Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Fatal Flaw of Creationism

Creationists have committed themselves to a fatal flaw that will end badly for those who sign on to it. And what's the flaw? Contrasting "revelation" with "reason," "faith" with "science." By positing the contrast, Creationists, unwittingly, perhaps, or worse, purposefully, suggest that God is a house divided - that the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is opposed to, or different than, the revelation of God in God's creation. And worse: that the devil created fossils, or God did, by some means of deception, in order to "test" our faith.

As Jesus rightly noted: A house divided cannot stand for long. And the house-divided crafted by Creationists cannot stand either.

For those who have signed on to the house-divided, it will result in one of two options: 1) some form of cynicism wherein folks simply pack up their bags and leave the faith behind, either because they cannot believe in its dogmas or because they can no longer trust their teachers; or, 2), some form of absolutism, wherein the dogmas are taught with an increasingly blind force and the teachers are "trusted" with an absolute devotion.

Either way, the goodness of God's creation is lost ... it simply becomes "existence" for those who cannot abide the false god of the Creationists, or it becomes irrelevant for those who can abide only with the false god of Creationism.

If I have to choose, I'll choose some form of cynicism, because it, at least, keeps the doors and windows open. But for me, there is another choice, and it's simply the affirmation that what God has given, and continues to give, in Christ AND in creation is consistent and honest and open to our senses, our minds, our examination - all of this subject to the ambiguities of our existence.

With another affirmation - that what we cannot fully grasp grasps us in grace. Whether it be the glories of creation or the wonders of the cross, we can see these things and welcome, consider and examine them, but more than anything, they welcome us, consider us and examine us ... and in that moment, there is no contrast, no contradiction, no pitting of one against the other. No more a house divided!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Keeping Christ Out of Christmas

I'm all in favor of keeping Christ out of Christmas.

I mean, why muddy the waters of consumerism with anything that might give people pause in their mad rush on Black Friday, which lasts, of course, for the next month. Christ is certainly no good for the economy - after all, things like restraint, kindness, generosity, compassion, mercy, are hardly the engines of Wall Street. So, let's keep Christ out of Christmas. And besides, it's a giant waste of time that makes some feel good about their "Christian witness" when, in fact, it's nothing but a "mountain out of a mole hill."

Rather, let's keep Christ in our hearts and minds, as much as we can ... in our thoughts and decisions about:
civil rights,
marriage equality,
police violence,
the raging fear that permeates our air waves,
the condemning of the poor so popular these days,
health-care for all ...
to name just a few places where Christ is needed.

And, heck, who can remove Christ anyway from CHRIST-mas? Of all of the silly places for some to make a fuss, this is it. Christmas and God and Christ and the Holy Spirit can take care of themselves just fine. They don't need us prancing and dancing around as if were the saviors of all things good and godly.

All of this "Christ in Christmas" nonsense reminds me of something Jesus said to the supercilious - "You're doing just fine straining gnats out of your water, but you've managed to swallow a camel in the process" (Matthew 23.24).

If one's spiritual line in the sand is the right and privilege to say, "Merry Christmas" instead of Happy Holidays, well, go for it. But pay attention, please to where Christ is missing, I mean really missing, in our world and life. And with some humility, and a good dose of kindness, be less concerned about "Christmas" and a whole more concerned about the really big things where pain and sorrow prevail.

Rather than fussing about nothing, and it really is nothing, let's tackle the real stuff ... in the toughest and hardest and roughest places of life, where folks suffer and children die like flies, where girls are enslaved and women beaten, where men are humiliated by their poverty, where family life is torn apart by lack of opportunity, places where wealth has run amok and power gone mad for profit and privilege ...

If we're content to let Christ be absent from all of these places, shouting "Merry Christmas" and "He's the reason for the season" only makes a mockery of Christ and reveals the shallowness of our faith.

Let's keep Christ outta Christmas and then be sure that he's brought into all the realms of life where hope and healing are so desperately needed. Then, and only then, can our witness to Christ make sense and carry some legitimacy - the legitimacy of kindness, mercy and peace.

And that might just be the greatest Christmas Gift we Christians give to the world! And with that gift given, again and again, no one will mind if someone says "Merry Christmas," and Christians, having given the real gift of Christ to the world, will be inclined to simply say, with humility and gentleness, "Happy Holidays."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Am One with the World

I am one with the world.
And the world is one with me.
That's what it means, I think.
To be human.
Created in the image of God.
Who created the world.
The whole of it.
All of it.
To be a good and redemptive place.
Where everything can thrive.
Where generation is the rule.
Where the new emerges.
Where the unexpected happens.

A world always waiting.
For something.
Because the world yearns.
It's built into us.
To stretch.
Look high and look low.

I am one with the world.
In its eternal nature.
"World without end."
And in its limits.
It's finitude.
The boundaries of time.
When the Big Bang.
Is finished.
Or something like that.

I am created.
I didn't invent myself.
I didn't choose to be here.
I was thrust here.
(I like that imagery).
Of birth.
Of labor.
Pain and sweat.
Tears and agony.
Pop - and here I am.

And for a season.
Which, always seems strange to me.
When I think about it.
A season.
Of love.
Trial and tribulation.
Friends and family.
Good things.
Sad things.
Terrible things.
And glorious.

I am one with the world.
In its beauty.
In its sorrow.

I am its beauty.
So are you.
I am its sorrow.
And you are, too.

Saint and sinner.
Some would say.

Life and death.
Good and evil.
High and low.
Grand and ugly.
Generous and stingy.
Loving and hateful.
Giving and taking.
Concerned and care-less.

I am all these things.
And you are, too.

And so it goes.

I am one with the world.
And the world is one with me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Poverty and Wealth Are Not Virtues

Poverty isn't virtue ... it's just poverty.

Nor is wealth a virtue ... it's just wealth.

Both replicate one another.

Both are very much by chance ... though these days,

The wealthy like to believe it's by their own hand.

And, hence, poverty's a fault,

A failing.

Of the poor.


That we've made wealth a virtue.

Poverty a vice.

Poor choices and a lack of drive.

So, take away from the poor.

All the more.

And reward the wealthy.

All the more.


For the disappearance of reality from all of this.

The failure of the wealthy to appreciate the

Chanciness of their position.

And the refusal to look with a kindly eye

On the poor.

Slandering the poor.

While congratulating themselves.

As if wealth were a virtue.

To be rewarded.

And poverty a vice.

To be punished.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Relationship with a Spider

Okay, I admit it.

I've had a relationship with a spider.

For the last four or five weeks.

Behind our sink, there it was - a spider and its webbing.

What might have ended badly for the critter took a different turn.

After my visit to the Spider House at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles.

There, I learned:

Spiders consume pests; treat 'em well.
They never stray from their web once it's built.
They're masters at the task.

They fed the spiders, the large ones, live crickets.
Held them in a tweezers, and popped 'em into the webs.

So, I thought, ants!

We have ants.
Maybe a few.
Sometimes a hoard.

So, I started catching ants.
Put 'em on a piece of paper and flicked them
with my finger,
into the web.

Or on the counter just below it - webbing there, too.
The ant would flail around.
But no success.


The spider drops, grabs the ant, hauls it up and wraps it.
Tight and clean.
For later in the day, I suppose.

Does the spider know?
When I turn the light on in the morning.
It may not yet be out.
But as soon as the light is on.
S/he's out.
For breakfast?

Haven't had any ants for the last few days.
Until I found a few this morning.
Got 'em!
Flicked 'em!
All wrapped up.
By my spider friend.

My family is with me on this.
I told 'em: "The Spider doesn't leave its web."
They ask: "Have you fed your spider today?"

The world has fewer ants right now.
As a result.
Don't think the world minds one bit.
And a happy spider.
And that makes a difference.
At least to me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Galileans Killed by Pilate's Soldiers and Tower of Siloam

Luke 13.1-5

The international headlines of the day inevitably tell the tale of death ... a suicide bomber, a missile, a battle, and ten, twenty, a hundred die - day after day, report followed by report ... the constant warfare of nations, tribes, groups, seeking territory, identity, safety, dominance - whatever it is that we humans seek in war.

I was reminded of this in one of the lections of the day: Luke 13.1-5 - At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them - do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did."

Brooklyn Museum - The Tower of Siloam (Le tour de Siloë) - James Tisso

The two incidents cited by Jesus are related to war - the Galileans, for reasons not offered (the audience likely knew the story) were confronted by Pilate's soldiers, and it ended badly for them. No doubt, their religious activities were connected to, or even a cover for, some some activity offensive to Rome.

The Tower of Siloam was a defensive structure to protect a Jerusalem water supply. How it fell, during construction perhaps, remains unclear. Then, or now, what's more important than water?

In both cases, we're dealing with warfare - Galileans confronted by Pilates' soldiers in some kind of a "firefight," and the 18 killed when a defensive tower collapsed.

Jesus wants to make clear that these victims were not the worst of the bunch, suffering, then, for some well-deserved punishment. Jesus turns it around on the audience and suggests that everyone there, involved in the militarism of the day - either supporters of Rome or those agitating against it, were in danger of a similar fate.

When I hear the daily news of the world, I breathe a sigh of relief. Yet I wonder what Jesus might say to us here in the States - the arms dealer of the world, with military bases stretching across the globe.

Our instinct is to look at the victims and satisfy ourselves with the conclusion - "they got what was coming to them." The very thinking Jesus challenges, with the warning, that even those who think they're safe behind the walls of military might will see the day of death.

Happy thoughts?

Not at all, but such is the Gospel sometimes, such is Jesus!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Indian Army in WW1 - Forgotten Heroes

Things that interest me:

When the first Indian Soldiers arrived in Marseilles, France, September, 1914, the Germans protested: It was against the Geneva Conventions to have "barbarians" fight in a war amongst "civilized" nations.

Brighton, sometimes called Dr. Brighton, was the hospital set up for wounded Indian Soldiers.

1.5 Million Indians served ... as is almost always the case, the Indian Army, and subsequent 
recruitment to fill the increasing number of vacancies and growing need for soldiers, was very much an army of the poor, the unemployed and the hungry.With some remarkable exceptions relied upon by the British - the use of traditional warring cultures for whom war is a most honorable way of life (like America's South?) - from India's northwest, now Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Sikhs and Nepalese.

For GB, one in six of its soldiers were Indian. By and large, they were treated well, with allowances for food and religion, though like all the soldiers, conditions were terrible, and more died from disease than battle.

Indian Soldiers fought in all the theaters of War: the Western Front, Palestine, Mesopotamia and East Africa.

Thanks to the BBC Series on WW1 Podcast -

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Christian Principles and Chick-fil-A

The founder of Chick-fil-A has died, so I've been thinking a bit about his claims, and that of his son, Dan, that their success is built upon Christian Principles! While I offer my sympathies to the family and friends, I'm wondering about:

Christian Principles!

Just what the heck does that mean?

And to what principles, exactly, are they pointing?

Let's try a few:

1) Rearing millions of chickens in abominable environments, stuffing them full of chemicals, slaughtering them mindlessly ... is that in the Bible? Well, maybe ... perhaps the sacrificial system? But that's an ancient Hebrew principle no longer practiced since the destruction of the temple in 70CE. Is this, however, a Christian Principle?

2) Destroy your competition? Well, I suppose this, too, is found in the Bible, when "god" commands the Hebrews to kill everyone and everything they can in order to claim the Promised Land. Is this a Christian Principle?

3) How about the old standby, Tithing? Big givers always like to tout this one, claiming a tit-for-tat deal with god. Sort of, I'll scratch your back with a little cash, and you, god, can scratch my back with obscene wealth. Is that a Christian Principle?

How we doin' so far?

4) Maybe telling gays and lesbians they have no place in God's kingdom? That's a Christian Principle, at least for some Christians. But, when public outcry challenges this nonsense, to offer a chicken-hearted apology? Is that a Christian Principle? Which one of these behaviors is the Christian Principle? I mean, 1) excluding gays? or 2) apologizing when profits are threatened and franchise owners complain? I'm a little confused here.

5) How about "Sell everything you have, give to the poor, then you'll have treasure in heaven, and then follow me" - well, heck, obviously not.

6) ... ... hmmm.

I'm outta ideas ... just what are the Christian Principles followed by the Cathy Clan?

For a little more insight into how this company treats its employees, check this out:

Chick-fil-A is not a pretty picture. And claiming "Christian Principles" (nota bene - I've used quotation marks for the first time) as a cover may warm the cockles of a Southern Baptist in Texas, but it doesn't stand up under scrutiny.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Gun-Free Nation - We Could Do it!

We could create a gun-free nation quickly ... here's how, as I see it:

1) Remove the Second Amendment.

2) Ban all in-home gun storage!

3) Hunters, duly verified and licensed, would be able to store hunting weapons at state gun-storage facilities, and borrow them as they would a library book. Hunters could go there to clean and inspect their weapons. All ammunition stored there, too.

4) Gun collectors would also store their guns in state facilities. Private collecting would diminish. If folks have a fascination with guns, go to the local museum.

5) Ban gun shows. Outlaw the NRA as a subversive organization advocating violence, as dangerous as any terrorist organization or group advocating the violent overthrow of the government.

6) No private manufacturing of guns - only produced by government agencies for police and armed forces.

6) Convicted of a crime-with-a-gun and it's an automatic 30-year prison term without parole. Possessing a gun on one's person, or in one's car or home, would be an automatic $10,000 fine. Second possession would be $20,000, and so on. Third possession: 30-year prison term.

As a result:

1) The threat-level to our police would go down. Guns would virtually disappear from our streets.

2) People would still be violent, but gun violence would be down dramatically. The overwrought need that some folks feel to "protect" their home would no longer exist.

3) Accidental shootings would cease, and so would circumstantial suicide with a gun. No more children being killed or killing.

4) Passion-killing would cease.

Police would remain armed.

And our armed forces.

We could do this if we took seriously the times and age in which we live.

It's time to leave the 18th Century behind and move into the 21st as a leader of the civilized world.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Ruling Class and a Weaponized Police Force

History is clear, I fear ...

The Ruling Class has always relied

Upon a weaponized police force

To deal with agitators,

Troublemakers, and


What better way for the

Ruling Class to prepare

For the day when folks

Grow tired of being abused

And denied their rights.

Weaponize the local police.

Give 'em the latest in technology

To maim and kill brutally.

Call 'em out quickly if

The People cause trouble.

"We can't have any of this

Kind of trouble.

No siree!"

Monday, August 18, 2014

Wealth and the Will of God

Wealth, like everything else in life, is a strange and mystifying combination of factors, very few of which have anything to do directly with "how good or skillful I am." 

Christians have always rightly attributed wealth to divine favor - which led many to still think of themselves as "deserving" or at least "chums with God." Nevertheless, a sense of "divine favor" laid the responsibility for wealth at the feet of God rather than seeing it as a laurel wreath for the victor. 

If God is responsible, then gratitude, even humility, is required, and its attendant social calling - compassion - and that is exactly the response shunned these days of finance-capitalism. Indeed, if I'm self-made, then I owe nothing to anyone except myself! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Reared in Safety and Security - Why Now So Fearful?

A good many Americans have been reared in safety and security.

But for reasons beyond my grasp, a huge industry has grown up in the land promoting fear - everything from the "fear of the stranger" to "home-invasions," the fear of which far exceeds what the stats might support.

From the constant parade of murder and mayhem on the local news to politicians who can see a terrorist under every bed, we're inundated with the words of fear.

It's making a lot of us desperate, and angry ... because fear, if sustained, becomes anger.

Fearful of so many things: terrorism, criminals, Muslims, "illegal" immigrants, anger is growing among certain segments of the population, and that's the stuff of fascism. Sustained fear and then anger weakens moral and spiritual sensibilities, reduces our capacity for compassion and kindness and stilts our vision of the world. Sooner or later, most everyone and everything becomes a threat. The ability to distinguish between reality and imagination is lost. And, makes one a consumer of "safety-devices" - everything from home security systems to white-supremacy movements.

In such a state of mind, we either move toward a highly defensive posture, a state of high-alert that saps our energy and deranges us ... or we grow up, shall I say, and take an honest assessment of our situation and ask the question: Just how safe, or not, am I?

And for those who Christians, it might well be helpful to remember what the angels frequently say: "Fear not!"

Fear, in and of itself, has some helpful dimensions - like, fight or flight, but there are other options, too.

Like the firefighters who are really afraid, but neither fight nor flee ... but run toward the conflagration in order to help others.

Jesus faced down his fears and eschewed anger, and went to Jerusalem in spite of Peter's advice to stay away from this hotbed of intrigue and danger.

Fight is certainly what many of us are choosing, turning mind and home into an "armed fortress."

Flight is a huge spiritual option for many - sort of like Medieval theologians debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin while ignoring the hell in which most of the serfs lived.

But the third option: running toward the conflagration, and doing so with a certain amount of trust in the love of God and a sense of reality - that it may end badly if I go there, but I'll not run away, nor will I engage in needless conflict with adversaries.

Because a frightened, angry, person, is not likely to be of much help or hope to anyone.

Indeed, Jesus heals the blind and and comforts the afflicted. Here's where he's needed - people desperate for help and hope. And when challenged by his enemies, chooses non-engagement.

Those who follow Jesus (unlike Peter who didn't want to face the possibility of his own death when Jesus proclaims his own death) will move toward the conflagration with caution, of course, but with a determination to pay whatever the price might be for love, which, after all, casts out all forms of fear (1 John 4.18).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Matthew 7: My Translation! ... of Sorts.

Jesus said,"You shall know them by their fruits."

Jesus didn't specify, right then and there, in detail what those fruits might be ... but his comment is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, in a section that deals with basic descriptors:

Matthew 7.1-6: Don't judge others too harshly; deal with your own junk first of all. And don't waste a great deal of time on those who simply can't receive what you might have to offer. After all, you don't like it when someone lays a bunch of stuff on you, so don't lay your stuff on others. They won't treat it very well anyway. Laying your stuff on others, even if you think it's great, never works out very well.

Matthew 7.7-12: Be curious, do a lot of asking, seeking and knocking - you'll be surprised how much you can learn, because people respond to curiosity, and they'll give you good things. After all, you know how to give good things to those you care about, even if you're a jerk some of the time. Think of your heavenly Father, then, who's really good - God is ready to give you good things. But remember, treat others as you'd like them to treat you. There's more to this life than God; there's also the folks next to you. Keep that in mind, and you'll be okay.

Matthew 7.13-14: Good things aren't cheap, and life doesn't come easily. Beware of shortcuts and cheap shots; don't be afraid of hard work and long days. You'll get there if you're willing to work at it; if not, you'll not get anywhere at all. Too many people want the easy way out - but don't be foolish on this one. Only a lot of hard work, sweat, blood and tears - that's what life requires of us.

Matthew 7.15-20: Speaking of the easy way out, there's a lot of false preachers out there who'll be more than happy to tickle your ears. But don't go for it; it'll not work out. Their promises are too easy; their word, too self-enhancing. Things like this end badly, for them, and for you, if you believe them. Look carefully and do some thinking. Trust your instincts - if it's good, in the deeps of the thing, and the person strikes you as good, take a good look and see what you find. If you have your suspicions, if it kind of leaves you dissatisfied, don't waste any more time. Get out of there and keep on looking. And look carefully - you'll always know the good and the bad by the results. If it works, I mean, if it works in the long run, the long haul, for the narrow road, and it's sweet tasting and inspires your curiosity and won't let you get away with judging others, but keeps you focused on working your stuff out, then you're on to something good.

Matthew 7.21-23: Talk is cheap ... and everyone can do a few tricks-of-the-trade, so to speak. But I'm telling you this for your own good. You can preach with fire, you can cast out demons and do some miracles ... but I'll have to say, "I don't know you - never did, and, frankly, you weren't too interested in knowing me, either. You were very interested in feathering your own nest and building your reputation. So, take a hike."

Matthew 7.24-27: Foundation, foundation, foundation ... it's not the house we build, but the foundation on which we build it, because life can get pretty stormy, things can go wrong, hardships hit fast and violent. A good foundation lasts, endures, no matter what, and the house will stand - battered and bruised, but it'll stand. No so for the sandy foundation - everything gets washed away in the storm, including the house. And what's a good foundation? A good foundation is paying attention to what I'm saying, and then putting it into action. Just listening won't do you a bit of good. But it's life and love, and if you forget what life and love look like, just dig into your memory and remember the beatitudes. That's what my words look like when put into action, and that'll be a firm foundation for you, throughout all of your life. Storms come, and storms go, but a foundation of godly love and the life that flows from such love will endure. Period. So, get busy building - you've already got your foundation. Now build away! And it'll be good.

Matthew 7.28-29: the crowds were amazed at what he said; it had the ring of truth to it. He wasn't just repeating the same old stuff, but offering new and old alike with a fresh twist that was honest and convincing. It was no religious show he put on, but with the integrity of his life, he spoke godly words.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Freedom and Abortion

I share this here because of what it means for me - that it's easy to question and judge people whose lives we can see only at a distance, and from that safe distance, render decisions and observations that satisfy our own need for holiness by diminishing that of the judged. 

So many of our painful discussions here are about the "sins" of others ... and how to stop them ... in this regard, I'm a Calvinist - sin is part of the human reality, and there's no sense in getting all hot and bothered about it, especially the sins of the other ... I've got more than enough in my own closet to keep me busy for the next thousand years.

As I see it, there has always been abortion, and there will always be abortion ... to even suggest that we put a stop to it is unreasonable and full of self-holiness. What we can do is lessen the circumstances that prompt it. And, please, let's stop jumping on poor women - the wealthy get abortions, too ... fact is, they have always gotten abortions - if not available locally, they fly elsewhere ... or can always buy a doctor to perform the procedure.

What's needed is mercy ... not judgment ... 

I believe in a woman's right to choose ... that's so fundamental to me, so basic, so essential to our freedom in Christ ... a freedom that welcomes us, and allows us, to be as we are, so that in time we will become a little bit more of what it means to be a human being created in the image of God.

God, too, had to make plenty of painful decisions that were costly, both to God and to humanity - life isn't easy, even for God. 

And for millions of people, life isn't easy, either, and the last thing they need are some self-holiness seeking folks jumping all over them for their lapse. What they need, first of all, is kindness and welcome, and the support of a society that decides to stop the killing of the poor by withholding social services, the killing of Iraqis and Afghanis by ceaseless warfare, the killing of women by ignoring the violence of men, the killing of children because we're drowning in guns.

The larger social issues need our attention first of all ... to focus on secondary and tertiary matters only assists us in our quest for self-holiness and will never ever come close to offering solutions.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lessons from Leaders

I read a lot of biography.

As of late:

FDR ... Eisenhower ... Lucius Clay ... and now the diaries of Drew Pearson.

They were called by their history - the accidents of life: birth, parents, education and times. They were committed, sometimes beyond their own understanding of how they got there. But the Fates, God, History, "the flying fickle finger of fate," took them along for the ride of their life.

Juggling convictions and passion with the need to compromise - the fine art of politics.

They compromised where needed, for the larger good, as best they understood it, and stood firm when compromise would have seriously undermined the common good they sought - whether it be winning a war against Fascism or digging into the schemes and double-dealings of the powerful.

Sometimes, the compromise proved good ... and sometimes they regretted the allurement of compromise, knowing that they surrendered something of themselves in order to have a little peace and get out of the noise of controversy.

In all things, a price ...

In all things, no rules ...

But to search the heart and mind and see where we land, and if we're in a place to make a difference, do it, and if there's a price to be paid, pay it.

And so it goes ... in this world of cabbages and kings.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Teacher Unions and Tenure

The way I see it - anti-union forces in this nation have been skilled at pointing our the flaws of the system. Are there flaws? Are there corrupt union officials and lousy teachers? Of course there are. But such is the human condition, and it's found universally.

Every day I open the business section of the Los Angeles Times, I read of component failures, bad designs, cheap materials, counterfeit parts, management glitches, fraud, corruption and cheating. I don't see folks lining up to do away with Big Business because of this. 

So we work hard to be sure systems work ... doing away with unions, or weakening them to the point of crippling them, and throwing teachers into a high-anxiety produce-or-perish environment will only worsen American education. But conservative voices have always painted unions as the all-time worst element standing in the way of prosperity. But it's simply not true. A case could be made, using the same logic, that Big Business is the worst element standing in the way of prosperity.

It all depends on what sources we trust for our point of view - and those sources might stretch back as far as our parents, our Sunday School, as well as the news-sources to which we listen and the books we read.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Do Americans Know How to Face Death?

Do Americans know how to face death?
I'm not sure.
I'm not sure I know how.

It's unsettling to think about it.

So, we come up with polite euphemisms.
Put a happy face on it.
"What, me worry?"

When someone dies, we're likely
     To blame them.

Lack of exercise, poor diet.

Or too much stress.

"If only they had ..."
Judgment ... so much judgment in those
few words.

When someone loses a loved one.
We grant them grief for a few weeks.
And then they better get on with it.

We're surprised, maybe miffed.
When six months later.
Tears and depression arise.

Maybe even in ourselves.

Death, I don't like it.
But I have no choice.

Perhaps faith offers something.
But even Jesus dreaded the prospect of death.

No cakewalk for him.
Nor for us.

And so it goes.

We can't run away.
Nor hedge our bets.

The mad accumulation of goods
     Is a hedge.
          Against death.

And so are harsh words
     Toward the poor.
          Who can't accumulate.

"What's the matter with them?"
      Do they remind us of something?
           We'd rather not know?

So we worship the Great God MBA.
And its Wall Street Minions.

Little boys and girls in expensive suits and fast cars.
Drinking expensive liquor.
Joy-riding in the fast lane.

Escaping death.
Running from it.
Full tilt.

All the way.
No tomorrow, is there?
But sooner or later.

The last tomorrow comes.
And then what?

Death holds a few keys in its wearied hand:

As for accumulation?
How about piling up hordes of mercy?
Or justice?

A little charity now and then.
But more than charity;
A whole lot of effort to transform

     The mechanisms of society.

To face life.
That's what it's all about.
To see it for what it is.

Opportunity, but limited.
With death hanging around.
And maybe that's okay.

Can't do much about it anyhow.
Except thank it for the reminder.
That life is precious.

"So, get with it," says death.
"I'm here, waiting for you."

So we learn to face life.
In the gray light of death.
To live, maybe even well.

Some of the time.
Maybe much of the time.

Because there isn't that much time.

There really isn't.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Never Tell a Young Person ...

Never tell a young person
They will run out of time.

They won't understand.
Time for the young is forever.
Time, plenty of it.
And they're mostly right.

For a while.
When time is forever.
When you're young.

So, if you need to talk about time
Running out.
Talk to someone with age
Under their belt.

They'll know what you're
Talking about ... uh huh!
They hear the clock ticking
All the time.

Damnit all, they might think.
But they know the clock ticks
for them ... for all of us.
And it's okay.

As my friend said,
"I just hope the end is easy."
Something us enders all hope for.
Us enders.

So, don't tell the young
That time runs out.
They'll think you're nuts.
And maybe that's true.

A little crazy now and then.
About life and its
Fleeting story.
Sure, that's all right.

Tell the young to go for it.
Stretch their wings.
Fly high.
Build their dreams.

The world needs their naiveté.
Their boundless energy.
Hope and foolish daring.

Tell the young:
"You can do it."
"Don't be afraid."
"Take great risks."

The world needs this.
And the young will give it.
Until they tire.
And become enders.

And then another team takes the field.
The young benchers.
Waiting for their moment.
When Time says: "Your turn!"

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Suffering and the Task of Peace-Making

Doing some digging about a part of the world that suffered mightily during WW1, yet of this time and place, we know little, what with our focus on the Western Front.

Th attached report about "refugees choking Serbian roads" and their "only food" being dead horses is a snippet of human history, but it makes me wonder about the nature of life - which seems to be mostly war and suffering interrupted by brief moments of calm and rest.

Serbian refugees arriving at Salonika Christmas morning.

Please note the brief note that follows the refugee report, about the suicide rate ...  with older workers being replaced by younger.

I think I'm clear - the task of peace is never-ending, and the drive to war is enormous. Though we decry its violence, we apparently can't help ourselves, as we plunge wildly into one conflict after another.

So press on dear friends ... the cries of the suffering are never-ending, nor are the ways of the wicked who find profit in the bloodshed and suffering.

Keep on learning and keep on agitating ... don't give up the fight for justice and peace ... keep telling the horrible truth ... and while enjoying the delights of life, keep an eye on the larger world and its needs.

Every prayer offered,
every article read,
every petition signed,
every note written,
every book read,
every cup of coffee with a friend on such matters,
every step taken in a picket line,
every effort of solidarity with the poor,
every protest against the vanities of wealth,
every tear shed for the horror of it all,
every moment of righteous indignation,
every promise made to make this a better world,
every vow taken - it all counts.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

When Mary Anoints Jesus and Judas Complains.

When Mary anoints Jesus with Nard, the oil of death ...

Mary accepts the inevitable end of the affair - that Jesus is headed toward a very strange "glory" ... 

Meanwhile, Judas expresses his "concern" for the poor - how much better to have converted the Nard into cash, cash for charity.

But the gospel nails Judas to his peculiar cross - he really doesn't care about the poor; he's just a thief, and enjoyed carrying the money bag and taking from it when he wanted.

Jesus says to him, "You will always have the poor, but you won't always have me."

First of all, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 15.11, which further encourages kindness and generosity - it has the feel of something more than just charity, but a substantive regard for those who are on the bottom side of an economy.

With that in mind, Jesus goes to the heart of the problem for Judas - he's incapable of a genuine act of devotion to God - he can't let go of anything that's his - and that's why he's incapable of kindness to the poor, even as he uses pious words in some kind of a lame effort to shame Mary for "irresponsible act of love" and puff himself a wee bit.

In other words, the man has no heart - he cannot see beyond his greed, his deceit - he lives in a world of scarcity and fear.

In that respect, who's the poorest person in the story?

Is it not Judas? Bereft of heart and soul, without love of God or neighbor, but only the love of his money?

What a tragic man he is, and what a glorious moment for Mary - who tells the tale, and speaks the truth in the Nard-anointing, the oil of death - who doesn't have to do a little dying now and then in order to live? Who doesn't need the oil of death, the scent of mortality, the reminder of time's inevitable denouement to complete the picture, and get the head and heart on straight? Who doesn't need to give, really give, and deny the allure of scarcity and fear, and trust the higher realities of God's faithfulness and the need to give away whatever one would hope to find.

Mary is the quintessential disciple here ... she knows the truth of Jesus, that his glory will be the cross (a very strange glory, indeed) and now is as good a time as any to see this. Break out the Nard - not in joyful celebration, but in thoughtful acceptance of truth. 

While Judas can only cling to the money bag, Mary anoints Jesus, and in her moment of truth, reveals her grasp of the story and establishes what it means to be a human being!

(My thanks to Richard Rohr and his fine Lenten Book, "Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Apostle Paul and Big Government

At the heart of Paul's gospel is an idea that strikes a mortal blow against all human pretension and the human inclination to then divide the race between "those who deserve something" and "those who don't."
He read the Text with great care!

It's called grace ... the love of God reaching out to those who cannot reach beyond themselves, their sorrows and their plight.

"None are righteous," says Paul, and therein he demolishes any and ever wall erected by pride of place or power.

In God's eyes, humanity is a pauper of soul, and only by divine largess, both in its initiating and in its sustaining, it is always and forever grace that enables life.

Hence, no one can claim a higher ground, either in the initial awakening, or in whatever good fortune, spiritual or material, may emerge.

Only God's Big Government is big enough to undertake the rebuilding of God's earth - devastated by greed and its demented cousin, War!

The Biblical Message of Grace is the ultimate Liberal Agenda, a Progressive ideal, and when embraced, can only generate the healthiest of all emotions: humility before life, especially if life has been favorable, and kindness toward one another, especially those for whom life has been less than favorable.

No wonder the Medieval Church didn't want people reading the Bible, and no wonder Evangelical Preachers chop it up into tiny little bits and pieces, and then rework it all to become a "personal message of salvation" (which it isn't) or a "Harvard Business Model for Success" (not even close). These are the forces arrayed against Grace, those they tout their own righteousness and speak easily of Jesus, as if they were all his political advisors.

Nevertheless ...

It's God's Big Government, intervening in the affairs of humankind,  injecting massive amounts of spiritual wealth into the human system, that puts Humpty Dumpty together again. 

And to God be the glory ...

Friday, March 21, 2014

All information is slanted ...

All "information" has a slant … nothing is neutral … it's all on where we begin.

If one begins with "abortion is murder and thus must be outlawed," we find information that conforms to that opinion. If, on the other hand, we believe that a "woman's choice is an important element in her health care, and that abortion is a legitimate choice," then we find information that conforms to that.

We have to always dig deeper, more than likely into our personality, family patterns, personal history, and a variety of other factors, social and psychological, as to why we make the decisions we do.

If and when we share out of the deeps of our being, it always has the aroma of authenticity, because it comes from our deeps, and not from some political or ideological source (both liberals and conservatives can suffer from this syndrome). When we share from the deeps, we're honest in our humility and can admit that truth is our opinion of it, and we can hope and pray that we've made a good effort at it. But we cannot claim a higher authority.

We can seek, however, to be well-read, and to hold our opinions lightly. It's okay to have an opinion; that's what life is all about. I'll stand firm on my opinions, and do the best I can to see that my opinions see the light of day.

Hence, I'm pro-choice, have been pro-choice for decades, and I've given it a lot of thought. And in my own take of things, that makes me pro-life. Those who believe abortion is evil and must be outlawed have worked at it, too. So, there we are.

Let's be honest - we have our opinions, and while we'd like to think that our opinion is better than other opinions, none can make that claim - all we can do is muster what science and history we can find, think it through, and offer it up to the world as coherently as we can. Time will help clarify … though not even centuries can clear up some questions.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Study Group: Notes, Reflections and Questions - FDR's Character and Wilson's Religion - March 17, 2014

Study Group, March 17, 2014

I love history, and now in my retirement, have a chance to read more of it once again (I was a history major in college, and in seminary, focused on church history) …

I believe that in knowing more of our history, we can better understand today’s events (e.g. Crimea!) and what our politicians are saying, both conservative and liberal and those who are “damp” (a descriptor of Roosevelt in 1930-31 with regard to Prohibition - that is, he was neither dry nor wet, but wanted, at that time, to let the States decide it).

Conscious or not, everyone stands on the shoulders of history. Some stand more intelligently - William Buckley on the conservative side of things and Robert Kennedy on the liberal end of things. Both, now, are dead … but their descendants carry on. Though, for the life of me, I have a hard time finding contemporary conservative voices that make any sense - most, like Paul Ryan, who quotes Ayn Rand, seem to be mostly poseurs, pretenders and buffoons. As for liberal voices, Robert Reich seems to me to have a solid grasp on both his philosophy and what it means for America. Bernie Sanders, as well. Christian writer Jim Wallace seems to be in the “damp” category, though with heavy leanings toward the left. Diana Butler Bass, church historian, clearly leans left, as well. I would put them in the Reinhold Niebuhr camp.

Yet, in this respect, there is very little new under the sun when it comes to views of human nature, society and the solutions to our economic and social problems.

At a loss for how to prepare for our meeting, I’ve decided to share some of my recent reflections, knowing that it won’t take much to get a thoughtful and good-hearted discussion going.

Here’s one of my latest:

Monday, March 17, 2014

As the nation plunged deeper into the Great Depression, Roosevelt, governor of New York State, went into action, believing that government has a social responsibility to provide when the chips are down.

During all of this time, a Roosevelt-for-President movement was gaining momentum.

What surprises me is how many of highest business leaders of the land were lining up behind Roosevelt. He was anti-tarrif, "damp" on the question of Prohibition (leave it to the States) and pro-active for moving the economy.

I can only think that the best heads of business understood that a healthy nation needed a strong government working on behalf of all the people.

Roosevelt created in New York State what was ultimately to become FEMA (1933), raised income taxes (graduated) and put people to work, and if work couldn't be found, helped them out to weather the storm.

What's good for all the people is good for American Business - Roosevelt understood this, and so did the nation's top financiers.

Sadly, Hooverism seems to have won the day for what is now the GOP, driven by the Koch Bros and other private-interest groups, who have little concern for America, and can only focus on their own private coffers.

As with Hoover's policies in 1931-32, a private-coffer driven economy can only spiral downward … to some ears, it sounds good - "sink or swim; you're on your own," and for those swimming, they're mighty damn proud of their achievement, even as millions drown in the murky waters of poverty. I guess they should've learned how to swim.


Some, like Governor Ritchie of Maryland, suggested that it would be best to “let nature take its course. Others, like Roosevelt, believed that a pro-active government was needed to forestall disaster for millions. 

  1. How does this play itself out these days?
  2. Who are the spokespersons for these respective views?
  3. What appeals to you, and why?


One of my heroes …

Reading about #FDR's polio, summer of 1921 …

Because of his family's enormous wealth, every specialist, therapist and all the needed equipment was provided. Throughout it all, FDR maintained a vigorous determination to make it; many a visitor found themselves leaving encouraged and cheerful. His ability to make others feel right and good was uncanny. All of life up to this point was filled with extraordinary people who believed in him, encouraged him and provided opportunity. FDR grew up in a network of people who understood the absolute value of family, community and helping one another.

As I read about all the help that was given to him, he was learning how reliant he was upon the goodness and kindness of others - a value instilled in him from the day of his birth.

And this is exactly what he gave to the nation throughout his presidency - knowing that we're all in this together, that we can only help one another, and those with the ability to help need to help those who are unable to find a way through.

No one condemned FDR for his illness, no one blamed him for his condition - they only helped.

Such is the heart of FDR's greatness … he condemned not the poor of the land, he blamed no one for their weakness, but devoted himself to endless political experiments to help everyone find a better life.


Whatever we believe and however we act, it’s rooted in our biography, if note, as well, in our biology. 

  1. What are the key pieces of your life that have shaped your political views - i.e., how you look upon your world, and how you think government should interface with social issues?
  2. If your parents were alive today, or are still with us, what are their views, and how did that shape you?
  3. Were there key players in your education?
  4. Who are you heroes?


The place of “god” in our lives …

Reading a bit about Wilson's "peace treaty" after WW1, he came home, in his usual Presbyterian pomp, declaring, that the treaty had come about "by no means of our conceiving but by the hand of God who has led us into this way." ~ "FDR," p.174

If "love covers a multitude of sins," for the good, "blind dogmatic belief that it's God's doing rather than ours" covers over a multitude of sins that require the light of day instead. 

How disingenuous of Wilson - though, perhaps, he believed it. It's an affliction common among the dogmatic - "Why, it's not me, it's God!"

Wilson's firm conviction that his presidency was divinely ordained cut him off from all kinds of people who might have stood with him on the League of Nations, and it blinded him to the awful things decided in Paris, 1919. Wilson went it alone, convinced that God was all he needed, and he was all God needed, too.

I, myself, know of no greater evil than this kind of perverse dogmatic trust that "it's all God," and not me, or something like that.

Serial killers rely on this kind of delusion, and apparently many a religious leader soliciting money and leading congregations into foolish decisions.

Wilson made an ass of himself, I fear, while hiding in some delusional dogmatic Presbyterian notion of God's infallibility at work in Wilson's vision and life.

History, at its best makes clear, that all Wilson needed to say, and should have said, was this: "We have labored long and hard to find a workable peace for Europe. It's likely to have many flaws, for our vision and understanding is so limited. All of us prayed on so many occasions that God might have some hand in this. And we can only hope that we have crafted a document that means something, and perhaps, in God's mercy, we might have God's blessing, too."

In such a moment, humility would have covered a multitude of sins.


Questions …

  1. Where is Wilson’s “blind belief” at play these days?
  2. Can belief in God be helpful, problematic, or …
  3. What’s the status of “God-belief” in your life these days?

FDR's "Forgotten Man" Speech, 1932

The Forgotten Man, April 7, 1932

Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Radio Address, Albany, N. Y April 7, 1932
  1. ALTHOUGH I understand that I am talking under the auspices of the Democratic National Committee, I do not want to limit myself to politics. I do not want to feel that I am addressing an audience of Democrats or that I speak merely as a Democrat myself. The present condition of our national affairs is too serious to be viewed through partisan eyes for partisan purposes.
  2. Fifteen years ago my public duty called me to an active part in a great national emergency, the World War. Success then was due to a leadership whose vision carried beyond the timorous and futile gesture of sending a tiny army of 150,000 trained soldiers and the regular navy to the aid of our allies. The generalship of that moment conceived of a whole Nation mobilized for war, economic, industrial, social and military resources gathered into a vast unit capable of and actually in the process of throwing into the scales ten million men equipped with physical needs and sustained by the realization that behind them were the united efforts of 110,000,000 human beings. It was a great plan because it was built from bottom to top and not from top to bottom.
  3. In my calm judgment, the Nation faces today a more grave emergency than in 1917.
  4. It is said that Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo because he forgot his infantry--he staked too much upon the more spectacular but less substantial cavalry. The present administration in Washington provides a close parallel. It has either forgotten or it does not want to remember the infantry of our economic army.
  5. These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
  6. Obviously, these few minutes tonight permit no opportunity to lay down the ten or a dozen closely related objectives of a plan to meet our present emergency, but I can draw a few essentials, a beginning in fact, of a planned program.
  7. It is the habit of the unthinking to turn in times like this to the illusions of economic magic. People suggest that a huge expenditure of public funds by the Federal Government and by State and local governments will completely solve the unemployment problem. But it is clear that even if we could raise many billions of dollars and find definitely useful public works to spend these billions on, even all that money would not give employment to the seven million or ten million people who are out of work. Let us admit frankly that it would be only a stopgap. A real economic cure must go to the killing of the bacteria in the system rather than to the treatment of external symptoms.
  8. How much do the shallow thinkers realize, for example, that approximately one-half of our whole population, fifty or sixty million people, earn their living by farming or in small towns whose existence immediately depends on farms. They have today lost their purchasing power. Why? They are receiving for farm products less than the cost to them of growing these farm products. The result of this loss of purchasing power is that many other millions of people engaged in industry in the cities cannot sell industrial products to the farming half of the Nation. This brings home to every city worker that his own employment is directly tied up with the farmer's dollar. No Nation can long endure half bankrupt. Main Street, Broadway, the mills, the mines will close if half the buyers are broke.
  9. I cannot escape the conclusion that one of the essential parts of a national program of restoration must be to restore purchasing power to the farming half of the country. Without this the wheels of railroads and of factories will not turn.
  10. Closely associated with this first objective is the problem of keeping the home-owner and the farm-owner where he is, without being dispossessed through the foreclosure of his mortgage. His relationship to the great banks of Chicago and New York is pretty remote. The two billion dollar fund which President Hoover and the Congress have put at the disposal of the big banks, the railroads and the corporations of the Nation is not for him.
  11. His is a relationship to his little local bank or local loan company. It is a sad fact that even though the local lender in many cases does not want to evict the farmer or home-owner by foreclosure proceedings, he is forced to do so in order to keep his bank or company solvent. Here should be an objective of Government itself, to provide at least as much assistance to the little fellow as it is now giving to the large banks and corporations. That is another example of building from the bottom up.
  12. One other objective closely related to the problem of selling American products is to provide a tariff policy based upon economic common sense rather than upon politics, hot-air, and pull. This country during the past few years, culminating with the Hawley-Smoot Tariff in 1929, has compelled the world to build tariff fences so high that world trade is decreasing to the vanishing point. The value of goods internationally exchanged is today less than half of what it was three or four years ago.
  13. Every man and woman who gives any thought to the subject knows that if our factories run even 80 percent of capacity, they will turn out more products than we as a Nation can possibly use ourselves. The answer is that if they run on 80 percent of capacity, we must sell some goods abroad. How can we do that if the outside Nations cannot pay us in cash? And we know by sad experience that they cannot do that. The only way they can pay us is in their own goods or raw materials, but this foolish tariff of ours makes that impossible.
  14. What we must do is this: revise our tariff on the basis of a reciprocal exchange of goods, allowing other Nations to buy and to pay for our goods by sending us such of their goods as will not seriously throw any of our industries out of balance, and incidentally making impossible in this country the continuance of pure monopolies which cause us to pay excessive prices for many of the necessities of life.
  15. Such objectives as these three, restoring farmers' buying power, relief to the small banks and home-owners and a reconstructed tariff policy, are only a part of ten or a dozen vital factors. But they seem to be beyond the concern of a national administration which can think in terms only of the top of the social and economic structure. It has sought temporary relief from the top down rather than permanent relief from the bottom up. It has totally failed to plan ahead in a comprehensive way. It has waited until something has cracked and then at the last moment has sought to prevent total collapse.
  16. It is high time to get back to fundamentals. It is high time to admit with courage that we are in the midst of an emergency at least equal to that of war. Let us mobilize to meet it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Reflections on Sin by Heidi Husted Armstrong - from Presbyterian Outlook

Reflections on sin

TO BE HONEST, SOMETIMES WHEN I hear the word “sin” I flinch. You’d think I’d get used to it after nearly 45 years of following Jesus. Some might suggest my response is evidence of … well, uh, my sinfulness, and they could be right. Still, when I say the word out loud, I often detect a faint inner eye-roll in hearers — or worse, they shut down, they totally disengage — and I wonder if the word is doing more harm than good.
This is not to suggest that what the word sin means is obsolete. Sometimes sin is described as “missing the mark,” resulting in a (dirty) laundry list of moral failings detailing how we mess up. Luther said sin is man bent in upon himself. We could spell it “sIn” — highlighting that big self­ish, egotistical “I” in the middle. When asked to write an essay about “What’s wrong with the world?” G.K. Chesterton’s response was the short­est and most to the point: “Dear Sirs: I am.” We all are.
But today I wonder if it might be helpful to think of sin as brokenness. People are broken. Hearts are bro­ken; hopes and dreams are shattered. And what’s more, we break things. We break promises, we break trust, we break faith. As Bob Dylan’s gravelly voice intoned, “Ain’t no use jivin’/ ain’t no use jokin’/ Everything is broken ….” Everything from individual selves to social structures and systems — even the church is broken. And in the con­ventional telling we know how it goes: “You break it, you buy it.” We own it. We’re stuck with the mess: poverty, wars, racism, disease. People get this.
What people do not often get, though, and what we have the privilege of sharing is the gospel that tells a dif­ferent story. The good news is that Jesus is the one who does the buying. Jesus redeems us at great cost, giving his life as a ransom for many. Jesus mediates divine for­giveness, promising to mend our broken lives and heal all creation.
As we approach Lent, that 40-day stretch designed for spiritual reflection, including repentance and confes­sion of s-s-s-sin, it helps prevent us from putting the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-ble. Yes, let’s very deliberately confess our brokenness, let’s tell the truth about ourselves and the world, but in order that we might celebrate more deeply the restoration God prom­ises through the life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Savior of all.
Clearly confession is necessary in our bull-in-a-china-shop lives and world. James 5:16 even cranks it up a notch, urging us to ongoingly “confess our sins to one another.” “The Message” says, “Make it your com­mon practice.” But, again, note why: “That you may be healed.” Like exposing wounds to the fresh air of day, mutual confession can be healing.
I once confessed to a friend of mine how I felt attracted to a not-quite-available gentleman friend — and almost immediately the attrac­tion dissipated, as if speaking the truth broke the spell. Some years ago I met weekly with two other women to practice telling the truth about our lives to one another — and hoo boy did that ever help me think about what I was doing before I did it and saved me much pain. Once during the prayer of confession our worship leader invited the congregation to name our sins out loud. And with each word spoken – “anger, injustice, selfishness, consumerism, lack of caring, lust, gluttony, judgmentalism, unwillingness to forgive” — it was heal­ing to know we were not alone.
G. K. Chesterton once declared that sin is “the only empirically proven doctrine of the Christian faith.” True enough. May God grant that confession becomes our common practice, as well … that we may be healed.
Heidi H Armstrong NarrowHEIDI HUSTED ARMSTRONG serves as an interim pastor in the Pacific Northwest.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Religion Inside-Out

I grabbed a jacket outta the closet and put it on, not paying attention at all, until I realized the jacket was inside-out. Still the same jacket, same color, pretty much the same everything, but inside-out.

Thought about religion - maybe there's a way to wear religion inside-out - it pretty much looks the same, but it's not right.

I don't know … want to be careful … but I think when religion is worn inside-out, everything ends up upside down - what should be love becomes hate, what should be gentle becomes aggressive, what should be compassionate becomes exclusionary.

The words are pretty much the same, the sounds and the smells, the books and the candles, but it's all inside-out.

I think Jesus saw this and did his level-headed best to help folks redress themselves, to wear their religion right side-out. I think Jesus, via the Spirit, is still doing this.

It was a tough job then, and remains so, even for the Son of God.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Gospel according to Jesus and Psalm 146

From this morning's (Jan. 21, 2014) Lectionary (PCUSA): Psalm 146

 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
          whose hope is in the LORD their God,
6   who made heaven and earth,
          the sea, and all that is in them;
     who keeps faith forever;
7        who executes justice for the oppressed;
          who gives food to the hungry.

     The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8        the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
     The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
          the LORD loves the righteous.
9   The LORD watches over the strangers;
          he upholds the orphan and the widow,
          but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

In a time when many a politician takes a shot at the poor and questions their integrity, and makes sport of them in their poverty, as lazy, willingly dependent, a drain on the economy, laggards and sluggards, takers not makers, it's helpful to read of God's social agenda, God's priorities and the way God looks favorably upon those who are scorned and held in contempt by those who "live in ease and are proud" (Psalm 123.4).

When Jesus begins his ministry by preaching in his hometown, he's handed the Isaiah scroll and reads similar words, words of Jubilee, reflected here in Psalm 146.

Initially, the hometown folks thought he was preaching for them, and they were cheered and proud of this local boy, but when Jesus closes the scroll and begins to preach, they quickly turn on him, and seek to kill him. Why? Because Jesus makes it clear to them that God's purpose is ever-so much larger in scope and includes the very people whom these folks despise.

Jesus escaped their clutches and goes on to preach and heal, to lay before us a gospel that truly is good news for all - a gospel that never grows old, is always fresh, always a challenge, sometimes irritating, but always gospel.