Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Delusion God...

So I'm sitting in the entryway at Journey a little after midnight greeting folks who are here for a slice of time in our annual Easter prayer vigil. We start on 3 p.m. on Good Friday and go through 8 a.m. on Easter morning. Different folks sign up to take anywhere from a half hour to two hours praying. The other thing you need to know is that since we began doing this two years ago, Steve Fenech has created some amazing environments for prayer during these times. Two years ago we had a guided path of multicolored fabrics that led to a meditative candle-lit room. Last year Steve and his crew created a labyrinth to walk with stations a long the way. This year he has created a path to walk that is sand for one third of the path, dirt and soil for another third and sod/grass for the final third. The pray-ers take off their shoes and socks to walk, and there are marked stations along the way to guide the is beautiful, and folks come out from their time moved and in some cases with tears because of the power of their time there.

Which brings me to my query...On Wednesday Calla, Brian Hill and Bob Carlton and I attended a book signing at that wonderful Austin independent book store called BookPeople. The author was Richard Dawkins, the author of "The God Delusion". The place was packed and Dawkins did not disappoint as he delivered his apologetic for his own particular brand of atheism and disdain for religion of all shapes and sizes, but in particular, Christianity. He is a brilliant, well-read, passionate, funny, articulate ambassador for unbelief and it is no wonder his is the public face and voice of the anti-religion movement. He has been interview on public radio and television, on The Daily Show and the Colbert Report and has a huge following and readership. I can understand why...some of his criticism of the church and religion is warranted...many of his accusations of intolerance and bigotry aimed at organized religion are dead on accurate. I found myself wishing there was such an articulate voice from the God Squad who could speak intelligently as an advocate for Jesus and his followers who was also not a misogynist, bigoted jerk...who spoke and lived like Jesus...with love. I still think Dawkins has thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and when he gets to the nuances of issues like Christians and Jews who accept evolution as the work of an Intelligent Designer, he resorts to double speak, dismissive generalities and a rather sad resignation to a nihilist inevitability. But he is very good, and I enjoyed listening to him.

So just as I am ready to chalk the time listening to this able ambassador for atheism as beneficial but off target, I watch ABC's Nightline that very evening and they are running a story about a group of fundamentalist men who take children to the museum to look at the exhibits concerning the formation of the earth and the development of man and using those displays to teach creationism and biblical inerrancy. Dawkins was right...again...the world is full of idiots and many of them flaunt their ignorance in the name of religion. I performed a wedding tonight out at Horseshoe Bay before I drove back into town to take my shift a the warehouse. It was a delightful night with a delighful young couple, but sitting at the reception , I got into an interesting discussion with a man simply because he knew I was a minister and he wated to debate theology. I'm perfectly willing to do so...I certainly am not a Biblical texts expert, but I know some crap and enjoy every now and then talking about the crap I know. Except tonight, because again, Dawkins was right...there really does seems to be a delusion in force, and it comes not as a delusion about there being a god...but rather in the delusion of some who follow God who think that they are God...or at least they know him well enough that they can speak for him and pass judgement on all who don't agree with their rules...not God's mind you...their rules. I really don't blame Dawkins...he has plenty of case studies to prove his point...BUT...I watch these folks come out of the room from their time with God, and there is no doubt, intellectual or otherwise, that they have encountered a mysterious, unpredictable, un-tameable spirit being and no clinical research, scientific hypotheses, or categorical deniability could convince me otherwise... There may be another kind of delusion at work here...but I'll let Dawkins figure that one out for himself...



Friday, March 7, 2008

And, Oh Yeah...Pack a Little Courage

The South by Southwest Film Festival began today, so since I was at a meeting in downtown Austin at noon today I couldn't help but notice the 6th Street/Congress area getting that festival vibe again. There were celebs everywhere including Morgan Fairchild, Luke Wilson, Mike Judge, ZZ Top, Mariska Hargitay, and those were just the ones getting a soy latte at Progress Coffee. While I don't have the cash to get a film festival badge, I always peruse the Chronicle to get a description of as many of the films as I can...The critics and festival goers are anticipating the viewing of such movies as "21", "Baghead", "American Teen", "Goliath", and "Lou Reed's Berlin" to name a few... There are a couple more that I know of that are not getting the critic's buzz, yet, I am really interested in how they do. They both have to do with the subject of human trafficking and, in my mind the display of great courage. Justin Dillon, who along with "Not For Sale's" Dave Batstone were at Journey in September to share the call to respond to the international issue of human slavery. If you remember Justin was working on a documentary film entitled "The Concert to End Slavery" which included interviews and music performances by writers, musicians, politicians, actors and actresses. We got to see excerpts from the film which was in progress...well Justin is having his first screening of TCTES this Wednesday March 12 at The Village Alamo Drafthouse. Our buddy, Brandon Demaris, has been talking with an Austin filmmaker who is showing a documentary this week in which he spent several years chronicling the story of several young boys who were forced to become child soldiers in Uganda.

One of the interesting aspects of immersing oneself in the story of the last days of Jesus' ministry is the inescapable realization that he began facing the inevitability that his refusal to play by accepted standard religious operating procedure was going to get him killed. Before the spectacular raising of his friend Lazarus from the dead, the scriptures tell us that while talking to Lazarus bereaved sisters "Jesus wept". I believe that he partly wept because he loved his friends, and when your friends are sad, you are sad...even if you know you are about to bring one of them back to life. But I also think that it could have been more than that...I think Jesus knew that if he does this public magic, and does the unthinkable...reclaim someone from the grave and put them back among the breathing...he has crossed the point of no return with the Jewish religious leaders...they will kill him to silence him. A few days later around a campfire in Caesarea Phillipi, Jesus drops the foreboding bombshell by telling them that they are going to head for Jerusalem and Passover...and when they get there, he will be killed. To which Simon Peter responds.."Well that's a no-brainer, we just won't go to Jerusalem!" Jesus' corresponding words are some of the most passionate and emotion filled in all the scripture as he screams at Peter, "Get behind me Satan!" Courage...the courage to make films about human be brave and courageous to take the steps to stamp out human slavery...the amazing courage to risk your life to escape being trafficked in the 21st century. The courage it takes today to live like Jesus in a world that killed him once and would do it again if it had the chance. Love rattles the cages of power. Courage gives a voice to love even in the very moment it is being betrayed and bought off for 30 pieces of silver...or less. Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor says, "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." Martin Luther King Jr., said, "Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question,'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right."

As we travel the Lenten Journey together, our path is headed straight for Jerusalem and to sure opposition and danger. Courage is not the absence of fear or is proceeding to follow the voice of God in spite of the presence of fear and anxiety. Jesus wept, and then set his face toward Jerusalem. Not sure where you are headed tomorrow, but I pray for your courage to love in the face of hate and evil...and that you will be joined by a bunch of us who pledge to walk and love with you.