Saturday, June 30, 2007

Second Life: A Virtual World of Wonder

For the past week I have been exploring Second Life, an internet based world which provides a wide-range of "imaginary/real" experiences. In this "world" I have adopted the name of Hosea Beaumont, and am aspiring to be a Protestant Benedictine Monk, living at the Felix Meritas monastery in the Lill Burn Valley.

Reportedly over seven million persons are members of this cyber world; however only around 30-40,000 seem to be signed on at any one time. The cost is not too high if you are frugal. I bought L$1,000 (Linden dollars--"play" money named after the founders of Second Life, the Lindens) for $4.02 and have spent around 400 so far. Two hundred for a week's rent of a cell in the Cloister at the monastery and other expenses along the way (L$95 for a Benedictine robe).

Each person has an avatar (a representative humanoid, well some do not look like a human) which you get to design yourself with some fairly sophisticated tools. and you can make or buy clothing.

I must admit there are an unusual number of sexy women running around, since there are generous limits as the the size of various body parts you can choose. And much of the clothing is probably what most earth-based creatures wish they could wear (on bodies they wish were really theirs).

So you have to put up with sex and gambling as two primary modes of behavior; however, there is plenty of room to discuss redemption and forgiveness in this world.

Yesterday I discussed God and agnosticism with a young psychological student from Toulouse, France (yes he really was from France---this thing is a world-wide community). Today I debated with a Greek Orthodox follower who was proclaiming his church was right and all others were wrong. I have an acquaintance with a sister here at the monastery who in RL (real life) is a medical student in Munich. I talked with a fellow from Spain and a lady from California yesterday.

Most of the time I just sit in the courtyard and welcome folks who "drop in" to visit the monastery. Some come intending to discuss religious matters. Other times I "transport" to other locations, shopping malls, churches, parks, a recreational midnight walk, even a casino, w here I won L$60 on my third try and immediately quit. Today I took an hour class on how to write behavioral scripts for my avatar.

I hope to build a United Methodist Church (tho I probably won't call it that), preach on Sundays, teach some classes, have a Bible Study or two, counsel whenever, and develop a circuit like Wesley. Small groups are next, on different levels of discourse and accountability. It takes time to develop a group I suspect, but it will really be fun and worthwhile.

So, if you wish to come and see what this is all about, click on this address: and come aboard. If you spend any time there, come on over to the Felix Meritas monastery and say high. I usually spend a little time there in the late afternoons and evenings (beats TV). Oh yes, if you decide to become a Premium Member, somehow I will get L$2,000 as a reward if you mention my name Whatever I get will go toward building a church.

[Late news: in the Sunday, July 1, edition of the San Antonio Express-News there is a story on Virtual Worlds. See it at:

Hosea Beaumont,
aka Conrad


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Note to a New Reader


One of the most difficult things for some Christians to do is to accept the proposition that two different persons can have different understandings of the Christian journey and yet can both be right, or righteous.


God's truth, while absolute for God, is relative to each of us.

Consider for a moment that God has alwasy related to different people differently. From Adam and Eve to Abraham and Sarah, from Moses and Zippporah to David and Bathsheba, and on and on in the biblical story. God reveals himself differently at different times in different ways. It would be futile for Moses to try to convince David that a "burning bush" was the primary way God communicates.

Consider a lighthouse in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. A ship (e.g. ship # 4 below) sends out a distress call. It is lost and needs direction to the safety of the lighthouse.

Suppose the other ships, in an effort to help, signalled ship #4 to take their direction to safety. Ship #1 would say, "Go Southeast". Ship #2, "Go Northeast". Ship #3, "Go Southwest".

Ship#4 would be hopelessly lost if it tried to go in the same direction as another ship. The moral: Each person must follow their unique pathway to a full transforming relationship with God. To imitate what others advise (no matter how "right" they are) will not bring safety or lasting satisfaction.


Scripture tells us: Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. 1 Cor 13.12

Some persons have a need to have an absolute authority in their life. This is especially true when we are younger, or when we live in a universe filled with confusion, ambiguity and fear and we are not coping very well. There is a tendency to "whittle God down to size", or to imagine that he exists only to meet our particular needs.

A person getting ready to travel by car across the desert needs to notice that their gas tank is only 1/4 full and be responsible for it. To run out of gas some 100 miles into the journey and then ask God for more gas is totally irresponsible behavior. God does not exist just to bail us out of quandries of our own making.

When we have a "whittled down God" we have falsely expanded our partial knowledge of him to a "complete understanding". We think our understanding of God is the same as his mysterious reality. This process leads to idolatry. We worship our partial understanding as if it were the same as the unlimited, all-powerful, mysterious God.
Anytime we take the infinite and make if finite, that is idolatry.

A Sufi parable tells the story of how different blind persons examined an elephant and tried to come up with a description. One, holding onto the trunk, said, "It seems to be like a large snake." Another, stretching his arms around one of the elephant's legs said, "It appears to be like a large tree." The one with the tail in his hands described it as a "whip".

While the person holding its ears, argued for large thick leaves on a tree. All of the ones involved were "right" in their partial understanding of the elephant, but only by putting all their impressions togeother could they come to a fuller understanding of "elephant".

The moral: Each of bring to the table our own "partial" understanding of God. Respectful dialogue can yield deeper and more complete understanding for all. But, when we refuse to be open-minded to other's witness, we build an impenetrable wall around our own self-authenticated god.


In seminary and through my reading these last thirty years, I have learned many things which have changed my Christian stance. There are things I know now, which prohibit me from "believing" some things I once believed. But on the other hand, there are things I have retained from my early Sunday School upbringing which help form the core of my Christian experience.

I would never expect you to put on my perspective for that would be a synthetic coat of faith for you. Neither am I willing to wear your "coat of faith" for that would not be viable for me. But that does not mean that your current faith stance is invalid or wrong. On the contrary, what you currently believe, live and the way you relate to God reflect your interaction with the faith community and with God up to this point in your life. It is vital that you affirm it, while at the same time, stay in dialogue with others in the broader community of faith.

Where your understanding has rough edges, explore and grow. Where it is satisfying and supporting, deepen it and be thankful. One persons faith position is not better than another's, so long as they are both involved in a transforming relationship with God and are engaged in dialogue with the larger Christian community.


Finally, let us love one another. Let us not be threatened by differences. Let us not feel compelled to force everyone to believe the way we do. In love, let us search for the truth of life, and let us be thankful in all we do.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

News Traces

Baptists urge defeat of hate-crimes bill

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), meeting in San Antonio (June 13) passed a resolution asking the "Senate and President Bush to prevent hate-crimes from being prosecutable, saying it would add an extra layer of protection for homosexuality, which they say the Bible denounces". The convention urged President Bush to veto the bill if it passes legislative muster.

The reasoning behind this position is that Baptists have been arrested for "inciting hatred" when openly displaying Bible verses pertaining to homosexuality.

The convention of 8,600 messengers (the smallest annual meeting in thirty years) also applauded a message from President Bush, via satellite, in which he praised the charitable work of the Baptists.

The official stance of the SBC on same-sex relations is that "the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin" but that all Americans "are urged to treat all gays and lesbians with civility and compassion while sharing the Gospel with them". From the San Antonio Express-News, June 14, 2007

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From the San Antonio Express-News, June 2, 2007:
A $27 million Creation Museum has opened in Petersburg, Kentucky, promoting a literal Biblical view of creation. The museum claims the earth is only 6,000 years old, that dinosours lived alongside humans, and that the universe was created in six, 24-hour days. Adam and Eve are depicted as white caucasian creatures with their nudity hidden behind a large boulder.
A United Methodist bishop has appointed Drew Phoenix to a pastorate in Maryland. Last year the same pastor was appointed to the same charge under the name of Ann Gordan. Clergy in Baltimore have appealed to the denomination's Judicial Council regarding the transgendered appointment.
Rural Church Struggle. About 52 percent of American churches are in rural areas. That figure repersents around 177,000 congregations. Average attendance is estimated to be twenty.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Benedictine Rule for 21st Century

A month ago, at a conference in Montgomery, Alabama, Bishop Goodpasture of Mississipi spoke of the impact living the Benedictine Rule had on his life. Then this past week, while attending a conference in Corpus Christi, I was led to to a small, slender book entitled Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living. Written by John McQuiston II, a Memphis attorney, the book is a "translation" of the Sixth Century Benedictine Rule into our contemporary context. It appears to offer promise for one seeking to bring order to a chaotic life. Some excerpts:

"The first rule is simply this:

live this life
and do whatever is done,
in a spirit of Thanksgiving.

Abandon attempts to achieve security,
they are futile,

give up the search for wealth,
it is demeaning,

quit the search for salvation,
it is selfish,

and come to comfortable rest
in the certainty that those who
participate in this life
with an attitude of Thanksgiving
will receive its full promise."
p. 17-18

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"... we as finite creatures, can perceive only what we are capable of perceiving. Therefore each person must be dealt with in accordance with his or her unique disposition and capacities." p. 30

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Remember the great value of silence.
Each day there must be time for silence,
even in our prayers and meditation.
There must be time within which we
neither speak nor listen,
but simply are.

... Too much talk is a sign of self-centeredness
and insecurity." p. 43-44

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here is the Twelve Stages of Humility, in abbreviated form:

"The first stage of humility
is to keep the sacred nature of consciousness
... always alive within us.

The second stage of humility
is to distrust our own will.

The third stage of humility
is to accept our limitations....

The fourth stage of humility
is to be patient and to maintain
a quiet mind.

The fifth stage of humility
is not to conceal our faults.

The sixth stage of humility is to be content
with the work we are given to do.

The seventh stage of humility is to
understand how inconsequential we are.

The eighth stage of humility is to act
in accordance with the plan of our
true guides.

The ninth stage of humility is to
refrain from judgement (and to offer
advice only when it is requested).

The tenth stage of humility is to
refrain from taking pleasure
in other's losses.

The eleventh stage of humility is to
speak gently and briefly.

The twelth stage of humility is to
maintain humble thoughts and demeanor."

The book is filled with wisdom for living a full life. Sacrifice of our heavy dependance on the material world is called for. The challenge is to give up our efforts to save our lives and to lose them in the service of others. --ca