Monday, January 26, 2015

At the Foot of the Bridge

At the foot of the bridge ...

Been thinking a lot about "Selma" ... after seeing it last night ... and LBJ's remark that the lowest white man in the world is told by the powerful that their whiteness is still better than being black ... and for many a white person in the South, being white was all they had. Poor as dirt, without a voice, but still better than those "colored people."

I think now of the struggle for marriage equality, another civil right ... and those who stand at the foot of the bridge today and say, "You will not enter here."

I don't know how it all works, but for many a "christian," having something or someone beneath them, a sinner damned to hell, or whatever it or who it may be, is sometimes the only  "real" thing they have. Their faith is convoluted and frightening, shouted at them every Sunday, and they know it, but as long as there are "gays and lesbians" who are "terrible in the sight of the LORD," these poor folks at least have their pride and the pleasure of opposing marriage equality and defending the ways of the LORD.

Very sad ... the folks who stood at the foot of the bridge against Martin Luther King, Jr. still stand at the foot of the bridge ... wherever that bridge may be found, and it's found all around the world, in all kinds of places.

People are always marching across it to enlarge the world of hope ... and for reasons unfathomable, there are always folks who stand at the foot of the bridge, with hatred in their eyes, billy clubs and pipes in their hands ... dangerous as hell, and ready to kill.

They are afraid of a phantom, lies told to them by the powerful.

So very sad ... to be so afraid ... at the foot of the bridge.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What's Wrong with Creationism?

Creationism confuses the language of faith with technical language.

The language of faith points beyond itself, and leads us to places that cannot be grasped and manipulated, but grasps, and manipulates or changes, us.

Technical language points to an object of interest, enabling us to grasp it, manipulate it, transform it, use it, to enhance our life process.

The language of faith is seen in such words as:
Grace, mercy and peace ...
Faith, hope and love ...

Whereas technical language is revealed in such words as:
Height, length, breadth and width ...
Speed, temperature, density ...

I can use the phrase: The sum of all things ..." in either of these senses.

The sum of all things is faith, hope and love.

That's makes sense, in a faith setting, and everyone realizes the language is metaphorical, poetic, highly and imaginably expressive of things beyond our reach, things that reach us, with surprise and transforming power.

The sum of all things, referring to a list of numbers, or other technical factors, is 382 pounds moving at 23 miles per hour in a vacuum equals thus and so ...

That makes sense, too, in a technical setting, and everyone realizes the language is technical, scientific, expressive of encountered reality here and now, pointing to the object of our concern, which may reveal all sorts of strange and wondrous things to us about the nature of reality, yet the language remains focused upon the object at hand, that we might know something about it, and eventually use it.

Creationism confuses the two languages.

Perhaps, in part, out of fear. As the World of the Middle Ages gave way to the Industrial World, as the language of the poet, the saint, the mystic, gave way to the language of measurement ... as the focus of life shifted from "up there and beyond" to the "here and now," religion grew edgy, as it sensed its world diminishing, its importance shrinking, its influence declining.

Rather than standing firm on the mystery of faith-language, some sought to transform the language of faith into technical language (dogma), and what better place to begin then with the Genesis creation stories - here is the "beginning" of all things, and if these stories can be literalized, given "weight and substance, time and energy," things that can be measured and determined and added up, then we have found a means to yet convince the world that faith has meaning, value, relevance, because now it's "scientific," and not just "faith."

Such confusion destroys the language of faith, robbing it of its beauty, its ability to lift the human mind beyond itself to that which is genuinely mysterious and wonderful, that which transcends us, meets us in the unexpected, and comes to us in love.

Such confusion destroys as well the language of science, turning it into a matter of opinion, as if measurement of weight and height and velocity were now just so much "someone's point of view."

To confuse the two languages, which actually work rather well together when held in their distinctive abilities, is to lose both. Faith becomes something unintelligible to both the believer and those who hold other faith and life perspectives. And science also becomes unintelligible, because its meaning in terms of the measurable is destroyed as if measurement were simply just so many opinions of those who may, in fact, be quite wrong.

Indeed, scientific observations may prove wrong, as it has in the past, but the thrust of science has been accurate, and it has the ability to self-correct itself, which enables us to say what was just said: Science has proven itself to be wrong. But not entirely wrong, but in some of the details. The scientific effort is largely trustworthy and deserves our respect.

Even as the language of faith continues to inspire and lift and motivate. The language of faith is powerful and good - its the music by which dance, even as the steps we employ can be diagrammed on a piece of paper.

To confuse the two languages, both are lost ... and in such loss, the only outcome is more confusion, the loss of meaning, the loss of accuracy and the loss of inspiration.

That's why Creationism is wrong ... it needs confusion to make its point, and in making its point, fosters greater confusion.

We can do better than this, and we must.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Humankind cannot and will not "destroy" the earth ... long before that happens, we will destroy our environment - our water, air and soil, and contaminate our bodies with chemicals, and with that, humanity will destroy itself. And the world will take a deep breath, shower, take a nap, and then get busy rebuilding itself.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Children in the Coal Mines

Worth remembering ... and, worth pondering:
there are some in our world today,
right here in the US of A, who wouldn't blink twice
if we were to return to this kind of world. 
Why? Because corporations are formed
and then develop policy on the 34th floor of
anonymous skyscrapers,
around polished rare hardwood tables,
with plush leather chairs and
bottled water,
with an eye on
profits,
a heart for profits,
a mind for profits,
a desire, a dream, a devotion,
for profits,
not people, never people,
nada people,
zip, zero, no-how, people.. 
In such a world, children are just another source of cheap labor.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cause and Effect

It's utterly disingenuous to condemn the results without, at the same time, and above all, looking at the causes.

That's no different than giving a pain pill for a swollen foot rather than finding and removing the splinter.

Cause and effect.

Concerned about the effect?

Damnit, address the cause.

But let's not do that.

The effect is all about you!!!!

You and your behavior.

Your bad ways.

The cause, on the other hand.

Might just be about me.

My behavior.

My bad ways.

Oh oh, let's not go there.

Let me condemn the effects.

While ignoring the cause.

It's much easier that way for me.

I sleep better in my ignorance.

Don't you?

Unless my ignorance is cause.

And you suffer the effect.

Of what I have caused.

Oh, let's not go there.

I'd be a lot happier.

Okay?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The NFL and Domestic Abuse

Glad to see the NFL, hesitantly, put the brakes on domestic abusers. But, let's tell some truth here this morning.

Football becomes the dream of thousands of kids abandoned on America's Mean Streets. Some become standouts in elementary school, and then hit the Friday Night Lights, and everyone goes crazy about the kid who can throw the ball, who can tackle and send the other kid to the bench, who can run like mad and score, again and again. We lionize them, treat them like royalty, ease them through school, including college, pamper them, get them cars, a little extra cash in the pocket, take care of parking tickets, get them outta scrapes, make 'em heroes ... and then make them stars with the NLF draft, pay them huge sums of money, dazzle them with a wealth they've never known.

And, meanwhile, all along the way, everyone has pretty much ignored their dysfunctional behavior, just as long as they can put out and make us all "winners."

But what with social media and the mood of the nation, it seems that public interest is no longer willing to turn a blind eye to their mistreatment of women, to their abusive behavior and anger.

Slugging a woman in the elevator, knocking her cold, and dragging her out into the hallway like a sack of potatoes is NOT acceptable behavior, for anyone, including an NFL star ... and by then, it's likely too late to do much about the personality, the character, that's already been shaped by America's Mean Streets and the thrill of stardom.

If there's anything in our story right now that reveals the broken heart of American Life, it just may be the NFL story ... the expendables, the temporary heroes of Sunday Afternoon and Monday Night Football. Kids, that's all they are, and then young men who still behave like kids, and we wonder why.

So, let's remind ourselves that the scores are far less important than the players; that the young men we treat as gladiators are real people in need of help, that the women they marry are often in danger, paying a terribly high price for their own desires to find the good life, if not on their own, at least on the arm of an NFL star.

Hats off to the uncertain steps of the NFL, and hats off to the colleges and high schools who are attending to the social and psychological needs of these young men, who pay attention to something more than stats and money.

Hats off to anyone who sees them, not just as football players to thrill us with the great play, but young men often alone, angry, broken and sad. In need of serious help, not just to be used and then discarded when they can no longer play.

We can make a difference with them, with all of America's children, by cleaning up the Mean Streets, retooling our schools, and reminding ourselves on Sunday Afternoon and whenever else we watch football - it's not just about us and our entertainment; it's also about all those young men who play the game, and it's about their families, too.

More about them than us.

Strange idea, I know.

But maybe it's the truth.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Social Security: How I Choose It!

January 27, 1970, ordained by the Grand River Presbytery (now, Lake Michigan), in the First Presbyterian Church of Holland, MI ... and from there, back to the West Virginia Mountain Project and two of its churches, Camp Creek and Ridgeview, where I had begun January 1.

My wife and I ... newly minted.

With a choice to make,

A choice granted to the newly minted,

Ministers of the Gospel, or something like that.

To continue in SS, if already in.

Or, if already in, resign.

If not, sign up.

A choice.

That could not be undone.

We choose Social Security.

I received my first SS Card when I was 14, working for my father, at the Milwaukee Cheese Company, where else, Milwaukee.

D (she was already in SS, too) and we thought:

"On our meager salary, how would we invest?"

"Given what we didn't know, about just about everything money-wise, how would we decide?"

Neither of our families were wealthy.

Nor invested.

Just hard working. Comfortable, but that's all.

So, we decided, on SS.

"It was the American thing to do," we thought. To play our part, stand with working Americans, and assure ourselves something for retirement. For us, it was the right thing, something good for the country, even patriotic. We felt good about it. We felt right.

And so it was ... for the rest of our working lives.

That's how I came to be in SS.

I have only gratitude about it ... it was right then, and it's still right.

Thank God for SS, and FDR who put it together, before we showed up.