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Religion blog: A pastoral thought

The Occupy Wall Street protest seems to have taken on a life of its own, spreading from Wall Street to major cities across the world.

I find it amusing, in an ironic way, that those who supported the Tea Party folks find the Occupy Wall Street protesters repulsive. One would think that both of these movements would literally shout “There is something very wrong with our society!”

With all the mess going on, and the awful things each side are saying to each other, with the news media behaving like vultures and people jockeying for position, we now see this fighting as standing in the way of making sure our country is protected, secure and safe.

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Religion blog: ‘Fear doesn’t live here’

Every year about this time I start having this debate in my head. Do we really need "Gay Pride?" Do we really need go through all the trouble and expense of throwing, what appears to be, a weekend long party?

Then something like this crosses my desk:

A gay Tennessee couple was reportedly attacked — physically and verbally assaulted — by a Christian Pastor and his deacons to prevent the same-​sex couple from entering the pastor’s church. Sadly, the pastor is the father of one of the two members of the gay couple. Also sadly, the church members and bystanders did not lift a finger to help the couple or to stop church leaders from perpetrating the crime. Further, initially, local authorities refused to allow the couple to file charges.

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Religion blog: ‘To Serve and Protect’

Leave it to the Atlanta Police Department to give me more grey hair, something to write about or maybe just vent. It seems the Atlanta Police Department is in what is known in the world of sports as a "prolonged slump."

Generally, in major league baseball when a prolonged slump gets too long, the President of the ball club fires the manager. In the case of Atlanta, the manager is the Chief of the Atlanta Police Department George Turner and the President is Mayor Kasim Reed.

Mayor Reed appointed Turner to his position after being less than honest during his campaign for mayor by saying he was going to do a national search and get the best person for the job in the country.

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Religion blog: Our spiritual Titanic

If there is one thing that's as sure as the rising or setting of the sun, it's that Christians don't like to be called out on their crap.

After my last blog, I caught more then my share of grief from folks who think the Christian faith is the one and only answer in the universe – there is nothing they could do that could be considered terrorism.

They hide behind theology that says the only way to God is through Jesus the Christ.  They measure a person’s worth by whether they are “saved” or not.  They say they help those who are hungry, homeless or on society’s edge because it's the right thing to do.  Lurking behind that hypocrisy is the real reason: to win souls for Christ.

It is precisely this kind of arrogance, questionable traditions and just flat out power and control issues that have left churches empty, struggling to pay the bills and worship services looking more like a Hollywood production than actual worship.

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Religion blog: Are Christian extremists that much different than foreign terrorists?

"I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." — Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe it is because I am getting old and my ability to just blow things off takes more energy then I have or it may be because Mahatma Gandhi’s observation of Christianity is right on the mark. Sadly in this day to call oneself a Christian has become embarrassing in the world we find ourselves living.

So if this blog today seems like a rant, maybe it is. However, I would like to think it is a call to those in the Christian faith who see the teaching of Jesus as far more important than the institution of the church, to start speaking loudly and clearly, as it seems the extremists now own the faith. I really think it is time for those who follow the teaching of Jesus to take back the conversation rather then letting the extremists destroy us.

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Religion blog: Did you see the elephant in the room during the raid on the Eagle?

There is an old story that has been around for a long time and told with many variations to the moral of the story and so today this story sums up the raid on the gay Midtown bar the Atlanta Eagle, the Atlanta Police Department and some of our brothers and sisters in our community.

One day three blind men encountered an elephant.

Upon touching the elephant's tail, the first blind man exclaimed, "I declare, an elephant is exactly like a rope."

The second blind man, bumping into the elephant’s side, said, "No sir, you are wrong. An elephant is exactly like a wall."

Then the third, having grasped the elephant's trunk, declared, "You are both mistaken. The elephant is exactly like a snake!"

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Religion blog: Giving love a chance

A blog or two ago, I wrote a piece entitled “Forgive Me if I Don’t Raise a Toast” in response to the over-the-top partying and Super Bowl-like mentality of the killing of Bin-Laden.

I never know what's on the mind of someone who makes a comment. Some posts get a lot of response and others get no response at all.

This particular blog post had exactly one comment:

“You ask me to "forgive you".... sorry, I refuse. He got much less than what he deserved. I wish they could kill him once for each life he took.”

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Religion blog: Our moral responsibility to reject HB 87

In the last few days, I've been asked why we should sign on with the Somos Georgia / We Are Georgia’s BuySpot & Sanctuary Zone Community a dozen times if I've been asked once.

The answer is pretty simple. As Christians, as persons of deep faith, we have an obligation to stand up and say no. The truth is that this law, HB 87 "Georgia Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act" is probably not Constitutional and most certainly not morally correct.

Rev. Richard Nathan, pastor of Columbus Vineyard Church, made the point a while back when he wrote:

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Thoughts on how Christianity should embrace ‘radical inclusion’ on this Good Friday

This being Holy Week I have been spending a lot of time wrestling with what it means to be an independent, affirming, progressive Christian.

If you have followed my blog or preaching, the you are familiar with those scriptures that drive me both as a person of faith and a pastor.

As long as I can remember these words of scripture have rested in my soul:

John 3:16
Micah 6:8
Matthew 22:34-40
Matthew 25:31-40
James 3:17
John 14:1-4
Romans 8:31-39

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Religion blog: Thirteen and counting…

On March 15, 2011, our little contribution to theological chaos will be 13-years-old, and the last five of those years, we've made an intentional choice to worship outside.

It was this choice that moved us from a “gay-centric” church to a church that lives on the edge with all those who find themselves there, as well. Of course, the population of those who live on the edge of society has far more folks than LGBTQIA members; yet, it has been interesting that even though we no longer see ourselves as a “gay church” the community label has stuck.

As we literally have become a “Church Without Walls,” this has been met with smiles, rolling of eyes and about 95% of the time an exclamation of “really!?” This is usually followed by, “What do you do when it rains?”

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‘Church Without Walls’ celebrates milestone

Gentle Spirit Christian Church, the “Church Without Walls” led by Rev. Paul Turner, will celebrate its 13th anniversary at noon on Sunday, March 13 with a picnic in Chandler Park.

The LGBT-friendly church was founded in 1998 and began meeting in Chandler Park (1500 McLendon Avenue NE, Atlanta) on Sundays in 2006.

“The Gentle Spirit congregation of today looks a little different from the one of 13 years ago,” said Turner, founding and senior pastor. “We started the church to offer a home to Christians who felt left out of the mainline churches, and as we’ve explored what it means to extend God’s welcome to everyone, we’ve become a truly diverse congregation with members from all walks of life.”