Beyond The Pale

Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Beyond The Pale - Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Why We Should NOT Dump The Confederate Flag (at least right now)

It has happened again…Confederate-flag-South-Carolina2

The racial wound that Michael Brown’s tragic death in Henderson Missouri had inflicted on our nation had only started to heal when it was ripped open once again by Dylan Storm Roof and his senseless rampage in a South Carolina church that left nine African-Americans dead.

And as Americans scramble to make sense of it all, it seems their collective anger has found a target;

the Confederate Flag!

Yes, my Facebook news feed has been filled with article after article rallying the nation around a frenzied response to the Charleston shooting.  A response that focuses its fury on that symbolic representation of America’s slave owning days;

the ol’ Stars and Bars!

But here’s the problem…

It’s nothing but scapegoating!

The tribe is angry and harmony has been broken. There needs to be a sacrifice!

A sacrifice we can pile our anger on

A sacrifice whose death can restore balance to society.  

A sacrifice to help us make sense of the senseless

A sacrifice we can blame and will act as a cathartic salve to our collective wound.

Fortunately we’ve evolved past tossing a virgin in a volcano, there are no messiahs to crucify or heretics to burn, and we’ve (mostly) progressed past accusing the foreigners and running them out of town.

So what can we do to make us feel better about ourselves over the tragedy in Charleston?

We have to get rid of this damn flag…”

Now I understand what the flag represents and the pain it’s continued use by the State of South Carolina (and Southern states in general) causes in many Americans, particularly among African Americans.

But consider this:

The current flag of the United States can inflict just as much pain and dread. Under it’s banner (albeit with a few less stars) we stole the land of the native American inhabitants, massacred them in droves and confined the remnant to mostly worthless desert land.  Their proud cultures stripped from them only to be replaced with malt liquor and casino gambling.

The same could be said of the Canadian flag, the Australian flag, and we probably shouldn’t even get started with the Union Jack whose colors waved proudly over a quarter of the world’s stolen lands in imperialistic glory.

Honestly, there probably isn’t a flag flying in the world that doesn’t have some form of blood and/ or atrocity on its hands.

dylann roof

The Confederate flag though no longer represents a country.  Instead, for many, it represents a period of time…a point in history many Americans would rather put behind them.  It probably doesn’t help that after the Civil War the Southern states  actively acted as a hindrance to the civil rights movement rather than a catalyst for it.  What if those self same states who are now known for Selma and Brown v. Board of Education  had instead taken the lead in tearing down segregation,  promoting affirmative action, and cementing voting rights for African-Americans?

Makes you wonder if then the Confederate flag would have flown proudly over the South Carolina state capitol as a symbol of hope and reconciliation.

Alas though, it was a path not taken.

But when in a moment of anger and frustration we vent our collective blame on a scapegoat it keeps us from having the real dialogue about the real issues that seem to keep producing the Dylann Roof’s in our society.

Should South Carolina dump the Confederate flag from it’s State Capitol?

Absolutely!

But not now, and not like this…

Peace,

Steve

Tony Campolo Comes Out As “Gay Affirming”

gayaffirming

“Are you gay affirming?” I was asked not long ago.

The question caught me off guard.  It was in regards to the Bread & Wine group I run in Hong Kong and the inquirer wanted to know whether it would be a place he could recommend for gay Christians. Most folk who have known me in a ministry capacity know me as a “grace” guy and slow to judge…but honestly,  I hadn’t been asked this question before.

Like many pastors from a evangelical / charismatic church background, I had been wrestling with this issue for years.

Likewise Dr. Tony Campolo, Christian speaker, writer, and activist, has been asked this same question too…and a LOT more frequently than I have. Although firmly evangelical he has often drawn the wrath of his more conservative brethren because of his progressive positions on social justice issues.  However he has also been guarded in his affirmation of same-sex relations being accepted in the church and so has received rebuke from gay Christians who have wanted some of his social justice positions to extend to them as well.

Well, Tony has finally come out.

In an official press release he says:

 I have done my best to preach the Gospel, care for the poor and oppressed, and earnestly motivate others to do the same. Because of my open concern for social justice, in recent years I have been asked the same question over and over again: Are you ready to fully accept into the Church those gay Christian couples who have made a lifetime commitment to one another?

While I have always tried to communicate grace and understanding to people on both sides of the issue, my answer to that question has always been somewhat ambiguous. One reason for that ambiguity was that I felt I could do more good for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters by serving as a bridge person, encouraging the rest of the Church to reach out in love and truly get to know them. The other reason was that, like so many other Christians, I was deeply uncertain about what was right.

It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.

Tony’s journey in many ways mirrored my own.  I had the good fortune to have my evolution on the issue much less visible and much less public.  But it’s been pretty much the same.

Tony Campolo

Tony Campolo

It pains me to see people who want to pursue their faith and journey with Christ obstructed by churches and faith communities who either verbally, or with spiritual body language, communicate the message “Your kind are not welcome here unless you change.”

I trust that as people draw closer and deeper into the Way Jesus taught us many things in our lives will just fall away.  Gay, Straight, rich, poor, white, black, Democrat, Republican, male & female…

…but lets let the Holy Spirit deal with what those things are.

Christ said his followers would not be known by how jealously they defended the faith, but instead for the compassion they treated each other with.

So when out of the blue I was asked the question. “Are you gay affirming?”  I am happy to say my knee jerk, off the cuff answer was yes!

Why Our Ideas Of “Fairness” Lead to Bitterness & Grief

But it’s not fair!fair1

How often do we hear this mantra in our lives?

Whether we express such an accusation verbally or leave it repressed and stirring at the bottom of our soul, if you are human, you’ve struggled with unfairness at some point.

Whether

a child to a parent

a student to a teacher

a worker to a boss

or a citizen to a politician

we live in a society where fairness, or at least our perception of it, is front and center to many issues we wrestle with today.

Grief & Anger

I’m not a professional counselor but in my teaching and pastoral capacity I have had a lot of people unpack their problems with me over a coffee and I’ve begun to see a pattern:

there is a whole lot of unhappiness generated from perceptions of unfairness.

It’s true.  I mean we all have seasons of grief, frustration, and anger for any of a number of reasons but show me a person who is chronically unhappy and frustrated and I will show you a person who deep down believes they have been dealt with unfairly!

Once perceived unfairness takes root in your heart it will affect how you see the world around and make it a much darker place to live in; and living in that darker place leads to a life filled with anger, frustration, and depression.

Jesus on “Fairness”

In Matthew Ch 5-7 Jesus is teaching the crowds about the attributes needed to perceive the Kingdom of God.  Among them are

* Empathy for the needy

* Not judging

* Not worrying

* Not using spirituality to boast

Notably absent in the rather extensive list was a teaching on fairness. Shouldn’t the Kingdom of God be fair?

Although it will offend many my answer would have to be no!

And the simple reason is because “fairness” prevents the free flow of Grace!

God’s grace, compassion, and desire to draw his people to himself would be inhibited if he was forced to be “fair”.

Jesus hits this notion head on with a number of different parables.  For example picture the story of the Prodigal Son but instead with an ending that is “fair”. The prodigal returns after seeing the error of his ways but instead of being lovingly embraced and restored to the position of son he is held at arms length by his father and given a position as a field worker.

“After all”, explains his father politely, “if I brought you back fully into the family, it wouldn’t be fair to your brother who never left.”

What a miserable story that would be…and God ALWAYS goes with the better story!  In fact in the story Jesus actually tells, the father has to gently chide the older brother because his generosity to the prodigal is causing that “fairness” issue to take root in his heart.  The older brother now has a choice

He can:

* let that (very real) unfairness cause him to grow more bitter and resentful

or

* celebrate the return of his brother knowing that the same grace and compassion shown by the father is always available to him as well.

Like so many issues in life we can choose to be happy or miserable!

fair 2

More Like Jesus

Jesus himself demonstrates the ultimate response to how we should deal with unfairness.  I mean God himself enters his creation and spends a life sharing goodness, healing, and compassion.

And being the the people that we are, of course we had to kill him. And not just any execution…no…we had to nail him to a tree to make the pain and agony really last.

Could there be anything more unfair!

But Jesus, even at his most vulnerable is still revealing the heart and attitude of God to us.  Instead of looking up to the Father and yelling, “This isn’t fair!” …

… he instead cries out, “Father, forgive them.  They don’t understand what they are doing!”

Fairness in that moment would have choked off the free flow of grace, compassion, and mercy.

And when such a choice has to be made God will always side with Grace!

Every single time!

An Anecdote

As I was processing some of these thoughts with a friend at church he smiled and shared a story.  He works at a Christian ministry and he mentioned they recently were offered a generous donation to “do something nice for the team”. Different people had suggestions with how to use the donation.  Some suggested a nice coffee/espresso machine for the office but the non-coffee drinkers thought that was unfair.  Some suggested a trampoline for the kids to use but the staff without children noted they were not going to benefit from that.  My friend said that no matter what suggestion was made, it was going to be “unfair” to some.  In the end they ended up not using the donation because they couldn’t decide on something fair.

Fairness choked off generosity…

I’m not suggesting we should strive to be unfair…God forbid…but our perceptions of fairness should not be allowed to take an unhealthy root in our heart.

Something to think about

Peace,

Steve

Beyond the Pale: The Podcast

podcast

While walking the Camino de Santiago last month I listened to a LOT of podcasts.  Yes, of course there was hours of reflection, meditation, prayer…and just plain mumbling to myself but lets face it; when you walk 25 – 35 km everyday for a month you have a lot of time on your hands…

…and so I listened to podcasts.

* faith building podcasts

* humor podcasts

* talk show podcasts

* news podcasts

* pop culture podcasts

And I realized something…

I want to podcast!

I want to podcast Beyond the Pale into a weekly show that people can listen to driving to work, mowing the lawn, or washing the dishes.

IMG_1843

A LOT of time to think on the Camino

I hope Beyond the Pale The Podcast to be a show where listeners will enjoy a faith building meal with a recipe I regularly enjoy serving;

* start with a healthy portion of raw discussion on issues surrounding Christianity & church

* add a cup of pop culture references and analysis

* mix together with liberal doses of humor and laughs

* sprinkle the trademark seasonings of wit, sarcasm, and satire

* bake in the oven while interviewing really interesting people who do really interesting things

* serve weekly to an audience that see faith and intelligence as not being mutually exclusive :)

Many people on the Camino de Santiago come to life altering decisions while walking the 30 day pilgrimage.

* Some quit their jobs (Tammy is rather glad I didn’t choose this option)

* Some start or end relationships (Tammy is equally glad I passed on this option as well)

* Some renew and strengthen their faith (I did do this one too)

* Some see a new direction in their life

I went with this last option.

Launch a podcast! 

Couldn’t shake the idea from my head as I walked the hills of Spain.  I even messaged my good friend Kit from the trail in Spain. Kit is a tech, film, and sound guy who will be instrumental not only in helping me get this new project going but to give it have the professional level I know Beyond the Pale The Podcast will need and that you will want to listen to.

Kit messaged me back a thumbs up and a “when do we start?”

So, over the next few weeks I’ll be working on the new podcast and hope to go live with it in the summer.

Watch this space and hope you will tune in!

Peace,

Steve

The Jesus Test: What Would Jesus Say?

wwjs

Years back wearing a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelet was all the rage among evangelical Christians.  Glancing down at the bracelet was supposed to filter our daily actions through the prism of Christ and keep us from doing “bad stuff”.  As you can guess, it didn’t work so well (except of course for company selling the bracelets)

But now I realize I have developed my own little test.  It’s much more fun really and doesn’t have the law enforcing attributes of it’s WWJD cousin.  (i.e. no guilt)

It’s WWJS test… (What Would Jesus Say)

The test is actually quite fun and produces a fair bit of laughs…which is why I like it.

It’s simple really…take any pastor, preacher, author, teacher who is speaking in their capacity as a Christian leader and simply run their words in your mind as if they were flowing from the lips of Jesus.

What is the reaction?

If the thought makes you laugh, squirm, cry, or wince in pain there is a fair chance then Jesus is probably NOT tacking with what the guy or gal is stating.

(I do wish I was more of an tech guy because I would have loved to include on this post a real animation of Jesus speaking out the words of some of our most visible and influential Christian leaders.   Though I don’t know if the image of Jesus blaming Hurricane Katrina on the gays would illicit more laughter or more tears.)

For example take a recent appearance by Bible teacher Rick Joyner on a Christian talk show:

Now I think for our country not to have seen ISIS     (insert Rome) and not to see the threat we are under in this country because we’re not sealing our borders and many other reasons..but..to me this is either the greatest naivety, I think, ever in history of leaders or it is treason!  I don’t see anything in between those two.  We are being sold out……we have people who are not competent in their positions of defending us, and we are going to pay a terrible price for this.

Rick Joyner on the Jim Bakker Show

So picture those words flowing from the lips of Jesus.  Christ’s message to his followers is not one of proclaiming Hope and the Kingdom of God that is preparing to be released to every tribe and language.

No…

Instead it’s a message of fear, paranoia, and accusation.  The Romans and the foreigners are threatening our way of life and our nation’s leaders are incompetent and failing to defend us. That this is treason

Yes, it makes me laugh at first when I picture the absurdity of statements like this coming from the heart and lips of Jesus.  But then there is also sadness.

Sadness that tens of thousands of American Christians listen and get spiritual direction from Rick Joyner.  They read his books, are subscribed to his newsletter, and attend his talks and he regularly fails the What Would Jesus Say test.

jesussigh

And Joyner is not alone.  There are many other leaders who are setting the tone for the Life of Christ by promoting fear and nationalism.

So do a quick test the next time you are watching a Christian speaker, reading a Christian book, or perusing a ministry newsletter.  If the words coming out are not words fueled with hope, compassion, and peace, they are probably not part of the Good News we are supposed to share.

Oh, and as always, if someone asks you to “Take a Stand” (as Joyner does at the start of the clip) that is always a good indication that the person is preparing to fail the WWJS test! :)

Peace,

Steve

 

Weekend Distractions: Goodnight David Letterman

david-letterman-retirement

This past week David Letterman signed off after hosting his late night show for 33 years.  With 6,028 episodes Letterman has become the longest serving talk-show host surpassing even the late great Johnny Carson.  Tributes have been flooding in from comics he has influenced and fans he has made smile.

I’m going to miss Dave’s show.  I’ve been watching it since I was in high school in the early 1980′s.  My classmates and I would often pass school time trading laughs about what wild and crazy thing David did on the previous night’s show. The guy who would do a show from a 747 jumbo jet with a the caricature of news anchor Connie Chung in a swimsuit on the side won our devotion.

In the the late 1980′s when I was going to move to Los Angeles to become an actor I had set a goal for when I had finally “made it”.  It wouldn’t be when I had made a million dollars or had won an Academy Award….

No….

I declared to friends and family that I had finally “made it” in Hollywood when I was on  Late Night being interviewed by David Letterman.

Alas, the road not taken….

Anyhow, good night Dave, good luck, and thanks for the laughs!

American Crazy: Prayer Vigils for Ice Cream

blue bell1While walking the Camino de Santiago last month I had the opportunity to talk with many people from countries around the world particularly from Europe.  Contrary to the stereotype that Europeans don’t care much for Americans, I found the opposite to be true…but

…they are curious about us.

There is a question that they want to ask of us Yanks and that question may take different forms, but it can be essentially boiled down to;

“Why are Americans so crazy?”

Now as an American who has lived outside of the United States for a majority of my adult life I feel I am uniquely qualified to answer that.  See, an American can only begin to understand American Crazy once you have left those fruited plains for at least 5 to 10 years.  Otherwise American Crazy is “well, that’s just the way it it”.  I mean how do explain water to a fish?  (Note: Some Americans are able to see American Crazy while only having lived in America but as a white, male, middle-class, suburban, Republican, evangelical Christian, it was near impossible for me to understand American Crazy from inside the system :) )

My answer to my International friends as to the craziness of “my people” was explaining that American culture has a larger than most mixture of nationalism, optimism, politics, and religion.  Throw that together with a history guided by Manifest Destiny, bake for 230 years, and you get Fox News, Ted Cruz, and all kinds of weird sh…er…um … stuff!

I mean stuff happens in America that is clearly crazy!  For example an American friend I met on the Camino de Santiago messaged me about the reverse culture shock she was having coming back to Texas from Spain.

Seems that the local Texans in her community have organized a yard sign campaign and prayer vigil to rally God and the people behind a noble cause.

And what cause could they be holding a prayer vigil for you may ask?

* Could it be for the people Nepal who have been devastated by recent earthquakes that have left their country shattered?   No… 

http://time.com/3882272/nepal-earthquake-death-toll-2/

* Could it be to stand for the young girls in South-East Asia whose virginity is sold for a price by their own families?  No…

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/03/world/cambodia-child-sex-trafficking/index.html

* Could it be for the people in Liberia or Sierra Leone whose populations are being ravaged still by the Ebola virus?   No…….

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/13/world/ebola-outbreak-what-you-need-to-know/index.html

The good people of Houston Texas are holding a prayer vigil and seeking the direct intervention of the Creator of the Universe for…

ice cream!

Yep, you heard that right.  Ice cream…more specifically Blue Bell Ice Cream.

Apparently the local favorite had a bacteria which produced a massive recall of Blue Bell leaving empty supermarket shelves and disappointed ice cream aficionados.

Hey, don’t get me wrong.  I know what it’s like to pine for a favorite food and not be able to get it.  I live in Hong Kong and the nearest Chipotle is about 6,000 miles away.  And I remember back when I lived in Boulder Colorado and the local Chipotle restaurant swapped  out their tantalizing white rice for brown.

I nearly had a melt down!

But I never thought of organizing the community for a prayer vigil! 

Because that would be crazy!

American crazy!

I know God has more grace and understanding than I can even imagine but I gotta think even he has to be looking down at hands lifted up and voices crying out to him for their Blue Bell Ice Cream to be restored and saying, “You have GOT to be kidding me.”

Peace,

Steve

Camino Lessons: The Joy Of Seeing Friends In Santiago!

photo

With Angy outside the Pilgrim Office

Arriving in Santiago was perhaps more emotional than I had expected. After almost 5 weeks of walking the sense of anticipation grew as my son Gabriel and I entered the outer perimeter of the city. Finally we glimpsed the soaring towers of the Cathedral of Santiago…our destination. Before we entered the ancient church however Gabriel and I wanted to check in at Pilgrim’s Office to receive our final stamp and Compostellas certifying we had completed our Camino journey. (Also, that was the order Martin Sheen did it in The Way so that was how I was doing it)

As my son and I searched the cobble stoned streets around the Cathedral for the office I heard my name called out, “Steve!”

I turned to see Angy, a tall Korean girl from Argentina (and the fastest walker I met on the Camino) with a big smile approaching us.  ”I was hoping I would see you again” she said as we greeted each other.

In that moment I experienced an emotion I would feel many more times over the next 2 days or so as I embraced friends that had been journeying with me for weeks.

Joy!

It was the joy of seeing a fellow traveler who had shared the same challenges and trials I experienced and had overcome to arrive at the destination. In that moment the bunk beds, communal showers, snoring, wind, rain, cold, heat, blisters, shin splints, aches, and pains of the journey were replaced with the joy of seeing a friend and fellow pilgrim in Santiago.

We had arrived!

The Cathedral

I had a decision to make a couple days earlier and that was to rush on ahead so I could walk to the ocean from Santiago.  I wrestled with this for a while and finally decided to tarry in the city and savor the arrival with my son and fellow pilgrims.

It was possibly the best decision I made on the whole trip as I had not appreciated that much of the Camino, although an individual journey, is not done in isolation.

In some ways the Camino de Santiago is done alone…together!

As we gathered for the Pilgrim’s Mass in the cathedral there was many hugs, tears, laughter, as people encountered each other.  It made me think of the TV show Lost where in the final episode the characters who are now in the afterlife find themselves all drawn to a particular church.  The main character Jack asks his father why they are all there:

________________________________________________________

JACK: You…are you real?

CHRISTIAN: I should hope so. Yeah, I’m real. You’re real, everything that’s ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church…they’re real too.

JACK: They’re all…they’re all dead?

CHRISTIAN: Everyone dies sometime, kiddo. Some of them before you, some…long after you.

JACK: But why are they all here now?

CHRISTIAN: Well there is no “now” here.

JACK: Where are we, dad?

CHRISTIAN: This is the place that you…that you all made together, so that you could find one another. The most…important part of your life, was the time that you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone Jack. You needed all of them, and they needed you.

Jack then enters the church to see all of his friends.  There is that joy on everyone’s faces as they reunite with friends they had shared life with together.

_____________________________________________________

Looking around the cathedral during Mass I saw many familiar faces.  Some had arrived in Santiago before me, some after.  But we were all together there now!

IMG_2024

Outside the Cathedral with friends!

And there was a lot of joy!  Some people I had gotten to know well, some only in passing, but the sight of these fellow pilgrims sitting here together in this church was emotionally very powerful.

After the Mass began I looked across the long Cathedral interior and noticed a side door open briefly.   Michael, a Colombian-American I had encountered for the last 3 weeks entered with his mother and slipped into the back row.

That sense of joy hit me again.

I tapped on Gabriel’s shoulder, “Look, Michael and Esperanza.  They made it!”

Yes, they were a little late…but they arrived in the end.

In that moment I had a strong sense of this being a shadow of the Kingdom of God and the pure joy we will have when we see others that we had journeyed in life together with finally arrived at the destination.

We all arrive at different times, and some may even arrive late…but eventually we get to Santiago!

 

Judging “Tourist Pilgrims” On The Camino de Santiago

At Beyond the Pale I devote a fair bit of space imagetowards dismantling the politics of tribalism and “us vs. them” thinking. Usually because, well, I struggle with it so much myself.

Case in point:

While preparing for the Camino de Santiago I read about how the pilgrimage would change during the last 100 km before reaching Santiago. This was due to an influx of new pilgrims who would start in the town of Sarria which is the last place one can start the Camino in order to be issued a Compostella certificate. Youtube videos and blogs encouraged pilgrims who had started their journey from much farther back not look down on these “tourist pilgrims”.

I remember thinking of course I wouldn’t do that. Where someone starts is their own business and we are all just pilgrims heading to Santiago.

Yeah….right!

Once I reached Sarria I saw whole groups of people walking together with the familiar scallop shell dangling from their day packs.

Day packs?

I’d been carrying my FULL pack for a month!

Who were these strangers, these “tourist pilgrims” and what were they doing on MY Camino trail?

A group of "tourist pilgrims"  at the cafe

A group of “tourist pilgrims” at the cafe

At one point Gabriel and I approached a cafe to get a morning coffee only to find it full of Italian “tourist pilgrims”. The bartender was trying his best to serve the 10 or so patrons and I realized my normal morning ritual that I’d been enjoying for four weeks was going to be disrupted by these “imposter” pilgrims.
I wanted to scream!
I wanted to yell!
I wanted to declare to all of these day pack hauling, fresh smelling, unwearied, unweathered, clean shaven, “tourist pilgrims” in their unblemished new shoes that “everyone who had not arrived at this cafe having walked FROM FRANCE needs to go to the back of the queue and make way for a REAL PEREGRINO!”

These folk came in groups. How could they do a pilgrimage as a group? Where was the personal trials? The personal reflection? How do you have an inner journey with “the gang”? I overheard two Swiss “tourist pilgrims” saying how they were staying in a hotel rather than albergues. (dormitories where pilgrims sleep while on the Camino).

Hotels? How do you do a pilgrimage from a hotel? Where are the bunk beds? The communal showers and toilets? The “pilgrims lullaby” of snoring which earplugs just barely keep at bay. Granted, I was one of the guys snoring, but that’s besides the point!
Yes, it became quickly apparent that I had tribalized the Camino. Those friends who I had shared the Way with for weeks had become “us”. These “hotel ladies” and others that had started the Camino in Sarria had become “them”. If I recognised you, you were “in”…if I didn’t, you were “out”.

Of course Jesus dealt with this type of thing a lot. Judging….Here I was comparing my pilgrimage to theirs and in my eyes they came up way short. Then as I walked and reflected on my “Camino” superiority over my new ” would be” fellow pilgrims another idea struck me; I thought about how my friend Rob had walked from Mongolia to Hong Kong through the Gobi Desert in winter. Compared to his 6 month ordeal my little jaunt from France was a walk in the park. He didn’t have a warm cafe to drop into for hot coffee and croissant. He couldn’t stop into a supermarket for fresh food, toiletries, and other supplies. And seeing the pictures of the tent he stayed in my albergue now looked like a hotel.

Cripe, compared to him, I was a “tourist pilgrim” too! I wasn’t an “us” at all. I was a “them”. Maybe that was why Jesus spent so much time warning us not to judge. Judging leads to comparisons…and sooner or later, we all suffer by comparison. Instead Jesus spent a lot of time turning all of “them” into “us”.

Later that morning two of the Italians missed the yellow arrow showing the Camino path veered off the road. I watched them chatting oblivious to the fact they were heading off in the wrong direction. To say I was tempted to not warn them would be wrong…I really am to nice a guy.
“Hello”. I yelled to get their attention. They continued walking…
“Ol-la” I yelled even louder. They turned…
Pointing with my walking stick at the yellow arrow I hollered, ” Camino is this way”

The Italians nodded and rushed back. Catching up with me they offered their thanks and said in broken English, “At the next cafe,we’d like to buy you a coffee”

In life their are no “tourist pilgrims”. Just “pilgrims”. Just “us”! And we are all simply doing our best to get to Santiago!

Peace,

Steve

Becoming A “Camino Catholic”

There is a great moment in the recent World War 2 movie imageMonument Men where Hugh Bonneville (of Downton Abbey fame) attempts to protect a group of Catholic priests and the art in their monastery from advancing Nazis. Seeing the peril he is putting himself in one priest asks, “Are you Catholic”?
“Tonight I am” Bonneville responds.

My eyes welled up.

Solidarity is perhaps the most powerful act which binds people together. When someone’s says, “Yes, I stand with you” it can change literally everything. Whether in marriage, family, friendship or even enmity, the act of solidarity breaks down the walls that previously divide.

When humanity found itself under siege with violence, disease, pain, and death it’s as if we collectively call out to God and say, “What, are you human?”
And God responds in Christ, “I AM now”

In the most powerful act of solidarity in human history God says,”I stand with you”

Camino Catholic

Although I have not been raised a Catholic, those that know me know I have a soft spot in my heart for my Catholic brothers and sisters. When I lived in Colorado I was known to sneak out for the occasional Sat. night Mass at our local Catholic Church. Here on the Camino de Santiago there is a strong catholic feel as the pilgrimage is historically a Roman Catholic pilgrimage.

So I’ve made a bold decision that probably won’t sit well with some people but it is this:

On the Camino de Santiago I’m Roman Catholic!

Yep, I made the decision to attend Mass and take the Eucharist with my Catholic brothers and sisters while on the pilgrimage. When I made the announcement to some of my fellow pilgrims, most supported the decision except my new Aussie friend who thought otherwise.

Steve, I work in a Catholic school but I’m not Catholic. You aren’t supposed to take communion if you are not Catholic.”

But I am a Catholic” I responded.

Our little group was enjoying the discussion outside on the lawn as we shared wine, olives, cheese, and chorizo sausage.

No, you are only pretending to be Catholic” she countered.

I’m not pretending. I am a Christian and I want to enjoy the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis while I am on this Christian pilgrimage. So on the Camino, I’m a Catholic…”
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This discussion carried on for a few minutes with different thoughts from the group. One of the Dutch pilgrims also announced that for the Camino, she too was going to be Catholic. Suddenly we were approached by an elderly local Spanish woman walking her dog. She motioned to us she would like a piece of the chorizo sausage. On the Camino de Santiago a spirit of sharing prevails so without hesitation one of my fellow peregrinos cut a generous slice and offered it to the woman.

She promptly tossed it to her dog…

I looked at my Aussie friend and said, “If our good Chorizo can be fed to dogs, I think I should be able to take Catholic communion.”
Looking at the dog licking it’s chops she replied, “Yeah, I have no more objections”