A Fine Day To Mourn

Yesterday, I went to the memorial service for a man that I knew who died of cancer. I didn’t know him well. He attended the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship that I frequent, and he always seemed to me to be a very nice person. Always friendly and warm, always a smile on his face. My wife’s service, sixteen months ago now, was held in the same church. I hadn’t been there since. This church, The United Church of Christ, is the very church I attended as a child. It is a very liberal leaning church, an open and affirming church, meaning, they don’t judge you for being Gay, or for being anything else. It’s sanctuary has a sweeping arched ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows, and lots of dark woodwork. And rows of old wooden pews, the same pews I reluctantly sat in as a captive of my parents, being forced to sit still (stop fidgeting!) with hands in lap (don’t touch that!) and listen to a man talk about things I had no interest in. Of what use was any of this to a child who’s head was in the sky and who’s body could hardly be kept still (don’t they know what it’s like to be a kid?) Little did I know that I would be sitting there so many years later, mourning the loss of my wife. Or a friend.

I don’t like funerals. I don’t care how much they say that this is a celebration of the person’s life. When you sit, in rows, with a coffin or an urn full of ashes and people are weeping, it’s not a celebration. And yes, we should mourn. We should cry, for our loss. But it’s not a celebration. I remember vividly, the day of my wife’s funeral. I went through the motions, shook hands, hugged, said thank you hundreds of times, wept tears. I was not celebrating.

My mother died the same month as my wife. 27 days before her. We had her funeral there, also. 2017 was a lousy year. The United Church of Christ in Northfield Minnesota started Carleton College (actually it was the Minnesota Conference of Congregational Churches) in 1866 and my Grandfather and my mother spent their careers working for the college. So I guess it seemed natural to them to attend the church so closely connected to it. I am thankful that they chose a liberal church to attend. It is the basis for my liberal outlook today.

While I’m not comfortable with labels, (liberal, conservative, etc.) Liberal most closely explains how I feel about things. I don’t believe you should be judged for who you are. The content of your character (Thank you, Martin Luther King Jr.) should be the basis of another’s judgement of you. What kind of human being are you? That is what should matter.

As I sat, mourning the loss of my friend from the fellowship, I thought about his character. Our pastor told of his kindness, his generosity, his smile and quick wit. He had a wonderful wife, and a loving family. And nothing else matters. Just that. He was a good human being. A good man. And we mourned his loss. And we will continue to do so. Nothing else matters.


No One Should Read This….

angry god
I’ll repeat the warning again. I don’t recommend that anyone read this. There. If you do, you’re on your own. I’m going to talk about religion again. These are my thoughts on why I don’t think the Bible is “the word of God.” Why am I writing this, you ask? Because for a time in my past, I believed it was. I found out the truth the hard way. I’m not going to go into that because it’s not relevant but I want to make clear, that if you are a believer and you still are after reading this then there’s no harm done. If this helps you to ask some questions, then no harm done again. And I always believe that humor helps the medicine go down. So, lets get started.

We’ll start at the beginning, with Satan. Bear with me, it will get better. According to the Bible, God is the perfect being. So he creates Angels. One of them, Satan, rebels and falls from grace. God kicks him out of heaven. So God created angels with the ability to rebel. He’d have to have, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. Why would God have done that? Anyway, Satan rebels. Wouldn’t Satan know that rebelling against God was futile? Wouldn’t God have known, because he is all knowing and all seeing that Satan would rebel? If he didn’t know, then how is God in charge? Wow, all these questions!

So now God creates Adam and Eve. They live in a beautiful garden and God gives Adam the job of husbanding all the animals. He names them, and oversees them all. That’s his job. Then Satan shows up and talks to Eve in the guise of a serpent. Instead of going, “Holy crap, a talking snake!” which is just what I would have done, She talks to him as if everything is normal. In my fantasy world, if I were Eve I would have shot straight off to find Adam to tell him. Adam would’ve squinted his steely eyes and said, “A talking snake? That’s not right. Where’s my axe?” And right then and there, thousands of years of human suffering would have been ended before it ever got started. But of course that’s not what happened. Eve probably put down her book, lit a smoke, poured herself a glass of wine and said, “So, talking snake, what’s on your mind?” And well, you know the rest of the story. Eve believed a talking snake instead of God. Really. That’s what it says.
talking snake
And then we have Job. Job is a pretty cool guy. He’s got lots of flocks of animals, a wife and kids. Probably got a membership at the local country club. Shoots 18 holes once in a while, and you know, drinks with the guys and stuff. He’s doing alright. And then Satan shows up. God gives Satan permission to ruin Job’s life. Kill his animals, kill his wife and kids and infect him with diseases. And God says he thinks Job will still love him. God and Satan play with Job for awhile until they get bored and then say, “Just kidding Job, you can have it all back now.”

Now we’ll skip ahead to Ecclesiastes. That’s a hard one to say and even harder to spell. Anyway, chapter One, verse Five says: “The Sun rises and the Sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” (New International Version) You might think, “So, so what?” That’s just what I thought after reading it several times. But you really have to give this one some thought. Today we know that the Sun doesn’t actually “rise.” The earth spins on it’s axis once every twenty four hours and this give the Sun the appearance of “rising and setting.” So when we say, “The Sun rises,” we know it’s just an expression. But the writer of Ecclesiastes didn’t know that. Science didn’t prove that until the late 1500’s to early 1600’s with Copernicus and Galileo. This biblical writer actually thought the Sun went around and around the Earth. And God created all this so he would know that this passage wasn’t true and yet it’s in the Bible. But it is insisted that the Bible is “The word of God.”

I could go on and on. Why did God, who is a perfect being, create such imperfect people, and then spend the rest of time trying to straighten us out? Why did God unleash Satan on us? Why does God play with peoples lives, like Job? Why did God tell Joshua to kill every man, woman and child in Jericho but put all the gold, silver and copper in the store house because these things are “precious to the lord.” Why did God need a son? Why, why, why?
god with hammer
So now if you’re reading this and your mouth is hanging open and you think, “This guy is going straight to Hell,” I warned you. I told you not to read this. By the way, I never did very well in Sunday School. Here’s another question. Why did God give us all these abilities and then expect us to be at war with ourselves to not use them? Like curiosity. To question why? To want to have an answer to these impossible conundrums. If God can do these seemingly amoral things, why shouldn’t we question that? Shouldn’t our creator have a higher moral standard than we do? If we are expected to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves” why does God get to let horrible things happen to people like Job? Why is that okay? If you were suddenly given the power to end all suffering in the world but didn’t use it wouldn’t you be considered a horrible human being? If God has the power to end all suffering, why does he sit back and let it happen? Drinking his coffee, watching the afternoon soaps and not paying attention. Like I said, I didn’t do very well in Sunday School.

Whether or not you believe God is real, the Bible is a fascinating read. 66 separate books written by many authors over a span of thousands of years. Did the hand of God guide the writers? I don’t think so. Is it deliberately false? I don’t believe that either. I think the authors wrote what they truly believed, as with the Ecclesiastes example. Where does that leave us? There are many things in the Bible that are horrible, like the book of Joshua or Job. But there are also many beautiful things like how to love one another and treat others right. I encourage everyone to take a crack at. So that about wraps it up. Try not to think to badly of me. I got my knuckles rapped a lot when I was a kid.
teacher with ruler