From one perspective, today’s Supreme Court decisions in the DOMA and California Prop 8 cases move the U.S.A. much further down the road to full equality for same-sex couples and their civil liberties to freely live family life and enjoy the same benefits afforded different-sex couples under federal law. Delivering the majority opinion of the Court today, Justice Kennedy wrote, “[Same-sex marriage in New York] reflects both the community’s considered perspective on the historical roots of the institution of marriage and its evolving understanding of the meaning of equality.” From another perspective, today’s decisions greatly erode the “traditional” definition of marriage between a “man” and a “woman” and thus erode the social institution of marriage as the “bedrock” social institution of civilization. Beginning his dissent from the majority in the DOMA decision, Justice Alito wrote: “Our Nation is engaged in a heated debate about same-sex marriage. That debate is, at bottom, about the nature of the institution of marriage.” Later, on page 8 of Alito’s dissent, he wrote, “The family is an ancient and universal human institution. Family structure reflects the characteristics of a civilization, and changes in family structure and in the popular understanding of marriage and the family can have profound effects.” From yet another perspective, today’s decisions are about “power,” namely, who has legitimate power to decide these complicated issues. Beginning his dissent, Justice Scalia wrote, “This case is about power in several respects. It is about the power of our people to govern themselves, and the power of this Court to pronounce the law. Today’s opinion aggrandizes the latter, with the predictable consequence of diminishing the former. We have no power to decide this case … The Court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution [SCOTUS] in America.” [Read more…]
Recently when I was driving our son Tim to school, he started a conversation with me about something from last year’s school experience when he was in first grade. It reminded me of something from the year before when he was in kindergarten at Clissold Elementary in Chicago. I brought up the kindergarten experience and asked him if he remembered it. “No,” he said. “Do you remember your kindergarten teacher’s name?” “Um, lemme see … um … no, I don’t remember.” What? I thought to myself. You don’t remember her name! That awesome teacher?! I tried to help him remember, but he could not. When I recalled her name for him, then Tim exclaimed, “Oh, now I remember!”
At the age of seven, Tim lives his life just beyond the event horizon of the black hole of his young childhood memories. As with all of us, those memories will exert unconscious power and presence on his life throughout the years and decades to come. Those of you who currently have children five and younger presently know how to savor sweet and tender moments with them as they marvel at snowfall and the twinkling of stars and how to see the bright side of their silliness in singing the same songs over and over again, even though their endless repetition may annoy you time-to-time … or even most of the time! Time with children is so precious, and it goes by all too quickly. [Read more…]
How deep do you want to go? Your questions lead into a quagmire of thousands of years of Western philosophy and religion … and I love you going there! Come, get stuck with me and all other mountain-top sitters who love to contemplate these things!
You can read plenty of my own theological opinions and research in my thesis (shameless plug), “Theology and Technology: Humanity in Process” (PDF), explanation page here. I am largely agnostic on an immaterial “soul,” a Platonic soul that is ontologically a separate substance from the physical body, specially created at conception, conjoined with the body. If I have to be nailed down I suggest scientifically-informed positions of dual-aspect monism or emergentism (leaning heavily toward the later). Mostly, what you see is what you get. When you die, on this side of the Resurrection, your current earthly body is dead, “you” are not “in the grave” or in the “ashes” or “out there” somewhere in limbo or in the clouds awaiting for Resurrection. You go directly to the general Resurrection. There are some Bible verses in the New Testament that imply “waiting,” but all of those theories imply reincarnation, a “soul” re-inhabiting a body, which is not resurrection. The Book of Revelation: NEW heaven and NEW earth, not re-enfleshed, re-incarnated soul. 1 Cor 15: resurrected self is soma pneumatikon (spiritual-body) verus soma psychikon (soulish-body), i.e. “soulish” implying earthiness, Hebrew nephesh, Greek psyche. See my thesis on this distinction.
Oh, one more clarification. I teach and preach in the midst of death, grief, and funerals that in the blink of an eye, from the perspective of the deceased, the person who has died goes directly to the Resurrection at the “Other End of Time.” It’s about Time as the fourth dimension of the Universe. The Big Bang is actually just a finite “point” on the “sphere” of Time-Space, and at the “Other Side” of the “sphere” of Time-Space is the culmination of reality, i.e. Alpha and Omega, straight from Jesus in Revelation. 🙂
Thus, for us on this side of life/death our dearly departed’s body is dead. From the “dead’s” perspective, they are not “dead,” they are aliver than alive!
So, my loved ones who have died and have been buried or cremated are still on Earth waiting to be resurrected?
Yes. My position reflects the hard-core reality that on our present-earthly-life “side” of the Resurrection death is real and is to be mourned. The person is dead. At the same “time” (uh-oh, actually two different “times”), the “dead” person is instantly translated to the Resurrection and from their perspective “there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev 21:4). It’s about the re-creation of the entire universe, which on this “side” of things begs us to re-consider a completely different perspective of the whole shebang.
Again, the theological opinion/position of a simple Christian believer. No, they are not “on Earth” as we know it or in some ethereal realm or alternate dimension. They are dead from our perspective. From their perspective they are in the Resurrection / “Omega” part of the Universe/Time-Space. Death is real and I personally find it troubling to teach that loved ones are living some kind of lesser-than-full-resurrection-life as angels-in-the-clouds, an immaterial existence, twiddling their ethereal thumbs waiting for the real deal for thousands, millions, or even billions of years. No, we are instantly “with the Lord,” as Paul implies in Philippians 1:20-24. “To die is to gain” and “to be with Christ.” Doesn’t sound like immaterial angels-in-the-clouds existence to me. Christ arose “physically” from the grave, more precisely “soma-pneumatikonly” from the grave. We share in the same resurrection with the Christ.
That takes away the comfort I feel/felt at funerals that they were somehow in a “better place.”
Oh, boy, I hope it doesn’t take away the comfort! I’ve prayed this and preached this theology many times in my few years of experience as a pastor in the midst of death and grieving, sometimes literally as the people were dying or have just died. Many people have expressed heart-felt thanks for receiving this view of death and the after-life, and they find it deeply comforting. Personally, this is the absolute core of the Gospel and the one thing I believe most strongly in my theology and spirituality. I only say that I am “agnostic” on the issue of body/soul because it’s a terribly complex issue and the evidence is elusive. What do we know empirically about what happens after death? Not much, if anything, by definition. I am not not agnostic on the Gospel message of Resurrection! That’s what it’s all about, IMO.
Does Methodism have a one-two sentence answer to this question?
UMC’s official position? None that I know of. Sprinklings here and there, but when you look at the Service of Death and Resurrection in the Book of Worship you see what I’m preaching here all over that service. After all, we call it the service of “Death” AND “Resurrection” for Heaven’s/Alpha-Omega’s sake!
Today is Veterans Day, which has its origins in the November 11, 1918 armistice agreement to end WWI, 94 years ago today. WWI was known as the “Great War” and “the war to end all wars.” Within two decades after the end of the “war to end all wars,” Germany violated the Treaty of Versailles ending WWI and quickly occupied half of Europe. Europe plunged into continental-wide war again. Meanwhile, Japan invaded China and Manchuria–they had already occupied Korea for decades–and then Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States, having been largely on the sidelines, entered full-force into WWII. By the end of the war in 1945, tens of millions of people were dead, millions were mercilessly exterminated in concentration camps, and tens of thousands of civilians were vaporized by Little Boy and Fat Man. In declaring the first anniversary of Armistice Day in 1919, President Woodrow WIlson said, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” How ironic it is that Congress declared “Armistice Day” a federal holiday on May 13, 1938, a day “dedicated to the cause of world peace” at the same time Germany took control of Austria and Japan reached the Yellow River in China.
In 1954 the name of the holiday was changed to “Veterans Day,” and in his proclamation on the occasion of the name change, President Eisenhower asked the United States to “let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.” [Read more…]
The following is the text I prepared for my sermon Sunday, October 21, 2012, at Plainfield UMC. This sermon focused on the second part of our mission statement: “Equipping people for a growing relationship with Jesus Christ to serve all.” The thesis is that we can be extremely well equipped, but if we’re not standing for Jesus and resisting the “ways of the world,” i.e. “sin,” then we’re not building strong “faith muscles.” A “growing relationship” with Jesus / faith in Jesus grows and strengthens from “resistance training.”
“Resistance is futile?” Can anyone identify how this catch phrase was popularized in culture?
Wikipedia: “The Borg are a collection of species that have turned into cybernetic organisms functioning as drones of the collective or the hive. A pseudo-race, dwelling in the Star Trek universe, the Borg take other species by force into the collective and connect them to ‘the hive mind’; the act is called assimilation. The Borg’s ultimate goal is ‘achieving perfection’. The origin of the Borg is never made clear, though they are portrayed as having existed for hundreds or thousands of years. In the movie Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg Queen merely states that the Borg were once much like humanity, ‘flawed and weak’, but gradually developed into a partially synthetic species in an ongoing attempt to evolve and perfect themselves.”
Borg Queen: “Assimilation turns us all into friends. In fact, it brings us so close together we can hear each other’s thoughts.” Doesn’t that creep you out? Yet, we likely find the idea of “being friends” or at least “getting along” with everyone an appealing ideal. Remember Rodney King’s public appeal in the midst of the Los Angeles riots of 1992? “Can we all get along?” The Borg, however, want much more than just “getting along” with each other, and certainly much more than mere coexistence, they want “assimilation,” which has as its ultimate goal, “achieving perfection.” [Read more…]