Tuesday, October 30, 2007

God doesn't care about baseball

Rockies General Manager, Daniel O’Dowd, stated in a recent news article that God definitely had a hand in the Rockies winning streak at the end of the season. That is pure religion drivel. What in the world is this guy thinking? That is absolutely the worst kind of theology imaginable. The real problem with it is that more people in America probably agree with him than don’t.

Popular theology, especially that of Evangelicals and religious conservatives has offered this notion of prosperity gospel for too long in this country. If O’Dowd or anyone else thinks that God cares about the outcome of a baseball game or a baseball season then answer me this question. If God really cares about that then why doesn’t God care enough to prevent Clint Hurdles’ daughter, Maddie, from being Prader-Willi, a random birth defect caused by the deformity of chromosome 15?

I don’t think God caused Maddie to be a Prader-Willi anymore than I think God caused my sister, Dinah, to be a Prader-Willi. It’s random and rarely happens. Just as rare as a team as poor as the Rockies winning 21 or their last 22 games coinciding with the collapse of the San Diego Padres and the New York Mets, both much better teams who would have had a better chance against the Red Sox. Actually I doubt if the National League All-Stars could beat the Red Sox or the Yankees or the Angels or even the Indians.

I do think that God deeply cares about Maddie, Clint Hurdle, Dinah, my parents and each individual person who walks across the face of the this earth. God cares enough to take the risk that we will care back without being manipulated. God cared enough to want to understand our trials and tribulations to come into this world and risk being born in a first century out post. God cared enough to live and die as one of us. This is the care and empathy of God. God cares and understands.

While I would have to say that God has the freedom to be God and to manipulate the flight of a baseball if God wanted to – but nothing in this world suggests that that is so.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bishop of South Carolina

The Rev. Mark Lawerence was elected Bishop of South Carolina. This was the diocese' second try at electing Lawerence. The first election was declared null and void by The Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Shori because Lawerence didn't receive the necessary majority approval from Standing Committees around the Episcopal Church. Lawerence was recently re-elected. He was the only candidate on the second ballot. This time he did receive a majority of approvals from Standing Committees. In both elections he received the required majority votes from Bishops.

It appeared that Lawerence did not get the needed consents the first time because he had publicly committed himself to leading the Diocese of South Carolina out of the Episcopal Church if he was elected. After not receiving the necessary consents he changed, sort of, his public statements.

I serve on the Standing Committee for the Diocese of Arizona. Our Standing Committee did not give consent to Lawerence's election after either election. I will admit that I did sign the consent form on the first election using the rationale that if South Carolina wanted Lawerence for their Bishop, then they should get what the want. If they want to leave the Episcopal Church well I guess that's their perogative. Though I strongly disagree with their motives, reasons and their theology - as a group if they want to have this kind of leadership, well, I guess then they should get what they want.

However, I didn't sign the second consent form because of Lawerence's changed public statements. I do believe that over time and with great effort and consideration that people can and do and should change their minds about all kinds of topics, thoughts, ideas, opinions and decisions - however, over night, when the motive seems so obvious- I doubt that serioiusly. It seems to make a mockery of the process. And process is what the Episcoapl Church is all about. So like Lawerence I changed my position.

The Episcopal Church is an open place that has room for a lot of opinions at the table. Lawerence and I are probably at opposite ends of the table theologically and probably every other way as well. It would be very sad and an expensive waste of money that could be used for mission efforts or the MDG's if the Diocese of South Carolina were to attempt to leave the Episcopal Church - of course, they can't leave, or better yet, can't take what belongs to the Episcopal Church, the people can leave, I guess - but, still, it would cause so much pain. We do, though, support diversity and dialogue which often strains the idea of holding hands around the table. But, we will see in this case.

It was at least comforting to see that the Diocese of South Carolina has invited the Presiding Bishop to visit the Diocese so that they can make clear their "theology." It wasn't clear whether they were inviting her to be at Lawerence's consecration. The language in the most recent press release seems to indicate that they do intend to remain in the Episcopal Church.

The business of the Episcopal Church is risky and complex business. I take being on the Standing Committee very seriously. I think it is my responsibility to represent our Diocese and not just my own opinions - which change, like Lawerence's did - so I guess we have some things in common, though, not much. I pray it is enough to at least keep us standing around the table - probably not holding hands, though.

Friday, October 26, 2007

God at the Pita Jungle

Peregrini took a field trip type pilgrimage evening to the Pita Jungle in Tempe - the Pita Jungle is a popular place to eat in Tempe, the food is good, the atmosphere is amenable to conversation and the price is reasonable. It's not our normal Peregrini hangout, but its a familiar place to most who show up for our weekly conversation.

Our topic this week was, "where is God? in the inconveniences of life?" Funny thing, that conversation never appeared. Which, is what a good Peregrini is all about - following the natural trend of what is on our minds and what is troubling our souls. We struggled with some national political issues as well as some local leaders who are trying to grab the headlines. We talked about various religious issues. The group encouraged one another in our efforts to be good stewards of the earth and to love our neighbors by feeding and clothing the most needy in the Tempe area. Jeff and Caroline are having a "Cool People Care" party. Its a unique movement of young adults, check it out.

What is most heartening about our conversation is that in it we find the ability to tease one other, love one another, care about one another - we are a community. A community that has room in it for new ideas, difference of opinions and those who care to join us on the walk.

if you are in the Tempe (larger Phoenix) area you are welcomed to join us - we meet regularly every Thursday, 7 pm, at St. Augustine's on the corner of Broadway and College (two blocks south of ASU). We always have a good (free) meal and the conversation - well, it could go anywhere, though I will admit I never remember talking about Elvis' appearance - but, who knows.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What happened to the Diamondbacks?

The Diamondbacks looked great against the Cubs, but what happened when they played the Rockies. Two things I guess. One is the Rockies were red hot (not so against the Red Soxs last night). The second is the Dbacks played like the youthful rookies they are - they made the mistakes young players make. They over ran bases, made assumptions about umpires calls and played tight when they got behind.

What does any of that have to do with God? Nothing. And that may be the best point. Life brings lots of circumstances to us that are out of our control and equally it brings things to us we can control with maturity. To blame God for thing outside the control of the world, in other words to blame God for evil in the world or reasonable people who make bad decisions, is to want to believe in Santa Claus, not God. As well, it is equally immature not to accept responsibility for our own actions and those things we can control - like the decisions we make.

Blaming God strangles the opportunity to mature. If the Dbacks want to be better they will have to recognize their mistakes and work on them to become mature players.

I think maybe the Cubs are on to something - wait till next year. I just hope it isn't 99 years before the Diamondbacks win the World Series again. If it is, well, I'll still be a fan (from the lap of God, of course).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

God and baseball 2

Oh the pain of the Cubs. Oh the suffering of another loss. At a point anyone who embraces an attempt to understand God can empathize with Cub fans - longsuffering. It's so hard to watch. Admittedly, I am a Diamondback fan - but, still, in all truth, my heart goes out to the billy goat.

Of course, it really couldn't have gotten any worse when on Friday night the Diamondbacks were making their way to a sure victory but still within psychological reach of the Cubbies. A break? Dbacks shortstop Stephen Drew was hit by a pitch and started to take first base. Wait a minute - the umpire said Drew didn't attempt to avoid the pitch - the umpire evoked a rarely enforced rule and ordered Drew back to the plate, where he promptly hit a home run on the next pitch. Doomed once again.

And what does God have to say about that? As usual, God is silent. God is a suffering God, suffering in silence. Somehow we can relate, though we wish it were different. We would really like God to be more like a white knight God or a Santa Claus God or a miracle worker God - instead, God is a suffering God. Cub fans seems to understand oh so well.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

God and baseball

I Was physically present to watch Cub fans in Phoenix wretch as their beloved losers, lost yet again. Kissing the Billy Goat? Pucker up. At Chase Field in Phoenix we had several Cub fans sitting around us. They were sharing stories of how much they paid for their tickets, $100 a seat, $150, $250, that’s a lot of money. I didn’t mention that my dad is a season ticket holder and paid the face value of $40. Oh yea, he gave me the tickets. I wondered to myself about the value of capitalism. Of course I also wondered about my own ethics of reveling in the joy of watching Cub fans once again squirm as they watched their hapless team struggle for the 99th year. As one blog suggests, God is a Cubs fan – God must be – God is all about suffering and who suffers more than the Cubs? Actually, I have a theory that the Cubs are losers by design – for them losing is profitable – the theory eases my guilt over feelings pains of capitalism. I’m a socialist and think Christians are socialist by the nature of Jesus’ teaching. Profit sharing is good for baseball because its a good socialist practice – and God must be in there somewhere.

Making it to second base with God and other musing from the dashboard light – I read a blog titled “God hates Cleveland sports.” Not! Cleveland just beat the Yankees in the bottom of the 11th and how did they do it? Canadian Soldier bugs that came in from the lake caused Joba Chamberlain to throw two wild pitches in the 7th inning – otherwise the Indians would have lost. Canadian Soldier bugs have a life of 48 hours. They actually hatched early because of the warm humid day in Cleveland. They showed up in the 8th inning because the wind died down. Sounds like Moses and the plagues on Pharaoh. Remember that? Yeah, gnats that swarmed the people forcing the oppressor to re-think long term slavery and captivity. The Yankees as oppressors? Cleveland the chosen people of God? Well I don’t know about the chosen people of God but clearly the Yankees and their oppressive “Boss” with too much capitalistic money lives in the house of Pharaoh. God hate Cleveland? He just sent the Canadian Soldiers as your savior.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

God? Praying for peace?

It seems more difficult each day to pray for peace when the possibility of it is so remote. World leaders grapple with the political nuances of the needs of their own kingdoms while refusing to make decisons based on the economy of the absence of global conflict. Is peace in the world possible? Is peace within my own life possible?

Our Peregrini group wrestled with these questions. Prompted by our weekly prayer for peace and all peacemakers, we also struggled with our responsibility to be prophets and activists for peace. Do we support political leaders who advocate otherwise? What does it mean to "support" a political leader? Vote? What about working to overthrow a government? Here, there, anywhere?

Somehow keeping these questions in the context of a God conversation become confusing or at least troubling. Are we Americans first or Christians first? Surely they are not one in the same - but what happens when the objectives of one flys in the face of the other? These are questions that weighed heavy on our weekly discussion.

"We pray for continued blessings on all peacemakers, on leaders who value peace, and on everyone who promotes nonviolent solutions to conflict. We pray for a speedy end to all violence and warfare around the world."