Either Jesus was wrong–or we are

bad-mathFor years, I believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and that I became a sinner the moment I took my first breath. That’s what I was told. Everyone around me believed it. As far as I was concerned, it was so—until I began to notice that something didn’t add up:

Jesus didn’t simply die; he was sadistically tortured to death. According to the scriptures, he was made to suffer for something others did, just as I was destined to be punished because of something Adam and Eve did. It made me think.

Is God unfair?

If asked if God is unfair, our natural response is, “Of course not!” But do we really believe that?

Yes or no: Is it fair to blame, harm or kill an innocent person for something someone else did? If not, we actually believe that God is unfair.

If we worship someone who treats others unfairly, what does that say about us? To be consistent, if we believe that satanically torturing an innocent man to death is the divine way to solve a problem, then we also must believe that society should jail or execute innocent people for crimes committed by their relatives, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Do we?

No. We live in an if “you do the crime, you do the time” society. Why? It’s only fair.

The truth is, we don’t believe in harming or punishing innocent people, and we don’t know any sane person who does. Yet we love it when God does it.

Would Love do that?

Like most Christians, I was repeatedly told that Jesus’s suffering was an act of godly love. Further, I should be grateful that God loved me so much that He would have Jesus brutally tortured instead of me. And if I didn’t believe that Jesus was tortured, I would be.

I had to wonder: Is it an act of love to torture someone to death? Whether it was for their mistake or someone else’s, is that what Love does?

Furthermore, what kind of person is grateful that an innocent man was executed for a crime he committed? Was I that kind of person? I surely hoped not.

Jesus viewed God differently than we do

The way Jesus viewed God completely contradicts the way the crucifixion story portrays God. Jesus’s view of God is the polar opposite of ours:

Through his Parable of the Prodigal Son, retold in Luke 15, Jesus revealed what kind of father he believed God to be. He related the story of an impatient, greedy son who wanted his inheritance from his father—immediately, thank you very much. Despite the disrespectful “I wish you were dead” implications of his younger son’s demand, the free-willing father bestowed him the inheritance.

How to become a prodigal in a few easy steps

The self-indulgent son and his party pals squandered every cent of the inheritance, quickly transforming this son of wealth into a pauper. He became a laborer on, of all things, a pig farm. He’d hit rock bottom. To this famished heir, even pig feed looked like a banquet.

What next? After treating his father as if he were dead, going back home was out of the question. It was doubtful that he’d ever be forgiven.

But, weighing his options—pig slop or groveling at his father’s feet—he wearily returned home, bracing himself for the verbal or severe physical beating he deserved. He’d be lucky if his father didn’t turn him away or have him stoned to death, as was the custom in those days—and remains so in cultures that are wed to the dictates of their ancient holy books. It is human nature to be vindictive.

We view God as humanly vindictive

What would the next scene look like, if we were writing the story of the Lost Son? How would the father in our story react to seeing the wayward son who had wished him dead and had wasted everything?

My guess is that our scene would start with an angry, judgmental rant, complete with expletives and name-calling. If he allowed his son to live, the father would probably punish him so harshly that he’d wish he had been stoned to death.

In our story, he probably would never regain his position as a beloved son. He had traded that for debauchery.

Jesus viewed God as divinely forgiving

Father greets prodigal sonHow did the father react in Jesus’s story? He spotted his prodigal son from a distance and ran to greet him with open arms. He clothed him in fine garments and ordered a feast, much to the dismay of his older and much more respectful son.

The father in Jesus’s story was unconditionally forgiving, unconditionally loving and totally merciful. Why? That is the way Jesus viewed God.

It was a perception that defied religious teachings and disturbed the religious order. They felt that chaos would erupt if people were not controlled by the threat of extremely harsh or deadly punishment. (We see how well that has worked.)

What if every child was told the same thing when they reached an age of comprehension: “Sweetheart, we live in a what-goes-around-comes-around world. Whatever you do here will be done to you. It’s called karma. It keeps everything in balance. Keep that in mind every waking minute of every day. Let that be your guiding light.”

If we believed that, like the father in Jesus’s parable, God gave all souls the free will to choose our consequences, this world probably would be less chaotic and more heavenly. We would always be thinking that if we steal, cheat, deceive, rape or murder, at some point in our eternal lives the same thing will happen to us. Consequently, we would never do anything that we would not want done to us.

Instead, we worship the ancient human view of God as a controlling, judgmental, vindictive villain, an enforcer, and alas, a sadist who unfairly murders His innocent child.

I have only one thing to say about that: Either Jesus was wrong—or we are.

Is that your Love crammed into that box?

“Freedom and love go together. Love is not a reaction. If I love you because you love me, that is mere trade, a thing to be bought in the market; it is not love. To love is not to ask anything in return, not even to feel that you are giving somethingand it is only such love that can know freedom.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

I was watching “A River Runs through It” on Netflix the other day, and smiled when I saw a wooden carving above the pulpit that said, “God Is Love.” Scriptures say that God is Love [1 John 4:8]; but most of us don’t know what that means. We can’t comprehend the vastness, the power and the unconditional nature of real Love. The same can be said for our comprehension of God.

God in a BoxWe see God through the only lens we have: Human. Our vision is myopic at best, egoic at worst, and assures distortion of the image. Our visual field is somewhat of a box—containing and confining. We’ve placed God there, where we can observe but not experience.

We’ve created and publicized God as looking human, living in the beyond. Before we could fly above the clouds, we believed that God and heaven were there. They weren’t; but at least there was sunlight, which is more than we can say for the darkness that astronomy and astronauts have found in the Deep Beyond. And oh by the way, they haven’t run into God up there, either.

Frankenstein is a rank amateur

We have bestowed upon God a crazed, conflicted, sociopathic human personality that would be natural for anyone confined to a box. In the bat of an eyelash and with the severity of whiplash, our God performs acts that are as angelic as forgiveness and as demonic as genocide.

Our God issues violent threats of eternal damnation, causes excruciating pain and suffering upon innocent devotees such as Job and Jesus, causes the sun to shine upon the wicked and the good, and welcomes prodigal children home—no matter how errant they’ve been. Did I mention that He’ll bring a pox upon your house? Not really. But He’s ordered you to kill your kids if they’re disrespectful.

According to scripture, a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways [James 1:8]. What does that say about the God that we’ve created? More important, what does it say about us as creators?

Love me, or you’ll regret it!

Our God is so small and humanly insecure that He demands worship. The scriptures we’ve written say that all things work together for good for those that love God [Romans 8:28]. What does that imply about those who don’t? Have we created a quid pro quo God for whom love is a mere trade?

Our limited perception of what God is and what God does makes it difficult, if not impossible, for us to wrap our arms around the notion that Love grants free will to Its beloved. Always and forever, as the song says. Wish it could be on Earth, as it is in Heaven.

If asked, we will tell you that we believe that God has granted us free will. Despite that, we’ll also tell you that we believe that God has gifted us with commandments. Our gaze is so transfixed on the God Box, we seem to have forgotten that commandments are the antithesis of freedom. Commandments control; they don’t liberate.

It’s amazing that it doesn’t occur to thinking people that it would be extremely sadistic for God to grant us total freedom, then brutally punish us throughout eternity for exercising that freedom. Wait a minute! We’re here for less than a century! Even if we sinned every day we’re on the planet, eternal punishment far exceeds any crime. That’s simply another dramatic illustration of how tragically we’ve demonized God—and how thoroughly we misunderstand Love.

The worst job in the Universe

Our God is so small and tyrannical that even though He is sovereign and can do anything He wants, He chooses the mind-numbingly tedious and distasteful task of keeping records of how we use our freedom, every minute of every hour in every time zone for every body. Why would God spend His precious time that way? Oh yeah: So that He can have documented justification for brutally torturing us at a later date. Please, are we talking about Satan or Love?

Beyond not being divine; that story line is disturbingly diabolical. It would be more merciful for God to simply force us to do what He wants. It would spare us the misery and spare Him the drudgery of watching bad acting on every stage on Earth for centuries—without intermission.

But oh! Forcing us to do the right thing wouldn’t grant us freedom, would it? And, boys and girls, if it ain’t freedom, it ain’t Love.

WWLD?

Let’s put our thinking caps on and consider: What would Love do? Well, real Love probably would create a what-goes-around-comes-around world. Haven’t we been admonished to judge not and condemn not? Not one but three gospel writers tell us that “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” [Matthew 7.2] In the Old Testament, it’s “an eye for an eye.” [Exodus 21:23]

Of course, the scribes were not referring to us as we know ourselves: as mortal bodies. We’ve seen many a body’s lifetime end without reaping what it sowed. But we’re not physical bodies. We acknowledge that with the belief that God will punish us forever. I’m sorry, physical bodies don’t last forever.

We are eternal souls, not the physical characters we’re portraying here on Earth’s stage. As souls, we will not escape the karmic ricochet.

Life is always fair

If God is Love, Life will always be fair. It’s the first Drama Queen Workshop Principle. In a whatever-you-do-will-return-to-you world, we have total freedom to choose our outcomes; we are punished by our sins, not for them. That frees us to choose our own karmic butt-whipping. It also frees God to have more joy-filled days. And hey, who deserves it more?

If we don’t know what Love is and what Love does, is it any wonder that so few of us truly experience it? Is it any mystery that we feel emptiness and longing? We yearn for that kind of love from others because inside us, where God really lives, Love seeks its own.

Remarkably, God’s love is so intense and the freedom it grants us is so overwhelming and unfathomable that we separate from it and from each other. Now God sits over there—in a heaven we’ve created in the Great Black Vacuous Hole beyond Earth’s atmosphere with no gravitational pull, performing menial and maniacal tasks, and woefully confined to a box.

And we lie over here, lonely and dying for unconditional Love.

The Beginning of the End of Levitical Ignorance?

Here in the Balcony of Life, where we can see over the heads, behind the backs and beyond the wings of the daily drama that seems so real to the players, we often talk about Soul and Ego: Soul being that eternal part of us within which God resides, Ego being the mortal part, the personality and physical costume that are visible on planet Earth.

We also frequently discuss purpose: Why are our souls here, in this place, at this time? What unique thing did we come to do to facilitate the evolution of the planet and its consciousness—and how do our egos try to interfere with the fulfillment of the Soul’s desires?

Bishop Eddie Long

It’s with those questions in mind that we direct our attention to the stage on which the sexual abuse drama at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta is unfolding. If you entered the theater late, no problem, it’s very early in the first act.

You’ve only missed the part in which an anti-gay activist minister who counseled gay men and women in his 25,000-member congregation to “go straight,” became the defendant in two lawsuits claiming that he sexually abused teen boys. Within a couple of days, the number of lawsuits had doubled, and none of the plaintiffs withheld his name, choosing to be publicly scorned and permanently damaged personally and professionally, if they have filed false charges.

This is delectable fodder for the gawkers and gossips on the main floor of Earth’s theater. Up here in the balcony, where we can see the larger picture, the plot appears much deeper than that: Consider the possibility that the soul we physically recognize as Bishop Eddie Long has come here to jettison human consciousness above the level of Levitical ignorance.

The scribe of Leviticus had a particular hatred for those with same sex orientation. When the clergy at the Council of Nicea included the book of Leviticus’s hate-filled words in the anthology that they declared to be the Word of God, thy implanted the belief that homosexuality was a choice, that God considered it “an abomination,” and that those who engaged in same-sex relations “should be put to death.” We’ll love them anyway. That was 2,000 years ago; they didn’t know then what we know now.

In the centuries that followed, scientists discovered same sex orientation in the animal kingdom as well as in plant life. Choice? In addition to biological and botanical findings, genetics, meteorology, physics, geography, history, archeology, cartography, astronomy, other fields of study, and plain old common sense have proved that what the ancient scribes believed to be true simply isn’t. Claims that their works were inspired or dictated by God, who permeates every living thing, portrays God as ignorant rather than omniscient, and evolving rather than absolute.

We all have relatives, neighbors, dear friends, co-workers, bosses, students, teachers and other loved ones who are gay. If we’ve known them since childhood, we were aware that they were gay long before they knew what sex was. They taught us that gender preference is not a choice made on the physical level.

It amazes many learned Bible scholars, theologians and Thinkers that in the 21st century, millions still believe that everything in the Bible is true—and will vehemently defend the book, rather than defending its sometimes disparaging portrayals of God. As retired Episcopalian bishop, best-selling author and Bible scholar John Shelby Spong concluded: Anyone who thinks that everything in the Bible is true simply hasn’t read it.

One of Bishop Spong’s bestsellers, Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the Love of God, concluded something with even deeper relevance to our Atlanta-based drama: Paul of Tarsus, the man most responsible for the spread of Christianity, was gay. Bishop Spong was challenged on his theory by a very defensive fundamentalist host of a TV show. I thought the host was going to pop a blood vessel, he was so incensed by the thought that Paul could be gay.

Like Paul, there are those who presume that God “hates” certain aspects of “His” creation, and that if something or someone is different from the majority, they are unacceptable in “God’s sight” and should be chastised, ridiculed or even eliminated. For all we know, the writer of Leviticus might have been fighting his own demons, unwilling to accept himself and his natural attraction to those of the same sex. Or maybe it was run-of-the-mill bigotry, the unruly child of pure ignorance.

If Bishop Spong’s theory is correct, perhaps, like Paul, others have assuaged their own discomfort or hatred of themselves for being different. They controlled their natural attraction to the same sex by convincing themselves and others that God hated that behavior and would violently punish it. Perhaps they forgot that God is Love; Love does not hate, judge, punish or respond violently.

Perhaps 21 centuries is long enough. Maybe it’s time for this unloving behavior to end, time for us to evolve to a higher level, to align ourselves with divine consciousness, the Love Consciousness that is the real God. Maybe it’s time to put down the picket signs, stop condemning or trying to change those who are different, and accept each of us for who we are.

Maybe that’s the mighty job that Bishop Eddie Long’s soul bravely agreed to do on a very public stage. Time will tell, and we’ll all be blessed.

Valentine, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you

I was stunned and saddened earlier this week to receive a Facebook invitation to a workshop that proclaimed, “If you do not have money constantly circulating in your life, there is something radically wrong with you.” The invitation was from a minister who practices the teachings of Jesus. 

This young man is an indisputably beautiful person whom I genuinely love, and my intent is not to disparage him in any way. But admittedly, I was so surprised by his declaration that the Loud Mouth within me succumbed to the lure of the empty comment box beneath the invitation in about a nanosecond, immediately questioning the judgmental nature of his marketing message.

Scripture tells us that Jesus believed that absolutely nothing was wrong with the blind beggar. As far as Jesus was concerned, the man, who had been blind since birth, had done nothing wrong and neither had his parents, as presumed by the curious disciples.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” John 9:2-3 (NIV) I could be wrong; but it seems to me that Jesus’s lesson here was that all physical conditions—even those perceived by humans to be negative, disadvantaged or disabling—serve God’s purpose.

Scripturally, God is Love 1 John 4:8 (NIV), and “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Cor 13:4-5 (NIV) When I connect those dots, it means that God’s purpose is not to harm us, and every condition benefits us in some way. Of course, this directly contradicts Exodus 20:5, the scripture to which Jesus’s disciples had referred, a scripture that claims that God unfairly punishes children for their parents’ and ancestors’ wrongdoing.

As far as I’m concerned, God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. Holding to that principle, scriptures that portray God as sadistic fall through my strainer and into the disposal; however, I honor others’ right to capture those images of an angry vindictive God in their bowls and cling to them. Similarly, I respect those who believe that material prosperity reflects a heightened level of spiritual consciousness. To me, they’re on different planes, parallel and distinct. 

Investing time and energy in the acquisition of the temporary tangibles of planet Earth distracts us from the real reason we are here. However, I give loving allowance for others to hold a different belief. I’m even open to seeing proof that we can learn the lessons necessary to raise our spiritual consciousness if we’re focused on boosting our cash consciousness.

Just as we have different beliefs, we all have different styles of learning. I generally learn better when I’m paying attention to my teacher, reading the appropriate texts, questioning things that don’t make sense, and doing my homework. For example, I don’t believe that I can learn chemistry by studying English literature. 

When it comes to prosperity and spirituality, I actually learned and evolved more when I was broke. Guess it’s my learning style. When my life was out of my control, I found that I was more motivated to seek Truth. Before then, I was too busy enjoying the big house with the circular drive, luxury cars and in-ground pool to ask the important questions and receive the answers that eventually brought me a more dynamic, enduring level of prosperity and priceless inner peace. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that it was the inner peace and unconditional trust that whatever I was experiencing was for my Highest Good that attracted more bounty than I ever did through  creative visualizations or 40-day prosperity programs. I’ve tried them, so I know of what I speak.

As Proverbs 4:7 (KJV) says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding.” It is one of my guiding principals. I trust it as unwaveringly as I trust God’s love. To deeply understand something, we must research; we must ask probing questions, not simply accept other folks’ answers. In this instance, my question was: Is my agitated response to the prosperity workshop invitation due to the minister’s lack of understanding—or my own?

If I’ve learned only one thing in my quest for spiritual truth, it’s that I’m better served by paying less attention to other people’s actions and more attention to my reactions. After all, I will not be held accountable for the way others act, only how I react.

With that in mind, there was only one thing to do: Examine this situation under the loving light of the Christ. I always begin with the premise that all dramas and all actors are playing in my theater for one reason only: to support my spiritual enlightenment. Consequently, I always begin with two questions: Why did I invite this scenario? How does it serve me?

Then I delve into the scenario-specific details. In this case: Does the concept of prosperity workshops annoy me? Truly. Am I disturbed by the idea that something is “radically wrong” with me if I don’t have positive cash flow? No question about it.

The next step takes circles back to the beginning: Why did I invite this scenario, and how does it serve me? Once asked, the answers always come—rarely immediate, but always on time. In this case, it took about a day; but, as usual, it was worth the wait.

I discovered that neither the workshops nor the “something is radically wrong with you” edict was at the heart of my discontent. When Spirit allowed me to sit in the balcony and watching the drama performed under the loving light of the Christ, I was blown away by what was revealed: The message in the invitation mirrored a judgmental, condescending and manipulative aspect of my own ego that I needed to confront and heal. Surprise, surprise, the problem was mine!

I couldn’t have gotten better news. Here’s the deal: I can’t control others’ actions, reactions, thoughts or beliefs; but I can control my own. Once I own the problem, I can shape the outcome. I have the authority and ability to change any aspect of it that I desire.

How empowering, how liberating, how exhilarating! Whoo hoo! Spirit had revealed the lesson and the blessing of the workshop invitation—a very generous gift for which I am eternally grateful.

Now the transformative work can begin: I must accept full responsibility for healing this aspect of my ego self. I must agree to be consciously aware of the lesson learned here because more scenes like it will encore on my stage. I must embrace each scenario as an opportunity to rehearse a more enlightened response, so that one day I can lovingly bring down the curtain on it and all dramas that hold no entertainment value.

The most important lesson I’ve learned through these spiritual epiphanies is that I must remember that I am not simply in the Light, I am the Light. For that, I love myself unconditionally. You are not simply in the Light. You are the Light. For that, I love you unconditionally.

What better day than Valentine’s Day to affirm and stand firm in our love for ourselves? What better day to know that just because money is not lounging in our bank accounts doesn’t meant that it’s not constantly flowing through our lives? There is only One Life and we’re in it.

What better day than this day to remember that no matter what anyone says, there is absolutely nothing wrong with us! Even if we don’t know where our next meal is coming from and can’t pay our rent or mortgage, the radical truth is that there is no spot where God is not. We are worthy of God’s presence. God is with us always–in the urban homeless shelter and the suburban mansion, in the unemployment check and the Wall Street bonus.

God is equally present and equally loving. God doesn’t love one child more or less  than another. No one is highly favored. What you possess is no measure of God’s love. If you want more, simply step onto that glorious path called Self Love. 

Have a divine Valentine’s Day!

The God of Michael Jackson, Nidal Hasan, and a black man named Ricky

I know you’re wondering: Is the balcony so high in the stratosphere that the Loud Mouth has become light-headed? How on Earth did she connect God to the King of Pop, an Army psychiatrist accused of killing fellow soldiers, and a random black guy named Ricky?

There’s a logical explanation: For starters, all three souls were made in the image of God (as immortal spirits, not mortal bodies), and all three are associated with some kind of extremism: Major Nidal Hasan for his religious beliefs, Michael for his uh, lifestyle—and let’s face it, black guys named Ricky (or anything else) have been known to evoke extreme behavior in some people.

In recent weeks, I have been blessed to observe in-your-face performances by these three fascinating characters: Michael, in his documentary, “This Is It,” Rick Stone in the newest production at the Black Ensemble Theater, “The Message Is in the Music: God Is a Black Man Named Ricky,” and Major Hasan, in the alleged murderous rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas. (A hyperlink to this violence was intentionally excluded.)

Behind the scenes of two highly entertaining musicals and one absolute horror, I could clearly see God—three perceptions of God, anyway. I sat in awe as Michael Jackson extracted absolute lock-step perfection from each member of his performance team, without drama queen antics such as condescending rants or other displays of anger. He demanded nothing of his production team—more accurately, his family—that he did not demand of himself.

When he showed up for work, he was ready to perform at peak levels, and ready to inspire greatness in others. He was as precise in his movements as he was in his directions, clearly explaining what he wanted and why he wanted it. Mostly, he wanted to give audiences “awareness, awakening and hope”—an unusual mission for performers, but apparently typical of Michael.

He held each member of his performance family in high regard, edifying their excellence and affirming their ability to meet his extraordinarily high standards. From that basic premise, he consistently and lovingly elevated them to an even higher level of perfection.

I sat watching much more than another stellar performance by Michael Jackson the entertainer. I was eavesdropping on a powerful Master Teacher. No matter who we are and what we’re doing, we are constantly revealing what we believe about God through our treatment of others–particularly those over whom we have some control or influence.

Beyond the quest for dazzling choreography, perfect rhythms and pitches, Michael showed us his God. He led with Light, respect and unconditional love, rather than fear and intimidation. For that, he will continue to be loved and admired beyond death’s door.

On a different stage, genius playwright/director/producer Jackie Taylor has crafted the starring role in her latest feel-good hit, “The Message Is in the Music,” from a similar model of God. In this uproarious musical, chock-full of expertly executed tunes from  The Beatles, The Drifters, Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield (for whom God seemed to have a particular fondness), Paul Simon, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and other old-school faves, Lucifer goes to God’s house, raising absolute hell and predictably threatening to destroy the Universe.

Unpredictably, he’s greeted by a God (a black man named Ricky) who is unflappable, making it utterly impossible to goad him into fury or a fight. God—and Thinkers—know that the devil only has as much power as others give him. In this play, God gave him absolutely none.

Taylor’s script dramatized what psychiatrist and spiritual teacher David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. revealed in his enlightening book, Power vs. Force. Power and force are often thought to be synonymous. They are not.
Power, as Dr. Hawkins so eloquently explained, does not involve force. In fact, it is its antithesis, which means that “May the Force be with you” might actually be a curse rather than a blessing.

So how are we to respond to force? Well, if Taylor’s characterization of God offered any clues, the most appropriate response to taunting rants is to retire for a refreshing nap. I was tickled that on the Black Ensemble Theater stage, as on Earth’s stage, God was the only one who seemed to know that force never wins. As He rested, His angels finally figured it out, and saved the world by showering the devil’s marauders with unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness. I guess that’s why it’s called “overpowering” the enemy rather than “overforcing.”

After the former demons surrendered themselves to the Light, they groveled at God’s feet, as they had been required to do for the devil, bemoaning their unworthiness to be in His presence. God not only deflected their praise, He declared that their innately divine nature was the only truth He knew about them.

The moral: True Power uplifts. Force, on the other hand, can only destroy.

We see it every day. When the God of Force took center stage at Fort Hood, non-Muslims started pointing fingers, judging, disparaging and condemning. But the truth is that most, not all, of the followers of the world’s religions, including Christianity, believe that God is forceful. Their behavior often reflects it. They are angry, disrespectful,  judgmental and condescending. Righteous indignation is their schtick. Power is not part of their act. They’re showing us the God whom they worship, and we show them ours.

Just this morning, a Facebook friend angrily attacked a Palestinian who had posted something disagreeable on his “wall.” His tirade triggered a torrent of “shame on you” responses from FB friends who seemed to know him; I don’t. Defensively, this man, who apparently considers himself a Christian, posted Bible passages that supported his wrath-filled response–scriptures that portrayed God as angry, vindictive, destructive and unforgiving.

Since his premise seemed to be that the Bible is the Word of God, the Loud Mouth was compelled to ask: Where do Matthew 7:1-3 (The famed “Judge not…condemn not…How can you see the speck in your brother’s eye but can’t see the log in your own eye?” scriptures) fit into his scenario? At this late hour, his silence must mean that he’s still crafting a very thoughtful response to that question.

Fascinating stuff. We can find a verse in the Bible to justify everything from genocide to generosity, so we pluck a scripture that’s appropriate for the situation at hand, and declare ourselves vindicated. The Bible Tells Me So: Uses and Abuses of Holy Scripture provides some memorable examples of this, punctuating my belief that those who read only one religious book rob themselves of deeper insights into God, themselves, and the world of the scribes who created the collection of texts.

Maybe, if we read more, and exercised our thinking muscle more frequently, we might discover that our angry, attack responses are peculiar to humans, are historically barbaric and emotionally immature. There is no Light. There is no Love. There is no forgiveness. That can only mean that this is not divine behavior.

I was standing near a table at the food court in Water Tower Place yesterday when a boy who appeared to be around seven years old dropped his toy car onto the floor directly in front of me. I stepped back so that he could retrieve it. Seconds later, his brother’s car crashed onto the floor. There was no harm done; but the older boy leaped from his chair and pounded his brother in the back so hard that the guy standing in line ahead of me gasped in horror, and so did I. There was no adult at the children’s table.

The older boy, about nine or ten years old, stormed away, leaving his little brother whimpering in pain. When he returned, his victim’s eyes followed him closely. When he turned his back, the younger boy attacked him from behind, viciously pummeling his brother with the front end one of the cars until he howled in pain.

Both attacks were barbarically human and emotionally immature. Similar acts are mirrored throughout the planet every minute. The fact that scriptures in most world religions justify this behavior should be cause for alarm; but it isn’t. We don’t become alarmed until someone kills innocent people at Columbine, an Amish school, Virginia Tech, a South Side Chicago high school or Fort Hood.

We have nurtured a violent society and we see no relationship between that brutality and our beliefs. It’s always amazed me that we can’t look at Bible scriptures, which were physically written by humans, and classify them into one of two categories: Divinely Inspired and Definitely Inhumane. It’s even more amazing that we don’t realize that every scripture that we freely accept as the Word of God directly impacts our behavior and our children’s behavior.

We pass along our beliefs; we teach our kids that God responds with anger, force and sometimes inhumane brutality. Then we tell them that it’s wrong for them to respond that way. Jesus, we tell them, told us to turn the other cheek. But we also tell them that Jesus is God. What are they to think: God is bi-polar–or worse, a hypocrite?

After headlines scream of another unconscionably brutal act, we cry in anguish and disgust, “Why are our kids so violent? What’s wrong with them?” We march in the streets and attend prayer vigils; then we return to our computers and play Mafia Wars, lured like six million others by an ad that proclaims, “Surround yourself with thugs, thieves, crooks and bad guys. And that’s just your family. Trust me, you’ll love it!”

Almost daily, we update our status to brag that we’ve graduated to a higher level in the Mafia because we’ve committed a more heinous act of inhumanity. Often we solicit our Facebook friends to help us brutalize some prospective Mafia Wars victim.

We don’t understand that our thoughts reflect our consciousness. We play violent games, engage in virtually violent acts, watch violent TV and movies, read ancient stories of brutality against humans, sometimes committed by an angry unloving God, and we wonder why we don’t feel safe any more.

We’re merely witnessing what our beliefs about God look like when they’re acted out on our world’s stage. If we insist on believing in an angry vindictive God that solves problems by killing people, we must share responsibility for the fiendish acts of those who also hold those beliefs. We co-created those scenes.

Or, we can follow the God of Michael: Start with the Man in the Mirror.

The God of Michael, Major Hasan, and a black guy named Ricky

I know you’re wondering: Is the balcony so high in the stratosphere that the Loud Mouth has become light-headed? How on Earth did she connect God to the King of Pop, an Army psychiatrist accused of killing fellow soldiers, and a random black guy named Ricky?

There’s a logical explanation: For starters, all three souls were made in the image of God (as immortal spirits, not mortal bodies), and all three are associated with some kind of extremism: Major Nidal Hasan for his religious beliefs, Michael for his uh, lifestyle—and let’s face it, black guys named Ricky (or anything else) have been known to evoke extreme behavior in some people.

In recent weeks, I have been blessed to observe in-your-face performances by these three fascinating characters: Michael, in his documentary, “This Is It,” Rick Stone in the newest production at the Black Ensemble Theater, “The Message Is in the Music: God Is a Black Man Named Ricky,” and Major Hasan, in the alleged murderous rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas. (A hyperlink to this violence was intentionally excluded.)

Behind the scenes of two highly entertaining musicals and one absolute horror, I could clearly see God—three perceptions of God, anyway. I sat in awe as Michael Jackson extracted absolute lock-step perfection from each member of his performance team, without drama queen antics such as condescending rants or other displays of anger. He demanded nothing of his production team—more accurately, his family—that he did not demand of himself.

When he showed up for work, he was ready to perform at peak levels, and ready to inspire greatness in others. He was as precise in his movements as he was in his directions, clearly explaining what he wanted and why he wanted it. Mostly, he wanted to give audiences “awareness, awakening and hope”—an unusual mission for performers, but apparently typical of Michael.

He held each member of his performance family in high regard, edifying their excellence and affirming their ability to meet his extraordinarily high standards. From that basic premise, he consistently and lovingly elevated them to an even higher level of perfection.

I sat watching much more than another stellar performance by Michael Jackson the entertainer. I was eavesdropping on a powerful Master Teacher. No matter who we are and what we’re doing, we are constantly revealing what we believe about God through our treatment of others–particularly those over whom we have some control or influence.

Beyond the quest for dazzling choreography, perfect rhythms and pitches, Michael showed us his God. He led with Light, respect and unconditional love, rather than fear and intimidation. For that, he will continue to be loved and admired beyond death’s door.

On a different stage, genius playwright/director/producer Jackie Taylor has crafted the starring role in her latest feel-good hit, “The Message Is in the Music,” from a similar model of God. In this uproarious musical, chock-full of expertly executed tunes from  The Beatles, The Drifters, Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield (for whom God seemed to have a particular fondness), Paul Simon, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and other old-school faves, Lucifer goes to God’s house, raising absolute hell and predictably threatening to destroy the Universe.

Unpredictably, he’s greeted by a God (a black man named Ricky) who is unflappable, making it utterly impossible to goad him into fury or a fight. God—and Thinkers—know that the devil only has as much power as others give him. In this play, God gave him absolutely none.

Taylor’s script dramatized what psychiatrist and spiritual teacher David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. revealed in his enlightening book, Power vs. Force. Power and force are often thought to be synonymous. They are not.

Power, as Dr. Hawkins so eloquently explained, does not involve force. In fact, it is its antithesis, which means that “May the Force be with you” might actually be a curse rather than a blessing.

So how are we to respond to force? Well, if Taylor’s characterization of God offered any clues, the most appropriate response to taunting rants is to retire for a refreshing nap. I was tickled that on the Black Ensemble Theater stage, as on Earth’s stage, God was the only one who seemed to know that force never wins. As He rested, His angels finally figured it out, and saved the world by showering the devil’s marauders with unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness. I guess that’s why it’s called “overpowering” the enemy rather than “overforcing.”

After the former demons surrendered themselves to the Light, they groveled at God’s feet, as they had been required to do for the devil, bemoaning their unworthiness to be in His presence. God not only deflected their praise, He declared that their innately divine nature was the only truth He knew about them.

The moral: True Power uplifts. Force, on the other hand, can only destroy.

We see it every day. When the God of Force took center stage at Fort Hood, non-Muslims started pointing fingers, judging, disparaging and condemning. But the truth is that most, not all, of the followers of the world’s religions, including Christianity, believe that God is forceful. Their behavior often reflects it. They are angry, disrespectful,  judgmental and condescending. Righteous indignation is their schtick. Power is not part of their act. They’re showing us the God whom they worship, and we show them ours.

Just this morning, a Facebook friend angrily attacked a Palestinian who had posted something disagreeable on his “wall.” His tirade triggered a torrent of “shame on you” responses from FB friends who seemed to know him; I don’t. Defensively, this man, who apparently considers himself a Christian, posted Bible passages that supported his wrath-filled response–scriptures that portrayed God as angry, vindictive, destructive and unforgiving.

Since his premise seemed to be that the Bible is the Word of God, the Loud Mouth was compelled to ask: Where do Matthew 7:1-3 (The famed “Judge not…condemn not…How can you see the speck in your brother’s eye but can’t see the log in your own eye?” scriptures) fit into his scenario? At this late hour, his silence must mean that he’s still crafting a very thoughtful response to that question.

Fascinating stuff. We can find a verse in the Bible to justify everything from genocide to generosity, so we pluck a scripture that’s appropriate for the situation at hand, and declare ourselves vindicated. The Bible Tells Me So: Uses and Abuses of Holy Scripture provides some memorable examples of this, punctuating my belief that those who read only one religious book rob themselves of deeper insights into God, themselves, and the world of the scribes who created the collection of texts.

Maybe, if we read more, and exercised our thinking muscle more frequently, we might discover that our angry, attack responses are peculiar to humans, are historically barbaric and emotionally immature. There is no Light. There is no Love. There is no forgiveness. That can only mean that this is not divine behavior.

I was standing near a table at the food court in Water Tower Place yesterday when a boy who appeared to be around seven years old dropped his toy car onto the floor directly in front of me. I stepped back so that he could retrieve it. Seconds later, his brother’s car crashed onto the floor. There was no harm done; but the older boy leaped from his chair and pounded his brother in the back so hard that the guy standing in line ahead of me gasped in horror, and so did I. There was no adult at the children’s table.

The older boy, about nine or ten years old, stormed away, leaving his little brother whimpering in pain. When he returned, his victim’s eyes followed him closely. When he turned his back, the younger boy attacked him from behind, viciously pummeling his brother with the front end one of the cars until he howled in pain.

Both attacks were barbarically human and emotionally immature. Similar acts are mirrored throughout the planet every minute. The fact that scriptures in most world religions justify this conflict resolution behavior should be cause for alarm; but it isn’t. We don’t become alarmed until someone kills innocent people at Columbine, an Amish school, Virginia Tech, a South Side Chicago high school or Fort Hood.

We have nurtured a violent society and we see no relationship between that brutality and our beliefs. It’s always amazed me that we can’t look at Bible scriptures, which were physically written by humans, and classify them into one of two categories: Divinely Inspired and Definitely Inhumane. It’s even more amazing that we don’t realize that every scripture that we freely accept as the Word of God directly impacts our behavior and our children’s behavior.

We pass along our beliefs; we teach our kids that God responds with anger, force and sometimes inhumane brutality. Then we tell them that it’s wrong for them to respond that way. Jesus, we tell them, told us to turn the other cheek. But we also tell them that Jesus is God. What are they to think: God is bi-polar–or worse, a hypocrite?

After headlines scream of another unconscionably brutal act, we cry in anguish and disgust, “Why are our kids so violent? What’s wrong with them?” We march in the streets, attend prayer vigils, wear bracelets, pins and carry big signs so that the TV audience can see that we oppose violence; then we return to our computers and play Mafia Wars, lured like six million others by an ad that proclaims, “Surround yourself with thugs, thieves, crooks and bad guys. And that’s just your family. Trust me, you’ll love it!”

Almost daily, we update our status to brag that we’ve graduated to a higher level in the Mafia because we’ve committed a more heinous act of inhumanity. Often we solicit our Facebook friends to help us brutalize some prospective Mafia Wars victim.

We don’t understand that our thoughts reflect our consciousness. We play violent games, engage in virtually violent acts, watch violent TV and movies, read ancient stories of brutality against humans, sometimes committed by an angry unloving God, and we wonder why we don’t feel safe any more.

We’re merely witnessing what our beliefs about God look like when they’re acted out on our world’s stage. If we insist on believing in an angry vindictive God that solves problems by killing people, we must share responsibility for the fiendish acts of those who also hold those beliefs. We co-created those scenes.

Or, we can follow the God of Michael: Start with the Man in the Mirror.

God as Valentine

Welcome to this space called Homilies for the Home-Churched. This is a space where Thinkers who are open to the possibility that God is Bigger and Better than we’ve read or heard, gather on a path to Inner Peace.

The inaugural homily is naturally about LOVE: God as Valentine.

Raise your hand if you expect your significant other to “show you some love” on Valentine’s Day. After all, there’s only one day in the year that celebrates Love. Maybe that’s why we have such great expectations. Admit it, Girls: We want something a lot more romantic and thoughtful than chocolates and flowers. If only our men were as romantic and thoughtful as our First Lady’s. (Sigh)

Chances are, it was chocolates and/or flowers again this year. Right? We held back the tears, fawned over the flowers, and munched every chocolate, hoping that that there was something gold, platinum or even diamond hidden inside one of those tiny cups. It was not to be.

Look on the bright side. It could have been worse.  

John Hinckley, Jr. comes to mind. Remember Hinckley? He attempted to assassinate then-President Ronald Reagan. It was a rather, er, dramatic way of expressing his love for actress Jodie Foster, whom he’d never met. Ms. Foster didn’t feel the love—and neither did anyone else, as far as I know.

I could be wrong. Does anybody out there believe that the blasts from Hinckley’s .22 pistol were appropriate expressions of love?

No? How about Susan Smith and Andrea Yates? Both women claim that their love for a man compelled them to drown their children. Do you think the men in question were freaked out or grateful that these living sacrifices were made on their behalf?

What did you think about these women committing filicide in the name of love: Was their behavior divine or satanic? 

I ask this because it has been written and oft repeated that God sanctioned the unspeakably inhumane torture of one of his children–ironically, the only good one. We have been told that this murder demonstrated God’s deep love for those who are not so good.

Is that what you believe? If so, do you also believe that Hinckley, Smith and Yates’ behavior was an expression of divine love? (Please note: this is an apples to apples comparison of behavior.)

Most of us don’t think about what we believe. We believe what others tell us to believe–and, in many cases, we are discouraged or even threatened if we don’t blindly accept their beliefs. In this space, you are encouraged to think, analyze and ask yourself… 

What Do I Believe–and Why Do I Believe It?

  1. Do I believe that God is Love? 
  2. How do I expect God to express love?  
  3. Do I believe that Love would torture an innocent person to death, to benefit the guilty? 
  4. Do I believe that God would torture an innocent person to death, to benefit the guilty?
  5. Do I believe that Love commits or sanctions inhumane behavior for any reason?
  6. Do I believe that God commits or sanctions inhumane behavior for any reason?
  7. Are live sacrifices satanic or loving acts?

There are no right or wrong answers here. The important thing is that you begin to think about your beliefs, and begin to understand what your beliefs mean and how they make you feel? For example, are you more likely to be fearful if you believe that God who solves problems by killing people? Does fear generate peace or stress?

I’ll be asking questions every week in the homily. You supply your own answers. As you explore your beliefs, in private, you’ll begin to discover a lot about yourself–perhaps even more about your perceptions of God.