Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Who Does God Hate?

I was thinking about the quote from Anne LaMott I posted the other day on my Facebook page. I noticed folks copied and pasted it all over the place.
Here was the quote:

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” -Anne LaMott

It really started some good conversation and such. I then happened upon something dealing with that atrocious group, Westboro Baptist Church and their GodHatesFags website. I see now they’ve branched out into selling t-shirts and other things online. In fact I saw something that just broke my heart. They’re selling t-shirts that are children’s size that say “God Hates Fags.” How would you like to see a child wearing such a thing?

Their hate speech isn’t limited to “fags” but all kinds of folks whom they see as different and falling outside of not only Christianity but also God’s love. I have seen this hate group grow over the years due to power of fear, ignorance, and hate and or people’s apathy. I don’t know how many hate filled websites they have but others include GodHatesIreland, GodHatesAmerica, and the list goes on. I’ve seen them speak out about Jewish folks, political leaders (usually democrats), being publicly thankful for dead soldiers, thinking 9/11 was a blessing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Surely this is just a fringe group you say. Well, no, it’s a pretty large well coordinated group with deep pockets. Unbelievable. But it all stems from the preaching of hate. Remaking God in their own image and transposing that image on the world around them.

God hates this, God hates that. This person or that group of people are an abomination to the Lord. God can’t love you because he loves me and besides, you’re a sinner because I say so.” Blah-da-blah-da-blah. And through the machinations of preachers and churches who preach things like this, the Christian church slips further into irrelevancy and idiocy and the Gospel Message of love and inclusion meant to heal this broken world is lost.

That’s the slippery slope when we preach hate and intolerance of a person or a group of people and sadly our churches are full of that kind of anti-Christ type of message.

We’re tempted to look at Westboro Baptist Church as a vocal extreme and certainly not like the average Christian church in this country but I would say that any church or preacher that preaches hate is just as culpable of distorting the Gospel Message and harming the universal church even if it is a single topic of hate they’re preaching on. Lest someone think I’m picking on the conservatives here, I am not, would be liberals do the same sort of thing when they seek to exclude folks who don’t believe exactly like they do from God’s love, care, and fellowship.

Another quote I posted on my Facebook the other day:

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel

As Christians I think it’s our duty to stand up against such hate speech, bigotry, fear mongering, and evil. As followers of the Prince of Peace it’s our duty to stand with the meek, help the suffering, come to the rescue of the thrown-aways, and love those who have been labeled by others as unlovable. To do any less is to spit in the face of Christ.

A dear friend of mine, Fr. Sean Lotz of the Celtic Catholic Church penned an excellent paper in response to the Westboro Baptist Church’s stance of GodHatesFags. Fr. Sean asks the question: Is It True That God Hates Fags?

Fr. Sean Lotz in his article while discussing the protesters signs of “God Hates Fags’ and “Matt Was a Sinner” (referring to Matthew Shepherd, a gay young man who was viciously beaten to death and whose funeral was picketed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church) says:

“Fortunately in the midst of this wrongness and cruelty was one small glimmer of humor. One of the protesters carried a placard that proclaimed, “Matt was a sinner.” It may as well have said, “It’s cold out here in the snow.” We already knew that. Of course, his sinfulness resulted not from his being a homosexual but from his being a fallen human like all the rest of us.

Except for that last self-evident statement, none of their theology is right, none of it is the Gospel. None of their behavior can be called the will of God. But it seems to me that the most evil sign of all was the one that read “God hates fags.” This is the theology of hell, and the author of this sentiment, a prophet of Satan himself.

To understand that such a sentiment could not possibly have come from God, consider Matthew 5:22.

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult [say raka/ (rah-kah) to] a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool [mwre/ (moh-re)],” you will be liable to the hell of fire. (New Revised Standard Version)

Now the Aramaic word which is transliterated into the Greek as raka/, and generally translated into English as “fool,” carries with it a whole equipage of Aramaic connotation and Jewish thought. To the Jews, the concept of “fool” did not mean someone of limited intelligence, but rather a person of deficient morals.  
And the word raka/ was, please notice, a word of derision, an insult, not a technical term. The same with mwre/. Although a Greek word, it had been used by the Jews of Jesus’ time to indicate a fool, but with added overtones of “traitor,” especially a traitor to the generally accepted moral code. And it too was a term of contempt and derision.

It is impossible not to see the similarity to the English word “fag.” And it is impossible to believe that the same God who, through his Son who died on the Cross for us, taught that those who dismiss God’s creatures with stereotyping words of contempt shall be liable to judgment, would approve of his sacred Name being used in the same sentence with such an ugly word of derision as “fag.” This sign was not just rude, not just wrong, but a direct violation of a clear principle taught by our Lord.

But there is more. What reveals this statement as not just non-Christian, but actually anti-Christ, is the word “hates.” Saying that God “hates” any of his humans is to deny the very activity of Christ and the basic nature of God. It is blasphemy of the highest order.

Certain Christians are fond of finding isolated verses of Scripture that they use to prove almost anything. Doing this, it is quite easy to show that God hates individuals or groups of persons. But Scripture must not ever be read this way. Nothing in it makes sense unless considered in the total context from Genesis to Revelation. ”

I recommend you read Fr. Sean’s entire article. You can catch up with him at the Celtic Catholic Church. It’s certainly well thought out, well written, and if you’ll pardon me, the Gospel Truth.

No, hate, vindictiveness, fear mongering, bigotry, self-righteousness, spiritual terrorism, and evil have no place in the Christian Church nor should such things come from “ministers” of the Christian faith. Such things are anti-Christ.

I am glad that our communion, Christ Catholic Church, and specifically our little ministry here in the Ozarks is a little different than the norm out there. I’m thankful that our little group of believers in Archdiocese of the Prince of Peace is committed to a message of Love and inclusivity regardless and we hold firm on that message of welcoming love. On our website you can read:

“We Are Inclusive: Believing as Saint Isaac of Syria, “Do not try to discriminate the worthy from the unworthy, but let all people be equal in your eyes for a good deed,” we do not discriminate and hold no regard for a person’s race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, preference, nationality, socioeconomic class, nor a person’s state of grace. We are fully committed to inclusivity and our support for the LGBTQIAPP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous) and anyone who would seek to find a spiritual home within Christ Catholic Church is unwavering and unapologetic.”

If you feel like discovering a kinder and gentler way to express an authentic Christian faith of hope, love, inclusion, and reconciliation won’t you give us a a try? Visit Christ Catholic Church We welcome not just some of you, but ALL OF YOU!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Betrayal: That Cold-Hearted Kiss

I had written this several years ago after Holy Week and Easter. And I thought it appropriate to post it here at this time. I hope you find it as illuminating reading it as I did writing it. Blessings upon your head, your heart, your home, and your own loved ones!

“Jesus was still speaking, when Judas the betrayer came up. He was one of the twelve disciples, and a large mob armed with swords and clubs was with him. They had been sent by the chief priests and the nation’s leaders. Judas had told them ahead of time, “Arrest the man I greet with a kiss.” Judas walked right up to Jesus and said, “Hello, teacher.” Then Judas kissed him.” -Matthew 26:47-49

Betrayal, ah that cold-hearted kiss.

This time of the year, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, always makes us take a look at our lives or at least it does with me. I usually get somewhat introspective and hopefully a little intuitive during Lent often bringing home the message during Holy Week and Easter.

I often ask myself, “what has God been trying to teach me or show me this last year?” Sometimes I can recognize his hand at work in my life and get it but as likely sometimes I simply get in the way of myself and of God and I miss the point all together. The good news is that God is patient, the bad news is that God is patient and, as it were, when I don’t get it, I get to experience the lesson all over again, sometimes from the very start.

Such has been the case with betrayal, one of the more darker lessons we’ll learn in our life. As I read the Passion narrative the other day on Palm Sunday I was slapped in the face with the betrayal Jesus experienced at the hand of one whom he loved dearly, no, at the hands of many he loved dearly. You see, while Judas was the one we think of most, there were more. The Passion Narrative is rift with betrayal, complete in heart break, and seemingly adrift in hopelessness, that is at least until the bitter-sweet end.

As I read aloud the story, the deeper I went into it the harder is was to continue. When the priest had asked me to please read it for the service I thought to myself, oh dear Father, you have no idea what you’re asking nor how hard I’ll sob before the task is finished. But he asked and dutifully I read…and sniffled…and wept…and snorted…and sobbed.

There are so many issues one could deal with in this passage, so much truth, beauty, and love which is echoed by pain, sadness, deceit, and betrayal but it’s betrayal, that bitter, bitter cup of tea that we all must sip from, that God has been working with me on. And so it was the utter betrayal of our Lord Jesus that struck me that morning. How his dearest and closest friends betrayed him and how we are still betraying him today with our actions or in-actions.

The thought that Jesus WILLINGLY allowed himself to be in that position, WILLINGLY loved enough to be betrayed, and was WILLINGLY faithful to his betrayers to the bitter end and beyond is what blows my mind. I’m sure there are better theological ways of explaining it but mind blowing is a phrase that fits what I felt, what I feel. What is even more mind blowing is what Jesus did after the whole crucifixion! What is even more mind blowing is how much Jesus still loved his betrayers and how much he still loves us in spite of our own betrayal of him and one another! Wow!

Here’s the question though… Here’s the hard part… He calls us to follow his example! He calls us to love enough to be betrayed and then he asks us, no he really commands us to LOVE AGAIN ANYWAY. How on earth?! Well exactly, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”

This is the lesson God has been working with me on over the last several years. Betrayal after betrayal and still I must love, and still I must forgive (and be forgiven I might add) and still I must risk it all again for Love’s sake, for Christ’s sake!

Overwhelmed by love once I sent an email to my mentor, the priest who first offered me Holy Communion and really taught me what it meant to be a Christian. I had been so moved by the love in my life at that time that I confessed to him in an email that I found myself waiting for “the other shoe to drop.” He told me then that if I spent all my time waiting for that other shoe to fall I would miss out on the gift that had been given in the present, the PRESENT OF LOVE if you will, and he reminded me that love always requires that we take the chance of getting hurt!

I think of the love in my life, my family, my friends, my church and many other fleeting instances of love too numerous to mention and I have to count myself loved abundantly, generously and overwhelmingly. It is precisely in these loving relationships, person to person, that we can begin to experience, get into touch with, and make real God’s love for us. It is in being open to and loving one another that God’s love becomes real to our understanding and we can run into this broken world safe in the knowledge and experience of true love.

You see, the betrayed loved enough to be betrayed and so it is the betrayer who is the ultimate victim, it is the betrayer who ultimately loses out, it is the betrayer who has rejected love to his or her own detriment. The betrayer has ultimately betrayed him or herself. It is their heart which is broken and it is they who must live with the loneliness and humility of what they have done. It is they who deserve our pity and our prayers.

I feel sorry for Judas. The very short amount of life he had left was no doubt spent in misery, loneliness and regret. He betrayed Jesus for his own agenda, not understanding or wishing to force change upon the Messiah’s ministry. It is Judas who went into that “dark night of the soul” and who may have never emerged from that self-consigned hell.

We pray for the lonely during the canon of our liturgy and so too we pray for those who have betrayed us, just like Jesus prayed for us and prays for us even still. Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hoping For Resurrection

Hoping For Resurrection
By Brian Ernest Brown

on the back of an ass
riding into town
faint praise
turns to criticism
all too often

in a garden of woe
lies are the seeds
and betrayal
is the perennial bloom
thorns are treacherous

hanging betwixt
heaven and earth
suffering and forsaken
lost and alone
crying out

love and grace
the only gift to give
dying to self
and hoping
for a resurrection

Gift of Love

Gift of Love
By Brian Ernest Brown

it's all
i have to give
i made it for you and you alone
it was created from my image and experience of you
it's an original work of art crafted by me for you alone
i'm sorry it may not be what you want
i'm sorry it may not be what you need
it's all i have to give
accept it or not
it's yours

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Seal of Confession

Confession is such a spiritually important and often over looked and misunderstood sacrament of the Church. And while I’d agree that most of the traditional seven sacraments are misunderstood and often overlooked it has been my experience as a priest that the Sacrament of Confession tops such a list.

A friend and mentor of mine once said,”you can pay $100 for a visit to a psychologist or for a nickle in the collection plate you can get the counsel of a priest, confession, forgiveness and reconciliation. While my mentor was not trying impugn psychologists in any way nor was he trying to sell the sacrament of a nickle, he was in fact making a rather astute if not cute observation. That for the Cure of our Souls we need turn only to the the Sacraments of the Church and God’s infinite love and confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation are a constant requirement to live a balanced and grace-filled Christian life.

Enter the priest.

It is through the priest that the penitent comes seeking understanding, counsel, guidance, and ultimately forgiveness for the sin in his or her life. It is through the priest and the Sacrament of Confession that a penitent’s sins are absolved by God. This is one of the sacred acts that sets us apart from the Protestant church and this relationship between priest and penitent must be held to the highest standard and strictest confidence.

When a priest violates this sacrament, violates the Seal of Confession, he or she throws away his or her priesthood, by breaking sacred vows, and by breaking the intimate trust placed in him or her by the penitent. What would the world of the church be like if the Seal of Confession was simply a quaint custom and the confessor free to spread around shared confidences as he or she saw fit? Who would ever trust such an irresponsible and heartless “priest” with anything again? No one would of course and the Sacrament of Confession would be useless, and the offending cleric’s priesthood simply make-believe.

One of the older catechisms taught that the lowest level in hell was reserved for the priest who broke the Seal of Confession and I believe this to be so. though perhaps in a metaphorical sense. I hold the Seal of the Confession inviolable and I hold the priests under my episcopal protection subject to do the same as should all bishops and priests worth their salt.

Let’s see what the catholic encyclopedia has to say about the subject…

From New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

Seal of Confession

Regarding the sins revealed to him in sacramental confession, the priest is bound to inviolable secrecy. From this obligation he cannot be excused either to save his own life or good name, to save the life of another, to further the ends of human justice, or to avert any public calamity. No law can compel him to divulge the sins confessed to him, or any oath which he takes — e.g., as a witness in court. He cannot reveal them either directly — i.e., by repeating them in so many words — or indirectly — i.e., by any sign or action, or by giving information based on what he knows through confession. 
The only possible release from the obligation of secrecy is the permission to speak of the sins given freely and formally by the penitent himself. Without such permission, the violation of the seal of confession would not only be a grievous sin, but also a sacrilege. It would be contrary to the natural law because it would be an abuse of the penitent’s confidence and an injury, very serious perhaps, to his reputation. It would also violate the Divine law, which, while imposing the obligation to confess, likewise forbids the revelation of that which is confessed. That it would infringe ecclesiastical law is evident from the strict prohibition and the severe penalties enacted in this matter by the Church. 
“Let him beware of betraying the sinner by word or sign or in any other way whatsoever. . . we decree that he who dares to reveal a sin made known to him in the tribunal of penance shall not only be deposed from the priestly office, but shall moreover be subjected to close confinement in a monastery and the performance of perpetual penance” (Fourth Lateran Council, cap. xxi; Denzinger, “Enchir.”, 438). 
Furthermore, by a decree of the Holy Office (18 Nov., 1682), confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in confession that would displease the penitent, even though the non-use would occasion him greater displeasure.

These prohibitions, as well as the general obligation of secrecy, apply only to what the confessor learns through confession made as part of the sacrament. He is not bound by the seal as regards what may be told him by a person who, he is sure, has no intention of making a sacramental confession but merely speaks to him “in confidence”; prudence, however, may impose silence concerning what he learns in this way. Nor does the obligation of the seal prevent the confessor from speaking of things which he has learned outside confession, though the same things have also been told him in confession; here again, however, other reasons may oblige him to observe secrecy. 
The same obligation, with the limitations indicated, rests upon all those who in one way or another acquire a knowledge of what is said in confession, e.g., an interpreter who translates for the priest the words of the penitent, a person who either accidentally or intentionally overhears the confession, an ecclesiastical superior (e.g., a bishop) to whom the confessor applies for authorization to absolve the penitent from a reserved case. Even the penitent, according to some theologians, is bound to secrecy; but the more general opinion leaves him free; as he can authorize the confessor to speak of what he has confessed, he can also, of his own accord, speak to others. But he is obliged to take care that what he reveals shall cast no blame or suspicion on the confessor, since the latter cannot defend himself. 
In a word, it is more in keeping with the intention of the Church and with the reverence due to the sacrament that the penitent himself should refrain from speaking of his confession. Such, undoubtedly, was the motive that prompted St. Leo to condemn the practice of letting the penitent read in public a written statement of his sins (see above); and it needs scarcely be added that the Church, while recognizing the validity of public confession, by no means requires it; as the Council of Trent declares, it would be imprudent to prescribe such a confession by any human enactment.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Desires of the Heart

Desires of the Heart
By Brian Ernest Brown

What do I desire?

I desire freedom, the kind that encourages unconditional love and self-expression.  

I desire intimacy and by that I don't exclusively mean sex.  For me intimacy, begins with small shared experiences between people - a touch, a whisper, an embrace, a kiss, a caress, a breath, a knowing glance.  

I desire honesty, the kind of honesty that is respectful of everyone involved but which also allows for individual privacy and self-concern.  

I desire passion, not just between the sheets but for life itself.  Passion that fuels a zest for life and the diversity which it offers.  A passion that makes someone search for the end of the rainbow, knowing with an intense certainty that they'll find it.  

I desire exploration and adventure. Exploration not only of the world around us but also of the world within us. To discover who and what we are and to live that truth bravely and unapologetically. Adventuring and learning about different cultures and people as we go. Celebrating the beauty and diversity we find along the journey.

I desire intelligent conversation, the kind that keeps you up late at night because you just can't control the thoughts being stimulated in your head, where people experience an intellectual intimacy shared through thoughts and ideas.  

I desire grace, the grace and forgiveness to be fully human and fully alive and to share the same with another.  

I desire forgiveness and compassion because I'm only human too but not just for me but a forgiveness and compassion shared with others because only then can we experience it ourselves.  

I desire love, the kind of love that endures and is shared.

I desire whimsical spontaneity that encourages impish delight.  

I desire sex so hot that you drench the sheets and so tender you never want it to end.

Those are some of my desires but most of all, I simply want to be part of the happiness, joy, and love of other people's lives on whatever level they will allow.

These are some of the desires of my heart.