Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Religion and Politics

Religion, like salt, best serves its purpose in small and measured doses - too much, and the whole soup is spoiled.

The Huck ("addicted to money" a friend from Arkansas says) and Mitt Romney are now in a tight run for who "has more faith."

Huckabee is flat-out dangerous. Smooth, smarmy, unctuous, and totally utilitarian, like the preacher he was, he knows how to play the crowds and deliver sweetness laced with arsenic.

When it comes to "freedom requires religion, religion requires freedom," Romney couldn't be further from reality.

England and Holland are free without religion, and Saudia Arabia has plenty of religion without freedom - so what does Romney mean?

He's means nothing - he's throwing words around with a "religious" cachet to catch the ears of the sheep.

Jefferson's wall of separation deserves another hearing, and if America is going to be a great nation once again, one of the first rules: disentangle religion and politics so that both can survive intact. Marry them to one another, and both are lost, and their children are malicious idiots who pull wings off flies and torment the neighbor's dog.

Is the American public smart enough to see through the fog of religious rhetoric?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

California Auto Emissions

Excuse me.

California can't impose it's own standards on auto emissions because this would cause confusion among the states?

I see.

But states acting alone on the matter of abortion is just fine! Because it fits the hyper-evangelical strategy to divide and conquer.


Why does the RP speak out of both sides of its mouth - touting states' rights for one thing and denying them for another?

I don't think I have to answer that.

Everyone knows already how bankrupt is the RP leadership under Cheny and gang! What with its diabolical arrangement with hyper-evangelical Christianity and its devotion, never to people, not even to this nation, but only to corporate profits and power.

Enough already.

It's time to put them out to pasture, and I don't care who the Dems nominate ... whoever they put forth, she or he is likely to embrace a larger vision and a far richer compassion! It's time for the United States to shed the shackles of Scrooge's greed and reclaim its greatness!

May it be so, and it can't be soon enough!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tony Blair

Tony Blair is now a Roman Catholic.

All of this under the radar screen ... as he put it recently, "Folks in England don't talk about their faith for fear of being perceived a nutter."

How right he is.

And we've a bevy of nutters and have had them front and center for too long.

These nutters are big scams - using the language of faith to promote their political agenda.

We need a return to a non-religious political climate where issues are examined and positions taken on the merits of the issue and the best possible solutions. We need political leaders who lead with intelligence rather than hiding their lack of political savvy behind faith, who are knowledgeable about international trade and the history of nations, who may well be persons of faith within, and may well go to church, mosque or synagogue, but will refuse to use their faith as a wedge issue.

Time and again, we've learned that "faith" gives no one a leg up on the issues; what religion does, I'm afraid, is define ideological borders, dividing folks against one another, and positioning some on the high moral ground while relegating others to the realms of the morally bankrupt.

I'm a Christian ... and my love of Christ informs my view of the world, but no one, no matter how thoroughly informed by faith, can say with any certainty how faith interfaces with the world, and surely by now we should have all learned how uncertain the process is.

Sadly, faith is too often called upon to squelch opposition and to sanctify violence, and that, perhaps, is the most curious question of all: Why is religion so often called upon to sanction violence?

The linkage between faith and violence is a long and twisted story, and in spite of knowing its grim details, we continue to believe that "our violence" is good and the "other guy's violence" is bad.

Let's tell the nutters to shut up about their faith and deliver intelligent and intelligible opinions on the world-challenging matters: a degraded environment, children and war, malnutrition and economic inequality, the need for a national health-care program, a revised and morally responsible tax system, and a thousand lesser or greater needs afflicting and affecting humanity.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Happy Holidays

I'm a Christian ... and I really don't care if folks say "Happy Holidays" - because there's more than one holiday, or holy day, for lots of different folks.

And more power to 'em all.

"Our enemy," a very wise man once said to me, "is never a person of another faith, but the acids of a raging secularism that saps the human spirit of meaning and anything remotely resembling real hope."

I'm tired, really tired, of the Christian Wrong setting the terms of the so-called "culture wars" - nonsense. These folks relish a fight and are likely to see a demon behind every newscast and under ever pulpit not signed up and rightly aligned with their silly little world.

And, by he way, the "X" in Xmas is a Christian invention, being the first Greek letter of the name of Christ ... Christians invented the symbol long before the world picked up on it.

So, rather than the silly "Put Christ back into Xmas," I say, "Keep X in Christmas," or more appropriately, in our hearts and in our actions.

For 300 years, the Christian family did just fine under persecution and whatnot, without the support of either state or culture, and only when those two got on board to save their own necks, did the church become a power-monger and invent such delicacies as the inquisition to coerce a confession out of so-called heretics so that when they were killed by the church and state, their soul, at least, would flit off to heaven, or more likely, purgatory.

There is no culture war, there is no danger of the church losing any battles, and surely the church is not under attack - these are the imaginings of little minds who can only think in military terms about their faith, who love to scare folks, because scared folks are easily manipulated into giving big bucks to the cause and doing and saying as they're told.

So, Happy Holidays, whatever your holiday might be.

We're all in this together, and together, we welcome God, as we know God, as we understand God, into our world.

Yes, I'm a Christian, full-blown and delighted, but I'll stand beside folks of other persuasions, and beside folks of no persuasion at all, because only as we walk arm-in-arm can we make this a better world.

Friday, December 7, 2007

CIA Tapes

How far we've sunk under this "righteous" president and his right-wing cronies - taking us for fools and belligerently telling the rest of the civilized world to stuff it.

At every turn of the hour, new revelations of corruption and failure - how about Blackwater, how about the billion dollars worth of lost equipment in Iraq, secret prisons, Halliburton - the failure to rebuild New Orleans, 40 million uninsured Americans, and Carl Rove, one of the meanest men in all of God's creation.

Who could care if Bush and gang would just be their corrupt selves, but hiding behind flag and faith compounds their crimes against the Republic.

And the greatest sadness of all (though Rove understood this): millions of unthinking religious folk who buy the language, think no further than the words of faith, and continue to vote for and support these corrupt people who use the abortion and homosexual issues to pull the wool over their eyes.

I fault Rove, but more, I fault the millions of pew-sitting Americans who confuse their faith with the square footage of their home and Jesus with the flag-waving rhetoric of their narrow-minded leaders.

God's people, informed by the prophetic traditions of Isaiah and Hosea, ought to know better ... God's people should know and understand how government works, how power corrupts, and how to recognize the signs.

I take no delight in any one's death, but the passing of Falwell and Kennedy has cleansed the airwaves of their toxic preaching. Their sanctimonious pronouncements, and for Kennedy, all dressed up in his doctoral robes and pseudo-intellectual style, created a spirit of ill-will and even hatred in the hearts of millions of Americans.

As the days and months unfold, the record of corruption and deceit will grow longer. This presidency will go down in history as our worst, and it's likely that many of its hirelings will go to jail.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

More lies?

While our best intelligence folk were hard at work determining the shut-down status of Iran's nuclear bomb program, our president was rattling the saber and talkin' Texas tough.

More lies?

As with Saddam's WMDs?

What's up with Bush? Does he ache for war? Does he and his gang get some kind of a rush with all of this?

Or is he just a Texas schoolyard bully who knows only how to intimidate?

I don't get it.

More lies?

I think so!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Teacher Freed

The teacher is freed!

Good News on all fronts.

Though many in the Islamic world feel put upon by Western values, and rightly so, the voice of sanity has prevailed, and that will make Islam even stronger in its relationship to the West.

Strength is flexibility ... the greatest of all weaknesses, intransigence!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Islamic Progress

20 British Muslims protested in front of the Sudanese Embassy in London demanding the immediate release of Gillian Gibbons.

Not many, but a good beginning.

A contrast to the Sudanese fundamentalists n Khartoum who called for her execution.

Somewhere along the line, Islam has to create a climate wherein Muslims can raise serious questions about the historicity of the Koran and all the other related intellectual issues that have driven much of Judaism and Christianity in the last 200 years.

Christianity and Judaism have their own brands of fundamentalists, and interestingly enough, these fundamentalist movements all generate violence - from attacking Palestinians to bombing abortion clinics.

Jesus raised serious questions about the Roman Empire, but firmly eschewed all forms of violence.

Violence begets violence, as the United States learns again and again, and its true for religons as well.

Fundamentalists forget that the best weapon with the greatest influence over the long haul of history is still the pen.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Islamic foolishness

15 days in jail and deportation for a 54-year old female British teacher in Sudan who allowed her pupils to name a class teddy bear Mohammed.

One Sudanese replied: "We responded much the same as you would if someone would have named it Jesus."

Granted, a teacher allowing her class to name a teddy bear Jesus might be tasteless and inappropriate, but no where in the civilized world would she be sentenced to prison and deported, barely escaping 40 lashes.

Wouldn't an apology have sufficed?

Cultural tolerance has limits - honor killings and female circumcision are not acceptable anywhere. Like slavery in the United States - long defended by Bible-believing Christians - we have learned that such a practice is ignorant and cruel and has no place in our world.

I don't pretend to understand Islam ... and I, as a Christian, support inter-religious dialogue. As a universalist Christian, I don't fuss about heaven and hell, which frees me to deal with the heavens and hells we create here, especially the hells-on-earth wherein millions spend their meager allotment of time.

I suppose the Islamic world often feels under attack from Western influences, both secular and religious, and there are portions of the Christian Church that believe all other religions to be false, and their adherents need to be converted.

The US invasion of Iraq and our saber-rattling over Iran doesn't help.

But this incident reveals some of the deepest perversions of the human spirit latent in religion. I hope that Islamic scholars and women and men of enlightened character will raise their voices and bring renewal to their great faith.

Change can't come fast enough!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How Dare You!

How dare you interrupt my life!

How dare you get in my way!

Who do you think you are?!

Who's the "you" here?

It's the fog ... and the delays it caused at LAX.

I'm just amazed at how easily people express anger, resentment, frustration to the cameras, as if they and their little lives were the center of the universe, that everyone and everything ought to march to the beat of their drummer.

The age of entitlement?

We've managed to now raise several generations who are morally self-centered and feel mighty good about themselves ... the ultimate insanity of the self-esteem engine churning out best-selling books, propelling TV gurus to fame, and putting each of us into the center of our own little universe - alone, frightened and angry.

Ironically, the "United" States is becoming a nation of disconnected folks, united to none but themselves, which makes as much sense as tying a shoe with one hand.

The book, Bowling Alone and other such commentaries on the American Way, reveal serious fault lines in the Republic.

Which reminds me - the heart and soul of the American Dream was created in the furnace of religion and Enlightenment ... the deep reservoirs of faith and responsibility - driven by bright minds with high moral resolve.

Which reminds me - perhaps people of faith and Enlightenment can once again bring about renewal for the nation ... if we can capture again the words of Jesus: "You are the salt of the earth" and "You are the light of the world."

I wonder ... when the world looks at me, when it listens, or at least hears, my words, what does it think of Jesus, the One whom I profess to love and follow?

The nasty little world we're creating will be renewed only by people of great minds and hearts ... who transcend their lives because they belong to something vast and great - like the human race - and practice the walk of peace and contentment, with the creative energies to change things for the good.

Which reminds me ... if God is at work in all things for good, then I'll find good in the fog.

Wherever I am, wherever I go, "I am with you always" said Jesus.

Sit back, relax, take a deep breath.

Thank God for the fog!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Right Wing Failure

I've never been able to calculate the equation: that anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-choice sentiments, added to pro-execution, pro-war, and pro-torture, add up to anything good.

Throw in a little Jesus-talk and vague references to prayer, and a lot of people go gaga!

But truth will out and the times, they are a-changing!

The failure of the right is painfully evident in the chaos of our country - an economy ever-weaker vis-a-vis the world, a national reputation ruined, 40 million uninsured Americans, the obscene gap between worker wages and CEO robber barons, the greed of celebrity preachers and the silly complaining of Christian talk show pundits.

I'm not expecting Camelot, but we can do better.

The rest of the civilized world has universal health care and enough taxes to care for the citizenry. Our allies work tirelessly at diplomacy, finding a way through a crisis, managing their world quite well.

It's time for America to be America once again ... to be utterly humble before the God in which we trust, to be loving and caring of one another - to strive for the public good and live with a little less.

New voices are heard ... there are stirrings of the spirit ... is this not of God?

I believe so.

Like the theo-cons, I have faith, too. And so do millions of Americans - not the scathing, in-your-face kind of faith touted by the right, but the faith taught by Jesus ... and Mohammed ... and Buddha ... and the Dalai Lama.

I'm a Christian, and the last time I read the Bible, it reminded me that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life ... not me, not my faith; not the church nor its many books, its prelates and its pronouncements.

That such things belong to Jesus is a freedom from spiritual bondage for all the world ... Jesus for all the world ... in every faith, in every heart ... in every decent act of kindness and mercy, in every calm thought and positive decision, in every prayer and every hymn ... in Tibetan prayer cloths and a well-worn prayer book ... in temple, mosque and church ... with rabbis and mullahs, priests and pastors.

A new day is dawning.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rich Televangelists

Paula White, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, and Eddie Long are all being scrutinized for lavish life-styles under the suspicion that ministry funds have been siphoned off to support personal extravagance.

What a contrast to one of history's greatest evangelists, Billy Graham, whose humble and humbling message of Christ has saved millions around the world.

In his biography several years ago, Graham made it clear from the beginning that money was to be handled by others, and that he would never be alone with another woman other than his wife.

In a LA Times article (May 28 07) about the new Billy Graham Library and Museum in Charlotte, NC:

As Graham finished the tour, his son Franklin recalled, Franklin asked how he had liked the tribute. The gruff reply: "Too much Billy Graham."

With Graham, at 88, in failing health, his family and friends have struggled to find an appropriate way to commemorate and carry on his work. A humble man who never saw a need to upgrade his cheap suits or his modest mountaintop home, Graham at first shrank from the idea of turning his life story into a tourist attraction.

Only when he was convinced that the project would serve as a perpetual crusade -- a tribute not to him but to Jesus Christ -- did Graham give it his blessing.

"The last thing my father wanted was to have a monument to himself," Franklin Graham said.

A lesson for the Gang of Five under investigation.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Bush, a War Criminal?

Do a Google on "definition of war criminal" and you'll learn a lot.

That Bush ordered a preemptive strike on Iraq sullied the soul of the Republic for years to come. That Colin Powell used faulty intelligence, and now we know, outright lies perpetrated by a single Iraqi chemical engineer (code name: Curveball), is a blot upon our record that will never be erased.

This is America's greatest failure presided over by America's worst President, supported by a gang of thugs, greedy CEOs, religious wackos, and a host of sycophantic minions.

For a long time, I tried to be sympathetic to Bush - after all, being a leader, being President, is never easy, and worse in hard times. But as the months unrolled and new revelations came to light, my sympathy quotient turned down to zero.

I'm still not convinced that Bush masterminded all of this - I believe he was a toady for powerful oil interests and maniacal neo- and theo-cons intent on world domination.

This gang of thugs hijacked the nation and bullied good folks into quiet submission with the 911 and religious-cover cards.

Now there's talk of bombing Iran.

Will this insanity soon end?

Is Bush a war criminal?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Westboro Baptist Church

The right of free expression?

Right along with book burnings, lynchings, and shouting "Fire" in a theater?

The father of a Marine, at whose funeral the sad-faced wackos from Westboro Baptism Church protested, has successfully filed a lawsuit and won 11.1 million dollar judgment against them.

These sad folks, with placards held high, give thanks for every dead soldier; yup, that's right. According to their skewed sense of things, soldiers are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan because of America's tolerance for homosexuals.

A little festering pocket of hatred, the folks of Westboro, nearly all of whom are related, have lost their bearings with regard to the gospel.

Hatred has a life of it's own, and when welcomed and nurtured with fear and prejudice, it becomes the master.

A chilling reminder to every person of faith - that fervor is a kissin' cousin to fanaticism ... and the only hedge against the drift into darkness is the constant practice of love and kindness.

Looking to Jesus always and again ... who welcomed everyone, who spoke kindly to the woman presented for stoning, who brought Zacchaeus down from his tree, who accepted the bad behavior of his disciples, who stood mute in trial and carried the cross to Calvary, and when pinned to the cross, helpless and alone, He cried out, "Father, forgive them."

Indeed, "Father, forgive the Westboro folk" and may they come to their senses, and if not, may the law suit at least cripple them sufficiently to put them out of business.

And may the goodness of God surround those families who have had their suffering multipled by the foolish and evil machinations of Westboro.

Recovering from WW 2

We've never recovered our sense of balance since WW 2. By balance, I mean a sense of perspective, both of ourselves and the world around us.

I'm thinking about this right now because of today's death of Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 used to drop the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, instantly ending 78,000 lives, with many more to follow in the months ahead.

I believe the bombs ended the war in the Pacific, saving millions of lives, both American and Japanese. Though some might disagree, I believe it can be said of WW 2, it was a "good war" and we can be all be thankful for the outcomes.

But lest I drift too far afield, we live with the legacy of that "good war."

Ever since we entered Korea and Vietnam in the flush of WW 2, and failed, we've been looking for another "good war" wherein the "enemy" is really evil and we're the good guys, innocent of guile and endowed with some "white man's burden" of saving the world from itself.

Our current president is drunk on the power of his office, and only the efforts of politicians and army officers have saved us from his malady.

Even now, in the twilight of his tenure, the sabers rattle over Iran. Foolish. Insane.

With an economy struggling to keep its head above water, a military stretched to the point of breaking, a world reputation ruined, the Republican Party disfigured by Christian wackos, this tiny Texas bully reverts to the most primitive of instincts.

God bless Paul Tibbets' family. And God help America recover from WW 2.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Until We Follow Scripture - Part 3

William White, early 20th century journalist, noted that friends often called him wishy-washy. But he wisely noted his “affliction” was the ability to see both sides of an argument.

To see both sides requires a great deal of work, intellectually and emotionally. In walking a balance beam, it’s much easier to step off to either side. Maintaining balance is a dynamic process of constant effort; we never reach stasis. On the balance beam, progress is defined, not by deciding to which side we’ll jump, but moving ahead, carefully maintaining our balance by refusing to step off to either side.

Even as I write these words, calling for kindness and regard for one another, I know that some of my colleagues are repulsed by such thoughts – both liberal and conservative, who conceive of victory only as the “foe’s” vanquishing.

But there are no foes to vanquish, only the self!

I don’t know the answer to our current dilemma, but I believe that both sides are peopled with women and men of good faith and good character, each opening their Text with prayer and love, each striving to discern the will of God, each taking the Text in hand and heart, working with it, interpreting it, and seeking to live for the Christ revealed in its story.

That some should be a Peter or a James, that some should be a Paul or Timothy, is no surprise, yet we are one great fellowship of love, and for such love the world waits.

That may be the greatest test we face, a world waiting for our light to shine, for us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Our current points of view ring hollow in the world’s ear, no matter how righteous they may feel to us, no matter how stridently we offer our “truth” as the whole truth and nothing but the truth and characterize those who challenge us as deluded, faithless and fraudulent.

The world waits to see an alternative – “the whole creation groans.”

Are we willing to embrace one another in order to show the world that our citizenship is in heaven, or will we continue to take refuge in our little castles, seeing one another as enemy and rejoicing in our paltry victories?

We have a lot of growing up to do. The Spirit is ready, and Jesus is in our midst – it is our Father’s will to give us the kingdom, if we but surrender our wills and embrace one another in the greater love that Jesus offers. “Love one another as I have loved you” remains the task and the test for those who claim the name Christian.

Until We Follow Scripture - Part 2

“Pride goeth before the fall” is tragically true for all of us, whatever our sentiments and whatever our hermeneutic.

We will never successfully build our tower to heaven, because God, with mercy and wisdom, confuses our language, to spread us abroad. Into every system of thought God builds the Babel principle to foster diversity and to create mutual need.

The diversity is a fact, but the mutual need is a choice we have to make, a choice driven by humility because we see through a glass darkly.

God restricts our take on things, so that love becomes the only glue that holds the Body together rather than agreement of thought and practice.

It’s love that requires us to say of one another: “It’s not my cup of tea, but your cup is just as good as mine.” Though I cannot abide with your take on things, I’ll not separate myself from you or try to cast you out. We will talk with one another until we’re blue in the face, and then talk some more. We will make room for one another, and we’ll find a way to yet live together. We will not go the way of the world by claiming “irreconcilable differences” – such a thought is nothing less than stubborn pride rearing its ugly visage in our souls and a denigration of “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Sin tempts us to claim the better cup of tea. Exclusivity feels very good on the surface of things, and it’s on the surface of things that we have to live in order to sustain our prideful judgment of others. Whether we love the Westminster and our detailed treatises on grace or whether we love the barricades and the struggles for social justice, superficial thought is the only way we can preserve our pride of place.

But probe beneath the surface of our claims, and we find a seething uncertainty and a vast discomfort. Manifesting itself defensively in ceaseless judgment of the other, or a humble embrace of the other in spite of profound differences.

Until We Follow Scripture - Part 1

“Until we follow the Scriptures” is a call to arms and a rallying point for both crackpot and saint, and everyone in between. Christian history is replete with tragic examples of despots and bigots, each claiming the name of Jesus and averring their devotion to Scripture.

I follow the Scriptures, and so does my neighbor-in-the-faith down the street, but we may take different perspectives on any number of issues.

Is someone right? The other wrong? Or does Scripture allow different takes on different things?

We all know the old saw: "In Essentials, Unity; in Non-essentials, Liberty; in All Things, Charity," But what does that mean when “my essentials” are your “non-essentials” and vice versa?

We’re all tempted to make our take on things the best and the brightest. Yet, in so doing, we shatter the only thing that holds the Body of Christ together: love, humble, sacrificial, less-of-self-and-more-of-Christ love – charity in ALL things.

I am weary of being told that because I favor the ordination of lesbians and gays, I can’t possibly be faithful to Scripture. Though tempted to hurl the same charge, I refuse. I cannot reconcile our divergent points of view, but love for one another through Christ is greater than our “points of view.”

“Points of view” you say? “No, not points of view. My take on things is not a point of view. My take is simply more faithful to the Bible than yours. My faith is doctrinally and historically more pure than yours.” Of course, and the moon is made of cheese.

Positive Life

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out” (John Wooden).

I love to be around positive people – I feel better, I feel stronger and life looks better.

The practice of a positive life is simple, although it’s a lesson I learn a hundred times a day.

Positive life is a choice, a choice to remember: I am who God says I am, I have what God says I have, and I can do what God says I can do.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Positive Life Pledge: Today, I will make the best out of what happens. I will look for the good, and I will find it. I will trust God with the Spirit of Jesus inside of me helping me. Today, when fearfulness rises in my heart, I will turn form it and send it packing. When overwhelmed with burdens, I’ll lay them down at the foot of the cross and give them all to Jesus.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Halloween … Trick or Treat … or what?

In recent years, some Christians have expressed concerns about Halloween and possible connections to Satanism, etc..

Halloween has been around a long time in European culture and then to America.

The actual term comes from All Hallows’ Day or All Saints Day. The word “hallow” is used in the LORD's prayer, “hallowed be thy name” – or holy is your name.

Actual origins are not entirely clear … but it likely predates the Christianizing of Europe. Perhaps a Celtic festival of some sort, but having nothing to do with Satanic practices. In both pre-Christian and Christian Europe, dressing up was an attempt to scare away evil spirits, mostly in good fun – sort of catching them in their own game!

In America, Halloween was largely a night of pranks – tipping over outhouses, etc.. But in mid-20th century, costuming and begging for treats became the predominant practice.

Dressing up and going through the neighborhood begging for sweets is now a childhood ritual that’s perfectly harmless. Christians needn’t be afraid of such things.

Parents might monitor the costumes for the blood and gore effect, age-appropriate and just plain appropriate – there are plenty of costumes available for all ages that are fun and entertaining, even scary.

I think it’s a good idea for parents to accompany their children – make this a fun family night. Go out with the children, meet your neighbors, and invite grandparents or friends over for pumpkin pie or ice cream treats. Children quickly outgrow Halloween, but until they do, we can all have fun with them.

There are no monsters under the bed and no ghouls hiding in the closet.

The real monsters are poverty, war and environmental degradation.

By loving our children, and giving them a sense of confidence, we prepare them for adulthood where they will have to face difficult choices and serious challenges.

Until then, a part of successful growing-up is having fun, participating in holidays and other such national pastimes and learning to enjoy life.

As in all things, moderation … lots of parental involvement … and a home filled with love.

A child who goes to bed at night knowing they are loved will acquire the skills needed for life and the courage to face life’s challenges.

Until then, Boo!

My only consolation

My only consolation - Bush will go down in history as our worst president - having bankrupted our economy, destroyed our international credibility, sent several thousand soldiers to their death, and hitched his wagon to Christian whackos.

A ship of fools: Rove, Cheny, Rumsfeld and a host of lesser lights who polluted their office with shady deals, covert actions and blatant disregard for justice, all the while placating the far right with "faith talk."

Thankfully, Republicans around the nation are awakening to the reality - the party has been hijacked.

And millions of Christians are finding their voice - the far right is out of touch with reality and DOES NOT speak for the vast majority. The inane "last days scenario" of the far right, and its obsession with the American bedroom presents a view of faith so distorted that it bears no relationship to historic Christianity.

The media, now finally catching up, failed us - mongering headlines rather than investigative journalism, going with whatever ups the viewing audience, the media failed to provide discernment. Where's an Edward R. Murrow these days who can help us dig through the junk and find the treasure of truth?

I have always believed in the inherent sanity of America, and now having passed through a brief moment of insanity driven by 911 fears and finagled by the Machiavellian machinations of a Carl Rove, we are finally emerging from a very dark cave. God be praised.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Courage, the ability to keep doing what’s right in the face of terrible odds.

A man facing a painful death, yet refusing to give in to melancholy and self-pity, who remains upbeat with friends and family even as he’s thoroughly honest with them about the progress of his disease and it’s outcome.

A spouse caring for an ailing mate. Day-after-day, monitoring medications, making appointments, and offering love and kindness mostly unreturned. When the mate is in a nursing home – the faithful trip in the morning, the long hours at the bedside, and the lonely ride home in the evening.

A human resources manager ordered to terminate 300 employees from a profitable division, but just not profitable enough. So the man refuses to do so, and when upper management applies the heat, he resigns.

A pastor who challenged his southern congregation in the early sixties on race, bearing threats of harm to himself and his family, yet remaining steadfast until forced out of the pulpit by an amalgam of church politics and big money.

Parents caring for a challenged child … an inner-city teacher with a class too large and supplies too limited … and a thousand other tiny dramas wherein folks return kindness for rudeness, forgiveness rather than rebuttal and attack, faith when others are critical, and goodness when others only complain.

A Christian, steady in prayer, faithful in worship, humble in service and selfless in praise, willing to go the extra mile, with an open Bible and an open mind, lifting up the name of Jesus with grace and gentleness.

Moments of courage.

~ Pastor Tom Eggebeen, October 22, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Remember Our Address


A simple word, a preposition. “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our LORD.

I live in SoCal … I live in a home on La Tijera Blvd … I believe in love, goodness and justice.

Do you catch the drift? “I believe in” points to values or ideas that I claim, but “I believe in,” like “I live in,” also points to a place where I live.

One of the great truths of the Bible, “we are in Christ” – a place, a destination, a location, our home – you and I are in Christ. He’s our address!

“I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:26).

Yesterday, I had lunch at In-N-Out Burger by LAX. When I left, I noticed some wall posters featuring scenes from the 60s – and a slogan … “Southern California.” I read it, and for a moment, read it as outsider, and than whammo, it hit me, “I live here. I live in SoCal.”

No longer an outsider.

Paul writes: “You are no longer foreigners, but fellow citizens, members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19

You are in Christ! That’s where you live.

Have a good and productive day … and remember your address!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Big Business Myths

The film, Michael Clayton, reminds us of a tragic myth spun out of control during the Reagan years: Government is bad, but business will save us. Business is efficient; government is wasteful. The men and women of business can do a better job than congress and government agencies.

No doubt, government is often unwieldy and cumbersome, but after living in a corporate city, Detroit, for 16 years, I learned quickly that big business is incredibly wasteful, self-serving, inefficient, more unwieldy and cumbersome than government, and often just plain stupid!

Business can build cars, albeit not always good ones, but don't ask business to provide moral leadership. Business experience translates poorly into the realm of government. Government needs women and men of vision, philosophers and dreamers, who construct a moral realm to challenge and guide business and the whole of the Republic. We need prophets, not profits.

Our love affair with corporate capitalism is waning, and not a moment too soon.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Old-line evangelicals

Had an interesting encounter with and old-line evangelical ... as for me, I'm sort of an evangelical when it comes to theology, but liberal on the social issues ... works for me.

Anyway, I'm convinced that the paradigm of evangelical vs. liberal is breaking down, at least for the liberals ... not so sure about the hard-line evangelicals: they've long enjoyed holding a gun to the liberals: "Do as I do, say what I say before I accept you," and when liberals actually begin moving toward a more spiritual take on things, the old-line evangelical hardly knows what to do.

They tend to sputter a lot.

Liberals can't brag a whole lot either, but perhaps it's the liberal who has the greater chance of actually moving to a new position. And, thank God, there are tons of soft-core evangelicals moving toward a more socially just take on things. And I've heard a few old-time liberals sputter, too!

We love our divisions.

Grapes of Wrath

Been reading Grapes of Wrath - have to admit, I've never read it before, and thanks to a friend, I now have a copy of it. Amazing how Steinbeck captured the dialect (I lived 12 years in Oklahoma) and the tragedy of losing everything.

Also reading, in preparation for Advent, Dickens' Christmas Carol, wherein Scrooge believes that the poor can have all the shelter they need - in prisons and workhouses.

Both Steinbeck and Dickens hold before the reader the hardship of poverty, yet never lose sight of the poor as real people, with hopes and fears, longings and loves, just like everyone else.

Heard a specialist in Middle East last night - a simple reminder that Americans rarely hear the whole story on the Palestinians and are poorly informed on history. Imagine that!

Unfortunately, much of our Middle East policy in the last ten years has been influenced by the far right, the religious kooks who can hardly wait for "the war" which will usher in the Golden Age of Jesus. They want to preserve the nation of Israel so that it will be the place of slaughter when the time comes. Does this make sense? Of course not.

By the way, I'm committed to Hillary ... can hardly wait to have a new president and a fresh voice of reason and social responsibility in the Oval Office - send its present occupant back to the bush country of Texas where he can whack weeds and spit. In two terms, he has bankrupted our economy, profoundly damaged our international reputation, told our allies to take a hike, presented a Scrooge-like philosophy on the poor, sent thousands of troops to their death or a life of suffering, catered to big oil interests, tried to take over the world while posturing behind spiritual subterfuge, and twisted patriotism into a hideous passion. My only comfort is that history will determine his presidency to be our worst.

Been reading a bit about Lincoln - now there was a great president.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Big Bear Lake

Went to Big Bear Lake today - 2 1/2 hrs - into the San Bernardino Mountains - beautiful.

Drove the 405, 105, 605 and the 10 - an amazing system that impresses me - folks have done a lot of thinking about how to move impossible levels of traffic.

Driving the 105 at night is neat - the Metro Link in the middle, planes heading to LAX and thousands of cars - where's everyone going?

A good day!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Foolish and Dangerous

I'm watching Bill Moyers review of John Hagee and other such mainframe nuts who can hardly wait until conflagration overwhelms the Middle East to usher in the last days and the second coming of Jesus.

In a vitriolic speach, Hagee calls for a preemptive strike against Iran, yet in the next breath, tells his audience that Iran will attack Israel, Russia will enter the fray, and then Jesus will come. In one moment, he's telling us to defend Israel, yet believes that only when Israel is attacked will the final age be ushered in. Sadly, such confused thinking is endangering Israel all the more, even as Hagee thrills to the idea of holy war, reminding his audience that we're reliving history - it's 1938 all over again, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is Hitler. So what does Hagee want? Shall we defend Israel or welcome it's attack?

This is the worst kind of Dispensationalism and end-times thinking, both foolish and dangerous.

Foolish because it's an amalgam of contradictions, playing upon fears and a misconstrued view of Israel's place in the world, and end-time scenarios derived from a defective reading of Revelations. Dangerous, because it fires the convictions of a small and thoughtless group of Christians, Neo-cons, Theo-cons, Hyper-capitalists, militarists, American fascists and pro-Israel factions who currently hold the ear of certain elements in our government.

Fortunately, Hagee's place in the sun is being eclipsed by a more progressive, thoughtful and liberal Christianity which sees the world in the light of hope and faith, not warfare and violent end-times scenarios.

This form of Christianity has long been the silent majority, but not much longer. The sheer willfulness of folks like Hagee, claiming center stage in the last ten years, has awakened thoughtful Christians to get busy studying Scripture, reading widely and learning to articulate a more reasoned and reasonable message, joining together and reminding our government that the majority of Christians in this nation have a profoundly different take on things, a positive, humanitarian, progressive view that builds up rather than tears down.

The second part of Moyers' program - the Amish and the power of forgiveness - a reminder of another world for war mongering Christians like Hagee, a better world, a world where love governs the heart, forgiveness guides relationships and faith relies upon God more than upon fear and retaliatory strategies. Thank God for the Amish!


I’m having fun preparing this Sunday’s message. Who wouldn’t have fun with a message entitled, “Baloney”?

And that’s my interpretation of our LORD's response to the plea of the disciples: “Increase our faith.”


Because the plea for “more faith” arises out of the message of scarcity, a script from hell – a life of endless, competitive, joyless, questing for what is missing. It’s the original ploy of the snake in the grass – something is missing, God overlooked it, or worse, God cheated you, and it’s up to you to get it for yourself.

The message of scarcity“If only I had more …” (fill in the blank), “then I would …” (fill in the blank).

Jesus is clear: you can trust what resources you have, and you can trust who you are.

Start with the message of abundance: “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly,” says Jesus. Reminding us (with a paraphrase of something Joel Osteen says): “I am who God says I am, I have what God says I have, and I can do what God says I can do.”

Self- trust is the heart of praise. “LORD, thank you for me, for creating me the way you did, for giving me the talents and gifts I have, for shaping the character of my heart.”

Whatever comes your way, you’ll manage it. You have what you need, and you can do what’s needed.

And you’re not alone – maybe that’s the real piece of the puzzle: we have our community of faith, and with that, we have Jesus: “I am with you always!”

Trust yourself, and you will find yourself trusting God all the more!

Have a good day … take care, travel well and do good!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fighting Atheist

Christopher Hitchens fancies himself a qualified critic of faith. Oh well, when my boy was six years old, he thought a blue cape could make him fly.

While raising some questions that people of faith need to consider, Hitchens paints in such broad strokes as to discredit himself. Like the very fundamentalists and such that he disdains, his method is precisely the same: there are only two sides, "theirs" and his. Whether it be the fulminations of a Rod Parsley (I love that name), a D. James Kennedy (God rest his soul) or Osama Bin Laden, the method of angry people is much the same: anger narrows the field to "them" or "us," or "everyone else" and "me."

For further review of this silly book, please see the review in the September 18 Christian Century:

Read it for what it's worth ... not much ... but as a person of faith, I know that it's a good thing to know what someone like Hitchens believes and to honestly face faith's foibles and failings, for they are legion.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Divided America?

Rod Parsley and gang, each vying for the top spot in the latest right wing polls, all have one silly thing in common - they tell us everyone and everything is divided, black or white, red or blue, right or wrong, Christian or satanic.

And, of course, they're on the right side of things, and we can be on the right side, too. Just sign on the dotted line and be sure to pony up a few bucks.

Just another bunch of hucksters blowing into town with snake oil.

Their windbag preaching is a "false dichotomy" creating illusions, firing bad emotions, and misleading thousands of decent folk so desperate for meaning they'll shell out big bucks for a bottle filled with promises. They appeal to the heartache of the poor and to the worst instincts of the wealthy.

American church history has been a free market - from the mundane to the silly, from the best to the worst, and everything in between. It's great, but a free market requires savvy shoppers.

Rod Parsley and gang want to divide and conquer, lots of smoke and mirrors.

They're rewriting American history to give it a more "Christian" twist to justify their rantings and ravings.

They're reconstructionists, hoping to dismantle the separation of church and state to create a theocracy looking and behaving no differently than the Taliban.

They're in bed with the neo-cons in their insane effort to take over the world with America on top.

A sad and dangerous mix of ideas, money and power.

Their day in the sun is waning, however - God be praised.

Pragmatic America will buy only so many bottles of promises before they run the guy outta town on a rail, tarred and feathered.

There is truth, there is beauty, there is faith, hope and love, and it works to build up, lift up, encourage the faint-hearted, opening doors of opportunity, speaking tenderly, welcoming every voice and embracing all, to make this a better world.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Writing the Future

Who hasn’t wanted to re-write the past?

But like a hand imprint in cement, the past is there, unchanging and unchangeable. Like the scars of Jesus. The past can neither be undone nor entirely forgotten.

But if God is at work in ALL things for good, if God can take the cross and all the horror associated with it and channel its terrible energy into salvation for the world, then maybe the past isn’t so severe after all.

Which sets up life for the really good news: we can write our future.

There is always time for new decisions, new attitudes, new choices.

Like the scars of Jesus, our past is our past, but nothing is so terrible, nothing so powerful, that it’s beyond the handiwork of God to channel its energy, negative or worse, into something meaningful and good.

Remember, God is on your side … not merely to please and satisfy, but to make all things new, to use your scars as reminders that God was there, even in the worst of times, and God is with you now, opening doors that you couldn’t open, and creating doors in blank walls, some of which we have to open with faith, hope and love.

Have a good day writing your future and those opening new doors!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Change the World?

Watching a piece on TV about bionic developments - amazing.

Thought: how the world would have changed had America spent its billions on bionic research and building schools rather than war.

Have we made the world safer for democracy?

Have we lessened the factors that create terrorism - specifically poverty and fear?

Guns or butter is always the question, but there's another question: Why is it so easy to spend for guns and so difficult to spend for butter?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Is God Green?

Though sympathetic to Evangelical devotion to Jesus & the text, I've had no regard for their social positions.

So, I'm intrigued by the growing "green" momentum among certain Evangelical quarters.

Presbyterian News Service has an article about it:

Who knows - stranger things have happened.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rain in Sunny SoCal

Moved to Sunny SoCal end of July - lots of firsts, including rain today. Strange. No big deal in Michigan, but since moving here July 26, not a drop. Folks drive on wet streets like folks in Georgia drive on snow - not well. Several accidents today by the church, 80th and Sepulveda - fender-benders, but one car ran the curb and dove into some bushes - I saw some folks, arms a-waving, talking to one of LA's finest. Hope they got things straightened out. An accident sure can ruin the day. Pays not to be in a hurry around here, but most everyone is. Hope I don't catch whatever they have. I'm learning to leave in plenty of time, enjoy the scenery, keep my windows to enjoy the sounds of the city. As always, pay attention to where I am - let the sights, sounds, people, smells - junk and buses, restaurants - homes and strip malls - paint a Kaleidoscope of color on my mind. Enjoy, count the blessings. "Find God in the music!" (advice from my organist).

Friday, September 21, 2007

In the Valley of Elah

What a profound film ... of father's and sons ... the grace of a family ... dignity and hope ... the madness of war and the courage to love.

Oscar-level in all regards.

The most powerful anti-war film I've ever seen without being anti-war - no politics here, just a family: a Vietnam veteran father, a mother - the death of an older son ten years earlier in a helicopter crash, and now their younger son, just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, missing from his base.

Dad hauls gravel in a small Tennessee town - when a soldier, he was military police; a no-nonsense kind of guy - few words, clear and to the point. Upon hearing of his son's disappearance, he heads west to the base. He mets a local detective who persists in following the leads, confronting inertia in both the military and local police departments - just another soldier. But not just another soldier - Hank Deerfield's son!

Tommy Lee Jones reflects the heart of every father - his face conveys every emotion - a man filled with military poise and dignity, looking for a boy whom he loves dearly.

Charlize Theron is Det. Emily Sanders - young, savvy, with a heart - incredible performance.

Go see this film ... and pray for our solders!

This war is doing horrible things to them, to our nation, to all of us!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Faith, Hope and Love

Faith, hope and love.

Faith in God, the God and Father of our LORD Jesus, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, the One who fashioned us out of the dirt of the earth and blew the breath of life into us.

Hope, indefatigable hope, because the One who created us is at work in all things for good, nudging all of us along the right road – the paths of righteousness.

Love, the consequence of the first two.

With our soul stabilized by faith, our spirit suffused with indefatigable hope, we’re free to love. Anxiety is the enemy of love; anxiety drives self-concern and a reduced awareness of others. But faith and hope set us free, free to give, free to live, and free to love.

Not a bad deal!

God be praised!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I Love Los Angeles

I love it here.

Haven’t had my radio on much – I love to drive, windows down, hear the sounds of the city – I’m an urban guy.

Saw some guy pitch his trash out the car … someone else dumped an empty cup on the sidewalk … so it goes.

There was a time when things like that bummed me ( still do, a bit), but I’ve learned that getting bummed is a waste of time, a diversion, a distraction that accomplishes nothing, except raising my blood pressure.

Several years ago, I pulled up to a red light on my way to church, behind a car with crude bumper stickers and a tough-lookin’ blond puffin’ away, her radio blaring, and just as I was getting self-righteous and uppity, the message I was listening too said: “Don’t worry about the world and it’s behavior. That’s the way the world is – we’re not likely to change the world, but we can change ourselves.”

I’ve taken that advice to heart – how much time and energy I’ve wasted over the years being self-righteous and uppity. Sure I care, and I’ll do my share in picking up after others and minding my own store.

Which reminds me, my wife and I saw a young lady snag an errant plastic bag on the Santa Monica pier and put it in a garbage can – whoever she was, hats off to her.

I love it here.

A fellow traveler along the 405.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

“The Arts in Latin America: 1492 – 1820” is a terrific exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art tells the story of the church in Latin America, a story that saddened and depressed me.

As I toured the exhibit, my spirit grew heavier and darker – this is not the Gospel, this is not what our LORD intended for the church – ceaseless pomp and glory, power and command, a total determination of life, a manipulation of emotions - hardly the church of Acts 2.

Two pieces unsettled me deeply: a portrait of a 19-year old girl entering the convent. On her head a crown of flowers (perhaps added by a later artist) to indicate the glory and the beauty of marrying Christ and entering His service. But the artist (knowingly?) captured something else: in her eyes, fear and bewilderment, like a lamb being led to the slaughter.

A two-piece set captured the burning and rebuilding of a “retreat” for unwed mothers. A huge structure, burning in one frame, and then being gloriously rebuilt in the other. All across the Catholic world, homes for unwed mothers – one of the darkest stories in all of Christendom. Baby factories, and the children born in them were fodder for the church – being raised as priests and nuns. Nothing more needs to be said, but history has yet to tell this tale for an institution that excels in hiding the truth to this very day.

The heavy altar pieces, the statuary – and up to the present time, processions – men shouldering and carrying heavy images – reminds me of something Isaiah wrote: “Some pour out gold from their bags … they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god … they bow down and worship it … they lift it to their shoulders and carry it … they set it up and there it stands … it cannot move, it does not answer … it cannot save from troubles (46:6-7).

On an artistic scale, this is an incredible exhibit, but it comes too close too home for me; everything that can go wrong with religion went wrong in Latin America. Command and control – whether it be the Roman Church in Latin America or a right wing fascist like Pastor John Hagee – is destructive of the church and brings no good to the world.

Monday, September 3, 2007

I'm an Evangelical

I’m an evangelical, and I claim that title gratefully.

I believe in Jesus Christ as my LORD and my Savior, I believe in the literal Virgin Birth (God teasing us), the atoning function of His crucifixion (something profoundly good happened), the bodily resurrection (so utterly Jewish) and a literal second coming (when God shall bring time and eternity to the picnic table), the inspiration of Scripture (easy does it on this one!) – but I’ll not fight anyone on such things. I don’t have to defend these beliefs; they’re mine to enjoy and share, but how they work out in someone else’s life is up to God, not me!

I’m also pro-choice on social issues and pro-gay, advocating marriage as a gift and a right for any two adults in love.

I’m tired of some “evangelicals” wearing the title like a gunfighter wearing 45s.

To be an evangelical is to believe in the goodness and mercy of God, and in the freedom of humanity to work it out as best they can … to leave folks alone … and to be the light of the world, gentle and modest, and the salt of the earth – not the whole dadgum stew.

For fresh insights, I recommend Diane Bass’ Christianity for the Rest of Us.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mother Teresa has doubts

Fine op-ed piece in Times ... A Saint's Dark Night by JAMES MARTIN ... about MT's "dark night of the soul." I wrote following to the Times:

The op-ed piece about Mother Teresa by James Martin is terrific. Great Christians, when free from the pressure of the church to "always put on a happy face," write of their own darkness. The obsession of Christianity to "conquer all ills" combined with American fixation on happiness generates huge amounts of uneasiness and anxiety, creating an ever-greater self-obsession. On the other hand, real darkness, wilderness-darkness, is an essential part of a living faith. The only faith that never doubts is a dead, calcified, faith. Living faith courts doubt. The witness of Mother Teresa isn't about an all-conquering happiness, but a faith-full life devoted to good, in spite of the darkness - a decision we all can make, each in our own way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Christian Jihad?

Reading NYTimes Mag (8.19.07) article on politics and religion – how the West has moved in very different directions than Middle East – we’ve separated religion and politics; but other parts of the world see them as one and the same, as the West once did in Middle Ages. Yet even in the west, after WW 1, “messianism” arose with a vengeance in Nazism and Communism. Even in America, there are Christian fundamentalists – Dominionists, Reconstructionists, Theo-cons – who dream of transforming our democracy into a theocracy and destroying the wall between church and state. They’re busy rewriting American history, seeking control of local school boards, the military and government, trumpeting fear at every turn, preaching well-regulated conformity to their own and ill-will to everyone who disagrees. As far as I’m concerned, they represent a real and present danger to the well-being of the Republic – not some enemy across the sea, not even some terrorist group flying a plane into a building, but Christian fundamentalists who despise diversity, hate freedom of choice and love their own brand of jihad against an unbelieving world.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Something more ...

Been reading a variety of reports, opinions, on our necessary stay in Iraq with comparisons to our withdrawal (we got booted out) from Vietnam ... that Iraq is more central to world stability and our national interests than Vietnam - call it oil!

But I wonder ... having greatly destabilized an already destabilized region (read: how the Western nations carved it up after the end of the Ottoman Empire), our withdrawal now from Iraq, precipitous or otherwise, would bring about a bloody re-balancing, no doubt. But a re-balancing none the less, and if Iran turns out to be the kingpin, let’s assume for a moment that diplomacy and Iranian desires for recognition and a place in the sun would create a pathway for peace, in spite of the lingering thorn-in-the-flesh of the Palestinian question.

Worst-case scenarios are the road-kill delight of hawks, neo-cons hoping for world domination, theo-cons hoping to provoke Armageddon, and other such folk who love the smell of napalm in the morning.

But I wonder …

There’s a definition of insanity … keep doing the same old things and expect different results.

With the old Soviet Union, the West won the Cold War by diplomacy, containment and third-world development. Therein are clues to a needed strategy for dealing with the Middle East, Iran, and whatever or whoever comes along.

Peace is best served by distance, letting the nations of the Middle East sort it out, trusting the powers of diplomacy, and being smart enough to contain but not to conquer.

Like Anyone Else ...

Like anyone else, who doesn't want a place to be heard ... just hope I have something to say. More later ...