Tuesday, September 26, 2006

God Bless the ABW

This is probably a post that will mean little to any but American Baptists. ABW stands for American Baptist Women. It is a discipleship program for American Baptist Women (obvious from the name,) that encourages learning, missions and fellowship. I am lucky enough to serve in my church the president of the ABW for Rhode Island. She shared with the church the other day that over the next few years the major project that ABW national is undertaking is Slavery. Yes, slavery; the use and abuse of women and girls in the sex-slave trade around the world. ABW wants to work to educate congregations about the reality and danger of this trade and to engage in work that will rescue and care for victims of this great evil. And I thought to myself... God Bless the ABW. While American Baptist Churches USA (lead mostly by men I surmise) continues to waste time, energy and effort arguing about the issue of homosexuality, the women of our denomination (largely lay-women I might add) are engaging in a crusade that willmake a difference. Since I do love to highlight pointless Christian stances, let me take this moment to highlight an important one. So let me thank ABW for restoring my faith in our denomination. Perhaps we will not continue to shrink into obscurity if these women shine the light of what true discipleship means. And let me call to any who care to listen, get connected to ABW, if for no other reason than to work to end such a horrible thing. What better way to give meaning and purpose to your life than to be involved in efforts that will save the lives of women around the world. What better witness to others than to say that your faith leads you to fight these good fights.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Is Jenna Jameson going to heaven???

The other night I watched a strange and interesting little biographical piece on the E! Network about Jenna Jameson. Apparently she is a porn star of some renown in her circles which she calls; 'the industry.' Why did I watch it??? No, not because I'm a man. It was the oddity factor. Why would someone choose such a 'career'? What would everyday life be for someone in her 'profession.' (I use these terms loosely because I don't know what else to call what she does.) What do her parents think?? her husband??? What is the story behind being a porn star?

Most of the show was frankly boring but the end of the show was very interesting and made me glad I did watch. The end of her bio presented the question, Will Jenna go to Heaven? And that gave some insight as to how people generally think about 'getting to heaven.'

Jenna's own answer was quite interesting. 'Yes. I did what made me happy, and I am a good giving person.' (please no snickering. I think she meant giving of her possessions or money to charities, etc.)

First; I did what made me happy. In this case as odd as Ms. Jameson's career choice is I don't think her view of the highest value in life (happiness) is odd at all. She is probably like most American's thinking that the most important thing in life is to find happiness. Now while Jesus did say that he came that we might have a full life or life abundant, he did not promise happiness. As a matter of fact, on the way to Jerusalem he taught the disciples about the sacrifices and trials of following him including arrest and even death, definitely not happy stuff. The Bible does promise joy to those who love the Lord but I think biblically that is distinct from happiness. Notice that Jenna's happiness was based solely on herself, I did what made me happy.' In Luke ch 12 Jesus tells the parable of a very successful businessman who focuses only on himself and ends up in hell. Happiness can be a selfish emotion. It is not bad to be happy by the way, but to make happiness our greatest value, our ultimate concern, can lead us to do dangerous and destructive things; drugs that make us feel better, alcohol that numbs our pain... Joy, which the Bible promises, is about connecting to God and to one another. When we live our lives according to the will of God and in service to one another, we may not always be happy, but we will have joy knowing that our lives have meaning. In summary, Ms. Jameson, like many, seems to assume that happiness is the highest value in life. According to the Bible, when happiness is our ultimate concern we are disconnected from God and one another and only interested in ourselves... and that is NOT heaven.

second; I am a good person. Well, that is a tough one. Apart from Ms. Jameson's career choice she may indeed be a good person. I don't know. She may be kind and gentle and caring and generous. Although I must say I find her career choice seriously lacking in morality, it isn't impossible for Ms. Jameson to be both a porn star and still have 'good' qualities too. Dr. ML King was often fond of quoting Goethe who said something to the effect that 'within me there is both a gentlemen and a rogue.' That may be paraphrased a bit by the way. Anyway, we are all a bit complicated and capable of great good and great sin. So there most likely is good in there for Jenna.
But good isn't the whole point. When people say that they are good, so they will get into heaven, they are appealing to what good Lutheran's would call 'works righteousness.' That is the idea that we can do enough good things to impress God into accepting us into the pearly gates. But Paul tells us that 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.' Paul isn't doing that to make us feel badly about ourselves by the way. Paul is identifying the very human trait of judgment. whenever humans get into groups we tend to stratify ourselves into who is better and who is best and I am always more righteous than you. I have a good reason for sinning, and so God understands. But you, you have no excuse or reason for your sin... That is what Paul was seeing happening at his churches and he wanted to cut that off at the knees. We are all sinners. It is not our goodness that saves us, but God's love. We cannot earn that, but we can accept it and then be good, not to earn a reward, but because that builds up the kingdom.
In short, Jenna and many others have the cart before the horse. It is not our goodness that gets us to heaven... it is heaven (the loving presence of God) that makes us good.

Now, I am not saying that Jenna is not going to heaven because that is NOT my job. God can hand out judgment and make those decisions. But Jenna's idea of what heaven is and how one achieves heaven is not consistent with what the Bible teaches us about heaven.

At the very end the E! channel had a religious spokesman sit in holy and self-righteous judgment of Ms. Jameson and that I found terrible. Now, I'm not trying to defend her career choice or to condone what she does for a living, BUT. I do find her to be a terribly easy target for moral indignation because she does deal in sex and sexuality. Instead of asking, will a porn star get to heaven, why don't we ask some tougher questions?
Will those who make millions from developing and producing weapons go to heaven?
Will those whose companies create tons and tons of toxic chemicals that destroy the earth go to heaven? When they secretly dispose of this waste and contaminate soil and drinking water for hundreds of innocents, will they get to heaven?
Will those who profit from sweat-shop labor or poorly paid migrant workers go to heaven?
will those who run insurance companies that deny vital treatment to the sick, go to heaven?
will televangelists who build multi-million dollar mansions with grannies retirement, get to heaven?

And if we are going that far??? is any of us good enough to 'get to heaven.'

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Boycott; Ford, McDonald's, the AFA

Sorry I haven't posted in some time. Although the first rule of a blog site is 'Post, Post, Post' I don't find that every 'issue' identified by popular media is actually worth commenting on. But, a friend saved me from my self-imposed silence. I got an interesting e-mail today about the American Family Association, a conservative 'Christian' group apparently, that is boycotting Ford because they 'GASP' advertise in glbt publications and 'GASP' 'WRETCH' offer glbt agencies savings when they purchase a number of vehicles. To view more of the details go to http://www.boycottford.com. If I haven't already said it on this site, let me say it now. If you believe that being glbt is a sin, fine, you have every right to believe that. But please explain to me why a company that makes its profits by selling vehicles to people should not advertise to people!!! If you don't like glbt persons, don't read the adds in OUT Magazine!!! And if Ford has a policy of supporting various agencies with deals for buying a certain number of vehicles, why should glbt agencies be left out? Because you don't like them? Because they are 'sinners'? So should Ford stop selling all vehicles to people who sin? Should Ford's advertising campaigns only focus on perfect people? Once again, another pointless crusade on the part of a 'Christian' group.
How about we boycott McDonald's? No I'm serious. In a recent article in Ekklesia various unethical labor practices supported by McDonald's were outlines. Workers harvesting tomatoes are only paid 40-50 cents for a 32lb bucket. They would need to harvest two tons a day to earn $50. Likewise a number of slavery rings have been found and prosecuted here in the United States. Rings exploiting foreign workers to bring in a harvest that will ensure profits for major corporations and poverty for the workers.
Is this even a moral issue?
Matt 20:8-12
"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'
"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner."
I know, we are very used to reading this as a parable about the kingdom. But what if Dr. William Herzog is correct and Jesus is also making an economic statement? What if Jesus is actually talking about paying people fair wages, suggesting that a living wage is a part of the kingdom? It seems to me that Jesus said a lot more about treating the poor and sick with compassion and kindness than he every said about people who are glbt. Why don't we take an important moral stand; stand with foreign laborers who deserve to earn enough to feed and care for their families? Maybe if they earn enough they will buy a Ford.