I made it again this morning–I can’t help myself–I just make it over and over.  Baked oatmeal is here to stay.

So, let’s here it.  Have you tried it?  What did you think?

No responses to my Jesus doll letter were printed in the paper, though I did get a personal one sent through the U.S. Mail to my church. Surprisingly (at least to me), the letter doesn’t address the Jesus doll issue but rather takes the opportunity to criticize faith and religion in general. For your pleasure and comment, I here reproduce the letter as is:

Rev Brett Hendrickson

Brett,

I read your letter about the Jesus doll.

I was raised Christian, but by age 10 was bright enough to realize that biblical writings were utter nonsense, Fantasy, mysticism and fictional. But in many decades have studied all the major religions.

If I read select verse from the bible at your church, the congregation would collectively mess their pants. Much Of the bible is too nasty to be read before children. If Jesus existed, he was a Jew, no different than other men, except he may have been a religious reformer and a thorn protesting exisiting religious corruption. Jesus was never a Lord nor a King. Thousands of years ago religions competed with kings for control of the people. Religious extremists wanted their own heroes to have equal status with Kings and lords. Thusly, they were called the same.

Hitler didn’t kill 6 millions Jews. It was centuries of racism and hatred by Christian churches that allowed this to happen. It was the Christian church, which killed those Jews, and they had been discriminating against Jews for centuries. The Romans didn’t kill Jesus. Romans paid no attention to local religions. Jewish priests may have ordered the riddance of Jesus, assuming he was in conflict with the church corruption at that time. Then, as now, Religions, slaughter their dissenters. Your church drives dissenters out. There is no freedom of religion within the church. Islam still murders their dissidents and murders non-believers who criticize Islam.

Radical Christian clergy are anti-abortion, anti-birth control. The bible says nothing about abortion, and it was The only widely known means of birth control at that time. Your concordance lists countless legitmate reasons for killing. Review Leviticus. You can slaughter your daughter if she has sex outside of marriage. God was the first to kill off the unborn. I suggest you remind your members of Noah and God. God drowned hundreds of thousands. He drowned all the unborn. The babies, the mothers, all the adults. His killing lust not yet satisfied, he drowned all the unborn animals, the babies, the adults. Maybe we should bring God down here and try him before a jury along with Saddam.

One minister theologian told me that there has been over 3,000 religions and 10,000 gods. I reminded him that no religion has ever produced a god. This is the 21st century, time for all religions to produce their gods before the UN or forever be prohibited from claiming that there are such things. If I sell stock in a gold mine but can’t produce my mine, I would be jailed for fraud. Clerics should also be jailed for the same failure to produce. This is Consumer fraud, extracting millions from the gullible

You have been brainwashed into your own beliefs, reading only the scriptural side. There are several great Skeptic magazines which will provide you with sound arguments against such religious fraud. There are well researched books criticizing both religions and psychics,. I suggest you read some of this. Science and Religion, by Paul Kurtz is great reading. Prometheus Books are great sources of info. You should read Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer. Factual magazines. As a Christian cleric, you should be running scared. I doubt that you have read Islam. It repeatedly states that Muslims are to slaughter all non-believers until there are no more, wherever you can find them, especially Jews and Christians.

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I have decided not to respond because I don’t think that the letter writer and I are having the same conversation. I find his depiction of Islam especially ignorant and troubling, but other than that, I don’t really disagree with him that the Bible is full of scary and confusing stuff, that I’ve never produced scientific proof of God, that the Bible doesn’t talk about abortion or birth control, and that Christians are historically responsible for many atrocities such as the Holocaust. It’s funny that we can sort of agree on these basic points while being so fundamentally and diametrically not on the same page.

Baptizing a baby

November 26, 2006

In a few minutes I will leave for church with my son, Tom. Alex and Lily are already at Alex’s church, and Alex plans to preach fast and then come to Guadalupe as soon as she can. Today, I will baptize a baby, the son of a friend of ours. The little boy, like our children, was adopted from Guatemala. The parent, unlike us, is herself an immigrant from El Salvador. As a pastor, I always get a bad case of nerves before a baptism. I don’t perform the rite very often, and I don’t want to screw it up (as if I could!).

Baptism is another part of our faith that we have tried to “cutify.” I’ve seen some pastors make a baptism one little part of the children’s sermon, or they call all the children to come and surround the baby as it is baptized. For better of worse, in Guadalupe we don’t have a “children’s sermon” because there aren’t enough kids. I’m not happy about the lowbaptism numbers of kids, but I’m thrilled I don’t have to tell some silly, moralistic, “Bible story” for the vicarious pleasure of the old people. It says a lot about someone’s faith maturity when he says, “I sometimes get more out of the children’s sermon than the regular one.” This also means the pastor is self-consciously speaking to the adults at the chidren’s expense.

The Bible is not a children’s book, despite many efforts to make it so. The story of Noah is the story of the massive extermination of all life on earth. There are slaves and wars and genocide. The story of Jesus includes his own execution. Sex and money and intrigue and meanness are pretty much par for the course.

Likewise, baptism, while definitely good for babies, is not a cute little act. It is their death. They die in the water and rise to new life by the power of Christ. They, and their parents, promise to battle evil in all its guises, and they promise to be faithful, a promise we as a group have not kept. They promise that on their death beds they will remember and be grateful that these promises will finally be complete. It is a permanent mark–indelible, scarring.

Baptism is also a joyous event, worthy of special celebration. I’m nervous, but I promise not to be too dour or puritanical. It is a little baby, and he is very cute.

Change and Constancy

November 23, 2006

One of my favorite movies is Smoke. It’s a simple and moving story about a tobacco shop and the people around it in Brooklyn. One of the best scenes in the movie involves the shop owner showing a stack of photo albums to one of his regular customers. There are thousands of photos all taken at exactly the same time in the same place, early in the morning in front of the tobacco shop. As the photos flash before the movie camera, you see a place change and stay the same.

Now, there’s a new short movie on YouTube that makes the same kind of impact:

The images of Noah Kalina go by so quickly by, it’s mostly his hair that seems to change. But you can also see how he ages slightly, and how his environment changes over time. You can see an incredible and even inspiring sameness over the course of six years, and you can see hints of bad days and good days.

One reason to give thanks

November 23, 2006

My wife, Alex, has a blog called BesoMami. Her post today shows some pictures of our daugther, Lily. We are thankful for our family.

Hit by a Rock

November 22, 2006

As I’ve mentioned, my church in Guadalupe is in a very economically depressed neighborhood. Drugs and gangs are serious problems there, along with signicant rates of underemployment. Despite these factors, I have always felt safe and welcome there.

Today, my wife and I along with two women from a local company, one of whom is a member of my wife’s church, went to a parishioner’s home in Guadalupe to deliver a Thanksgiving gift box. Every year, about a dozen people from this company give a Thanksgiving gift including plates and utensils and pretty things for the kitchen and a gift card to the grocery store to a needy family. This year, I helped match them with a family in my church who could use the help, so we went out together to drop off the items.

After we delivered everything, we walked back out to the street and stood around our two cars talking for a few minutes–one white man (me) and three white women standing on a street talking in a primarily Hispanic and Native American neighborhood. I’ve worked in Guadalupe for two and a half years now and, as I said, have felt safe the entire time, though, admittedly, I spend very little time away from the church. So, on this day, in broad daylight, I felt absolutely no sense of fear or that we didn’t belong there. But, when Alex and I got in the car to pull away from the curb, someone threw a rock hard into the passenger-side window. It sounded like a gunshot inside the car, and the window shattered. The shaded window film kept the glass from actually falling apart, but the window is ruined.

window

Our insurance has a 0-deductible policy for glass, so we’re not actually out any money, but I am upset. I’m angry and disappointed that such a stereotypical thing happened to us in Guadalupe, the sort of thing that perpetuates white people’s fear of brown people, rich people’s fear of poor. I refuse to be afraid, and I refuse to let one incident in two and a half years overly color my whole experience, but it’s hard not to read something into such an action. I’m assuming that one of two things explains the window: 1) some stupid teenage boy did it because his brain is addled by testosterone; or 2) we had inadvertently parked on some sort of drug turf, and this was our message not to park there any more. I’m guesing this second explanation is probably the correct one.

I’m not the white savior of the neighborhood or anything, and I don’t feel like they owe it to me to keep me safe and not let this sort of crap happen. But I’m mad anyway. Mad for the basic fact of a broken window, and mad for the whole stupid situation of crime and drugs and acts of bravura.

For the backstory on this letter to the editor, published in today’s Arizona Republic, click here.

Dear Editor:

The Marine Reserves’ “Toys for Tots” program directors were surely wise to be cautious about giving away talking Jesus dolls to children for fear of offending Muslim or Jewish families. Those who should be most offended by the dolls, however, are Christians. Jesus Christ is not a toy. For two thousand years, Christians have professed that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is of one substance with God the Father, and that Jesus will come “to judge the quick and the dead.” How, then, can Christians actually support this inane and offensive doll that does little more than mock the glory of the accepted central figure of our faith?

I regret, for Christians’ sakes, that the Marine Reserves has reversed its decision about these dolls and now plans to give them as gifts.

Yours,

Rev. Brett Hendrickson, pastor
Guadalupe Presbyterian Church