Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Hateful People Ignore

What hateful people always ignore is the children. 

Boehner and Company, the Koch Bros, and all the rest have so hardened their hearts against the children. Watch children. Listen to children, and all the t-bag nonsense is revealed for what it is - a great evil in the land. 

For the sake of the children, let the whole damn country go bankrupt, if that what it takes to give to our children every opportunity they deserve, and the children will grow up and rescue us and restore us. And we won't go bankrupt when we spend ourselves silly on the children. We will go bankrupt when we behave miserly. 

For the first time in my life, I'm beginning to understand Matthew 13.12 ... "For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. "

The miserly, the skimpy, the cheap, those who cry poverty - yes, they already have nothing, and what they have will be taken away. But those who have compassion, open hands and open hearts, whatever they have, more will be given to them.

This is a spiritual principle, AND an economic reality.

Poverty of spirit breeds terrible policy.

But kindness builds a great nation.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Young Man in the Phillippines

From a young man of the church who's doing a semester in the Philippines ...

With limited access to the Internet, this is his first note home - with Mom's permission, I'm publishing his note here:

Hey guys, so I have limited access to wifi here in the philippines. But i can email you about once a week. Hopefully we can set up a skype session soon as well. In my first week alone so much has happened. We are usually up at six and I work out with the guys. Then we come back and take showers (only cold water here), and get started with the day. This first week has been orientation, so every day is jam packed. We have visited everyone's praxis sites. Mine was first, sitio payong is a small slum village with no running water or electricity. It is literally across the street from huge mansions owned by the filthy rich of the philippines. Guards patrol every day in the morning and evening, since the people in sitio payong dont own the land they live on, the guards make it as hard as possible forn them to live there. They want the people to move leave, so they dont lert the people improve there houses in any way, and if the people MUST, the have to sneak it. They are locked in at ten at night, and the gates open at six, so if anyone is sick or injured between these hours, they usually arent allowed out to go to the hoispital. There are 250 families crammed super tightly together in ramschackle huts made of tarp and sheet metal. I will be there two days a week. On our visit they gave us lumpia and prepared a presentation for us. I met the village leaders and met some of the kids, who call me big brother (in tagolog) chaz. Ill be there casey and mariah, we are thinking about teaching them american games, as well as helping them learn to read, and casey and I want to help them with some construction. I met two little boys who were brothers while we there, four and five, who had toy guns and I played with them a little bit. They chased after our jipnee as we drove away yelling by big brother chaz!! I could trell you an amazing inspirational story about every day ive been here, but it would take too long via email, hopefully when we skype.

Today during mass I spoke with one of the women who lives there and cooks for us every day, and she told me the two little boys had died on friday. Myself, mariah, and casey, went to the village with the casa leaders. It has rained extremely hard the last three days and the village (which has no paved roads) is completely muddy and very hard to walk through. We were invited to the mothers house, where her family was gethered outside in mourning. We went inside and wealked into a room with twso tiny white caskets with windows where the boys faces could be seen clearly, the mother of the boys brought us chairs and sat in between her sons and told us in philippino (someone translated) that the boys had been playing in the nearby river while she sold vegetables in the nearby village. The younger brother fell in and began to drown, so his older brother tried to carry him out of the water, but wasnt strong enough and drowned with his little brother. While she told us the story, little boys kep running up to me and saying hello big brother and giving me high fives, little ducklings walked around and played in the mud, and little girls played in the rain outside. 

This country is a dichotomy of poor and rich, polluted and beautiful, delightful and grief stricken. And today was one of the hardest moments of my life emotionally.Despite that, I am so glad that I am here and have learned so much already. I love you guys and miss you. I feel like I am here for a reason, and the real learning will be in sitio payong, not the classroom. Ill keep in touch as best as possible, next time ill send pictures. I love you!!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When American Christianity Had Substance

The Post World War 2 years were a time when American Christianity had a positive image.

When folks said "Christian," they were likely to think of names like:

Reinhold Niebuhr of Union Seminary and his trenchant analysis of America's global power.

Paul Tillich and his "ground of our being" and "ultimate concern," with a powerful linkage between psychology and faith.

Georgia Harkness at the Pacific School of Religion, her ecumenical stance and her critique of "original sin" - "the sooner it disappears, the better it is for theology."

William Sloan Coffin, Jr. and Freedom Riders, and his subsequent stance against the Vietnam War.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, and his profound linkage between civil rights, peaceful protest and the Vietnam War.

Pastors regularly referred to Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was hanged by the Nazis ... and Bonhoeffer's Swiss counterpart, Karl Barth, and their construal of the faith in light of the nationalist madness that drove Europe into war and the world into suffering.

For the Roman Catholics, there was Dorothy Day and her decision to live a life on behalf of the poor and her subsequent work to challenge the Church and America to a redistribution of wealth.

And the world was taken with Pope John the 23 - a fresh wind for a tired church, building bridges to Protestant Christianity and moving the church away from it's Medieval entrapment.

At the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold and his mysticism undergirding his economics and his economics informing his mysticism.

In England, it was C. S. Lewis and his intriguing restatements of the faith for a world emerging out of the dust of war, and Dorothy Sayer, author and theologian.

In India, the tireless work of a little Albanian Nun, Mother Teresa.

It was a time when pastors in the South lost their pulpits because they stood up for Civil Rights and invited their white congregations to envision a new America free of segregation and Jim Crow Laws, inspired by Rosa Parks and her refusal to sit in the back of the bus.

When the madness of the McCarthy Era was exposed for what it was - a pack of lies, and clergy spoke up and spoke out about it.

It was a time when women were emerging from the shadows of servitude to find their rightful place in church and government.

A time, as well, when American preachers were likely to quote from John Steinbeck, Cesar Chavez and Eleanor Roosevelt.

For Presbyterians, it was a time of creative rethinking of the faith, giving birth to The Confession of 1967 and its missional understanding of the church.

It was the best of times and the worst of times, in so many ways, but in the mix of it all, American Christianity had a positive image, and when folks said, "Christian," they were likely to think of women and men who stood up for something good and great, something global in scope and driven by peace, even as much of the world was caught up in the arms race and the Western World silly with its "Red Scare."

There was a time when the word, "Christian," rang true and strong for the sake of a better world.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Religion and Violence

To a friend wondering about the connection between religion and violence:

I don't think it takes quite so much effort to define "religion" nor does it take a lot of work to define "violence" ... and even less effort to connect the two of them.

Ever since Constantine turned the cross in a sword-hilt, christianity has been killing like mad ... so has Islam ... and Judaism - Samuel and Kings are bloody with conquest and vengeance ... and the rogue State of Israel ... god here, god there ... god everywhere in the bloody mix of religion and violence.

Both World Wars were for God and Country ... what with chaplains blessings bombs and soldiers marching off to war ... and Japan's soldiers blessed by the Emperor/God.

It's not that religion produces only violence, but if I had to weigh it in the scales of history, I'd say that religion has produced more violence than it has peace.

Jesus may be the prince of peace, but the church is the king of war.

Virtually all the big religions of the world, maybe even the smaller ones, avoid this issue like the plague ... it's always someone else's fault ... the cause always lies elsewhere ...

While religion, can sometimes, expose the human heart, mostly religion functions as a mask - the tired old mantra, "Jesus died to forgive our sins" is license for cruelty and violence without restraint. After all, we have to do what we have to do to defend our land, our way of life, whatever it may be ... and Jesus died for our sins, so we're off the hook ... home free and clear, and while we kill here with impunity, when we get to heaven, Jesus will smile and tell us how much his blood covered over our sins and washed them away.

Wow - what a gospel.

Anyway, that's how I see these days ...

Blessings and Peace ... and maybe some turmoil of soul, too.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Failed Christianity and Trees

Some thoughts for Sunday's sermon ...

The church turned Christianity into a "God will help you all the time; just call on him" … we carry god around with us like a superstitious person carries a rabbit's foot or a lucky pebble in the pocket … with the bible nothing more than a cereal box of Lucky Charms into which we dip for some lucky bible verse to see us through, empower us, or make us superior to others … sadly, this kind of Christianity hasn't made us stronger or better in the LORD, but weaker, teaching us that it's our fault if the lucky charm doesn't work.

Rather than giving us the courage to live, and to live well, it's made us frightened and self-condemning, and condemning of others, too.

We do well to remember the little remembered book of Esther - there isn't one mention of god in it … because the writer knows that we already know enough of God and Self to do what's needed, and that's to protect one another against the evil that exists in our world …

Knowing that evil can be defeated when we stand with one another … and stand with the trees and the wolves and the whales and the oceans, too, to protect all of it from evil, which is sometimes ourselves, the greed of our soul, which is all too ready to sacrifice others, even the world, to satisfy whatever our need might be.

The church would rather keep us dependent and confused rather than visionary and loving. Has Christianity failed the world? Clearly. Does this render it meaningless?

I don't think so ... but it calls into question what the church has done with it - from fiery pentecostals and their fumings or polite pulpit pundits who soothe souls wearied, not by good works, but from the failure to grasp life's purpose, so they can gain a few moments of rest and return the world on Monday, not with a changed mind and heart, but a stubborn determination to keep on trying to make greed work.

Perhaps like John Muir, we would do well to contemplate a tree - "I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do."