Good News and Better News… June 19th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3342)

Dislike–deciding to “diss” liking.

In the pursuit of what we call love, and even unconditional love, we’ve reached a point where we just don’t like each other anymore. We have the appearance of Atlas carrying the world on our shoulders because we feel compelled by our civilized natures to be as calm as possible.

We “diss” liking. We claim great affection for souls around us while privately rolling our eyes, communicating that they are annoying.

So when I arrived yesterday morning at the Ruskin United Methodist Church, I was looking for people who like each other. Because here’s the truth–a paraphrase of John the Apostle: I don’t think you can love God if you don’t like people.

It seems that God is really proud of His creation.

I know we portray an anxious deity, constantly perturbed over our sins, but since He gave us the ability and even the permission, I seriously doubt that He will be terribly upset when we occasionally go errant.

The greatest arrogance, the most self-righteousness, and perhaps the sin of all sins, is to believe that human beings are not worth liking.

  • It’s in our government.
  • It’s in our religious system.
  • It’s in our movies.

We are training ourselves to be suspicious, and failing to acquire great moments of human fellowship that just demand a little bit of mercy and grace.

I’m not one to advocate looking in the rear view mirror and assuming that the past was better than the present, but I will tell you, if there was any era when people were given the chance to excel without being pre-judged, then we might want to reach back into that span of time and regain some of that tenderness.

For the good news is, God likes people.

And the better news is, He loves those who like them, too.

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Good News and Better News… February 20th, 2017

 

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3224)

church-lady

Scold: a nasty rebuke offered by a disciplinarian to an underling.

No one likes to receive the scold. Matter of fact, it can unearth a teenage rebellion out of an eighty-year-old.

And also cloistered within “scold” are two other words, just as fussy and frustrating:

Cold: an absence of warmth, and

Old: the passing of years, turning us into grumpy sorts.

Although a strong case can be made that repentance is at the heart of our faith, trying to initiate that with harsh words offered to a fellow-traveler is highly unlikely. But it’s exactly the approach we take in the religious system to attempt to get people into the church.

We scold.

First we scold by saying, “We just don’t understand why people don’t come to church,” instead of sitting down and coming up with the logical reasons why a human being might not want to flock to the flock.

Then we turn cold.

If they actually do pop in on Easter, Christmas or for the baptism of a little grandson, we don’t know how to treat them. To a certain degree, we are frightened of the outside world–therefore, when people show up, we’re at a loss to muster the confidence to welcome them wholeheartedly.

And of course, we are freakishly old.

We expect people to come into the church and adapt to our ancient traditions. It’s been years since we’ve questioned whether the rituals in the church actually minister to human beings, or are just symbols of what we think the Divine might like.

The good news is, if we’ll stop scolding people with our cold attitude from an old mindset, we might just free up a new idea, using our talents to embrace strangers.

The better news is, we really have no option. If we don’t evolve very soon … there will be no one left around to scold.

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Ask Jonathots… September 8th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I had to do a short talk in speech class and wanted to chat about my church experience, but I felt I had to offer a disclaimer about Christianity: “I’m a Christian, but I don’t hate you.” I would love to stop having to do that. How?

Every single week, Americans go and spend money at Wal-Mart, even though it is pretty well known that their products are manufactured through cheap labor, often with the mistreatment of the employees. Should we stop shopping at Wal-Mart because the company has chosen practices that disregard the workers in other countries?

You can feel free to do so, but Wal-Mart is not going to be affected by your decision.

Or you can come to the conclusion that the only responsibility you have is to make sure that your life, your aspirations and your interactions with other human beings are free of intimidation and unfairness.

You’re not responsible for Wal-Mart.

You are responsible for you.

It’s very important that each believer in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth understand that the religious system that represents him is guilty of excess, greed, indifference and at times the subjugation of the poor. The system has drug its feet on issues of human rights and racial and gender equality.

Yet to stop attending a church, turning it over to the indifferent, is failing to capture an opportunity to quietly change the atmosphere.

If enough people show up at the religious system and refuse to merely act in ritual and repetition, then eventually, because the religious system likes to collect offerings, it will have to change in order to accommodate the new spirit.

For instance, I only buy groceries at Wal-Mart. Why? Because most of the products that come into the grocery department are not grown in sweat shops. It is a small consideration but still a difference.

And I don’t refuse to go to the church because it is filled with hypocrisy and vanity, but instead, I go to encourage my brothers and sisters and fellow-humans to be of good cheer, lighten their load and give a damn.

So I suppose if I were standing in front of your speech class, I would say:

“I’m a follower of Jesus. He thinks we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus was fine until the committee showed up–just like the United States was a great idea until politics corrupted it. But I neither give up on Jesus nor the United States just because those who scream the loudest are ignorant. I am a follower of Jesus. I don’t make a very good Christian, because I’m just not religious.”

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Ask Jonathots… August 25th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3044)

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I want my kids to have a spiritual upbringing but I don’t feel comfortable with a lot of the churches available to us. How do I ensure that I am instilling spirituality in their lives?

Your question is really in two parts.

First, what should I do about the church, and second, how do I instill spirituality in my kids?

Let me start with the second question. There are three steps to true spirituality:

1. What do I truly believe?

I will tell you something shocking. The less you believe in, the better the chance will be that you will follow it.

This is why, in the Good Book, the entire sixty-six units boil down to a single phrase: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The truth is, when you love your neighbor as yourself, you’re already putting into practice at least fifty principles. But if you focus on loving your neighbor as yourself, you will be honoring a thousand ideas.

2. How does what I believe affect me?

The absence of an abundant life is the presence of a crappy belief system. It was Jesus who said that fruit would be borne in our lives through what we believe. If you are miserable, irritable, grouchy, complaining, bigoted, self-centered, short-sighted and selfish, you probably need to go shopping for a new belief.

3. How does my belief affect others?

Our belief was never intended to be a preachy condemnation of the lifestyle of our brother or sister. It is a light that shines in place, available for those who wish to emerge from their darkness.

In other words, if you’re teaching your children to love their neighbors as themselves, use their beliefs to progress them emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically, and allot mercy and tolerance to others while affording a helping hand, then you have spirituality.

Now, when it comes to the church, the spiritual representation of that idea has been lost in the implementation of the organization. But here’s the truth of the matter: if you have a good heart, a willing spirit, an open mind and an active desire, you can go into any church and affect the theology simply by being a worker instead of a critic.

There is no way that people with true spiritual insight can be ignored in a religious system that stumbles over its own clumsy rules.

So once you get your children in an attitude of understanding what true spirituality is, then go to church and let your light shine–because that beam of confidence will soon put you in a position to change the mediocre surroundings.

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Jesonian: Head for the Hills … November 8th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Drachma

The Middle East is a muddled beast.

It has baffled politicians, military strategists and rational thinkers for generations.

Following a Jesonian philosophy, which is an attempt to tap the heart of Jesus, I decided to find out if the Nazarene had any insight on the issue.

Turns out he does.

It was in the latter part of his ministry when Jesus visited Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and took the opportunity to attack the religious leaders for their hypocrisy, excess, indifference and greed.

He spends quite a bit of time elaborating on the iniquity that filled the religious system of his day. But it is the closing of his speech which is most chilling. He finishes up his talk by saying that he had come to Jerusalem many times, trying to reason with them and get them to repent of their stubbornness and sense of superiority. But the continual rejection had caused him to decide that “their house was left to them desolate.”

Because they had killed the prophets, ignored wise men who had been sent their way, and shunned anyone who was practical enough to believe that spirituality could be best expressed through the love of human beings instead of the practice of ritual, he felt it was time for him to depart.

So the 24th Chapter of Matthew begins with a chilling proclamation: Jesus left the Temple.

He never went back again.

He never has.

All the dealings of the Christian faith are meant to be conducted in the streets and homes of human beings–at the point of need.

The ironic part is that the disciples try to draw him back to the Temple, to show him all the sights and wonders–a “Holy Land tour.”

He emphatically tells them that what they see before their eyes will be torn down, stone by stone. He even describes the process. He says that people will be so involved in their religion and their family life that they will not notice the signs of their times.

They will be “marrying and given in marriage,” oblivious to the dangers of conflict and generational revenge.

Jesus gave his disciples counsel. He said, “When you see there is conflict around Jerusalem and that there are armies gathering … head for the hills.”

Don’t stay and fight.

Don’t pick a side.

Don’t assume that God will protect those who are out to destroy each other.

Head for the hills.

We, as the United States, should take the wisdom of Jesus’ warning. There is no Armageddon unless all the armies of the world go to the desert and fight.

It is possible for us to support Israel and also welcome the Palestinians as long as the Palestinians accept the right of Israel to exist and Israel includes the Palestinians.

This is a family fight, and if we join it, both sides of the family will fight against us. So basically, we don’t please the Muslims and we don’t satisfy the Israelis.

Head for the hills.

It is possible to be an arbiter without putting on boxing gloves to join in the bout.

This should be our mission. We should watch the signs of the times, keep ourselves free from the conflict, and do our best to guide these lost brothers and sisters into understanding that the world is big enough for both of them, if their hearts can grow big enough for each other.

So I say to the Republicans and the Democrats: from a Jesonian perspective, you’re both wrong.

Jesus realized there is no negotiation with religion.

  • Religion will kill to fulfill its principles.
  • Religion will repeat instead of repent.
  • Religion is constantly looking for a new Messiah.
  • And religion invites war because it thinks peace is compromising doctrine.

But Jesus left the Temple.

We should do the same.

Stand back and let’s see if these warring factions will grow tired of burying their children, and begin to have a heart for making peace. And then, let us be the peace-makers instead of the fellow-warriors.

I believe it’s the only answer.

There is no Holy Land in the Middle East: people are dying, people are hurt, people are abused and people are marginalized.

It is the definition … of unholy. 

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Jesonian: Rome, Jerusalem and Antioch… July 19th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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streetwalking Jesus

The religious system is confused.

Confusion normally sets in when what we have set out to do fails miserably, and rather than admitting our lacking, we choose to cover it up with freshly concocted stupidity.

All the churches in the United States are desperately trying to hang on to every blade of grass to keep from falling off the cliff into oblivion.

The level of disinterest for all things spiritual is growing daily. Rather than allowing for candid reflection and legitimate repentance, a strange sense of nostalgia has set in, causing these diminishing denominations to grab on to one of two efforts: to either become more Rome or more Jerusalem.

For some it’s an issue of attempting to return to the tenets of the Mother Church in Rome and put greater emphasis on sacraments, liturgy, tradition and form. They cite statistics telling them that most people want their church services to be somber, guarded and filled with relics of childhood memories of spirituality.

  • So communion around the table becomes more important than communion of the saints.
  • Repetition of words becomes more prevalent than the repetition of our ongoing commitment to one another.

Although many of them are Protestant, they secretly yearn for a reconciliation with Catholicism.

Then there are those who think the key to expanding their spiritual borders and increasing their attendance is Jerusalem:

  • More emphasis on praise, worship, Old Testament practices and an apocalyptic geyser of predictions concerning the end of the world.
  • If you can’t make people happy, then make them glad they’re sad because they’re waiting for Jesus to come back and make everything right.

And even though Jesus continues to stand at the door of all of these churches and knock, no one opens up to him because all of them are possessed by forms of godliness while denying the power of the Gospel to transform our everyday experiences.

There is a third choice. It is characterized in the Book of Acts by a body of believers who lived in Antioch.

  • They were not Jews.
  • They were not Romans nor Greeks.

They rejected the term “Gentile” and instead embraced a new name: Christian.

It was a mocking title placed upon them by their pseudo-intellectual neighbors, referring to this new breed of thinker as “Little Jesuses.”

They liked it.

They understood that to be a follower of Jesus was to embrace the lifestyle he proclaimed in his Sermon on the Mount and in all his dealings with his fellow-humans.

The Roman church will not give us the intimacy required to show mercy to others. We’re too interested in our own absolution.

The Jerusalem church will not provide us enough Jesus of Nazareth to transform the lives of the congregation from Old Covenant to New Covenant. And looking to the eastern sky for a Second Coming eliminates a vision of the entire horizon.

We must go back to being Christians–but in the style of Antioch, not Rome or Jerusalem.

That particular position functions with two Jesonian tenets:

  1. We should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
  2. And we will love our neighbor as ourselves.

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Jesonian: (Part 2) The Preparer … June 7th, 2015

 

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2605)

Jesus for Jesonian

Hearkening back to my school days, I recall four distinctly different types of teachers:

  • Paul the Paycheck
  • Larry the Lecturer
  • Mike the Mentor
  • Fred the Friend

(There were also the female counterparts of Paula, Lorraine, Michelle and Freda.)

Paul the Paycheck was a reluctant participant in the educational process, but faithful to his duties, always reminding you, though, that he wasn’t paid enough and could have gone into business and been rich.

Larry the Lecturer was in pursuit of the morality of learning, insisting that placing fine detail in a child’s brain was the best way to keep him or her from delinquency or poverty.

Mike the Mentor was pretty well aware that the best way for information to reach the adolescent brain was to provide examples which were easily understood in the teenage thinking process.

And Fred the Friend was the type of teacher who realized that students were going to learn what students were going to learn, but the lasting impression for their high school experience would be a loyal, intelligent and cool teacher.

Paralleling this to the religious system, we have a church today that teaches that Jesus is Paul the Paycheck, who died for our sins and now has become Larry the Lecturer, making sure we don’t accidentally have fun, ending up in a pit of evil.

We can certainly understand why this approach is not absolutely filling the pews.

But it only takes a quick study of the Gospels for us to realize that Jesus came to mentor his 12 disciples, and by the end of the session, called them “friends” because he shared his life with them.

So when my Mentor and Friend tells me that he is preparing a place for me, I am fully aware that he is working for my completion in the following areas:

1. Helping me find out what’s good for me here so I will know what I enjoy and what I would love to do forever.

2. He is also helping me find the perseverance and sense of humor to survive the bad that comes my way, by acquiring the ability to count the cost and avoid unnecessary conflict.

3. He’s placing his spirit deep within my being so I begin to recognize in the world around me what is growing towards the good, what is stagnant and what is determined to be dark.

4. He has placed the confidence in me that because of his mentoring and friendship he knows exactly what to provide for me in the life to come. to keep the joy of goodness flowing.

So my heaven will not be your heaven. My heaven will be a glorious expansion and explosion of the good I’ve already found here, thrilling my soul.

It will be prepared for me by my Preparer.

It will be a home where my Mentor and Friend can join me in freedom, fullness and pleasure.

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