Tuesday, October 27, 2015

War Wagon Parade

A parade of war wagons
Through my neighborhood
Dark, hulking, war wagons.
Throbbing engines, darkly tinted windows
Moving slowly through the neighborhood
Bringing children to school
SUVs, 4x4s, tricked-out vans
Parents and children
How different in Europe
Everything smaller
Fuel efficient
But, heck, what do they know?
Nothin’ but a bunch of weak-kneed socialists
Too soft to know better
So, hats off to the war wagons
Onward Christian Soldiers
Tons of steel and darkened glass
Wow, ain’t God good?
The war wagon parade

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jeremiah and the Benghazi Hearings

In today’s (Oct. 23) lectionary, Jeremiah the Prophet is confronted by “insolent” men who called him a liar (Jeremiah 43.2).

I think, too, of the young men who gave counsel to King Rehoboam (I Kings 12.6-11) ... while others urged the king to ease up, the young men, who had grown up with Rehoboam (mostly in the lap of luxury, I’m sure) told him to double down on the people. Out of the houses of their ease, they despised the people and couldn’t have cared less.

Who were the insolent men who called Jeremiah a liar?

Who were the young men who told Rehoboam to up the ante on cruelty?

Yesterday, catching bits and pieces of the Benghazi “hearings” - I didn’t hear a lot of “hearing” going on, but saw lots of grandstanding and insolence.

Watching Trey Gowdy yesterday, Mike Pompeo and Jim Jordan, the only words that repeatedly came to mind were “insolence” and “cruelty.”

I saw neither patriotism nor love of truth, but only a partisan hatred of The Secretary, a hatred that has deformed those who harbor it.

I was proud of Hillary yesterday ... she was in the hot seat for 11 hours ... and conducted herself with aplomb. 

When faced with insolence and cruelty, she responded with intelligence, wit and firmness. 

If nothing else, she proved herself a candidate for the Presidency. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Family leave? Hardly.
Day care at work? Maybe.
Health care? Still uneven.
Child care? Expensive.

Stay home with a sick child?
Lose pay?
Lose job?
What a choice!

Send a sick child to school.
Worsen the condition?
Infect other children?
What a choice!

How does a family do it?
If they're not rich ...
How does anyone do it?
Without a lot of help.

Yet, some deny job protections.
And sex education.
Some deny the value of a woman’s choice ... and say that every pregnant woman has to give birth, even still birth, if that’s the deal.
And some just say No!
To universal health care.
To family social supports, if these supports come from Uncle Sam ... especially if they’re from the Uncle Sam ... “we can’t have no socialism in this here country, because we believe in the law of claw, and the survival of the fittest ... because Jesus said that somewhere, at least that’s what the preacher said, and I’ve got my gun to defend m’self and a bullet with your name on it.”

"If you want help, go to church."
They say.
But most churches can't help.
Beyond a meal or two.
Maybe a babysitter a time or two.
Maybe a dime a time or two.
Certainly a prayer a time or two or three or more ... and the last time a prayer fed a hungry family or provided child care, I don’t remember ... but the one praying felt mighty good about it and gave the single mom a tract on salvation and the coming judgment of God.

Some say, again and again:
"Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps."
And then cut off the bootstraps.
And then take away the boot.
"Because some folks are just not deserving."
They say.

A discrepancy, I’d say!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Young Man Reading His Bible

A young man, neatly dressed, suit and tie, hair combed back tightly, on the Red Line to downtown, reading his Bible ... from the look of it, somewhere in the Minor Prophets.

He was so ernest, so intent ... yet I felt a great sadness for him ... wondering if anyone with any skill or knowledge was guiding him.

When the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading the Bible on his way home, God sent Stephen to him, to help. The man confessed he didn’t understand what he was reading, and Stephen provided guidance.Individual Bible reading is a good thing, if one knows how to read it, much like reading any piece of literature.

One simply doesn't pick up Plato and start to read ... or if one does, sooner or later, at the very least, some googling will be in order. And perhaps consulting with others, or enrolling in school.

Whether it be the Gideons and their "miracle stories" about the man in the hotel room, ready to take his own life, but at the last minute, reading a Gideon Bible and turning to God for help ... or any of the miracle stories told by evangelicals on TV and radio and pulpit, people are set up for a spiritual crash. Much like telling an adolescent to get behind the wheel of a car and jut go - God will guide you.

Whether it be Augustin or Calvin, St. Teresa or Mother Teresa, the spiritual life requires community, and never a community of ignorance, but a community of learning, scholarship, study and reflection.

"Put a bunch of cabbage heads together and all you get is slaw" is true enough for so much of evangelicalism ... no wonder things get so crazy as parents who "trust the LORD" let their little baby die because they don't believe in doctors.

Or a 19-year old boy is beaten to death by his parents and others who wanted him to confess his sins, whatever that means.

Such hideous perversions emerge out of the cloud of ignorance, a miasma of death hanging over all of it, where good is bad and bad is good - a world turned totally inside out and upside down, a world always isolated from the larger currents of religion and culture.

I wonder what will happen to that ernest young man on the train reading his Bible?

Will he find someone to guide him to maturity of faith? Or will he slip into some hideous realm of hyper-legalism and violence?

I hope not.

But history makes it painfully clear that when isolated from the large and refreshing streams of Christianity and human culture, even the clearest water soon grows murky and fetid.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

“As a Christian ...” What does that mean?

Christians, it seems, pretty much believe everything and anything, in one form or the other, and behave accordingly:

Death penalty, abortion, war, Confederate Flag, drugs, sex, immigration, age of the earth, flat-earth, after-life, did American’s walk on the moon or not, homosexuality, women’s rights, rape, welfare, socialism, capitalism, Trump and Carson and Sanders and Hillary ...

And the religious stuff: Jesus, God, Holy Spirit, salvation, damnation, predestination, inspiration, the devil, hell, heaven, baptism, communion, nature of the church, papacy, and a myriad of doctrines, like infralapsarianism or supralapsarianism, millennialism, post-millenalism, pre-millenialism, many of which are convoluted beyond description ...

And Baptists (how many different kinds?), Presbyterians (a bunch of them, too), and Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Free Church, “debts” or “trespasses,” Pentecostals, dunkers, sprinklers, tongue-speakers, high-church, low-church, Reformed, Lutheran, Independent, non-denominational, store-front, King James Bible, pantheism, panentheism, theism, atheism, spiritualists, free-thinkers, revivalists, covenanters, extemporaneous or scripted, robed or bluejeans, clerical collar or button-down shirt ... pulpit or stage, organ or band ...

Seems to me that “christians” manage to believe just about everything on any given topic ... and behave in ways that pretty much cover the possibilities; so, what the heck does it mean when someone says, “As a Christian ...”

Perhaps it has some meaning in countering what “some other Christian” has to say about something, especially if that “christian” claims universality for her or his belief, such as “the only christian position on abortion is absolute prohibition.”

Well, then, “as a Christian,” I support a women’s right to choose. 

So there ...

For some, when I hear, “as a Christian,” it carries the sense of “Well, that’s settled!” As if “the christian” no longer has to think about it. That it’s been resolved for the ages, flowing in some kind of a pipeline direct from the throne of god.

I think there was a time when “as a Christian” meant “I’m going to heaven,” with the veiled threat to another, “And if you’re not a Christian, like I am, then you’re bound for hell and eternal flames. And, if that’s your choice, to be stupid, instead of smart, like I am, then I don’t give a damn, so to speak.”
But such things seem hardly worth anyone’s time these days. Even hardcore “christians bound for heaven” seem to have a harder time with all of this damnation stuff these days. What with all the hell-on-earth in which millions have to live every day of their life. 

Very few are comfortable enough to just say, “Here’s how I see it!” Adding, “as a christian,” gives it boost, a little more legitimacy, weight, value, or so we might think. As a christian, and I r 1 (end of discussion, eh?), it helps to consult the broader tradition, which pretty much says everything that can be said about anything, contradictions and all (how bloody christian history has been) ... but in the final analysis, one can only say, “Here’s how I see it” and maybe add a few whys and wherefores, and maybe even say, “I’m a christian, as I see it” ... but in the end, it’s all just opinion, and we’re stuck with that. Like it or not.

So, what’s the value of saying, “As a Christian ...”? Other than affirming what we we all know, and some would like to ignore, that Christians pretty much believe the entire spectrum of possible ideas on just about everything ... and behave accordingly.

The only option: live with it, state your case, with appropriate conviction and humility, and be kindly toward others ... especially those who live in hell-on-earth, and be ready to fight for them, set them free, and ready to challenge those who would perpetuate that kind of hell-on-earth in order to create their own private heaven-on-earth world in gated communities of privilege and power.

Maybe it’s best to say, “As a human being ...” but, then, that has it’s own issues, too!

Smile, you’re on candid camera!