Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Christian faith: Against oppression and religious privilege

Hello my dear reader.

I hope you are well. With the semester winding down come final exams, papers, essays, and other last minute things that can drive you crazy. If you are not a college student, perhaps deadlines at work or other issues may be in your mind. In any case, it is quite possible that you may be feeling some stress. I hope you will be feeling better soon and I also apologize for not writing much lately...asi es la vida.

During an extensive conversation with a couple of my Atheist brothers and sisters it was implied that my plans of going to seminary and one day becoming an Episcopal priest may turn me into the following: an agent of a system of oppression. The system in question is Christianity and my faith connected to this religion. Now, my friends were clear and honest enough to say that after knowing me they know that I myself don't want to be an agent of oppression but, this is unavoidable if I continue on a path that will lead me to be a religious leader. There were other interesting exchange of ideas surrounding this conversation but for this post I will just concentrate my reflection on this: becoming an agent of oppression. Is this true?

When it comes to religion and oppression, I have found that when I speak to some of my Atheist friends I bring a different perspective and experience from their own; this is not only because I am religious and I will get to that in a bit. Also, when I hear certain claims about religious freedom from some of my Christian friends and how the "anti-Christian agenda" is trying to destroy it, I also bring a different perspective to that conversation.

My perspective is shaped by my existence, by my experience, and by my Christian faith. And when it comes to my faith, Liberation Theology and the Latin American experience behind it plays a role in my reflection and in my answers to this...and play a role in looking for answers to the questions that come to my mind.

When I think of religion and its role in supporting oppression I don't only think of the unavoidable scars of history found in so many points in time: from the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders (tragically ironic since the city was the capital of the Christian Byzantine Empire and the crusaders were under the orders of Rome) to the also unavoidable fact of the brutal treatment of the natives of America by the Christian European powers of England, Spain, and other colonial powers.

So indeed, I am very familiar with the role religion has played in fostering and/or supporting oppression. My Christian brothers and sisters, we should never run away from this truth. However, I am also familiar with some less well known efforts (during the those days and all the way to 2012) to combat oppression in the name of Christianity.

Here are some names you may or may not know...if you do not, you should google these names. They are the name of people who fought oppression and were killed for such efforts...killed by government soldiers and/or paramilitary units supported by the government or rebels factions, by fanatics, etc. It is usually at this point when some do not want to hear again of people like Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr since "yeah, yeah, I know about them"...oh no, these are different names:

1) Archbishop Oscar Romero. Probably you may have heard of him, in a small part because I have written about him here before...but he is not the only name.
2) Father Ignacio Ellacuría
3) Father Ignacio Martín-Baró
4) Father Segundo Montes
5) Father Arnando Lopez
6) Father Juan Ramón Moreno
7) Father Joaquin López y López

All of these people (and many more including other priests, nuns, and other members of religious orders) were killed because they fought oppression. So when I hear that my Christian faith and my religion, along with me becoming a priest will turn me into an agent of oppression...well, I think of these names and many others who did quite the opposite and lost their lives. Unfortunately this continues even today.

It is at this moment (specially if I am thinking of the tragic end of the lives of these people) when I hear a Christian brother or sister complaining that his/her religious freedom is being threatened because a plaque of the 10 commandments has (once again) been ordered to be removed from a public space somewhere...or the debate about birth control, etc.

A few years ago I met Bishop Christopher Seyonjo....yes, google his name as well. He is one of my role models. In his own words I heard how back in his native Uganda he has to be careful, because he has received death threats. I heard how he is harassed by the government and his own Anglican Church of Uganda. His crime? He supports and fights for the rights of the LGTBQ community.

Right here at Purdue, during my pastoral work, I have heard far too many stories of people that come to me for counseling and how Christians students told them some horrible things. I have heard stories (sometimes in tears) of how pastors and other religious people have treated, harassed, and abused them (sometimes physically and sexually) and I am asked "Why Mario?" "Why did they do this to me?"

I finished this post quite abruptly (and without much editing) to keep as much as possible the emotion behind the words that I write to you my dear reader. I apologize for this and apologize for how the flow of words and the way I have written may be confusing to you. Unfortunately this is quite personal to me. There is far too much pain and suffering in this world, and I have either seen it or have been told about in moments of confidence. I do not pretend to compare myself to the people I listed. But I do try my best to remember the example of their lives, even to the point where their example was sealed with their own blood.

If you my Atheist brother/sister tell me that I may become an agent of oppression please remember this: be wary of generalizations and/or sweeping statements about religious people. I will never deny that religion has been an agent of oppression, but I also know that religion has also been an agent of liberation. Remember that life and people are simply more complicated than we realize.

If you my Christian brother/sister tell me that your religious freedom is being threatened, ask yourself: are you talking about religious freedom or religious privilege? Have you ever wondered if we have been in a position of privilege for so long that we have forgotten our own history? Have we forgotten that there was a time when we were the minority? And remember: as of right now, the law of the land is that the plaque of the 10th commandments (regardless of the debatable argument that it only represents the Judeo-Christian principles found in our laws) is STILL a religious symbol and cannot be displayed in a public space. This is more helpful than you may realize.

And don't be upset if you hear me say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas: I am in fact correct from the point of view of my Christian faith (Christmas does not start until Dec 25th) and the Advent Season starts this Sunday. So again by saying 'Happy Holidays' I am following my faith AND I am being respectful of others who are non-Christians and being mindful that the very mention of the word Christmas makes them cringe...and here is the question: what is more important, to say the word or to spread the love of Christ by your smile as you say Happy Holidays? Just a thought...

Again, my apologies if this post was a bit crude in writing style and form. My passion got the best of me. But my Christian faith pushes me to fight oppression, pushes me to fight religious privilege, and pushes me to fight prejudice and discrimination in all forms; I feel pushed to ask questions and to challenge my own assumptions about what I know and/or think I know. My Christian faith, along with knowledge of history, and the cry of our fellow human beings demands it.

peace,

Mario

Monday, November 5, 2012

During and after the elections...

Hello my dear reader.

The following is my adaptation of a prayer found in the Book of Common Prayer. I hope that regardless of who wins this election, that we can move on and work together in the spirit of sophia (wisdom) and compassion with those that we see as our rivals and who disagree with our political ideas. In the end we are and will continue to be one country:

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit, may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land in this political season and imminent election], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through the Holy One and the Word, our teacher, our brother, and our friend, Jesus Son of Man who said ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself' and 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God'...in his name, his spirit, his peace, and his love, we pray, Amen.

peace,

Mario

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Of Saints and Friends: Thoughts on 'All Saints Day'


 ...I believe in the Holy Spirit, 
    the holy catholic Church, 
    the communion of saints...
      (from the "Apostle's Creed")


Lord, how I want to be in that number
Oh when the saints go marching in
(from the lyrics to "When The Saints Go Marching In")



...a friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature
                                                        (Ralph Waldo Emerson)



Hello my dear reader.

I was thinking of writing a short entry in regards to All Saints Day when I came to the following questions: what is a saint? Who do we call a saint? What makes a person a saint? These questions (while important) came to a halt when the following thought crossed my mind: if I want to know what a saint is, I should look at a good friend.

St. Teresa of Avila
Saints are first of all human beings like you, like me, like everyone else. Now it is true, in Christianity we have many ways to call someone a saint. The late Anglican theologian John Macquarrie (in his book "Principles of Christian Theology") explains that when we talk of saints in the Church there are two principal ways. In the New Testament it was applied to any Christians. They formed in each city the community of the Holy Spirit  and so they were thought of as the "saints at Jerusalem " or wherever it might be. But in the later and more common usage, the expression stands for those whom the Church recognizes as having signally manifested the Holy Spirit and as having been conformed to Christ...the central characteristic held up before us is self-giving love. (page 358)

In the Roman Catholic Church there is the act of canonization where the Church can canonizes (or beatify) men and women that become "models of holiness".  Lumen Gentium, the "Dogmatic Constitution of the Church" and one of the most important documents of the Second Vatican Council, states:

"It is not only through their example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; rather we seek, by devotion to them, to exercise that bond of fraternal charity which unites and strengthens the whole Church in the Spirit (cf. Eph 4:1-6). Just as Christian charity brings us closer to Christ on our earthly journey, so does the communion of saints join the People of God to Christ, the fountainhead of all grace and life, on their eternal journey" (LG 50).

[the meeting of] St. Clare and St. Francis

From our historical ties to the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church still celebrates the lives of many of the same saints recognized before the Protestant Reformation. After the Reformation, with the separation of the Church of England from Rome, and now in the present, we celebrate the lives of men and women that we believe personify the example of love and faith that Christians should celebrate and share with the world in the spirit of compassion and wisdom.

There is one important factor about saints that brings me to something very important in our lives: friends. Friends (including all saints and of course all human beings) are not perfect. As Macquarrie correctly points out: The extraordinary variety of those whom the Church calls "saints" is sufficient warning against any rigidly narrow idea of the Church, which must rather be comprehensive enough to contain and encourage withing itself the manifold potentiality of existence. Saints (like friends) come from all sort of different places and backgrounds, and they truly have a knack for surprising us and defying expectations.

Harriet Beecher Stowe
In a world were sometimes it appears that the individual is what matters and where it seems that we just need to look after ourselves, saints and friends are there to remind us that this is not the case.

If we are lucky to have good friends, then we will see that they (like us) have faults and are willing to put up with our own faults. Friends are willing to make sacrifices for us without being asked, and sometimes when we are in dire need. They listen to us when we are sad and they celebrate with us when we are happy. And if we are real lucky, some of our friends will change the world with their love and sacrifice...that is, if they have not done so already.


It is "All Saints Days" and in this day when the Church remembers those who were capable of the sort of love that would not make them hesitate to put their own lives on the line for the sake of others, let us celebrate the memory of the friends (past, present, and future) in our own lives. To the saints that we meet every day and to my friends: thank you and happy "All Saints Day".
:)

peace,
Mario

...love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Living with the Dead: Thoughts for Halloween

Hello my dear reader.

As part of my theological and spiritual formation, I am very lucky to know some excellent and kind professors, priests, theologians and other men and women who challenge my assumptions, force me to grow and never be satisfied with what I think I know, and inspire me to continue my quest for Sophia (wisdom). This journey has taken me several times to St. Gregory's Abbey; it is the home of a community of men living under the Rule of Saint Benedict within the Episcopal Church. The center of the monastery's life is the Abbey Church, where God is worshiped in the daily round of Eucharist, Divine Office, and private prayer.

One of these great men and women that continue to inspire me is the Abbot at St. Gregory's: Andrew Marr, OSB. In one of his latest posts (from his blog Imaginary Visions of True Peace) he writes about Halloween:


For many in North America, Halloween is a day for children to dress up, have fun, and get lots of candy from indulgent neighbors. Skeleton suits and witch’s makeup are all in fun. Not as fun is the background to Halloween that goes back to rites, such as the Celtic Samhain festival, designed to allay anxiety over blurring the distinction between the dead and the living and make sure the dead stay dead. This anxiety causes some people to try to suppress modern Halloween, although the people who sentenced witches to burning should be more horrifying than girls running about in black dresses with candy bags.

(Click here for the entire article)

peace,

Mario

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Some Theological reflections

Hello dear reader.

As I continue my research on the documentary series I am currently working on, I came across some things I wrote in the last couple of years. I have not posted a lot of this stuff and when I read it (it is amazing what you can discover in old drafts of emails, in pieces of papers, in little notes, etc) I felt driven to share it here.

I guess I could call this "Some Theological Reflections" and the pictures are from the Waycross Camp and Conference Center during a retreat I had there about a month ago. So, here it goes:

Leonardo Boff once said that to believe in Christ is to face an existential act and way of life. To do so is to examine, evaluate, and ask questions not only of ourselves but of our place in the world; to be a Christian is to confront all aspects of our lives and embrace the state of being found in a faith rooted in Christ and his message. This is all part of a journey that consciously or unconsciously continues to defy my plans and my expectations and it will continue to do so. But what is the message of Christ? Why is it important? More to the point, can it be important to the human being of the 21st century? Even if we say that it is, how do we present it so that it may be connected to praxis? The journey goes on and as I continue my discernment in the Episcopal Church it is clear that Theology will play a key role for the rest of my life. Will I remain a layman or will I be ordained? Only God knows the answer to that question and I look forward to what God is planning for me...



I find inspiration in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Ethics” to explain why an ethical life in the Christian spirit is inspired by Scripture but not bound by Scripture; it is to the will of God and how we treat our neighbor that we should be looking to. In Desmond Tutu I find the words that allow me to speak of a pivotal part of Christianity: forgiveness...

Tutu spoke of the “principle of transfiguration” as he tried to explain how his native South Africa faced incredible suffering and dealt with a post-Apartheid reality and existence; the country had years of pain under that oppressive regime but they made it...

 

As 'seres humanos' (human beings) and as members of the Body of Christ we are faced with suffering every day of every kind. But we can all be eschatological partners with God as we find ways to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger regardless of his country and/or legal status, find clothes for the naked, heal the sick, visit our prisoners, and comfort and defend those of us who cannot do it themselves. And just as we try to find a home for those of us that lost their homes during these difficult economic times, Theology can help the Church be a home 'para todos', for all of us...





peace,

Mario


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Christian Humanist?

Hello my dear reader.

I hope you are well. I just finished another session of "Coffee with Mario" (the name that I use for my "ministry outside of ministry/mobile ministry") and I would like to share with you the following as it is something that I have found myself thinking about from time to time; it just came up again, forcing me to reflect and meditate...

After another session of "Coffee with Mario"
My Atheist brothers and sisters have told me before: that I am a Christian Humanist. This brings up the following questions: first, how should I define Christian Humanism and how does it compare to Secular Humanism? Second, if they are correct and I am a Christian Humanist, does my Christianity influence my Humanism, or does my Humanism influence my Christianity? The third question is for all of you:

What else should I ask myself?

I would love to hear from you.

peace,

--Mario

P.S. Thank you to those of you that responded so quickly.
:)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Never forget Matthew Shepard (Oct 12, 1998)

My dear reader,

On Oct 12, 1998 a young man died. His name was Matthew Shepard.



"Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was kidnapped, robbed and pistol-whipped, died here today, five days after he was rescued from a Wyoming ranch where he had been left tied to a fence for 18 hours in near-freezing temperatures."





Let us never forget Matthew Shepard.

peace,

Mario

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

Hello my dear reader.

Today is the Feast of of St. Francis of Assisi. As a former Roman Catholic and now Episcopalian, the story, the deeds, the example, and the life of St. Francis still resonates with me. Allow me to share with you 'The Collect' that will be read in every Episcopal church today as part of the liturgy:

St. Francis Preaches to the Birds
Sadao Watanabe
Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and everAmen.



Have a great rest of the week and an even better weekend.

peace,

Mario :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

So I'm making a documentary...

Hello my dear reader.

Life has been a bit crazy lately. Because of this I have not been able to blog as much I would like to...but, I have some good news: I am making a documentary.

This is a very personal project and I have no pretenses of fame or winning awards or anything similar. This is just a labor of love and creativity, a series of short films that will cover some ideas and reflections regarding issues of religion, theology, spirituality, culture, etc. A good friend is providing the film/production expertise and I am very excited.

Stay tuned :)

peace,

Mario

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Today is September 11...

Hello my dear reader.

Thomas Merton once said that fanaticism is never really spiritual because it is not free. It is not free because it is not enlightened. It cannot judge between good and evil, truth and falsity, because it is blinded by prejudice. Prejudice rests on the pseudo-authority of hatred instead of the authority of love.

In September 11, 2001 many people died due to hatred and prejudice. Yet on that same day many people were saved because others were willing to put their lives on the line to rescue them, to heal them, and to save  them.

To those who rested on the authority of love that day, thank you.

peace,

Mario

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Episcopalian in Planet Earth stands with Blag Hag

Hello my dear reader.

I stand with Blag Hag. Why do I say that? Because after she has been experiencing abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how she is a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, etc, etc she is done with blogging for an indefinite period of time. Per her last post this morning she had to delete dozens of comments of people imitating her identity making graphic, lewd, degrading sexual comments about her personal life.

This is unacceptable.

In a world of unique and different people, of ideas and of opinions, we are sometimes going to disagree with each other; that is part of life. However, to harass and threaten another human being in the way it was done to her is not acceptable.

Jen, I stand with you.

My dear reader, I ask you to join me and tell Jen: we are with you.

peace,

Mario


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Once again, I will be giving a sermon tomorrow

Hello my dear reader.

I hope you are well. It is a new semester and I have been very busy. Just to let you know, tomorrow I will be giving a sermon at two churches:

Monon United Methodist Church (Monon, IN)
10:30am Sunday service

Wesley Foundation @ Purdue (West Lafayette, IN)
4:30pm Sunday service


Hopefully you can come to one of the services.
peace,

Mario

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tragedy in Aurora and Oak Creek

Hello my dear reader.

In the middle of the suffering, the confusion, and pain caused by the shootings at Aurora CO, and Oak Creek, WI, we ask ourselves: why? Why do human beings do this to each other?

However among the despair, there are hints of hope. The following is one of those hints of hope, of caring for one another, and of solidarity. Cody Hickman, a survivor of the shooting in Aurora, wrote the following in response to the shared pain in the tragedy of Aurora and Oak Creek:

Friends, my name is Cody Hickman, and I was in theater 8 during the Aurora theater shooting. I am writing this post as a call to action for all of you. All you will be asked to do is repost this message, and help us network some support.

For those who do not yet know, there was a shooting today at a Wisconsin Sikh temple. Lives have been lost, and many have been injured. In the wake of the Aurora Theater Shooting, we all now know what our neighbors in Wisconsin are about the go through. They will need support, and resources...
This is a tragedy that many of us now know all too well. There is now a community who will need the same kind of love and support that you have all shown us, for again, I am a survivor of the Aurora shooting, and I am getting better everyday as a result of this effort. So, PLEASE, help us in this. They will need all the help they can get at a time like this.
--

Cody's words ring true: there are people in Oak Park who need the same love and support that has been given to the people of Aurora.

I don't have much else to add. So I will simply say take care of yourself and of each other.

peace,
Mario

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bread and wine: reflections from my sermon

Hello my dear reader.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (Gospel according to St. John 6:35)

What is this bread? How can we get it?
What is this life? How can we have it?
Why are we thirsty?
And what is this hunger?

Bread...life...hunger...thirst.

When you woke up today, were you hungry? Many of us would respond with a 'yes'. I hope that you had something to eat, anything...at the least some bread...

There are many types of hunger. As human beings we all share in the very basic hunger of the body. We need to eat; this is a condition of our existence. And yet, eating for us does not have to be just about basic nourishment. Last Saturday, after spending most of the day meditating, praying, and contemplating on my sermon for the next day, I spent part of evening with friends having bread and wine, talking, joking, etc. This was an example of another hunger: the hunger for friendship and companionship.

We are hungry for many things. And if you my dear reader are a Christian (or not) I believe that what I have been saying so far makes sense to you: that we are hungry. Also, we recognize that there are many types of hunger and it appears that each one requires a different type of food...a different type of bread.

I have much more to say...stay tuned...

peace,

Mario

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I'm giving a sermon next Sunday...twice


One sermon, one Mario, two churches...get ready to jump...
Hello my dear reader,
I hope you are well. Guess what: I am giving a sermon this Sunday and at two places...no, I will not be cloning myself and/or sending me to one church and Luigi to another. I will be at New Ross United Methodist Church (Crawfordsville, Indiana) for the 9:00am service and later at Mace United Methodist Church for the 10:40am service. 


In addition to the sermon, I will be speaking to the congregations about the work and mission of the Wesley Foundation @ Purdue: the campus ministry for the United Methodist Church at Purdue University. If you are in the area I hope you can come to one of the services. peace,

--Mario

Friday, July 20, 2012

Peace to those suffering in Colorado

Hello my dear reader.

I don't have much to say about the tragic incident last night in Colorado. Let us remember that along with the horror of those who were killed and those who were wounded, the suffering is not over; family and friends, and the community of Aurora, CO is now trying to pick up the pieces. Let us offer our best wishes and prayers to all of them and if you live in the Aurora, CO  community I hope you are able to get the help you need. One resource that is available to you is the Red Cross:

Colorado Red Cross Mile High Chapter Headquarters
444 Sherman St
Denver, CO 80203
Telephone: (303) 722-7474
Fax: (303) 722-7588
questions@denver-redcross.org

Another good resource is your local Crisis Center; not only do they have people that can help with emotional  problems and related emergencies, they have contacts with local agencies for important services.

Also, we should remember that many in the state of Colorado are still trying to recover from the devastation of the fires that occurred a few weeks ago.

peace,

--Mario

Friday, July 13, 2012

Back to preaching...

Hello my dear reader.

This Sunday I have the honor of giving a sermon at Grace United Methodist Church here in the Lafayette, IN  area. I will be preaching on the Gospel according to St. Mark 6:14-29 among other readings from Scripture per the Revised Common Lectionary for that day .

If you are in the area I hope you can come.

peace,

--Mario

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Crazy Episcopalians and crazy Christians :)

Hello my dear reader!

(This was not taken at General Convention...but it describes how I am feeling) 
I feel energized! Truly I do. I attended the "Young Adult Festival" at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, IN. It was great to be among so many excellent people connected with campus ministry and young adult ministry in the Episcopal Church. I shall be writing about this in more detail after I give myself a little time to think, meditate, and contemplate on everything that I saw, heard and learned  the last five days.

Stay tuned...

peace,
Mario :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How Can The Bible Be Authoritative?

Hello my dear reader.

It is Thursday and I hope that you are having a decent week so far and that your weekend will be at least decent if not excellent. :) Since I have been quite busy I apologized for not posting something this week. However, I would still like to share something with you by N.T. Wright: How Can The Bible Be Authoritative? N.T. Wright is one of the conservative bible scholars and theologians that I read because: 1) His work is solid. 2) Even when I disagree with him he pushes me to think about my own ideas regarding theology, scripture, etc. 3) He has great working relationships (and friendships) with liberal bible scholars and theologians and he respects their work instead of simply disregarding their ideas as "heretical" and/or "unbiblical". 

Evangelical Views

Most heirs of the Reformation, not least evangelicals, take if for granted that we are to give scripture the primary place and that everything else has to be lined up in relation to scripture.  There is, indeed, an evangelical assumption, common in some circles, that evangelicals do not have any tradition.  We simply open the scripture, read what it says, and take it as applying to ourselves: there the matter ends, and we do not have any ‘tradition’.  This is rather like the frequent Anglican assumption (being an Anglican myself I rather cherish this) that Anglicans have no doctrine peculiar to themselves: it is merely that if something is true the Church of England believes it.  This, though not itself a refutation of the claim not to have any ‘tradition’, is for the moment sufficient indication of the inherent unlikeliness of the claim’s truth, and I am confident that most people, facing the question explicitly, will not wish that the claim be pressed.  But I still find two things to be the case, both of which give me some cause for concern.  First, there is an implied, and quite unwarranted, positivism: we imagine that we are ‘reading the text, straight’, and that if somebody disagrees with us it must be because they, unlike we ourselves, are secretly using ‘presuppositions’ of this or that sort.  This is simply naïve, and actually astonishingly arrogant and dangerous.  It fuels the second point, which is that evangelicals often use the phrase ‘authority of scripture’ when they mean the authority of evangelical, or Protestant, theology, since the assumption is made that we (evangelicals, or Protestants) are the ones who know and believe what the Bible is saying.  And, though there is more than a grain of truth in such claims, they are by no means the whole truth, and to imagine that they are is to move from theology to ideology.  If we are not careful, the phrase ‘authority of scripture’ can, by such routes, come to mean simply ‘the authority of evangelical tradition, as opposed to Catholic or rationalist ones.’
 
Biblical Authority: the Problem

When people in the church talk about authority they are very often talking about controlling people or situations.  They want to make sure that everything is regulated properly, that the church does not go off the rails doctrinally or ethically, that correct ideas and practices are upheld and transmitted to the next generation.  ‘Authority’ is the place where we go to find out the correct answers to key questions such as these.  This notion, however, runs into all kinds of problems when we apply it to the Bible.  Is that really what the Bible is for? Is it there to control the church?  Is it there simply to look up the correct answers to questions that we, for some reason, already know?

As we read the Bible we discover that the answer to these questions seems in fact to be ‘no’.  Most of the Bible does not consist of rules and regulations—lists of commands to be obeyed.  Nor does it consist of creeds—lists of things to be believed.  And often, when there ARE lists of rules or of creedal statements, they seem to be somewhat incidental to the purpose of the writing in question.  One might even say, in one (admittedly limited) sense, that there is no biblical doctrine of the authority of the Bible.  For the most part the Bible itself is much more concerned with doing a whole range of other things rather than talking about itself.  There are, of course, key passages, especially at transition moments like 2 Timothy or 2 Peter, where the writers are concerned that the church of the next generation should be properly founded and based.  At precisely such points we find statements emerging about the place of scripture within the life of the church.  But such a doctrine usually has to be inferred.  It may well be possible to infer it, but it is not (for instance) what Isaiah or Paul are talking about.  Nor is it, for the most part, what Jesus is talking about in the gospels.  He isn’t constantly saying, ‘What about scripture? What about scripture?’  It is there sometimes, but it is not the central thing that we have sometimes made it.  And the attempt by many evangelicals to argue a general doctrine of scripture out of the use made of the Old Testament in the New is doomed to failure, despite its many strong points, precisely because the relation between the Old and New Testaments is not the same as the relation between the New Testament and ourselves. If we look in scripture to find out where in practice authority is held to lie, the answer on page after page does not address our regular antitheses at all.  As we shall see, in the Bible all authority lies with God himself.

The question of biblical authority, of how there can be such a thing as an authoritative Bible, is not, then, as simple as it might look.  In order to raise it at all, we have to appreciate that it is a sub-question of some much more general questions.  (1) How can any text function as authoritative?  Once one gets away from the idea of a rule book such as might function as authoritative in, say, a golf club, this question gets progressively harder.  (2) How can any ancient text function as authoritative?  If you were a Jew, wanting to obey the Torah (or, perhaps, obey the Talmud) you would find that there were all sorts of difficult questions about how a text, written so many years ago, can function as authoritative today.  Actually, it is easier with the Talmud than with the Bible because the Talmud is designed very specifically to be a rule book for human beings engaged in life in a particular sort of community.  But much of what we call the Bible—the Old and New Testaments—is not a rule book; it is narrative.  That raises a further question:  (3) How can an ancient narrative text be authoritative?  How, for instance, can the book of Judges, or the book of Acts, be authoritative?  It is one thing to go to your commanding officer first thing in the morning and have a string of commands barked at you.  But what would you do if, instead, he began ‘Once upon a time . . .’?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Church of Mario" ...what?!?!

Hello my dear reader.

I would like to welcome you to the "Church of Mario". What? What do I mean you may be asking...for now I will say that my next blog entry is inspired by some words used by Atheist thinker Sam Harris. The title of the entry will be: "The Church of Mario". Stay tuned for more.

peace,

--Mario

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I'm on Facebook :)

Hello my dear reader!

I am happy to announce that Episcopalian "in" Planet Earth is now on Facebook.
I hope you are having a great day!

peace,

--Mario

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Don't know Jesus? Sorry, but you're going to Hell? --Part 1

Hello my dear reader.

Every so often around campus there will be students from many campus ministries asking the following question: "Are you going to Heaven?" Sometimes people ask me: "are you saved"? During these chats about 'heaven' and being "saved", at some point the subject of 'hell' is discussed. I bring this up because I just read a response by pastor/theologian John Piper to a letter by a 12-year-old girl about what happens to people who live far away from the gospel and have never heard about Jesus and die without faith in him. Piper responds:
I don't think the Bible teaches that people can be saved without hearing the gospel. Look at what Paul says in Romans 10:13–17. You need to hear the gospel to be saved.




(Here is the article with Piper's response)


What do you think?
Do you agree/disagree?
Why?
Ideas?
Thoughts?



I would like to hear from you my dear reader about this.
Let me know :)

--Mario

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy are those who find wisdom...




Happy are those who find wisdom,

and those who get understanding,
for her income is better than silver,
and her revenue better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.

(Proverbs 3:13-15)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

As a Christian I object to the "Faith West" project in West Lafayette

Hello my dear reader.

As some of you know the city of West Lafayette is considering a proposal by Faith Church to get a 30-year low interest rate bond to help fund the "Faith West" project. According to Faith Church for more than 20 years, Faith has sponsored an on-campus student group named Purdue Bible Fellowship (PBF). Purdue University recognizes PBF as an official student organization. The purpose of PBF is to provide faith-based fellowship and resources to the students, faculty, and staff of Purdue. For two years Faith has been working to locate the best possible home for PBF. After extensive discussions, it was determined that the proposed 6.4 acre site on Northwestern Avenue was the ideal location. We believe this project can meet the unique needs of the Purdue family and advance the cause of Jesus Christ through PBF and our biblical counseling ministry.


As a Christian and local resident I object this proposal. I am concerned that the city of West Lafayette is being used as a conduit to lead to the construction of an installation that will support the Purdue Bible Fellowship and other religious activities in the Purdue area. Before you think that I am against churches, campus ministries, or other religious organizations let me explain.

Many of you know me personally and know the following about me: I love campus ministry!
As a campus ministry intern I am proud and happy of the work I do every day. I have been blessed with a great opportunity to not only continue doing what I believe will be part of my future but that also allows me to work for the community.

If Faith Church wants to use their own funds (they already raised 3 millions dollars from their own donations) to build an installation to support their campus ministry and religious activities I cannot object. But I must object to Faith Church using the city as a conduit to get the up to 7 million dollars (covered by the bonds) for this. However, if a religious institution like Faith Church wants to use the city to get bonds to build something like a senior citizens home (similar to how Westminster Village was built with the support of the Presbyterian Church but now is fully private) I would not object; something like this would be good for the entire community and it would not be of a religious nature.

Also, I would like to ask those in the community that are calling those of us who object to this project as "anti-religious" or "wanting to persecute Christians" to consider all the facts. Part of these facts is that there are Christians and religious people like myself who object to this proposal along with those who do not consider themselves as religious. I know many of them personally and they are objecting for similar reasons to mine and because they share my concern for what is best for the Purdue and West Lafayette community. 

I hope that the city of West Lafayette will do the right thing and reject this proposal. Have a great weekend my dear reader!

peace,

--Mario

**Update**

Yesterday the public hearing of the West Lafayette Economic Development Commission regarding this issue had a full house. Some spoke in favor of this and others like me spoke against it. The vote was 3-1 to pass the resolution on with a favorable recommendation.

The second hearing and final vote will be during the West Lafayette City Council meeting on June 4th.

**Second Update**

I would like to thank Anna, Mike, and many others who worked so hard in our efforts to oppose the bond proposal for 'Faith West'. I truly believe (regardless of the final vote) that we made a strong case for why the city council should have rejected this bond proposal. I would also like to note that considering how some people were talking about us we still conducted ourselves with dignity and may I say gravitas, while we spoke at the different public hearings, when we talked to the press, when we had meetings with members of the city council, and in our dealings with the public.

However, we should remember that the work continues; this issue is closed but there will be other issues to deal with because in the end all of us live in this community and we must continue to work for the benefit of community. 
peace,

--Mario

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My faith as a Christian--Part 1

Hello my dear reader.

During the last few years my life journey has taken me to very interesting places. Along the way I have met excellent human beings and I have learned many lessons about who I am as a person. In fact, some of these encounters have shaped the way I live and how I explore my faith.

As I was thinking about all this I decided to write a series of blog entries. These entries will be personal reflections and meditations on what is faith to me, how I understand my faith as a Christian, some of my joys, doubts and struggles during this journey, and how it affects my life and the lives of others. This is not really advice about how others should think about faith but rather more about me trying to put into words what faith means to me. If you my dear reader find something useful in something that I say and/or you have thoughts of your own please let me know.

I thought that for "Part 1" I would share with you a few of my favorite quotes about/regarding faith. Some of these thinkers are Christians and some are not; I have learned that wisdom can be found in unexpected places:

Faith as ultimate concern is an act of the total personality. It happens in the center of the personal life and includes all its elements. Faith is the most centered act of the human mind. It is not a movement of a special section or a special function of man's total being. They all are united in the act of faith. 
--Paul Tillich

Faith without the practice of love is empty faith, not the faith that leads to the kingdom of God.
--Leonardo Boff

Faith is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith let’s go…
--Alan Watts

Christian faith occurs in the encounter of the believer with him in whom he believes. It consists in communion, not in identification, with him.
--Karl Barth



Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase. 
--Martin Luther King Jr.

Faith is not a question of the existence or non-existence of God. It is believing that love without reward is valuable.
--Emmanuel Levinas
 
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
--First letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 13:1-2


This is all I have to say for now. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series. BTW, if you my dear reader have a favorite quote related to faith please share it.
peace,

--Mario

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Suicide, tragic car crash, and the year 2008-09

Greetings to you my dear reader.

Marcus Aurelius said whatever may happen to you was prepared for you in advance from the beginning of time. In the woven tapestry of causation, the thread of your being had been intertwined from all time with that particular incident. It doesn't matter if one of us my dear reader, believes (or not) that everything was prepared for us in advance from the beginning of time. I would like to draw your attention and our reflection to the concept of the 'thread' of our lives and how it relates to the lives of others and how those lives in turn affect us connected to the woven tapestry of causation. Why do I bring this up?

It has been a day of very conflicting feelings and emotions for me. This started as I was looking at my Purdue email account this morning and by mistake I hit the 'Received' tab at the top of my messages. This caused the order of my emails to shift from today to all the way back to the 2008/09 year...my first year at Purdue. I found emails with details that flooded my mind with thoughts and ideas from long ago; in a way it feels like finding a dusty old book or diary but since I don't really have diaries this is the closest thing I have. That year I started my career at Purdue and it also marked the start of new relationships of all types, new discoveries about myself and about the world, new ideas including the re-birth of ideas from the past, meeting people that would change my life, and a lot...a lot of moments of laughter, of tears, of joy, of anxiety, of doubt, and the questions and new questions as a result of those moments.

Among my emails I found one talking about the death of a 15 year old girl who was very close to a member of my family. She died in a car crash caused by a drunk driver and to those of you with ties to the community you probably remember this. The email actually made me remember that at that moment (like right now) I said to myself: 'My God...15 years old...so young.'

As I was reading these little bits from my past I found out that former San Diego NFL star Junior Seau was found dead yesterday. The police are so far declaring his death a suicide. As I started to think about this (I remember him very well from my days when I used to watch a lot of NFL games during the 80's and 90's) I can recall his energy and passion in the field; when it came to linebackers this was one linebacker you didn't mess around with. The article said that he is not the only player from that famous 1994 AFC championship team to come to a tragic end; three players died due to heart issues, one in a plane crash, one was struck by lightning while camping, another one died due to a car crash, and another because of a drug overdose.

How many lives did all these people affect and change? And once they were gone, how many friends, family members and others were left picking up the pieces and still trying to deal with the loss? And what kind of lives we live after we loose somebody that we loved?

I have been thinking about all these things today and have many ideas; some of them are what one could call 'abstract' ideas and others 'concrete' ideas. During my own reflection I find myself thinking back to my own experiences, my past, my thoughts of the future, etc, and I also find myself going to the Gospel according to St. Matthew when I tell myself that I should not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. This is true but sometimes I can't help thinking about the issues of tomorrow, then again I am only human.

What about you my dear reader? What comes to your mind when you think about your life ending suddenly? In what ways do you think you have influenced the life of others? What about the people that love you? Imagine how they would react to loosing you...

And,
What kind of things do you want to do with your life before the end?

In the meantime I offer the following words from Friedrich Nietzsche: The world is deep, and deeper than the day could read. Deep is its woe. Joy deeper still than grief can be. Woe says: Hence go! But joys want all eternity, want deep, profound eternity.


I wait for your feedback my dear reader. And I hope you have an excellent rest of the day.

peace,

--Mario

Friday, April 27, 2012

Regarding "So You Want to Date My Daughter?"

Hello my dear reader.

First I must apologize to you. I promised to finish a couple of blog entries by the end this week but alas, life got on the way. I will try to get to those as soon as I can. In the meantime, I found this on Facebook today and I wanted to share this with you. 

A pastor wrote "So You Want to date My Daughter" giving his views of what he expects of the guys that want to date his daughter; the post did not give details like how old she is, etc. In any case after I read it, I thought about this and I asked myself: should fathers take his advice? Two things came to mind:

1)  I can sympathize with not wanting to see our daughters hurt because they could be dating morons and idiots (**I say 'morons and idiots' with love**) since most fathers do not want to see their daughters (or their sons) in either physical and/or emotional pain. And yes, we all know the jokes of fathers with shotguns and other weapons...yet, there is a fine line between a father who wants to protect his daughter and one that will not let her live.

2) It is important to remain realistic and pragmatic and in the end trust our daughters to make the right choices.


I cannot recommend or support the steps/views given by this pastor on this. Since I do not know him I can only speculate that this could be one of those situations of 'You have your opinion and I have mine' but again: I cannot recommend this for a lot of reasons and if you would like to hear a few of them I would be happy to share them with you.

So here is the posting, and I would love to hear your feedback, comments, and ideas about this; if you are a father or a daughter I would specially love to hear from you but of course if you are a mother or a son I would also love to hear from you as well!
peace,

Mario :)
--------

So You Want to Date My Daughter?

1. You must love Jesus. I don't care if you're a "good Christian boy." I was one of those too. So I know the tricks. I'm going to ask you specific, heart-testing questions about your spiritual affections, your daily devotional life, your idols, your disciplines, and the like. I'll cut you a little bit of slack because you're young and hormonal and your pre-frontal lobe isn't fully developed yet, but I'll be watching you like a hawk. I know you. I was you. You will think you can fool me, and you likely have fooled many other dads who didn't pay much attention to their daughters' suitors, but I will be on you like Bourne on that guy whose neck he broke. Which guy was that? Every guy. So love Jesus more than my daughter or go home.
2. You will install X3Watch or Covenant Eyes on your computer and mobile devices and have your regular reports sent to me.
3. I will talk to your dad and tell him I will hold him responsible if you don't treat my daughter like a lady. If he thinks I'm a crazy person, you fail the test and won't get to date her. If he understands what I'm saying, that bodes well for you.
4. You will pay for everything. Oh, sure, every now and then my daughter can buy you a Coke or something and a gift on your birthday and at Christmas. But you pay for meals, movies, outings, whatever else. Don't have a job? I'm sorry, why am I talking to you again?
5. You will accept my Facebook friend request.
6. If it looks like you need a belt to hold your pants up, I will assume you don't have a job. See #4.
7. Young people dating are putting their best face forward, so if you appear impatient, ill-tempered, or ill-mannered, I know you will gradually become more so over time. I will have no jerks dating my daughters.
8. If I am not your pastor, I will talk to the man who is. If your pastor is a woman, why am I talking to you, again?
9. You don't love my daughter. You have no idea what love is. You like her and you might love her someday. That's an okay start with me, so put the seatbelt on the mushy gushy stuff. Don't profess your undying love, quote stupid love song lyrics to her, tell her you'd die for her, or feed her any other boneheaded lines that are way out of your depth as a horny little idiot. A lady's heart is a fragile thing. If you play with hers, I will show you yours.
10. If you ever find yourself alone with my daughter, don't panic. Just correct the situation immediately. If I ever catch you trying to get alone with my daughter, that would be the time to panic.
11. It may sound like I'm joking in threatening you harm, and while I might not physically hurt you if you offend my daughter or violate her honor, when I am addressing the issue with you, you will not be laughing.
12. You may think all this sounds very legalistic. That's fine. You can be one of the many antinomians not dating my daughter.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Top 10 reasons why men should not be pastors/priests :)

I saw this a few years ago and now I saw it again. A great satire of male/female "traditional" roles in relation to the Church, being a pastor, and how gender has been used to say "He/she should do this." I have also included some pictures of pastors, including a few fictional pastors...hint: two are fictional.
;)
peace,

Mario.

--


10. A man’s place is in the army.










9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.











8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.












7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.












6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.




















5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.








4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.








3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.


2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.




1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Who is "worthy" to be "loved"?

Hello my dear reader.

The following is from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton. While this was published  back in 1968, it is amazing to me how much of it is still relevant.
I hope you are having a good day.

Peace,
Mario

A basic temptation: the flatly unchristian refusal to love those whom we consider, for some reason or other, unworthy of love. And, on top of that, to consider others unworthy of love for even very trivial reasons. Not that we hate them of course: but we just refuse to accept them in our hearts, to treat them without inner reservations. In a word, we reject those who do not please us. We are of course "charitable toward them". An interesting use of the word "charity" to cover and to justify a certain coldness, suspicion, and even disdain. But this is punished by another inexorable refusal: we are bound by the logic of this defensive rejection to reject any form of happiness that even implies acceptance of those we have have decided to reject. This certainly complicates life, and if one is sufficiently intolerant, it ends by making all happiness impossible.


This means that we have to get along without constantly applying the yardstick of "worthiness" (who is worthy to be loved, and who is not). And it almost means, by implication, that we cease to ask even indirect questions about who is "justified," who is worthy of acceptance, who can be tolerated by the believer! What a preposterous idea that would be! And yet the world is full of "believers" who find themselves entirely surrounded by people they can hard,y be expected to "tolerate," such as Jews, Negroes, unbelievers, heretics, Communists, pagans, fanatics, and so on.


God is asking of me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of all my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God's likeness. And to laugh, after all, at all preposterous ideas of "worthiness".

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Transforming the Conversation" and the Purdue LGTBQ community

Hello my dear reader.

Back in April 5th, I asked myself How will I respond to this letter by a Christian about Purdue's LGTBQ community?  The now infamous letter by Harlan VanderMeer created a lot of controversy and I probably wrote 20 to 30 drafts of my response to that letter but every time I felt like something was missing; I felt that perhaps it was not the right time to respond.

As I was meditating on this I came to the following conclusion: I will respond next week. 'Why next week' you may be asking. Because tomorrow I will be attending the Transforming The Conversation at Purdue Day 1 event at Purdue University.

Transforming the Conversation is a new pilot program for college campuses, developed with the support of Christians and LGBTs to create better dialogue between the two sides of the homosexuality debate—without asking people to violate their most deeply-held values.

This will take place at 6:30 pm, Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 in Room EE 117 (Electrical Engineering Building).

It is very possible that the controversy caused by the letter will be discussed and I would like to be part of the conversation on this. I also believe that other issues will be discussed during the event. Then, I will take a few hours here and there to think of what I heard during the event and I believe I will be better prepared at that time to write a response.

It may be not the a great response, but hey who knows...it may be alright. If you are in the Purdue area tomorrow evening I hope you can come. If you do say hello to me. :)

peace,

Mario

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Enter the Word...or Logos?

Hello my dear reader.  :)

An icon of St John the Evangelist
As some of you already know, I lead a bible study group at the Wesley Foundation called "Holy Heretics". We look not only at "heresies" and people that have been called "heretics" in the history of the Church, but we also look at some of the documents/books that some of these thinkers/movements used to either transmit their ideas or to support them. For our next meeting, my research is focusing in coming up with a comparison between the canonical Gospel according to St. John and the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. I started to reread both gospels to find similarities and differences. As I picked up the first gospel, I once again read the first verse that I have read so many times I have lost count. Some of you probably know this verse as well:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
(John 1:1 NRSV)

While this is a familiar translation of this verse, I found out years ago (and to some of you this is old news) that "Word" is not quite the exact English translation for the particular Greek term that is translated as such; the same goes for the Spanish translation to "Palabra".

Here is the same verse with the original Greek term:

In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.

When I was younger, I would hear "Logos" and think of the funny drawing on my shoes or the half bitten apple of a certain computer company, and there is a heavy metal band that uses this name. But the word "Logos" refers to something else in both Christianity and Philosophy and depending on who (and the 'when') you talk to, it means something different. And this is another occasion when the theology/philosophy geek in me gets excited.

What is the Logos?
What does it mean?
Where does it come from?
Is this an original Christian concept or was it taken from somewhere else?
Why did the writers of the Gospel according to St. John use this Greek term?

With the help a few friends, along with what  I have learned so far during classes, reading, more reading, asking questions, and hours of thinking and staring at nothing in particular (or the coffee-shop wall) I will be sharing with you some of my views and thoughts on the Logos.

Stay tuned...

peace,

--Mario