Friday, March 24, 2017

Recommended Reading 3-23-17 edition

Regularly, if somewhat spasmodically, I share a list of things I'm reading, watching and listening to with my congregation.  If I remember to do so, I also post it here on my blog:

United Church of Christ in the News
Recommended Podcasts
  • "An 'Intimate Portrait' of Dorothy Day, the Catholic Activist With a Bohemian Past"--To be honest, I'm not sure if I will ever get around to reading this biography of Dorothy Day, but this interview on NPR's Fresh Air with her granddaughter, who wrote the biography, was a fascinating glimpse into the life of this 20th Century saint.
  • "Advocacy" an episode of The Liturgists Podcast--A minister friend recommended to me "The Liturgists" podcast a long time ago, but it has taken me a while to get into it. This week's episode on "Advocacy" hooked me, however. A thoughtful reflection on how to do advocacy in the age of Trump that is actually Christian--including praying for our leaders, praying for those we disagree with, making time for contemplation and moving from reflection to action.
Supreme Court
  • "What is Neil Gorsuch's Religion? It's Complicated"--Really interesting read about Gorsuch's religious views. Surprise, surprise! Like most American Christians, he's hard to categorize. As a progressive Christian, I'm heartened that he and his family are actively involved in a progressive Episcopal church in Boulder, CO, but then I'm also concerned about his siding with the owners of Hobby Lobby in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius. Mixed feelings about this guy who will have such a huge impact on our country. I do find it astounding, however, that one conservative commentator felt Gorsuch should be held to the same standard as Obama and his then pastor Jeremiah Wright--and by that standard the conservative writer did not like Gorsuch being a part of such a liberal Episcopal church!!!!!
Federal Budget
LGBTQ
The Muslim Ban and Immigration
  • "When the Irish Were the Immigrants Americans Detested"--From this column: "Saint Patrick's Day was yet another reminder that Christians in America are going to have to decide at some point whether or not the teachings of scripture will have an authoritative place in our lives or not, because the command to welcome the stranger is clear and unwavering through our entire holy text."
  • "The Muslim Ban and American History"--Great article, especially when you get past the first few paragraphs which contain criticism sof the Trump Muslim ban that have been well-articulated elsewhere. The brief overview of US immigration policy in the second half of the article is eye opening! I had no idea that Hitler praised the 1924 Exclusion Act in Mein Kampf or that the Third Reich was inspired by that act in its own policies on immigration, race and ethnicity! (the 1924 Exclusion Act BTW is what White House advisor Steve Bannon has publicly praised!)
  • "Is There a Christian Double Standard on Religious Violence?"--Short answer is yes.  Nearly 80 percent of Christians don't think a terrorist acting in the name of Christianity is Christian. But more than half say terrorists acting in the name of Islam are Muslims.

Recommended Reading 3-5-17

FYI: I've neglected my blog in recent months, so I'm posting some stuff I've sent out to my church during that time.  This explains why some of the links and topics are somewhat dated.  Here they are for the purposes of posterity.

Regularly, if somewhat spasmodically, I share a list of things I'm reading, watching and listening to with my congregation.  If I remember to do so, I also post it here on my blog:

United Church of Christ in the News
LGBTQ
The Muslim Ban
Sexism in 2017
Immigration
Other Stuff I Think Is Cool

You can find more stuff that I think is worth reading, watching and listening to by following me on Facebook and Twitter.

Recommended Reading 2-23-17 edition

FYI: I've neglected my blog in recent months, so I'm posting some stuff I've sent out to my church during that time.  This explains why some of the links and topics are somewhat dated.  Here they are for the purposes of posterity.

Regularly, if somewhat spasmodically, I share a list of things I'm reading, watching and listening to with my congregation.  If I remember to do so, I also post it here on my blog:

United Church of Christ in the News
LGBTQ
The Border Wall and the Muslim Ban
American Christianity Following the 2016 Election
  • "Longform Podcast #228: Jeff Shartlett"--I have to be ready to read or listen to Jeff Shartlet, because his journalism about the mixture of religion and politics on the Right always terrifies me. I'm terrified that the folks he describes are out there in positions of power and terrified that journalism completely misses the religious component of what is happening in politics. In this podcast, he talks about how Trump's VP Mike Pence, along with cabinet picks like DeVos, Sessions, Coats and others are all connected with Right-Wing religious groups like "The Family." In fact, Shartlet predicted the rise of Pence several years ago in one of his books. This interview with Shartlet about his career in journalism and how he ended up covering religion in America is a great introduction to his work. He also explains why after years of death threats from people on the Right he's ready to find another beat.
  • "These Christians are Opposed to Trump--and Suffering the Consequences"--
    Interesting article about people coming from conservative Evangelical and Catholic settings who are facing consequences for not supporting Trump or not towing the traditional conservative Christian line on politics in general. I'm inspired by these folks, especially the ones who have been fired from Evangelical organizations, for speaking out. It is the shame of American Evangelical Christianity that speaking out on issues like sexual assault of women, suicides by transgender people, welcoming refugees and mourning the dead of The Pulse nightclub is somehow considered controversial.
  • "Christians, don't be fooled: Trump has deep religious convictions"--Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas weighs in on Trump's idolatry
  • "Donald Trump, the Religious Right's Trojan Horse"--from the op-ed: "The religious right has been elevated to power without having to contest its ideas in an election."
Racism in 2017
Sexism in 2017
Immigration
#FightFor15
Other Stuff I Think Is Cool
You can find more stuff that I think is worth reading, watching and listening to by following me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thoughts About How To Avoid "TILT"

FYI: I've neglected my blog in recent months, so I'm posting some stuff I've sent out to my church during that time.  This explains why some of the links and topics are somewhat dated.  Here they are for the purposes of posterity.

I don't have anyone famous in family tree.  My family just never did much to make the papers, except for my second cousin.  His name is Doyle Brunson, and if you've ever read much about the World Series of Poker, you've heard of him.  He wrote a best-selling book called "How I Won Over a Million Dollars Playing Poker" back when having that much money was enough to make you a celebrity.  Occasionally you can still see reruns of his glory days when ESPN airs poker shows.  (I've never understood why anyone watches those programs, but then I was never good at poker.)  If you ever watch the movie Rounders, Matt Damon quote's my second cousin Doyle in a voice over.  My friends who are into poker think it's cool I'm related to the "godfather of professional poker."

I guess the fact that my only famous relative is a poker player made my ears perk up when I heard an interview with another World Series of Poker champion.  Her name is Annie Duke and now she's become a leadership coach and motivational speaker and author.  I had no idea poker skills were so relevant for successful living, but what she said made a lot of sense.  (If you want to hear the interview, click here.  Fair warning, the podcast is The Gist and it's decidedly left of center in its politics.  Oh, and they also use some curse words.)  I felt like her thoughts not only made a lot of practical sense in this charged political environment, but they also made a lot of spiritual sense too.

Here's a bit of what she has to say:

She describes a concept in the poker world called "TILT," as in what happens when you bump a pinball machine--it reads out TILT and stops working.  She describes "TILT" as "having really bad things happen to you that then you react to really negatively in an emotional sense that then kind of shuts down your ability to make decisions going forward so you have bad outcomes and it builds on itself."  That's a wordy concept, so they just call it "TILT."  In psychological or neurological terms, you might say that the frontal cortex part of your brain shuts down and your limbic system has taken over.  You lose your reasoning and react emotionally.  You lose perspective.

Annie Duke uses the example of "ticker watching," as in watching a stock ticker.  When you are obsessed with watching a stock every tick up or down in its value seems huge, but when you look at its performance over a long term those small changes don't amount to much.  She says when we "TILT" we zoom in on whatever is happening in the moment and lose perspective on its relative importance.  In such moments we can cause real damage to ourselves and others by lashing out and making a really big deal over something relatively minor.

She recommends what she calls "time travelling."  When you are overcome in the moment, think about how you would feel if this same thing happened a year ago or how you will feel looking back on it a year from now.  A flat tire in the rain would make for a very bad day, but in a year, it might make a funny story to share.    

In addition to emotional damage, we can waste a lot of time losing our @%&$%.  That's time and energy which could be spent helping ourselves and others.  Duke recommends asking, "What good is my outrage for me or anyone else?"  Does it really accomplish anything?  Maybe you just need to vent to someone you trust.  Maybe you need to just ignore it--you do have that right.  Or maybe instead of losing yourself in the moment to whatever latest outrage shows up on the news or your social media feed, channel those feelings into being productive.  Use those feelings to motivate you to donate to causes that actually are working on the problem you're upset about.  Use those feelings to get involved in protesting or volunteering.  Be productive!

American Baptist minister Susan Sparks recommends in our anxious age to make to-do lists: one for you and one for Jesus.  

For example, if you're facing a medical issue or illness, "your to-do list should include things that you can do - that you can control - like going to the doctor, taking your meds, going to tests or treatments. . . Jesus' list should contain things that that you can't do, or that you don't do very well, like calm the storm of anxieties about the future."

Sparks writes that in our daily struggle to read the daily news and remain sane in response to whatever godawful news has shown up our list should contain things like: "stay engaged, voice our opinion, reach out to those in need, pray, donate and fight."  Jesus' list should include: "calm the storms of anger, judgment, resentment, and fear in our hearts."

Similarly, Kim Sorrells with the Reconciling Ministries Network, recommends the following "Self Care Tools for the Resistance." 

1.  Get grounded. Get centered.
2.  Find ways to rest.
3.  Know your limits.
4.  Celebrate the little things.
5.  Do things in your control.
6.  Splurge (not the same as spending money--think long bath, etc.)
7.  Practice gratitude.
8.  Take care of your body.
9.  Love radically.
10.  Create.

If you believe God's love for everyone means everyone should enjoy equality, justice and peace, these are dark days we are living in.  You can choose to lose it and "TILT" or you can choose to ground yourself spiritually.  It's not easy.  Personally, I've been opting for "TILT" lately, but I'm trying to do better.  I hope you will too.

Grace and Peace,

Chase

Recommended Reading 1-27-17

FYI: I've neglected my blog in recent months, so I'm posting some stuff I've sent out to my church during that time.  This explains why some of the links and topics are somewhat dated.  Here they are for the purposes of posterity.

Regularly, if somewhat spasmodically, I share a list of things I'm reading, watching and listening to with my congregation.  If I remember to do so, I also post it here on my blog:

United Church of Christ in the News
The Border Wall and the Muslim Ban
Responses to the Inauguration
Women's March
#FightFor15
American Christianity Following the 2016 Election
Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
LGBTQ
  • "I Abstained From Sex for a Year to Donate Blood"--Recently I was approached about doing a blood drive at CCCUCC. I would have loved to do so, but we couldn't in good conscience do it.G  ay men who are part of my church--even ones in decades-long monogamous relationships--are banned from giving blood unless they have abstained from sex for at least a year. It's a policy based on fears rather than facts, as this op-ed explains.
The Sentencing of Dylann Roof
  • "Anguish, Rage and Mercy as Dylann Roof Is Sentenced to Death"--"You can't have my joy," Bethane Middleton-Brown, Ms. Doctor's sister, told Mr. Roof. "It's simply not yours to take. You can't have it. So I guess you will spend the rest of your time being angry because you can't have it. The other thing that you will be angry about is because you didn't win."
    Then she added: "You couldn't make me hate you. May God bless you."
Medicaid Expansion in MO
The End of the Obama Presidency

You can find more stuff that I think is worth reading, watching and listening to by following me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thoughts About What the Reaction to Yordano Ventura's Death Says About the Needs of Kansas City

FYI: I've neglected my blog in recent months, so I'm posting some stuff I've sent out to my church during that time.  This explains why some of the links and topics are somewhat dated.  Here they are for the purposes of posterity.  This one was written on January 27, 2017.

Last Sunday, those of us who pay attention to the Royals--and let's face it that's pretty much everybody after they won the World Series--were shocked to learn of pitcher Yordano Ventura's death in a car accident.  Maybe it's a slow sports week, but I've been shocked at the outpouring of grief by Kansas Citians over Ventura's death.  I agree it's sad and worthy of mourning, but the cynical part of me has to wonder if the AM sports radio hosts who are bursting into tears would do so if the Chiefs were headed to the Super Bowl.  Also, how much is there to say about KU basketball's triumphs and Mizzou basketball's meltdown?  What else were they going to talk about this week?  Yet even the slow sports news cycle doesn't really explain the reaction I've seen all week in KC.

Ventura's death in a car accident really is tragic and it's just sad--he was only 25.  Yet, it wasn't as if he was the most beloved of the Royals players.  In fact, even his 100 MPH fastball wasn't enough to stop many fans from railing against his frequent fights, both verbal and physical, with opposing batters.  These weren't feisty stick-up-for-the-home-team fights but rather young, immature and pointless fights which sometimes cost the Royals wins.

But he was a part of the team that won the 2015 World Series and therefore he is something more than the sum of his parts.  After decades of waiting, the Royals were indeed champions once more.  I took my kids downtown for the parade along with hundreds of thousands of other folks from the KC area.  The parade was peaceful and positive.  It was a great moment for our city where everyone was dressed in Royals blue.  We were all together as a city.

I don't know about you, but I feel like I could use a feel good moment right about now.  I think Kansas City could too, and so could our country and maybe our world.  

I don't know anyone, no matter their political and/or religious stripe, who isn't struggling to maintain a relationship with someone with whom they vociferously disagree.  The weight of our culture's current fear and hostility is palpable.  The spew of political separation, nativism, isolationism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia and every other kind of -ism and  phobia politicians can cause is pretty much non-stop over the last few weeks.  Throw that on top of whatever it is a person has to deal with--economic, health, employment, relational struggles--and it's enough to make you want to go pull the covers up over your head and sleep for a month.

I think Yordano Ventura's death is worth grieving, but I think the communal grief in our city is about more than one man's death.  In the same way people mourned Princess Diana's death or the deaths of Prince or David Bowie, we are mourning a loss of another time and place that seems, at least in retrospect, more peaceful and joyous.

Sports, celebrities, rock stars, etc. really don't matter that much, except they do.  We place meaning upon them, and our grief when they die says at least as much about us as it does them.

So what does a church called by God to live out God's healing love do in response to a hurting community, city, nation and world?

Last Saturday morning about 30 of us gathered together to talk about just that question.  Sure, we called it the un-inspiring name "strategic planning," but really we were asking the question: "What does our church do in response to a hurting world?"

When asked our shared values as a congregation, almost unanimously everyone said we are welcoming and accepting of others.  Yet, not too many other shared values were expressed.  I couldn't help but wonder, "So, we welcome and accept people--that's no small thing, but then what?  What comes next?  What more is there that we do--that we are?"

If the reaction to the death of a baseball player tells us anything, it tells us that there's a lot of hurt out there in Kansas City right now.  How is God calling us to respond?

Grace and Peace,

Chase

Recommended Reading 1-6-17

FYI: I've neglected my blog in recent months, so I'm posting some stuff I've sent out to my church during that time.  This explains why some of the links and topics are somewhat dated.  Here they are for the purposes of posterity.

Regularly, if somewhat spasmodically, I share a list of things I'm reading, watching and listening to with my congregation.  If I remember to do so, I also post it here on my blog:

2016
2017
  • "Rev. Barber:  A "Moral Center" not a "Religious Left" Will Save Us in 2017"--How nice would it be if, as Rev. Barber says, battling poverty, combatting racism and working for social justice were no considered "liberal" religious ideas but rather a "moral center" to any faith which has integrity. 2016 demonstrates what happens when Christians make denying women the right to control what happens in their own bodies and denying rights to LGBTQ people the sum total of their understanding of what it means to be a moral Christian.
Christmas
The Incoming Trump Administration
  • This is a good explanation by an evangelical author of why the "Prosperity Gospel"--of which Trump is a fan and whose proponents will feature in the inauguration--is outside the bounds of pretty much any responsible reading of the New Testament. I hate to sound cynical, but given the immense popularity of people like T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, and Paula White--most evangelical Christians don't seem to have read the Sermon on the Mount and aren't at all concerned what Jesus' teachings about sacrificial love actually mean. Is it any wonder that a president like Trump would surround himself with religious people who declare that if you are sick or poor then it is all your fault?
  • "Houses of Worship Poised to Serve as Trump-Era Immigrant Sanctuaries"--The Religious Right likes to claim their kind of Christian is persecuted, but this is what it means to risk persecution in Christ's name while serving those whom our government considers to be the "least of these." 
LGBTQ
  • "The New Battlegrounds for LGBT Rights Under Trump"-- It's going to be an ugly year when it comes to the rights of LGBTQ people. In the statehouses and on Capital Hill things look bad, and if those of us who love LGBTQ people and believe they deserve equal rights under the law don't want to see all the gains of the last few years lost, then we will have to march and protest. Kansas and Missouri look especially grim.
  • "MO Baptist lawmaker seeks to remove the state from marriage debate"--It's fascinating that those who wanted to use the government to enforce their religious understanding of marriage--at least when it comes to same gender marriage--on this side of the Obergefell Supreme Court decision now want government out of the marriage business. It sounds great to me. I've always thought that the government is really only concerned with child custody, property and taxes, so having a government "contract of domestic union" as these conservative Missouri Baptists propose works just fine for me. Let religious groups call whatever relationships they want "marriage" according to their own understanding of the term, but let government worry about government stuff. As long as the government applies it equally to heterosexual and homosexual relationships then I'm good with it. Every time I sign a marriage license I'm aware I'm doing a task for the government, and I would be just fine keeping it out of my religious obligations as a minister.
Syrian Refugee Crisis
Other Stuff I Think is Cool

You can find more stuff that I think is worth reading, watching and listening to by following me on Facebook and Twitter.