Hey Republican Conservative Christians, Where Are Your Scissors? (Think Thomas Jefferson)

Hey Republican Christians, where are your scissors?

scissors old

If you listen to Republican Christians you would think all the founding fathers think just like them.  Makes you wonder if they ever heard of Thomas Jefferson.

thomas jefferson

I’m in Washington, D.C. to officiate at a wedding and I’m finding myself particularly grateful for Thomas Jefferson.   Jefferson, unlike today’s Republican Christians, did not claim to follow or believe all the Bible.  In fact, Jefferson, in his senior years, took a razor and cut out parts of the gospels which he didn’t agree.  OK, he didn’t use scissors.  You got me.  But, Jefferson did use the razor generously.

Jefferson’s condensed Bible excluded all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, including sections of the four gospels which contain the Resurrection and passages indicating Jesus was divine.

thomas jefferson Bible

Doesn’t sound anything at all like today’s conservative Christian Republicans!

There are things in the Bible which need to be ignored.  I don’t recommend using scissors or a razor to cut those texts out, but I do think it’s extremely important to be honest about the Bible.  And honesty requires admitting that some parts of the Bible are reprehensible and not worthy of our belief or practice.   What I find disturbing in the Bible is not the same as Jefferson’s list but like Jefferson I recognize the health of the world is connected to world religions critiquing their scripture.

The Resignation of John Boehner Scares Me as Much as a Liberal Rev Probably Scares Some People

john boehner

The resignation of John Boehner scares me.  The resignation of John Boehner scares me because it indicates just how much power and influence conservative Republicans have.  Conservative Republicans really scare me.   Conservative Republicans probably scare me as much as a liberal Rev scares conservative Republicans.

For the record, I am a liberal Christian and a liberal independent.

For the record, I would prefer not to be liberal.  Being liberal is not in my self interest.  And I would prefer not to be Christian.  Being Christian is not in my self interest.  Personally, Jesus makes me very uncomfortable.  I wish some conservative Christian Republicans could convince me that being Christian requires me to be a conservative Republican.

I don’t think Jesus was a moderate.

I don’t think any person or any group has all the truth but if I’m going to err I feel like I should err on the side of compassion.

What I Learned From Women Who Dumped Me


Just got back from a wonderful vacation to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.  Wow!  The United States has incredible national parks.

Nothing like good scenery to make a great vacation.  Throw in some good books and you’ve got an off the chart vacation.

While enjoying the Teton sunset and sunrise, Yellowstone’s bison and geysers, and Glacier’s moose and bears, I read A Load of Hooey by Bob Odenkirk who is a legend in the comedy-writing world, winning Emmys and acclaim for his work on Saturday Night Live, Mr. Show with Bob and David, and many other seminal TV shows.  It was a laugh out loud book.  I love books that make me laugh out loud.

So I decided to do a Google search to find out if Odenkirk had written other books.  As it turns out, he has written a chapter in perhaps the funniest book I’ve ever read, What I’ve Learned From Women Who Dumped Me, edited by Ben Karlin, the Emmy award-winning former executive producer of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.  For the book, Karlin  assembled a stellar lineup of men who have one thing in common: all have been dumped…and are willing to share their pain and the lessons learned.  Stephen Colbert writes perhaps the funniest chapter in the very funny book.  Don’t miss Colbert’s contribution.

Like most people, I have been dumped.  Very few people make it through life without getting dumped.  There are some people who marry their childhood sweethearts but those stories are few and far between.  The majority of us get rejected. Actually, “dumped” is a stronger word and a better description of what happened.

My first dump was a doozy.  I’m in the 11th grade and I go to high school and find my girlfriend is no longer my girlfriend.  She is walking down the hallway hand in hand with another boy.  Actually, she is walking down the hallway hand in hand with a cousin of mine.  Dumped for a cousin!  That’s a particularly bad way to get dumped.

I should have learned from the dumping but I didn’t.  What do I go and do?  I date another Moravian girl.  Back to back Moravian girls. Not good.  Not smart.

I date Moravian #2 girl for a pretty long time.  Then late one afternoon my mother sends me to the grocery store, located near a movie theatre, and who walks out of the movie theatre but my Moravian girlfriend, walking hand in hand with a guy, walking hand in hand with a Moravian guy.  I had a date with Moravian girl #2 in just a few hours and she is two-timing me.  And I was stupid enough to still go out with her that night.  Well, in retrospect, I wouldn’t call it a date.  More an opportunity to let off steam and tell her I was dumping her after she dumped me.

It’s not fun getting dumped.  But what we forget is most of us who have been dumped have also dumped others.

The best thing about getting dumped is it freed us up to meet the love of our life.  So there’s a very happy ending, at least for just about everybody.

The second best thing about getting dumped are the lessons we learned.  In my case, I finally learned the hard way to avoid Moravian girls.

Perhaps you are not familiar with Moravian girls and the Moravian Church. The Moravian Church is one of the oldest Protestant  denominations in the world, with its heritage dating back to the Bohemian Reformation in the fifteenth century.

John Wesley was impressed with the Moravians. In late 1735, Wesley was on a ship to America, having been invited to serve as a pastor to British colonists in Savannah, Georgia. When the weather went sour, the ship was in serious trouble. Wesley noticed a group of German Moravians, who were on their way to preach to American Indians, were not afraid at all. In fact, throughout the storm, they sang calmly. Impressive!

Other people have been impressed with the Moravians due to their Easter sunrise services, with marches through their cemeteries to the sound of triumphant trumpets and brass playing.

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Still others enjoy their Love Feasts, with Moravian buns and coffee served.

Wake Forest holds its annual Christmas Lovefeast in Wait Chapel on Sunday, December 6, 2009. The Lovefeast is a Moravian tradition that has been held at Wake Forest for over 40 years.

Catch a Love Feast during Advent and you will be blessed. Even better, stop in at The Tavern at Old Salem (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) and taste some delicious double crusted chicken pie. To die for.

moravian chicken pie

Be careful, though. If you have a son, warn him about the Moravian girls. Any double crusted chicken pie or love feast with them will end with a dump.

One of the two best Easter sermons I’ve ever heard

jesus fish

This Easter sermon by Rob Manning-Osborn (Mia Manning-Osborn) is one of the two best Easter sermons I’ve ever heard. The other was by Michael Banister (Elaine Banister). Both Rob and Mike, fyi, are non-clergy. Sorry, Rob, it took me so long to post this. It’s been a fun, but very busy time at Wedgewood this year.

I Would Rather Be Fishing

It’s Easter Sunday, the day during which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and I have a confession. I know that’s not really our thing here at Wedgewood, but I have a confession nonetheless. I would rather be fishing.

You see, for me fishing means so many things. It’s an opportunity to be outside and to breathe deeply. It’s an intellectual exercise; a chance to figure it out. It’s a chance to be part of a community; fishermen are brothers and sisters. It’s a chance to be creative; I tie my own flies. It’s relaxing; a chance to just… be. It’s exercise; a chance to stretch my muscles beyond what’s comfortable. It’s a time to re-charge my mental and physical batteries; a reboot. It’s a chance to share my good fortune; I try to help fellow fisherman whenever I can. It’s a chance to think; about anything and everything. And it’s a private time to talk to God and reflect on my life. But I should make another confession, sometimes when I talk to God I am saying things like “God, please let me catch a fish!”

So how did this happen, this passion, this obsession? My earliest memories of fishing are of the Mill Pond across the street from Hitchcock Presbyterian Church, using a rod and reel from the 5 and dime, which was across the commuter rail tracks for the train that took my dad into the city for work everyday. You see, my dad worked at a New York City law firm, we lived in the suburbs, were members of a country club and his idea of fun was golf. My brother shared that love. I did not. Have you ever seen the late Robin Williams’ bit about golf where adopts a Scottish accent and then goes on to explain hitting a ball into a little hole with a crooked stick and having to do it eighteen times? I mean, I tried. I took lessons, but I slice the ball like it’s nobody’s business. But I have to I agree with Mark Twain who said that “Golf was a good walk spoiled.”

I remember going to Camp Sloan, a YMCA camp in Lakeville, CT when I was eleven. I recall being on my belly, at the end of a dock, peering into the water with a hand line baited with corn or worms, trying to catch… whatever. The summer after that, we took a family trip to Oregon to see my grandparents and I got to fish with my grandfather for the first and only time. Thinking back on that day, I wonder if that is when the spark became a flame.

For the next four summers I was fortunate enough to have gone to camp in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. And it was there where I first learned about stewardship and that one needs to tread lightly in the wilderness to ensure that it is preserved and left unspoiled. I was indoctrinated with the phrases “Take only pictures, leave only foot prints” and to “leave no trace.” But when I was sixteen, I enrolled in my first course with NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School, for a sea kayaking trip to the Prince William Sound in Alaska. It was a 35 day paddling trip and it was then that my time in the outdoors took a more spiritual turn. You see, the Prince William Sound is a magical place. It is made up of narrow passages that become like rivers with the changing tides, fiords that are filled with ice from calving glaciers and wide open expanses of water that give way to jagged mountains that soared thousands of feet above sea level and were still capped with snow, even in the summertime. It was there that I truly began to believe in God. How could such a place come to exist purely by accident? The vastness of the place was just so powerful to me that it made me feel very small by comparison but also very much a part of something far greater. The feeling of insignificance and powerlessness was a point that was often made abundantly clear any time a whale or killer whale would swim by while we were paddling along in our fold up kayaks. There was a time when we paddled out from around a barrier island and were on the northern edge of the Gulf of Alaska, which gives way to the Pacific Ocean and eventually Hawaii, way, way off. The waves and current of the sound, which are more like rivers and lakes, became ocean swells. And there we were in our Folboats, feeling pretty good; kings of the world on the swells, until a whale swam right by and it made us all feel so very small. Talk about feeling powerless.

I have seen some pretty spectacular things when I have been out fishing and in each instance I couldn’t help but marvel at God’s creation. I have seen a bald eagle fly just above the surface of a misty lake and drag it talons through the water like a water skier. I have seen sunrises and sunsets that would make your heart sing for the colors and textures of the light on the clouds were so spectacular. I have paddled down the middle of a wilderness lake in formation with five loons quietly swimming beside me. I have seen kingfishers chattering away as they chased each other up and down a river bank. I have watched an osprey dive into the water countless times and come up empty each time. And I recall feeling a close connection with that bird because I wasn’t catching anything either! Suz and I have seen a loon swim right underneath our boat as it was diving for fish. Weasels, porcupine, deer, turkeys, muskrat, snakes, turtles, ducks and geese have all made appearances.

And I can’t forget the fish. Native brook trout have to be one of the most beautiful fish I have ever seen. The colors are simply amazing; vivid orange, blue, brown and white. Brown trout and rainbow trout are pretty cool too. I can’t forget the bass; largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and striped bass are all pretty special as well. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, I find all fish to be pretty awesome. And when it comes to actually fishing, I am an equal opportunity fisherman. I will fish for just about anything, with just about any tackle, in any kind of weather. Rain or shine, hot or cold, spring, summer fall and winter, fly rod or spinning rod, bait or lures. It doesn’t matter, because I am fishing. I think you get it. I like to fish.

I like to go fishing and I like to catch fish. And as you could guess, I like to talk about fishing. I enjoy sharing my passion whenever possible. If I see another fisherman I am always willing to share techniques, tactics and tackle and even my catch if they are fishing for a meal and I am not.

Giving people my catch is kind of a departure for me because I am a catch and release fisherman. I catch a fish, take a picture if I can and I return the fish to the water as quickly as possible. The trick is to be as gentle as possible to the fish when you are trying to release it. You can’t grasp it too tight or you will injure it. And when you return it to the water you need to be patient and take the time to revive the fish so that it can swim away under its own power. I take this part of fishing very seriously.

So how did we get here? On Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And here I am talking about fishing…

Let’s see if I can get it to make sense. There is a popular scene in the Bible that is retold in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke where Jesus comes upon some fishermen and tells them to follow him and become fishers of men. Fishers of men, that’s a pretty clever turn of phrase. It really was an invitation to be a fisher of people and that is how it is in most modern translations of the Bible. But I will take it a step further and say ALL people, not just people who look like you, talk like you and think like you. As I have found beauty in countless places and creatures in nature, someone looking to spread the good news of our collective faiths can find beauty and value in all people. We are not and cannot be exclusive in our passion for justice, fairness and caring in the name of God.

Now, please understand that I am not some kind of evangelical, holy roller. Not by any means. I am a skeptic by my very nature. I question things, I deconstruct things. But I do have a personal relationship with God. And that relationship is based, for the most part, on my experiences outside of church.

So, am I a fisher of all people? I mean I just said I am not an evangelical and my relationship with God is my own. I have never been that involved with the outward activities of a church. I have always been a behind the scenes worker bee. Not one to go out and “fish.” So, can I do it? I have come to realize that the answer is yes! The fact that we each have our own relationship with God is at the heart of it. Just like the way I described fishing for fish earlier, I can share what Wedgewood and my faith means to me. It’s an opportunity for us to be in the church and to breathe deeply. It’s an intellectual exercise; a chance for us to figure things out. It’s a chance to be part of a community; we are all brothers and sisters. It’s a chance to be creative; to share our talents. It’s relaxing; a chance for us to just… be. It’s exercise; a chance to stretch our minds beyond our normal limits of what’s comfortable. It’s a time to re-charge our mental and physical batteries; a rebirth. It’s a chance to share our good fortune; we can reach out to all people whenever we can. It’s a chance for us to think; about anything and everything. And it’s a private time to talk to God. And we can fish in all kinds of weather, in any season and in any manner that suits us. And like releasing a fish, be sure to hold on gently so that they may be revived and refreshed, so they may go on their way in peace.

Like I said, I’d rather be fishing.