“Heaven has extreme vetting”

I saw this church marquis sign today that said, “Heaven had extreme vetting.”

My first thought was, so does that mean no one gets in? Or maybe that if you’re white and male you get an automatic front-of-the-line pass and everyone else has to stand in line and recite Hail Marys and Our Fathers as long as their skin isn’t too dark or they call God, God and not Allah, or Universe, or Ground of Being?

Let’s just say, if heaven is a real place, somewhere else, far away, I would certainly hope that the god running the place wasn’t as absurd as we are sometimes when it comes to choosing people to build community with. Further, isn’t that kind of god awfully small, especially if one claims that that same God was the match that lit creation into being?

I prefer a different view, one that doesn’t separate me from this beautifully evolving and expanding created universe. I have come to enjoy life much more when I take time to consider the connections I have with my fellow humans as well as the environment that I depend on for life. It seems like an utter waste of time to segregate ourselves into us-and-them camp, pointing fingers and constantly blaming someone else for the shit in the world. 

As so many ancient mystics suggest, suffering is a part of this world. And no, we can’t escape it by way or heaven, nor can we build walls or institute bans to avoid suffering. That’s just part of the deal. And my view is that my task is to figure out real, measurable, tangible ways to LOVE people out of their suffering, which means I have to engage in it, not ignore it. That also means I must be okay with my own suffering, working through my own turmoil and baggage and being honest with myself about who I am, my limitations, gifts and desires. 

I cannot function out of fear. It causes me to point fingers, take sides and erect walls around my physical and emotional life. I have to actually do the hard work of Jesus and figure out what I means to LIVE a life of love, not just talk about it. 

So no, I don’t believe there is extreme vetting in heaven. Heaven is now, and as my (I wish he actually was) pal Rob Bell says, we can choose to build a heavenly realm here, as Jesus prayed, or we can choose to continue to live in our own prisons, hell, and insist that others be as miserable in this life as we are. I prefer the former, so that’s what I will do. 

Advertisements

What is happening?

Of course we all have political leanings and ideally, we celebrate the diversity of thought because it adds value to life for all of us. 

That being said, I have some thoughts. First, my heart is heavy. Over the past week or so, I feel like I’m kind of staggering around, a bit disoriented, having just been clubbed on the head by a dude telling me he did it to keep me safe. 

Here’s the thing. I’m a white male, the archetype of what supposedly “makes America great.” I really don’t have much to worry about (yet…depending on how much longer one is allowed to voice dissent without arrest, or worse), but that is not true for a vast number of people both in this country and those trying to get into this country. Of course many will and are arguing that this is not the soul of America, while others believe that banning certain people from this country will keep us safer. 

This leads to my next point. Many have said and even still maintain that this is a Christian country. Let me be clear, no it isn’t. There are things that we do, either in smaller communities or token charity from the federal government, of course, but there simply is little-to-no biblical precedence for the current set of policies, and specifically the current barrage of executive orders. 

Which leads me to my third point. Early on, being a follower of Jesus (as Christians claim they are) was never a safe, state sanctioned activity. As I understand him, Jesus was not interested in creating an alternative political party to topple the Roman rule. His interests were primarily focused on the people who were under the boot of the empire. In our current context: refugees and migrants, LGBTQIA folks, minority groups, black lives matter, women, federal and state prisoners (many of whom I fully understand have committed atrocious crimes), among many others. These are the people Jesus was interested in. 

If one were to say to Jesus today, we are doing this to keep America safe, I imagine he would say something like, “Safe? The very work I do is not safe. In fact, it’s probably going to land me in prison. Are you still willing to follow me, because if so, get ready. Shit’s about to hit the fan.”

We can talk all day long about being loving, Christian people, but if we’re not willing to take an honest, authentic look at that person and still follow, let’s do everyone a favor and drop the Christian badge. We’re entitled to believe whatever we would like to believe, but if the way we behave, interact and participate in the life of this world isn’t wrecklessly compassionate, dangerously loving and fully aware of “the least of these,” then our god is misguided and the Jesus we say we follow is quite obviously not the one the Bible paints a picture of. 

As the great line from a Gungor song goes, “If it’s us or them, it’s us for them.” The world I see painted through such beautiful stories in the Bible is not one of separation, but of connection. There is no us-and-them. There is only WE and we are all in this together. We all are part of this great story of love and it is up to is to realize that story and make it happen for ALL OF US. 

Be political. Stand up for human rights. Speak out against injustice. But don’t let that be all. Follow the divine into the real, actual lives of people who are in desperation, hoping someone will speak for them, stand up for and with them, and give them a taste of what compassion is in a real, tangible, touchable, smellable way. 

Parenting 101.1

It seems like there is an entire library of information about parenting that no one really knows about. Now don’t hear me wrong, I love being a dad and I wouldn’t change it for anything…but still, this gig is a surprise every day. 

Let me highlight a few parenting gaffs, childhood wonders and some just plain crazy moments in our home. 

I mentioned in the last parenting post about the rivaling chorus of Tron Legacy and Star Wars. Now, the latest sliver the boys keep pushing under our fingernails is singing a single line of the music playing under Sam Flynn’s first trip to the grid. (If you haven’t seen Tron Legacy, it’s a great movie with a fantastic score composed by Daft Punk.) not only have they been attached to this single line, they sing it over, and over, and over, and over… when we say, “please stop singing that,” or “okay, time to choose a different song,” they sing that much louder with a giant goofy grin smeared across their “innocent” little faces. 

Or here’s a good one. You know when you ask your kid to do something and not only do they not do what you’re asking, they in fact do the complete opposite. For instance, we have a no video policy during the week, especially in the morning when our oldest is getting ready for school. What does my wife find when she gets out of bed yesterday morning? Both boys glued to YouTube, our old hasn’t even gotten dressed, eaten breakfast or made his lunch… needless to say, he got a sermon, and not a snoozer like my old church. 

One of my favorites as well is when my wife and I are in the middle of a conversation trying to work out some important details and the youngest asks a question. Understandable, right? Until we say, “just a second buddy.” Then he proceeds to increase the intensity and frequency by which he is is asking the same question, blatantly ignoring any previous requests to wait. And the stuff that’s not written in any parenting book is how I’m supposed to respond when I’m basically arguing with a door. Usually ego wins out and one of us explodes and the moment between us is lost and we are supposed to try to carry on our conversation 4 hours later when the boys are in bed…yeah, nothing to it. 

Some of the good stuff though, that no one tells you about, is when they put on costumes and march around like house like they really are in a storm trooper battle or ninjas sneaking around the house shooting is with poisonous darts. Or when we have a fleet of paper airplanes that cover the floor. Indoor snowball fights, wrestling matches, crafts, food in every nook and cranny, boogers on every piece of furniture, clothing and bedding. 

Oh the stuff off parenthood that no one tells you. It’s the toughest job I’ve ever had. Hopefully they turn out okay because I feel like I’m wrecking them most of the time. But the responsibility and joy we share as we raise these two boys into loving, compassionate (we hope) individuals who will grow up to have a positive impact on the world, is something I will always cherish and take very seriously. 

These kids are awesome and all I’m really doing is hanging on for the ride, trying my best to learn the things they are teaching me rather than the other way around.