Down the Toilet

While I have heard a number of jokes about President Bush's lack of awareness about Guantanamo Bay, I can't understand how we can't respect each other's humanity. President Bush can claim that there are no human rights abuses in the world. He can claim this but what logical sense does this make when he choses to intervene for the sake of humanity? Justice, my ass. He may think that it was American genius that "eliminated" violations against Afghani women. That was never a reason for us to intervene and our troops did not change anything -- anymore than our policies. Instead, we seem to assume that we have the right answers to everything. We have the right nationality. We have the right religion. We have the right set of moral values. Hell, we even have God.

And somehow, this arrogance grants our patriotic brothers and sisters to reject the humanity of another. This is what is happening in Guantanamo Bay. How in the world can we assume that we have the right text? How can we know that we have the only vision of God? I've been told by too many Republicans that I should respect their beliefs. In a city where they are the minority, these GOPs feel oppressed. They meet in secret. They are bizarre. And yet, they want me to respect their beliefs. Sure, fine. You are entitled to your own opinions. But, my understanding of the gospel leads me to believe that anything that denies the humanity of another is sin. It would be a sin for me to not beiee that poverty should and will be eliminated. It is a sin if I do not work toward this change for the least of these. It is a sin tht I do not embrace every child of God -- no matter what nationality, race or creed -- as my sisters and brothers. It is a sin for me as it is for all of us.

CNN reports, "A U.S. military investigation has found four incidents in which guards at the Guantanamo Bay prison mishandled the Quran, but said that it was detainees who threw the Muslim holy book in the toilet." How can we disrespect another's belief? If we are to respect the Bible as God's sacred word, how can we disrespect the revelation of God in another form? Christians -- including myself -- don't always believe that the Bible is actually God's word. It is inspired by God, but not actually the literal word of God. This does not disregard the sacred nature of this text. This does not eliminate God's sacred revelation or erase the power of Jesus Christ. In Islam, Muhammed recoreded God's word as it came to him. It is God's literal word -- and even if we do not share the visions of God as Muhammed received them -- how can we flush anything holy down the toilet?


Writings on the wall

Yesterday, I was taking a walk through Riverside Park. It's a walk filled with detours and tunnels from construction and traffic flow (though that's not what one commonly imagines in a park). Somewhere around 79th Street, the word "FAITH" greeted me. It was scrawled across the interior of a tunnel. It may have been a girl's name. It may have been some young romantic longing for his or her love, Faith. Or maybe the artist's intention echoed my sentiment.

Greeting this word in a tunnel of New York, I was reminded of the wonders of life. I was reminded to continue to seek for new and extraordinary possibilities in perhaps unlikely places. I was reminded -- quite simply -- to always have faith.


No Easy Answers

I am entering into my last year of theological education before being launched into the world outside of these safe ivory towers that I presently call home. Perhaps this is true for any life experience, but I'm caught in this place where I feel like I should know more. I should have more experience. I should have righted more wrongs in the world. It's the impossible place of a justice-seeking overachiever. There is always something more to do. Entering into this last summer before the "real" world, I am filled with all of these questions of what I must do before I complete my seminary education. This is what primal screams are made of. What experiences do I need to be an effective pastor? What knowledge do I need to gain? And yet, it seems that these are questions that will fill my whole ministry. There will always be something new that God is doing. There will always be some new, creative and wondrous way to experience God. There will always be a new circumstance that challenges how we know God. Of course, I am bold and naive enough to believe that I can answer all of these questions in the next 12 months.

You should scream at that -- or perhaps laugh. Or maybe it is more appropriate to cry. That sort of cockiness doesn't make me any better than the pastors in the South and the Midwest that think that they have a monopoly on God. No one can really own God -- I don't care what you think about the filibuster. God can lead you. But, go back to the Bible. Let's look again at what prophecy looks like.

Anyhow, prophecy aside, I'm trying to understand where God is leading me. I'm trying to understand how I can say "Here I am Lord" like my man Isaiah. This past year, I was a Pastoral Associate at a church on the Upper East Side (which is a fancy way of saying that I was an intern). I completed my service to that community a month ago. Though I'm not sure if service is ever complete, I felt that God was leading me somewhere new. There was more of God's work that I had to experience. My prayer has lead me to believe that I was to focus on my studies in the next year -- this last year in seminary. But, God apparently had something else in mind as She steered me back to the Upper West Side. It wasn't something that I was looking for. But, I am keenly aware of my call to step out of the pews.

So yesterday I found myself at a second inteview for ministerial position at a church on the Upper West Side of our great city. I am not sure what I am looking for. It seems that this opportunity would be ideal. I could wax on and on about dream jobs -- as much as I could talk about an ideal church. I'm not sure that either of these things exist. I do know that there is something -- something that I hesitate to name -- about this church. I know that there is something about this position that delights and inspires me. But, does that mean that that is where God is leading me?

It doesn't answer my questions or clarify my confusion. It doesn't make the tough questions any easier to answer. I don't know where God is leading me. I'm not sure what will happen next year. I'm not sure what will happen tomorrow. I only know that I need to listen. I need to listen with my whole heart. Perhaps easy answers will emerge.