Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
The Year of Crucifixion
I never pay much attention to birthdays anymore. Haven't for years. For some reason I just stopped caring to celebrate them. Some might say it's because I don't want to acknowledge how fast time is passing and hence, how quickly I'm getting older. Whatever the reason, birthdays simply don't appear on my radar screen much any more.
Except for this year. You see, this is the year of crucifixions.
By age 24 Orson Welles had co-written, produced, directed and stared in Citizen Kane, the film many people consider to be the greatest in American history. By 33 Jesus Christ was concluding a ministry that would alter human history as we know it, culminating later that year in his sacrificial death.
Now, I'm not comparing Welles to Christ. But there are times when I have to sit back in wonder at what some men and woman are able to accomplish while they are still so young; while the rest of us twiddle our thumbs, still preoccupied with trying to find out just who we are and what we want to do in the first place.
It's just weird to think about. Today I turn 33, the same age as Christ when he died. I still have problems comprehending myself as an adult, let alone as mature enough to save an entire planet.
I'm not downplaying Christ's divinity or assuming I'll get anywhere near a call as important as Christ's, but simply marveling, I guess, at how close He feels to me today, how human, how real. We always think of Him as so much higher than human, so much more inaccessible than ourselves and yet, in a very real way, at this time in our lives, he and I would have been peers.
Maybe I'm reading far too much emotional resonance into this, but it's something I've been thinking about for months now as my birthday drew closer.
It's both comforting and exasperating.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Goodbye and Good Riddance
President Bush just announced that Donald Rumsfield, the wildly unpopular architect of the war in Iraq is stepping down.
And last night the Democrats seized control of the House and possibly even the Senate.
It's been a good 24 hours.
Now if we can just do something about the farce in the Oval Office...
Sunday, November 05, 2006
A few years ago I chased Lance Armstrong around France and ultimately to Paris where he won (of course) the Tour de France. And today I got to chase him a bit more by attending the New York City Marathon where he finished just shy of three hours. He said afterwards, "For the level of condition that I have now, that was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I have ever done. I didn't train enough for a marathon. In 20 years of pro sports and endurance sports, even the worst days on the Tour, nothing felt like that or left me the way I feel now."
Unfortunately, we saw Lance but you can't pick him out in any of our pictures. That said, here are a few images from the day, taken just off Central Park on the Upper East Side. Click on any of them to enlarge them.
Brazil's Marilson Gomes dos Santos, the first South American to win the New York City Marathon.
Kenyans Stephen Kiogora and defending champion Paul Tergat.
Defending champion Jelena Prokopcuka, from Latvia, sped away from the other top contenders early in the race and ran by herself to the end, becoming the first woman in more than a decade to win two straight titles in New York. Unfortunately, I missed snatching a picture of her though I did get some of the ladies hot on her heels.
After the elite crowd, came the great unwashed masses--more than 37,000 of them. They came in great, undulating torrents, moving down the artery-like streets to the encouragement of those huddled on the streets to cheer them on.
Friday, November 03, 2006
The Bigger They Are...
I am well aware that as I write, this entire affair is less than 24 hours old, continuing to unfold and no where near all the facts are out. But I felt the need to get some thoughts out on (cyber)paper nevertheless.
For those of you who are not already aware, Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, one of the largest and most influential mega-churches in the country has been accused of having a homosexual and drug-ladan affair with a Denver man. This man has come forward with certain proofs which seem to corroborate his story and New Life Church, from which Ted has resigned just this morning, sent an e-mail confirming that at least part of the allegations are true though they did not specify which ones. Haggard has already resigned his post from the NAE.
As a longtime resident of Colorado Springs before my move to New York, and the husband of a wife who grew up at New Life, attending since it was only a handful of people (the church is now anywhere from 11,000 to 14,000 people), I am shocked and bewildered.That I have met Ted, been to the church, know so many people who attend there and grew up with New Life as a cultural icon in the city, makes this all the more of a blow.
For those who say this is just a political stunt, I would agree. So would Ted's accuser. He's said as much. When he learned of Ted's identity and what he stood for in his public life and how he lived in his private life, he said he wanted it exposed. Repugnant? Perhaps. But not wholly unreasonable. After all, you may despise the message or even the way the message is delivered, but if it is the truth, all opposition, all political hand-wringing, all partisan attacks, in my opinion, must cease.
When I revealed this information to someone (a Christian) very close to me this morning, he laughed out loud, saying, "Well, only someone on drugs could think a church that looked like that would make God happy. I'm not happy at his problems, I'm just happy that the cracks in the evangelical mind set and system are starting to show up faster than people can plaster them over."
I have to admit, a part of me that wants to laugh out loud too, wag an accusatory finger and say, "Ha, see, I told you so. Hypocrites. I knew your time would come. Gotcha!"
This is a part of myself that I really don't like. A part of myself that I am embarrassed by. A part of myself that I know full well is sin.
Those who've read between the lines of many of my posts on this site probably realize that I don't think all that much of New Life Church or Ted Haggard. They both practice a Christianity I find both frightening and theologically troublesome.
And yet I never wanted this. This is terrible. It's a lose/lose situation for everyone and will bring nothing but confusion and disillusionment and anger in its wake. How does a community--both the local congregation and evangelicalism as a whole--even begin to process something like this?
I have to say that I feel horrible for Ted as well. Yes, it appears there is massive hypocrisy here and I'm not saying that the definition of hypocrisy is something lost on me, and yet, in my experience, those things we most rail against are those things with which we battle the most ourselves. It is as if in decrying it, we are desperately trying to preach not so much to others, but ourselves. I cannot imagine what Ted and his family are going through. Even if it turns out that he is guilty of every charge (which inexplicably would not surprise me) I still feel agony for him and those closest to him--just because he is complicate doesn't make the outing any less painful.
This is a perfect example of our shared, fallen, sinful humanity and while Ted and many in the charismatic, evangelical fold might like to stand up and preach on Sunday mornings that a true, spirit-filled Christian would never ever be a part of something like this, Ted, like other great men before him (King David anyone?) proves our lives are never as simple, never as black and white as modern Christianity likes to make them out to be.
I really hope the church wakes up and learns from this experience, to acknowledge that it has made homosexuality its pet sin, and that no growth can be made either outside or inside the church so long as it places abnormal and vitriolic emphasis on this sin above most all others.
If this accusation is true, where does Ted go...what does he do? I don't mean vocationally, I mean in terms of repentance, forgiveness, restitution. (Aside from God, of course.) With the evangelical church breathing judgmental fire on this issue (including Ted himself) will he feel comfortable enough to return to its fold and will they have him back? I hope so. If they truly believe the words of Christ, they must.
I said earlier that nothing good can come of this. But as I wrap up my thoughts, I'm not sure that is entirely true. The church has a fantastic opportunity here to be Christ, to live Christ, and to realign its misguided focus from the political sphere to the spiritual sphere. It can start--assuming all this is true--by immediately embracing Ted Haggard in love and forgiveness and then do the same to the homosexual community it has thus far done such a competent job of alienating and despising.