Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Compassion is the only appropriate response.

You likely have read that Rick Warren's 27 year old son recently committed suicide.  I have read wonderful, compassionate responses to the Warren family's loss.  Len Sweet, for example, posted "I believe every suicide victim will be met by Jesus personally, who will embrace him/her at the gate & say, 'Son/Daughter, you found it a little too much for you, didn’t you? Welcome home.'”

The part I'm ashamed of is the other side.  Many "Christians" have condemned the Warrens, saying that if they had been better parents this would not have happened.  Others have said that Matthew Warren clearly is languishing in hell as no real follower of Jesus would ever commit suicide... and anyone who isn't a born again Christian automatically goes to hell.  Even the responses to Len Sweet's post were mixed with some responding, "maybe..."  I have to say that I wasn't really surprised to see these statements online.  I am ashamed and appalled to be affiliated with folk, even if only by name, who would even think such things, let alone say them.  

And it doesn't end there.  This morning I saw a facebook post from a Unitarian Universalist pastor who was collecting signatures for a sympathy card for the Warrens and read a number of comments that essentially said "the hater got what he deserved."  Again, I am appalled.

A young man struggled with more pain than he could bear.  A family is immersed in grief, the likes of which I don't even want to imagine.  The only appropriate response is compassion.  Regardless of how one feels about Rick Warren's ministry, views, or whatever... compassion is the only appropriate response.  And frankly, to expect less from Jesus than I expect from you is just silly.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Good Guys with Guns

The argument from the NRA goes that the only people able to stop bad guys with guns are good guys with guns, therefore we should have armed guards at every school and people should be allowed to carry concealed weapons anywhere and everywhere.  While there may be some twisted logic in what they are saying - after all police do carry guns as does the military.  The implication that carrying a gun will make you or your family safe is simply not true.  All of the data shows that when a household has a gun present, the likelihood increases significantly that someone in that household will die from a gun.  Obviously there are other factors involved here - the ages of people in the household, how the guns are stored and used, what the guns are, the stability of family members... 

Still, the argument goes that good people with guns are able to stop violence from happening.  I asked a police officer friend of mine whether he would want to respond to a scene where good people have drawn their guns and began to exchange fire with bad people with guns.  He shook his head sadly and asked, "How would I know which were which?"

And then there is the tragic event that took place earlier this week.  Mike McLelland, a Texas district attorney, and his wife were shot to death in their home.  After the March 19 murder of the Colorado Department of Corrections head, McLellan became more cautious.  Both he and his wife began to carry handguns everywhere.  He was a 23 year veteran of the military who assured everyone that he was better able to protect himself than most police officers.  He was trained.  He was cautious.  He was armed.  Yet, when two men came to his door, his wife was shot once and he was shot 20 times.  The killers used military style assault rifles.

Had they not been armed would things have been better?  Not likely, but it is possible.  Maybe the wife would have been more cautious and not answered the door to two strangers.  Who knows?  But things would not have been worse.  The myth of the good guy riding in and shooting all of the bad guys is just that... a myth.  Arming more people is not the answer to gun violence or to the larger issue of guns deaths.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

re-defining marriage

I have been for marriage equality for a long time and have performed a small number of same sex weddings.  For me, it is a no brainer.  And frankly I haven't really understood where all of the animus has come from on the anti side.  Nobody was ever going to make a straight person marry someone of the same sex.  What Bob & Ted do doesn't have any impact on what I do with my wife.  And no church, synagogue, temple, or mosque would be required to perform a ceremony for anyone they don't want.  Add to that the fact that we are constantly redefining marriage.  Seriously.  The folk who point to a "Biblical" marriage and define that as something like our modern nuclear family just are being dishonest.  And the thought that marriage works the same way in the United States now as it did 100 years ago is just silly.  Then today I read a piece on Red Letter Christians by Morf Morford that included a real Ah Ha moment for me.

In his short piece, Morford says that marriage is constantly being redefined, but the difference is who gets to do the defining.  In the past, it was the white male power structure who did the defining.  In this case, it is not the government, the Church, or even the majority (although the majority does favor marriage equality now)... it is the individual.  Two consenting adults can decide to marry and gender or approval of any of those institutions is irrelevant.

And I got where the animus is coming from.  I'm not sure that Morford's argument is 100% correct, but I think he did point to the key to this issue and so many of the other struggles in our society.  It is all about the loss of power.  As a pastor, I have run into lots of folk who as they got older and began to lose a variety of physical abilities, watched as the future contracted, and lost positions of power and influence just got nasty and cantankerous.   Like terriers they would grab hold of something and just not let go as they tried to assert control over something, over anything.

As a nation and as a culture we are at one of those places.  All of the old institutions and groups that held sway are losing it.  Religion has lost its influence.  Government is not trusted.  Our population is no longer white and male.  The economy doesn't work as it once did.  Everything is in flux and those who once were at the top of the heap, no longer are.  And the reaction to all of that loss is to strike out and try to hold on to whatever power can be grabbed.  Stop whatever change can be stopped.

Now, I know that this argument may not hold for any given individuals.  I guess there really are individuals who have well reasoned arguments against marriage equality and who actually are motivated by those beliefs... but I think on the large scale it is still about power and about fear.