Sunday, November 17, 2013

A House Divided

When George McGovern lost the '72 election to Nixon, he was without bitterness, except in a phone call to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., (Journals, p.364) wherein he spoke of Nixon: "… really a diabolical son-of-a-bitch. He knows all the ways to divide the country - and to profit from divisions."

This caught my attention, as I have watched the politically conservative link arms with folks like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson to create the "culture wars," to pit Americans against Americans and profit from the divisions - a profit, not of wellbeing for the nation, but of power and position. Reagan did this with an uncommon elegance; Dubya did it through men like Rumsfeld and Chaney. Ralph Reed became the power broker between the religious right and conservative politicians.

History will make it abundantly clear that religious "leaders" like Falwell and Dobson, who sought only power, all in the name of Jesus, were men of great evil.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that religious leaders can be evil - history makes that abundantly clear.

And where there is evil, there is splintering. I think it was Tillich who suggested that the "splintering effect" is the clearest evidence of evil.

The splintering effect has had free play in America since Reagan, and it has engendered nothing but heartache and failure and a crippled government. Unless checked, it will run a disastrous course.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Aggression Against the Poor

The attack on abortion rights is aimed principally (intentionally or not) at the poor. Because the rich always have the means, one way or the other, to provide for their families, and/or seek an abortion. But it's the poor who suffer the most when women are denied the rights of choice. 

Much of what's done in the name of "morality and religion" is nothing less than full-out aggression against the poor - from state house to state house to the federal government, much of the rhetoric and legislation is designed to punish, humiliate and embarrass the poor - making life ever-harder for them. 

None of this makes any sense - it's like a pack of ravenous beasts, bellies full and already satiated, seeking just one more kill, but rather than killing the prey, simply running it down, until the prey falls exhausted, and still no kill, but only waiting … and when the prey attempts another move, it's beaten down again and again.

I watch some politicians with their goofy smiles showing well-cared for teeth and sporting fine clothes and spay-on tans, slavering over their next piece of legislation - "We'll show these takers; we'll hurt 'em for being so lazy and unproductive. Shame on them, and shame on us if we let 'em get away with their schemes to defraud welfare and live on food stamps. We'll show 'em a thing or two."

The poor are vulnerable and defenseless … they're easy prey for the proud and the powerful who seem to get some kind of a moral kick of out punishing the poor.

So I wonder - who are the advocates of the poor these days? We have some good voices in our land, no doubt, but so many who might otherwise be counted on for a friendly voice on behalf of the poor seem compromised by the influence of the great powers and principalities of reactionary forces in our land. 

The poor of America are not stealing us blind or hurting us. Because the poor are poor; they can only live on the margins of society and survive on the crumbs that fall from the tables. Yet, when a hand reaches for a crumb, there are some eager to slap that hand away with fierce condemnation. 

There is a hardness of heart gripping America right now … years of crummy politics telling us that "government is the problem" and too much war and too many lies … along with Wall Street binging and America's lack of will to stop the robber barons from pillaging the public coffers and tilting the game board in their favor.

I have a hard time seeing how this can end well for us. If the arc of history bends toward justice, those persons, powers and principalities, who fight against the arc of justice will ultimately find themselves broken by it and cast aside into the darkness (Matthew 25).

In the darkness of their own choosing, the powerful will cry out for water, and demand of Abraham that he send Lazarus to dip his finger into some cool water and drip it on the rich man's tongue - it would seem that the rich man, even in hell, remains unrepentant and demanding, expecting Abraham to do his bidding, willing to hurt further the poor man, who, no longer sits at the rich man's gate, but now resides in Abraham's bosom instead (Luke 16).

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Before Obamacare - How Wonderful It Was!

I recall, fondly, the days before "Obamacare," when everyone loved their health insurance plan and providers. Oh, it was heaven, wasn't it! All health-care bills paid in a timely manner by the insurer. And it was affordable, wasn't it! Heck, employers chipped in their share without complaint, and no questions asked about vital procedures recommended by the doctor. And, of course, no fraud on the part of hospitals and doctors. And the troubling business of pre-existing conditions? And cancellations when changing jobs? And treatments denied? Well, let's not trouble our heads about those little issues. Oh, before "Obamacare," it was just wonderful, wasn't it! How we all loved our medical insurance programs, giving thanks to god every day that we lived in a nation that took seriously the health of its citizens, especially the children, and, oh yes, the poor, too. Yup, those were the days my friends.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sectarian Prayers

Been a pastor for 44 years (PCUSA kind) - have given many an invocation in all sorts of settings from city councils to state legislatures. Early on, I made the decision to honor all faiths and keep my prayers free from specific religious references. 

It's easy to compose a non-sectarian prayer that honors whatever deity one's invoking and respects all who are present. 

Obviously, even the most neutral of all prayers is likely to reference some divine element, even if prayers are addressed to the earth, the universe, or to one's pet turtle. 

Christian pastors who refuse to honor those present and choose to make prayers pointedly "christian," are choosing to be offensive in the worst kinds of ways. 

While congratulating themselves for their courage, they're really thoughtless - rather than honoring Jesus, they're using him as a sledge hammer to further their own sense of power.