Saturday, May 19, 2018

Thinking about "Dear God"

"Dear God," I've said a million times and then some.

"Dear God,"
"watch over my children,"
"keep my wife,"
"help me,"
"be with my friend,"
"bless our world."

"Dear God" ... sweet words, words of hope, humility, and longing.

Words that have meant the world to me over the years, without question, simple and direct, personal and poignant, "Dear God."

My sadness about the word "God" is how this precious word has been sullied and stained by certain religious elements that have lost all imagination, replacing it with dogma ... religious elements that have ceased thinking, elements without humility before the great mysteries of life, death, love and eternity.

Sadly, my own inner spirit has been hurt by these elements - their brutality, their insistence, their misplaced confidence in what they know, their disdain for the poor, for immigrants, and for people of other faith-traditions.

I have been taking a daily bath in their filthy water for some years now, trying to figure it out, trying to find words to counter their evil influence, wanting to shine some light into the darkness and madness of their violent thoughts and behavior. Compounded by the filthy water of wayward politics, linked to these religious elements, with a horrible and heinous progeny populating our churches, our schools, our sense of being and identity. Bathe in filthy water, and there is no cleansing, but only more filth, more despair, more disappointment and discouragement, until the soul itself is compromised by the principalities and powers of death.

Great music, poetry, exalted preaching, novels and film ... birds and bees and children laughing and crying ... all of this, and more, cleansing ... clean ... clear ... hope anew, courage to believe, to imagine, to see the mountain, to hear the world, to engage the powers of life, and be a human being fully alive, which is, after all, the glory of God.

"Dear God" ... two words that have meant the world to me ... dear, close and kind ... God, high above and surrounding all that is, making life, and holding us dear, as only Dear God can do.

Friday, May 18, 2018


If ever there were words that describe my present mindset, it's these of Jeremiah: "Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak."

Jeremiah chalks it up to his youthfulness.

But me? I'm no longer young!

I've been around the Horn any number of times, rough seas and craziness; hurt, sorrow and pain; under attack and betrayed; lied about and despised. The stuff of ministry. Yet, plenty of good stuff in the mix, as well: love, hope, peace, encouragement, friendship, humor, loyalty, and victory ... and a wife without peer, and a family of adventure ... rich experiences and travel ... and looking back, I'm satisfied with the years. And now, here I am.

These days, nonetheless, words fail me.

Jeremiah is often at a loss for words, too ... his world is a mess ... politics and religion in shambles, shady characters and greed all around ... what to say, what to say?

He rants and he raves ... he cajoles and condemns ... he comforts and holds up hope ... and when nothing seems to work, he choose silence ... says that God set him up and left him twisting in the wind. For the time being, Jeremiah is on leave.

As I am right now, but the words of God boil away in his guts ... he cannot escape the task ... but who doesn't need some time for the guts to boil, for the churning and stirring of thoughts and hurts and sorrow and despair and anger and alienation? Who doesn't need to tell God off? Who doesn't need to shut up now and then? To declare that's it's not worth my time; to turn around and walk away? Who doesn't need that now and then?

But as Jeremiah learned, his silence can hold only for a while ... because of how it all began. In the beginning, the Words of the Lord ...

When the words of the Lord came to Jeremiah, out of the blue, a wild affirmation: "You're mine. Even before you're conceived in your mother's womb, way before then, I knew you ... and already in my mind, you were appointed as a prophet ... to the nations."

Never just to Judah, but to the nations ... because Judah, while important enough, isn't the sum-total of God's care, but always the nations, the world, everyone and everything. Something to keep in mind, lest one simply hides in the church, talking pious mush and ignoring just how much of the religious enterprise is a house of cards.

So, to the nations ... and it's God's determination.

The bedrock ... you're mine! Which is something the Apostle Paul understood so well, and so did Calvin, but those are stories for another day.

The bedrock love of God.

Warms the cockles of my Calvinist heart ... the a priori love of God ... which is the only place for me to begin, and should I forget to begin there, things seriously unravel for me. Even with that, they may unravel, because unravelling is sometimes needed, so God can reknit the whole deal with longer sleeves, or something like that.

And as St. John of the Cross suggested to young monks all wrapped up in themselves, in such times as these, when things are unraveling, deconstructing, and I have no idea what God is doing, it's because God obscures God's work in order to keep me "in the dark," lest I rush in and tell God what God ought to be doing. When it's done, however, I'll know. When it's done, God will step back and pull off my blinders: "Here'; this is what I've been doing."

Like Jeremiah, I'm pretty much speechless these days.

But the fundamental affirmation of God's love for me remains, though I can forget it now and then, lost in the wilds of idiocy besetting nation and world ... yet this morning, as I write, it's consoling ... like taking a deep breath after a long time of shallow breathing ... the body settles, the mind slows down, nerves relax a bit. Nothing yet clear, but the bedrock remains ... and a house built on the rock withstands the worst of the storms.

I find consolation in my friend Jeremiah, a friend since seminary days - an honest man who cannot sever his connection to God, though he tries, because God won't allow it. It's that basic.

I like Jeremiah every much ... he's a friend, indeed, for times such as these.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Evangelicals Have Imprisoned Themselves

The entire evangelical enterprise has been derailed by anti-abortion thinking.

"It's murder" they shout, and that's the end of the argument. They've boxed themselves with an inflammatory rhetoric that brooks no challenge, fails to see the human dimension, and plunges ahead like a runaway train.

There is no way in hell that an evangelical caught up into anti-abortion hysteria will see the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of such thinking. And it is, in my judgment, the way of hell; if there is a Devil, as evangelicals mostly claim, then such a Devil is laughing like mad as evangelicals destroy themselves with fanatic opinions about abortion, and too often linked with hatred for LGBTQ persons and, yes, the Original Sin of America, racism.

How ironic, that a movement boasting of its loyalty to Christ, its devotion to Scripture and its reliance upon the Holy Spirit, should become so crippled by partisan politics and controlled by rightwing interests who are using the evangelical tradition to further their own greed and power by weakening the government in order to give their version of capitalism a free hand to loot and pillage the economy and the environment.

All of their vaunted talk about Jesus seems to be mostly hot air, as they buy into the Ayn Rand condemnation of the poor, the Neo-Con vision of a world dominated by America, and the Southern Strategy of Nullification. If ever there were a moment in American History where logic goes berserk, as it did in Nazi Germany, and with Joseph McCarthy, it's now with evangelicalism and its surrender of the mind and the heart, and the Gospel, for a bowl of fame-porridge, while seated at the table of the wealthy, the profane, the NRA, the Klan, and the worst of the worst.

Evangelicals have imprisoned themselves, and only miracle can set them free.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Exodus 33.2 - Hideous Ideas

I used to read a passage like this serenely:

I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites (Exodus 33.2)

But, alas and alack, no more serenity.

In the light of what White Europeans did to the inhabitants of North and South America, and to the peoples of Africa, and with the continuing plague of racism in the United States, a plague rooted in the American South and American evangelicalism, to read of peoples displaced by none other than God, for the sake of the few, disturbs me deeply.

We're talking here of people, children, families, hopes and dreams, and all the rest ... and without batting an eye, the Text speaks of an angel driving all of them out, lock, stock and barrel ... and where did they go? What happened to them?

Sure, I know the story - much of this never happened, and the Promised Land remained populated by its original inhabitants. But at best, an uneasy relationship, punctuated by conflict and war, not unlike modern-day Israel and the Palestinians.

Whatever happened is one thing, but the thought is another. And the thought is this: here are a people whose lives do NOT matter, people of no account, people who have something we want, and we'll not buy it from them, we'll take it from them, and god is on our side.

In just a few words, all the horror and sadness of history is encapsulated.

Ultimately, as the story plays out, God abandoned the land business, closed out and locked up, with a sign: "No More!" It was too costly, and it compromised God and God's people as well.

And if God apologized, God did so through the Prophets and through the Christ, with a vision of love and hope and peace for all the world, all its peoples, all its creatures, great and small - every rock, river, and tree.

Perhaps, now, the Spirit of God speaks through the tragedy: "Is this what you think? Is this what you want? Is this how you conceive of me and yourself?"

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Madness and Blood in the Bible - Exodus 32.25-29

There is much in Scripture that I love, much that I find instructive, much that deserves to be read and pondered again and again.

And then, this:

25When Moses saw that the people were running wild (forAaron had let them run wildto the derision of their enemies), 26then Moses stood in the gate of the campand said, “Who is on the LORD’S sideCome to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him27He said to them, “Thus says the LORDthe God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your sideeach of youGo back and forth from gate to gate throughout the campand each of you kill your brotheryour friendand your neighbor.’” 28The sons of Levi did as Moses commandedand about three thousand of the people fell on that day29Moses said, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORDeach one at the cost of son or a brotherand so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.” [Exodus 32.25-29].

What was Moses thinking?

Taking out on the people his own frustration and anger, justified as it might have been, but to raise up a priestly horde, self-ordained, with the blood of a son, a brother or a friend? Madness!

A fiendish scheme, a horrible, hideous, device by which to "prove one's loyalty to God," with a god-forsaken promise of a "blessing on yourselves."

I think of Ahab pacing the deck of the Pequod or Kurtz with his ivory, mad, obsessed, willing the death of others to satisfy some insatiable appetite for revenge, for power.

Horrible enough as it is, how is this read by evangelicals, so many of whom are beset self-righteousness, raging and bellowing against the evils of the world? ... and worse, how this is managed in the hands of self-ordained preachers, many of whom have their own love affair with violence and death?

I don't have to reject the whole of the Bible because of a passage like this, but something like this has to be rejected as an aberrant voice, one of the many voices gathered up in this anthology of faith. That some voices should perceive god like this is not surprising, but always sad ... for there's no way that this can be read with approval.

Read it for what it's worth - an ugly picture of the human reptilian brain ... a version of faith scripted in hell rather than in the saga of heaven.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The "Most" Corrupt President in History???

Written on another thread, where a writer challenges someone for suggesting that Trump is the "most corrupt" President in history ... to that challenge, I wrote the following:

Well, he may not be the "most" of anything ... but the word corruption certainly applies to this man of lies, deception and self-serving manipulation of everyone and everything around him.

A lot of people were willing to "give him a chance," but after a full year, with constant chaos, and what I see to be the unravelling of American foreign policy, not to mention the collapse of education under DeVos, and the collapse of most everything related to environment, climate and health, there aren't many chances left for this man to show us something good.

I don't know where Trump fits on some kind of scale, but in my eyes, with what little I know of our history, and what it means, I think, to be a leader, a President, Trump reflects something dark and insidious, something hollow and angry ... whether it be his business dealings or his family life, none of it seems to make any sense, and everyone around him is scrambling constantly to stay on their feet, and most seem to stumble, falling flat on their faces, where he wants them to be, believing that everyone else's fall will make him look great.

He's not a nice man - that's obvious to me. He's the first President since 1897, or something like that, to not have dog, and I know why: because a dog knows better than we sometimes what a man is like - he loves nothing or no one except his own image in the mirror and the money he seeks, never satisfied, but alway needing more.

Maybe I'm the blind one. Maybe he's wonderful and sweet and kind; maybe he's a world-class leader, a man of vision and compassion; maybe he's a terrific husband and father; maybe he's deeply spiritual and a man of faith, hope and love. Maybe he is, but I don't see it. Maybe I'm blind ... or maybe not!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Lunatic in the White House

A word to the reader: read this aloud.
There's cadence in all of this.
A flow of words, and thoughts.
Line by line;
Best read aloud.

We have a lunatic in the White House.
A purveyor of shoddy goods and shabby values.
A man who loved to fire people.
As he ran his small potatoes outfit.
All on Daddy's money.
And the money loaned to him.
Because some thought his hideous name had value.

Trump this they might say.
And then handed over the cash.
To this measly man of no means.
Just a dirty mean man ... mean as a boil on the neck.
As a pit bull chained by fear and hate.
His little mean life.
His dirty mind.
His filthy hands.

A lunatic running the affairs of this nation.
He loves conflict, he says.
Chaos and noise.
The more the better.
He thrives, or so he thinks.
In the rancid stew of arrogance and ignorance.
Know-nothing is his value.
Read-nothing is his defense:
Against a world that exists, in spite of his lunacy.
A world waiting for something, anything.
A word for the world.
Something that makes sense.
But his mouth mumbles the inchoate.
The nonsense of his own defective sense of greatness.
His dirty little hands move about.
He folds his arms and lays down the law of his lunacy.

Even his demented gang of thieves see his lunacy.
The chaos, the noise.
They come and go, this demented gang of thieves.
All hoping to enrich themselves on the tears of America.
All with some kind of deranged sense of power over others.
First-class flights of fancy.
Fancy dining room tables.
Fancy this, and fancy that, they say, with a sneer on their faces.
Looking at America with a cruel smile, smug in their self-containment.

This demented gang of thieves can't stand the lunatic in the White House.
They can't stand themselves, either.
Full of hate and piety and greed and monstrous ideas:
Devoid of life, and hopeless with despair.
Because money can't buy what they want.
So they pile it up higher.
Beg for more from the nations of the world.
When America has been depleted.
Beg for me, creep around for more.
Because they can't ever have enough of the filthy stuff.

And these are the people gathered around the lunatic in the White House.
They sing his song, or maybe their own song.
It's all the same ... full of me, full of themselves, full of festering desire.
For the world. It's what they want. All of it.
Each a lunatic ... all of them.
Destroyers of what little truth there might be in this beleaguered world.
Destroyers of hope for those in the dark night of the soul.
Destroyers of life, because all they can do is take it, take it away.
Fondle and feel it, and then destroy it ... because it's not enough.
More they must have ... more and more, until it's all gone.
Done and gone ... gone and done ... in their lunacy of lust.

The lunatic is looking pretty lousy these days.
A sagging face, a bull-dog mouth, and tired eyes.
He hugs himself, because no one else will.
These are folks who don't hug; they hate it: a real touch to give.
They can't ... they have nothing to give ... they can't hug another.
But only themselves.
So the lunatic hugs himself endlessly ... at every meeting, every moment.
To protect himself from all the bile streaming to him:
Darkness, confusion, bewilderment, fear and the greed.
The greed of others looking to score points with the lunatic.
For a slice of the shrinking pie.
He laughs, they laugh.
They congratulate him.
And pile on the compliments.
While despising him as the scum of their own earth.
Their dirty dungeons of wealth and pride.
Their mansions and their clubs.
Their golf courses and their large, fat, black, cars.
Paid for by tax-payer money.
What a deal for them.
A ripoff for the nation.
This lunatic in the White House.