Category Archives: Faith

It’s About More than Color

March 14, 2008

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

Pastor Jeremiah Wright has unleashed devilish forces.  In this country, at a particularly sensitive time, when we Americans are balancing our many hopes for the world, he has heaped fury onto the scales and thrown us out of balance.

The People’s Press, modern media outlets, free…and willing…to explore subjects not sanctioned by the more liberal press, has brought Rev. Wright into the center ring…and held him there.  All lights have been shining on his act this week, revealing an uncomfortable truth.  Prejudice is not restricted to the color black.

I married into a Hispanic family, a mixture of Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia.  By nationality and marriage, our hues of brown range from rich espresso to pale café-au-lait.  In the security of family love that permits acknowledging truth uncommon in the common press, we have witnessed the rare and uncomfortable situation where it is suspected that a family member is favored based on their position on the color wheel.

In this presidential election cycle, we had nationally prided ourselves that we could rise above the divisions of race and evaluate the caliber of presidential candidates on qualities more than skin deep.  Rev. Wright has ended this false pride…and our silence on race.

Everyone has something to say.  And most of it needs to be said.  Silence about race has allowed us to pretend that it doesn’t factor into the judgments people will be making when they pull the lever at the polls.

But the wider discussion in the media has missed the deeper implications of Rev. Wright’s passionate sermons.  We treat his statements as public speeches delivered from the podium to an audience.  Not so.

These were sermons delivered from the pulpit by one who has presumed to be a teacher, for which he will be more strictly judged.  The scriptures are full of fire and brimstone.  And we humans must sometimes be startled into righteousness by a sermon that comes from the belly.  But in our righteous anger, we must sin not.  If vengeance comes, it must come from the Lord. 

If the media walks fearfully around issues of race, it is even less capable of reporting on issues that involve religion.  For the most part, hampered by lack of intimate scriptural experience and biased by caustic suspicion of people of faith, reporters are missing the core meaning of Rev. Wright’s sermons and Obama’s presence in the pew.

The essence of Christian faith is the essence of Rev. Wright’s folly.  Reporting on this story outside the meaning of the Christian faith is like reporting on race relations in America while denying the presence of slavery in America.

Christianity…the life of Christ…is a response to sin, that unavoidable part of our human nature.  Why do we sin?  And how do we deal with sin…all of it…racial prejudice…and lust, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy…how do we deal with our human nature?

As a Christian, Rev. Wright had assumed the privilege and responsibility of preaching the good news from Christ, sharing the words of Christ, a message which came from the Father. 

He brought to the members of his church the eternal message of hope.  But the hope of Christ does not rest on blaming others for our sins.  Even less does it rely on threatening other sinners with damnation.

It’s a hard Gospel of love.  We are not given shortcuts.  Love is the reward at the end of a straight path.  Peter spoke for us, asking Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 

It was a question back then, just as it is today, with an unwanted answer.  Not seven times, but seventy times seven.  If our jacket is stolen, do not stop him from taking your tunic. The hope for humanity does not end in brotherly love until we get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.   

This is religious truth that is the essence of why Rev. Wright’s words should matter to Obama, and why they should matter to us.  One chooses a church very carefully.  We may continue to attend, even when we wish they sang different songs and had pews instead of chairs.  But we dare not embrace the message of a church that refuses to deliver the message of Christ.

Beware, fellow Americans. We were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. [Gal 5:13-15, NIV]

Rev. Wright is not a wayward uncle to be humored so as not to disrupt the annual family picnic on the Fourth of July.  He is the spiritual leader of the flock, tending His sheep.

A flock that cheers a message of hate will never be a flock that delivers a message of hope to our nation…no matter how pretty the speech.

In his Christian responsibility, Obama might have used his influence over the years to redirect Rev. Wright’s heart to spiritual truth.  But if this had been his course for twenty years, resulting in an intransigent refusal of Rev. Wright to rewrite his sermons, Obama should have sought out a new church…he would not have founded a national political movement “inspired” by this particular “spiritual mentor.”

Sitting in silence for twenty years, surrounded by the joyful jeers of parishioners cheering on a message of hate, is more the sign of one more sheep in the flock than of a shepherd who can deliver on inspiring promises of worldly hope.  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 

Obama claims a Christian faith.  His claim to faith is about so much more than the color of our skin.  It is why the words of Rev. Wright matter.  It is the real story that should run in The New York Times.


New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society



February 25, 2008

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

The quiet darkness is almost perfect.  Dim light helps me guide my pen across the yellow page while the faint tick-tock of a clock two rooms away marks the passing moments of silence.  At 4:30 a.m., the city still sleeps, and I can hide in the darkness.

I breathe in the silence.  Time fills the space between my words as I write.  Ink lays down the mental wanderings of the early morning uninterrupted by the more familiar clicks of the keyboard.

I savor the dark morning, wanting to hold it still, a quiet reminder of God’s creation uninterrupted by my schedule in a daytimer, unplugged from modern invention.

This pause in life is a remnant of Christmas past, my last gift from under the tree. Come away with me, the Babe in the manger invited.  And I nodded.  Yes.

Moving closer to the manger, tucking the edge of the Babe’s blanket into the straw, the room is warmed by the breath of humans and animals sharing the morning’s miracle.  The only lights outside burn in the sky, flickers above the clouds, giving faint outline to the hint of a town, of people, of landscape…a gift of peace.

There is only one way for me to enter this peace.  I must unplug.

So many layers of Christmas celebration have been added to God’s gift.  Shopping.  Christmas cards, with the annual family letter enclosed, a tree wrapped in strings of lights, gingerbread houses, Mary and Joseph on the front yard, plugged into a timer to go on & off with the up and down of the sun.

Each holiday tradition is a modern celebration of the Babe in the manger.  But this year, I needed more of less.

Finally, at the base of the Christmas tree, wrapping up the season, putting decorations back into their box, I began to unplug.  I set boundaries on the office in the next room.  Whatever I am able to accomplish in eight hours each day will be enough.  Unfinished business will have to sit unfinished…until tomorrow.

The computer, the television…both unplugged.  Daily duties and distractions are quieted.  But unplugging is revealed as a moment-by-moment process that unfolds with each new task of the day.  Like pulling petals from a daisy…do I, don’t I…each action begins with a choice that is now important.

Do I?  Yes, I must complete my trip to D.C., an airline ticket purchased last month ties me to duty.  But walking through the airport, do I or don’t I forgo the moving sidewalk?  Choosing my path on solid ground, a string of people slides by on each side of me.  I arrive at the gate two minutes behind them, the price of unplugging, a minor two minute delay that on its own is not worthy of notice.  But unplugging is like that.

Each modern moment challenges me for its space in my life.  The political season, the Super Bowl, the church Bible study, a trip to visit children, taxes to pay, birthdays to celebrate…unplugging is microscopic surgery where every blood vessel must be carefully chosen and, if cut, cauterized.

Two months after boxing up the front lawn’s nativity, I mark my successes in these quiet morning hours, scratching my pen across the page while the city sleeps.  This is the first writing I have done since the Babe invited me into the manger.  And it is more than symbolic that I have chosen a yellow tablet over the laptop in my office, plugged in.

Unplugged, creating space in life, making each action defend its significance, there are no perfect choices.  Do I…don’t I…type my scribbles, two months late, into the first 2008 column for my website?  If I don’t, another worthy writer will fill the void.  If I do, I will use precious minutes – either gift or sacrifice or indulgence – a writer’s continual struggle to identify the importance of what we do in the manger next to the Babe who needs us still, long after the Christmas boxes are back in the garage.

It began two months ago, a decision to unplug from distractions and enter the miracle.  Do I…don’t I…on…or off…a question, a choice, unsettled and unending.

The early morning quiet still blankets me, the pen starts and stops, a choice with each word…do I…don’t I?


Some Hate Is Better than Other Hate

October 8, 2007

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

Murder is outlawed.  Murder, since the death of Abel at the hands of Cain, has been the ultimate offense against our brother.  Listen! God commands Cain.  Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

Cain murdered Abel.  God passed judgment on the crime.  Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood.

It was murder.  And it was punished by God.  He told Cain, When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you.  You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.  But Abel’s murder wasn’t a hate crime.  At least according to modern law, it wasn’t a hate crime.

Cain told God, My punishment is more than I can bear.  But he can be grateful he was only punished by God’s justice and not by modern American justice.  Today’s punishment would have been so much worse…had it been a hate crime.

Hate crimes are crimes more dastardly than mere crime.  They are special crimes defined by hate…that is, a certain kind of hate…depending on who you hate.

In the United States federal prosecution is possible for hate crimes committed on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, or nation origin when engaging in a federally protected activity.  To date, 45 states and the District of Columbia have statutes criminalizing various types of hate crimes, and 31 states and the District of Columbia have statutes creating a civil cause of action, in addition to the criminal penalty, for similar acts.

But that is not enough for some.  As of October, 2007, congress is considering legislation that would add gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability to the list.

With all of this attention to the types of hate that might motivate crime, one would think that we have covered the worst of deeds with our modern legalese.  One would think.

King David murdered Uriah the Hittite?  Hate?  Not under the new improved hate crimes law.  His was the lesser, kinder kind of murder, killing a man to gain access to his beautiful wife.

What if O.J. Simpson actually confessed to the two brutal murders proved to be his deed by blood and DNA?  He would finally be imprisoned to pay for the slaughter.  But hate?  Nope.  These were the lesser, kinder kind of murders, killing a wife who wanted her freedom and a man who made the ultimate sacrifice to save her.

By definition, until now, murder has always been considered a hate crime.  But soon, encoding into our law a special kind of crime defined as hate, we will have by exclusion reduced all other crimes, including murders, to something less than.

Creating one class of victim that is hurt by hate, to the exclusion of other victims who are merely annoyed by hate, we have fulfilled the Orwellian prophecy that predicted the reduction of equality into something other than.  All animals are created equal…but some are more equal than others.

We have become too sophisticated to see the obvious.  By legally reserving our deepest compassion for a limited set of victims, we have diminished our ability to protect one another in a civilized world where hate is called what it is regardless of who is hated.

Murder is final.  It is no less painful because the law says it is the lesser, kinder murder.

The more we work to define what kinds of hate are worse than others, the more we all need to worry about being left behind in the group of people outside the circle of protection.  There are no degrees of good hate and kinder murder.  Hate is hate.

Happy Teens

August 20, 2007

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

Mass Marketing 101 teaches that successful marketing campaigns sell with promises of happiness.  Thus, we end up with hamburgers in the hands of Paris Hilton, scantily clad and writhing seductively in suds washing over the ultimate in cars, a Bentley.

This 2005 television ad had it all…a famous pretty girl, a luxurious car and sex…the ultimate symbols of human happiness.  By all accounts, Carl’s Junior executives were pleased.

This formula is repeated day in and out.  And in modern America, the formula has made its way from adult ad campaigns to those targeting teens…and their younger brothers and sisters.  Playboy bunnies are appliquéd to tops for toddlers, and rhinestones spell out Hey Baby! on the seat of velveteen pants riding low on the hips of ten-year-olds.

Sex sells.  This has become a truism in Mass Marketing 101.  Have a buxom beauty hold a widget while staring seductively through the camera lens, and you’ll sell a million widgets.  If we buy their widget, we will be best friends with the buxom beauty and we will be happy.

Everywhere, sex is connected with happiness.  Entire prime time television series serve up episode after episode where pretty people spend all of their time thinking, talking and doing sex.  And sex educators take their cue.

Paid by Planned Parenthood, educators stand in front of teens and remind them that “sex is natural…when you are ready, we can show you how to do it ‘responsibly’…your parents don’t have to know…after all, sex is your right…you have a right to be happy…and sex is the basic human drive that leads to happiness.”

Consequences?  Well, if you manage to encounter a consequence when your saferrrrrrrrr sex practices fail to “protect you,” Planned Parenthood has a tool kit of remedies.  You can detect your consequences through testing.  You can treat your consequences with drugs.  And you can destroy your consequences with a “surgical procedure.”  After all, you have a right to be happy.

This is the world we have created for our teens…to make them happy.

Wrong!  We are wrong.  We have been wrong for years.  And now a poll by The Associated Press and MTV of 1,280 young people ages 13-24 lays out for adults what our teens really want in order to be happy.

“What makes you happy?”  Teens resoundingly reply, “spending time with family.”  Kristiana St. John, 17, from Queens, New York, says, “They’re my foundation…My mom tells me that even if I do something stupid, she’s still going to love me no matter what.  Just knowing that makes me feel very happy and blessed.”

Money?  Almost no teens responded “money” when asked what makes them happy.

Sex?  In spite of the hard sell by television and the saferrrrrrrrr promises of Planned Parenthood, “being sexually active actually leads to less happiness among 13-17 year olds according to the survey.  If you’re 18 to 24, sex might lead to more happiness in the moment, but not in general.”

Future Goals?  Marriage.  Ninety-two percent of these young people either definitely or probably want to get married.

Religion?  More than half of the young people said they believed in a higher power that has an influence over their happiness…nearly half said religion and spirituality are very important to them.

Reading through extended reports on the survey, the good news is that teens seem to know more about happiness than we give them credit for.  If we wanted to help them move toward happiness,

  • we would affirm the value of religion and its role in their life and decisions,
  • we would help them maintain a “general stress-free feeling” where they were “not worried about anything”,
  • we would teach them skills needed to create successful relationships leading to happy marriages,
  • we would strengthen the bonds between students and their parents, and
  • we would link the deepest desires of young people for education, family, marriage and children into a meaningful life plan.

The best news for parents and adults is that we have educators who have made it their goal to truly help teens reach happiness.  This latest survey and its results confirm what these educators find from their work in the classrooms.

Who are these educators?  Working with many different agencies and programs around the country, they teach and encourage teens to abstain from sex until marriage as a way to eliminate stress and negative consequences from their life.  They build bonds between parents and teens.  They support parental goals by giving teens medically-accurate information.  And they teach life-skills to help in developing healthy relationships today and in building a foundation for healthy marriages and parenting in the future.

These educators are leading the way to happiness for teens.  Yet, they struggle against the “wisdom” of a culture saturated with “sex-will-make-you-happy” messages and promises that, if not “safe,” sex can at least be “saferrrrrrrrrr.”

You can play a part in the effort to support teens in their quest for happiness.  Check out the National Abstinence Education Association at  Review the research and reports that tell the truth about abstinence education.  And watch for action alerts as Congress debates whether students should be able to have abstinence education.

It is time for us to take hold of the messages sold to our teens by the media and by “sex-will-make-you-happy” teachers.  Our teens have told us what they need in order to be happy.  It is time for us to listen.

A Christian Nation

August 6, 2007

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

America is a blessed nation.  For over 200 years, we have been a Christian nation, founded on the principles taught by Christ.

At every turn, America is being challenged.  Our laws are being re-evaluated by people who do not believe in Christ…who, in many cases, do not believe in God.  Our legislation is being crafted by people without a God-fearing faith…and by people of faith in other gods.

What are Christians to do?  How do we preserve what God has entrusted to us?

Good Christians have taken up the battle.  We fight on many fronts.  Our laws must preserved in the courts.  Legislation must be scrutinized for provisions that violate God’s commands.  Media outlets must be challenged to fully and fairly report the news.  And most importantly, on every front, Christians are fighting to preserve our religious freedom, our freedom to openly speak and act as Christians.

The battle is fierce.  And therein lays a danger.  As we fight to preserve a Christian nation and the freedoms it gives us, we must keep our focus on that larger struggle.

Our legal arguments are needed to preserve our right to pray.  Good reporters are needed to give voice to Christians otherwise silenced by a media hostile to Christians.  Congressional representatives must be free to speak and work, expressing their beliefs in what they do.

All these things we must fight for…without neglecting our first duty…our Christian duty as it was distilled and crystallized by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

The great commission came to us from Christ…not as a law of government.  It is the personal entreatment from our Lord, tend my sheep.  Our Christian duty is personal.  Do we love Him?  Yes?  Then shepherd his sheep.

The greatest battle of all is the battle for the human heart.  Christ came down to us not to rewrite Roman law.  He came to write God’s truth in our hearts through the ultimate miracle of living God’s love in our midst.

Clever legal arguments came from the Scribes and Pharisees who plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said.  Christ answered not with citations from the Torah, but by focusing human attention on Godly matters, rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.

Christ did not command a separate nation be built to sequester his followers away from the Samaritans.  He waited for the Samaritan woman at the well and told her all the things that she had done, serving her living water.  He taught that even a Samaritan can feel compassion and bandage the wounds of a traveler fallen by the side of the road.

Must we stay engaged in the culture, fighting to preserve our government founded on Christian principles?  Yes.  Most definitely.  But Christians are not won to Christ by writing laws in Congress or by winning battles in the courts.

Do we know the saving grace that guides our nation?  Yes.  But it cannot be shared with Samaritans by pointing to our Christian heritage and demanding that they bow to tradition.

Jesus is not “justified” by the number of people who vote for Him.  He was alone on the cross.  God is not more powerful or more loving because he is encoded in our government.  He is.  He was.  He always has been.

Laws that do not arise from the human heart will never be able to stand on precedence.  In times of trial, we must be willing to stand alone.  It is imperative that we stand for government under God.  But this is never going to be a convincing argument to convince non-believers of God’s existence or draw them under His wings.

We win The Battle, when we lead the way to Christ.  And we lead the way by following HimDo we love Him?  Yes?  Then tend his sheep.  All other matters belong to Caesar.  And while they may be matters of importance, we must do these things without neglecting the first.

Follow Him.