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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Backyard Wildlife

Spring has sprung, and the backyard is full of life. Our cat Kato has increased the number of small critters he drags into the house through his cat door (a bird, a small mole, and a chipmunk in the past week alone) as offerings to his human staff. The mole survived the ordeal, but the bird was evidently a crunchy treat for Kato. I have no idea where the chipmunk is now; I only hope I don't step on a chipmunk carcass some sleepy morning...

A small bird has taken up residence in the birdhouse on our front porch, and her eggs have hatched. She has a black and white hood that reminds me of a nun's head covering, so I have named her Heloise, after one of my favorite medieval nuns. A few days ago I was sitting on the front porch with Kato, reading The Five Books of Moses (which I am still working through, very slowly, taking frequent time-outs to read other, less violent books) when we heard loud chirping noises coming from the birdhouse. Before I knew what was happening, Kato leaped up onto me, his back claws dug into my chest, and was attempting to climb on top of my head and reach the chirping birds. The birdhouse is in a cat-proof location, so the baby birds are safe, at least for now.

Speaking of cats and predators: the new Pope appears to love, and to be loved by, cats. So he can't be all bad, right? Right?

This cat, meditating in a Myanmar temple, is grateful to be Buddhist.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Ray of Hope II: Lesbian Minister Un-defrocked

The United Methodist Church has decided to reinstate a lesbian minister who had been defrocked by the church for being in relationship with another woman. Here's the news story, from the ABC News site.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Ray of Hope

While there is much to be concerned about regarding the new Pope (see my earlier post on the Grand Inquisitor as Pope), there are also some rays of hope. The Catholic Peace Fellowship has posted an article about Benedict XVI and his commitment to peace and opposition to war:
As a Cardinal, the new pope was a staunch critic of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. On one occasion before the war, he was asked whether it would be just. "Certainly not," he said, and explained that the situation led him to conclude that "the damage would be greater than the values one hopes to save."
The article, New Pope A Strong Critic of War, is well worth reading.

Let's hope this same commitment to peacemaking will also manifest in other areas of the Pope's theology as well.

Thanks to Carl McColman for making me aware of this article about Pope Benedict XVI.


Friday, April 22, 2005

Prayer: For All Good Things

Loving God, who sees nothing in us that You have not given Yourself,
make my body healthy and agile,
my mind sharp and clear,
my heart joyful and contented,
my soul faithful and loving.
And surround me with the company of men and angels
who share my devotion to You.
Above all, let me live in Your presence,
for with You all fear is banished,
and there is only harmony and peace.
Let every day combine the beauty of spring,
the brightness of summer,
the abundance of autumn,
and the repose of winter.
And at the end of my life on earth,
grant that I may come to see and to know you
in the fullness of Your glory.
--Saint Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Grand Inquisitor Is Now Pope

Rabbi Michael Lerner raises some very important concerns in his online essay, The New Pope is a Disaster for the World and for the Jews. Among the many reasons for alarm raised by Rabbi Lerner: in 1992, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) argued against human rights for gays, stressing that their civil liberties could be "legitimately limited."

DignityUSA, the ministry of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Catholics, has expressed "deep sadness" over the new papacy of a man they view as "the principal author of the most virulently anti-gay, anti-GLBT rhetoric in the last papacy."

And Matthew Fox, one of those liberal theologians the new Pope warns us against, has 22 Questions for Cardinal Ratzinger and the Silver Lining in the Election of this first Grand Inquisitor as Pope.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

If Grace Is True

In a comment to my earlier post on the universality of God's love, fellow blogger Trev Diesel recommended the book If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person. I checked the book out of the Cobb County Library and was really impressed with it.

If you look up the book at Amazon.com, or even just google the name of the book, you'll see a lot of reviews from evangelical Christians who just can't believe in a God whose grace extends to everyone. Christianity Today called the book's theology "a distorted predestination," and many reviewers accuse the book of having "bad theology." But the book does not attempt to be a theological defense of universalism; it's the very personal story of two pastors, Philip Gulley and James Mulholland, who came to believe that their narrow views of Christianity did not match up with their own experiences of God's grace. They do quote quite a few scriptures along the way, but they also readily admit that other scriptures can be found that contradict their own view. Since they don't believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, they do not feel the need to reconcile these conflicting views in the Bible. In fact, they are "excited the Bible isn't unanimous... There are minority voices" in the Bible that do emphasize God's universal grace.

When the authors are asked, "If the Bible says two different things, how do we know which is true?" their response is: "What has been your experience of God?" Although the authors are Quaker, this is also a classic Episcopalian response. Anglican theology has long recognized Experience as a source of authority, along with Scripture, Reason, and Tradition.

Here's an excerpt from the book, in which an age-old belief is challenged:
One letter was especially enlightening. The writer expressed her deep disappointment in me, quoted a few Bible verses, and ended by asking, "Without Jesus, who will pay for your sins?" Her question provoked another question, one I'd never heard or asked: Why must sins be paid for? If God is forgiving, why is any payment necessary? I was forced to examine deeply ingrained ideas and unquestioned assumptions.

Atonement, or payment for injury, is one such age-old idea. It is a theme in many religions and philosophies and is embedded in Jewish and Christian theology. It's easy to defend in Christian tradition and Scripture. It resonates with our human obsession with justice. We may doubt the grace of God, but we're convinced that sins--especially those of our enemies--must be atoned.

There is one major problem with atonement theology. It contradicts the ethic of Jesus. Jesus rejected the demand for "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." Rather than demanding payment for injury, he commanded us to turn the other cheek. Jesus championed grace and ridiculed the meticulous justice keeping of his religious peers. He offered forgiveness so freely that, when he forgave the sins of a paralytic, his opponents complained, "This fellow is blaspheming!" (Matthew 9:3). In any culture obsessed with balanced scales, grace will seem blasphemous.

If Grace is True is a book in which quite a few "givens" are questioned. Many thanks to Trev for making me aware of this book.


Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II, Rest In Peace

Pope John Paul II (the Pope who defrocked Matthew Fox) has passed away. There is much about his leadership as Pope that was lamentable, including his authoritarian style and his stringent refusal to budge on matters of sexual ethics -- despite poll after poll that show his own followers, 80 to 90 percent of the members of the Roman Catholic church, no longer take seriously what he says about birth control or other such antiquated teachings. Not to mention his attempts to un-do many of the progressive reforms of Vatican II. Not to mention his pre-medieval views of women and gay people. Not to mention his opposition to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, a view which has contributed to untold thousands of deaths from HIV/AIDS.

I do have to admire, however, the way he stood up to President Bush before the war in Iraq, telling him how unjust and un-Christian any "pre-emptive strike" would be. He also spoke out against totalitarianism (Lech Walesa credits the Pope with hastening the fall of communism in Eastern Europe). Pope John Paul II also spoke out against the death penalty, and he was the first Pope in history to worship at a Jewish synagogue and at a Muslim mosque. He was a poet and a mystic. Unfortunately, poets and mystics do not always have the firmest grasp on the real world (which is why I am not allowed to listen to trance music while driving).

Andrew Greely, the Catholic priest who is also a novelist and sociologist, has an interesting perspective on this pope's mixed legacy at Beliefnet. And cyberfriend Jon has an excellent post, "The Pope is Passing" (dated April 1 -- scroll down for it), that provides a balanced view of this Pope's legacy.


Addendum: The Nonviolent Jesus weblog has a great quote from the late Pope John Paul II: "Violence begets violence. War must always be considered a defeat: a defeat of reason and of humanity."

(for the 8th time), at the Vatican in November 2003