Monday, October 30, 2006

Christian apathy

Every so often, I’m face with a situation that leaves me speechless. This happens to be one of those times…

Yesterday, I went to see my grandmother in the hospital (for the record, she’s doing well. But, please keep us in your prayers). While I was there, I ran into my ex-girlfriend’s mother; who apparently is an employee at that particular hospital.

From dating this girl, I sorta picked up on small hints that her parents were crazy. Between people warning me and me finding some things out on my own, I was quick to discover that many of their ideals, though Biblically inspired (I guess), were waaay “out there” but; at the same time; disturbingly traditional. That said, it was pretty reasonable to assume that – by the end of our conversation – she would say something stupid. But I wasn’t at all prepared for what I was about to hear.

The conversation started off well enough. She gave me an update on her daughter (my ex) who recently moved out of state. She mentioned that my ex would be in town for the holidays and invited me to join them for dinner. I politely declined; informing her that my sister and I will be in New Orleans to volunteer in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. After she heard the news about our New Orleans plans, her mood quickly changed. After scoffing at me for a second, she angrily replied (get ready for this…): “I don’t know what you’re doing going down there. They (the people of New Orleans) got what they deserved.”

I was floored.

Did I hear her correctly?

She went on to explain to me that God had unleashed His anger on the city because of their sinfulness. For me to “get involved” was to stand in the way of God’s punishment of the city. For that, she argued, He would not be pleased.

After picking my jaw up from the floor (I’ve still got the bruise on my jaw to prove how hard it hit), my initial response to her comments was to ask if she was serious. But with the conviction in her tone, I already knew the answer. Instead, the only thing I was able to push out was:

“Uh…you do know that every city in world lives in sin, right?”

“Well yeah. But that’s not the point.”

“Uh…you do know that there are many saved people in New Orleans, right?”

“Well yeah. But that’s not the point either.”

The fact is: I didn’t know what her point was. All I heard from her initial comments and her subsequent explanation was that New Orleans was sinful (with Mardi Gras, gambling, and…as she puts it… “voodoo”), God was punishing them for it, and for me to get involved by helping others is a sin in and of itself. Any other “points” she made were lost in those statements.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that someone has made this argument. As I pointed out before, Pat Robertson also made a bold and audacious accusation that God allowed the destruction of New Orleans to commence because of the city’s wrongdoing. But Pat Robertson is an idiot. I would expect that from him. But to hear cruel statements like that being uttered from her mouth was unnerving; even for someone as notoriously surreal as she is.

Hundreds of people were killed. Tens of thousands more lost everything they had. Hundreds of thousands were displaced. To say that they “deserved” this is a clear indication of ignorance to God’s word. (1) If you want to use the Sodom and Gomorrah juxtaposition, let me remind you that (a) there were none found righteous in those cities and (b) the vengeful curse of sin was lifted when a certain Savior of ours said “It is finished, and (c) if she’s correct, then Hollywood, Las Vegas, Miami, and Washington D.C. would have been destroyed long before New Orleans was. Need I remind you that my hometown of Flint, MI has one of the highest crime rates in the country? Geez. Are we next?

It bothers me to see that not only are some people completely non-responsive to the suffering of others, but that they also feel Biblically justified for having those thoughts. Nevermind the fact that, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us, we will never be able to fully understand God’s ways. Nevermind the fact that not everyone in New Orleans participated in the “evil” activity that was apparently worthy of mass destruction (don't give me the "raining on the just as well as the unjust" line. It wouldn't be used in the correct context here). To watch people like Robertson and this lady point fingers and vilify “the least of these” as they suffer makes my blood boil. A disaster could happen to any one of us. There isn't a single person I know who does not 'deserve' God's punishment. But it's through His grace that we are sustained. We continue to be blessed in spite of who we are. Yet sadly, many so-called Christians lose sight of that.

Forget the Devil. It’s starting to become abundantly clear to me that dangerous religious folks are – by far – the biggest enemy out there to Christ.

- ACL

Monday, October 23, 2006

Lessons drawn from the well

Yesterday, as a part of my morning "church service", I was listening to a sermon from Bishop Eddie Long. For the record, I don't respond well to tele-evangelicals and mega church type ministers. But, I found his sermon pretty interesting nontheless. The subject of his sermon involved the well-known story of Jesus and His encounter with the woman at the well; found in John, chapter 4.

After referring back to that story, I realized a couple of important things:


(1) The importance of tearing down the barriers: What was fascinating about this story was the initial establishment of contact that Jesus made with the woman and all the barriers that had to be tore down first. To understand how this is significant, we need to consider the history behind the times. During Jesus' initial interaction with the woman, He tore down three specific barriers; moral, social, and racial. Morally speaking, the woman was a harlot (in today's vernacular, she was a slut) while He was the Son of God. Socially speaking, men did not speak to women in public; nor was it ritualisitic for women to be out drawing water during that time of the day. Racially speaking, He was a Jew while she was a Samiritan (even more interesting because Jesus went through Samaria on His way to Galilee. According to Jewish tradition, He was supposed to go around it). After tearing down these traditional barriers, Jesus reached out to the woman by establishing commonality. In this case, they were both seeking water.

This aspect of the story is important to me because it ties in perfectly to the gripes that I've had lately about how we've failed out youth (here and here and here). But the same priniciple applies to non-believers as well. Similarly to Jesus, it's time for us to tear down the barriers that we've created against people and reach out to them by identifing a common bond between us.

(2) The importance of identifying the real thirst quencher: When Jesus asks the woman for a drink, she responds by saying (in so many words), "Why the hell would you, some Jew, ask me for water?" His response was simple: "If you knew who I was, you'd be asking Me for water." Though she compares Him to Jacob; one of the most significant patriachs in the Bible, she had no idea who she was talking to. The Living Water is sitting right in front of her, and she couldn't even recognize Him.

Even when I wanted to call her out on her blind ignorance, I couldn't help but to wonder how often many of us are that woman. How many of us go to well everyday to draw water, without looking to The Living Water, who is sitting right across from us?

It's pretty unfortunate that we rely on the wells so much that they become our livlihood. We rely on water from the well of material, the well of our jobs, the well of success, the well of education, and even the wells of religion. But when Jesus offers us water from His well, we sneer at Him while flashing our degrees, money, marriages, children, cars, and homes in His face. We remind Him that we've already got everything that we need. In fact, like the Samaritan women, we assume that we have what He needs. We think that we're doing Him a favor by giving of ourselves.

The fact is: Jesus doesn't need us. We need Him.

We often find ourselves in a position where we need to keep going back to the wells of our life each and every day. Believe me when I say that the water that we collect can only sustain us for a short while before we either run out of water or before we get thirsty again. At that point, we find ourselves searching for more and more wells from which we can draw; though none of them will ever leave us completely satisfied. We’ll always want more.

What's comforting about this story -- however -- is that despite our ignorance of Him, Jesus is still sitting there waiting for us and offering His water. Unlike all the other things we drink, one little taste of Jesus will leave us completely replinished. We'll be like the writer who affirmed that he "shall not want." Through Jesus, we can find comfort and restoration even if certain things in our life don't materialize the way we want (getting the perfect job, finding the perfect "love", having the perfect family, etc.). As I always maintain, Jesus is inexhaustable and His well is bottomless. He can offer us things that even we don't know about.

Let's see Avian top that.

On an unrelated note, happy belated birthdays to my oldest sis Kim and one of my fellow bloggers Diane...

- ACL

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

U of M and 9/11

A little while ago, one of my esteemed colleagues the Hippie Conservative (who has an INCREDIBLE blog; very thought provoking) made a pretty legitimate gripe about how our school didn't do its job of commemerating the tragic events of 9/11.
After hearing his argument, I thought that he was on to something. Why isn’t the University of Michigan, one of the most recognized colleges in the country, taking time out to observe the 5th anniversary of the September 11th? Of all the institutions recognizing the history of the day, shouldn’t we – as an academic institution be leading the way?

After thinking about it some, my answer is simple.

No.

Don't get me wrong: 9/11 definitely ranks up there as one of the most significant events I’ve ever witnessed. For our generation, this event signifies one of those shocking times in our lives where we’ll all “remember what we were doing when…” (other notable events include the assassination of JFK/MLK, the beginning of Operation: Desert Storm, and the reading of the OJ Simpson verdict). The significance of the event need not be questioned. And certainly, the horrific events of that day must never be forgotten; neither should those who suffered and perished. The day represents a dark time in history that we must always remember and a time from which we must take valuable lessons. But is the death of 3,000 people and the destruction of a few pretty nice buildings any worse than, let’s say, a death toll of 100,000 + from the Indonesian tsunami or the Pakistani earthquake? If 9/11 has more significance than those events, then – yes – the University should have taken time out to observe 9/11. But, as much as the die-hard, "America-is-the-greatest-place-ever" people don’t want to admit it, 9/11 isn’t any more as significant as any other tragedy in history; hell…even recent history.

The events of 9/11; while indeed sad and tragic; have turned Americans into grief-mongers and opportunists. Don’t’ believe me? How often have you heard politicians use 9/11 and terrorism for their own political maneuvering? How often have you heard “emotional” stories being plastered all over the media (as much as I despise the woman, Ann Coulter was on the money when she called out 9/11 widows for profiting off their husband’s deaths. Coulter's message was lost because of how mean, harsh, and heartless she is. But she DOES have a point. Before you argue with me, let’s see how many of the profits from Marian Fontana's new book will go directly into her own pocket.). How many of you have witnessed the hoard of money being made from movies, TV, and merchandise; reminding us to “Never Forget”, as if the daily reminders of 9/11 don’t do the job of reminding us (Not too long ago, I saw a commercial for a commemorative 9/11 coin; allegedly made from silver stolen…I mean “recovered” from ground zero. I wish I was making this up.).

Simply put: 9/11 has become a clich√© used to incite people, to sell shit, to keep people scared, and to subvert the average American into political submission. This is especially unnerving in light of the fact that many far more disastrous things have taken place since 9/11; some of them happening right here on our own soil (Honestly, when’s the last time you saw a “Katrina: Lest we forget” t-shirt?). All that being said, I’m glad that the University didn’t join in the political, emotional, and consumer cesspool otherwise nicknamed 9/11 remembrance. Frankly, it’s refreshing to see that U of M didn’t get caught up in inane sensationalism of the day.

Perhaps I’m being a bit heretical when I say it, but this 9/11 was pretty ordinary for me. I called my old man to wish him a happy birthday (9/11 was his long before it became the property of American corporations and politicians), went to work, did some homework after work, goofed around a bit, and went to bed. I didn’t watch any specials on TV, listen to any news (well, nothing out of the ordinary anway), and I certainly didn’t buy any 9/11 crap out of remembrance. I celebrated 9/11 the best way I knew how: by living normally.

September 11th is an ordinary day. At least, it needs to be. The time is long past where we need to take special time out to recognize the day, shed tears, buy crap, and then go back to being fearful, GOP-pardoning, SUV-driving, gun toting, reality show watching, so-scared-I’ll-let-Bush-trample-my-freedoms, God-bless-America-and-no-place-else citizens that we are for the rest of the year.

There. I said it.

- ACL

Monday, October 16, 2006

The state of our youth, part 3


For my last installment on how our society has massively failed our youth, it’s time to put the church on blast. They’re about as big of a culprit as I can think of:

A huge problem that I’ve noticed, being a product of the church myself, is that we spend too much of our time trying to teach and instruct our youth about what’s wrong in our society and not enough time nurturing them with all the right things. There is a huge difference between the two. All we do all day is try to teach them about being sex, temptation and peer pressure, the pitfalls of rap music, drugs, or whatever issues that are current day by vilifying those things. Believe me when I say that all this does is make Christianity seem stringent, uppity, harsh, and boring. Rather than injecting them with all the joy and positivity that comes with following God; and by teaching them about the fruits of the Spirit (especially by seeing those fruits work through us), we focus on the negative elements in the world.

Art curators learn how to spot counterfeit paintings by being exposed to the “right” ones often enough. Bank employees can spot fake bills by seeing and touching the “right” ones. Youth are the same way. They learn about the fake illusions used by the devil by coming in contact with the real Spirit. It’s our job to help them confront their thoughts, questions, and confusions about God by using the Word; as opposed to using our old, traditional, “I-do-it-because-my-grandmother-did-it” practices.

We need to be able and willing to deprogram them and then reprogram them (trust me when I say that this won’t be easy. I’m still trying to break apart from the “traditional” ways of the church myself). If we’re able to tear down their former way of thinking and rebuild them on the true principles of Christ (love, tolerance, forgiveness, acceptance, etc.) we have accomplished our job. From there, we can start teaching our youth basic doctrine about God, the Trinity, sin, salvation, Heaven/Hell, daily living, etc.).

If we expose them to enough of the “real” God, – I believe that they’ll develop a desire to walk closer to God and further away from the stuff “out there”. They’ll be a little more mighty in the Spirit, a little more confident in their daily walk and little stronger in their faith (who knows? Maybe even more so than us adults) Most importantly, their behavior (you know, the one that we always try to demonize?) will start to match their outlook on Jesus, salvation, and their duties as followers. Knowing that God loves them will do waaaay more for our youths’ psyche than us telling them how much God hates the 'evil' that they’re doing. Accentuating the benefits of being apart of God’s family have much greater results than focusing on the consequences of not being in it. Showing youngsters the peace and love that comes with following Christ is more captivating -- to me -- than zeroing in on the idea of eternal torment if they don't follow God or if they don't do everything 'by the book', like we claim to.

Again, I apologize for going off on the deep end with this. But, I’m sick of seeing our youth fall behind, do nothing with their lives, and die in the streets, while we (the older folks) sit around complaining about it. As I maintain, the time for complaining and finger-pointing is over. It's time to take action. Never before has this call been more important.

As the Bible reminds us “the harvest is abundant”.

But, why are there so few laborers?

- ACL

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The state of our youth, part 2

Earlier this week I started my pontification on how we as a society have failed our youth. This is where I pick up:

Parents often stress to their children the importance of doing their homework. Well, I’m making that apply to adults as well. Adults, IT'S TIME TO DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK!

The fact is: many adults are downright ignorant when it comes to understanding today’s culture. As a result, what ensues is a significant gap between their world and the world of young people. Adults are quick to come down on kids because of the way they dress, the types of music they enjoy, how they speak, and how they act. But, what adults don’t usually think about is that – at some point – they were once children also. Chances are, they probably heard some of the same things when they were younger. Even if adults (both now and then) were hard on children so that youth could improve, my question is simple: why be so mean, uncompromising, negative, and disrespectful in doing so?

I think that we adults today are so rude and brusque toward young people because we want to separate ourselves from today’s culture as much as possible. We’d rather lock ourselves in our basements -- only coming out for food, water, and church – and only embrace our traditional ways of life; even if they aren’t relevant to today’s world. But as I contend, the only way for us to effectively reach young people is to reach them at their level. I can’t work with youth like I would with a 65 year old who has a Ph.D. I have to engage with them as one of them. But, if we refuse to make that type of engagement, we’ll never truly know them. If we continue to look down on their sense of music, style, language and entertainment, refuse to examine their technology (Myspace.com especially. You’d be surprised at some of the stuff you’ll find there), and fail to analytically study their culture, we’ll never address the real problems at hand.

Interestingly, many adults shy away from today’s culture out of fear that being involved may damage our “testimony”. To avoid the “corruption” of the world, we stay away from their music, their television show, their clothes, their languages. But we don't seem to understand that just because we do examine their culture doesn't mean that we have to enjoy it. We take part in it to learn about it. For instance, just about everybody who knows me is well aware of how I much completely loathe Black Entertainment Television. But, I watch the station nevertheless, just to get a feel for what’s out there. More adults need to do the same. If a parent saw his/her child fall into a sewer, I highly doubt that the parent would say “Yuck. I’m not going in there.” Instead, they would jump in head first – without even thinking -- to save their child. Why, then, can’t we jump in headfirst to the things that are damaging our youth’s physical, mental, emotional, and spirtual well beings?

Even the Bible reminds us that we can’t help others without an adequate sense of knowledge of where they are in their lives and what they’re going through. Just as God said through His prophet Hosea, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (4:6) Youth today are involved in a deep and complicated struggle, which we can’t reasonably help without digging deep to uncover the problems that need to be addressed. Sadly, if we don’t do our job at helping our children, they’ll find a way to “help” with their struggles by going somewhere else; usually at their own detriment.

Even if we don’t want to accept it, the enemy is out there and is constantly growing. But there is no way for us to sufficiently battle that enemy unless we truly know about it. Sports teams don’t play their opponents without first watching game tapes and performing scouting reports. Militaries don’t go rushing into war unless adequate intelligence has been collected (or, in the case with Iraq, unless intelligence has been created/manipulated. That’s another story…). So why do we feel like we can help our children without study anything about their culture?!

With all we know and all that our society has faced, simply throwing up our hands and saying “Oh well. I don’t know. That’s just how things are.” is not acceptable. Young people want to be exposed to the truth. But, like Jack Nicholson famously said in the movie A Few Good Men, we can’t handle the truth. As an alternative to providing answers, we find it easier to just tell them “Don’t to this”, “Don’t do that”, “That’s not right”, “That’s not how I was raised”, “Because I said so”, etc. Instead of relying on that mindless and useless ways of combating today’s problems, it’s time for us get off our asses and get our feet moving and our hands dirty. We need to stop shaking our heads at the wild and out of control youth or relying on Dr. "So and so" to handle the problem. We need to stop saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with these young people today”. That’s a lie. We know exactly what’s wrong. Whether we attack it or not is a different story.

I remember talking to one of my former coworkers (ultra conservative, die-hard evangelical Republican type). She told a interesting story about how she overhead two of her friends' children -- no older than 14 -- talking about their sexual experiences. She gave pretty vivid descriptions on what they discussed. Though the conversation itself didn't really suprise me (knowing how active youth are these days), I was pretty upset by what I heard. I was more upset, however, that this coworker didn't say anything to the teens and decided not to get involved. Uh..why not?! I guess that -- on the one hand, I can understand her not wanting to jump in and intefere with other people's children. But, on the other hand, for her to do nothing was similar to her stamping her approval of their actions. She allowed a great chance for intervention and ministry to fly by.

We must make it a point to get involved in the lives of our young people without holding dear to the concept of blissful ignorance. To use the Matrix Philosophy as a reference, we need to take the red pill. Passive ignorance does more than just keep our hands free from contamination; it kills our youth. Ignorance is not bliss.

I'm sorry for getting so long-winded again. But, I had to get this off my chest. For my next installment, I'm putting the church on blast for its failures. But in the meantime, I'll leave you with this:

Plz make teh efrt 2 hlp da yung ppl. Mmk. Thx. :)

If you adults need help translating this young people computer slang, go here.

- ACL

Monday, October 09, 2006

The state of our youth, part 1

Before I start, let me warn you that this is will be one of my longer pieces. I've got sooooo much to talk about. In fact, I think I'm going to do this in installments just to stop myself from going on and on. But, this is an issue that is deeply concerning me; more than politics, more than scandals, and even more than my own issues.

This weekend, I decided to spend my away-from-institutional-church time volunteering with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. One of my classmates serves as a program coordinator for the organization and impressed upon me the importance of getting involved in the lives of young people. Since I’ve been making the claim that it’s time for me to put more action behind my words (as opposed to hiding behind the walls of the church from 11-12:30 pm and claiming to do good), I embraced this as the perfect opportunity. As I’ve always maintained, it is long past the time for us, as the body of Christ to start taking action to rescue our young people from the ills of post-modernism, and the destructive influence of this new-aged popular culture. It’s pretty frightening to me to see how the minds of our youth are being infected by the empty, vacuous, and disparaging world of television, music, technology, and entertainment. But what are we doing about it? My classmate best described the situation by painting the following picture:

Imagine that, as Hurricane Katrina ravaged through the Gulf Coast Region, the levees break; allowing flood waters to sweep through cities. You helplessly watch as the waters swallow up your child. In your anger, you demand to know who is responsible for this tragedy. Who’s to blame for this? You spend all of your effort casting blame on federal, state, and local agents. But interestingly, they turn around and blame you. They ask one simple question of you: “How well did you teach them to swim?”

As I was leaving the center, I couldn’t help but to ask myself who is really to blame for the state of our young people; black kids especially. Upon further investigation, I think it would be well within the rights of the “agents” mentioned above (the media, music “artists”, television executives, etc.) to deflect the ‘blame’ back on us. The best question that we can ask ourselves is pretty obvious: “How have we failed our young people?” Why haven’t we done our jobs? Why haven’t we taught them how to live in a world full of the secular things that we vilify the most? How well have we taught our children to swim?

Whether our young people choose the secular life or not (though I suspect that most youth actually DO make the choice themselves), the fact is: we’ve failed them. We’re the ones who send young people out there in the social world without equipping them with the knowledge and wisdom to avoid those ills. Similarly to sending soldiers off to war without adequate equipment, we’ve sent our youth out there with a poor sense of understanding about the world and wonder why they turn out the way they do. For instance, when asked about her child’s irresponsible sexual behavior, one of my cousins said “As long as she uses protection, I don’t care what she does.” Is this what we've come to? We’re sending our children out there to battle again a powerful, high-tech army with nothing but dirt rocks and spitwads to protect themselves with. Scary.

The best diagnosis of our problem came at me pretty sharply. As much as we try to pass the blame on to others, the dilemma we face with our young people is really our fault. The body of Christ has failed miserably at reaching our youth. While the world has been successful at luring and drawing our youth, we’ve done an equally good job of turning them further away from Christ. The problem is: we’ve provided our youth with little, if any, real theology. So, what they turn to instead are the “-ologies” of BET, NBA, Playstation, cell phones, TV, Ipods, Internet, and name brand clothing. When they don’t have Biblical and theological foundations, it makes sense that youth are captivated by the hypnosis of materialism. I liken our situation to the story of the three little pigs. Too often we build houses with cheap material and a weak foundation (as opposed to the strong bricks of God’s word) and wonder why the big bad wolf of the world can so easily blow them down.

After talking to some of the kids at the center, I’m convinced that young people are desperately seeking our help. Instead of sharing aspirations of being rappers, professional athletes, or being in gangs, many of the kids talked about how they wanted to go to college, have purposeful careers, raise families, and – interestingly – grow closer to God. The sad thing is: they’re speaking directly to us and we have our fingers in our ears. Many young people are slowly being torn up inside, but won’t come to us because of how we respond to them. We judge them and tear them down before we even have a chance to listen to them. How are we supposed to reach them if we can’t even hear them? It’s like trying to play Marco Polo wearing headphones.

Another problem that we have (especially in the church) is that we spend too much of our time being phony and caught up with the external when young people need people who are real. Perhaps one of the most redeeming feelings for me was that when I met these kids, I wasn’t Andre the graduate student. I wasn't Andre the honors student. I wasn’t Andre the University of Michigan employee. My credentials were left at the door. What they saw was ME; and I think they were OK with that.

Interestingly, one of the reasons why celebrities, especially Black celebrities, captivate so many young people is because there is an impression that celebs is not only rich and famous; but they haven’t abandoned the ‘real’ element to them. If these kids knew how spoiled, pampered, uptight, arrogant, and out of touch most celebrities are (i.e. not performing a sold out concert unless they make “x” amount of dollars, or expecting a hotel to kick someone out of their room so that you and dog can have separate rooms *cough* Oprah *cough*), their credibility with these youth would be evaporated. These kids simply want someone in their lives to whom they can relate and who understands their struggles. What they find instead are pompous, arrogant, and sanctimonious adults who punish, chastise, and look down on them. We're failing our youth and we don't even know it. Worse yet, we don't even care.

I'm not going to strain your eyes too much so I'll call it quits here. Plus, I really need to get some work done. But, I've got lots more to talk about with this issue. Truth be told, I'm not sure how many more posts I'll have regarding this topic. But what I DO know is that -- right now -- my heart is full. But it's also greatly disturbed. Stay tuned...

- ACL

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Two sides to Christ?

On the one hand, thank you "Pastor" Becky Fischer, for showing us the scary and vile side of Christianity.

On the other hand, thank you, Pastor Gregory Boyd for showing us the Christ side in Christianity.

- ACL

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Foley's Follies

I haven’t stopped laughing, moaning, and shaking my head for past week. By now, I’m sure that you’ve heard about the sex scandal involving former Representative Mark Foley of Florida. But just in case you’ve been living under a rock or have been more concerned about Paris Hilton’s new CD, let me give you the scoop:

Former Rep. Foley abruptly resigned from his position last week immediately after ABC News grilled him with evidence that he was engaged in sexually explicit conversations with teenage congressional pages. Making the controversy more interesting is the fact that Foley served as a co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, the fact that senior GOP members, including Speaker Dennis Hastert actually knew about his engagements and didn’t say anything (and still allowed Foley to serve in his capacity), the thought of Foley going to rehab for alcoholism (instead of that going to prison for being a statutory rapist), and the sob story he’s now using about being molested as a child. This story is priceless!

I have no idea where to begin with this one. Most of the blog world has already been set ablaze with commentary about this nonsense, so I don’t think that I can add much more to it. But, here are the interesting bits that I've gathered from this story:

1. This story unequivocally confirms that the GOP is not -- I repeat NOT the party of morals and family values that they claim to be. Granted, Democrats aren’t exactly the paradigm for virtue either, but Republicans certainly aren’t. For any people who would say that I shouldn't judge an entire party by the actions of one man, I say let’s examine Rep. Alexander, R-LA. The page who Foley hit on (*snicker*) was from Alexander's district. Though the incident was reported earlier in the year, Alexander failed to act on it. If ABC News hadn’t outed Foley, he’d still be in his position and would likely be running for re-election. What about Rep. Reynolds from NY? He received a report from Alexander which described the incident. What about Rep. Hastert, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives?! He received the same report from Reynolds. Of course that was after he claimed that he didn’t remember getting it and then – all of a sudden – remembered getting it. The ever-so-virtuous GOP knew about this debacle and still looked the other way. Pretty moral, don’t you think?

It's funny. I didn’t think that the GOP could get any worse than when they ignored when Tom Delay and Bill Frist broke ethics laws or when Bush ate the Constitution for breakfast by going above the law. But this story amazes even me. Was Foley’s position so important that the GOP was willing to look the other way? Or is the GOP actually just morally deficient? I’ll let that one marinate.

2. What annoys me (but is still pretty entertaining nonetheless) is the commentary from many of the GOP faithful. They deflect this scandal back to Clinton (who committed his act almost a decade ago and with a grown woman. Funny how the GOP isn’t as critical for Bush and his costly, violent “mistake” in Iraq. But I digress…). They blame the media (especially ABC), they try to use a gay-bashing spin to justify the cover up. But few of them actually blame Foley. Even less of them go after the senior officials who allowed this mess to go on for as long as it has.

I’m just waiting for the GOP to start blaming the pages for being too young and too sexy.

3. It’s also pretty funny to me that those faithful to Foley supported him as long as he stayed in the closet. But the minute he came out (more like the minute that ABC pulled him out) the party cashed in their chips on him and turned him into a (insert homophobic slur here). This bothers me because many of those dangerous religious folks out there are the ones creating an America where people are so afraid of revealing their sexual identities that they cover it up, to the detriment of themselves and others. For instance, while I think that the Men on the Down Low phenomenon is highly sensationalized, it DOES exist. It exists because men are afraid to come out and – as a result – live heterosexual lives; passing on diseases on to unsuspecting women. Simply put: The GOP has created and is perpetuating this ongoing problem. Instead of allowing homosexuals the same rights we heterosexuals enjoy everyday, the GOP commits itself to denying equal rights to all people.

4. I think it’s really funny that White House press secretary Tony Snow downplayed the scandal indicating that this is all simply the product of “naughty” emails. Oh yeah? Well, I invite you all to read the conversation and tell me how “naughty” you think it is. “Naughty” is the innocent cyber-flirting that I do with my green-eyed friend. Down right and explicit inappropriateness is what these conversations were. I need to warn you in advance: the content is pretty graphic.

5. Apparently, past molestation from his priest is now being used as a justification for Foley’s behavior. The priest, who interestingly remains unnamed, allegedly engaged in inappropriate acts with Foley when he was child, which somehow triggered his interest in young boys. How convenient! The fact is: I know people who have been abused and molested who have never done so themselves. To suggest that this is why Foley is a pervert is unacceptable. To allow him exemption using this claim is not only irresponsible, but is a slap in the face to the children that we allegedly try to “protect”. Nonsensical stories like this will allow for any rapist, murderer, or criminal to beat the system as long as they can prove that some deep dark demons from their past made them do it.

As much as I’d like to think that this brewing scandal will affect the election outcomes next month, I’m almost certain that it won’t. People (both Democrats and Republicans) stick to their guns and support their parties for good or for bad. Iraq was sliding downhill, the economy sucked, social programs were drastically cut, and health care was unbearably expensive but Bush still won reelection, while Congress grew stronger for Republicans. I highly doubt that scandals; as evidence supported as they are, will do much to swing the pendulum. The GOP are masters at making noise, creating distractions, and luring their base. Democrats aren’t.

That said, thanks for nothing, Foley.

- ACL

Monday, October 02, 2006

Church service

I had a pretty interesting email discussion with a friend of mine, with whom I just started getting reacquainted. It was pretty interesting to discover that – although we hadn’t talked in about six years –stories about our lives weren’t all that dissimilar. We’re both at the point where we’re growing pretty dissatisfied with organized religion. An excerpt from one of the friend’s emails tells an interesting story:

"I hope you don’t think that I’m sacrilegious or anything, but lately my idea of going to ‘church’ has been less about going to some building with a steeple and pews and more about having a nice social outing with my friends to talk about life, work, relationships and our faith. Nowadays, I get more satisfaction out of volunteering at homeless shelters, being a Big sister to my 11-year-old ‘sister’, and socializing with my friends than I do for sitting in a church watching a preacher yell, scream, sweat, and ask for money. I guess that I’m starting to believe that our devotion to God is measured more by the relationships we build with others and less on how much time we spend in a building.

From past experiences, I’ve always thought it was funny (in an ironic way) that the people at church are usually the ones who destroy relationships with each other while the people outside of the church are the ones who can sustain relationships the best. Don’t go around disagreeing with somebody in the church. All Hell will break loose. Don’t get pregnant; you’ll be an outcast and a heathen. Don’t
question anything that’s being taught or try to look at God from another angle; you’ll be labeled Public Enemy #1. Didn’t Jesus tell us that the world would know who belongs to Him by how we love others? Maybe there really is something to what Jesus says.”

Hmm…

Good questions.

Maybe I'm becoming more aware of it because my family is scattered all over the country, but – like this person – I really enjoy being around those who I call my friends. I’m not even sure if I fully describe the sense of togetherness and connection I have when I’m around people I love (which explains why I get pissy if I feel excluded. But that’s another story…). Although it’s not a word that is common in most people’s vocabulary, I really enjoy the fellowship I have with others. When I think about “fellowship”, to me it goes deeper than shaking hands with a bunch of people whom you barely know. It’s more than just having people, who would otherwise forget that I’m even around, say “hello” to me and then walk away. Rather, I see fellowship as having a shared connection with people together with whom you have a vested interest and a common affiliation. To me, the most profound and deepest sort of friendship occurs when each person has shared similar experiences and are willing to be apart of one another. With that in mind, I'd like to think that the "Church" (Capital "C") is the same way. I'd like to think that the Church is made up of the type of togetherness that Jesus described when He said to His disciples in John 15:11-15:

"These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you and [that] your joy may be made full. This is my commandment: that ye love one another even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if you do the things which I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servent knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends for all things that I heard from my father, I have made known unto you."

Friendships were apparently a big deal to Jesus. Just the thought of Him letting His disciples in on everything" indicates that He has placed a high premium on His friends. It only gets more profound to know that He places more value on their lives than He does His own. From there, the Church was established.

Man, that's some pretty deep stuff.

Anyway...

Forgive my long digression. The real point of this post was to tell you about my first Sunday without an "institutional" church home.

I started my day at around 10:30-ish, after my friend called to make sure that I was going to church. Though I told her that I’d make a “game day decision” about seeking a new church, I was really saying “After I get off the phone with you, I'm going back to bed.”

From there, I got up and took a walk. What started off as a lap around my apartment complex quickly turned into a walk that covered a few miles. Maybe it was the Sunday morning quietness that allured me, but I enjoyed every minute of my walk. The weather was perfect. The environment was ideal. I was alone with God and my thoughts and I seemingly had all the time in the world to contemplate and reflect on God’s goodness, and my undeserved favor. I also had a great conversation with God where I was able to get a lot off of my chest. Unlike most people, He sat there and listened to every gripe I had.

From there, I went to my office to get a little work done, went by the University's Rec. Center to shoot some hoops (good to see that my jumpshot is still there), went to lunch with a friend where we shared terrific discussions, spoke to my sister on the phone briefly, and watched some football.

For me, it was the best church I've had in a while. And I didn’t even have to put on a suit…

- ACL