Saturday, December 17, 2011

Assurance of Pardon - Where in the Liturgy?

Where should the Assurance of Pardon be liturgically placed?

In most of my experience, limited as it is, the Assurance appears after the Confession of Sin, and I guess that's okay, but I'm wondering if the placement could be more appropriate if placed before the Confession.

Part of my thinking is a chicken and egg question, though I think the question in my mind is easier to solve, and has been solved for us by Jesus and in 1 John, wherein it is written, God first loved us!

As it now stands, one might assume that our confession of sin triggers God's forgiveness, or, as some might say it, and have said it, without such confession, no forgiveness is possible, driving some, as it did Martin Luther, to endless confession and maniacal self-examination.

With that in mind, perhaps the Assurance should appear first in the liturgy - in other words, we start with the love of God and the grace therein - a primordial love for creation, and through the lambs of the centuries and now the Lamb of God of Calvary, there is forgiveness, profound and pervasive, complete and without condition - though ignorance of it condemns the ignorant to life lived fearfully or despairingly, and for some, ignorance can even promote a self-willed morality that grants approval aside from the love and mercy of God (the heart and soul of various legalisms which are always suffused with arrogance - the vain belief in one's inherent ability to truly be good, often requiring a woeful avoidance of the whole story, as we leave out or whitewash the darker chapters).

So, perhaps we should begin with the love of God - the Assurance of forgiveness - that the great work of God throughout history, ever since God made sturdy clothing for Adam and Eve, has always been forgiveness, and now has reached its culminating moment in Jesus who embodies God's purpose and love in such depth and purity as to finish the work of forgiveness, and, by the Spirit, empowering his disciples to tell "the good news" to all the world and to make disciples, those who know the truth, in full humility, and can share that good news further with others, in full compassion.

We are thus invited to confession, not as some potential trigger of God's mercy, which would always remain in doubt if tied to the "quality" of the confession, always leaving room for anxiety - that, perhaps, the confession wasn't complete enough, or sins of omission were overlooked, and sins of commission forgotten, and, thus, the forgiveness of God is withheld.

If, on the other hand, we know in Christ the unrestrained love of God that has wrought forgiveness, once and for all, confession is relieved of anxiety and empowered to be honest, for we are now, in Christ, without fear of judgment, but, in fact, invite judgment, the work of the Holy Spirit, to further our growth in Christ - sometimes requiring a harsh hand upon the soul, but harsh or not, always the hand of love.

One of these Sundays, I'll locate the Assurance prior to the Confession and then make it a teaching moment.

We'll see ...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reading History

The gift of reading history - plenty of scoundrels, for sure, but plenty of people who rise to the occasion - they envision a just society where privation and suffering are limited;
they challenge the powers that be, especially those powers heavily funded by the super-wealthy;
they bristle when they see human beings degraded in the workplace;
they strive for good schools;
they are generally skeptical about military adventurism;
they are not swayed by slogans and throw-away phrases;
they read and they think;
they are generally of good humor, and enjoy a good laugh at themselves;
sometimes they're religious and sometimes not, but they all look at human beings with awe and hope.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Baalism - Alive and Well in Christian America

The obscene differential in income is a genuine issue for anyone who takes Scripture serious, Jewish or Christian. God's vision of justice is clearly one of balance - not perfect balance, but dynamically so, where the haves have not too much, and the have-nots have not too little (2 Corinthians 8.15). 

Surprising how many Christians pay no attention to the Bible's economic/social justice materials, opting, instead, to worship Baal, the feel-good God of Money and Power and libido.

And that's the point: Baalism is a feel-good religion - all about me, my welfare and my salvation.

Ancient Israel was able to skillfully confuse Baalism with the worship of Yahweh.

People bought it hook, line and sinker. When the prophets said, "You're worshipping Baal," they replied, "No we're not. Look at our temple, look at our liturgy, listen to our hymns and prayers - they're all to the God Israel."

But Baalism it was.

A Liberal Who Likes Joyce Meyer

For reasons known only to God, or worse, I've read and followed Joyce Meyer for some years now.

Several years ago, she flirted with some of the fundamentalist jerks not-to-be-named, but I think someone got to her (I wrote her note expressing my disappointment), and I've seen her back away from them (not that my note made any difference).

I listen to her podcasts a couple o' times a month while walking - I always learn something. For me, she works quite well with Scripture, and the larger message, and she's hell-bent for leather, so to speak, to break the fundamentalist hold on people's minds - what with the fear and judgment that has condemned so many.

She also deals powerfully with abuse (as she was abused by her father).

At this point in time, I think she's made a decision to side-step the LGBTQ question; I can live with that.

Of course, I thought the same about Joel Osteen, until, on Piers Morgan, he inserted foot all the way down his throat.

I think the women who attend her conferences come away with a keener sense of their identity and power (much needed in the circles those women typically run in). She's knows her world, and speaks positively and powerfully to it. It's not my world, but I'm grateful for her iconoclastic ministry. I think she's clearly helping fundamentalist women find a better day.

And besides, she doesn't take crap from anyone!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Genesis 3 Supports Women's Right to Choose

What does "life begins at conception" mean? What is life anyway? Let's face it - it's a political weapon; obscure theology - it's not science, it's bad theology, and it's surely not faithful to Genesis 3.

In Genesis 3, the only curse is against the snake and against the ground ... what God does "to" the woman is of interest for this essay.

But let's begin with the man first.

With regard to the ground, God introduces a unique element for the man - frustration with thorns and thistles. To frustate his temptation to define himself by toil. Because toil alone cannot define a man. If the man seeks to define himself, he must return to the original story - a partnership with God and a profound care for the entire garden.

For the woman, no curse, just pain - in the process most powerful to a woman - to conceive and carry a child and rear it. As part of the process, she'll watch her children duke it out with the snake's family, a duel with an unhappy ending for both parties: Eve's child will crush the serpent's head, but in its death-throes, the snake will nip the heel, and that means death as well. Such is the burden and sorrow of the woman and her children. There is no salvation in bearing children (Paul's New Testament promise is that a women need not fear going through birth - 1 Timothy 2.15 - she will be saved IN the process, not BECAUSE of the process).

God doesn't bless a woman's fertility, make it divine, or the defining element of her being, but troubles it. So that the women isn't tempted to define herself by her body and its incredible powers, and hopefully, to deter men from doing the same. Though she will desire her husband, he will "reward" her only with a boorish effort to rule over here. Not much pleasure here.

Why for all this trouble?

So she won't waste her time by defining herself as a physical entity, and won't allow anyone else to define her as such, as well.

It's not about her body, her ability to conceive, or anything else related to birth.

Those who are pro-birth - that a woman must conceive and bear a child no matter what, no matter where, regardless of the outcome for either mother or child or both, and the family - disregard Genesis 3 and its effort to free the woman from her body and her husband's control.

A woman remains in charge of her body, not simply as a bearer of children, but in partnership with the husband, to care for the earth in the largest of all possible ways (Genesis 2).

While abortion is a serious business, it's well within the rights and powers of the woman as laid out in Genesis 3. To force a women to carry every pregnancy to term is to contravene the intent of God's purpose. She's not a baby-factory. Only in a wretchedly sinful world would any dare to define a woman solely by her reproductive powers. And only in wretchedly sinful world are men defined in terms of their labor (a cross-over term, for sure) - the end result being the demeaning of the man, the lowering of his status to nothing but an automaton in the grinding machinery of the means of production (Cain's world, Genesis 4.17-25 - which ends in mighty accomplishments, for sure, and then vanity, arrogance and unrestrained vengeance).

As for when life begins, the Bible knows nothing of uterine life - yes, God knows what's in the womb - God watches us take shape in the womb; so what? God knows a whole lot of things, like where the worm goes at night, and where the eagle roosts and where Leviathan lives. And because God knows them, we should, too. But God's knowing them doesn't make them divine, or beyond the reach of responsible management or choice. We do not worship the natural word, because it's not god, though it is very good, including the fetus. But we are given the right and the responsibility of management, and that includes the fetus. Is this so hard to figure out? Only if we make the fetus divine, giving it more status than the woman who carries the child, her family, and a thousand other elements that constitute the web of life.

According to Genesis 3, the woman is defended against those who would define her by physical function only - that of conceiving. And defends her right to choose!

When we read the text faithfully and carefully, it's clear.

Friday, September 9, 2011

We Did It ... or You Did!

My son's Peace Corps project is funded.

Work will soon begin.

When we visit there at the end of December, the Social Center will have it's Grand Opening!

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

We Can Finish the Funding for My Son's PC Project - ONLY $500 MORE NEEDED!!

Dear Friends,

Last chance!

We can do it tonight/tomorrow.

Finish my son's project funding so that he can begin the good work.

You can go to the web site from here: OR ( and click on "Donate to Volunteer Projects"--the second one in the light blue. Then go down the page to "Swaziland" read about the Project.) As you can see by the amount needed, 45% has to come from the local area--the town council there is contributing $4800. 

Josh needs to raise $5741.96 in all and as of today he has $500 to go. It looks like he has $2550 to go, however, there is a match of $2000 when the last $550 is funded. He cannot start the project until the full amount is funded. So, it is close and he would like to start by the end of September.    11 x $50 will = the $550.

Giving through the Peace Corp web site makes it a tax deductible donation for you. (You will receive a letter from them.) We cannot tell who has or hasn't donated (Josh can when it's finished), so should you have already donated, thank you so very much and please excuse this last solicitation for this project.

Needless to say, he is really excited. There is more that he can do to the building, but once the donations are made (the $5741.96 on this site) he can get started. (He had to do an extensive "Proposal" to the Peace Corps with amounts needed and what for.) The Peace Corps will then deposit it in an account for Josh to use. 

If he raises more than the $5742, it goes to the general fund of Peace Corps Volunteer Projects. So, should you see that the $550 has been donated and $2000 still needed, before donating, email ( or call her 734.751.2121 at that point. We can directly deposit it to his project (and it won't go to the "general fund" of PC but will then help him do some of the finishing touches that aren't included in the above amount.)

Josh works along side of other non-profit organizations there too, like: Doctors Without Borders, AMICAALL, Red Cross. Josh says everyday he thanks God for giving him this opportunity, that it has enriched his life so very much and now others too.

Love to all of you,


Sunday, August 7, 2011

“Somalia: Nevermind”: Poem by Amir Sulaiman

“Somalia: Nevermind”: Poem by Amir Sulaiman
black faces
white tongues
the smell of sea water
taunts with sarcasm
drink me

oh somalia
im sorry i couldnt be there for you
but while you were trying to to get your daughter
to drink her urine
a singer died
while your children
were falling from the tree of life
scattered bushels of rotten fruit
some whiter children were shot

oh somalia
only if your beautiful wasnt so black
only if you were
gaza or
libya or
bahrain or
egypt or
norway or
england or
japan or
or the moon
i would mention you in a poem

only if you had
oil or
poppy or
timber or
rubber or
gold or
white people
i would mention you in my prayers

oh somalia
only if your beautiful wasnt so black
the world has grown accustom to watching you die
since i was a child
somalia - synonymous with suffering
african meant adversity
an african struggling was like
a fish swimming
a dog barking
somalia meant starvation

nevermind the magic in your poetry
the glowing saints rising from your lands like a thousand moons

nevermind the beauty of your beaches
the utter perfection in the hips of your women

oh somalia
only if you didnt wear the resemblance of eve
like an ornate funeral shroud
we wouldnt see you as our sin
and avert our gazes
in shame
turn our faces
to blame
only if your lack of the worldy
didnt remind us
of our lack of the other-worldly
perhaps then we would mention you

oh somalia
only if your beautiful wasnt so black

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why I Support Obama

A friend recently wrote that Obama is no different than the rest - he's owned by big money and has us in six wars.

To which I wrote:

The differences, in both vision and character, are never absolute - one has to weigh and assess, and with that said, make a choice. Neutrality, or mutual dismissal of the options, is a choice, as well, but hardly productive; neutrality, or mutual dismissal, has always seemed to me a luxury I cannot afford. Anyway, I'll continue to support Obama, not because he's perfect, but because of the general trajectory of his values and vision, and not just Obama the person, but the party itself, the Democratic vision of We The People, which, I think, is morally stronger than the GOP's vision at this point in time, simply because the GOP has reduced individuality to "survival of the fittest" - the GOP doesn't recognize the common wealth we enjoy and share. a common wealth that we support, as Lincoln did in the hard decisions of the Civil War. Some things cannot be lost, lest we cease being who we are - "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

From Huffington Post on Greece

Until I went over and witnessed what's happening, I too had become convinced that the real issues were the ones the media were obsessively covering: the effects of a potential sovereign default on the Euro and worries about the crisis spreading to other European countries.
But here's the bigger issue: Can a truly democratic movement break the stranglehold of corrupt elites and powerful anti-democratic institutional forces that have come to characterize not just the politics of Greece, but most Western democracies, including our own? Greece is only an extreme example of an unfolding seismic social shift that is challenging democracies the world over.
Ms. Huffington looks at the issues and reminds us that more is at stake in Greece and in the Western nations than austerity.
The wealthy want tax cuts, so that more cash can flow into their coffers, so they can fund their corporate jets and lavish life-styles.
But taxation is what makes nations work well. 
Adequate revenue insures medical research, education for our children, fighting wild fires in Texas, helping folks who've lost their homes in flooding, building and maintaining our roads and water-delivery systems, and a million other things that only a nation can offer. 
Democracy is clearly at stake in Greece and throughout the Western world.

Monday, June 27, 2011

America's Love-affair with Conversion

From a recent message:

We don’t know when the disciples were converted.
The Bible says nothing about it.
Even someone as distinguished at the Apostle Paul is reticent about his “conversion” – he says almost nothing about it.

Because human beings love the spectacular.
In America, “conversion” is big business.
TV preachers and traveling evangelists.
From the tents of old and the sawdust trails, to the latest book telling us how to get close to Jesus.
Lights, camera, action.
Dwight L. Moody and Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson … Paul Crouch and TBN … and a multi- billion dollar publishing industry.
Conversion is big business in America.
Sadly, the business of conversion has only added to our spiritual confusion and religious division.

The kinds of conversion we see in the Bible are very different.
They’re quiet and slow and no one truly knows the moment.
How about Abraham and Sarah?
Or Jeremiah?
Or Jonah?
We read their stories, and there are lots of odd moments, and wonderful moments, and hard moments, but there’s no one moment, no singular moment, nothing all that splashy or profound … just the slow road of faith … a little here, and a little there, two steps forward and one step backward, and it all adds … a God who walks slowly with us, maturing us in the faith, bringing us along the way, like a fine bottle of wine!

The disciples leave their nets to follow Jesus, but do they understand him, in the fullness of God’s revelation?
Of course not!
Matthew leaves behind his ledgers to follow Jesus, but does he have a full grasp of the message, the glory, the love of God?
Not at all.
At the end of the gospel, Matthew 28, on the mountain in Galilee, the writer notes with accuracy, that some worshipped Jesus, and some doubted … and the language could also suggest that while they all worshipped, they all had some doubt in them, as well.

It takes a lifetime to grow into Christ, and then some.


The "conversion" method popularized in America with Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday and most spectacularly by Billy Graham has done enormous damage to America's spiritual psyche, adding to our confusion and intensifying religions division.

The message of conversion is a "Southern" phenomenon based upon faulty interpretations of the Bible; it's pure Americana, with little to do with the reality of God's mighty work to create a people on the face of the earth who know and love and serve the Lord as we see God's work spread out before us in the Bible.

Conversion tactics rely upon fear and the threat of eternal damnation, with lots of emotional manipulation to move people out of their seats and toward the front.

This is no way to reach anyone for God, and no wonder so much of the fundagelical church is full of angry people who are quick to condemn and slow to welcome. They've been manipulated and ripped off, and, guess what? they know it, but without the wherewithal to do anything about it, and lacking the courage (which has been whipped out of them) to challenge the authority of their tradition, the soldier on, bitter and vengeful. 

I have always had positive regard for Billy Graham, and still do, but his message has caused untold harm. His refusal to allow segregated crusades speaks to his integrity and vision, but the Southern phenomenon of conversion that he popularized and injected into the American imagination has left us with us a serious mess that will take several generations to clear from our system.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Son's Peace Corps Swaziland Project Is Validated!

And your help is needed!

To complete a Community Center for preschool children, for health-care workers and their supplies and community events. Doors, windows and water are needed. Since dollars go along way in Swaziland, your gift will make a big difference.

Monies have already been given, but work begins on the project ONLY WHEN ALL of the funds are secured. Please consider a gift to help this project get up and running. It's vital to the wellbeing of the community in which my son lives and works. He's carefully chosen the work and developed the plans. Everyone's excited to see it get underway.

Remember, this is a TAX DEDUCTIBLE donation when made through the Peace Corps Website.

In the following letter from the Peace Corps, be sure to note the possibility of an employer's matching grant.

Thanks in advance for your kindness on this matter.

Tom Eggebeen
Los Angeles, CA

My email:

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + 

Dear Friends of Josh,

We are excited to tell you about Josh Eggebeen’s Peace Corps Partnership Program project.  Since its inception in 1964, the Peace Corps Partnership Program has helped thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers implement community-initiated projects worldwide.  Now Josh is taking on a new Community Social Center project in Swaziland that needs your support.

This project, developed to address a pressing community need, will be implemented by both Josh and local partners.  This project will benefit the people of the community for many years to come. 

In order to begin implementation, Josh must raise $5,741.96 from friends, family and other interested donors.  Josh and the people of the community are asking for your assistance to turn this project into a reality.

The easiest way to donate is to use this link, 645-088Although, the web site is the quickest way to make a donation, you may also make a check payable to Peace Corps Partnership Program and send it to:

Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Headquarters
Peace Corps Partnership Program, OPSI 
1111 20th Street NW
Washington DC 20526

Be sure to indicate the project number, 645-088, on the check so it will be applied to the correct project. 

Also, if you’re looking for ways to make your donation go even farther, check with your employer to see if they have a matching gifts program; many companies match donations dollar for dollar. Furthermore, consider forwarding this email to anyone else who may be interested in supporting Josh.  Remember that gifts supporting this project are tax-deductible!

Please feel free to contact our office directly at 202.692.1682 or 1.800.424.8580 x2170 with any questions you might have. Your support will go a long way to aid Josh’s efforts in Swaziland.


Melissa Becchi

Keep in touch with the Peace Corps Partnership Program by signing up for our e-newsletter, Building Bridges.

Melissa Becchi, RPCV Namibia
Program Support Assistant-Peace Corps Partnership Program
Peace Corps
1111 20th St. NW, Washington DC 20526
Voice: 202-692-1682
Fax: 202-692-2171

Peace Corps 50th Anniversary 2011
Be part of the legacy and join us as we honor our past and look to the future

Monday, May 23, 2011

Harold Camping and End of the World

The fact that a 100 mil was spent on signage and other assorted media mystifies me - from whence does this kind of money come? But more than this, the human cost. Camping capitalized on the mystique of end-times prophecies. Folks desperate to escape, and folks eager to show their spiritual superiority, line up for this junk, and junk it is. 
As always, the church needs to have a strong educational dimension to it's preaching. N.T. Wright's work on this is extremely helpful.
If Camping had been selling stocks and bonds, he'd be arrested for fraud and imprisoned. He's no different than Madoff, who likely believed in what he was doing, too, and thought he was a pretty good guy. But a crook is a crook - whether it be a Wall Street Dandy stealing money, or a wolf in sheep's clothing stealing faith and hope.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Am a Universalist

I am a universalist, and became so some years ago after trying to figure it all out, and I finally decided that no one can know fully the mind of God, but we can all know fully the love of God for creation, and that includes all creatures, great and small, and the not-so-bright (which I think encompasses the whole of the human race).

Having said, “I’m a universalist,” and having confessed my ignorance about ultimate things, but not ultimate means (Israel’s Messiah), I will also affirm that any firm speculation about “eternity” can only lead to deep flaws of thought and ethics.

Traditions that speak with ultimate assurance about ultimate destinies have all, to a one, crashed on the rocks of pride and judgment. And some within the universalist tradition have likewise lost their fervor for any kind of faith, and have played carelessly with what folks believe and live.

We do have a blessed assurance, and it’s Jesus, who is ours, by grace, and his destiny, wrought in the contours of his life, is ours. I agree with Barth, that in Christ, God resolved all the issues, and in Christ, we see the final Yes to all God’s creation, because whatever No any of us might say is never greater than God’s Yes.

Having become a universalist,  everything remains the same for me: Jesus and his cross, Jesus and his life, Jesus and his resurrection and ascension, but rather than focused on “getting folks to heaven and not hell,” everything becomes focused on the LORD's Prayer, and it’s central theme, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” For this we need Christ. For this, we need the Holy Spirit. For this, we need the Bible, the church, prayer and evangelism.

One still has to be saved – from ignorance and fear and pride and selfishness, to take this one singular life that God created with such passion and kindness and make it worthwhile, if not simply for the self (which it can never be) but for others, too. The children who suffer and die all around the world for want of political commitment to work for peace, for all the suffering occasioned by the greed and malice of the powerful, for all of this, we need to be saved from fear and cowardice that we might live with the boldness of Christ, and, with him, enter the temple when necessary to cleanse it, calm the crowd that is so eager to stone the woman, and challenge the blindness of the religious cognoscenti.

Give to everyone (letting God clear up all the details) the gift of eternal life with the one who made them, the one who came here to show them the way, the truth and the life, and the Spirit who opens minds and hearts and doors!

Then, we’re free to love, and free to join together in caring for God’s world. We’re free to share Jesus Christ with all, not at the point of a threat, but at the point of a celebration, that, yes, we’re all in this together, both now and forever.

For me, becoming a universalist has removed some of the worst aspects of Christian history and theology and opened up doors of joy and hope for here and now, and most surely, for eternity.

I still share Christ with anyone and everyone I can. Why not?

But heaven is no longer a goal in question. Christ took care of that.

Earth is the goal, as it should be, and that remains the biggest question of all.

And as it is for God – from the beginning, and as Paul the Apostle celebrates in his letter to the Romans – that one day, all will be made new, with a new heaven and a new earth, and every knee will bow to the wisdom and glory of God. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rob Bell, Albert Mohler and Universalism

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, calls Rob Bell’s latest, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, a “theological disaster.” And then adds, “When you adopt universalism … you don’t need the church, and you don’t need Christ … and you don’t need the cross…. This is the disaster of nonjudgmental mainline liberalism.”

But nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, even if we go all the way to universalism, we need the church, we need Christ, and we need the cross all the more. Because this life then becomes incredibly important, and how we love one another, and we love the world, all the more, the bottom line. It’s not about going to heaven (which Jesus never ever said), but doing “God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.”

Mohler’s gospel is a small gospel.

Reduced to a few clich├ęs and a “come-to-Jesus” moment.

In Mohler’s evangelical world, Jesus was born of a virgin and then he died. Everything else in between is ignored. Paul letters are stripped of their ethical orientation and turned into a Gnostic treatise – if you now this, you’re saved; if you don’t know this, your goose is cooked.

Mohler is flat-out wrong.

But there’s nothing new in that.

Mohler’s tiny little world is growing tinier, and it doesn’t feel very good, even for him. But rather than changing and growing, Mohler just grows more and more bitter.

Hats of to Rob Bell for taking up the challenge to think.

Think outside the box … because, indeed, God and God’s love are always larger and bigger than we want them to be.

Yes, I have no doubt about Mohler’s ultimate destiny. But when he gets there, he’s going to spend a few thousand years pissed off that Bell is there. And then a few thousand years pissed at God. And then more years pissed at himself, until there’s no more piss left. And from his lips, the angels will hear, Hallelujah!

If then, why not now?

Just asking … but what do I know?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Far Right and Public Education

Roman Catholics opted for parochial schools because "public" schools in America, 19th Century, were essential Protestant schools. 

When public education freed itself from the shackles of the Protestant Establishment, progressives agreed; conservatives revolted, and the biggest revolt occurred in the South when Eisenhower enforced the desegregation of the schools. 

In recent decades, the war against public education has been waged by Creationists and other conservative types who see schooling as a means to further their narrow agenda. 

Public education, that is truly public, and truly education (read science and history) is inimical to the style and purpose of the Right.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Palin - Does Anyone Understand Her?

I cannot understand how anyone could like Palin. I've listened to a lot of conservatives, and while I can't agree with their position, I at least understand what they're saying.

Palin makes no sense at all - her thoughts are ragged, and I suspect she understands very little of what she's saying much of the time, but only mouthing slogans and phrases she's memorized.

Yet, I suppose, like-minded gravitates to like-minded.

Never over-estimate the intelligence of the American people, and, sadly, our rural areas have been falling behind the curve, making rural areas a perfect target for the Koch Machine with it's billions to manipulate people for its own ends. Argh ...


We all live by our values ... whatever they may be, and that's the question. What are the values by which we live? The values of a Wall Street Banker are different than the values of a 3rd grade teacher on the south side of Chicago.

Religion, in some ways, helps folks of divergent backgrounds and interests to modify their values in the light of something "higher," but what with the diversity of religion, there doesn't seem to be a lot of concrete agreement. Lots of folks might talk about love, but just exactly what is love, and what does it look like in practice?

Perhaps what we've lost in the cyber-age is the courage to reflect upon our values, to be critical of them in ourselves, to ask hard questions of ourselves. In this respect, I think we've become a lot more self-indulgent, assuming that our personal happiness (whatever that is) is the supreme value. Narcissism is rampant in the West and in societies driven by technology!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thoughts About Bin Laden's Death

Okay, so Osama is dead!

Last night, when I heard the news, I shrugged my shoulders, and said, “I’m glad he was killed. A trial would have been ludicrous.” I felt no joy at the announcement of his death, and watching cheering Americans on TV, I felt a sense of sadness for my nation. This “victory” can only reinforce our moral and spiritual blindness as we continue to play out our fantasy of Numero Uno.

I’m a Christian, or I’ve tried to be, and I’m not sure what it means, though my evangelical sisters and brothers always seem to know what it means.

I live out of Christ; that I know, and with that, I cannot dance over the grave of an enemy.

Perhaps I’d feel differently if I had lost a loved on 9/11 or in a military conflict in the last 10 years. But I haven’t lost anyone, and I’m grateful, of course. I can’t even imagine the sorrow and hurt of a loved one lost in such circumstances.

I was struck by LA Times headlines this morning, “U.S. KILLS BIN LADEN.”


The simple spiritual reality: those who live by the sword die by the sword, and it makes no difference who delivers the first blow, and who’s right and who’s wrong and who’s good and who’s bad. The sovereign nations of the world live by the sword, and history is full of the wreckage – millions of lives lost and countless tears shed, economies devastated and stimulated, poverty and prosperity, woe and weal – but the truth remains: those who live by the sword, even righteous swords, will, one day, die by the sword, as well.

As with Israel and Palestine, the pain continues, the death of so many adds up, until nothing makes sense any longer and all that remains is hatred.

Will Bin Laden’s death make any difference?

I doubt it.

The dogs of war have been unleashed, and there’s no calling them back. We’ll never again see anything like WW2, but what we’ll have is a world in constant turmoil, fed by the growing disparity of the nations, with age-old border disputes continuing, along with the struggle to control dwindling reserves of oil and fresh water.

The rising stars of China and India are changing the playing field in ways that no American can envision; we were the top dog, so to speak, since the Spanish-American War. And while still militarily strong, our economy is precarious, our national infrastructure is in need of massive repair, our public systems of transportation and health care are Medieval, and our sense of identity is in flux (and that’s always a dangerous time for a nation).

There is no doubt that Al Qaeda has been derailed, if not permanently as a movement, at least for a considerable time. But as long as the West continues to manipulate its own interests to the disadvantage of the Muslim nations, especially those that have oil, Muslim extremists will continue to see the West as demonic. And Christian extremists in the West will continue to foment ill-will toward Islam.

Last night, I asked, “Who will we hate now?”

Nations love to have an embodiment of the enemy, a poster-child, if you will, of righteous indignation.

In WW1, it was the Kaiser … Hitler and Tojo in WW2 …  Mao n Korea, Ho Chi Min in Vietnam, Noriega in Panama, the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, the Axis of Evil, Saddam Hussein and then Bin Laden. Did I miss anyone?

The world will lumber on as it always does. There will be war and rumors of war and earthquakes and famine and fire and pestilence and storms. People will love and people will hate, nations will rise and nations will fall. History will always be written by the winners; prophetic voices will cry out and identify the hubris that infects the human story. Kindly voices will speak; Doctors without Borders will continue to heal. Women and men of good cheer and good faith will build bridges and take down fences.

And in the midst and mist of it all, Jesus says, “Be not alarmed … love one another … and love the enemy, too.” 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wolf Hunting in Idaho and Montana

From the 4.24.11  LA Times ...

With my reply:

Oh my, how the winguts love to have an enemy. If it isn't some tinpot dictator, or a "communist" (Yeah, I know - they don't exist anymore, but only in the imagination of t-bags over 60), or some other nefarious enemy, like unions and teachers and social workers, then let's go after the wolves.
In reality, I suppose, predators need management, as do the elk, since we humans upset the balance of nature everywhere we live. 
But what tickles me, and saddens me, is the language used here - as if wolves were morally responsible for hunting for their lives, and the wellbeing of their young. Hello? To describe wolves as "vicious" is just plain comical; to describe wolves in moral terms, and attribute decisional values to them, is ludicrous. But when you want to kill something, you have to demonize it first. Or hear voices in your head, or something akin thereto. 
If there are viscious predators anywhere that need control, it's the gals and the guys who love to pull the trigger. A field-day for psychologists to watch these would be "pioneers," in search of personhood, and with way too much money and FOX news in their heads, mount up and go after the big bad wolves. Woo hoo ... the best damn sex they've had in years!

Friday, April 22, 2011

In response to this article, my friend Pat Garvey wrote the following piece, and with her permission, I offer it to you:

Oh, Tom, that is such a depressing article, and I believe it's true. Anyone who thinks the US is exceptional in a positive way these days is an arrogant fool. Those days are long gone. The American Dream has always been to get rich quick and then get richer. Was it always based on greed, like it is now? Get rich and powerful and to hell with the weak, stupid "little people"?

How can we claim superiority when we can't even give our kids a decent education? High schools are turning out graduates who can't write or do math, and just forget about science. We have become a culture where education is not valued. What's important? Sports. Entertainment. Celebrities. 15 minutes of fame. Electronic gadgets. Consumerism. We are overweight and lazy. We are in a terrible mess, and are so divided, I don't know if we can ever get out of it.

"America has been and continues to be exceptional. At first we were exceptional because of circumstances that conferred on us enormous advantages over other nations. Today we are exceptional because of our culture, a culture born of our unusually fortunate history and now perhaps the single biggest handicap to our collective survival and prosperity in the less favorable circumstances of the 21st century."

Monday, April 18, 2011

The South Has Won the Civil War (of Ideas)

The April 17, 2011 New York Times takes a close look at the GOP's effort to redesign the American landscape, or as I put it, to undo everything done by FDR and liberal northeastern establishment.

Is this really the death of kindness in America?

When it comes to the social compact, it's clearly the death of kindness.

On a personal level, any of the current GOP conservative leaders might be good and decent and even kindly. But the failure is occurring at the point of the COMMON good; the conservative world has always focused on the power of the individual to rise and shape her world; this is intensified in evangelical circles where salvation is a "personal" thing and everyone has to find his or her own "personal relationship with Jesus."

In many ways, the conservative view of America is still a reflection of small southern communities out of which this philosophy grows: rugged individualism, charity (but not social change), religion that's deeply personal and emotional (if it's emotional, then it must be good), small government, low taxes, anti-union sentiments (because unions are socialistic and deny individual initiative and freedom) and social division along the lines of race (determined by God) - as long as a person of color got off the sidewalk, even the lowest of the whites enjoyed class privilege.

The failure of evangelical christianity is its loss of the social heart of Scripture - we are our "brother's keeper." The New Testament is read through spiritualized eyes, translating everything into spiritual principles, thus avoiding the social context in which the New Testament was written.

The medieval church did much the same thing, turning Jesus into a savior, to avoid his ethics, and preserve the social order of the day. Victorian England and its opposition to Darwin was aimed at preserving the social order of landed gentry and the working poor; anything that suggested change was anathema to the church and its patrons, the aristocracy.

The current philosophy of the GOP is an image of the ante-bellum south. With huge migrations of people form the Deep South and West South, all of this was brought to SoCal and the West Coast in the 20th Century - it supported Goldwater's failed campaign, reworked itself and give us Nixon and Reagan, and has since revitalized southern politics and touched the heart of many Americans in the midwest and far west. The movement remains determined to undo the America created by FDR - a "welfare state" and unions, gov't regulation and appropriate taxation, along with a strong middle class. All of this is "the enemy."

As I put it, the South won the Civil War of ideas! And the current GOP has embodied these ideas perfectly! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Life Without Limits???

Saw a book yesterday, "Life Without Limits" - only gullible Americans, who lust for life, rather than love it, would buy such a book.

This kind of thinking allows comfortable Americans to "own" their success as if it were their own creation, rather than a simple gift of chance and circumstance, not to mention God, and then, when looking at folks in hard times, blame them for their troubles, attributing the hardship of others to moral failure or sloth, or any number of sins the successful love to blabber about on talkshows and in their self-congratulating books.

Anyway, life is full of limits. And we all know that, and it pisses us off, for sure. But what can we do about it, except tell the truth, and discover the power and the glory of life lived within limits, life that sees and embraces its own reality, rather than living in some bizarre dream-world than can only end with nightmares and tears?

And we all die, sooner or later. And that's a mighty big limit. Not even The Trump can work his way around that one. Money can buy time - watch the wealthy and their hyper-expensive health-care programs and plastic surgery and organ-transplants prove that one every day, while the poor languish and die too soon. But money cannot buy more than the limit - dust to dust, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, is still the truth about life. And when we live beyond the limit, when we buy more time than we deserve, by robbing it from others (that's always the trade-off), then we end up looking like hell and sounding like it, too.

We all die, and that ain't so bad!

After all, we have to make room for one another, especially the young, who may make better choices than we have.

I'm glad when someone can face hardship and disadvantage and prove the victor; it happens all the time. Of course. It's a good thing to push hard and sieze the day, and all of that. We can all do more than we imagine.

But I'm sorry for the mind-tricks we play on our cultural heros, and the mind-tricks we play on ourselves, pretending that we can get to the top of the hill all by ourselves - as if no one ever helped us, even as we ignore the humbling truth that just plain luck, or chance, or fate, or God, or what have you, played a decisive role in all of it.

Will someone write a book entitled, "I Was Just Plain Lucky"?

Or, "I Don't Deserve Any of These Good Times"?

Or, "I'm Sorry I Think I'm Better than You Are"?

Or, better yet, "Life Is Beautiful Within the Limits"?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Far Right hates Public Education

I do not believe that the right has a genuine interest in PUBLIC ed. 

They're too quick to demean teachers and attack the systems that work pretty well in giving us a level playing field for millions of American children, a playing field growing increasingly uneven for want of fair funding. 

Are things wrong with the system? I've learned that one can make a good living out of criticism of what may be wrong; but what we are need are people who are devoted to lifting up the system, even with its flaws, and celebrating the millions of teachers who are devoted, who are successful, leading our children to a better life.

Ragged individualism, combined by hyper-induced parental anxiety, fueled by the far right and driven by a sales culture needing anxious parents to seek and to purchase nirvana for their little prodigies, America is shredding its public institutions, much like a mad dog biting its own legs in frustration and fear.

Oh well, just some ramblin' thoughts from an ol' retired guy! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

David S. Broder, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, dies at 81 -

Obituaries: David S. Broder, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, dies at 81 -

We have all lost in Broder's death, for his sanity is badly needed today, more than ever.

Yet, we have all gained from his life. Can anyone offer more than he did?

Life is limited. Period!

But it remains, now, for the living, to learn what a good journalist like Broder can teach us.

And to penetrate the fog of political blather and empty-minded sloganeering, to discern just how history works, what democracy means and how a constitution can work ... and to bring a generous helping of common sense and decency to the public square.

And, by the way, he owned cabin on Beaver Island, Michigan - that, in itself, says a lot about the man's character.

RIP Mr. Broder - you've done your job, and you've done it well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Fire in Our Apartment Building

The sharp, ear-piecing scream of the fire alarm.

Check it out ... someone hollering, someone else going to help ... faint smell of smoke.

"Call the fire department."

"Are you kidding? Fight your own fire. I'm not paying taxes for your junk!"

But here come the fire trucks anyway.

All Communists, I'm sure ... in their RED trucks.

Talk about socialism - they take our money, and buy those big RED trucks, and throw around all that equipment, stop traffic and make a lot of noise.

Where's the entrepreneurial spirit?

Aren't we all on our own?

I mean, those public service employees - who do they think they are? On the public dole, you bet! And then they get to retire early, and draw on that big fat pension, paid by guys like me, who work hard for their money, who earn it the old fashioned way.

Next time there's a fire, I'll do it myself.

Doggone right.

No more of this socialist Communist pinko red crap. No siree ...

Wonder what Rush would have to say about all these RED trucks dashing around town? And you know what, some of them are yellow, and that's the truth! For sure.

All Reds are Yellow, aren't they?

Makes sense to me.

Whoo, what's that?

A fire alarm? In my place.

Someone call the Fire Department. Quick!


P.S. There really was a small fire yesterday 2.22.11) in our apartment building, and, yes, the fire trucks arrived within 3 or 4 minutes - at least five or six units, including an aerial truck. In no time at all, the dryer-vent fire was out. A few scary moments for everyone - thank God for the village. It takes a village to raise a child, and a village to keep us safe.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reading Joshua

Winners write history, and the Bible reflects that. Joshua is deeply nationalistic ... it's part of Israel's "history," but, then, so are the prophets and Ruth and Jonah and Esther. Because America is a large and powerful nation, and lots of Christians enjoy the privilege of such power (as have Christians in other western nations - Britain, Germany, Belgium, France), many have tended to read Joshua as the last word on power and might. It helps to remember that the name of Jesus is the Greek equivalent of Joshua; it is not by accident that the Son of God appears as a second Joshua, not with swords and trumpets, and tumblings walls,but with grace, mercy and peace for all, and a temple curtain torn asunder. As well, like Saul/Paul on the Damascus Road - a version of Israel's first king, but this time, a man of intellect and faith who was sent to the Gentiles with a message of hope and inclusion.

When the Southern Kingdom fell, God got out of the land business - it was too costly - in human lives and to the character of God - and ultimately it failed. Though the folks of Judah returned under Xerxes, there would never again be a nation/state comparable to that of Saul/David/Solomon. When the temple was destroyed, the connection to land was further severed.

Just because "it's in the Bible" is never a reason to go with something. It deserves our thought and a willingness to wrestle with it. There are a multiplicity of themes, greater and lesser ... in the end, we have to choose as we weigh the relative weight of ideas. The far greater weight is on a God of great compassion who truly loves the entire world. Our "holy" book wrestles with this, just like we do. Do we really want a God who loves the whole world? A God who is not a respecter of persons?

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Letter to John Ortberg

The Rev. John Ortberg
Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
Menlo Park, CA

Dear John,

With delight and gratitude, I followed your career at Willow Creek, and with attendance at many a conference, I was encouraged and blessed by your ministry and preaching, and how I enjoyed your careful exposition of Scripture, especially with your focus upon the Old Testament, the “Bible” of our LORD and Savior.

When you left Willow to become a Presbyterian, I gave thanks to God and prayed for you and the Menlo Park Church, for I am a Presbyterian pastor, and have been so since my ordination in January of 1970, First Presbyterian Church, Holland, Michigan. I emailed you a welcome note at the time of your transfer, and you were kind enough to reply.

As a pastor, I promoted your books and CDs, and used your material to guide some of my own preaching and teaching.

Last week, I saw “The Letter to the PCUSA,” and noted you as a signatory.

I felt as if I had been stabbed in the heart and betrayed.

I know many of the pastors on that letter, and I know the truth of that letter, and that’s what disturbs me so deeply.

Whatever pretensions there might be about the centrality of Jesus Christ with high doctrines of revelation, claims of orthodoxy, notions of mission for the glory of God and being Reformed, the root is politics and money and property and pride, buttressed by powerful interests on one singular issue: the ordination of gays and lesbians, and, in California, marriage rights. Fueled by the political far-right, the ordination of LGBT persons has become the line-in-the-sand.

That’s the defining element of “A Letter to the PCUSA,” because, otherwise, there is no reason to write such a letter proposing the essential dismantling of the PCUSA, the church of my ordination, and the church that welcomed you to Menlo Park.

Presbyterian pastors and their congregations have always enjoyed great liberties to conduct ministry and mission and congregational life as they see fit.

There is no reason for “The Letter;” no reason at all, other than pride, and the issues mentioned above: money, property and politics and a decision to leave a fellowship wherein LGBT ordination may someday occur without a fracas.

Carry on your work at Menlo, and let Menlo carry on its ministry, or at least be honest enough to tell the world that the ordination of LGBT people is so distasteful to you that you cannot for a moment tolerate being in a fellowship where their ordination might someday be possible. There is no need to hide behind highfalutin theological notions of the church’s purity.

In reality, the conservatives behind “the letter,” have been hungering and thirsting for a way out and the means to retain their property at the same time. What with gracious dismissal policies emerging, which I gladly support, many a large congregation, rich like the temple-keepers in Jerusalem, now can see a way to realize their dreams. Dreams emerging as far back as C67 and the “Angela Davis Defense Fund.”

Let’s face it, money and property are always the critical factors in the larger churches, and these days, politics, too. That’s the truth of this letter you’ve signed, and I fear it’s the truth of many a ministry represented by its signatories, a gathering of the “boys club.”

By now, you are no longer reading this letter, but if you are, I ask you to reflect upon your Willow journey, your effort to deepen that congregation biblically and historically, and, further, I ask you to retract your signature, because, in truth, “The Letter” is filled with flawed historical analysis and spiritually demeaning theological pretense.

Please, don’t succumb to the notion that the framers of “the letter” have the high moral ground on Scripture and tradition. The biblical work has been successfully done with regard to LGBT persons and their ordination, as the work was done in earlier periods of time with regard to persons of color, who were considered, both by the church and the US Constitution, to be less human than the white race, and the work done on the ordination of women.

Though, in both cases, there are those who yet question these developments, and who would be glad to return us to the days of segregation and racial discrimination and relegate women to the pew and teaching Sunday School. Willow’s own work on the place of women in the church ought to be a paradigm for you and the ordination of LGBT persons.

By now, you are weary of this letter, and I’m weary of writing it.

I fear that the signatories of “the letter” will walk into a dark corner, shared by the likes of Orthodox Presbyterians, Bible Presbyterians, Presbyterian Church in America and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church – fractured and fractious bodies, driven by a certain “Presbyterian madness” – the so-called “purity” of the church, with all love being truly lost. “The letter” is a formula for disaster, but like the powerful of Jerusalem, blinded by their unreasonable “trust in God,” the cry of Jeremiah goes unheeded, as Jerusalem, with its tainted sense of purity, speeds headlong into ruin.

With sadness and resolute determination to do everything I can to illumine the flaws of “The Letter to the PCUSA,” I am,

The Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Eggebeen
Interim Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church
Los Angeles

CC: To all the world.

I'm really glad to be here. It's a miracle, ya' know, that any of us are. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Drug Companies and Whistle Blowers

In the January 25, 2011 Los Angeles Times, an article about a small pharmacy in Florida that has become a giant whistleblower on big drug companies and their pricing strategies.

It seems that big pharmaceuticals keep their prices low when selling to doctors and pharmacies, squeezing out generic drugs, and then turn around and bill state and federal agencies hugely inflated prices.

Because of this small pharmacy and its whistle blowing, hundreds of millions of dollars have been recovered from the drug companies.

I find myself thinking of Jesus and the disciples in Jerusalem, as the disciples ooh and awe over the impressive buildings. Unimpressed, Jesus turns to watch a widow sacrificially put in a few small coins to support the temple enterprise, while the wealthy drop in huge sums, but only for show and without sacrifice.

Most importantly, Jesus then describes the wealthy and their temple enterprise as a fraudulent system devouring widows’ houses (Mark 12 & 13).

I believe there’s a connection between this moment in the gospels and our world today.

We hear much about government wastefulness and national health-care programs that will never work, along with the mantra: we can trust big biz to provide for us, as long we give it unfettered reign. Government is the problem; biz is the solution.

This was the mantra of the Jerusalem establishment. With its impressive buildings and public piety, people were seduced, as was the widow, and duped into supporting the temple enterprise, believing it to be good, when, in fact, it was rife with corruption.

It didn’t take long for the temple establishment to get all over Jesus, calling him a liar, accusing him of getting his facts wrong, and naming him an enemy of Israel. The Jerusalem establishment joined hands with Rome, and with their combined wealth and might, with their laws and regulations, with their influence and with their armies, they strove with all their resources to silence Jesus.

These days, how many widows’ homes are devoured by the drug companies, and other megacorps, who plow ahead with unregulated pricing structures, international arrangements that are virtually impossible to monitor, gouging the government of much needed tax revenue, manipulating laws and rewriting regulations, causing many to doubt the effectiveness of national health-care, calling for an end to national health-care, going, after Social Security, accusing the government of fraud and waste, while racking in illicit millions.

Is this not the temple establishment in Jerusalem?

Are these not the marble and glass office buildings and skyscrapers that impress us, but are, in fact, warehouses of fraud, deception and greed, at the expense of truth and people?

Thank God for folks who blow the whistles on such things, and may Jesus, himself a whistleblower, as was John the Baptist and the prophets of old and the author of Revelation 18, inspire us to be mindful of the beautiful buildings of power built upon fraud, and the misleading narrative that invites our trust even as it fleeces our pockets.

The moral task of the pulpit is a serious one. The moral imperative for the church, to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, calls us to tell the truth about the huge and deeply fraudulent systems that still devour widows’ home.