Archive for August, 2010

I didn’t see the Emmy Awards because I was at work, and I have to take such shows in bits and pieces anyway. But I ran across George Clooney’s speech in his acceptance of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award and was impressed, as I usually am by Clooney’s acting and his social activism.

I’m a huge fan of Clooney and his flicks. He can do wild and crazy or quiet wit as good as he can do heartbreak, and boy–he did heartbreak brilliantly in “Up in the Air,” the last flick of his, or the last I’ve seen recently. That was a little gem of a movie, but Clooney is a smart guy who does smart acting in usually smart movies.

So, the fact that he is a humanitarian, and sometimes a prophetic voice, makes him all the more likeable to my way of thinking. I was always a huge fan of Paul Newman, who wore his fame and fortune with such grace and good humor and generosity, and Clooney is cut from the same mold in terms of his acting, humanity and generosity.

Here’s a snippet from his acceptance speech, which–like pretty much everything about Clooney–ran to the very smart:

“It’s important to remember how much good can get done because we live in such strange times where bad behaviors suck up all the attention in the press and the people who really need the spotlight, the Haitians, the Sudanese, the people in the Gulf Coast . . . Pakistan, they can’t get any [press].

When the disaster happens, everybody wants to help, everybody in this room wants to help, everybody at home wants to help. The hard part is seven months later, five years later, when we’re on to a new story . . . honestly, we fail at that, most of the time. That’s the facts.

I fail at that.

So here’s hoping that some very bright person right here in the room or at home watching can help find a way to keep the spotlight burning on these heartbreaking situations that continue to be heartbreaking long after the cameras go away. That would be an impressive accomplishment. Thank you.”

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Your favorite blogger has been light on the blogging lately because he’s been so busy with preps for his upcoming two-week trek around China. I fly out Friday night.

There’s a lot of prep to be done for going anywhere for two weeks, and trying to prep for a trip in a country where I speak only about 10 words of the language (“kung pao,” “egg roll” and a few other Chinese words like those) — and preparing for a trip where I’ll be the guest of a Chinese family I’ve never met in person –well, such a trip presents unique challenges for preparation.

Especially since I’m not even sure where I’m going to be spending all my days and nights. I do have a hotel stay booked in the little and historical city where my hosts live–Kaifeng in the Henan Province–but there’s places I want to fly to for day trips or short ventures where I’m going to be relying on my hosts and the kindness of strangers.

Oh well, I’ve ventured to really strange places before on my own. Shoot, I even lived alone in one of the strangest places on earth in the back woods (Deep East Texas, also known as the land behind the “Pine Curtain”), where I survived two years with long hair as a young, opinionated country newspaper editor.

So yesterday I was telling one of my chaplain colleagues at the hospital that I still haven’t bought any gifts to take to my host family over yonder in the People’s Republic, and asked her if she had any ideas. “Yeah, that’s a tough one,” my colleague said. “Everything’s made in China.”

Stoopid me–I’d never had that insight. What do you buy as gifts for Chinese hosts that aren’t made in China?

That’s your thought for the day–what can you buy for Chinese folk that isn’t made by Chinese folk?

Napa Valley Wine is still made here isn’t it?

I think my Chinese hosts, who are conservative Christians, BTW, are tea sippers anyway. And yes, there’s always been churches and Christians in China, which comes as a big surprise to my friends here in the land of the free. Kaifeng has three thriving churches I plan to visit— and maybe a few of the old underground house churches–and remnants of a Jewish population and synagogue that I plan to find. My Jewish doctor friends at the hospital want me to send their regards and take lots of pictures.

Is Lipton tea made in America???? Well, I wouldn’t think American or British tea would be the best present to give to Chinese hosts for their Chinese hospitality. When their turn comes to visit me here in these great States I’ll buy them some good old American made Hershey Bars (Almonds Div., my favorite chocolate after all these years).

Please don’t tell me those are made in China now.

I’m open to ideas here, Jitterbuggers.

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If you don’t like the whimsical mainstream poetry of Billy Collins, try one of these other creative works from some very creative people who put poems into interesting motion in videos.

Yes, this is the kind of stuff you get only here at JitterbuggingforJesus.com, the blog that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possibly (probably) alienating whole towns, cities, nations and states. The blog that values creativity, originality, imagination, idealism, fearlessness and visionary thinking.

In other words, the blog that values all the attributes of that fearless and visionary dude Christ Jesus.

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My supervisor at the hospital, Bob the Baptist–who has been serving in various forms of hospital ministry for about a hunnerd years–spent several of those years counseling addicts in the hospital’s drug and alcohol rehab unit.

One day in his counseling he introduced himself as a counselor and chaplain to a young man of bitter and menacing appearance, who by way of introducing his own self said gleefully to Bob the Baptist: “I’m not a Christian–I’m a devil worshipper!”

Bob just casually crossed his arms and retorted: “Really? How’s that workin’ for you?”

Occasionally we Christians all encounter the hostile atheist or agnostic who is not content to just be a good atheist or agnostic. This obnoxious atheist or agnostic is just as obnoxious as the Happy but overzealous Christian who knows every word of the Bible but has never been transformed much by it, if at all. This is the Happy Christian who will get hooked into another silly argument with the nonbeliever and neither one really wins anything, even though the grace of God gets diminished and-or averted once again as the nonbeliever breathlessly tells his peers in non-belief how he socked it to that Happy Christian. And the Happy Christian goes away smiling as he believes he just struck another valiant blow for God in God’s battlefied.

Onward Christian soldier.

Maybe the best response to the hostile nonbeliever who wants to taunt you or hook you into a spitting contest over your belief and his belief–which is no belief in God–is to say something like, “Look, my loving trust in God’s love and grace is working for me and a lot of other people who believe and trust in that love and grace, and that’s all I have to say about that, OK?”

Witness to God’s love and grace doesn’t have to contain argumentative words in defense of God, and certainly not words in some battle-like offensive on behalf of God. That kind of battlefield mentality is of the sort that turned off the famous writer Anne Rice and turned her away from church. And it’s the sort of spiritual mentality that turns off and averts more people from church or Christian faith every day.

Witness to God’s love and grace is mainly about just having love and grace in your heart. If your Christian faith is in fact working out for you, just let it be, and let God be God.

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</strong>[EDITOR’S NOTE; I posted this posting on Friday the 27th and said that it was on this date in 1963 that MLK Jr. made his historic speech. It was actually on August 28. This is the first error I’ve ever made in my entire 60 years.]

I mean really–watch the video below and tell me: Can you imagine how MLK and his theology of social justice and his opposition to the Vietnam War and his “radical” and “Marxist” activism and his movement and his speeches and sermons and writings — which were always heavily peppered with scriptures from the Old Testament prophets and other biblical quotes– would have been received by the revisionist historian and self-appointed Christian theologian Glenn Beck and everybody else at Fox News had Fox News been the dominant “news”* network that it is today?

Can you imagine how Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh or any number of other of the loud clowns trying to pass themselves off as conservatives would have received this and other speeches from MLK?

Listen to the words of his speech given on Aug. 28, 1963, and understand why he was so feared and hated and why he was constantly denounced and attacked as a “Communist.” And why he is still feared and hated and denounced as a Communist– and dismissed as an adulterer with no moral authority to this day as becomes on Facebook postings I see on MLK Day every year. I mean, there are still millions out there who refuse to give MLK his due and want to define him as nothing more than an adulterer or Communist or both.
And click here to check out the history of MLK Day and make a note of where the great state of Arizona stood on it. (I’m glad we always have Arizona and South Carolina to get especially bizarre in their politics to give Texas a break from national embarrassment.)
And note that the mavericky John McCain was all over the place on MLK Day, doing his usual flip-flopping whenever the national tide started turning.

(*Whatever else it is, Fox News is not a “news” network.)

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“I have always held firmly to the thought that each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of misery to an end.”

— Albert Schweitzer, musicologist, organist, organ maker, theologian, preacher, physician, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and all-around Renaissance Man.

I read a children’s biography of Schweitzer when I was a mere child, and have read numerous biographies of him since. To my way of thinking he was one of the most inspiring Christian figures of the 20th century. Not a flawless man by any means. As a product of the 19th century, he looked down on the very Africans that he loved so much and anyway, geniuses who make a huge difference in the world always have huge flaws and blind spots. But like the very flawed Mother Teresa–whose petulance and attitude of “my way or the highway” made her difficult for some of the people who knew her to like and much less admire her even as they respected her–Scweitzer’s flaws make him no less inspiring. He lived out his Christian faith in a most radical Christian way, giving up all the creature comforts to live in hardship healing the sick and extending the lives of jungle dwellers. His kind of religious integrity is something to behold.

Click here for this amazing minister and doctor’s obituary from the New York Times, Sept. 6, 1965.

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My Mormon friends–and yes, I have those as well as Muslim friends, which by no means means I share the beliefs of Mormons or Muslims–are embarrassed to no end that the painfully ignorant but loud rodeo clown Glenn Beck has somehow emerged as the face and voice and image of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (There’s no such thing as “the Mormon Church,” really.)

Joanna Brooks has this smart take on Beck from religiondispatches.org, which is one of the smartest religion-related depositories of smart essays on relevant religious issues that you’ll find anywhere.

Beck Claims Obama is “Not Christian”
Post by Joanna Brooks
Last night on his Fox television program, Glenn Beck (now fashioning himself a religion expert) tried to launch a theological attack on President Barack Obama’s Christianity, opportunistically pasting together a predictable string of Jeremiah-Wright-Michael-Pfleger-Jim-Wallis clips to suggest that the President’s espoused a rogue brand of Christianity that was not Christianity at all.

Surely Glenn Beck is just trying to whip up the faithful in time for his “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

But he’s also going to inflame evangelical Christians who have long accused Mormons of practicing a rogue brand of Christianity that is not Christian at all.

“You’re not a Christian.” Growing up in the 1980s as a young Mormon in Southern California, that’s what I (and my brother and sisters) heard time and time again from evangelical Christians drawn into an anti-cult movement that set its sights on Mormonism. It baffled us. Especially since we learned in church every Sunday that Jesus was the son of God, who suffered and died for our sins.

“You don’t believe in the right Jesus,” they told us at Friday night pizza parties designed for local youth, in letters taped to our school lockers, in messages scrawled in our yearbooks, and when they picketed our church meetings.

Perhaps Beck, a convert, has never experienced how it feels when someone challenges the legitimacy of your religion.

Or if he has, perhaps he doesn’t care. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to generate turnout for his media events and build his media empire.

“The president apparently has a deeply held belief that his salvation cannot come without a collective salvation,” Beck said Tuesday night. “I don’t know what that is,” he continued, “other than it’s not Muslim, it’s not Christian. It’s a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it.”

Not so fast.

You could convene a room of theologians and have a robust debate on the nature of salvation across traditions, over time, and find lots of evidence of people of faith (including Christians) believing that the concept of salvation is more expansive than Beck’s theological demagoguery makes it out to be. Even Mormons don’t actually believe that we enter heaven alone. In Mormon theology, eternal marriage is crucial to eternal salvation. And many orthodox Mormons I know speak of Christ’s atonement as an infinite event not contracted to the individual but covering collective suffering and loss, including the suffering humans intentionally and unintentionally cause one another.

But you’ll never find such a robust, thoughtful discussion in the world of Glenn Beck.

It’s Beck who is perverting Christianity by opportunistically casting doubt on the sincerity, honesty, and legitimacy of Barack Obama, a man who has as good as grounds as he does (if not better, in the eyes of America) to call himself a Christian.

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