Prayer for the wounded (Poem)

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unsplash-logoToa Heftiba

The bruises now are healed
The scars covered by tattoos
I don’t jump when I hear the door
Nor am I a captive audience in the pews

You took away my innocence
The little boy who loves God and Santa
You beat me where no one could see me
When your anger turned into rage

I might as well have been born, abroad
Where bombs explode and bullets rain
Yet, I lived here in the land of freedom of conscience, of thought
while my screams ignited an inferno that
Burned my childhood to the ground

The things you did, you did them to me
The smell of smoke engulfed my lungs
As you bounced my head off of the flame red tile
Where no help could come to me

You were like the Roman soldier
The Pharisee and Pilot and the nails
I was the little boy, Jesus
now I am the woman at the well

Deliver me, Oh God, from what was done
Rewrite what happened in your name
Resurrect me once again, my Lord
Even though my mouth and my clothes and my faith smell of brimstone

I’ve been in the presence of evil, real evil
Yet I am alive, somehow….

 

The Peculiar Timing of the Nashville Statement by The Southern Baptist Convention

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Pana Vasquez

I’ve been watching the news of the absolute devastation that has taken place in our country over the last week or so.

Houston, Texas, along with many other smaller communities along the Texas gulf coast was slammed hard by a massive Hurricane.

Yet in the midst of the wind and the rain, the destruction of homes by wind gusts topping 140 miles per hour, the wiping away of family homes and business, the upending of lives in an area so large it would cover Michigan from end to end, in the midst of turmoil and death, evangelical leaders decided at that particular moment to hold Houston’s head underneath the water.

150 ministers from the S.B.C gathered in Nashville to build and ratify a manifesto that takes aim homosexuality and trans-gendered folks. The language is divisive, it’s old age fundamentalist rhetoric, with debatable versus thrown in for good measure.

To a lot of people, including the Mayor of Nashville, found not only the statement appalling and not reflective of Nashville’s values, but people really questioned the timing giving what has transpired over the course of this past week as well as the ruining of many people’s lives, lively-hood, childhood homes, as well as the death of people caught in this terrible tropical storm.

I, however, am not looking at that.

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed to push back against the wave of northern Baptists’ vocal dislike over the institution of slavery years and years ago. It was created in Virginia on May 10, 1845, oddly enough, the very same state where the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights once prophesied that, “A national sin will cause a nation calamity.”

The sin: Slavery

The calamity: The Civil War

Do you ever sit back and wonder why the Civil War was so bad. Why so many people died? Why Jim Crow was so bad? Why the KKK was so powerful during the lynching years of the 1920s? You ever wonder why race is still, 17 years into the 21st century still such a hot topic of debate?

Look  no further that the Southern Baptist Convention. In short: These people used the Bible, the Holy Word of God, not to cover up the sin of owning, beating, selling, mutilating, raping, and murdering human beings, but to justify it. The ministers preached it out of the pulpits using some pretty impressive mental gymnastics and the ‘Sin of Ham’.

Heck it was southern ministers like Oral Roberts and Bob Jones Sr along with Jerry Falwell who, being furious over Brown v Board of Education, sued the government to be allowed to open whites only Christian schools using their 501c3.

They lost 8 -1

However, just a day or so ago, The S.B.C reached back into it’s utterly ungodly past and just like their predecessors raised the devil of bigotry and divisiveness once more.

This time, however, their beef wasn’t with the Northern Baptists and their sudden revulsion of the inhumane treatment of slaves that threated rich landowners. No. It was directed, purposefully, at a southern city in one of the proudest states this union has ever known. Houston.

Houston, Texas is the 3rd largest city in the United States. I believe it boasts the 13th largest G.D.P in the entire country. With a population of about 6 million people inside Houston proper and it’s outlying areas, the great city of Houston is a proud, beautiful, and diverse part of the gorgeous lady that calls her name Texas. A name derived from a Native American name Tejas meaning ‘Friend’ or ‘Ally’.

I hypothesis, leaning hard on ‘knowing’ because I was once a nut job fundi, that this storm provided a perfect time to condemn Houston for recently having an out, married, lesbian mayor Annise Parker who served her city for six years.

While the debate of Climate Change rages through the country, and through the world, these S.B.C ministers in their desire to cling to power, didn’t just pass condemnation of gay people and people who were trans-gendered. They decided to release this statement as a counter argument that God brought destruction to the Gulf Coast for Houston’s political decision in electing Mrs. Parker.

Alas, in the past 72 hours, when pastors like Joel Olsteen of Houston couldn’t be bothered to open the doors of his massive mega church to those in need, Texans did as Texans often do in these situations. They didn’t wait for help to arrive, they didn’t sit idly by while neighbors suffered, they didn’t blame people for their suffering, they didn’t do things for political reasons, although the Southern Baptist Convention surely did.

They became like Christ.

Even in their limited capacity as human beings to be perfect, political ideology died, racism died, divisions about sexual orientation died, gender, culture, heritage, all the things that serve to divide mankind into camps of ‘Us’ vs ‘ Them’ things that were nailed to the cross of human suffering  2,000 years ago and in this great hour of need mercy, charity, forbearance, benevolence, and the complex and fickle and hard to kill human spirit stepped in.

In the days and weeks ahead, there is going to be a lot of discussion over what happened in Houston. There is going to be a lot of money required to put these people’s lives back together. There will be homes needing to be rebuilt. There will be schools needing to be cleaned out and repaired. There will be churches that will need the same. And, as tragic as it is, there will be people needing to  be laid to rest and families will gather to mourn.

In the divisiveness of this past year, in the chaos of the world, Houston Texas and it’s outlying areas came together to show people in this country who we really are. We are America. We will survive. We will not only survive but we will thrive. And we will thrive because American’s of all walks of life, all religious backgrounds, all faith backgrounds, all cultural, ethnic, and orientations – have a promise woven into their hearts. A promise hard fought and although sometimes having lost it’s way, the ties that bind are as strong now as they ever were.

That promise is:

We hold these truths to be self evident. That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And an even older promise than that,

For God so loved the World that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever beleiveth in him shall not perish but have ever lasting life. John 3:16

For God so loved the World, SBC

Not some of it. Not some of them. Not just white ones. Not just republican ones. Not just Straight ones. Not just Male and Female ones. Not Southern Baptists, alone. All of it.

You were wrong then, you’re wrong, now.  The statement made by S.B.C and it’s signatories ought to be seen for what it was, shameful, a low blow, and a sin.

She deserved better than that. We deserve better than that. God deserves better than that.

I hope Houston, once she get’s her cowboy hat on again,  responds accordingly.

Sources:

http://www.baptisthistory.org/baptistorigins/southernbaptistbeginnings.html

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133

Unbeliever (poem)

 

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I am an unbeliever
some would say an atheist
but not toward this thing we call God
no, it’s more complicated than that

I look upon creation
and like Franklin see a Creator
but when my gaze falls from the stars
I see the steeples and domes of worship

It’s in that transition
from the Empyrean to Terra Firma
where my eyes shift from wide wonder
and furrows into suspicion

I can gaze into heaven
and believe. For despite the scapegoat of
‘mysterious ways’ and how the devil
‘walks about like a lion’ neither seems true

All I have ever witnessed with my eyes
or read in tomes of our history for good or for ill
has been wholly and inexcusably human
event after event in the affairs of man on earth

Yet I am not unconscious
of the hypocrisy of my myopic view
for I have never trod the path of angels
am the weakened flesh personified over and over

However, I do believe that sin
is rooted far more inside of intention
of evil than stumbling into it upon accident
when good intentions have paved our paths to Hell

It would take a God
to see what I see and yet still
love a church, synagogue, and mosque
and not become an atheist in his regard of man

…because my lover’s lying there (poem)

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I believe in God when I see the sun crests over the horizon,
when the rain taps upon my window pane and the scent of sweet olive wafts sweet perfumes from it’s chalice
the sweet intoxication of it’s scent lingers invisibly upon the humid June morning air.
 
But it’s at night, and for far more mundane things have been done
when the carpet’s been vacuumed, and dinner put away
after the dog’s been walked, a show on Netflix watched and lovin’ had
I believe in God, not for some miraculous start of a day, because I see my lover lying there

Message in a Bottle (Part 12)

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You can’t control and make people afraid with a loving God. A loving God takes away the entire platform of Independent Fundamental Baptist movement and a lot of other denominations of Christianity.

Think about it this way, when we see art like a painting or hear a symphony or watch an incredible movie – we think to ourselves – wow, the guy/gal that did this was talented. We see not only the art but in observing the art, we catch a glimpse of the artist as well.

So, the irony here is that these people ‘fear’ God so much they’re not only willing to talk shit about The Creation but The Creator as well.

I mean think about that.

Yesterday while I was leaving the grocery store, I put my cart away in the coral and looked down and at my feet was a discarded Chic Tract. I picked it up and idly went through it. And of course, like all those Tracts, the fear of punishment rang through the pages. Fear of a God, Fear of The Devil, Fear of Hell.

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So, in short, people are ‘getting saved’ at gunpoint. It’s fear that brings them to God. And the producers of this track, since they brought you to God, know exactly how it is you have to live to please God and the cycle begins. And theirs is the truthiest truth that ever did truth and everyone else is doomed to hell.

Their God is not a god of love, but a god of retribution and anger, vengeful wrath waiting to be tossed out upon unrepentant sinners. That’s not only religious ideology, it’s also political. There is an agenda there. People join IFB, and similar denominations,  out of total fear for their immortal soul, give their life to God, and become miserable while being promised a heaven made of gold. But there is a far more insidious thing going on in the movement as well.

I’ve heard hell fire and damnation sermons most of my young life ala Jonathan Edward’s Sinners in the hands of an Angry God. And what sounded to me like certainty back then, wasn’t certainty at all. But the constant regurgitation of fear to keep people in line. But that fear, I discovered later, not only kept people subservient to the will of one man, it also cut them off from seeing and being a part of the creation that God made. That creation -people and their music, and poetry, paintings and symphonies, other ethnicities and yes, even the hated Rock and Roll and dancing. Expressions of Humanity that profess its will to not only survive but thrive all the while experiencing everything God created along the way.

When I was a kid, my sisters and I would turn on B.E.T or MTV and watch Soul Train and listen to music and I remember being in awe of these professions of love from the Power Ballad singers. And I remember the dancing on Soul Train that looked so happy and fun and imitating them. And listening to Roberta Flack, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, The Nelsons, and marveling at the creativity of it all. Even though we knew if we got caught there was hell to pay. And trust me, there often was.

And we were often drawn to it anyway. Not because of it being sin. But because it was true. The songs they sang were truth. And truth is a dangerous thing in world of half truthes and manipulation.

And these pastors cut people off from that. because there is one thing that man desires above all else.

Power.

And kings can’t be kings without coercive powers. And subjects won’t be subjects if The Gospel of Life sings to them louder than  the Gospel of fear, hate, and retribution. Why do you think Slavery was even rationalized? Why did Jim Crow stick around for so long? The Rise of the ‘moral’ majority? Breaking the will of a child?

Because the subjects found their way into a voting booth and they took their gospel of fear, hate, and retribution along for the ride.

We’re often taught that the Pilgrims came to America to seek religious freedom. What we’re not told is that these Pilgrims who were mostly puritan tried to subvert The King’s authority in England and got run out. They wanted to be King. They didn’t object to the power the king had, they object to HIM having that power.

So the next time someone wants to talk about ISIS or Islam or The Taliban, hand them a Chic Tract and talk to them about our own brand of whackadoodledoo’s that are just as capable of insidious things from having been cut off from their own humanity for so long and indoctrinated to hate the world and the people in it for so long, that they’d become violent as well to keep people in line.

The Bible does say man is flawed and falls short of his glory.

But let me make it very clear to you,  that just means you aren’t perfect.

It doesn’t mean that your rotten and horrible. God loves you. He loves you. And he doesn’t make mistakes. And just because you may have done something wrong in life, like everyone else, doesn’t make you bad. You are not inherently evil. Mankind is Good. He doesn’t make junk. You’re his art. He’s the artist.

((Atheists be like: I don’t believe any of that anyway. I agree with you on more points than I disagree with you on, believe me))

God is not going to send Christ to die for something he despises.

Didn’t happen.

Anything that says otherwise is nothing more than a con job. And those pastors who perpetuated this better pray that God is loving and all merciful, because ….damn.

Fear is big business. And business lately, has been real good.