I Know, You Told Me So

Ok, so my main man Herman Cain dropped out ofthe race.You told me he had no chance of winning the nomination. You questioned my embrace of a conservative Republican candidate. I had hopes of seeing this man rise from poverty to business success to the 45th U.S. president. For a black conservative, he got closer than most, and opened doors for all of us in the future. Alas….



What can I say, running for president is serious business. Apparently, all’s fair.

Ten Things I Like About Herman Cain

1. He’s black. Two black presidents in a row!

2. Some of those conservative ideas actually make a lot of sense.

3. Nicknames include the Hermanator and the Dark Horse.

4. He beat stage 4 colon cancer.

5. His mother was a  cleaning woman, father a barber, janitor, and chauffeur.

 6. He was chairman of a federal reserve bank.

Don't hate. Congratulate.

7. He can play the piano and sing well.

8. He’s a Morehouse Man, class of 1967 with a master in computer science as well.

He could...go...all...the...way!

9. The number 45 has proved fortuitous for him throughout life. He was born in 1945. 2012 will be his 45th college reunion, he would be the 45th president and inauguraed in 2013, the same year he’ll celebate his 45th wedding anniversary.

10. His book is entitled “This is Herman Cain: My Journey to the White House.” Hate it or love it, the man has balls.

Please Don’t Forgive My Student Loans

The Occupation seems to be holding steady and even gaining ground.

Why are we doing this again?

The only thing we know for sure about the people in the tents downtown is that they don’t know what they want, but they’ll know it it when we get it. What do we the 99% really want? Student loan forgiveness comes to the top of my list–just wipe them clean off the books. But in reality, that would be one of the worst things that could happen to the future hopes of the American economy.

I had a bachelor degree, and I decided I wanted to get a master. I sent off to the school for information, they sent me back a nifty catalog. Towards the back, they told me it was going to cost well over $50,000 to get through the 3 years of study. I said, “ok, no problem,” applied, got accepted, matriculated, and graduated. Six months after graduation, that bill they told me about came due.

Now, it’s true that a lot of companies got bailouts; they swindled and evicted and laid off countless hardworking people. Yes, the credit card companies employ the type of people the Bible warns us about. All that is true–so if they voluntarily decide to forgive the $829.785 billion in federal and private students loans Americans owe, I’ll let them.

But I don’t expect that to happen.

The way I see it, all of us bright educated folks need to use the degrees we begged, borrowed, and stole to obtain. We should be the ones inventing, writing, selling, and making new stuff.  All our new, must-have gadgets and books and services will stimulate the economy. Also, we’ll have enough money to pay back the loans once we put ourselves to work.

Sallie Mae and Pell already made the education possible, thank you very much. Now, I don’t intend to wait for a jobs bill to employ me or Obamacare to cure me, or the Occupy Movement to get my debts cancelled.

I for one, plan to use this fabulous education of mine to make a real difference for myself and the world.

Are the Occupiers Tough Enough?

This Occupation has the makings of a real revolution. A lot of courage has already gone into this movement thus far in dozens of cities. But for some real “we shall overcome-type” of reforms, many millions of brave souls are going to have to be willing to die for this. Yes die. If the effort is sustained, they’ll have to occupy Wall Street through the Holidays. New York City gets several inches of snow at a time in the winter. I’m sure Zuccati Park is lovely in December, but I wouldn’t want to live there in a tent.

What can you do except root for the 99% to win?

What do we win when we win, anyway? I say for starters, everyone’s loans and credit card debt get wiped clean up to $100,000. That would be swell. In 15 years, plenty of people would work their way back into desperate conditions, but many of us would use a mulligan like that to get over the hump and supercharge our quest for the American Dream.

It’s a nice brainstorm, but in order for those types of revolutionary concessions to be granted, many people are going to have to freeze, get beat up by cops, be separated from family, and then they can get ready to endure the real hardships.

The Gay Question

#Trust30 asked me:

What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?

I believe loving, committed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry and receive full rights before church and state.

The Institution of Marriage, in its truest essence, does not need to be defended nor can it be, really, so why try?

It is possible to be Christian and gay at the same time. This fact has been well-documented. So if you’re allowed to be a member of the church while being gay, shouldn’t the church affirm mature gay Christians who want to have a church wedding?

Some choose to biblically prove homosexuality is a sin. Fine if you see it that way. Jesus said it’s the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy. Truth is, we’ll all sinners, anyway. As a pastor, my business model does not allow for me to exclude people just because they live in a particular sin.

My parents, my brother, the clergy in my cell phone contacts, influential people in my congregation, local civic leaders–these are the people who essentially all disagree with me on this point.

The debate around “gay question” is religious, political, and personal–wait, aren’t those the 3 things you’re never supposed to talk about?

So far, all I’ve done about this conviction of mine is write a handful of blog posts, you can search them on the blog. But lately, I’ve been feeling led to really take a stand–that would start with joining the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. Whole lotta people close to me won’t like that….


Abandoning the Suit and Tie

I think I’m going to stop wearing a suit and tie to church on Sunday mornings.

Most people who live around the church I pastor don’t wear business suits or ties on a daily basis, so why should they be expected to dress like that for worship? 

I was raised to dress up for church, and so were most of the people who attended Zion Hill when I arrived. We always say “come as you are,” but on any given Sunday, almost everyone in the house will be decked out in their “Sunday best.”

In fact, I think it would make your typical dyed-in-the-wool Baptist uncomfortable to come to church on a Sunday morning in jeans and a T-shirt.

At the same time, I think it would make a typical Los Angeles resident uncomfortable to put on a suit and tie just to come to church.

So, with all other aspects of worship remaining the same, which one makes more sense: Encouraging seekers and guests to dress up in order to fit in, even if it makes them uncomfortable? Or, encouraging church members to dress down so that seekers and guests (and many members) can feel more comfortable?

I can say “come as you are” till the cows come home, but the best way to dress the culture of a church down is for the pastor to start dressing down.

This is actually a pretty big deal for me. I remember trying to wear one of my Parker Lewis rayon shirts to church in junior high and my father explicitly telling me that “we always wear ties to church.” I see where he was coming from, and it happened to be just the discipline I needed at that point. But if dressing up stops people from coming to Christ, dressing up is a sin.

If They Didn’t Catch Osama Bin Laden

For the record, I believe that Bin Laden was caught and killed, so this isn’t about doubting the U.S. military or government.

I’m just saying, the last attempt to catch Osama was certainly not the first time they tried to get him. But we never heard about those unsuccessful attempts–not really anyway.

So, let’s say that the special forces guys arrived at the compound but Bin Laden happened to be away for the day or it was the wrong place. Or, what if it had been the right place, but the bad guys had been expecting us and half our guys had gotten killed and Osama had gotten away?

If they hadn’t caught him, the news would have been just like every other war headline that goes in one ear and out the other: “17 U.S. soldiers killed in firefight near porous Afghani-Pakistani border.” And even though the soldiers are equally brave in victory and defeat, you may or may not have heard about it and you almost certainly wouldn’t have cared–not really anyway.

But since we finally got to see this….

Instead of this….

Everyone on our side is happy. But what if they hadn’t caught him?

Beyond “Spiritual But Not Religious”

How many people do you know who identify as “Spiritual But Not Religious?”

My understanding of SBNR is that these people believe there is a God and a moral code that revolves around unconditional love. They want to live inspired lives of meaning and purpose and usually get a lot of satisfaction from helping people. They are spiritual, and that’s great.

But, for as much as they love God, seek wisdom, and strive to constantly improve, they just don’t feel comfortable identifying with a religion, especially Christianity in the U.S.A. Religion to them is about outdated traditions, empty rituals, ignoring scientific insights, money-hungry preachers, egotistical leaders, and pedophile priests. Besides, they figure, the average churchgoer is not demonstrably better-behaved or better-off than the average non-churchgoer. The only apparent difference is, if you don’t go to church, you get more of your weekend to yourself.

I’m a pastor, and even I have to admit, if I had to choose between being spiritual or being religious, I’d go with spiritual every time. Fortunately, though, I don’t have to choose. Because what is better than being one or the other is my decision to be both spiritual and religious.

Spirituality is the goal, and religion is the admittedly flawed, human-created vehicle that helps us achieve the goal. Religion can be a beautiful thing when it is practiced by spiritual people. Religion is what gives spiritual people an excuse to congregate and pool their resources for the greater good. Practicing religion encourages you to study scriptures, something most SBNRs wish they did more anyway. Going to a spiritual church, you will learn how to pray more effectively, be consistently inspired, get involved in community service, and meet an extended family who will help you however they can.

Granted, all churches aren’t created equal, but so what? By all means, if a church isn’t spiritual, stop going so that they either get spiritual or go out of business as quickly as possible. But for all the negative press and as unpopular as is sounds in today’s world, the best thing many spiritual seekers can do is get involved in a good church.

Two Thousand Ten or Twenty Ten

“Everyone” is saying that we are supposed to call this year “Twenty Ten.” I heard it on NPR and on the local TV news, so I guess that settles it.

It makes sense on some level. We called the years in the last century “nineteen” eighty this and “nineteen” ninety that, so these would logically be the “twenties” now. Still, I’m not so sure.

We were calling last year and all the years before that “two thousand” this and that. So why switch from “two thousand nine” to “twenty ten?” The only thing I can come up with is that it saves us a syllable.

Something is telling me that the “twenty” isn’t going to stick. I like saying “two thousand ten”–seems to naturally follow “two thousand nine” to me. And just because something is more efficient doesn’t mean society is going to embrace it.

Whatever “everyone” ultimately decides on this one, I’ll go with the flow. It just seems like people are trying too hard to make us call it “twenty ten,” and forcing something makes it less and less likely to catch on.

My 10 Favorite Ben Franklin Quotes

I was chatting with a friend today. In the course of our conversation, I heard myself tell him, “Ben Franklin said, ‘alcohol does not drown sorrows, but waters them, and helps them grow.'” He said Franklin was a genius.

Of course he was a genius. They don’t put you on the hundred-dollar bill for being average.

"...on the low from the Jake in the Taurus..."
"...on the low from the Jake in the Taurus..."

Without Franklin’s life and contributions,  the United States would not be as great a nation as it has been and is. I can’t think of another individual for whom that statement is more true. Here are 10 of my favorite BF quotes:

1. He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.

2. He that would live in peace and at ease, must not speak all he knows nor judge all he sees.

3. How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.

4. If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading or do things worth the writing.

5. Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

6. To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.

7. Force shites on reason’s back.

8. To find out a girl’s faults, praise her to her girl friends.

9. When in doubt, don’t.

10. We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.

My man.