Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Give us this day our daily weapons.

Reacting in part to recent missile tests by Iran and North Korea, President Obama and a unanimous UN Security Council last week endorsed a sweeping strategy to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately eliminate them. Is nuclear disarmament a religious issue? Is it a pro-life issue? Is support for nuclear disarmament a moral imperative? Should we pray for nuclear disarmament?

Nuclear disarmament is one of the first things people who identify themselves as Christians should be praying for. This issue is most certainly a religious one, but further than that, it is a human one because our very existence is on the line.

As a fourth year student at seminary, I have been through the ups and downs of a thriving and dried up prayer life (sometimes simultaneously). The one consistent aspect of my prayer life, just as in the prayer lives of many Christians before me and across the world, has been the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus teaches his followers to pray in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Even when I had nothing to say to God, and in my opinion, God had nothing to say to me, I recited the Lord’s Prayer. With every recitation, I believe that I was praying for nuclear disarmament.

Many biblical scholars believe that the Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect prayer that can be recited because it covers all the bases, so to speak, that one needs to cover when one prays. It covers the spectrum from praise to thanksgiving to asking for forgiveness, all in one little prayer. But what does all of this have to do with nuclear disarmament? Let’s dig in.

Although there are many moments in the Lord’s Prayer where one could surmise that Jesus could have been talking to us right now, the crucial moment in this prayer comes in the second half. And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. In this petition of the prayer, the person praying asks God to forgive citing our own acts of forgiveness as a model. That’s pretty heavy stuff. This one small sentence shows us that how we act towards each other is how we hope God acts towards us when it comes to forgiveness.

And what if God had nuclear weapons? If God had nuclear weapons, that would mean that God knew there would be a point where there was no turning back, where forgiveness could be completely out of the question. That would mean that there could be a point where God would say: “Forget the little children! I hate my creation! I want to destroy everything I have made! I can no longer forgive you!” And I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty scary.

The God I pray to is one that I am confident does not reach that point of no return, the point where the red button is pushed and the bomb is released upon unsuspecting and innocent civilians. So, we too must take heed to the prayer of forgiveness. Nuclear disarmament is the truest form of forgiveness because it is preemptive forgiveness. Just as we in the Christian faith believe that Jesus died for our sins years before we took our first breath, so too must we learn to forgive those who sin against us, because that is the only option for life.

Our world is a scary and unsettling place which becomes even more scary and unsettling when one thinks of nuclear weapons in the hands of mortals around the world. As religious individuals, our call to duty is to arm ourselves with our weapons of mass destruction: love and peace, for they will be the most disarming of them all.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What's Charitable About Discrimination?

Here's this week's On Faith question from WashingtonPost:
Dozens of major religious groups and denominations are urging Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to renounce a Bush-era memo that allows faith-based charities that receive federal funding to discriminate in hiring. SHOULD RELIGIOUS CHARITIES THAT RECEIVE FEDERAL GRANT MONEY BE ALLOWED TO DISCRIMINATE IN HIRING?

As a seminarian student seeking leadership in the church, I would have to say a resounding “No!” to the idea of any type of discrimination, religiously affiliated or not. The last time I visited a charitable organization that was run by a religious group, I do not believe the question “is there discrimination occurring here?” ever crossed my mind. And the reason for that is because religion, charity, and discrimination should never be in the same sentence together, in any order, in any way.

Obviously, governmental money cannot and should not ever be connected to any form of discrimination because of legal reasons, religious institutions should never be connected to any form of discrimination because of moral reasons. Church people just don’t seem to ‘get it.’ This type of hypocrisy is the very reason that the numbers of religious individuals in the country are dwindling.

I had the privilege of working at a charitable religious organization that was of a denomination other than my own. I was surrounded by individuals of different faiths, ethics, creeds, skin color, you name it. At staff meetings, I would look around me and realize that I had very little in common with the people surrounding me, but then it hit me: I was only looking at the surface. When I thought deeper about those sitting next to me, I realized we held the same core value: love of the neighbor. Suddenly those differences didn’t seem so jarringly obvious because the most important thing was our common compassion for those in need.

And that’s where the church needs to go. We as people of faith need to stop focusing on those ridiculous things that divide us and remind ourselves about what’s truly important. As a Christian woman, I am convinced that Jesus shows me that compassion and love of those in need is a core value. In Buddhism, compassion is a step along the way to enlightenment. In Judaism, the phrase “you are blessed to be a blessing” comes through loud and clear. In Islam, one of the core character traits of Allah is compassion. Why do we gloss over what’s truly beautiful and unifying in our religious beliefs? Why must we continue to idolize our differences rather than unify our voices towards the call of compassion? It’s time for the religious institutions to give compassion a try. Discrimination is never a word that should be used to describe anything religious because it is the complete opposite of faith, hope, or love. And that’s not charitable.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Obama has a potty mouth...sort of.

Throughout this past week, the media has been salivating over the...what shall we call it? Flub? Slip-up? Idiotic antics of Kanye West? The fire had not even started smoldering before the media cried "OBAMA CALLS KANYE WEST A JACKASS".

Now, first of all. Let's all take some deep breaths here. Kanye West is hardly worthy of news since he's done things like this before, and at the MTV awards no less. Second of all, is there nothing else newsworthy this week?

I find it interesting that the media got their initial information from a Tweet by ABC's Terry Moran, not the actual horse's mouth. A sort of, he tweeted, she tweeted, but Obama never did tweet, he just was fed up with a twit. Who knew Twitter was so powerful?

So, what's the big deal? Yes, Kanye was a giant jerk for interrupting Taylor Swift (America's newest rated G sweetheart), but why is it that Obama gets sucked into the mix? Trey Ellis calls this an "outburst" , Fox News calls it lashing out, but really, if that's the extent of the President's emotional extreme-ness, that's fine by me.

But why such a big deal? In general, why does language apply so carefully to this president and seems to fly by the wayside when it comes to *cough* others? My answer would be: language is our last stop. For many years the conservative right has held onto the "morality" card as progressive leader after progressive leader illustrated their immorality (not to say they didn't have a few of their own), but it finally seems like we have one who can take the heat. I believe we have a president who is led by his morals, not his hunches, not his future comfort. And that's kind of hard for us to take. We are waiting with bated breath for him to screw up. But I'm not talking about making incorrect political moves, I'm talking about moral moves. We're waiting to see how his family handles the pressure, whether he has a wandering eye, whether he's a flawed individual. And now we have proof that curses. Oh, the HORROR!

I'm not saying that Obama is perfect, by no means. I'm a person of faith, and with that comes the understanding that no one can ever be perfect - some guy who ran around healing people in sandals was the one exception, but his name is escaping me right now. We Bible folk (and I use that term very loosely...and cautiously) say things like "judge not lest ye be judged", and to me that means mind your own business, jackasses. Focus on how Obama is dealing with the country. Not his reaction to an incident on the MTV Video Music Awards. He may screw up some more. He may drop a couple more curses. But it must be getting pretty hard to see the little specks past those large logs.

Friday, September 18, 2009

To blog or not to blog?

I have a confession to make: up until this point, I have thought that blogging was lame. I've watched with a sense of impending doom as hoardes of my fellow Gen Xers (or are we Y?) have caved to this new form of communicating. I've wept bitterly as I've seen dear friends of mine emerge from the blog-o-sphere with calloused fingers and squinty eyes, but unfortunately, these tears will stop nothing. The blogging world is here, and it has claimed another, well, at least temporarily.

I am taking a class this semester called "Public Theology" with a professor named Dr. Susan B. Thisthlethwaite at Chicago Theological Seminary, and part of our assignment is to start a blog, and keep it up to date with our thoughts on certain issues relevant to theology and public discourse. I've decided to throw myself completely into this endeavor and want as much feedback as possible from you fine people out there (if there is indeed anyone that would care to read my profound thoughts on issues). There will be weekly posts and possibly bi-weekly ones too (it's for a grade, so you all will know how well I'm doing).

Another assignment I have is to start twittering. Along with my disdain for blogging comes a very sizeable dislike of tweeting. I have tried Twitter out and have found it very self-involved and overwhelming, but I'm going to give it a try again (for the sake of the grade), and hopefully this time it will take. If you'd like to follow me on Twitter, my account name is RKWind.

Bear with me, since I'm new at this. Hopefully you'll see an improvement as the semester goes on. And who knows? Maybe I'll continue on after!
Copyright 2009 Windy-Wisdom