Saturday, May 19, 2018

Thinking about "Dear God"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 18, 2018


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

Jeremiah chalks it up to his youthfulness.

But me? I'm no longer young!

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

These days, nonetheless, words fail me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bedrock love of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Evangelicals Have Imprisoned Themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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