Pastoral Urbanite

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Christians and Alcohol

Item 2 Description


Pop and otherwise.

Food Drink and Other Vices

The things that makes life sweeter... in moderation of course.


Process it all... It leaves more time to waste.

Religion and Ethics

The Lists

It doesn't matter how much you like to write prose. Sometimes, only a list can say what you want to say.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

When belief changes

Social media is an amazing thing. On Facebook and Twitter I’ve run into people that if I lived at any point in history past I would have simply never seen or heard from again. So far I’ve reconnected with my third grade teacher, found out that Jason Chesnut married Ann Thames (who saw that coming?) and caught up with people living all over the world.

All this connectivity has an interesting effect on us though, especially for me. You see until now when a person moved half way across the map they were lost to you. If something about them changed dramatically your memory of them was unaffected. Meeting them now can be a little odd as you look into the face you knew  in elementary school connected to a 35 year old body. But imagine you run into the guy that baptized you advocating gay marriage. What if you stumble upon the preacher you listened to for 4 or 5 years and his photo albums contain images of him drinking a martini? Or what if you're the one that used to be the preacher and you open your inbox every day to friendly but persistent stream of emails requesting to know what changed.

I spent ten years as a Southern Baptist minister. Four of those years where in youth ministry, four in pastoring, and two years as a discipleship minister. In those ten years I managed to graduate college, finish about half a masters program, surpass every preaching mentor I could find, get married, have a son, and then divorce.

On April  28, 2003, my 28th birthday, I watched a black Nissan Xterra pull out of a parking lot and drive away with the only life I had ever known. Because of who and what I was there was no separating any part of my life, there was nothing to salvage. I had lived in a glass house for 10 years and when a glass house falls the failure is complete.

I don’t mean to suggest by this description that I have anyone to blame but myself. No divorce is only one person’s fault, however that statement misses the point. I lived by choice for 10 years hiding and manipulating my weaknesses instead of asking for help. It ate away at my soul and destroyed my marriage. It left me broken and alone to live with a calling I could no longer fulfill. There’s an episode of MASH where Hawkeye Pierce (an army doctor for those unfamiliar) stands over a patient on a gurney unable to heal…. unable to save the young man’s life because Pierce’s arms are missing. The scene in the show is a dream, but it happens in real life. It happened to me. But in my situation it was because of my own actions… And it wasn’t a dream.

I wandered home, back to the town I graduated high school from. I refused to preach. For a while I taught Sunday School but it felt dishonest. Not because I didn’t believe but because my beliefs were changing and to be direct most of the people in Sunday School classes are so lost when it comes to religious nuance that they never realized the differences.

The one thing I did have, that I don’t ever remember having before was freedom. I had the freedom to question, to dismantle, and to debate. I was no longer subject to the party line polemics of the church. I was no longer subject to the small handful of untrained theologically inept Christians that seem to inhabit every church with the desire to make intelligent discussion impossible.

There are a thousand stories to tell at this point in my life. Most involving alcohol and the active pursuit of my new freedom, personal not spiritual. There are things I’m not proud of. There are things I will not apologize for. But these things are not the point today. During this time I met a woman. God seems to like this type of plot line, because it shows up in most stories. To make a generally long story short she loved me in spite of myself. She is not traditional, nor containable, nor predictable. She is nothing short of exactly what I needed. She is the other side of my coin. We married and life began afresh.

So maybe you realize that I haven’t answered the question that everyone really asks….. What do you believe now? The answer to that question is only beginning to form . I can tell you that I believe in a god of love and forgiveness, of mercy and grace. I believe that our commandment is to love God and then others and that anything that takes away from that is abject failure. I believe that the Bible has been maligned and skewed to promote the prejudice and hate of a self righteous mob. And I believe that most of the things we believe about the Bible are absolutely false. I believe we’ve created a church so concerned with its own self preservation and glorification that it ignores the plight of people, the discipline of open study, and the narrative of history. As information becomes more and more accessible, the church is becoming more and more anti-intellectual. As the globe continues to shrink, Christians are becoming more and more self contained. What I believe is that the time is coming very soon for a new revolution within Christianity, one that ceases to dogmatically defend and prop up the outdated and useless icons of its dogma and searches to regain the spirit of God for its people. This movement will not be, I hope, a denomination, but a recognition of the need for change across the whole of Christianity and in fact the religions of the world. This is the passion that God is planting in my heart. This is what I believe.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Meditation #2

If a task doesn’t have a deadline, it isn’t a task. Its a wish.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Meditation #1

Not caring about your wife’s pets is sort of like saying her kids are ugly. Tags: ,,
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Microsoft Money leaves me no choice.

One of the lesser considered problems with living in a smaller town is that all the banks may still be locally or regionally owned. As a result the technological advancements of the internet as they pertain to banking are basically unknown to Pastoral Urbania. Most banks don’t reconcile with any desktop financial application in less than 15 steps. Those steps make sense to me as an amateur geek, but for the average Joe its a bit daunting. Local bank’s websites are either draconian or contracted out to some one size fits none third party provider.

All of these reasons and a few dozen more have long made me think about moving my accounts to some national provider that allows me to bank over the internet. The idea of my bank data and my financial records reconciling seamlessly is more than enough to get me to sign the dotted line.

One and only one thing has stopped me. I’ve used Microsoft Money for years. I don’t have to think to use it. I don’t remember ever having to think to use it. It isn’t ugly like Quicken. It doesn’t try to cute or upbeat. It just does it’s job. The clincher however is that its the only app I’ve ever found that produce a real cash flow chart over multiple accounts and forecast that cash flow for any amount of time I choose. (Knowing MS there is some arbitrary date in the future at which time stops but I haven’t found it.) So for that reason I’ve been comfortable enough where I was.

As of today, however, Microsoft Money is no longer available for purchase and support will be phased out over the next 18 months. So some bank and financial software needs to right a thank you note to Microsoft because that’s all the reason I needed.

I’m pretty sure who’s going to get my business but that’s another post. Get Rich Slowly has a great list of possibilities here.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good luck Mister Sheppard.

Most of the beneficial legislation in this world that fails to make it into law does so because of the good intentions of misinformed people. If the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crime bill fails to pass that will definitely be the reason. There's nothing quite like listening to conservative ministers, church goers, and politicians ramble on about the dangers of a bill that basically says that while its already wrong to shoot a man to steal his money, its worse to shoot a man because he slept with another guy last night.

Most of the misinformation about hate crime legislation is centered around the idea that it legitimizes homosexual behavior. Simply, if the government says its worse to shoot a guy because he's gay ,then the government is saying it is good that he is gay. The problem with this argument is that the bill covers any type of hate crime. It would be just as applicable if a rowdy crew of gay men killed me because I'm heterosexual. Conservatives who say that the bill is really only about homosexuality are actually the reason that the bill is seen as only about homosexuality. Secondly nobody every talks about the fact that there is already a Hate Crime bill on the books from 1969. This bill simple expands the definition and reach of government in protecting its citizenry.


Here’s a few of the problem areas…
Hate crime legislation is aimed at silencing people, especially ministers, who think that homosexuality is wrong. The problem with this statement is that the same bill specifically maintains free speech and if it didn't the bill would fail Constitutionally anyway. The idea that the legislation is attempting to control speech is a straw man argument. Conservatives can’t beat the bill on its merits, so they’ll just make all there congregations scared of it.

In my local paper one minister reported as saying "he has a problem with hate crimes in general, because one crime should not weigh more than another." Even if the speaker was to modify this obviously ridiculous statement, lest we all get the death penalty for our unpaid parking tickets... the statement is still false. American law and Old Testament law define the killing of another human in types and levels including manslaughter and murder. We all recognize levels for murder depending on the situation.

Pastors who speak against homosexuality could not be convicted if someone heard them and then committed a violent act. There is a massive difference between inciting violence and saying that an action is wrong. Americans have consistently allowed for racists, communist, flag burners, and all matter of fringe groups to speak there mind as long as their actions do not lead to violence even if Americans as a whole seem to disagree with their beliefs. There’s no reason to believe America, or more specifically the Justice system, would react any differently to a group that believes like roughly half of the country claims to believe.


All murder is a hate crime and there's already a law against that. This statement is untrue for two reasons. First of all most murder doesn’t have anything to do with hate. Most murder is about greed, envy, or simply the fear of being caught for other wrongdoings. Its more likely that a murderer will claim to have loved his victim than it is that he hated him.

Hate Crime Legislation is not Socialist. ( I know this seems basic, but not according the Catholic priest in Pastoral Urbania.)

Homosexuality is not a civil right, its a moral choice. This is probably my favorite fallacious statement about Hate Crime legislation. The basic premise of civil rights is that a person should be able to live unfettered in their personal beliefs and actions, so long as he doesn’t cause harm or undue problems on the society as whole. Therefore if someone kidnaps and murders me because of something I believe or do that is not illegal my civil rights are unavoidably being violated. The fact that sexual orientation is not explicitly protected is irrelevant.


But all of this is not what bothers me most about Conservatives and their campaign against anything that might make homosexuals feel less like second class citizenry. My God is a god of amazing grace and love. He has accepted me in all of my faults and failings, persistent as they are. He has made it my job to speak to the world on his behalf. Even if I thought that homosexuality was wrong, I would never turn to fellow human being and say that if someone kills you because you love another man I think that’s ok. Which is exactly what we tell them when bring these ludicrous arguments to the public forum.


And for the conservative’s that are still with me. Let me ask you this. Even if we assume you are correct. Even if we assume homosexuality is a choice. Even if we assume that homosexuals need to be saved from unrighteousness in their lives. How can you share the love of Christ with the homosexual, when the red neck asshole at local bar just killed him?

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