Sunday, March 19, 2017

What's Wrong with Evangelicalism?

Evangelicalism needs a good dose of Reformed Theology to correct its self-centeredness.

Which explains, by the way, why so many evangelicals dislike the poor and are quick to render a negative judgment on them as "lazy." A self centered upon itself, it's good works and spiritual devices, always renders a negative judgment of others who, in whatever form of evaluation is used, are somehow less than the person making the assessment. A self-centered life always needs to have "folks below" in order to sustain the illusion of superior value.

Evangelicalism talks endlessly about God's love, but it's really all about how smart evangelicals were to "receive Jesus" and thus be saved by their own decision, their will, their ability to grab the prize offered by God, and hold on it to it.

The whole business of "going forward" at a revival service to get saved advances the ego, creating an attitude of elitism among the "true believers" who bolster one another with ever-intensifying efforts of high-energy worship and prayer, to sustain their sense of power and the rightness of their beliefs.

Such an effort requires living in a bubble, where all who are within are friend, and those without, foe.

And tied into "saving one's soul from hell" confirms the self all the more, as various preachers play upon the fears inherent in human weakness.

Turn this outward to others, and it very quickly becomes a harsh and judgmental attitude that the poor are poor because they're making all the wrong choices, as opposed to said evangelical who made the right choices. That some should be making poor choices only serves to confirm the ego of the evangelical, because in the end, they will be saved for paradise, and others will be sent away to darkness and everlasting death.

Powerfully, clearly, the believer is at the very center of evangelicalism.

Truth be told, in evangelical circles, God plays a relatively small part ... God offers something, or does something good, "like dying for our sins," but to no avail unless someone realizes the error of his or her ways ways and decides to accept Jesus, be baptized, and stay the course.

"Let me tell you all about the day I accepted Jesus ..." goes the evangelical witness, which is a very clever way of maintaining the ego.

Whereas in the Reformed World, it's all about God from A to Z ... God does it all ... not only offering what is supremely good, but enabling the power of faith ... at no point in time, then, can the Reformed Christian speak of "accepting Jesus," but only of how God/Christ has accepted the believer from before the creation of the earth, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, revealing such to the believers and confirming that in the believer's life, protecting the faith, and bringing it to perfection.

From beginning to end, the work of salvation is an operation of grace ... none of it deserved, all of it merciful, all of it rooted in the heart and mind of a loving God, whose love has no boundaries, who loves has said a magnificent Yes to all of creation.

In terms of building community, community built upon gratitude, and the humility of gratitude, there is no firmer foundation. If God has done it all for us, and if we then discover that we love God, and love God's ways, God's ways become our ways, and to everyone around us, we turn the face of love, and will do everything we can to ameliorate suffering and promote the welfare of all, body and soul, and we do this cooperatively, which, of course, means government, the means by which we live together and protect and promote the welfare of society.

This is not simply charity, which mostly serves the ego of the giver, but a systemic effort to create a just and loving society, a society that maintains the means to help the poor, to help everyone and anyone who, for whatever reason, cannot run the race of life as well as others can. And those who the race well, turn with gratitude to God, who enables all of it, and turns toward the other with kindness, and a willingness, indeed, a desire, to share the blessings of life with everyone.

This is the Reformed notion of life and society.

Sadly, the Reformed World lost out in America ... with the Anabaptist/Methodist mode of thought prevailing, wherein the believer remains at the center, by the power of choice, displacing God, moving God to the margins. Such a mode of thought corresponds well with the American self-made-man attitude, the guys and gals who conquered the frontier, got rid of the despised heathens and made America great, in large part, built upon the backs of slaves, who were themselves less than human. The exulted white man, hero and defender of truth, didn't want to hear the message of grace, but rather the message of self-improvement and God's pleasure in those who take the bull by the horns and make this a righteous world. Everything from Billy Sunday to Norman Vincent Peale to Joel Osteen and the mega-rich, mega-churches, promotes the self at the expense of God, and creates the elitist attitude that looks down its nose at the poor, and just about everyone else who is either "too dumb" to make the right choices, or "too rebellious" to care.

Hence the American revival service, which is all about the self - all the noise, the energy, the tears, the loud music, the hellfire and brimstone preaching, dancing and prancing - it's about saving yourself. God has come this far, but it's up to you to go the rest of the way.

The hardness of evangelicalism is rooted in this world-view of God offering, but of the believer choosing, claiming ... so that in the end, salvation is an accomplishment of the self, a work, an achievement of some merit of believer, and given time, this merit soon consumes the whole of the mind and heart. Once this kind of spiritual pride is loosed, there's no stopping it.

God may have provided the way, but it's the believer who chooses it, and, of course, hats off to the believer, then, who was smart enough to make the choice, and smarter still to stay the course.

Evangelicalism is corrupt at its very core by the clever but decisive way it puts and maintains the self at the center.

In the end, evangelicalism has no mercy, because it's god is of limited mercy ... and if there's a screwup, the evangelical god is more than pleased to maintain justice and pronounce the death sentence.

And so the need for a healthy dose of Reformed Theology, a theology that exults the goodness and mercy of God, and God's good work, from A to Z, to save the world - not only the intent of God, but the realization of this work ... indeed, from beginning to end, for God is the Alpha and the Omega, and all along the way, it's God who brings us into fellowship with God, it's God who sustains the relationship, and it's God who brings it to culmination.

Reformed Theology can save the evangelical from the suffocating ego and turn the believer outward with a merciful eye to all who need help ... those who need clothing, good schools, medical care, and all the rest. And with a merciful eye, full of gratitude to God, working with others of good heart and mind, to build a town, a nation, a world where life is given, help is provided and like Micah the Prophet put it:

 God shall judge between many peoples,
      and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
      they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
      and their spears into pruning hooks;
      nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
      neither shall they learn war any more
       but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
      and no one shall make them afraid;
      for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Disturbing Bible Passage

Today's Lectionary (March 7, 2015) includes Deuteronomy 9.1-12.

As I read it this morning, I was disturbed, seriously disturbed, by the ease with which the writer speaks of "dispossessing" nations, with great cities, well-fortified, "a strong and tall people" ... offspring of the Anakim, i.e., a bastardized race.

But don't be afraid, says the writer, the LORD will go before you so that you may dispossess and destroy them quickly. I chilled when I read those words.

Sure, the writer wants to keep Israel's ego in check by reminding the readers that all of this has nothing to do with their sterling character, but rather God's promise and because these nations are "wicked."

Wicked? You bet. Thus, demonizing a people who are otherwise worthy, strong, creative, talented, with families and farms and hopes and dreams, but they have what we want, and so we're gonna take it, and take it violently, because these people are unworthy to own the land, and besides, they're wicked, because they worship "other" gods, and shame on them, and thus have no right to even exist. Dedicate them for destruction.

I'm in the midst of reading a WW2 novel, featuring a Polish girl held in Ravensbrück and the hideous medical experiments performed on her by another young lady, a German doctor ... who, like all the Nazis, demonized the Poles and other nationalities as "bastardized," half-human, or sub-human, not worthy of life in the Third Reich, and not worthy of life at all.

I think of the Europeans coming to America and looking upon the land as if it were Canaan, and the peoples here were not entitled to this land, because they were "wicked," i.e. they weren't christian.

Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites, Nicolas Poussin, 1625
And, then, of course, slavery - millions of good and decent people yanked from their homes, with families broken, put on slave ships and condemned to a brief and brutal life of harvesting sugar cane or cotton.

But it was okay, you see, because the slaves were "wicked," i.e. not christian, and slavery at least saved them from the darkness of their paganism, and in spite of their slavery (because they were not fully human anyway), this gave them a chance to become christians and go to heaven when they died. That they should live in hell here is fitting, because of their sub-human character and their history of wickedness.

Jesus offers some serious alternatives to this bloody self-justification that to this day undergirds the State of Israel's abuse of Palestinians and America's continuing racism, homophobia, and, as of late, Islamophobia.

And, of course, all of this "dispossession and destruction" of peoples is undergirded by religion, because people doing horrible things to other people need to feel "good" about it, and no greater "feel-good" potion than religion, when twisted and turned to self-interest.

Sure, it's a human problem, spread around the globe and defining virtually all of human history.

But I can't accept any of it, because of what I know of Christ, and because of Christ, it's something that I have to fight against, with all that I have, of mind, body, spirit and strength.

Because God so loved the world ... and in Christ, reconciles the world to God, and the world to itself.

Passages like Deuteronomy have to be soundly and quickly denounced for what they are: lies that we tell one another to justify the most brutal of behaviors toward one another.

And as for me, God never said it ...

Or if God did, then God apologized in Christ ... God got out of the land business, for it sullied God's hands, and filled God with self-loathing, as this kind of behavior always does.

If God said it, then God no longer says it.

If God never said it, then we have to come to grips with the sad that truth that we said it, and still say it, "creating god in our own image," to satisfy our bloodlust and justify our inhuman treatment of other humans, deemed unworthy and wicked.

Christians have to read the text carefully, and so must Jews and Muslims ... every sacred text has more than its share of bloodlust, but also of love and the grandeur of mind and heart ... to either pick up the sword and kill one another in some fit of self-interest, believing that god justifies this violence, or turn the sword into a plowshare, so we can feed one another unto life.

The choice is ours. May we choose wisely.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Beatitudes

Blessed are those who ...

A bit of bite in all of this ...
Doesn't take much to see ...
That Jesus put forth reality ...
Kingdom kind.

Mourning ... and not just for the privations of death.
But the spiritual mourning of lament.
The sadness one feels when things just ain't right.
Not so much for me, but for someone else.

And righteousness.
Well, it ain't about cussin' and drinkin'.
It's about bigger things.
Throw the greedy ones out of the temple kind of things.

And peace.
Oh, give me a break.
From all this inner peace crap.
But the peace of goodness.

So kids can go to school and teachers can teach.
And cemeteries are honored.
And people of faith are respected.
Even when that faith ain't yours.

Yeah, big things here ...
As I see it ...
It would be great if Jesus had kept it small ...
Then I could nod my head and find inner peace.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) stands firmly with undocumented immigrants and their families in opposition to the wave of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in migrant communities and the threats posed by the new Department of Homeland Security memos that pave the way for mass deportation. Click HERE to register for a Webinar on expanding the Sanctuary Movement next Wednesday, March 1!
 
As a faith community called to “seek justice and defend the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17), we are deeply disturbed by these actions. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has affirmed its support for immigrants many times. The 221stGeneral Assembly (2014) affirmed the formation of the Presbyterian Immigrant Defense Initiative,[1] a campaign to “empower Presbyterians to work to change policies and practices that infringe on the human and civil rights of immigrants in our communities including immigrant detention, streamlined deportation, and the executing of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by local law enforcement.”
According to government officials, a series of raids over the past weeks led to the arrests of at least 683 undocumented community members and targeted people who faced criminal charges.  These actions did not represent a major change from Obama administration policies. But immigrants, their advocates and lawyers say that many people without criminal records also were taken, spreading fear in cities and counties that are home to many foreign-born people.  The intention to focus on immigrants with criminal convictions has the impact of criminalizing the entire immigrant community. Undocumented immigrants may have an immigration related conviction or they may have been targeted by a policing system that is racially biased and unnecessarily focused on low-income people of color. Even more troubling is the administration’s guidelines that grant law enforcement agencies broad latitude about whom to arrest and approval to target a broad portion of the undocumented population for deportation.  
 
We would like to lift up in prayer the arrest and detention of DACA recipient, or “DREAMer,” Daniel Ramirez. Beneficiaries of the DACA program like Daniel have been promised a two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit, paid nearly $500 in fees every two years, passed a background check and met a number of other requirements. Within the faith community, we believe in transformation and forgiveness.  Even if someone has made a past mistake we do not believe that  they should be deported and separated from their family. Daniel is a father of a 3 year old, is falsely accused of being a gang member, and belongs with his family in Seattle. Sign HERE to petition for his release. 
One of the most powerful ways churches can act in solidarity in this moment is to join the Sanctuary Movement. To learn more about the process of providing sanctuary, please join the OPW for a webinar on Wednesday, March 1 at 3:30 pm EST. Click HERE to register, and share this invitation widely! If you can’t attend the webinar but would like to be involved, click HERE for a list of resources and background on the Sanctuary Movement.
 
In Faith We Share,
Rev. Jimmie Hawkins


[1] “On Recognizing the Presbyterian Immigrant Defense Initiative to Affirm and Promote the Civil and Human Rights of Immigrants in Our Communities—From the Presbytery of Central Florida.”
Approved by the 221st General Assembly (2014). http://pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=4703

Judge Not

"Judge not" is a good word, spoken by none other than Jesus himself. With the proviso, "lest ye be judged."

Which is a good thing, both to be judged by God, and then, with all sincerity and whatever shreds of integrity we can gather around ourselves from the bits and pieces of life, to render judgment.

Here's the full text of the Matthew 5 passage:

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with thejudgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you givewill be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out ofyour eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, firsttake the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly totake the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Judgment, as Bonhoeffer did ... a slow and arduous process ... but called for by the very nature of history.

From his book, "Ethics,"

The responsible man acts in the freedom of his own self, without the support of men, circumstances or principles, but with a due consideration for the given human and general conditions and for the relevant questions of principle. The proof of his freedom is the fact that nothing can answer for him, nothing can exonerate him, except his own deed and his own self. It is he himself who must observe, judge, weigh up, decide and act. It is man himself who must examine the motives, the prospects, the value and the purpose of his action. But neither the purity of the motivation, nor the opportune circumstances, nor the value, nor the significant purpose of an intended undertaking can become the governing law of his action, a law to which he can withdraw, to which he can appeal as an authority, and by which he can be exculpated and acquitted. For in that case he would indeed no longer be truly free. The action of the responsible man is performed in the obligation which alone gives freedom and which gives entire freedom, the obligation to God and to our neighbour as they confront us in Jesus Christ. At the same time it is performed wholly within the domain of relativity, wholly in the twilight which the historical situation spreads over good and evil; it is performed in the midst of the innumerable perspectives in which every given phenomenon appears. …. … responsible action is a free venture; it is not justified by any law; it is performed without any claim to a valid self-justification, and therefore also without any claim to an ultimate valid knowledge of good and evil. Good, as what is responsible, is performed in ignorance of good and in the surrender to God of the deed which has become necessary and which is nevertheless, or for that very reason, free; for it is God who sees the heart, who weighs up the deed, and who directs the course of history.

None of us can escape the judgment of God, and none of us can eschew making judgments about the people we know, or hear about ... judgments not made hastily, or without deliberate consideration and humility, or without regard for God's judgment upon our own life - what we value and how we conduct ourselves.

When reminded by others about judgment (which is a good thing of which to be reminded), I remind them that all the writers of Scripture rendered judgment on others ... and made it clear that there are boundaries, rules of engagement, doctrines, ideas that define the heart and soul of faith ... and there are those who take license with such things, who, for devious reasons, alter the "truth of Christ" and create "another gospel."

In 2 Corinthians 2.17, Paul writes:

For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

Peddlers?

Rather a stunning judgment, would you not say?

Yet Paul had all the right in the world to render such judgment, not because he was always right, but because of his labor of love, his learning and experience, his determination to set people free from the horrible superstitions and moral codes of so much religion. I'm not suggesting that Paul was always right, but I'll take Paul anytime, even if a grain of salt is sometimes required.

So ... Paul makes it clear: he's not a "peddler of God's Word" ... but, rather, someone who speaks with sincerity as a person sent from God.

Huge claim for himself.

But in a world of all sorts of competing ideas, Paul took a stand.

So did Moses and Jeremiah and Peter and down through the ages, folks like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Huss and Wycliffe, Luther and Calvin ... and of our own time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mother Teresa or Pope Francis on poverty and justice and immigrants.

It's this, and not that.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dr. King makes is clear, abundantly clear, what he refuses:

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction
.

And then offers a litany of what he believes:

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid." I still believe that We Shall overcome!

And that's a judgment ... so help us God.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Forum, First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, Feb . 19, 2017

Feb. 19, 2017 Forum,

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
December 10, 1964

When Laura approached about what I’d like to do with this series, it didn’t take me long to choose this piece of it, with its focus on two remarkable prophets, and how two “simple” verses were woven into Dr. King’s acceptance speech.

The Peaceful Kingdom
Isaiah 11
1      A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
      and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2      The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
      the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
      the spirit of counsel and might,
      the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3      His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
      He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
      or decide by what his ears hear;
4      but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
      and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
      he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
      and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5      Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
      and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6      The wolf shall live with the lamb,
      the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
      the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
      and a little child shall lead them.
7      The cow and the bear shall graze,
      their young shall lie down together;
      and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8      The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
      and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9      They will not hurt or destroy
      on all my holy mountain;
      for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
      as the waters cover the sea.

Peace and Security through Obedience
Micah 4
1      In days to come
      the mountain of the LORD’S house
      shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
      and shall be raised up above the hills.
      Peoples shall stream to it,
2      and many nations shall come and say:
      “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
      to the house of the God of Jacob;
      that he may teach us his ways
      and that we may walk in his paths.”
      For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
      and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3      He shall judge between many peoples,
      and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
      they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
      and their spears into pruning hooks;
      nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
      neither shall they learn war any more;
4      but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
      and no one shall make them afraid;
      for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.
5      For all the peoples walk,
      each in the name of its god,
      but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God
      forever and ever.

*The film clip …*

Both Isaiah (the text for today) and Micah (737-696 bce) are 8th Century Prophets, a time wherein the Judean Kings were at their greatest level of power in a kingdom now divided.

After Solomon’s death, his son, Rehoboam, assumed the throne and issued a number of mean-spirited “executive orders” (1 Kings 12.6-11) and so the Kingdom split into Northern (Israel) and Southern (Judah) … ultimately the Northern Kingdom fell to Assyria (722 bce) and the Southern, or Judah, fell to Babylon (587 bce) and led to the “Babylonia Captivity.”

The Northern and Southern Kingdoms were often enemies and combatants. After Israel’s fall (the remnant of which was know in the New Testament as Samaritans (treated by the Jews {Judeans} as half-breeds and spiritually defective). 

Jesus, himself, from the “northern” area, while not a Samaritan, was still considered an outsider to the true land of Judah that saw itself as the pure expression of faith and blood.

By the time of the 8th Century, Israel was gone, so the prophets in our purview are directing their thoughts to the Southern Kingdom, i.e. Judah and its capital city, Jerusalem. 

The prophets grew in influence as the kings/queens grew in power, along with their religious support staff (ha!) … the prophets challenged the kings/queens and the priestly guild of Jerusalem, with all of its pomp and circumstance and its enormous wealth (certainly the case which Jesus addresses time and again). The prophets were bold, frequently in trouble, accused of treason and heresy, suggesting that if Judah continued on its way, it would all end badly.

Yet the prophets also looked to better days … days of peace and prosperity … the peaceable kingdom wherein opposing realities would come together and people were no longer prepping for war, but for peace, and would thus experience a great sense of safety and comfort - not just psychologically or spiritually, but materially, with everyone enjoying their own figs and vines.

All of this and more was in the mind and heart of Dr. King, a man of the Bible, engaged intelligently (as opposed to ideologically, or literally) with the text, and with theologians who tackled the vast social questions and systemic systems of the day, as well as the personal matters that so occupied evangelicalism (i.e. swearing, drinking, dancing, smoking, card playing, theater attendance) … on these good thinkers, like Paul Tillich, Dr. King built his ideas, his resistance and his blueprint for a just society, upon their work, and that of the Prophets, and the Prophet we honor in life and faith, Jesus of Nazareth.


Gandhi, and others, too, were influential … those who worked for peace, but never at the expense of justice, those who saw life in all of its wholeness … and for his work, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and for his work, his faith, his vision, we honor him today.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

All the Free Lunches

"When I look back on my life, what jumps out is how many variables had to fall in place in order to give me a chance" (J.D. Vance, "Hillbilly Elegy," p.239.

Many years ago, a man of considerable success and wealth said to a group of Rotarians, "Life is full of free lunches."

He went on to list so many things and people that simply came to him as gift, out of the blue, if you will, or from the hand of God, as some might say.

A loving home and the wisdom of mindful parents.
Teachers who cared and encouraged and challenged.
The network of family and friends who looked after him.
His own ambition and good health.
His dreams and energy.

Professors who never let him get away with shoddy work.
Folks who helped him get his first job.
The banker who loaned him money, on his word.
And all along the way, people, even strangers, who showed up at the right time.
And all of those fortuitous moments, too numerous to mention, and mostly unknown.

All of these, and more, the free lunches of life.

Here was a wise man who understood that his life was a gift, not a achievement of his own doing, and as such, there was only response, and that was gratitude, immense and all-consuming, gratitude, and the promise, the pledge, to be a free lunch for others.

How it should work, who knows.

Some have the opportunity, but something gets in the way.
A crummy family life.
Poor health.
Bad choices and no one around to cushion the fall.
Who knows?

A spectrum of variables, bits and pieces.

But this much I know, for those who "make it," there's only one legitimate response, gratitude. And maybe a huge amount of humility, as well.

Too many people walk around these days with their arms in a sling, broken arms, for patting themselves so vigorously on the back.

But for the woman or the man who truly understands the millions, even the billions, of variables that had to come together at just the right time so they could make, there is no back-patting, but only open arms and open hands to everyone around them.

And the best we can do is give and keep on giving free lunches.

Government programs, of course.
Personal engagement, you bet.
Financial support for aid organizations, all the way.

And many more moments and variables in which we can play a part for others.