Friday, June 30, 2006

A Letter to the Old Pastor

The following was sent via email by O.F. to O.P. this morning:

O.P, after discussing this issue with my wife and with G.F.P. we've decided to move the memorial service to another location.

While I appreciate the difficulty of the position that you were in, I am very disappointed in the response of some of the staff to our personal decision to have G.F.P. officiate. He served the church faithfully for years and is a personal friend. I have done a considerable amount of research, prayer and contemplation and have arrived at the decision that if one is to be gay and follow Christ, then they as servants are accountable to their master just as we all are. I think you were quite correct to say that none of us is without sin, and I am troubled that the church as a whole seems to treat homosexuality as somehow unique unto itself as a category of sin.

For the record, G.F.P. does not "advocate" homosexuality from the pulpit. He teaches that homosexuality is likely a brokeness that resulted from the fall of man and acknowledges that this is a deviation from God's standard. However he does not require that a believer who is gay enter into an "ex-gay" program and does not teach that abstinence is a requirement for belief.

But the point, O.P., is that I am quite sure that whoever raised this objection to G.F.P. never bothered to research what G.F.P. actually teaches. They also did not presume to give me, a four year servant on the Board, the latitude to pick my own minister for my mom's memorial service--which, I'll just point out again, is not a church function and would be taking place on a Saturday when nobody but the caretaker would be there.

I don't want to force your hand on this. You are the pastor and you decide which battles to pick. But I am firmly convinced that the church (as in the evangelical church, not just this one) treats the gays in its ranks with thoughtlessness and discourtesy on a regular basis. None of us possesses absolute knowledge on this mysterious and challenging topic--but more importantly, those of us who are not homosexual have no real idea what it's like to live as one, let alone what it's like to try to reconcile homosexuality and faith. I have been listening to those who are trying, and I have heard a great many stories of mighty struggle and of painful hurts inflicted upon them by friends, family, and fellow believers who stop seeing them as the people that they are and start seeing them as "homosexuals."

I am frustrated and disappointed by this situation, but I understand where it comes from. I, for one, have no problem confronting what I believe to be the careless dismissal of gay believers, especially the one who served this church and led worship to the blessing of the congregation for several years. And taught well from the pulpit, I might add.

But like I said, you as the pastor have the authority and accountability, not me. It's not for me to force this issue around my mom's memorial service, although my wife and I do plan to be respectfully outspoken on this topic when I return.

Warm regards,


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Stupid Church People Take a Stand!

I won't personalize this to protect individuals, so let's just say I "have a friend."

So, I have a friend who's mom died. And he wanted to have a service for her, so he contacted his old church.

Old Pastor: "Hey, brother Friend!"

Old Friend: "Hi, Pastor. Listen, my mom passed away and I'd like to know if I can book the church for her memorial service."

O.P.: "Of course, you've been a long time member and supporter of this church, whatever you need! I will be out of town that day, but you can sure use the facilities!"

Pleased, my friend then asked a former music minister at that church (who, as an aside, is now the pastor of a gay-friendly congregation) if he would do the service for his mom. No problem, said Gay Friendly Pastor. O.F. called up O.P. to pass on the news:

O.P.: "Sure, I know G.F.P.! He used to be at such-and-such church for a while... I met him before... sings and plays piano, right! Great!"

Then O.F. gets a call today:

O.P.: "Hey, uh.... brother O.F. .... uh.... I mentioned in the staff meeting that G.F.P. would be ministering your mom's service, and uh... well... somebody on staff mentioned that he was... well... I mean... did you know what he was doing?"

O.F.: "You mean that he was the pastor of a gay-friendly church?"

O.P.: "Well, yeah... I mean, somebody brought that up and asked me if I knew, and well... I might have to speak to the Board about this... Actually I was wondering if you might just consider someone else... I mean, nobody's perfect. No pastor is perfect. But if he's advocating homosexuality from the pulpit..."

O.F.: "Do you want me to come speak to the Board about this? It's my mother's funeral, it's on a Saturday, and I'm quite sure the subject of homosexuality will never even come up. Besides, I consider G.F.P. a friend and he served this congregation faithfully for years. Even taught from the pulpit. And he's the same G.F.P. today as he was back then!"

O.P.: "Well... I just feel caught in a hard place here, because I don't want to spring this on you... but I think I probably have to get the Board involved, but I'm not sure what they'll think... and I hate to ask you to have to find somebody else... but I sure am in a tough position here..."

So my friend is being asked to call up Gay Friendly-Pastor and ask him not to officiate the service for his mom. Here's what I say to my old friend:


My old friend has already talked to his wife about it, and she is about ready to leave the old church over this. Sad thing is, if my old friend and his wife leave because Gay-Friendly Pastor was asked not to speak there, that's probably nothing compared to the losses to the congregation if G.F.P. was allowed to speak--at least not now that somebody has their SCP panties in a wad over G.F.P. coming into the building and is probably prepared to take this on as their own spiritual vendetta.

Think about that. G.F.P. has gone from being a beloved member of the congregation to a homosexual. Who advocates homosexuality.

My old friend said to his old pastor, "It sounds to me like somebody's afraid his mere presence there will mean that our church endorses homosexuality!"

Exactly, said his old pastor, without a trace of irony.

Monday, June 26, 2006

No More Dominionism

"The man who is being progressively sanctified will inescapably sanctify his home, school, politics, economics, science, and all things else by understanding and interpreting all things in terms of the word of God and by bringing all things under the dominion of Christ the King."

-R. J. Rushdoony

After 9/11 I believed that God had anointed America to be used in service to the Kingdom. Someone said that England had served in this capacity, sending missionaries around the world, until it turned away from God after World War II and then America inherited the mantle. Attendant to this belief in special blessing and special purpose was the caution that moral shortfalls would, as they did England, lose us God's favor.

While everything in the earth is the Lord's, and Paul does assert in Romans 13 that leaders serve (in some uncertain capacity, as I am not clear about the full meaning of what Paul is saying) with God's authority, there is absolutely no reason to believe that America is given special authority or blessing by God other than the fact that we say so in our anthems and pledges. Nor do we have any reason to believe that there is favor on us that is merited or unmerited by our moral goodness and acts of service. Or that any favor would come or not come through declarations of being a "Christian nation."

The majority of the people in this country self-identify as Christian--but that is not the same thing as asserting that we are a Christian Nation. Evangelical leaders who advocate a "Christian Nation" declaration in America have absorbed, to one degree or another, the Dominionist beliefs of R.J. Rushdoony, a Christian thinker who believed--see the opening quote--that believers should work through all organs of society to bring it into submission--or "under dominion"--to Jesus.

Scripture was used in the past to buttress "the Divine Right of Kings," a vile doctrine that stated that God favored absolute monarchy and hereditary succession. Scripture was used to provide moral cover for those who ruled men without their consent.

Today, scripture is used to pursuade believers that they should sieze the levers of power and use them to make the society and culture pleasing to God--meriting God's favor and ensuring his continued blessing. These days it seems that according to most evangelical leaders, God's blessings for America can only be assured if we ban gay marriage, post the Ten Commandments in public places and pass resolutions proclaiming America to be a Christian Nation. These are Dominionist issues, not Christian issues.

Prominent advocates of a Dominionist agenda (though I'm not aware that any of them actually use the term "Dominionist") are Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, Judge Roy Moore and Dr. Jim Dobson. Mrs. Zeke is never pleased with me when I mention Dr. Dobson because of all the contributions that he has made to Christian families, but I only do so to point out that Dr. Dobson has been associated with Dominionist beliefs and that Focus on the Family has been used to advocate a Dominionist-like agenda. He's a familiar voice that's speaking up for the kinds of things Dominionists advocate.

I love this country and I consider myself both patriotic and a Christian. But I am establishing for myself a separation of faith and patriotism. I believe the doctrine of Dominionism is false and destructive to freedom and utimately harmful to faith as it pushes political agendas that cannot help but be confused with the agenda of Christ. Whether I vote for issues that Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives would identify with it should not be driven by what I think God wants for my country. I have only been given a mandate to live my life as God has called me to live it, and managing my own life is labor enough, filled with errors and false starts enough, without concerning myself with trying to conform my culture and country to my concept of what I think God would want. That means that while I think we are to demonstrate extraordinary mercy and compassion and to others, it doesn't follow that I should demand that my government be the vehicle of that mercy and compassion. Liberal Dominionist is still Dominionist. And Dominionism is something I believe we and America would be better off without.

"Christianity and Democracy are inevitably enemies." - R. J. Rushdoony

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Poetry from Mom

Going through my mom's things, Mrs. Zeke found a collection of poetry that my mom wrote when her divorce from my dad was becoming final. Some of it is quite witty, some of it insightful, some of it raw and painful. I share it all with pride in what my mom accomplished and who she was as a woman, all 360 degrees of her.

On living:

Life’s Path

I walk toward the hill to do God’s will. If the steps, they falter - it will not alter, the path I need to do God’s deeds.

I may Stumble and grumble, pout and shout, but follow his word I will.

Path Continues

The path may vary, I shall not tarry,
Toward the light I go, not very slow,
to the light with the warming glow.
To the spirit above, with all it’s love, is the direction I shall go.


I pray for a future I may not see. I can’t look back it’s to painful for me. So, I go through the motions of life. Waiting for the future that ought to be.

Guilty Imperfections

Excuse me please, sorry, thank you, the list goes on.
Sorry it rained and ruined your game.
You’re late for your date, sorry I somehow caused this fate.
The children of the world are hungry indeed, why didn’t I arrange to feed?
I’m too fat - I’m too old. Sorry it’s hot or it’s too cold.
Why aren’t I perfect and free of guilt?
Why am I always slightly off tilt?
Excuse me please for being me, cause that’s the best that I can be!

To See

The flowers are blooming and birds are singing. the sky is blue and the sun so bright, sending out warmth and endless light.
What a blessed place to be, here on earth with so much to see!

And on her divorce and my dad:


Teeny little dig doesn’t seem so big, What’s all the fuss about?
The stupid - not rational - dumb - bum -not a big deal you feel.
A slap leaves a spot but you did not, at least visible to the eye.
But, it’s worse you see, what you did to me, those wounds only heal when I die.


The sky’s now blue, the trees are green. Spring’s hit the earth - creating life.
Yet, here I am, left behind, this tired and worn discarded wife.
I’m winter without the snow, when everything looks so dead.
This is my day, my life, my bed.
this tired and worn lonely wife - this is my life.


We spoke as to shadows on the wall, the ears they did not hear.
A husband and wife, in two separate lives, the paths were never clear.
The road to the center, we could not enter. You could not be the same as me.
So now it’s gone - Pieces of a family that will never be.
We’re no longer joined in life. You’re not husband, I’m not wife.
We’re officially separate, as we’ve always been, to go through the motions over again.


Where is the “me” in me?
What does it think, do or see?
Thirty plus years, the mother, the wife.
Stretched too far in the quest of life.

Lost in the journey of time gone by,
the me too shredded, worn and torn.
Given away, part by part, the pieces of the puzzle that used to be.
Where are the scattered parts of me?
Where is the me that used to be?

Your Hands

I put my heart upon your hand, the day I became your wife. My soul and dreams they followed suit and landed in your hands.
The years went by and love deceased and tore my heart apart. the dreams died down as time went on and the soul went with the heart.

The divorce was a difficult time for all of us in the family, and it ultimately led to an estrangement between my mom and my two brothers that ended only in her last days on earth. On her very last day in the case of my older brother, whose last two children she saw only in photographs as she lay dying and barely able to speak. When I read these poems I remember the depths of her depression at the time and how hurt and isolated she felt.

But my mom also displayed a wry humor in some of her poems:

Brain Cells

I really, really, hate to dwell, on my tired and worn brain cells.
Parts I used in daily life, are filled with to much daily strife.
Lotus, Word processing, and Data base, lost in my brain without a trace.
Computer technology becomes mythology!


Windows used to be for looking in or out.
Or, to open wide and let air flow about.
Now they’re on computers that come with a mouse.
(Definitely not a structure in your house)

A mouse wasn’t wanted and was trapped with cheese.
Language is changing with too much ease.

Instead of practical, we must be technical.
The computer age - is all the rage.

And this is my favorite, deserving of a place in quotation books everywhere:


I’m growing and expanding day by day.
In mind and body and how much I weigh.

That one cracked me and Mrs. Zeke up. I'm sure proud of my mom for penning such a verse.

Finally, on death:


Death does come to each and all, we then lay down to answer the call.
We bow to pray at the rugged cross, to cry and grieve our tragic loss.
But the lord knows best when he puts us to rest.
We go to a place that’s filled with grace.
The angels come to pave our way and lead us to our judgment day.

Goodbye, Mom. We love you still.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Like I said, I married up. Have lost a few pounds since these were taken, though. That's the Muir Woods behind me in the top picture, by the way. And here's my blog face:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mrs. Zeke revealed

Well, some bug bit the extremely private, camera-shy Mrs. Zeke and she suddenly consented to me posting her picture. The only one of herself that she actually likes. Now maybe you'll believe me when I tell you she's a hottie. Steve and Josh already know.

Thank you again for all your support and kind words about my mom. We miss her terribly... and I have never been more grateful to my wife and very, very happy to be a married man. It's not good for a man to be alone.

Monday, June 19, 2006

February 23, 1943 - June 18, 2006

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Watching dying

My mom is in her last days now, and my wife and I have spent the week coordinating care with in-home hospice, ushering family in and out of my mom's bedroom, keeping them fed and informed, all while watching my mom's daily changes and preparing for her final arrangements. There are so many observations I want to make and lessons that I'm unpacking from this difficult and incredible experience. I plan on doing so over the next several weeks, but for now we have our hands full.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A season for painful admissions

When George W. Bush was declared in late 2000 to be the victor in Florida—thus handing him an electoral college victory—and Al Gore launched his legal challenge to the results, I distinctly remember asking my pastor, “I honestly don’t know how anyone could be a Democrat and a believer.”

I’m ashamed to admit this, but this is the season for making painful admissions. Another admission I need to make is that had I known then what I know now I would not have supported the invasion of Iraq. I am a firm believer in the capacity of this country to do good and of the overall righteousness of the cause, but the results on the ground day after day, month after month and year after year speak for themselves. The war has not accomplished what I had hoped it would and while it’s impossible to predict what would have happened had the invasion not taken place, I have to admit that the state of affairs may well be worse for both Iraq and America than they would have been had we not invaded. I don’t have answers for what to do now. All I can do is be honest about my own regrets and say that I firmly hope that a peaceful and democratic Iraq will emerge from this struggle. I wouldn’t bet good money on it. In the meantime, I hope our soldiers watch their backs and soundly defeat the hostiles every time they try to do harm. I don’t harbor any illusions that Iraqi insurgents are just loyal subjects defending their homes from a hostile occupying power. The thuggery and viciousness of the insurgents, not to mention the foreign terrorists, leaves them beneath contempt. But they have thoroughly cowed the civilian populous and I’m not sure any amount of time, money, resources or lives can turn that tide. I hope I’m wrong.

Another admission I have to make is that for years I’ve turned a blind eye to the increasing politicization of the church (and why not? As evidenced by my first admission, I was totally complicit in it). Led by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, evangelicals in America have been increasingly activist and increasingly aligned with power brokers in the Republican party.

For the record, I am a registered Republican and have yet to vote for a Democrat in the 20+ years that I’ve been voting. But this is beside the point. Even though there aren’t many political or social issues that I take a different opinion on than your typical conservative evangelical (immigration and gay rights being two notable exceptions), I’ve grown very uncomfortable with the degree to which politics has invaded the church—or more accurately, how the church has sold itself out to politics. In doing so we’ve called down fire on Christianity that was never its to take.

It’s far too easy to dismiss criticism of “the religious right” as being par for the course, Biblically speaking. After all, didn’t Jesus warn us that we would be hated for his name’s sake? But this is a phony spiritualization of what, in the rough and tumble of the modern political landscape, are just the lumps you get when you jump in the ring. Evangelicals rap liberals as much as any secular conservative. If liberals rap back, can we really hang it all on Jesus?

Finally, I admit that I find it increasingly difficult to stuff my pride and selfishness and that I've been acting out of my own wants rather than out of others' needs. In other words, I think I've been more of an asshole lately. And what's worse is, that doesn't bother me as much as I think it should. I almost feel entitled to be an ass. I can't help but think again how this is a singularly spiritual issue. If the law is to do to others as we would have them do to us, being an asshole is to be a lawbreaker, plain and simple.

I don't have pat solutions to any of this, and I won't even promise not to be an ass anymore. But admitting it here helps.