Jun 3 2017

This I Know 2.01

I probably should point out that this series of posts is not intentionally autobiographical. (If you haven’t read my last post, I suggest you read that and then come back here.)

That is, my point is not to talk about me or my life, nor do I believe that you particularly care what it is that I believe and why. My point, rather, is to talk about the Christianity I learned as a child, in contrast to the Christianity I typically see in the news, on Facebook, etc. To do that, I have to talk somewhat autobiographically, so you’ll just have to get past that my own story is just a reference point to address the broader issues of the theology and morality of the Bible.

Things that informed my early beliefs

I think it was quite advantageous that I was raised in a liturgical church. Of course every church has some kind of liturgy whether they recognize it or not (it’s simply “what is done” when you’re together as a church). However, many liturgies are essentially devoid of any consistent theology. Lutherans, like Episcopalians/Anglicans, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox, have liturgies which are based on those coming from the earliest church practices. 

There are essentially two aspects of liturgical worship that important differences to recognize. The first is that the Liturgy is a corporate experience of theology. One of the ancient creeds are recited, the Lord’s Prayer is recited, there are prescribed Bible readings from the Old and New Testaments (and specifically the Gospels),  and hymns are sung that relate to the church season (lent, advent, etc.) or the prescribed Scripture readings.

The 2nd aspect is the Lectionary, which is a book of prescribed Bible readings for the specific Sunday or event. Not only does this provide a wide variety of Bible readings, but these texts are also used as the basis for the weekly sermon. This does away with the random topic sermons or the “what’s bugging me this week” sermons so common in non-liturgical churches. It also makes the Bible the focus of the message, rather than being used as out of context proof texts to support the Pastor’s ideas. You know what I’m talking about. 

A third important aspect (yes, I’m aware I said there were 2) that differs from non-liturgical churches is the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist, which is celebrated regularly, and which is the focus of liturgical worship, not the sermon. However, this is more of a theological difference and while I think it’s one of the most important differences, it isn’t really my point of this series, at least not yet.

The result is that every week I learned theology. I heard it, I recited it, and I sang it. I heard complete Bible passages read with reverence, especially the Gospel reading. And, I heard countless sermons based on those Gospel readings. And, that’s the subject of my next post. 


Mar 27 2017

Cell phone provider ads, mic drops, and barriers to communication

I hate cell-phone ads. Except for AT&T, whose ads are humorous and typically don’t bad mouth any other carrier. I’ve always hated Verizon ads since they got rid of the “can you hear me now: guy, which all come off as “hey, stupid people, we’re the best cell phone carrier!” The comes Sprint, which cleverly hired the old “can you hear me know” guy to say Sprint is almost as good but cheaper. They every are spoofing the “mic drop” ads.  Clever, but still kind of obnoxious. Then there’s Metro PCS, who’s better than Sprint. And so it goes. 

One thing that particularly bugs me about the current Verizon ads is using the “mic drop” approach. These upset me. For one thing, I appreciate a good microphone, and cringe every time I see someone drop a good mic on purpose. It’s as stupid as Pete Townsend’s guitar smashing thing.

The second thing wrong with the “mic drop” is that it is an attempt to signal that this is the last word, there’s nothing left to discuss. Or, at any rate, the person dropping the mic is unwilling to continue any discussion. It’s sole purpose is to shut down communication. Many of us like that, actually, but it’s a bad thing.

Reasons for wanting to shut down a discussion include

  • Insecurity about what you believe
  • Hiding ignorance about a subject
  • Wanting to appear to be the authority (when you’re not)
  • Wanting to push your agenda through because it benefits you more than others
  • A neurotic need to be right
  • Just wanting the pain to end

These are bad, for the most part. Conversation and discussion, on the other hand, are typically good. It’s good to have your ideas challenged, and to question purported statements of fact (“alternative facts”). You’ll never grow in understanding without this, and you’re likely to live in your own state of alternative facts rather than actual truth.  

When anyone tries to shut down a discussion via a mic drop moment or some other tactic, you know you’ve hit a nerve. It’s up to you to decide how you are going to respond. Just never accept that it is truly the end of discussion.  


Feb 25 2017

People Are People

People are people so why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully
So we’re different colours
And we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs ~Depeche Mode, “People are People”

There are a lot of things I don’t know and that I don’t understand. But, I try.  Take, for instance, this patent’s story, published in the Washington Post:

It’s almost impossible to deny a person’s humanity after you’ve shared a cup of coffee with them. Most people in our lives, people all across the political spectrum, had never met a trans person before they met Henry. But after they spend a little time with her, learn a little more about her, not a single one would insist she use the boys’ bathroom. https://wpo.st/Olyd2

The one thing we need to know about LGBTQ people is that they are… people.  That’s pretty much it.  People are different–I’m different, and you’re different. We all have different issues, different strengths, and different needs. Categorizing someone as a thing, which we’re doing when we relegate them to just a part of a certain group that we can dismiss or judge, is to completely disregard their individuality, and their humanity. 

In the early days of this country (The United States), only white males had ALL of the rights afforded by the Constitution, and it didn’t even occur to those white males that women and blacks should have equal rights. “All men are created equal…” didn’t apply to those categories of beings that were of lesser status, which also included the Native Americans, which we nearly thingified out of existence.  

200+ years later, most of America has matured to the point where women and non-whites are no longer thingified. However, while a minority, there are still far too many misogynists and racists still out there, and the rest of us will continue to stand up for true equality.  

The New Frontier

True equality, however, applies to everyone. While you may have various views on homosexuality, bisexuality, intersexuality, transsexualism, etc., under the Constitution we should agree that equal rights are for everyone. Equal rights means that all lesser categories of humans have been done away with; there should be no thingification of people who for whatever reason don’t fall into neat categories. 

I find the whole concept of classification to be an issue. For example, “upper class,” “lower class,” and “middle class” are Marxist terms.  Who needs them? What do they do, except to make people compare themselves against others?   And race–there is really only one race. Do we classify each other as Germanic or Scandinavian or whatever?  The only real reason to classify people groups by our origins is so one group can thingify another group.  People are people. Classes are not.

With regard to gender and sexuality, we are all individuals, and don’t all fall into neat categories. All humans fall somewhere on a spectrum of male-female traits.  Many men lean toward the feminine in some areas, and many women have some masculine traits. And with regard to gender identity, there is also a spectrum, although a smaller percentage of people are non-cisgendered. That’s just the way it is.  You can deny reality if you like, but that’s just Trumpism.

The bottom line is this: All people are people. We each have our own strengths and struggles. Some of us have issues that others of us have a difficult time relating to.  Whenever possible, we should try to help people, rather than force them into some thingified category so we don’t have to deal with them.  As the old song goes, “before you abuse, walk a mile in my shoes.” Or as the parent above wrote, “It’s almost impossible to deny a person’s humanity after you’ve shared a cup of coffee with them.”

GLBTQs are not non-people. They aren’t things, and they don’t belong to some less-then-fully-human category. They are full people under our Constitution and under God, and are entitled to all of the rights and privileges thereof. 

People… ALL people… are people.


Jul 9 2016

Confessions of a Privilege Addict

[Note: I realize that some of you will not agree with my perspective here, but this is my story, so…}

Hello, My name is Alden, and I am a privilege addict.  

I’ve known that I was privileged (although I never thought of it in those terms until recently) since I was a child, and I have relished every minute of it.  I know that many of you will doubt or dispute this, as I have never been part of the “1%” and have usually hid my elitist arrogance, but it’s true. 

I believe that humans are inherently tribal in nature; our brains, as my daughter recently explained to me, naturally categorize and order things in order to attempt to understand them. We do the same thing to ourselves, categorizing and ranking ourselves within the greater culture. As children, we are dependent upon others and finding our way in the world outside of our immediate family (or sometimes even within the family) can result in insecurity. The sooner we organize ourselves–finding our tribes, so to speak–the sooner we will achieve some sense of security and belonging.  

As a typically insecure child, I found security in my birthright categories:

  1. I was an American, living in the best and most powerful nation in the world. In a world where war was the norm, there was confort in knowing that we could blow up any nation that challenged us. And yes, there is still some comfort in knowing that in spite of the threat of terrorism, we could destroy any country we wanted to.  I have no real comprehension of living in a country where being invaded is a very real possibility.  I am privileged to be an American.
  2. I was a Christian, living in a Christian town in a Christian country.  It was a small town, with perhaps one Jewish resident. Better yet, I was a Lutheran, belonging to the largest and most impressive church in town, which also happened to be the most theologically correct church (and yes, I still believe that, but my belief now is based on study, not culture).  We were superior. There was no persecution of any kind for a Lutheran in Minnesota.
  3. I was a male. “Man” was the default.  Adam was a man, Jesus was a man, etc. “Man” was the generic label for humanity.  This was kind of a mixed blessing, as males had more expectations put on them than women.  We had to learn to be providers, we may have to go to war, etc.  However, these decisions were in our power, as men were the leaders. 
  4. I was white.  In my home town, we were all white.  And, being all white, we could be benevolently and safely non-racist. Everywhere I went, it was clear that white was the norm. Jesus was white, Santa Claus was white, the President was white, and nearly everyone on television what white.  It was obvious that whites were the majority, and the norm, and that it was in our power to be gracious and accepting of non-whites.  It was in our power.  

So there I was.  And here I am, a straight white male Christian middle-class employed American, with a great wife and children, living in an idyllic setting in a peaceful, small town in Oregon.  I am privileged, and I enjoy it very much.  From the comfort of my climate-controlled home, I can view the hate and hurt of the rest of the world, and pretend to have empathy.  

But, I know I can’t. I will never understand what it is to grow up being one of the not-privileged.  Not really.  Twice in my life I have been in situations where I’ve faced armed policemen, but I’ve never experienced it as a black, an Hispanic, or a Native American. I’ve never interviewed for a job as a woman. I’ve never been refused service or the right to marry because I’m gay, or been reported as a terrorist because I speak Arabic. 

I know I am privileged; I am the norm. I don’t feel guilty because of it; as Lady Gaga sang, I was born that way. I admit that I am glad that I am privileged, because I know that my life is a little bit (or a lot) easier because of it.  I am addicted to being privileged.  I like it. I can’t change the fact that I’m a straight white American male, but I can admit that it makes me automatically privileged, and acknowledge that it’s wrong.  To make the Declaration of Independence a reality–where all men are truly equal–I have to be willing to sacrifice my privileged status; that’s the way equality works.