Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Secret Vice

     Surreptitious, embarrassing, scandalous – all words that could describe the secret vice I engage in at least once a week, sometimes two or three times a week when I am stressed. Thank God, I don’t think any of my parishioners suspect.

     Yes, you guessed it: I like to look at LOL Cats on the Internet. I feel so much better just having said that out loud. There is so much stigma attached to this, that it has taken me years to be able to come out of the closet (or in that too cute broken English called LOL Cat Speak: “Come out ov teh closets”). I love cats and have two of my own – Garfield and Casey – who rule my household with firm yet gentle paws. It was an accident years ago that I stumbled upon the premier LOL Cat website I CAN HAS CHEESEBURGER. In no time, I was hooked.

     Today, I came across another website that will translate regular English into LOL Cat English. Perhaps Episcopalians’ dour reputation would be lightened up a bit if we translated some of our scriptures into LOL Cat English? Here are some well-known passages:
Furst dis: Gawd creatd teh heavens an earth - all u c, all u doan c.
Gawd, mah sheferd! I doan ned ting. He makez me lie down in de green grass; he leadz me beside still waters;u has beddd me down in lush meadows, u find me quiet pools 2 drink frum.
Noah an all his whole pplz boardd teh ship 2 escape teh floods. Clean an unclean animals (liek dawgs), birdz (yay!), an all teh crawlin creaturez came in pairs 2 Noah an 2 teh ship, jus as gawd had commandd Noah.
     Add a few pictures of cute cats, and we’ve got Gospel!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

NOM Pastor Speaks Against Gay Marriage… um… I think.

     While I understand fear of change – everyone feels that sometime or another – I’ve never quite understood the overwhelming fear that somehow traditional marriage is threatened by recognizing there are others who wish to take their relationships seriously, make lifetime commitments, and celebrate with their loved ones and faith communities. Even harder to understand, is the denial of basic rights like hospital visitation, equal opportunity in employment, inheritance, and protection against discrimination also opposed by the National Organization for Marriage (by that, they mean straight marriage only.)

     NOM is currently touring the United States trying to spread their message of hatred and bigotry conservative religious values. At a recent rally, one anti-gay preacher got pretty worked up and began speaking in tongues. Really, his ranting would be enough to frighten decent gay people anywhere. I think he probably wanted to say that gays should not be allowed to get married and we are all going to H-E-double-hockey-sticks, but if this is really the Spirit at work, he may very well be saying something like, “This NOM tour is complete rubbish! Love is the only law that Christ would give!”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Abstract Poor and Their Abstract Children

     “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” – Matthew 26:11

     Every week, Trinity Episcopal Church hands out between 300 and 450 sack lunches to the hungry and homeless in downtown Reno. We supplement that with fresh oranges congregants donate and day-old baked goods our local Starbucks gives us. In rotation with other downtown churches we host one or more homeless families every couple months.

     In Sparks, our neighboring city, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church feeds about a thousand families a month out of their food pantry.

     I am haunted by the faces that line up sometimes hours before our doors open. Jesus said we would always have the poor with us, but I’m not sure that is because we can’t eradicate poverty given the wealth of our nation, or if Jesus foresaw flawed humanity and imperfect human governments would never care enough to do so.

     I suspect the loudest voices in the political world who defend the wealthy and privileged of our country and reluctantly open their clenched fists to hand the poor even the smallest aid, have never really seen their faces. The poor are an abstract. You can’t feel compassion for an abstract. If an abstract is hungry, it’s hard to care about them or their abstract children. I invite them to spend time handing out lunches with us in Reno. Go to Sparks and pack the cardboard boxes and bags for the families, but be sure to hand them to the poor yourself. Volunteer at a local shelter or serve food at the downtown mission. See the faces. Look in their eyes. They will never be an abstract again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Parishioner Carjacked and Beaten on Way to Church

     It has not yet made the national news, but we had a parishioner from our church carjacked coming down the Mt. Rose highway on her way to church last Sunday and brutally beaten. She was left unconscious and bleeding. We found out about it first because one of our priests drove past and saw the scene, and reported it when he arrived for the 7:45 AM service. A bit later, one of our vestry members was driving down the same road and saw it too. Luckily, after she had passed by, a member of the Hell's Angels motorcycle club was passing and saw her beaten and bleeding. He stopped and made a tourniquet from the greasy bandana he was wearing. Doctors later said that probably saved her life, stopping the blood loss. He got to St. Mary’s hospital in Reno and shockingly even paid two months of the bills in advance. The Hell’s Angels are holding a chopper rally next Friday in downtown Reno to raise funds to pay the rest of her hospital bills.

     OK, by now you've realized it's just a story, but maybe you feel a bit of the shock Jesus' audience felt when he talked about the good Samaritan (Although I’ve always wondered if the title of the story wouldn’t be better as “The Bad Priest”.)

     My adaptation is really not so far off. The highway down from Lake Tahoe to Reno is very similar to the one from Jerusalem down to Jericho. It is 36 miles from Incline Village at the Lake to Reno, and only 18 miles from Jerusalem down to Jericho, but it is about the same drop in elevation. So, we could easily say, it's half as far, but twice as steep. And as far as the Hell’s Angels goes… who would you least expect to come to your aid if you were the one lying in a ditch on the side of the road?

     We could be any of the people in this story. Every last one of us has been that person in the ditch. We are the victim on the road, robbed of our innocence. Some pass by us like the priest or the Levite. Even worse, some come along and give us one last kick to be sure we’re really bleeding by telling us things like, “You deserved it,” or, “It was your own stupid fault,” or, “You should help yourself,” or the worst lie of all, “You are not worthy of being loved or helped.”

     Sometimes, to my shame, I realize I have been the robber, beating and inflicting wounds on others… even those whom I love. Sometimes, at the best of times we are the Samaritan. We become the good Samaritan when we realize we don't come across those who are hurting and in need by chance. It is a divine appointment we are keeping.

     If we continue working on radical love – Jesus' kind, that saw no boundaries, no limits between people, then, there comes a time when we understand there are no Samaritans – or Jews, or priests, or conservatives, or liberals, or Whites, or Hispanics, or Blacks, or gays, or straights. There are only four kinds of people in the world:
  • Those who attack and rob others
  • Those who lie beaten and bleeding,
  • Those who pass by, and…
  • Those who hearts are touched with compassion.
     We are all bleeding to death, dying of the need of both treating and being treated the way people who are fully human – who see no boundaries to love – treat one another. Christianity is not so much about the individual "getting to heaven” – Jesus has promised we’re going to get there. In a very real sense, Christianity is mostly about how many of our fellow travelers we touch along the way.