attending, stopped donating, stopped participating, stopped honoring, and stopped accepting being told “no.”

You might be surprised to know that many men already share your distaste with gender-spirituality. And for those that don’t, you can’t change their minds by waiting for them to come around to sensibility. It’s time for a slammed door or a proverbial skillet to the head.

It is true that you absolutely can find your own way inside such discriminatory organizations. I see that it’s a problem for a man to be pointing toward discrimination. It’s also true, though, that if you decide that it is unacceptable and shout your objections and immediately detach, church leaders will have no choice but to admit they’ve been derelict for a few thousand years.

No matter how old a church is, if 52% of the congregation shouts “NO more!” you can be sure that change will come immediately or that reluctance will clearly signal something fundamental is at work.

Whether your church intends to marginalize women by disallowing them full participation, the result is the same: your voice is among the lesser. You are not a full participant. You are condoning the perpetuation of the system which has identified you by gender as unequal.

Allegiance to such churches based on tradition dishonors our ability to determine our own course.

If you truly love your church, demand change.

If you truly love yourself, be open to the possibility.

Not at some imagined future point; rather, today. It will only sustain itself if it embraces this change. If it does not embrace it, it will eventually wither anyway.

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Universal Law of Religious Comparison

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“You sound weird.” -A quote from a member of one religion to every other member of any other religion or denomination.

Corollary: “Additionally, while I’m not specifically saying so, your way is misguided.” Also known as “The Highlander Rule of Religion” – as there can be only one.

Corollary Sequel Pertaining to Deniability: Even if you’re not aware of it, almost every religious person looks at the beliefs and practices of others with an aloof, if not a superior, critical, or comedic eye. Including yours.

Bacon? Temple garments? E-meters? Mysticism? Kaparot? Exorcism? Blood transfusions? Self-flagellation? Fasting? Confession? Scripture? Polygamy? Snake handling? Speaking in tongues? Animal sacrifice? Confirmation? Hymns? Silent worship? Reincarnation? Caffeine? Alcohol? Priesthood? Anointing? Penance? Communion/Eucharist/Transubstantiation? Meditation? Sin? Circumcision/Bris? Purification? Genuflecting? Faith healing? Praying? Guru? Karma? Baptism? Rapture? Armageddon? Prophets? Miracles? Crucifixion? Celibacy? Vows of silence? Pilgrimage? Cremation? Burial? Polytheism? Monotheism? Idolatry? Angels? Demons? Heaven? Hell? Purgatory? Sabbath? Original sin? Commandments? Male authority?

This post isn’t anti-religion. Any inspection of religion tends to spark an immediate and wrathful reaction from those who feel accused by outside observation or commentary, even if people are just asking questions. It’s an observation regarding how members of different religions react to how others practice their own distinct faiths. I’ve come to distrust those whose reactions tend to be angry or strident. The only sermon that works in the lives of others is one of example. “Words conceal, actions reveal” tends to be a great way to gauge someone’s convictions. Shouting may result in silence or cooperation but never conversion.

As an outsider, it’s fascinating to observe the huge variety of religions and denominations. Most adherents tend to practice supremacy in regard to their own particular faith and rituals. It’s the human way of doing things. It makes for some dreadful consequences at times, especially to those of other faiths or no faith whatsoever. The insistence of certainty clouds human interaction as thickly as just about any other human condition.

Having lived more than half a century, I still sit in amazement as I observe the faithful from one group interact and observe others as they go about the practice of their faith. One of life’s greatest pleasures is discovering someone with faith who walks their path without regard to the path another person chooses. They often get drowned out, though. The urge to judge the path of another is almost inescapable.

“We all sound crazy to somebody else.”

Except in my case. I sound crazy to everybody else.
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A Rescued Audio Recording from 1994, Pastor James Huffman

This is a recording that pastor James Huffman made with his wife Jean, and his daugthers Jené and Jenise.

They recorded it in Bandy Brownlee’s studio in Virginia in 1994.

James rescued this recording from a copy of a copy of a copy before it was lost forever.

James E. Huffman is pastor of Christ’s Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Christ’s Church Website

Christ’s Church Facebook Page

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May You Never…

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May you never…

I wrote this for a friend, who like so many of us, struggles with those who voluntarily and contrarily reside in a harsher world than we do. My apologies for the tone. I wrote it in one sitting, with my mind wide open.

1) Never tell someone that they weren’t bullied or that they are blowing it out of proportion. Fear sits in an invisible nest and those who inflict it often hide behind a smile and perfect teeth. Failure to protect those who need it is a hallmark of pathology.

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2) Never tell someone that they weren’t sexually harassed or that most of the cases are blown out of proportion. It is incredible how many people have been abused or harassed and have never spoken of it.

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3) Never tell a person sitting in a wheelchair or dealing with a disability that he or she has ignorant ideas about disability or how society can make their lives easier. We can endure a little discomfort if it makes another person’s life more manageable and dignified. In a rich society, we can also certainly afford a few dollars to magnify everyone’s ability to live a fuller life. Most of us sit in confusion as we hear people argue against such a fundamental idea.

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4) Never attempt to tell a black person that slavery had its benefits, about the ‘real’ reasons the Civil War was fought – or that there are no lingering, pervasive effects of discrimination in modern society.

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5) Never forget that many people endure hardship, suffering, and loss through no fault of their own. If you’re sitting in a house with granite countertops and most of the people surrounding you are similar to you in demographics, take a moment to give thanks rather than drag out the clichéd argument of merit or hard work. Many people do everything right and still suffer. If you are reading these words and think that just because you have granite countertops, that I’m referring to you, you are missing the point entirely. If you worked hard to get where you are, all good people will be glad for you. Your success is not the issue.

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6) Never insist that a person chooses their sexuality. I didn’t choose mine. Did you? If this kind of issue is important to you, attacking a person for being gay is exactly the same mentality that allowed blacks to be bought and sold, attacked, and vilified. The greater your reluctance to accept this as true is inversely proportional to how likely it is that you didn’t learn this prejudice – you acquired it.

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7) Never make an argument that a woman can’t or shouldn’t hold any position, office or authority that a man can. All qualifications exist independently of the letter on a birth certificate and should be judged accordingly.

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8) Never forget that being right will not make your life easier if you are shouting it with a snarled lip or with a repetitious and malignant tone. Preach through practice and let your life shine as an undeniable example.

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9) Never overlook that all human beings burn with the certainty that they have the right interpretation of religion. Most have become adept at citations, justifications, and all manner of argument to buttress the beliefs they hold. Most good people know that “Be kind” and “Do as little harm as possible” are key components of any religion and yet we violate these basic ideas from fear and pride. Religion which demands that we attack that of another fails to see the seed of its own demise.

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10) Never stop reminding yourself that although we may have perfected some small part of our lives or society as a whole, there will always be major roadblocks and setbacks. We are all going to encounter people who are fearful or looking back to the past as their anchor. We blind ourselves to our own ignorance and perpetuate the cycle by making decisions in society which veer us off course.

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Be who you are and live a good life in the best way you can.

If you feel like you need to shout in the face of disagreement, stop and consider.

If you feel the need to silence words which conflict with your own, pause.

Above religion, race, sex, creed or geography, fight for the side in which the lesser needs a hand.

 

The Rain Baptizes Indiscriminately…

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The late October weather had finally succumbed to the pattern nature intended. It was raining lightly when the man started walking and the temperature had dropped to the low 50s. Leaves left in clumps would cause his footing to slip unexpectedly as he glided across the pavement. The rain had baptized everything overnight.

Although it was lightly misting when he started, the rain had strengthened as he trekked across the innards of the city on a lazy Sunday late morning. His glasses began to look like the upper glass of an aquarium, beads of water obscuring both lenses. The man removed his glasses and headphones as the heavier rain fell. He continued on his way, head up, and frequently smiling though, as the brisk walk was even more enjoyable in the rain and cool air. Except for a couple of other older people enjoying the solitude, the man was left to walk in peace.

A couple of blocks away from the main street, vehicles were hastily exiting the modern and imposing protestant church. Its structures had made tentacles toward the sky and the surrounding urban landscape. Its recent history was one of success if such things were measured by the weight of the coffers and the number of worshippers filling the seats. The local eateries would soon be flooded with those who had just finished their services. The man could almost imagine each driver licking his or her lips as their respective stomachs rumbled. (Faith is difficult with a distracting appetite.)

The man neared the intersection blocked by a canyon of repair and excavation in the middle of the street. He passed a beautiful vintage theatre being remodeled as he approached. Its marbled exterior shone against the graying air. A large white Tahoe SUV approached from the man’s right. As both the SUV and the man reached the intersection, the driver’s window of the SUV lowered. A middle-aged man leaned toward the opening.

The man already had his polite “No” ready, as he imagined the man leaving church was going to offer him a ride, given the weather.

“You’re going to catch a cold, walking in this rain and cold,” he said. Without further comment, he put his window up and drove across the main street, leaving the man momentarily surprised by the driver’s words.

The man shook his head and couldn’t help but laugh, wondering to himself how the driver thought he might have survived so many decades of living if he truly had no understanding of the weather and one’s health.

As the man made his long return back down the main street, he drank in the birds chirping in the newly-installed trees lining the road, the darkened storefronts, and the myriad signs each business chose to place in its windows. After passing the excavated canyon in the street from the other side of the road, he could hear voices as he approached the corner storefront on the next corner. Outside, he noticed a table placed perpendicular to the front, with a flat propane-fueled stovetop next to it. On the table were covered dishes of food, plates, and various cooking items. Even at a few paces away, the man could feel the warmth emanating from the cooktop outside. Above it, the man noted that the storefront had been converted to a Spanish-speaking evangelical place of worship. Just as he crossed in front of the open door behind the cooktop, a small older lady stepped away from the inside wall where she had been leaning.

Looking inside, he noted row after row of metal chairs, some of them occupied by people, all of them animatedly talking to one another. The small lady bid him good morning in Spanish, then English. She waved her hand across the table and asked him in the softest voice whether he was interested in fellowship or perhaps a meal – or a snack to take with him as he walked.

Despite the chill of the air, the man felt his heart beat palpably in surprise from the woman’s kind offer. He took a moment to catch up to the surprise of her offer and then declined. “No, but thank you so much. You don’t know how welcome such an offer is. If you will permit, I will drop by some other day and join you all for conversation and several bites to eat.”

The lady smiled again and told the man, “Anytime. Where there’s food, there’s always an open invitation.”

As the man walked away, his feet seemed lighter and his heart unburdened.

He wondered how such a small place could easily put into practice one of the most basic principles of all the compassionate prophets: that all religion makes its appeal through an offered hand or warm smile and never through accusation.

In peace, he went; so too, that you might as well.

Dinosaurians and Trump

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Many of us share moments, some sublime, some perplexing.

Recently, a respected member of the community invited me to his house for lunch and a bit of jawing. (I know what you’re thinking – he couldn’t be illustrious if he were having me over at his house unless a lost bet was involved.)

One of the great stories he told me was about one of his neighbors. My friend told me that this neighbor knew how to build a car from scratch, plumb a house, wire an entire building, and seemed to know a little about every subject on the planet. My friend had always thought of him as a very smart, capable person.

…Until one fateful day when his neighbor extemporaneously deviated off the normal course of conversation and insisted that the world was only a few thousand years old. My friend is an elder statesman with a wide education, has traveled all over the world, served in the military and worked in a career helping people his entire life – so he’s been around the widest assortment of humans you can imagine. To say that he was flummoxed insufficiently describes the shock of the revelation that his neighbor is a “Dinosaurian,” one of the people who ascribe to the variety of nonsense that humans roamed the earth with Dinosaurs or that the planet is actually very young. Most of the people who believe such things are religious fundamentalists, but some are simply like the Flat-Earthers, cherry-picking whatever conspiracy theory fits their ideas.

Afterward, it seemed as if everything were about his neighbor’s insistence that the planet wasn’t ancient. No matter what the subject might be, my friend either couldn’t get the nonsense of his neighbor’s belief out of his head or his neighbor, previously silent on the issue, seemed to harp on and on about nothing else, as if mentioning it just once opened an invisible floodgate to his nonsensical ideas.

My friend told me that story to underscore the continuing amazement he has toward those who chose Trump as their president- or who continue to defend his actions now that he’s assaulted facts, news organizations, religions, and rational public discourse. Keep in mind, my friend is decades older than me. He also voted Republican all his life, even though he was more progressive than the party itself. He, of course, didn’t vote for Trump in the last election. He couldn’t have imagined voting for Clinton, but he knew a vote for anyone but the major candidates was a vote for Trump, having lived through several election cycles which were disrupted by left-field contenders.

Until this election, he could imagine that the choice wasn’t so grotesque as to be an apocalyptic choice either way. When he thinks of intelligent people voting for Trump, he imagines an army comprised of people like his neighbor, snidely ignoring the mountain of evidence at their disposal. He knows that reason didn’t bring most of them to their decision, even though they’ll insist otherwise. He watches as those who should know better fan the flame of prejudice toward other religions, something he’s observed go terribly wrong in other places all over the world. He’s seen how effective such fear mongering can be in a population. Watching people lose their insurance in the midst of so much concentrated wealth also should be sending a red flag to those in power, in his opinion.

For my friend, he holds out hope that the younger generation will continue to advance the progress we’ve made as a society, one dedicated to helping one another; being smarter, more compassionate and better human beings. He knows that people who voted Trump are either a bump in the road and soon to be passed over by time – or the warning bell for civilized, rational society. He’s not at all confident that we won’t descend into authoritarianism or some hybrid religious state.

 

 

 

The Sunrise Admonition Principle

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If you post glowing sunrises speaking of the beauty of god’s creation but privately judge gays, the impoverished, addicts, Hispanics or Muslims, you are missing the point of a graceful god. If it irks you to read this, imagine the hearts of those you are judging as they live their lives surrounded by distrustful eyes and dark wishes.

In so doing, you are also being dishonest. You are only sharing those things which serve as window dressing, the reflection of things you know which will draw no controversy.

All of us can look at the easy things and rejoice.

Few of us can see our own prejudice against the ‘other,’ much less admit it to the world. Like the admiration for the sunrise, however, the bile of dislike you might feel toward marginalized groups is just as much a part of who you are as that appreciation for light.

If I know you deeply, I can look at your picture of the colorful sunrise and smile – but not fully, as I understand that behind that window you present, there is a sneer of superiority, one which discolors my regard for your worldview.

Who you are is both the sunrise and the concealed dark shadows you guard so closely inside your heart.

Share who you are or change those things which shame you once revealed.