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My Thoughts Post-Orlando Tragedy

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Every terrorist attack or case of mass violence (and I’m sure I buy into the idea that calling an act terrorism makes it different… was Sandy Hook less terrorism/terrifying? To me, it is a distinction without a difference) leads to a collective sense of pain, loss, frustration and sadness.

But when the attack is targeted at a group you identify with, it also leads to a fear that produces anger.

I am more sensitive when I hear of shooting of pastors or at churches; anti-Semitic incidents hurt more than others. Boston and 9/11 struck more because of geographic proximity — I knew people in both that were at “ground zero”.

People who know me know that I’m not a club scene kind of guy. Just not in my DNA. However, I do occasionally go to gay clubs or gay bars. And a few times a year I’ll go to a gay happy hour event or gay networking event. And I have friends who are regulars at gay clubs, gay bars, play on gay softball teams, sing in gay choruses. I have friends who work in these clubs and bars — as dancers, hosts, bartenders. And I’m part of a church that is explicitly and positively supportive of the entire LGBT community. Today, it strikes me that all of those places — places and spaces we go to because they are safe — are potential targets for those who hate us.

All day I have been sadder than usual about today’s tragedy and haven’t been sure why. This one feels more personal and, though I am not a fearful person, makes you think twice about where you go, how you identify, who you date, where you might hold hands or hug or kiss… and that makes me sadder than usual. For myself and all my LGBT friends, brothers and sisters.

It will be tempting in the coming days to use this incident and its anti-gay motivation to divide us even more as Americans. We should not allow it to do so.

We are one community. We can disagree politically and theologically. We can shout and scream and yell and argue. We can be at odds in so many ways… but we are a we. Let’s not let hate divide us anymore.

And on a more personal note… I am a deeply spiritual and religious man who endeavors to follow the way of Jesus every day. To borrow language from today’s sermon, daily I commit to Christ, to His Community and His Cause in the world. I am Jewish by birth and life (still am, always will be!) and Christian by new birth and life (have been for 24 years and will be for eternity). I am also gay.

There are extreme elements within both Judaism and Christianity that reject the LGBT community. At the very extremes, there are those who call for death for LGBT people in the name of God. In both cases, these extremists find justification for their position in a particular interpretation of an ancient text (a text I love!); in both cases, these extremists find justification in the “tradition” of their faith (and who are we to challenge 2000 years of tradition?); in both cases these extremists claim justification in that they once held the majority view within their faith. But let’s be clear: these extremists do not speak for God (nor do I) nor do they represent all Jews or all Christians or the best of what Christianity and Judaism bring to the table.

The same is true of Islam. Fundamentalist Islam, like fundamentalist Judaism and fundamentalist Christianity, is violently anti-gay. But not all Muslims share this view. As there is diversity among Jews and Christians, there is also great diversity within Islam. Our issue is not with religion — Judaism, Christianity, Islam or any other — but with extremism and fundamentalism. Please let us not confuse the issues.

If we wrongly identify our enemy, we will fight the wrong war. Islam is not our enemy. And we must resist the temptation to exchange homophobia for Islamophobia.

Praying for Peace in our World,

Which I believe is only possible by the Prince of Peace,

Imho,

Amen.

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Posted by on June 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Rick Warren is Being Disingenuous

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I like Rick Warren a lot.

I have a ton of respect for his ministry, integrity and character.

I have learned a ton from him, consider him a mentor-from-a-distance, and will usually defend him against critics.  

My experiences with him have demonstrated that he is genuine, loving, passionate, compassionate, and simply put — the real deal.

That said, in this recent interview about homosexuality and gay marriage, Rick is being disingenuous. In the interview, Warren is quoted as saying:

“I fear the disapproval of God more than I fear your disapproval or the disapproval of society”

in response to a question about his opposition to gay marriage.

It is no surprise and nothing new that Warren believes all homosexual behavior is sinful and that gay marriage is wrong.  While I disagree with Warren on these issues — and believe he is both on the wrong side of history as well as faithful exegesis — I respect him enough to not dismiss him because of this disagreement.

But here is where is gets disingenuous: he implies that his position is the only one that God would approve and that anyone who disagrees or has a different position (a) is outside the bounds of God’s approval and (b) hold their position because they value societal approval more than Gods.

The truth of the matter is that there are faithful, committed, intelligent Christ followers on both sides of this issue — and Rick Warren knows it.  Those who disagree with him do so out of conviction and from their understanding of scripture and Jesus. We can disagree on how to read and apply the scriptures without having to lower ourselves to imply that those who disagree with us are less faithful and less committed to the scriptures and to following Jesus than we are.

The right answer for Warren would be: “I believe X. Many of my brothers and sisters believe -X. As I hope they respect me, I respect them. This is an issue of hermeneutics and exegesis. We all agree that God’s love is for all people and all people are created in the image of God. That is the important stuff…”

I have heard Warren plea for more civility in these kinds of conversations, especially within the church. That cannot and will not happen until leaders like Warren stop mis-characterizing anyone who disagrees with their particular interpretation of a passage as being “less faithful”.  As a church community at-large, we must be humble enough to listen first, seek common ground, and always lead with respect and civility.  

Most of the time, Warren models and leads in this area well.  This time, he failed.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Thoughts on Jason Collins

ImageNBA player Jason Collins became the first athlete from a major men’s professional sport to come out while still playing in the league.  You can read his story in his own words here in Sports Illustrated.

I think this is significant for a number of reasons.  Sports has always been an arena that push’s the boundaries of social progress and reform.  It also influences culture in very strong ways.

I also think this is significant in that it helps address some of the fears people have about gay people.  Truth be told, much of the anti-gay sentiment (especially among men) is based less on moral or theological conviction, than some weird discomfort “ick factor” about homosexuality.  This, of course, is totally irrational and says more about the individual than it does about the morality or acceptance of homosexuality.  I appreciate that Collins addresses this issue head on:

I’ve been asked how other players will respond to my announcement. The simple answer is, I have no idea. I’m a pragmatist. I hope for the best, but plan for the worst. The biggest concern seems to be that gay players will behave unprofessionally in the locker room. Believe me, I’ve taken plenty of showers in 12 seasons. My behavior wasn’t an issue before, and it won’t be one now. My conduct won’t change. I still abide by the adage, “What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.” I’m still a model of discretion.

Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/#ixzz2RuQRBA3m

One of the really encouraging things today has been the positive reaction and support Collins has gotten from teammates and others.  Of course, not all of the responses have been positive (like here).

The other thing that struck me about this story is how much I could relate to Jason’s story.  Normally, I have very little in common with professional basketball players. But Jason is coming out at the same age I was outed, and many of his words truly resonate with my experience and the experience of friends I know:

By its nature, my double life has kept me from getting close to any of my teammates. Early in my career I worked hard at acting straight, but as I got more comfortable in my straight mask it required less effort… No one wants to live in fear. I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back.

Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/#ixzz2RuRk8fuo

My final thought on Jason Collins is that I am surprised at how emotional I got reading his account.  And I am surprised at how much I care that an active NBA player has come out.  Why does it matter to me? Because it is another story of hope and redemption.  It is another step towards a world where people won’t need to hide who they are in order to excel and live a great life.  And because in his words I can hear both his pain and new found joy… and I totally get both. And because it will help gay teens and gay athletes take their next step towards authenticity, openness and freedom — and that is a really good thing.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

 

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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“Dear Dzhokhar, I Can’t Hate You”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/rev-mr-michael-rogers-sj/dear-dzhokhar-i-cant-hate-you_b_3128805.html

This should be our prayer… not just for him, but for us.  There is already too much hate in the world. As His disciples, we are called to love… even our enemies.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2013 in link

 

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Obama Speech from the Boston Memorial Service

This is really an amazing speech/sermon from President Obama… quite remarkable simply as a speech… pitch-perfect for what was needed today.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Prayer for Boston: Lord Have Mercy

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LORD ALMIGHTY, Maker of Heaven and Earth, we lift up our prayers to you:

WE PRAY for the people of Boston. LORD HAVE MERCY.

WE PRAY for those injured. CHRIST HAVE MERCY.

WE PRAY for those lost, and their families and friends. LORD HAVE MERCY.

WE PRAY for all the first responders, doctors, nurses, firefighters and police officers. CHRIST HAVE MERCY.

WE PRAY for our Governor, President and Government Leaders, as they investigate and respond. LORD HAVE MERCY.

WE PRAY for an end to violence, terror and hatred.  CHRIST HAVE MERCY.

WE PRAY, too, for our enemies — for you have commanded us to do so. LORD HAVE MERCY.

WE PRAY for peace — an everlasting peace that only comes from the Prince of Peace. CHRIST HAVE MERCY.

WE PRAY for our own hearts. LORD HAVE MERCY.

And we pray these things, as we can only pray:

In the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

LORD HAVE MERCY.

Amen.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Praying for Rick & Kay Warren

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Matthew Warren

I was very sad to hear of the loss of Rick & Kay Warren’s youngest son, Matthew (age 27).  As the Warren’s shared in an email to the Saddleback staff that was also made public, Matthew took his own life and had been battling the mental illness of depression his entire life.

I love Rick and Kay and am deeply thankful for their ministry, model and faith.  Pastor Rick has been a resource, challenge, mentor and teacher to me through his preaching, conferences and writings.  While I have only met him a few times (both at Saddleback conferences), I am big fan of his and deeply thankful for him.

Together, let us continue to lift Rick and Kay, as well as the Saddleback family, in prayer.  These prayers were shared on Scot McKnight’s blog:

Grant, O Lord, to all who are bereaved the spirit of faith and courage, that they may have strength to meet the days to come with steadfastness and patience; not sorrowing as those without hope, but in thankful remembrance of your great goodness, and in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those they love.  And this we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of comfort: Deal graciously, we pray, with all who mourn; that, casting all their care on you, they may know the consolation of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pastor Greg Laurie, who lost a son in an accident, shared these good words that are worth passing along:

“I too have had a son die, so I have a sense of the pain Rick and Kay are facing. But their circumstances are different and my heart goes out to them. At times like these, there really are no words, but there is the Word. There is no manual, but there is Emmanuel. God is with us. I know the Lord will be there for all of the Warren family and Saddleback Church as they grieve together. Looking forward to that day when God will ‘Restore all things.’ (Acts 3:21)”

Read more here

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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