Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering September 11, 2001

Ten years ago, the entire world was forced to stop in it's tracks and hold it's collective breath as the events that would become known as my generations pearl harbor unfolded. In many ways, I still feel as if we are left with more questions than answers about 9/11 but I believe that sentiment is true given any tragedy on that scale. I've heard every conspiracy theory there is about that day and whether or not any of them are true frankly is beside the point. Thousands of people died on that one day. Within a two hour window, over 3,000 individuals lost their lives and many more families and extended families lost their loved ones. Even those of us who did not know anyone personally who died on that day, we all lost a part of our family when those buildings fell, when those planes crashed, and when the rescue workers lay in hospital beds months later giving their lives still in the pursuit of saving others.

September 11th, 2001 marked a time in our world's history when we saw both the best and the worst humanity has to offer. Again though, tragedy always seems to polarize the world into one group or the other and it should not be forgotten that humanity has shown us these sides during other events as well. For those of us on US Soil though, who spent our lives believing that we were beyond the reach of such things, we have had to face a screaming wake up call that has echoed through the last ten years. Our shock still feels fresh and yet some of you in the world experience your own 9/11 on a daily basis through torture and mistreatment at the hands of your own governments and even families. One of my wishes has always been that one of the things learned from 9/11 would be the realization that some parts of the world experience horrors such as that every single day.

We did learn from 9/11 though, what the cost of freedom truly is. The ideals and values which we hold dear too here in the US came under attack in the most extreme way I can imagine possible. I have had my differences with certain aspects of the US as most people know, namely in the area of religous and social justice. While some of these issues can be very frustrating to deal with, the fact that we are allowed to deal with them in an open forum is exactly why terrorists dispise and hate countries that practice democracy and personal freedoms. It's one of the hardest concepts of "freedom" to grasp but also the most fundamental because the symbol for it cannot simply be a flag or a piece of paper with ammendments but the symbol must be the right to recognize that freedom even when it comes in forms that we do not agree with.

I've referenced this before but it's worth repeating. I preached a sermon on forgiveness and uncontional love following the events of 9/11 and issued a challenge to a congregation. The challenge was this, to truly and absolutely forgive the people involved in organizing and carrying out those horrible events. We can harbor anger for our entire lives and all it reeps is more anger and hostility but when we make an honest effort to forgive and to love people simply because they're human, we take steps toward a reconciliation of humanity, the power of which is unmeasurable. Often times extremeists are victoms of their own upbringing and conditioning, a fact I beleive that we tend to forget all too often. The proof of this though is unfolding before our very eyes in countries that have had enough of conditioning and fear mongering.

Ten years later it is still my challenge to people to think this way. In our seeking justice for wrong doing, we must remember that Islam did not attack america, Muslims are not our enemies. The enemy we face can come from any religion and from any ethnic background. This eney has a few names but can be summed up in a couple of really well known ones, hate and fear. These are the enemies of humanity and serve as infections and diseases that attack the human spirit. Hatred must be healed, not clensed with violence and fear must be treated with love and temperence, not acted upon rashly. If we deal with this enemy of humanity in such a way, it will ultimitely have no choice but to die off from stravtion as the human race refuses to feed it.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone on this day of remembrence. For those who lost loved ones on 9/11, my deepest sympathies go out to you and for those of use who watched from afar, let us remember this day and what it teaches us about the worst of humanity but also the best humanity has to offer. Be blessed and take care.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Reaction To The May 21st Doomsday Dud.

Well, here we are almost at the end of May 21st 2011, which was supposed to be the day Jesus Christ returned to rapture his church, at least according to Family Radio founder and pastor, Harold Camping. Now, most of us knew early on that this was a bunch of bunk and those like myself who know their scripture only had to read the first few lines of Camping's claim to realize that even from a Christian standpoint, his theology was flawed.

This is something people fail to realize so often where ministry is concerned. I have said many times over the years that one reason I don't pursue pastoring anymore is because I realized after doing it for a while that pastors have a LOT of influence over people's lives and choices. Now, I've been scoffed at for saying that to people because I've accused a lot of folks of being blindly led along by their pastors. Well, there you have it, I can't make it any plainer than what we've seen here.

I don't want to have that much control over people's lives, I don't think it's right or healthy when people's loyalty to a pastor prevents them from formulating their own beliefs and their own ideas. Such blind loyalty causes us to ignore our own gut feelings and it makes us listen to our hearts less and less. Some of my favorite ministers in the world are the ones who encourage their congregations to think for themselves and to never take their word for anything. I have always ALWAYS, even from behind the pulpit, told people to never lift a pastor up on a pedestal.

This is why I will gladly accept the title of Minister these days, but never pastor or reverend or anything that implies what the world recognizes as spiritual fatherhood. We are ALL ministers of some kind or another, so I do not feel bad still using that title in my spiritual writing. I enjoy counseling people when I can and I love offering my ideas on spirituality. I may even teach concepts and ideas of morality but I will never tell people what to believe based on MY say so. Yes, I still consider myself a spiritual leader but within the confines of how the world reacts to heads of churches, I don't embrace that role in the same ways I used too.

Theology. It has grown to become a word I hate more and more. We are surrounded by so many religious texts in the world and for each one there are about a million ways to interpret the words within them. We can go to seminaries and take classes but at the end of the day, all we are getting are different people's interpretation of the various scriptures out there. A LOT of people are quick to fall in line behind a pastor or teacher's lead because most people find theology so hard to understand that when they hear something that makes the slightest bit of sense, they latch on tight.

So, why are people so susceptible to such teachers that they will spend their life savings to promote said teacher's ideas? The answer is simple and it's one I've given over and over again. No matter how hard the most avid atheist will say he doesn't believe in anything, they're lying. Human beings are spiritual by nature, meaning we want so badly to believe in something bigger than ourselves that gives our lives meaning and helps us solve the mysteries of death, that we'll do almost anything for it. That includes believing that there is nothing so that we still gain the finality in our minds.

You see, we believe ourselves to be so insignificant and unimportant in the grand scheme of things that we refuse to entertain the idea that belief in ourselves is really the only faith we need. We have had that idea driven into us for decades, centuries even, that on it's own mankind is nothing. We have had the notion that trusting ourselves spiritually is wrong pounded into our skulls so hard that for a great portion of humanity, it's simply become a fact of life.

Most of you who read my stuff have heard about my concept of "Reflection Theology" and this instance can't drive home it's importance and relevance any better. Perhaps we need a bit of a reminder though, browse through my blog and you'll find it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Thoughts On bin Laden

So, for the past hour or so I've been trying to process how I feel about the death of Osama Bin Laden. Actually, this is something I've thought about multiple times over the years, how I would feel if he were put to death. I've found myself conflicted as two of my most fundamental values come into direct conflict with one another.

On the one hand, I abhor evil and I detest the demeaning of human beings no matter what walk of life they come from. I wish i could say that I feel Americans over the last ten years have acted with dignity where aspects of 9/11 have been concerned, but I can't. I have watched people turn against Islam and the Muslim people for no other reason than simply because people who warped that religion did something horrible. Islam and the people who practice it have never deserved the wrath of the American people's rejection and hate.

My Christian roots of faith after all have not always had a glistening history of pure and noble action. During the middle ages, Christian crusades were responsible for just as much bloodshed and inhumane treatment as people believe Islam to be because of radical parts of the religion. As I'm sure most people do not allow the history of Christianity to define their opinion of it today, I would expect most decent people to approach Islam with the same openness and dignity.

My own efforts within the gay community alone have shown both the darker and brighter side of Christianity. Every religion has an equal portion of both and the minute we allow the darker sides of a religion to shape and define our opinion of the general population within that religion, we become no better than the darker aspects of any religion that serve only a purpose of strife and division among humanity as a whole.

From a spiritual standpoint, I cannot join with the people who are celebrating in the streets openly, the death of another human being, no matter how evil he may have been. How many radical extremists within the terrorist camps of the world cheered over the death of 3,000 American lives on September 11th? I say to you all that by dancing in the streets over the death of Bin Laden we show ourselves no more enlightened than they. Indeed, I have seen facebook posts and my other social networking sites treating the extinguishing of this human being's life with as little dignity as the people we claim to be against have shown to the death of other human beings.

On the other hand, my human nature and patriotism to my country are also pulling at me to feel satisfied that the mastermind behind so much death has finally been silenced. This part of me though cannot even win out in a battle of personal struggle for me because his death certainly does not mark an end to terrorism and my level of patriotism in the current landscape of America gives me pause when it comes to feeling we have dealt terror a crippling blow.

The United States is an amazing place to call home but we are far from perfect and full of our own problems where terrorism is concerned. People forget that within our borders, the young people of our country are killing themselves because of social and religious rejection. This too, is a type of terrorism and perhaps it is a more dangerous kind of terrorism because it is home grown and seeded by people within.

Celebrating the death of a tyrant does not undo what that person did with his life and in all probability, has created a martyr for those who followed him to rally under. I do not understand the idea of "closure" being obtained from this either because his death does not cure the problem and nor has the death of those like him in the past cured the problem. Until we all agree as a race of people that there is no longer any room for hatred or evil within our society, we will be stuck in the same rut we have been stuck in for centuries.

This does not mean going on a crusade of our own against those who plot and carry out acts of evil, it means changing attitudes in the world and coming together as a race of people instead of being divided by those things which cause evil to spawn in the first place. Countries across the middle east are demanding more freedoms from their governments and leaders. They want these people out of office but only in certain cases do they wish these people dead.

Coming together for the cause of change is by far more productive than killing off the evil people of the world because until we fix that one fundamental problem in our society, there are always going to be more evil people to take their place. Until we decide as a race of human beings that there is more to existence than battling over barriers, we shall continue to forcefully destroy them and rebuild them over and over again.

I preached a sermon once that was received with mixed opinion, where I openly challenged people to forgive the pilots who crashed those planes on 9/11. You see, until we understand the fundamental value of unconditional love and forgiveness ESPECIALLY in the face of complete rejection of both by others, we miss the point altogether. Until we realize that our great diversity is what in the end shall conquer over our world's adversity, we are going to be doomed to repeat the same senseless tragedies over and over again.

So, do I believe that people like Bin Laden shouldn't ultimately be put to death? I cannot answer that question one way or another but I do believe that in some ways it is presumptuous of us to feel we have the right to make that decision about human life because whatever people may choose to do with it, human life is one of the most amazing things in creation. Yes, bin Laden seems to have missed that point himself by openly killing thousands over the years but have we also not missed the point as well by allowing our pursuit of justice to end a life? Do we honestly have the right to decide who lives and who dies, no matter the extent of their crimes? Again, I do not know.

I can only hope that whatever judgment awaits mankind down the road, is fair. I also know that while all things related to situations like this are complicated, that I believe for the most part, we do the best we can even if we fall short sometimes in practicing humane humanity, no matter what side of that line we are on.