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Share one of your favorite quotes.

  "When I die and see Jesus face to face I will tell him I loved him in the darkness."

Mother Theresa, to a friend, a few years prior to her death, after the revelation that she never heard God speak to her after her initial calling in the '70's.

  "The church is a whore but she's my mother"

St. Augustine.

Many others, but these will have to suffice for today.

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So I read Philip Pullmans "His Dark Materials" trilogy recently,

and found it to be quite a kick in the ass.  I had heard that it was very anti Christian, and so was a little wary going in, but actually found the books to be quite engaging, and while I found my self cringing on occasion I was, more often than not, very aware that we 'christians' deserved every accusation that was laid at our door.  While I was reading these books I was also wending my way through another book that was also dealing a well deserved, and compassionate, right foot of fellowship in the general direction of my hindquarters. This book did an excellent job following up on

Pullman by challenging me on the way I live out my faith.  I found that both Pullman and Claiborne challenged me to live a life of love and compassion, and to not be so caught up in living a set of rules that I forget to be transformed and transforming.  Both of them showed how we have gotten really good at following rules, and forgetting to love.  Both of them really caused me to to do some serious soul searching.  It kept leading me back to 1 Corinthians 13.
 " If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."
Jesus himself said that the world would know we were his disciples by the way we love…and sadly that is the case.  Pullmans novels illustrate the point over and over.  Our way of loving, or lack of loving, has just done more damage than I can fathom.  And Pullman lays it at our feet, and rightfully so.  As I read Claibourne's book I realized that here was a man, and a group of people living faith, being known by their love, and I wanted to be known as one of them.  They live among the homeless, care for the alien, the disenfranchised and forgotten, and even travel to Iraq to be with the people suffering in the wake of our actions.  They don't do acts of charity, instead they become friends with the unfriended, and then treat them as well as they treat themselves, or often better. They love, like I believe Christ Loved, and how I want to love.  Surprisingly this is what Pullman was bringing out in his books too.  At the end there was a passage that reminded me so much of what the Bible calls us to, lives of sacrifice, compassion, grace, joy.  Again 1 Corinthians 13, this time from the message translation
 " Love never gives up.
   Love cares more for others than for self.
   Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
   Love doesn't strut,
   Doesn't have a swelled head,
   Doesn't force itself on others,
   Isn't always "me first,"
   Doesn't fly off the handle,
   Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
   Doesn't revel when others grovel,
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
   Puts up with anything,
   Trusts God always,
   Always looks for the best,
   Never looks back,
   But keeps going to the end
."
Sadly, as the western church, we're not doing a very good job of this. Not by any stretch of the imagination.  Pockets here and there get it, and do it, but the vast majority has missed it.  We're more known by what we're against rather than who we're for.  We're more known by rules and legalism and hypocrisies than we are for love  and grace, and life.  My friends, this should not be so. 
I have hope though.  I see what we could be if we used our resources for good, not just more programs or buildings. I see what we could be if we stopped harping on abortion and gay rights, and instead focused on our children, and our own marriages.  I see what we could be if we actually lived a different sort of life than those around us, one of humility and sacrifice for others.  As broken as it is I love the church.  I love her even in the mess she is in, and I love her for what she can be.  As St Augustine so delicately put it.  "The Church is a whore, but she's my mother"  I see how she is, and love her none the less.
The problem becomes, what do I do about it?  Do I become the voice in the wilderness of the church calling for repentance, or the one who walks away and starts something new?  I don't know, but I think I haven't given up on the church just yet.  Maybe soon God will let me release the baseball bat of the holy spirit, and I will be able to start doing things that really kick some rear too, but in the mean time, I think I just need to learn how to love.
that…
and..
RAISE MY VOICE a little.
My sister got an email about the evils of the Pullman book, and the first movie based on it that comes out soon.  I decided to send a response.
This is what my sister got via email:

Don't let kids see "The Golden Compass"
For anyone with kids, grandkids other relatives or friends who this may concern, I have checked it out at
http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp  and it is true. Read the info on the link.
PASS THIS ON AND LET'S HELP STOP THIS MOVIE DEAD IN ITS TRACKS!!!!  

All,
There will be a new children's movie out in December called "The Golden Compass".  The movie has been described as "atheism for kids" and is based on the first book of a trilogy entitled "His Dark Materials" that was written by Phillip Pullman.  Pullman is a militant atheist and secular humanist
who despises C. S. Lewis and the "Chronicles of Narnia".  His motivation for writing this trilogy was specifically to counteract Lewis' symbolisms of Christ that are portrayed in the Narnia series.  
Clearly, Pullman's main objective is to bash Christianity and promote atheism.  Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he said in a 2003 interview that "my books are about killing God."  He has even stated that he wants to "kill God in the minds of children".  It has been said of Pullman
that he is "the writer the atheists would be praying for, if atheists prayed."
While "The Golden Compass" movie itself may seem mild and innocent, the books are a much different story.  In the trilogy, a young streetwise girl becomes enmeshed in an epic struggle to ultimately defeat the oppressive forces of a senile God.  Another character, an ex-nun, describes Christianity as "a very powerful and convincing mistake."  In the final book, characters representing Adam and Eve eventually kill God, who at times is called YAHWEH.   Each book in the trilogy gets progressively worse regarding Pullman's hatred of Jesus Christ.
"The Golden Compass" is set to premier on December 7, during the Christmas season (and staring Nicole Kidman), and will probably be heavily advertised.   Promoters hope that unsuspecting parents will take their children to see the movie, that they will enjoy the movie, and that the children will want the books for Christmas.
Please consider a boycott of the movie and the books. Also, pass this information along to everyone you know (including church leaders).  This will help to educate parents, so that they will know the agenda of the movie. I am sending this to those of you who have kids or friends with kids, grandkids or have influence with kids. So many things today are darkness concealed in what appears to be innocent.  FYI.

This was my response (some of it responding to things mentioned in the snopes link):

I read this email, and it made me sad.

What an adventure in missing the point.
I've read all three of the Phillip Pullman books and found them to be a good spiritual kick in the behind.  Pullman is, and rightfully so, down on organized religion.  He makes a point of spelling out how religion has acted in it's own best interest, and not cared about the people around it.  We, as 'christians', have earned this reputation.
Everything from the persecution of 'heretic's' to the burning of witches, to the selling of indulgences, to the wars, the support of the holocaust, etc.  We've done it all, and in the process been
incredibly self righteous. I found, written at the end of these  three books, a challenge to be a person of
love, sacrifice, compassion, grace, hope, and life in my world.  A challenge that seemed almost a verbatim quote from 1 Corinthians 13. Even though I felt uncomfortable at times with the attitude, I never
once saw that it was overdone, but rather saw it as very deserved. What is more troubling is that there is some false information going on.  One falsehood is that there is castration or genital
mutilation in the book, this is not true.. Secondly, there is an accusation that Pullman attacks Jesus. This is also untrue.  As far as I remember there is no mention of Jesus, disparaging or
otherwise. As to his view of God, Pullman is no atheist.  He actually is an agnostic, however he does feel that if there was a God that he would be ashamed of his followers. Plus, Pullman disses all organized
religion, not just Christianity. However, most troubling for me is that we're talking about a boycott
at all.  I have every respect for parents that monitor what their children take in.  This is admirable, and should happen whether or not the fare is 'christian'. What disturbs me is that we feel the need to
get up in arms over this, and it will just serve to perpetuate the well deserved image of christians who are more worried about being tainted, or maligned than they are concerned about those around them.
We jump all over the movie that impunes the way we've practiced our faith over the centuries, but don't raise our voices when children die of preventable diseases, or live in abject poverty.  This isn't living
our faith, and that is exactly the argument Phillip Pullman makes. Well done us.  Proving his point has merit, rather than showing that there is a better way.  If we did live differently, it would be
something Pullman himself would be impressed with, and maybe could embrace.  Isn't that the point?  Not to make sure our rights aren't violated, but living in such a way that we draw people to a
relationship with our Creator?

So.  I'm going to see the movie.  I think it will be interesting to see if they tone down the rhetoric or not.  We'll see.

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