Robby’s Rules of the Internet

I read an article today about race and “white evangelicals need(ing) to repent” for racism, and I got all hot under the collar and ready to fight and ready to write another long tirade about being tired of trying to be moderate just to be told I’m evil by everyone and tired of the co-opting of that word “evangelical” to mean “Crazy, Mean, Hateful Conservative” and tired of articles that proclaim the end of divisiveness actually creating more and tired of fighting and hating each other and tired of not being able to disagree with someone’s methods because somehow disagreeing with their methods, and not their message, is racist and then I decided I’m tired of all of it and I wasn’t participating this time.

But I needed to write because when I’m mad, that’s about the only thing that will calm me down that is even remotely productive.  So I decided today was my day to do a post I’ve been thinking about for a long time:

Robby’s Rules of the Internet

I’ve thought about this post for a while – usually any time I see something stupid on the internet, or people following something blindly, or a general lack of skepticism for things that you agree with – and today is the day I finally flesh it out.

Am I qualified to write this post?  Absolutely.  I’ve been internet savvy for longer than most, thought about the implications of social media for a while, actually researched how social media has affected our social interactions, and spent more time thinking about this than most because I could.

(If anyone wants to challenge my qualifications to write this article, I welcome that; but you must also point out why I’m wrong and present a reason why you – or someone else – is more qualified.)

Okay, now that I’ve provided my pedestal of judgement to stand upon, let us begin.

Rule 1: RUN EVERYTHING YOU POST ON SOCIAL MEDIA THROUGH GOOGLE

This particular rule bit me in the butt a couple of years ago, which is why it’s number one.  If you are going to post something, MAKE SURE IT’S TRUE AND ATTRIBUTED CORRECTLY (which is how I got bit)!  If someone says that MLK Jr. said something, make sure it’s all his and not partially an American school teacher working in Japan.  If you post an infographic or a political meme, make sure the facts are true (and not a horribly politicized interpretation of those facts).  If you post something scientific, make sure you aren’t just posting horrible clickbait.

Run everything through Google.  Just do it.

Rule 2: Anything That Attempts to Negate the Equality of the Internet is Evil

Period.  The internet is amazing because it is a great equalizer.  All information is equal, all people are equal, all data is equal.

This is a Free Speech Issue (just ask China), this is a Free Commerce Issue, this is a Human Rights Issue (just ask Saudi Arabia), this is a Freedom of Information Issue (ask any country that has filtered internet).

The reason that this is so important is that no one person, no one government, no corporation, no one gets to decide what is important, was is unimportant, and what is dangerous.  The internet allows all voices to shout, allows people to investigate and report on their governments and powers and corporations, and be heard despite the best efforts of those in power.

Anyone who wants to censor the internet or create a hierarchy of data has their best interest at heart at the detriment of the best interest of anyone else.

Rule 3: Don’t Feed the Trolls

Do you know what Internet Trolls feed upon?  People getting pissed off.  They feed on creating artificial controversy and getting people riled up against them and judging them.

Do you know that starves a troll?  Getting no response at all.  No getting angry, no getting angry at those who got angry, no even saying they are stupid publicly.  Give them nothing, and they starve.

This one came out of the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen – the stupid Starbucks cup thing that meant nothing.  A Christian internet troll got all indigent because Starbucks didn’t put…Santa Claus, a fun character that has become a consumer method of child control, and Christmas Trees, which are not at all Christian but an intentionally co-opted pagan tradition to convert pagans at the time.  I like both, I rather enjoy Christmas trees and figure parents can decide on Santa, but to say that it’s a war on Christmas from a Christian standpoint and using things like that might be the best trolling thing ever…

Rule 4: People Don’t Know You’re an Idiot on the Internet

…noting, importantly, that someone can be a troll even if they truly believe what they are saying.

The internet does not have the journalistic integrity checks that traditional media has.  In some ways this is absolutely the point – the internet is the great equalizer and every voice has the same power – but it pushes that responsibility to check the integrity of the author and the work to the reader.  Which is fine because we are at least running everything though Google, and should be doing more research if its important and the conclusions aren’t readily clear.

Unless you don’t do that, which most people don’t.  You can still find regularly updated “9-11 Truth” websites and people buying those conspiracies.  You can find out any fact about racial tensions in the country – any fact you want, just think it up and someone has said it somewhere about it.

In real life, we know the people who are idiots.  They are the ones who bait you into debates and then shut down and tell you are wrong when you approach their position with skepticism.  They are the ones that say things that are clearly untrue like they are gospel.  They do things that let you know they are stupid and their thoughts met with great caution.

(Mind you, we all qualify as this at times.  I got into an hour-long fight about the odds of winning the lottery that I was wrong about because simple math evaded me.)

The internet washes away our idiocy away and presents an image that we know what we are talking about.  Again, an equalizer – no one knows that the only descriptions I have of Scotch are “Hairspray” and “Piss” despite actually being able to describe bourbon and beer with some level of skill – but as susceptible to abuse, both intentional and accidental.

If you assume everything you read is written by an idiot unless otherwise proven, and you approach internet journalism with healthy skepticism, you will be much better off.

Rule 4a: …But Smart People Assume You Are

So address the smart people.  Resolve their skepticism if you can, address it if you can’t but still feel you are correct, and change when you are wrong.  And continue to be that questioning smart person; it makes you smarter and a better person.

Rule 5: Privacy is Not a Political Issue

Stop making it one.  If this was my major issue, I would protest outside of every event of every candidate because not a one of them has my interest – or your interest – at heart.  Their own power and control of the populace, absolutely, but not my actual interest.

And the multitude of times my privacy has been violated by the government has done nothing to protect me.  Stop telling me intercepting my private texts between my wife and me is making me safe because it isn’t.  If you are going to do something that can – and should – be interpreted as malicious for my benefit, you better be proving your benevolence and allowing people to decide.

I am not doing anything wrong, I have no plans to do anything wrong, I should be able to live my life as privately as I desire in terms of the government.  You don’t need to know what items are on our grocery list, what we are fighting about, or when we make up.

So now that we see that privacy is absolute, you can see that privacy is a “Government vs. the People” issue, not a “Democrats vs. Republicans” issue because both sides contain people who are complicit and who are malicious on this issue, and not really any who are benign or benevolent

These are the major rules.  There are others, but these cover 90% of your interactions on the internet.  Just don’t be a pirate if you don’t know that you are doing, don’t install free software you don’t know the source of, and keep your stuff up-to-date and that could cover 98% of the rest.

But maybe I’ll so some more rules when I’m angry again and just need to write.

Peace,
– Robby

A Moderate in a Radical World

I just listened to this podcast and at the very tail end, when discussing why young protesters are more effective today than 20 years ago, one of the qualities of young protesters were described as was, “More radical.”

It stopped me in my tracks.  The whole episode is worth a listen* but that one little bit about current protesters being lauded for being “more radical” just stopped me.

A few days later I read this blog post** and again, I found myself stopped.  Instead of staying stopped, though, I got indignant.  I found myself wanting to scream at the culture of “radical or wishy washy” and being told the only way to be a force for good in the world, or a Christian, or even just a loving person is to be radical in a direction.

I’m not radical, and I will never be radical.  I am very strongly moderate – not moderate because I won’t make a decision but moderate because I believe the middle ground contains more truth than the fringes – and very passionate about extremism being the cause of so much of our world’s problems.  I’m that person who gets accused of being a bleeding-heart, communist liberal (stretching there) or heartless, gun-toting conservative (not much of a stretch) depending on who I’m talking to.

As a moderate, I have always valued discussion from all sides of an issue.  Opinions may be misguided, anecdotes and experiences may shade observations, and your personal feelings and desires will always bias your thoughts, but the truth comes from analyzing everything.  Politics should stop removing the “science” from “political science” and start treating the discussion like a scientist, observing everything, collecting as much information as possible, and then moving forward.

I try to live in the gray.  I fail sometimes, sometimes I get indigent over people not living in the gray, and sometimes I just don’t have the energy to fight for the middle, but I firmly believe the gray contains the most truth.

This nation has become black and white about everything.  Race.  Gender.  Sexual orientation.  Religious and Non-Religious.  Political Ideology.  Pro-Pot and Anti-Pot.  The idea of having conversations to find a common ground on any of these things used to be an uncomfortable necessity; now it doesn’t feel uncomfortable because impossible things aren’t uncomfortable

It is impossible to have a conversation because everything in our lives – politics, church, even our marriages and families – have become adversarially two-sided.  Nothing is a discussion; everything is a battle that must have a clear winner.

Does it bother anyone else that we treat our politics like a damn football game?  Does it bother anyone that we worship the letter that we put behind our name more than we worship Christ?  Does it bother anyone else that if they have the wrong letter behind their name – or, God forbid, they don’t have a letter behind their name – that we demonize them and make them out to be monsters who want nothing more than to kill your children/kill all the people who look different?  Or for those of us who aren’t on a side, we are “lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, [and God] will spit [us] out of [His] mouth?” (Revelation 3:16)

We do this at church, too.  Any time a controversial topic is decided, the losing team – because it is teams fighting each other in a game at this point – prays for the winning team to find God again and stop denying the teachings of scripture/the love that Christ taught us.  Why do we Presbyterians have a new denomination?  Oh, because the PC(USA) no longer follows scripture.  We all know that isn’t true, but that doesn’t stop us from saying it.

If you can’t tell, I’m pissed off.  I’m tired of being told I don’t love enough, I don’t care about safety enough, that I’m not allowed to mourn violence, that I’m not allowed safety because I’m not violently preventing violence (take a second to unpack that one), that I’m being to literalist or I’m ignoring the teachings of scripture.

I’m tired of being condemned because I’m not radical.

And I’m tired of us worshiping those who are.

I posted a comment on the Facebook wall of the seminary classmate who posted the article and his comment went to the motivation or pushing Presbyterians to action and “loving radically” and though I agree with him, I think, especially as pastors, we need to be intentional about what we said, and the article compared middle-of-the-road to being lukewarm.  It did, absolutely, and the comments basically echoed the ideal that we can’t be moderate and do any good.

Again, everything about this being more radical has nothing to do with loving more – or following Christ more – but moving closer to a side of our adversarial division.  No one has said that we need to give ourselves completely to loving our neighbor – all of our neighbors – but they certainly tell us how we are loving them wrong.

Personal politics have no bearing on loving neighbors as self.  You want radical talk?  You don’t love as much as Christ commanded you to.  I don’t love as much as Christ commanded me to.  It doesn’t matter what American political ideology you subscribe to, you are not loving as much as you could nor as much as you are commanded to.

You want to love radically?  Forget your own needs and desires and love at a personal loss to yourself.  Love even when it hurts or is uncomfortable or you cannot help but hate the person you love.  Show love to Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton and Kim Jong Un and ISIS and the drug addict down the street and the husband cheating on his wife and the hacker who stole your identity and the guy on Facebook who’s political posts make you sick.  Show love to people who have killed, to people who have harmed children, to people who have left God completely, to people who rape and murder, to people who enslave and torture.  Show love to people you hate – all of them – and people who mean to harm you.

That’s radical love.  Spouting off about how much someone you disagree with isn’t loving enough or isn’t Christian enough isn’t love; it’s battle and it’s war.  Christianity is neither of those things.  Christianity is submission and sacrifice and love despite our own desires.  Christianity has no political affiliation because both completely ignore the call to act outside of your own desires and your own needs and to love all your neighbors, evil and good alike.

That is not lukewarm, but that is moderate.  That is the middle of the road in our two-sided, adversarial culture.  That is loving both sides more than you love yourself, and showing love to both sides despite their hatred of you and calling you “lukewarm.”

My prayer – my ultimate prayer – is that we can put aside our narratives, our political ideologies, and our need to win, and we can instead take that truly higher ground of loving everyone – literally everyone – and showing that love even to those who desire us jailed, tortured, and dead.

I am passionately moderate, I am passionately in the middle of our two artificial sides, and I am not lukewarm.  Stop interpreting scripture in the midst of American politics and interpret it as love, not war.

Now my head hurts, I killed two hours I didn’t really have, and my blood pressure is up.  Need to breathe a few breaths and do some work.

Out of Love and In Peace
– Robby

* I will make one remark about the second half of the episode talking about the race protests around the country.  It is wholly uncritical of the protests, making out that their methods and ideologies are absolutely correct.  I don’t want to make this a forum to discuss race relations in the country, but I do want to be fair and make that observation.

** </pastor hat>As a side note, Donald Trump isn’t anything other than what he can convince you of to increase his own power.  He is super-pandering, working to combine people’s irrational fears of people who are different, rational but overblown fears of terrorism, and legitimate desire to be not-crazy.  I will, without fail, vote for an other candidate, even the ones I fear most, to prevent him from becoming President.<pastor hat>

A(n Unanswered) Prayer

(UPDATE: As I read old posts to transition to the new blog, I see pieces that are a snapshot of what we went through before and not where we are now.  So many of our prayers were answered in a way that we love, just on God’s timeline and in ways we couldn’t understand in the moment (or even now).  Everything I wrote is true – and I firmly believe that I am allowed to hate God’s timing, which I did and still do – but things are better and prayers were answered.  This piece is good, but I think context is important, and the context of this is very different than the context of now. – RB)

I’m frank but guarded about what is going on with me when I’m writing on this blog.  I strongly believe that we should all be more frank about ourselves and admit our weaknesses and struggles, but that is a far cry from the specifics of our dirty laundry and what is specifically going on in our lives.

Frank, but guarded.  That’s my motto, I guess.

So this is a vast departure from my normal policy of frank and open but vague descriptions.

Nora and I have a prayer that, at least in our broken eyes, has been unanswered for a few years: despite having skills and being a very hard worker, Nora cannot find work outside of retail.  Every year we pray that she will not have to go through another holiday shopping season as an underpaid, overworked, and miserable retail worker, and every year the answer from our prayers has been, “No.”  Or, “Wait,” as some commentators would have us believe.

This isn’t a new prayer – not even close – but driving home from Dubuque this afternoon we were discussing my sermon and I was trying to explain the direction I would go with it (it’s on James 5:13-20).  I was half-reading, half-expounding on the passage when I hit the bit about Ezekiel praying for the rain to stop and then the rain to start, and how he was just a man.

Nora looks at me – while driving, which is a bit scary, now that I think about it – and asks, “So does that mean that unanswered prayers are because we didn’t pray hard enough?  Or that we didn’t have enough faith?”

For all pastors whose significant others haven’t asked them the theodicy questions yet, especially when you know the prayers that haven’t been answered and those prayers being repeatedly answered with. “No,” have affected your life, your marriage, and the joy of the one whom you have dedicated your personal life to, the right seminary answers won’t come to you.

Part of the struggle I have is that even when things have gone vastly outside of my desires, my hindsight has shown me the path.  I know why God made me go through some things, made me struggle with things that are actually my strengths, and made my ministry path much…longer and more difficult than I thought it should be.

The path leading to this point for me makes sense.  The path, forward or backwards, from where Nora is blocked by the densest fog.

“If you have faith, you will receive whatever you pray for.” – Matthew 21:22 CEB

I will be completely honest, this question has given me debilitating pause this evening.  Scripture clearly says – very clearly, in multiple spots – that if we have faith and we ask, it will be given.  I don’t buy the idea that Jesus was speaking in hyperbole – it strikes me as a cop-out – and so I find myself asking the same question:

Are we just not praying hard enough?  Is our faith not strong enough?

I keep asking myself this, and I keep thinking the answer must be, “Yes,” and then I wonder how our faith is so weak that we can’t pray hard enough that someone who needs a hard worker in nearly any field won’t hire a hard worker with skills and a willingness to learn anything, or that we can’t at least see the reason why our prayer isn’t being answered with a “Yes” or “Okay, now you can go.”

The other option is that God is truly willing this to be what is going on, and it is God’s plan for her to not find different work.  Which wouldn’t be so damn hard to swallow if we could just see a little bit through the blinding fog.

So here is my prayer:

God, please give us direction or guidance or vision or a change to lift the struggles.  Something to make this easier.

Amen.

– Robby

Responding to Senseless Tragedy

My soul weeps at every senseless death, and stands horrified if that death is intentional at the hands of another person.

Period.  Nothing I say after this has any influence on what I just said.  I will draw a line in the sand and make sure that everyone knows what they are responding to.

I want to make sure that I am heard, and what I say is understood. I want to make sure that no one can accuse me of placing my belief and understanding in the 2nd Amendment above human life.  I want to make sure that everyone understands that my shotgun is not being placed above the effects of tragedies like the one Umpqua Community College.  I want everyone who reads this to know that I am in shocked horror that yet another senseless mass murder has happened.

I stand in horror and mourning, and yet I was told I’m not allowed to mourn, at least not with that person.  Not that I would consider myself a great “gun lover” but rather a hobbyist who enjoys hunting and killing pieces of paper.  But having any sort of belief in the second amendment is evil, so I have been lead to believe today.

There are two things about me that should be readily known and accepted as I write it that I am a vocal moderate – not luke-warm but vocally and passionately in the middle of most everything – and that, in times is crisis, I value logic and rationality over emotion.

And if everything that I have read is true, then we are in a crisis of mass murders in our country.  This is an active crisis, current and ongoing, and we, as a nation, have not entered into the post-crisis part where emotions are addressed and mourning, as a nation, can happen.

(To all those directly effected by the events, this does not apply to you.  Personal crisis trumps national crisis, and you should be in a state of mourning.)

We need a cold, thought out, rational course of action to stop mass murders from happening.  We cannot dive head-first using our sadness, our anger, or our frustration as our guide.  Emotional responses as not going to fix the problem, no matter how much we want them to.

What we first must do is stop tearing each other down.  We cannot fix anything if we refuse to work together.  Stop telling me about conservatives valuing guns over human life or liberals trying to destroy the second amendment.  Stop telling me that people I love are responsible for this tragedy, both those who believe in gun ownership and carry and those who believe in gun-free zones.  Stop telling me that someone is evil because they disagree with your, or a particular political party is responsible.  All you are doing is stopping the conversation.

We must approach this as a problem with a solution, not a horror to be stopped.  We must detach ourselves from the horrors emotionally and look at facts and figures.  Not all of us are called to be the emotional strength and comforter of those who have directly experienced this tragedy, especially including our elected officials.

We must approach this issue with humility, accepting that we may be wrong.  Both sides need to stop placing themselves on a moral high ground and demonizing each other.  Because both sides of this debate have the same goal: stopping senseless tragedy.

And no, no gun owner I have ever known – and I have known a lot, including gun shop owners and political activists who work towards increasing gun rights – would ever place their gun above innocent human life.

The problem is that their resistance of change is not placing guns above innocent life; it’s that they believe that their guns and their rights changing would have no effect on the innocent life.  Period.

Everyone involved in this discussion needs to put their emotions aside.  Period.  Much the same way a doctor cannot save a life if overwhelmed by emotion, we cannot prevent these deaths if we act on our emotions.  We need cold though, period.

Can you do that?  Because if you can, absolutely you should be suggesting ideas and thinking about how the laws and funding can be worked out to prevent these senseless deaths.

But if you can’t, if you can only think emotionally or selfishly politically when a tragedy strikes, you need to remove yourself from the conversation.  Mourn, even publicly mourn, but rash, emotional responses – especially those condemning others that are not responsible – are as useless to national tragedy as they are to surgery.

I wrote out a plan to fix the problem, but it doesn’t work, either  The other half of this crisis is that no solution can be written in the days after a tragedy.  This is going to be a long and painful process, one that will not win any political points and will absolutely make people mad.  It will either go too far or not far enough, depending on who you ask, and it will slowly fix the problem, not instantly.  But if we have a serious national crisis, serious long-term repairs to the very fabric of our nation are necessary, not just sweeping and quick changes that ignore the law-abiding half of the country that, again, is not responsible for this tragedy.

No one gets to be on a moral high ground today, no one gets a soapbox, no one gets to claim they have the answer and that everyone who disagrees with them is wrong and/or evil.  You don’t get that right today.

I am mourning, and no one can tell me I am and those whom I love are responsible for this, because they aren’t.  So instead of demonizing me, let’s mourn the senseless taking of life, and mourn that someone’s mental health was so ignored that they came to a point that they could commit such evil.

Let’s not throw stones at each other today; let’s mourn together.  Maybe if we can find a common ground – humbly find a common ground – we can solve this crisis and finally truly mourn a dark part of our history.

– Robby

Friends

(UPDATE: Things are a changing, thus the new blog and such.  Like other posts, this is still a good piece of writing – or at least as good as I’m capable of – but situations change and it’s not as relevant as it used to be.  I also took a small part out; just didn’t seem to be necessary, even if I do still agree with it. – RB)

Real talk time.  I told myself, when I started this blog, that I had to be honest and frank when I wrote.  Holding back was counter-productive and if I want this to help someone else – if I want someone to feel or learn something – then I need to give them everything they need, not just the things that I am comfortable sharing.

No specifics – not worth it or even helpful – but I have found myself in a situation where I no long feel like I am friends with a bunch of people I have been friends with for a couple of years.  We are still friendly acquaintance, we still work together, we still laugh, but some childish drama placed a wedge between us.  I am kind of alone out here – I’m not a member of the Presbytery I’m serving because I’m not really officially serving and the ordination process is what it is – and I haven’t found a plethora of friends.  Support, clergy discussions, direction, that all I have, but I found having a group of friends where being a pastor wasn’t defining of our friendship relaxing and uplifting, and I feel like I lost that.

I wasn’t sure how to process what I was thinking about, but this idea popped into my head: I should write out what it means to be a friend to a pastor.  I’ve seen it before, and my version will probably be inadequate, but this is where I’m at.

So, here’s how to be a friend to a pastor:


1. If you are friends with a pastor, they aren’t judging you.

Stop trying to be perfect around your friend because they are a pastor.  Treat them like a friend.  They don’t want to be your pastor; they want to be your friend.  They are not looking for your sins to write down in their register to talk to God about.  They simply need a give-and-take relationship.

And they chose to be your friend.  If you drink beer, that probably influenced their decision to be your friend.  If you smoke pot, that might have influenced their decision to be your friend.  If you are a thrice-divorced degenerate, that probably influenced their decision to be your friend.  Given all of these things, they want to be your friend.

Friends don’t judge friends, which leads right into…

2. If you are friends with a pastor, they don’t want to judge you.

I don’t spend my day telling myself to not judge.  I don’t struggle with wanting to see you for all your faults and making mental judgements of your soul.  I’ve never once saw someone sinning and thought, “My, it would feel good to mentally condemn that person to Hell, but the Bible tells me not to!”

I don’t want to judge you.  I know that we are all sinful, and I’ve got plenty of sins on my own heart that deserve me being condemned.  Only self-righteous jerks take pleasure in judging and building themselves up by tearing others down; that’s just as true in the Christian world as it is in the secular.

3. If you are friends with a pastor, remember that being pastor is their job.

Doctors, nurses, computer techs, mechanics, chefs, beauticians, and almost any other job that serves people understand this.  No, we don’t have a time clock that we punch, and that emergency phone call may force us to run out of the building like it’s on fire, but when I’m around you, I’m not working.  I’m not looking for ways to proselytize to you, I’m not going to try to convert you, I’m not going to pull out a Bible in the middle of a beer and pull the whole “Relevant and Relatable Pastor” spiel.

I want to drink beer and talk about how horrible the Vikings game was and commiserate about how much I hate Wings even though I love the Beatles and that the Rolling Stones are just awful in my mind.  I don’t want to pastor to you any more than you want to do your job for me while we drink beer.  I just want to be your friend.

4. If you are friends with a pastor, remember that they are always faithful.

I’ve been friends with a multitude of atheists in my life, and some of them have been my best friends.  I had at least one atheist stand up for me at my wedding.  Maybe I just don’t make friends easily enough, but some of the best people I have met don’t believe in God.

But I don’t pretend to have a weak faith when I am around them for their sake.*  My wedding revolved around God, not around us.  I pray frequently.  I bow my head when we film games at the Catholic high school.  I have a relationship with God no matter where I am.

This has been a struggle with previous friendships.  I don’t want to try to convert you – at least not while I’m relaxing on your couch or on a bar stool – but I will continue to be a Christian while I relax.  I make choices for myself as a Christian, and I will do or not do things because of that, but I’m not judging you because of my choices and I’m not doing these things as an example of what I think you should do.  I’m doing them because of my relationship with God, not my relationship with you.

5. If you are friends with a pastor, please relax around them.

I need to relax.  I’m on call always, my sermon is never out of my mind, there is always something that I could be doing, the work is never done.  I need to relax.

I won’t relax if you are constantly tense around me.  I need a friend, I need a two-way relationship, I need a beer buddy, and you being nervous to relax around me is not going to help me with any of those things.

Remember everything above, and then chill out.


Hopefully this isn’t just rambling.  Hopefully tomorrow when I read this again, I don’t shriek in horror at what I put out there.  Hopefully reconciliation is possible.

To friendship,

– Robby

* I did that once with a girl I was dating.  Failed miserably.

Bible Trivia and Ordination

(UPDATE: So I wrote this post a while ago.  Since then, this happened.  I’m leaving this up for posterity, but I can say correct decisions are starting to be made on the topic.  Hurray! – RB)

I was on Facebook last night when a pastor friend of mine posted this post from Rev. Timothy Cargal’s blog on the Office of Preparation for Ministry website.  In it, he talks about the results of this years Bible Trivia Content Exam.

And then goes on to defend this years BCE and the changes that they have made.

When I called it the Bible Trivia Exam, I wasn’t just speaking of my own opinion.  Everyone I went to seminary with – everyone – had roughly the same opinion of the test.  It doesn’t test your fitness for ministry or your professional abilities – that’s the purpose of the other four exams – and it doesn’t test your useful knowledge of scripture, but rather if you picked up the trivia of scripture that they decided to test you on this year.  For example, this year1 they were tasked with matching salutations to epistles.  Mind you, not once in my ministry would have I ever benefited from knowing off the top of my head which multiverse Pauline salutation goes with which letter, but somehow a junior in seminary needs to know that to show familiarity with scripture.

Before I really get into why I’m frustrated, I need to write out what the purpose of this exam is.  When you are a junior2 (or just finished junior year), you take a test to demonstrate your familiarity with scripture.  The point – supposedly – is to demonstrate that you are familiar enough with scripture to successfully complete seminary and also point out areas of weakness that you have within scripture.3

At least, I think that’s why you can fail it.  Try as I might, I can’t rationalize another reason why this is a necessary exam to pass and not just an evaluation of current state of knowledge.  And before someone says that it’s proof of biblical knowledge for a professional reason, the descriptions of the 5 exams specifically say this isn’t that and the senior exams are specifically professional exams in contrast to this exam.  So it must be proof of knowledge to continue into the ordination process or seminary studies.

What change recently was two things.  First, they stopped releasing the new questions to the exam.  For 30 years students could access the exams – paper form and then, in recent years, online form to take as practice tests.  The test has historically used 83% old questions and 13% new questions but importantly, those questions could pull from the entire history of the test.

And the old tests were a good study tool.  The OPM is convinced that students were just memorizing answers to pass the test, but every student preparing said that they learned things about scripture using the old tests.  It actually was quite helpful in giving us a wider primer is scripture.

I still remember who Jael is to this day because of it, and I read that story specifically because of studying for the exam.

In 2009, the OPM decided that they would stop releasing the old exams entirely.  No releasing of questions missed, no allowing CPM’s to view the exams, nothing.  So every year since 2009, the exam has been completely hidden except to test takers actively taking the test.  All you get is your score and how well you did on each section of scripture.

Every year they have come up with new questions and phased out old questions.  And as it has come to pass, this is the year when the exam is 100% previously unreleased questions.  They still recycled questions, but every question was created post-2009.  And this year, because multiple choice wasn’t quite…adequate?…they added the matching section.

Now, there is nothing particularly egregious about those changes without consequences.  Yes, it takes away the only useful resource short of stringently studying the entirety of scripture in the months before taking the exam – all while being in seminary and having an internship and trying to also remain emotionally healthy and not burning out – but if people continued to pass at a similar rate and everyone agreed the changes were good, then it’s just students complaining because they want it to be easier.

That’s not a valid complaint, no matter how much I would have wanted it to be.

Why I even took the time to write this post – my BCE was in 2011 and this has no relevance to me directly – is the results of this year’s test.

71.7% of people taking the exam failed this round.  Compared to the Fall 2009 failure rate of 18.3%.

Rev. Cargal chose to write that as a percent passed (28.3%) but I write it as the majority, not the minority, to not hide what actually happened: over 70% of inquirers taking the exam were told that they do not have the biblical knowledge to continue in the ordination process or their seminary studies (I’m still not sure which).

Which is insane.  I know that it can’t possibly be that over the last 6 years students have gotten progressively less qualified for seminary that the failure rate jumped 291.8%, and I know that people who passed previously were mostly all ready and qualified to continue in the ordination process or seminary studies.  This isn’t an indication that it was too easy before with the old exams, no matter how much the OPM wants the stubbornly claim that it is.

This is a sign that the test is flawed, and I think that everyone knows it.  Some people are good at an exam like this and have this variety of recall.  They are the ones you want on your team for Trivial Pursuit and you don’t want to go against in Trivia Crack.  But ministry is not a game, and your level of Biblical knowledge and familiarity is not based upon recall of minutia.

But what I think is most frustrating, given all of this, is the absolute defense of the changes.  Not once in the note – that was originally an e-mail to CPM’s and as such, not immediately public – did Rev. Cargal mention that they would evaluate the testing procedures, take a hard look at if students truly were unprepared for study, or even acknowledge the frustration that would come from this.  It is all a description of the changes and a strong implication – intentional or not – that the 70% failure rate should be expected.

And on top of it, when CPM members commented that the CPM’s would benefit from seeing the questions and what their inquirers got wrong, the only answer that was given was security concerns.  He implied, hopefully unintentionally, that test takers – who are studying to be pastors, mind you – are going to look for ways to cheat, and CPM’s – pastors and ruling elders tasked with preparing people for professional ministry – can’t be trusted to follow the instructions of the OPM and not give students the test questions beforehand.  There is only a security risk if someone is posing that risk.  The level of mistrust that the security comment shows is astounding.

And what is most astounding and confusing, to me, given everything else, is that this junior exam that is not supposed to weed people out but give guidance in their preparation is being made intentionally harder while the professional exams are being made considerably easier.  Not that long ago they were 3 hour exams of 3 questions, 1 open book and 2 closed book, and proctored.  And hand written not that long ago.  When I took them, they were 3 hours, 3 questions, completely open book, and unproctored, which was perfect for me but also required less preparation.  Now they are 9 hours, 3 questions, unproctored, and considerably easier because there is no effective time limit now.4

It makes no sense.  I know I probably shouldn’t write about this and blast an entire office of the General Assembly publicly, but the changes are bad and I’m going to call them bad.  The Presbyteries Cooperative Committee on Exams seems to be at least in connection with a segment of the church and actually taking comments and criticisms to heart with the senior exams (and responding to the criticisms they are not acting on) but whomever is responsible for the BCE seems to be stubbornly holding some ideal up without considering the response and a belief that they are right despite widespread disagreement.

I’m going to point out that my pastor friend is not a young friend, nor an old pastor.  She is second career, wore her Master’s robe the same day that I did, and is not rebelling against the system.  And she disagrees with the direction it is going, too.

I just wish, above all else, that the response to criticism was actually a response, and not just, “(It is an) exam security measure.”  Because if I was one of the inquirers that failed this round, you can bet I would be furious (and it sounds like at least one CPM is pretty agitated, too).

Comments?  Thoughts?  A solution?  Because, frankly, I’m at a loss, and it doesn’t even affect me.

Peace,

– Robby


1This was according to committee member on a CPM somewhere within our denomination after talking to inquirers who failed the exam.  I can’t guarantee it because the OPM refuses to give any information about the actual content of the exam so take it with the reliability you can reasonably attribute to it.  Given the content of the previous exams, though, I wouldn’t doubt it…

2Your junior year of seminary is your first year. Then you have middler year(s) and senior year.

3Mind you, my CPM and I have never discussed which areas I was weakest in with that test, only that I passed. And I don’t fault them for it in the least; I feel they probably view it similarly, even if they would never admit it.

4To answer a potential question, any candidate could work with their committee to make adjustments to the testing to accommodate learning disabilities that would not interfere with fitness for ministry.

Tired and Weary

I find myself weary today.  Part of it is that damn exegesis exam*, part is that my wife has been sick and not sleeping well, which makes me not sleep well, and part is because coffee isn’t doing it right now for some reason.

I mean really, coffee is supposed to wake you up, not put you to sleep like it has been doing to me today.

But I find myself more than just tired and drained because of my own life.  I find myself weary because I see darkness in the world and I’ve found myself helpless.

I find myself tired and weary as I think about Baltimore.  I struggle with knowing that racism is alive and well in our country.  I am weary because I see what I find to be senseless violence because I don’t understand having a history that tells me I am only not an animal, a monster, 3/5 of a person, or worse to the legal system because I was born in the right time.  I don’t understand being followed by cops because of the color of my skin.  I’ve never been told that my culture is bad and that I need to follow another culture to not be a bad person.

I don’t feel or understand the anger that lead to the violence, so all I see is the violence.  I see what seems to be mindless and undirected and needlessly hateful, and I can’t wrap my mind around anything else.  I hear pundits and activists try to explain why it is happening, and I hear pundits and activists try to explain why it is wrong and evil, and I hear pundits and activists say why it is good and righteous, and I don’t understand.

It makes my head swim.  I am a logical person, seeking to understand not just with the heart but with my mind.  I try to understand the logic of something, the reason, the buildup and the systems and the anti-systems that lead up to something.  I try to assign blame, assign righteousness, assign the best course action and judge the current actions upon them.  I try, but I can’t.

All I see is anger and hatred and pain.  So much pain.

I sit in my office and I actually feel the urge to weep.  I won’t – professionalism is important and my door is always open – but weeping seems to be the only decent response.  Even if everything that the rioters did was wrong, what lead them to be so angry to do it?  How much pain have they been caused, have they felt, that this is the only way they could respond?

I don’t understand it, and I never will.  My logical and organizing mind tries to rationalize it but I can’t.  I so just want to get it, to know what is going on, but I can’t.  All I want is to know how to ease the pain of those who are in pain, and I can only kneel, praying that God can provide healing because I cannot.

I am weary.  And tired.  And hoping that my prayer is sufficient.

I don’t feel your pain, but I can see your pain, and I want nothing more than for it to be relieved.  May God’s loving arms give you comfort in peace in this time where there is nothing but pain and violence and anger.

Let us also bow for the relief of pain, for love to win, for people to love one another, and that we can feel empathy for all, not just those who we understand.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Peace,

Robert

* As a side note, holy crap I was a gun shy about that exam.  Exegesis was probably my strongest area in seminary – except may Presbyterian Polity because I’m awesome like that – and yet it is the exam I did the absolute worst in.  I feel like the exam is set up not to test your actual ability to exegete a passage but do the busy work of someone else’s exegesis and then someone be creative with a sermon using, again, someone else’s process.  That’s all to say, please let me pass this time 😦

Matches and Gasoline

Note: The featured image comes from here.  I know I can use it how I like because of the Creative Commons license but I want to support the people whose work I steal. 

I posted a great conversation between Pete Holmes and Richard Rohr on Twitter the other day (HERE) and in part of it, Pete talks about his faith room, deconstructing it, and then reconstructing it.  It really is a great illustration, and I have spent a stupid amount of time thinking about it since I first listened to it.

As I was showering (the best incubator for creative thought) and thinking about what I wanted to write this week, I got to thinking about the three stages of faith that they talk about in that podcast – construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction – and their discussion of getting stuck in one of the early stages.  I especially thought of getting stuck in the deconstruction phase.

A lot of people, out of anger or frustration or whatever emotion they are feeling that causes them to deconstruct, just stay in that second phase.  They just want to burn it down, burn their faith down and dance in the smoldering ashes of what was before.  Someone gave them, or they created, something that became matches and gasoline to their faith, and they combined the two in the middle of their faith room and burned the mother to the ground.

And that’s fine.  Sometimes you have to just burn it to the ground.  Sometimes there is nothing good or healthy – especially for you – in your faith room and deconstructing it peacefully won’t work.  Like some abandoned houses or barns, the best option is gasoline and matches.

There are two outcomes to this.  One is the healthy one; the violent catharsis did it’s job and you are able to put out the flames and rebuild.  Maybe your faith room is just a grass patch without a belief structure, or maybe you rebuild with something completely different but still a faith room.  That is fine, as long as you don’t just stay in that burning stage.

The other outcome is that you really liked when you burnt down your faith room; you really liked the violence of the fire destroying your beliefs.  It felt good, and you thought it was the most moral thing you could do.  So you collect your matches and gasoline and force them upon other people, trying to watch the whole house of all belief rooms burn to the ground.  You really push them on those whose houses have the same furniture and decorations that you have, trying desperately to make them burn it down because you needed to burn yours down and no one else should have that faith.

Some people will take your matches and gasoline and burn their faith rooms down because they were searching for matches and gasoline, but you can’t make anyone do that.  You can’t burn the faith rooms down of anyone, no matter how much you want to.  Even if their room causes you pain, even if you can’t stand the sight of what they have put in their faith room, you can’t burn it down no matter how much you want to.

I kind of want to talk about my deconstruction and (hopeful) reconstruction to illustrate this.  I was raised Christian – Presbyterian in fact – and I haven’t veered from it much.

Actually, that’s not true.  I had a time where I just started tossing everything organized out.  Everything.  I didn’t have violent or fast deconstruction, I didn’t move everything out in a day; I just started taking things out that I didn’t think made sense.  I really found myself with an old but wonderful couch – the Apostles’ Creed – and a mirror.

But I started rebuilding from there.  I believed that there is a God, that Christ was real, and that a Holy Spirit works within me.  Everything else was fair game.

It is odd, but I find that the things that have made their way back into my faith room aren’t all that different than the thing that were in here before, just better or older or more intentional and personal.  The couch of depravity of humanity was once a cheap, Walmart pleather couch that wouldn’t last; I replaced it with black heirloom couch that was melancholy but brought me comfort, and then replaced that one with a brightly colored custom couch that is comfortable and great for sitting and talking and be with anyone and being truly comfortable.  The computer of loving God with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind was replaced by a desk, bookshelf, weight bench, heater, and better computer of loving God with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind.  The end table of loving God was from the Dollar Store but know is built by my hands, imperfect and flawed but strong and personal.

The thing I think a lot of people who want to watch the faith rooms of everyone burn miss is that I have the matches and gasoline in my room, too.  Some of the matches sit in a cupboard, some are used to light candles and start controlled fires.  Some of the gasoline became kerosene for a lamp, some is gasoline that I left outside while I contemplate what to do with it, some of it had no weight and became water as it entered my room.  But it’s all there; I just didn’t use it to burn everything down.

The thing about the reconstruction phase is it’s kind of like remodeling a house; nothing is ever permanent again.  I’m reminded of my friend Nathan remodeling his kitchen; he took out ten layers of flouring, with wood over and under multiple layers, and wood again under everything (not exaggerating).  The process of changing and rebuilding is never done, and is never permanent.  If I were to put a timeline on it, my deconstruction started in high school and got stronger in the beginning of college, and my reconstruction started at the end of college, but then I started seminary and a bunch of cleaning happened and a bunch of stuff got replaced with stronger and better stuff, some made by me, a lot made by people who make faith furniture that I customized after the fact.  And I burned the hutch of condemning individual sins and judging people whose sins are different than mine in a glorious fashion with fireworks and dynamite that brought the spectators (liberals) and police (conservatives) alike, all whom were disappointed.

Only I can burn my faith room to the ground.  You are welcome to give me the matches and gasoline – much of which I already have – but only I can strike the match.  Kind of like only you could strike the match of your faith room.  And only I can put things in my faith room, build the walls, and decorate the room.  No matter how much you want me to have your couch or painting or rug, I alone can choose what comes in and what stays out.

Everyone would be happier if we stopped trying to control and build the faith rooms of others.  All we can do is give them access to elements and love them; they have to do the rest, and because the only way faith and love work is if people are free to choose.  Love can certainly help move things in if requested, it can certainly let up the gasoline puddles and open the gas valves, but it can’t strike the match or force things in.

Each faith room in individual and personal and can’t be made by anyone else.  So give access to furniture and matches and gasoline and water out of love, and stop forcing them on people.

I hope that all made sense.  Now to do what I actually need to do today.  This isn’t a sermon, I don’t think.

Peace,
– Robby

P.S.: If you like this and want to comment, do so below.  I love Facebook likes and comments, but they don’t really help in terms of a blog.  So if you want to comment on Facebook, duplicate it here, pretty please.  And if you like, share all over the place.  I can only share so many ways before I’m a bother or look like spam.

Pretty Sure Love Won

I finally read Love Wins.  If you are wondering why it took me…almost 3 years to read it, it’s because I’m not a Rob Bell fan.  I don’t want to get this twisted – I didn’t/don’t have a problem with Rob Bell, I’m just not a fan.  He always struck me as someone who said irrelevant provocative things to stir emotions to make the relevant message more emotionally charged.

But that goes to fandom and enjoyment of his work, not a commentary on what he says.  And I don’t always agree with what he says.  I’m by no means a hard-lined conservative or literalist, but I feel like his relationship with scripture as a written instruction in faith is…looser? weaker? more fluid? insert your own word?…than mine.  But he also probably knows scripture as an academic study more than I do, so I just say I disagree.

I digress.  Why I wrote this post is because a couple of…weeks? months?…ago I read a post about how the evangelical churches have done their best to crucify (we should really use a different word, people!) him for Love Wins and how he just doesn’t appear to care.  He’s just doing his thing, sharing the love of God and preaching the scriptures.

I’m quite positive he does care – more people aren’t so self-confident and self-sure to just not care that the opposition has tried to do to your public perception and humble at the same time – but he didn’t let him stop doing what he believes God has called him to do.

But this post isn’t even about that.  All it’s about is the book, or rather the response to the book.  I read the article, I got on the Amazon, I found a used copy that was Prime eligible, and I read it.

I don’t understand why anyone freaked out about it.  Yes, it is a little bit more liberal than my interpretation, I could have done without the artsy styling, I think he could have been a bit deeper, but he uses scripture, and nothing he says is actually that radical.

His whole premise – as far as I can discern – is to interpret these things through the lens of a loving God.  I’m not going to go into it into depth here – maybe another time after another reading – but the things I remember thinking were missing were punishment as love (and maybe I missed it; I found myself skimming a bit more than I wanted to) and the good desire for piety and seeking righteousness in our lives, even if we can’t attain it.

But he asks some really good questions about the nature of judgement and confession and eternal damnation.  And he asked them through the lens of evaluating a God that is loving first and foremost.  Can a loving God condemn someone who committed a sin and then was plowed into by a train?  Can a loving God condemn someone who was only taught selfish desires and never had a chance to learn a more loving way?  Can a loving God condemn us if we don’t understand sin?  Will a loving God condemn us if we commit this sin but not if we commit that sin?

The specifics of the book I found myself disagreeing with occasionally – though asking me for those specifics is a futile task because I read it during Holy Week and funeral planning – but the whole theme is one that I’ve been pushing in this blog, in my preaching, in my ministry, and in my life.

We have a loving God, people.  There are groups that preach that message, but in the same breath preach a message where God seems to enjoy sending those dirty sinners to Hell.  There is a theme of making sure people know that they are sinners but excluding the ultimate relief in Jesus Christ.  Some of the Church and Body of Christ finds itself to be a Good Friday church instead of being an Easter/Pentecost church.  So much focus on the sins and how screwed up we are – and we really are, trust me – without much focus on despite that, we are saved and loved.

As I read the book, I could understand why you could possibly not like it – I tried to like it, and I loved the premise, but I found myself underwhelmed – and I could see you disagreeing with it – like I said, I didn’t agree with every conclusion he made – but try as I might, I don’t understand why people started railing against Rob Bell after this book.  I don’t get it.

The only answer I can come up with is that there are people who want God to punish those dirty sinners, and this book strikes at the very soul of that theology.  It strikes me as awfully arrogant to be for a judgmental God, like somehow you, and those who think, act, and look like you, have an exclusive corner on the gift of Christ.  That is the only reason you would label Rob Bell a heretic after reading Love Wins.

I don’t get it.  I read the book thinking I would disagree with his premise and his thought process.  I avoided reading it because I didn’t care about another liberal book diminishing sin.  And I was wrong on both accounts.  I did find it anemic and a bit too trendy, but I, for the life of me, can’t imagine why anyone would freak out over this book.

Unless you want a God that judges the sins of others.*

The premise of this post is simply that.  The crucifixion of Rob Bell seems to be worded correctly if you truly believe he is a heretic over this book.  The only reason you would have that big of a problem with him is if you want God to judge someone else.  To use the same story that Bell uses in the book, you have to believe that the older brother was right in The Prodigal Son to really want to bash him for this book.

The book shouldn’t even be controversial.  Heck, I’m of the opinion it shouldn’t have even raised eyebrows; it wasn’t really that groundbreaking or crazy.  Had he written a theological book (this wasn’t) and ignored scripture (he didn’t) and said Hell didn’t exist and sin didn’t exist (he didn’t, again), then maybe.  But this wasn’t it.

Three days after Easter I am writing this.  Yesterday I performed a funeral for a woman whom I only met two days before Alzheimer’s took her life.  Both times I preached of salvation and heaven and Christ’s resurrection.

I’m pretty sure love won.  That’s what Rob Bell wrote about, and I agree with that.

So I can’t have a post about Rob Bell without mentioning the last bit of controversy.  You know, how he supposedly trashed the Bible?

Didn’t happen.  Again, I think if we want to have an adult debate and conversation about the theological statements that he makes, it’s perfectly fine to disagree with him.  But he isn’t watering down scripture as much as you want to believe he is because he interprets differently.  I looked up the exact quote people are freaking out about and here it is

“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life,

Is he implying that the here and now trumps scripture?  No.  Read it again and you see that he says letters.  Which means he said the epistles, but he always uses the vernacular of the people who are seeking, not the clergy and the choir.

Tear that down a bit.  The Gospels, which is the lens we read all of scripture through, remain in tact.  The Old Testament, as much as can stay in tact because after Jesus, stays in tact.  He says that the epistles, which were letters written by men to churches 2000 years ago, are not a solid defense for not allowing people who love one another to be with one another.

I want you to think about this for a second.  Any exegetical study is lacking if it does not include the context of which the letter was written.  When he says letters written 2000 years ago, he is saying that they were written in a different world.  God is timeless and the message of Christ is timeless; the message of men is not.

(Side-note, I’m not using sexist language.  I’m being quite literal; we are using the letters of men 2000 years ago – not all people but men in leadership.  I don’t think that distracts from their efficacy or their eligibility for presence in canon but it contributes to their context for interpretation.)

We have to consider what kinds of actions Paul – because let’s be honest, that’s who we’re talking about – is actually addressing, if they are relevant to the current conversation, or if it is a different matter of practice.  Not going to get into the discussion here, but let’s just be honest about what Rob Bell said.

He said that we can’t use letters written 2000 years ago as our justification for doing painful, hurtful, or judgmental things.  We can’t.

He isn’t wrong on the major point no matter how much you want him to be.  He doesn’t trash scripture, he doesn’t even imply that scripture is bad.  He just said that we can’t use the words in the epistles, written in a different world, as justification for actions that they don’t prescribe as response to actions they don’t address.

But you have to be fair, treat everyone as they are doing the best they can, that you aren’t somehow holier than they are, and you can’t label people heretics who read scripture faithfully different than you do.  That isn’t debate; that is arrogance.  It’s the same response Mark Achtemeier received after he defended Scott Anderson, and I know that Mark is faithful to scripture and a faithful theologian.  He didn’t trash scripture or even diminish it in the slightest.

The whole point, I believe, of this point is to get to an idea that those who violently disagreed with Love Wins want a God that saves them and judges people who disgust them.  The problem is that we shouldn’t be disgusted with others** but with ourselves.  If God is punishing all the dirty sinners, we are screwed, and screwed royally.***  So if we are championing that God, we are championing being sent to Hell ourselves.

Not the God I worship, and if that is the real God, I guess I don’t worship that God.

Now time to wrestle up some grub and then maybe write the food piece.

Peace,

– Robby


* The only major criticism of the theology of the book I can get behind is the lack of piety in it.  I don’t know if piety needed to even be addressed – and frankly, the lack didn’t bother me that much – but it isn’t there, and a conversation about Heaven and Hell without Christian living and piety seems to be lacking.  Again, though, that is my opinion and not something to start calling people not pastors over.

** There are certain actions that repulse us from a biological or cultural standpoint; I’m talking about Christian disgust, not physical or psychological disgust.  Those are different things, which I wonder if that gets at the heart of the issue more than everything else I wrote.

*** Super-Reform here.  I know our Methodist brothers and sisters might disagree, but that’s a MUCH DIFFERENT CONVERSATION.  MUCH DIFFERENT!

I Just Don’t Have Words

I am not quite sure how to address this.  Last week I wrote the piece that I wrote.  You know where I am on how people are responding.  But my comments where much more about the philosophical and political response, the words and practices of what is being done about church associations and a unified body of Christ.

So I want to make sure that I am absolutely clear.  The people that I responded to last week are not who I’m responding to today.

I woke up this morning to see that 4 churches were threatened with violence because of the decision that was made.  Literally, somebody threatened to burn the churches down in this area, not because the pastors were doing anything (or that they even can because it isn’t legal in Missouri) but because of the decision of the national church.  I have words, but they ring hollow.  I can write how this is antithetical to scripture, how it is antithetical to Jesus, how it makes no sense, but that is my desire to make sense of a senseless threat.All I can do is pray for peace in the hearts of those who send threats like this, safety for those who are threatened, and a sense of love and unity that transcends our Earthly desires.  I can’t make sense of it, as I shouldn’t.  I just pray for peace and love.

– Robby