Posted by Mark Sandlin 17 weeks 4 days ago
"The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice," proclaimed the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.It may bend towards justice, but it does not bend gently. It bends behind sweat of the brow, creativity of the mind, and love from the soul of those who believe that every living soul not only desires justice and equality, but has a right to it. You see, justice is not a passive pursuit. The moral arc will not bend without encouragement.Dr. King was a living example of the kind of person who encourages the moral arc of history to bend toward justice. He is also an example of the only effective way to bend that arc — non-violently. We cannot hope to bring about justice by unjust means. Might, physical confrontation, and other forms of domination will ultimately only result in nurturing an understanding that domination is an ineffective way to resolve issues of justice — and domination is the exact opposite of justice. As King says, "Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love."
Posted by Mark Sandlin 24 weeks 4 days ago
Ah — I LOVE this time of the year!Some people wait with bated breath for duck season, some for deer season, but for me it is all about Christmas season. That's right, I'm one of those lefty liberals that have declared a War on Christmas. Yes! Sign me up for the War on Christmas!But maybe not for the reasons you might imagine.While I am signing up to help in a War on Christmas, I'm not on, what by default gets called, the “non-Christian” side. I’m also not signing up for the side that news pundits falsely purport as the “Christian” side. If anything, I’d make the argument that the dominant face of Christianity, as it is seen on television and promoted through news programming, is itself far from what Christianity is supposed to be. It is a sort-of white-washed, sanitized version of Christianity that every year presents an increasingly cleaned up version of the Christmas story to the viewing public.
Posted by Mark Sandlin 36 weeks 17 hours ago
Good and gracious God, Today we come before you with heavy hearts as we remember the events of 9/11. For some of us today is a mixed bag of emotions. We hurt deeply for those who lost their lives and those who lost their loved ones. We mourn the nearly 3000 who died that day. We are humbled by the bravery of the first responders. We continue to grieve with our neighbors in the loss of our national innocence - our false sense of constant safety.
Posted by Mark Sandlin 37 weeks 5 days ago
Editor's Note: This is the sixth and final installment of Presbyterian pastor Mark Sandlin's blog series "Church No More," chronicling his three-month sabbatical from church-going.They say you can never go home again.The thinking is that, having left and experienced new things, you have changed and the people back home have continued in their lives just as you left them. Your experience of going back home again necessarily will be very different from your experience of home as you remember it, even though it may have changed very little. In many ways, Church is one of my homes and I left it. I walked away for three months and experienced a bit of life outside of it. The three months are up and I'm going back home. This coming Sunday (Sept. 2) will be my first Sunday back. The saying “you can't go home again,” probably originated from Tom Wolfe's novel, You Can't Go Home Again. It's the story of an author who leaves his home, writes about it from a distance and then tries to go home again. It doesn't exactly go well. The folks in the town are none-too-happy about him airing their dirty laundry so publicly.So, you can't go home again? Well, I'm going to try.
Posted by Mark Sandlin 40 weeks 21 hours ago
Editor's Note: This is the fourth installment of Presbyterian pastor Mark Sandlin's blog series "Church No More," chronicling his three-month sabbatical from church-going. Follow the links below to read his previous installments, beginning in June.Church No More: Part 1 — Walking Away From ChurchChurch No More: Part 2 — Church That Doesn't Steal Your JoyChurch No More: Part 3 — The 'C' WordChurch No More: Part 4 — I Don't Want to Go BackA little over two months ago, I decided I'd spend my three-month sabbatical not going to church. Which might seem like a perfectly normal thing to do – except that I'm a minister. I've had some strange and wonderful experiences which I've written about, but possibly more strange and more wonderful than the experiences are the responses I've received.From the very beginning the most frustrating response I get is not folks telling me I'll lose my faith if I leave church (and they have), or the ones telling me I can't begin to understand what it's like to be Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) in three short months (lots of those were also disturbingly aggressively worded), but rather the ones that say, “Oh, 'sabbatical!' Thanks. Now I have a word to call what I do! I stopped going to church years ago.” “No!” I'd think while unsuccessfully trying to figure out how to reach through my laptop screen and shake some sense into them, “You are not on sabbatical! The sabbatical I'm taking about has to do with taking a rest, not leaving. It's rest and recuperation — communion with God in a way that is restorative. It's not about leaving! Sheesh.”More than two months into my sabbatical, I now have to say, “Boy was I wrong.” They are on sabbatical, more so than I am.
Posted by Mark Sandlin 41 weeks 4 days ago
I love the Church. I have literally been going to church my whole life — that is, until two months ago.Then I stopped cold turkey. You can read about it in my post "Walking Away From Church." Masses of people responded. It astounded me. Most ministers expressed concern saying things like, “My Brother, I am worried that you may be on a dangerous journey,” or, “I fear you may lose your faith.”Frankly, what I heard them saying was, “Faith is so fragile it needs the Church to enforce it,” which only made me more certain I was making a remarkably healthy spiritual choice. Former church-going folk frequently told me things like, “There is a large disconnect between the 'Church' of today and the teachings of Jesus,” and “I have found God in a dynamic, deep way and I love God so much more and for real now than when I was unwittingly trying to fit in with my church culture.” I've been away from church for two months now and I have to say, I am more at peace than I ever have been. My faith is stronger than it ever has been. My family life is healthier than it ever has been. My desire to seek out God and follow the teachings of Jesus is stronger than it ever has been. I do not want to go back to Church because life outside of Church is better. It just is. There's no dogma complicating the path to God. It is more than refreshing to escape the games church-folk play with the intent of establishing control and “rightness” on their part; it is life-giving to escape it.
Posted by Mark Sandlin 44 weeks 6 days ago
I have a confession.(That's rich, right? A minister confessing.)I have a hard time telling people I'm a minister. Yes, really. I actually tend to handle it this way:Person: “So, what do you do for a living?”Me: “I'm a minister... (appropriate pause)... but not the kind you just pictured in your head.” Sad, I know.Honestly though, it's worse than that. I'm even very resistant to calling myself a “Christian.” And I'm not even close to the only Christian who feels that way! It's so bad that I have this very conversation with people all the time. There seems to be some kind of “Believer-like-me Radar” which tells people it's safe to talk to me about not liking the“C” word — CHRISTIANITY.
Posted by Mark Sandlin 45 weeks 22 hours ago
Good and gracious God, Today, like the rest of the world, when I woke I wrapped myself in myths. They are comfortable and warming in what can seem like such a cold world. Yes, they are old and worn but they are familiar and even the most fashion forward find comfort in this thread-worn garb. They tell me that while it may not be fair that 1,600 children die from hunger everyday, I can do nothing about it. They silence my own judgment of myself when I put a quarter in the cup of a homeless man as I walk on by the lack in his life to live into the abundance of mine....
Posted by Mark Sandlin 46 weeks 2 days ago
I lost my joy. I suspect there are a few of you who feel the same way. Not that you aren't happy, but there is this deep place of celebratory joy which you once knew that really doesn't come around much anymore. There was a time when I was a pretty joyful guy. Not “blind to the world's problems” kind of joyful, just “blessed to be blessed in the midst of this mess” kind of joyful. Lately though, I've found joy to be an increasingly difficult thing to come by. The thing is, I have every reason to be joyful. I'm lucky enough to be married to an amazing woman – truly amazing. I couldn't be prouder of my kids who, in an age of “be different just like us” are very much their own kind of different simply because they aren't afraid of being themselves. My personal interests, like my blog, just keep getting better. I have some of the best friends in the world. Yet, I'm not the generally joyful person I once was. It's a dull malaise that I just can't quite shake. I don't like it. Not one bit. Recently though, I've been catching little glimpses of my joy making cameo appearances in the storyline of my life. I like it. A lot. The question is, why now? Why not back then?
Posted by Mark Sandlin 46 weeks 6 days ago
A few weeks ago I (an ordained minster who has gone to church my whole life) walked away from church — for three months. It is what I've decided to do with my sabbatical. You can read about my initial thoughts on my blog or on The Huffington Post. As the journey unfolds, I will be blogging about it in this series entitled, “Church No More.” I hope you will not only follow along, but add your voice to the reflection by commenting or joining the discussion on my FB page. It might be that the thing which concerned me the most about leaving the church was losing my spiritual community. It's not that I thought the spiritual-but-not-religious folk were helplessly lonely people wandering around seeking a spiritual community. Not at all. I just assumed that it might be immensely difficult to find and plug into a community like that in the course of three months. I also couldn't help but think it would be just a bit — well, fake to seek out a community for the sake of observing them and then leaving a few months latter. Not just fake but somewhat mean spirited and completely missing the point of community. Here's the thing, I am a minister. I understand myself to be a person who ministers by following the lead and teachings of Jesus. (I also happen to follow the teachings of many other spiritual and/or thought leaders from Buddha to Neil deGrasse Tyson, but that's for another post some other time). Because of that, the idea of life without a spiritual community gives me the heebie-jeebies. (I apologize for using such a technical term, but a duck is a duck is a duck).
Posted by Mark Sandlin 49 weeks 1 day ago
I'm rewriting the old African-American spiritual “Down By the Riverside.”(Don't worry. It's OK . I'm a minister).My new version goes something like this: Gonna lay down my robe and stole Down by the Riverside Down by the Riverside Down by the Riverside Gonna lay down my robe and stole Down by the Riverside Ain't goin' to church no more. Yep! That's it. This minister is walking away from church — well, at least for the next three months.