Tag Archives: goodness of god

Christians who don’t suck: Desmond Tutu

Tutu“I can’t for the life of me imagine that God will say, “I will punish you because you are black, you should have been white; I will punish you because you are a woman, you should have been a man; I will punish you because you are homosexual, you ought to have been heterosexual.” I can’t for the life of me believe that is how God sees things.”

– Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa; Nobel Laureate

I’ve heard it said that pastors preach the sermons they most need to hear.  As a robust spiritual exercise and free service to my readers, Marian will now periodically feature  theological sound bytes from Christians like Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter, rather than giving all the press to twits like Pat Robertson.

The occasion for this inspired bit of blogging is the imminent commencement (sometime in the next month) of my first parish pastorate and the sad, but true, realization that a somewhat more upbeat attitude about the faith of my forefathers might help me survive — intact — the coming year as an intern/solo pastor.  Fear not, faithful readers, the wit, insight, and devastating good looks you’ve come to expect from Marian the Seminarian will continue.

Your prayers/good vibes/positive thinking/funky hoodoo are, as always, appreciated.

© Marian the Seminarian, 2013


God’s silly side in a small, small world

Proof that God has a wicked sense of humor

Proof that God has a wicked sense of humor

It’s often said that God works in mysterious ways.  Quite frankly, I find God’s ways downright frickin’ bizarro most of the time, but that does lend certain capriciousness to life that I think we could all use more of.

Case in point:  I spent half the day last Saturday in the company of 150 of my closest Presbyterian friends[1] at a class entitled “Dangerous Elders.”  Upon arriving, I was crushed to discover that kung fu fighting was not part of the day’s agenda[2], but I soldiered on until we came to lunchtime.

Suddenly struck by the necessity of socializing, I donned my faux extrovert persona and scanned the crowd for familiar faces, trying not to appear pathetic.  Thankfully, I found some friends from Leadville, CO[3] who were too buzzed on all the oxygen at 5200 feet above sea level to notice if I looked pathetic.  Then, a member of one of my favorite rural churches found me and we and some other folks spent the next ten minutes catching up on a perennially relevant and riveting topic to Coloradans:  road construction.

At one point, another solo attendee and I bumped elbows and exchanged a few funny words and then we all got in the lunch line.  I was hoping to sit with my fellow asphalt aficionados.  But when the seating hostess called for two people to fill in an incomplete table, I threw caution to the wind and volunteered.

The hostess sat me next to the other solo flyer I’d run into – literally – a few minutes earlier.  We started chatting (like you do), immediately hitting it off (which is altogether too rare), and the conversation, inevitably, turned to our occupations.

My companion – whom I’ll call Fiona, because that’s not her name – told me that she was in the marriage and family therapy business.  Since I know exactly one marriage and family therapist, I said:  “I realize there are about seven million marriage and family therapists in the world, but I don’t suppose you know Artemisia Donohue[4]?”

She-who-shall-be-known-as-Fiona’s jaw dropped.

“How do you know Artemisia?”

“Her daughter, Electra,[5] and I have been best friends since the fifth grade.”

Fiona started laughing.

“Artemisia and I went to graduate school together and have been best friends ever since!”

Yes, it’s a small world and God moves in mysterious ways.  But the biggest mystery is why Artemisia and Electra both wound up best friends with two Presbyterians.[6]

In any case, the encounter reminded me of God’s wacky, whimsical side.  When we’re tempted – which, in my case, is often – to fixate on the sternness, unfairness, remoteness, and inscrutability of God, it’s important to remember that, for some reason that doesn’t really matter, God invented duckbill platypuses.  God may also have a hand in the discovery of five-dollar bills in the pockets of thrift store purchases.[7]  I’m pretty sure God inspired whoever invented tapioca.[8]  God has got to be behind the darnedest things that kids say.[9]  And I am positive that an almighty creator God with a kick-ass sense of humor is behind wild kingdom behavior like this:

Take time to laugh this week.  Spring is coming.[10]

[1] Which is to say, I was sitting closer to these Presbyterians than to any others at that particular moment.

[2] Thankfully, I took and passed the Colorado DOC’s Pressure Point Control Tactic Training twice.  The second time, one of my sparring partners was a five-foot-tall, ninety-pounds-soakin’-wet chaplain named Gillian.  If you ever find yourself in any of the CDOC’s finer correctional establishments, please, take my advice.  Do not fuck with this chaplain.  She will take your ass down faster than you can say, “Hallelujah.”

[3] At 10,152 feet, Leadville, CO is the highest incorporated city and second highest municipality in the United States.  I have no idea what the difference is between a city and a municipality.

[4] Totally also not her real name.  Duh.

[5] Seriously, people.  Not her real name.  How many times do I have to tell you?

[6] Actually, I suspect it’s because they were unconditionally predestined to be irresistibly attracted to our total depravity.

[7] Especially if you pray over them.  See Marian’s posting from March 8, 2013.

[8] For those of you not up on your highly toxic South American vegetable products, tapioca is made from manioc, which has a rather high cyanide content and is only rendered edible by boiling and draining it several times.  Who the heck stuck around to figure that recipe out?

[9] Granted, I make this last assertion as a non-parent who has derived an endless amount of entertainment from the darnedest things kids say.  Non-non-parents, which is to say, parents, may have a different opinion about things that issue from the mouths of babes.

[10] Unless you’re completely hooked on Game of Thrones, in which case, you know what’s coming.  Winter and dragons and some very ill-advised matrimonies, that’s what!


© Marian the Seminarian, 2013

Blessed are the…wait, who exactly?

Become worthy of the message embedded in the Sermon on the Mount.  – Mohandas Gandhi

gty_victim_boston_tk_130415_wblogWell, fuck.


The self-defensiveness of the righteous, predictably, has already begun.  Obviously¸ the massacre in Boston was perpetrated by a) godless foreign terrorists, b) a godless domestic terrorist, or c) a generically bad person.   We just need to a) arm ourselves, b) get prayer back in schools, and c) be thankful we’re not bad people and everything will be okay.

But only two things have any hope of resolving any of this.  One, I believe, is the grace of God.  Days like today make me appreciate Calvinism’s stubborn insistence on the sovereignty of God.  And days like today really make me appreciate John Calvin’s stubborn belief in a good God, all apparent evidence to the contrary.

The other is that we ourselves must accept collective responsibility for perpetuating the evil that is altogether too prevalent and effortless in this world.

A wise friend of mine once told me that there are only two human emotions – love and fear.  And a surfeit of one significantly limits the other.  Jesus gets at this with his advice to “love your enemies.”   Here’s the kicker though:  we are the enemy.   If we want to stop things like the Boston marathon massacre from happening every damn week in this country, we must start loving ourselves.  And by love I don’t mean self-indulgence or self-congratulation.  Love is genuine compassion and courageous integrity.  As a society, we are short on both.

Rather than filling our hands with more guns and more magazines, we need to hold the hands of the bloodied and broken.  Before gratifying our need for justice, we need to grieve the losses.  Before crucifying, we need to cry.

And frankly, until we, as a people, acknowledge that the evil expressed in Boston today is an evil shared by all of us, until we admit that we are all shattered creatures, until we publically lament our common brokenness together, and unless we stop pointing fingers as if sin is something relative, this shit will continue until no stone is left atop another.

As much as many of us hate to admit it, Jesus of Nazareth had one helluva point when he delivered the Beatitudes – which is Latin for “blessings,” by the way – two thousand years ago.  My own words seeming somewhat inadequate in the wake of America’s massacre du jour, I’ll leave the last words to the author of the book of Luke:

‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’[i]


[i] Luke 6:26-38


© Marian the Seminarian, 2013

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