It was a lesson I learned in sixth grade—that little old ladies have their favorite spots in the church pews and that I’d better not dare to sit there on Sunday mornings. My family was new to town, and I’d made a friend who invited me to church. My parents didn’t go to church, and his parents went every Sunday. I don’t remember where we sat or whether we sat with his parents. But I do remember that he steered me past a wiry grandmother with shiny gray hair, sprayed into place, who glared when I paused at her pew.
Desperate to help the children in our congregation understand the unrest in Baltimore this time a year ago, a small group of parents asked our pastors for a conversation on race. Both pastors had questioned us from the pulpit, after the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray, “If we can’t have these conversations in our houses of worship, then where?” Continue reading Can Churches Change the Conversation on Race?
Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, and now Oklahoma. Christianity is under assault. But not in the way that the conservatives in these states who’ve introduced discriminatory laws would say it is. Like the Pharisees Jesus condemned, these Christians stand in the marketplace and loudly proclaim their objections to the actions of those whose behavior is far more Christ-like. Their hypocrisy in the name of religion should be obvious to anyone who seeks to follow Christ’s example.
If Christianity means being Christ-like, then it is under assault. And it is up to those of us who desire to live as Christ lived to show the courage of Christ and call out such hypocrisy just as he did. Continue reading Would Christ Turn Marriage Upside-Down?
Holy Week this year has much in common with that first Holy Week, over 2000 years ago, when Christ turned his followers’ attention toward the inevitable. His disciples had been filled with hope that he could change the world for the better. After all, they’d seen him turn water into wine, feed thousands with a few loaves and fishes, heal the sick with the touch of a hand, raise the dead with the power of his voice. Continue reading Terror, Christianity, and Holy Week
Dear Mr. Coates:
As a child I, too, stood in the face of a brandished gun. Like you, “I recall it in the slowest motion, as though in a dream.” Like you, I did not tell my teachers, and I did not tell my friends.
I did not tell my parents. Because they were there. My mother, too, stared down the barrel of the gun—a gun wielded by my drunken father.
Like you I asked, “What was the exact problem? Who could know?” It’s taken me the better part of a lifetime to understand the demons that drove my father to hold the people he loved at gunpoint. Continue reading Who are the Dreamers?
A few years ago someone whose faith is different from mine asked me, “Don’t you find it strange that your religion makes jewelry out of an instrument of torture?”
At the time my mom had recently had a debilitating stroke, and I was wearing a white gold cross pendant that she had given me when I was a teenager after I had been baptized. I seldom wear it, but I’d put it on that day because I was feeling sad for the loss of the mom I knew, and it brought me comfort. It isn’t worth a lot, even when the price of gold is up, but it is the most expensive Christmas gift she bought during my childhood, and she bought it at a time when she and Dad had little money to spare.
I tilted my head and pondered what my acquaintance had asked. “I suppose so,” I admitted. Continue reading Who was Christ? What is Christmas?
Three strikes and he’s out. Jailed three times on charges related to his heroin addiction, he has struggled to stay clean and get back into the game for ten months now. He has done a handyman’s work for a landlord in exchange for a room in one of the properties and a few dollars to buy necessities.
He has sought work as an electrician’s helper, a trade learned in his high school vocational classes. But with a prison record and few skills in literacy, he has been unable to find a job. After his release, he often sacrificed food to be able to afford a cell phone, a necessity before any potential employer could call him back. He walked four miles to stand in line in hopes of getting jobs as a day worker. He lost his driver’s license and can’t afford to pay the fines to regain even a provisional driver’s license. Continue reading He is Heavy. But He’s My Brother.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage this week, my husband and I have found it interesting that the justices on both sides used the Constitution to explain their votes. Much has been said about Anthony Kennedy’s eloquent opinion for the majority and about John Roberts’ first opinion read from the bench, both of which cite the Constitution to justify their stances.
That, of course, is their job as justices on the nation’s highest court—to interpret the laws in light of the Constitution.
Using the same text to come to different conclusions also holds true for religious leaders who have commented on the Supreme Court’s decision. Continue reading Is Gay Marriage Compatible with Christianity?
Drawn by the glow of the cross in the moonlight, I opened one of the glass doors at the back of the sanctuary. On Sunday mornings, the doors are closed at the beginning of each service to separate the sanctuary from the cheery chatter of those who attend other services but stay to catch up with friends. But on that evening, when I was there for a meeting in another wing of the church, the stillness of the sanctuary beckoned. I stood by the doors and felt a Presence in the soft moonlight.
I’ve thought of moments like that many times in the wake of the most recent Pew survey, as religious pundits grind their teeth and ponder how to draw millennials back to church. Continue reading Is Christianity’s Future in Trouble?
Religion is a human-made construct. Merriam-Webster defines it as “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods.” In our quest to understand the nature of the universe and our place in it, we turn to others who are like-minded, decide together what we believe, and find strength and community among kindred spirits.
Faith and spirituality spring from within the human soul. In our quest to connect with the unseen Spirit that inhabits us all, we cling to what we believe. Sometimes, in our worst moments, we attack the validity of the beliefs of those who see God through a different human lens. And even in our best moments we are often confused by why anyone would believe what others believe.
Today’s post is the third in a series that explore what I think people misunderstand about the religion I’ve chosen to help me understand my own spirituality, my own place in the universe. I don’t pretend to be a theologian. These posts will simply offer my own thoughts and my own understanding as I’ve come to see God through Christianity—and, in particular, through Presbyterianism.
I invite you to respond—to help me understand what I might not about your own religious community and practices.
Part 3: “Does God give us more than we can stand?”
I’d been looking forward to spring break for weeks. My husband and I planned to spend Easter weekend with my sister, and then we would spend the rest of the week focusing on one another and on the things that are important to us. I packed up drafts of a book I’m working on with plans to get much of the editing done during our week at the beach.
But our plans took a detour outside the Life is Good store when my sister, who had knee replacement surgery a few months ago, tripped over a curb. I reached forward to steady her, and we both tumbled to the ground. She landed on the outside of my left knee, and a trip to the Outer Banks Hospital confirmed what we already knew—that my knee was badly broken and would require surgery to repair. My husband packed our things, which had only been unpacked the day before, while I sat in the back seat of the car in a leg brace among a sea of pillows. Continue reading Does God Give Us More Than We Can Stand?