About Neal

An expressive writer, talker, rapper, and kazoo player; passionate about the expression of wisdom, love, sports, and grace in today’s world.

Scaraoke and Biblical Self-Defense

Scaraoke & Biblical Self-Defense

 I am afraid that liberal Christians may be relying too much on biblical understanding and not enough on their own biblical reading.

Further, when we rely only on a certain handful of “go-to” scriptures (Micah 6:8, anybody) as opposed to committing ourselves to know the bible more wholly, we are robbing ourselves of a full understanding of our scriptures.

It would be like listening to our favorite songs without the music, or the beat, or the lead-singer who had the emotion and intention behind her!

 

Though it would make my mother proud, I am almost afraid to ask.

Have you read the Bible lately?

I’m afraid to ask because of the connotation that is more than likely attached to any conversation you might have ever had with somebody who asked you a similar question.

When I was feeling anxious as a college freshman, when I was battling addictive “medicine” in the valleys of a confusing time, and when I was worried about the health of my wife and soon-to-be daughter, I have had people ask me some near-rendition of “So, have you read your Bible lately?”

The literal suggestion in those instances is that there is wisdom in the scriptures that can be quite applicable to someone who is feeling alone and abandoned, powerless and stuck, or fearful and ill-prepared. However, the implication is that the answer is simple and already known by the one asking the question.

I think this is a fair generalization: fundamentalists use their bible.

They might not know the, but they certainly use the bible.

Fundamentalists use the bible to oppress those who doubt or struggle, enact their political agendas, and keep women, minorities, GBLTQ folk, and many more “in their places.” So, what do you use the Bible for?

I feel comfortable with an understanding of a God of justice and mercy but I have not always been as willing to struggle with the scriptures that don’t readily lend themselves to that portrayal of God. I haven’t always been as willing to read texts less accessible to me such as Hosea, Deuteronomy, and That Book Which Shalt Not Be Named By Progressives (Leviticus).

So instead, I have relied on biblical understanding – theologians, preachers, strangers, agnostics, fellow pew-sitters, priests, and rabbis – to guide me through my faith. However, relying on other people’s understandings robs me of the opportunity to become fully invested. It leaves me vulnerable.

It allows me to be a Christian with all my head, but not with all my heart.

Further, minimizing the Hebrew Bible minimizes the very God that Jesus understood (as illustrated in this wonderful article by Pete Enns). To minimize the Hebrew Bible is to miss out on the love of God’s people and God’s pain over human suffering as expressed in Hosea. To minimize the Hebrew Bible is to fail to acknowledge the hunger for God and the quest for righteousness of the Deuteronomists.

Perhaps the Bible doesn’t specifically say much of everything.

Perhaps what makes the Bible more complete is the diversity that it represents. Sort of like humanity, isn’t it?

If you, like me, are tired of a narrow understanding of the Bible, what are you willing to do about it?

Let us not grow weary of the fight to struggle with our text, claim our text, and use our text in the struggle to prove that our God’s justice and mercy go together like ramma lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong.

Are You Angry or Irritated?

Do you know the story of John Crawford? John Crawford is yet another unarmed African American man shot and killed in our gun crazed society.

We have a major gun problem in our country and people of faith and values should be angry enough at all this needless death to change that.

God has given us the ability to create life and it is past time that we resist the temptation to end it.

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We must be angry enough to rid our world of gun violence.

The example of Mr. Crawford illustrates what happens when we continuously ignore our culture of gun death. He was a married man and a father of two who was shot by (white) police officers in an aisle of a Wal-Mart supercenter while swinging a toy BB gun as he was pacing while on the phone with his wife.

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This should make you angry but it shouldn’t surprise you.Most of us have heard the stories of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner.

To this point, there has been little reform to ensure black males or anybody else are any safer in the midst of law enforcement bullies.

In the face of this, I am shocked, saddened, and angry.

However, if I am willing to keep scrolling about my business without committing myself to ending this senseless violence, I must accept the fact that I am not yet angry, but simply irritated.

Nearly two years ago, 20 students and 6 adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We as a nation were shocked, saddened, and angry. Political promises were made, and seemingly, we have fatigued in our anger and simply stayed irritated. Meanwhile, out of the spotlight of the national media 15 major gun incidents have occurred at schools since Sandy Hook.

Are we angry? Or are we merely irritated?

Guns have done irreparable damage at the hands of children, young adults, grownups, criminals, and law enforcement alike. It is time to decide that the damage that has been done, to innocent minorities, to innocent children, to loved ones and to strangers, has made us angry.

I scroll through things that irritate me everyday – annoying status updates, an internet hoax with a three-breasted woman, and tons of political crap-talk that amounts to nothing. If I am not paying attention, the stories of Eric Garner, and John Crawford and the stories of more senseless gun violence blend right in with the other things that simply irritate me.

But it’s time to start paying attention. And it’s time to be angry.

Our children, our communities, and our safety are depending on us to connect with and act in the name of the Jesus who was not afraid to turn over the tables of the corrupted temple. Our system has become corrupted by gun violence and we need to flip this system upside down.

Let us follow that model and heed the call of Jeremiah (3:23) who warns us, “Do no wrong or violence” especially against vulnerable populations.

Make no mistake. Today, African American males are made vulnerable by racism, by militarized police forces, and by a lack of accountability in our political leaders.

Are you angry? Or merely irritated?

Jesus and the Millenials

 

Have you heard about the Millenials?

Generation M

 

The “Millenials” means those Americans born after 1980 who began to come of age around the year 2000. According to the Pew Research forum, “fully one-in-four members of the millennial generation are unaffiliated with any particular faith.”

Before I identified as a Millenial, I was a Christian. The longer I identify as a Millenial, the harder it is for me to identify as a Christian.

We Millenials crave connection. I think every human on the planet craves connection but for Millenials we are so inundated with connections (through messages, screens, phones, social media, school groups, work groups, community groups) that we are weary of connections that are fruitless or based on false pretenses.

I, as a Millenial, am not anti-church. I am just not inclined to be as critical of the church as I am with every other source of connection – spiritual, physical, or intellectual.

There is much conversation about “Why Millennials are Leaving the Church” and “Why Millenials Love God but Not Church” and here are my two cents:

Millenials don’t want to talk about what we are not, we want to talk about who we are. We relate to a Jesus whose connections were meaningful and on a first-name basis. We crave to be caught up in action instead of talk.

Here’s an example of students at James Madison University living out Jesus’ call to love one another.

At our worse, Millenials have a tendency to become over-connected and under-developed from the weight of so much. Perhaps too, the church is suffocating itself under the weight of so much that can be argued about and neglecting our responsibility to the Great Commandment: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and to love our neighbors as ourself.

I believe these three things:

– The message of God’s love for humanity offers the grace, peace, and belonging that humanity (even Millennials!) desperately need.

– The majority of millennials have thoroughly rejected the tenants of the shallow, narrow-minded, homophobic church.

– The more time that we waste our voice in futile arguments with these sinful churches the more we will be tuned out and deemed irrelevant too.

We must offer up a transformative song of love in our churches that is loud enough to drown out the arguments that millennials, you, and I are tired of hearing anyway.

Do you agree? What would this look like in your church?