Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss...?

On Basic Religion Test, Many Doth Not Pass...By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion. Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith. Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences. “Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.

On questions about the Bible and Christianity, the groups that answered the most right were Mormons and white evangelical Protestants. On questions about world religions, like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism, the groups that did the best were atheists, agnostics and Jews.

Clergy members who are concerned that their congregants know little about the essentials of their own faith will no doubt be appalled by some of these findings:

¶ Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.

¶ Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.

¶ Forty-three percent of Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities and philosophers, was Jewish.

The question about Maimonides was the one that the fewest people answered correctly. But 51 percent knew that Joseph Smith was Mormon, and 82 percent knew that Mother Theresa was Roman Catholic.

I guess it should be disturbing that Christians in this study were not more informed about their faith. We after all have the admonishment from Scripture to..."always be ready to give reason for the faith we have in us...". That message seems to have been missed by many of us who call on the name of Christ.

I dont know but, just maybe we should rethink our Christian ed programs and instead of support groups, kinship groups, seeker services and Kumbayah we should go back to basic catechesis. Ignorance may be bliss for some , but when it comes to religion it fails to do what God commands...love the Lord your God with all your mind...!



Rags and Riches: Parable of Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31 "Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. It happened that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom...
Undoubtedly this parable from scripture is one that can make us uncomfortable as it shows us images we may not necessarily want to see. Yet these words of Jesus challenge us to live the life of faith much more aware…

Aware of missed connections.

The main characters in the parable a rich man who feasted sumptuously and dressed in fine linen, and Lazarus, a poor man, covered in sores who longed to eat from the table scraps left by his neighbor, never seem to connect in any way. They certainly must have seen each other as one stayed at the other’s doorstep, but no connection is ever implied in the story. As it unfolds it seems like a wide chasm separated the two or they lived in two different worlds.

Sometimes our society can seem that way! The have and the have not’s of our planet, where millions are wasted by some, others live on less that $5 a day yet they never seem to connect. The connections we often miss with people we pass in the street, those we work with, those we attend church with, those we live with. In a culture where “hooking up” has become a term for casual coupling yet no long term connection, and the web allows us to have virtual friends, where interaction and connection are distorted, this parable speaks to us about something that was missed. These people were so close yet their paths never really seemed to cross; connections were missed.

Aware of missed opportunities

We are not really told about the religious life of the rich man, yet for the society of that day, he must have had some religious practice. He surely went tio the temple and observed the required obligations of his religion but seems to have missed out on an opportunity at his doorstep.” He who gives to the poor lends to the Lord….”, “Almsgiving is remedy for sin”.

The story of the good Samaritan gives us a similar example. Even as they rushed to perform whatever religious or official duties they had, the priest and levite failed to help a stranger on the road, an opportunity for holiness and religious observance. A rich young ruler misses the opportunity to follow Christ, distracted by his possession and others do not make it to the wedding feast because they are occupied with friends, lands and obligations. Sometimes blessing, holiness, service, stare at us right in the face, yet we are too occupied to see it. We miss Christ in the face of the poor, the stranger, the child , the confused teen, our coworker or partner in need, even as the rich man in this story passed Lazarus by every day yet missed the opportunity his presence afforded him to be a blessing, to practice his religion, to grow in love of God and neigbour.

Aware of Misperceptions

There is a lot to think about human perception as we consider this parable. First, Lazarus own thoughts as he draws near to the rich man’s house. I wonder if he chose that one because it looked impressive, bespoke of wealth and it seemed to be the most likely place where he would find help in time of need. That did not turn out to be the case. Then, of course, is our perception of prosperity and blessing. In a religious culture where wealth was looked as favor from the Lord. The contrast between Lazarus and his rich neighbor would have been stark and perhaps we would have seen one as blessed the other cursed! For others the justice of God and his goodness would have been in question. After all what kind of a God would not correct such unfairness in life where one feasts while the other starves?

The parable takes us then beyond what the eyes could have seen, the riches of the rich, the poverty of Lazarus, the death of each… to the world beyond. There our misperceptions become apparent. God’s love, justice, his sense of fairness does not end with human life, choices have consequences, sorrows have consolation and in the writings of the prophets are words of wisdom that can lead us to life.

May the Holy Spirit help us lead lives that are aware of the blessings and opportunities life gives to us….

A Christian By Choice

President Barak Obama addressed the issue of his religious faith at a backyard meeting with passion filled words ...

I’m a Christian by choice,” the president said. “My family, frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. Being my brothers and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

Mr. Obama went on: “But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people, and do our best to help them find their own grace. That’s what I strive to do, that’s what I pray to do every day.’’ Yet he said that as president, he also “deeply believes that part of the bedrock strength of this country is that it embraces people of many faiths and of no faith.’’

Amen brother Barak; we pray for you weekly!



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gay Adoption Ban Overturned in Florida

Florida appeals court strikes down gay adoption ban

Licensed foster parent Frank Martin Gill sued for the right to adopt two boys in his care. A Florida appeals court Wednesday struck down a state law barring gay men and lesbians from adoption on the basis of equal protection under law.

The Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld a trial court ruling that Florida's explicit ban was unconstitutional, noting that the state's adoption law required officials to assess potential adoptive parents in "the best interests of the child."

"By the time of the trial below, the application of the statutory ban was contrary to both the professional judgment of the Department and the legislative directive to assure 'the best interest of the child' in 'every' adoption," wrote Judge Cindy S. Lederman in the 42-page ruling...

This is undoubtedly good news for children who are in foster care as well as for gay couples wanting to provide a stable home to them.

Among some Christian circles dissaproval about this ruling comes almost as a reflex and the objections defy reason. I am sure I have not heard it all , but this is the general litany so far...

"It is bad for children" cry some, despite no objective evidence that children of gay couples fare any worse in life;

"Children deserve a mother and father" say others, perhaps oblivious to the fact that a great deal of children are born out of wedlock or whose parents divorce and are raised by a single parent.

"Its just wrong" other exclaim, ignoring perhaps that the Teacher calls remarriage after divorce wrong as well and there seems to be no objection to remarried heterosexual couples adopting.

"It is a bad example"...give me a break,did these kids parents give such a great example to land them in foster care?

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and has web feet it probably aint no dove!!!! Prejudice it what is sounds like! It is not based on love, nor objective evidence, not based on concern for the well being of children stuck in foster care, nor even on the principles we live out our faith by...

Prejudice is not a good foundation for principle!



Monday, September 6, 2010

God be in my Head

God be in my head,
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes,
and in my looking;
God be in my mouth,
and in my speaking;
God be in my heart,
and in my thinking;
God be at my end,
and at my departing.

The Winds Would Blow...The Rivers Rise...

Its been hard to put any thoughts into writing the past few months, but in the aftermath of a great and terrible sadness these ramdon thoughts merited reposting.

It has become apparent that the one thing we can expect in life is the unexpected, the unpredictable nature of this journey we have to travel. Yes, we would somehow like for everything to be stable, for our life to follow the patterns that we seem to see in nature, the ever constant cycle of the sun, rotation of the earth, the changing but predictable seasons. We love the predictable, the constant; There is a certain safety in believing things will follow a certain pattern, usually the one where we succeed in life, find the one we love plus or minus kids, a dog and white picket fence, and of course we live happily ever after!

Yes, life is stable in a fluid weird way , kind of like the stability one can have living next to an intermittently active volcano, nice lush greenery, beautiful countryside, perfect but for the occasional eruption that incinerates all you love into oblivion. Or maybe the stability of living in a fault line, all is great, beautiful , firm then a category 5 shaker moves the very ground you are standing on and the walls come tumbling down, or maybe if you are lucky a tsunami will wash ashore and add a bit of water to the mix. Such is life, unnerving, scary but oh so true, no matter what fantasies we may wish to hold!

Even Jesus said that, for those who built their house on a rock, there would be unexpected winds, the rivers would rage, the very foundations of the house would be shaken. Yes the rivers will rage, the winds will howl but if built upon the rock, Scripture tells us the house will not fall! How reassuring and true! But.... hey, what about the roof, the fallen shingles, the damaged windows and the water damage, the ruined gardens, the mold and mildew, the swarm of mosquitoes and the nonfunctional air conditioning. Sometimes it is little comfort that it still stands, with all that was lost in the unexpected storm. So it is with our dreams, illusions, relationships, health, perceptions and even our faith.

So what then..well here it is; hang on for dear life in the middle of crisis, do yell at God, he can handle it, make no sudden decisions, take long walks alone, sip Cabernet, take up the Rosary or contemplative prayer.....less stuff to say! In the aftermath; shun convention, live for the day; its all you have, love yourself be kind to others, honor God even if his rationale escapes you, and dont forget to rebuild simpler...less crap to pick up , less loss to mourn the next time!