Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Problem of Knowing History

I know a bit of history ... 

I’ve given some attention over the last 10 years to WW1 and the aftermath, when the Western Powers, after promising Arabs autonomy if they sided with the allies and rebelled against the Ottoman Empire, broke all of their promises and gave the Levant to both France and England and then proceeded to create the current boundaries of the Middle East extending through Persia (Iran), so that England would have clear access, via land and sea, to India.

And, of course, oil.

France already had North Africa, England had Egypt ... 

Germany, in once sense, lucked out on this one - they lost all of their colonial possessions in Africa and elsewhere, so, interestingly, Germany has no association with the bitter colonial memories that still simmer in the ME.

In recent years, of course, Uncle Sam has played a fateful role, engineering coups and all sorts of adjustments to keep the oil flowing ... and, of course, the very sad story of the State of Israel ... a sore spot in the ME that won’t go away.

Now, to Paris, a great sadness ... but it’s not just a matter of “innocent” Europeans and “Evil” Muslim terrorists.

It’s a tragic mix of roosters coming home to the former colonial powers, and what better target than France with its long-standing, and often oppressive moves in North Africa and the Levant, all mixed up in the swamp of American oil interests and America’s devotion (some would say, “enslavement) to the State of Israel.

During WW2, various underground groups fought against the Nazis, and they were lauded by us as patriots and heroes, while the Nazis termed them criminals and terrorists. 

For many in the ME, who have endured the long dark nights of colonialism and its lingering legacy, who have seen their nations repeatedly molested by Western interests, there is a rising tide of resentment, especially among the young, and some if this resentment is become highly militarized, seeing the West as enemy, an enemy that understands only violence (sadly, the kind of violence inflicted on the ME by the former colonial powers).

And now learning about the Bush Administration and its hand in all of this deadly ME story further complicating our understanding of how all this came to be.

There are no innocent hands here.

Someone asked me, “Well, what should be done?”

The worst response would be a military one, as if we could defeat nationalism, which is what this all about. In the past, England failed in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union did, and we’re not doing any better there ... and nowhere in the ME are there prospects of some kind of “victory” - e.g. Iraq.
The whole thing has the feel of a potential Vietnam (a former French colony, by the way, which the US took on as a war against Communism) - a quagmire from which there is no escape, and in which there is no “victory,” in spite of massive superior weaponry.

To move militarily right now is exactly what ISIS is counting on - Western hubris, with its trust in fire power ... boots on the ground, and all that. We’ll plunge into the deserts like we plunged in the jungles of Vietnam.

What’s needed now, more than ever, is restraint, diplomacy, and to work with Iran and other ME nations who are better equipped culturally to deal with ISIS. 

We continue doing what we’re doing, with clarity, however, that we can never be totally safe, any more than the Nazis were safe from the underground movements armed by the Allies. There is no absolute safety, and it’s insanity to think so. 

We keep on doing what we’re doing - yes, learning how to be more efficient, diligent, and mindful ... but there will always be surprises, broadsides, and death. The name of the game is wisdom, not wildness.

We need to respect the ME, and we have to deal with the State of Israel which has become a rogue nation depending on Uncle Sam to back it, no matter what, while it violates the Palestinians - Christian and Muslim alike - and everyone else it can.

Now is not the time for firepower and closed borders and hostile rhetoric ... now is the time for restraint and reason ... lest we find ourselves pulled into the trap of war on a massive scale, furthering our debt load, killing more of our soldiers, devastating more of the ME, accomplishing nothing, adding to the hatred, and feeding the dogs of war.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Party of Restoration

The GOP has become, more so than ever, the Restorationist Party, holding before America a vision of white picket fences, little girls in flouncy dresses, boys shooting marbles in the schoolyard, date night at the local soda fountain, families going to church, women in the kitchen, Mom rearing children, Dad going off to work in the office: home at 5:30 for dinner, the children glad to see Daddy, and, oh, by the way, racial dominance and purity, no foreigners, and a military, always prepared to defend freedom, wherein every young man can be a hero to his girl back home.

Last night’s Democratic Debate had none of this backward look, but only forward, as it must be. 

While a certain portion of our population hankers after what is believed to have been lost, the message of restoration is a quest for fool’s gold. It never works, and always ends badly. 

Mussolini preached restoration to Italy, with images of a revived Roman Empire.

Hitler preached restoration to Germany, with images of revived glory and racial purity.

The Democratic Debate last night was refreshing, to say the least, with its focus on the future, moving ahead with science, new ideas, and its courage to identify the real problems confronting us: income inequality, the near-total victory of an oligarchy, global warming, our persistent racism, prisons filled to capacity, universal health care, immigration, equality for LGBTQ persons, women’s choice, college education, our ceaseless wars as of late, the intransigence of the Republican Party, and the general welfare of all.

It is no accident that the rearview mirror in a car is small compared to the windshield ... the backward look is needed from time-to-time, but looking backward all the time leads only to mishap, most like a lethal mishap.

The Dems are the Party for the Future ... eagerly looking through the windshield to see where we’re going, and how to avoid the bumps in the road and the careening truck of global warming headed our way, and all the other challenges coming our way. 

By looking forward, we’ll see the way, we’ll find solutions, we’ll work together, to continue fulfilling the American Dream, a dream far larger today than it was yesterday, a dream that will continue to grow all the more as forward thinking people add their own vision and energy to “liberty and justice for all.”

It was fun last night to watch thoughtful people examine the real issues and problems of our life together.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Right Wing Christians and Christmas

Soon, we'll hear RW Christians go on and on about saying "Merry Christmas" as if saying the words were enough to insure the presence of God.

I'm reminded of Jeremiah 7.4 wherein the Prophet says, "Don't trust in deceptive words, "the temple of the LORD" repeated three times, as if repetition guaranteed truth. All the words in the world could not cover the greed and violence of the temple crowd. No wonder Jeremiah described it as a "den of thieves," a comment to which Jesus himself alludes.

Also reminded of Jesus' comment on prayer: Matthew 6.7 - not to heap up empty phrases.

When Christians go about quietly celebrating the birth of Christ, that's all that's needed.

Say "Merry Christmas" if you wish, but say it without the hammer in your hand, or, for that matter, the gun.

As for me, I like saying Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What Would I Do?

When confronted with a killer, what would I do?

In my imagination, I’d be strong and brave, and quickly take action to save the day. In my imagination, I’d be a hero.

But I really don’t know what I’d do.

None of us do.

And to even speculate is preposterous.

And to think that I’d react differently than others, that I’d be the hero while others would be chumps, is a slap in the face of those who have faced a killer, and died.

Perhaps I’d be the hero ... but not likely. I have no “hero” training, I’m no Ninja Warrior, I’m no Mad Max ... I’m not a Navy Seal or Special Opps Soldier. Perhaps I’d be the hero, but chances are much higher that I’d be a victim.

Only a terribly immature man would claim that he’d behave differently than all the rest. Maybe he would, but he doesn’t know; no one knows.

Ben Carson’s posturing about how he’d have handled it, reminds me of a little boy running around in a Ninja Warrior Costume, telling all of his stuffed animals, “I’m master of the universe.”

With his childish posturing, Ben Carson has managed to insult everyone who died in Roseburg; indeed, he has insulted the victims of violence everywhere.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

America's Gun Addiction

As I see it, it will take a concerted effort between government regulation and concerned citizens ... to control what has become an epidemic in this nation. 

And the more I think about it, the more I have come to see the "love of guns" as an addiction, a mental health issue. Why? Because it's unreasonable, much as any addict loves the source of pleasure - that is, the source is protected, honored, loved and celebrated at all times, to which endless hours of work and thought are devoted. Unreasonable? You bet. 

It's also careless - the consequences of the addiction are dismissed, and whatever collateral damage there may be to family, friends, society and self, the addict ignores it. 

Ultimately, there is no price too great for the addict; whatever it takes, the addict will do it, in order to gain "the pleasure" of the addicting substance. The "love of guns" is clearly an addiction, a mental health issue.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Love of Guns

In one of my FB threads, someone defends "love of guns" and then suggests that his use of the word "love" needs to be carefully distinguished by how the Bible treats love with a variety words ...
I wrote: love is love - it's an attachment, and a willingness to defend the love-object no matter what - dogs, houses, friends, spouses, lovers, cars, toys, addictions. Word distinctions matter little; what counts is behavior, and, at least for Christians, a willingness to follow the Prince of Peace, and to heed his advice: "Lay aside your weapon," would speak volumes. 
All of this talk about "trusting Jesus" seems to matter little when it comes to "trusting guns" instead. 
The far right has long imbibed the Kool-Aid of fear - creating a hideous paranoia in a segment of our population. 
Police officers may carry; licensed hunters may own, but never carry into a Walmart or anywhere else, other than field or forest. Not even in a pickup truck. 
All of this reveals the addiction we have to guns - because it's the addiction that takes over, it's the addiction that speaks. Much like any addict who protests: "I'm not addicted. I can quit anytime I want." But woe to the one who gets between the addict and his addiction. 
We're in a first class mess right now, and a screwball like Jeb Bush said it well - "stuff happens!" Guns are killing us, yes guns. Substitute baseball bats and knives for guns, and such deaths would plummet. 
We're a foolish nation being led by the nose by a perfidious group called the NRA. They've bought our politicians and have infiltrated evangelical churches all around the nation. "In Guns We Trust."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The War Against the Poor Rages on

The War Against the Poor rages on in conservative circles ... widely supported among evangelical christians ...

What are the roots of this malignant cancer eating away at America’s soul?

Two causes:

1) English landed gentry assumed that the peasant working in the field was less deserving of the things of life - determined by god to fulfill the role of servant for those determined by god to be the ruling, landed, class.

2) This was translated into the American Soul - only the landed gentry could vote, etc.. Then, comes the African Slave - of course, slavery was their god-determined role; they were less than human, anyway, and thus degraded in mind and spirit, but endowed with physical strength, to work the sugar cane and cotton fields.

After the Civil War, it wasn’t much easier for the African, and for the South, to justify its growing Jim Crow legal system, the same ideas were applied: being less than human, they were destined to work, and never enjoy the benefits of their labors. And a hint, as well, as punishment: “You cast your lot with the North, and now you will pay, pay mightily for what the North did to us.”

While lots of poor whites labored in the same system, they were at least accorded a certain dignity of status in society and in church. As long as there were Africans on the bottom of the heap, even the poorest and most wretched white man could look down his nose at the African, with disdain, and then fear and hatred, to further demonize the African and justify the growing patterns of violence against the African.

While prevented ultimately from openly directing all of this hatred toward the African, it was transmuted to a hatred of all things poor ... once again, evangelical christianity joined the chorus of hatred - “if you’re poor, you’re lazy; if you’re poor, it’s god’s judgment; if you’re poor, there’s something wrong with you. And what you need, all you need, is Jesus.”

Poverty of others becomes a means of self-congratulations - “I may be poor, but I’m not poor like THAT! I’m blessed by god, I’m bound for heaven, I work hard, and I’m a whole lot better than the raggedy man in his broken-down car and that disheveled woman on the street corner begging for coins.”

“No free stuff for anyone.”

And so the War Against the Poor rages on!

Monday, September 14, 2015

GOP's Fixation on Sex

Hardly a day goes by without some GOP reference to sex ...

1) Sex is the source of all our ills.
2) Women are always the temptress (you know, the apple and all).
3) Men are excused, well, because they're men.
4) Women are evil, because they're women (you know, the apple and all).
5) Women need to be restrained.
6) No more birth control; gives women too much freedom.
7) No more abortion, since pregnancy is always god's gift.
8) Women can't be trusted to make rational decisions.
9) Women, if in the work place, do inferior work, so pay 'em less.
10) If a woman's raped, its her fault. End of discussion.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Clearing the Way for the 1% to be Kind and Generous

If there's one thing I've learned about the demise of Labor Unions, it's this:
Owners, Stock Holders, Wall Street and Boards of Directors, are truly eager to show how kind and generous they can be, with higher wages for all their employees, broader benefits, no gender discrimination on pay, job security and training, access to medical insurance, family-leave, over-time pay and plenty of holidays.
Get the Unions out of the way, and America will see a new day of kindness on the part of the 1%.
All we need to do is finish off the Unions!
I can hardly wait!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Southern Tier Religion and Politics

Throughout the Southern Tier of the nation, an intense evangelicalism was spread upon the wound of slavery and Jim Crow laws - a thick, gooey, perfumed, salve, that healed nothing, even as it was used, none too successfully, to obscure the stench.

And the more the wounds suppurated, the more was spread the salve.

In part, to ease the conscience ("look at what fervent believers we are"), but religion so used can never heal the troubled conscience; in fact, the conscience itself, deeply troubled, has to engage in ever-tightening circles of self-deception, making a lie of the very religion so used.

Yes, true as well, in lots of places throughout the nation (because racism is part of our DNA), but the South, I fear, is the motherlode from whence the sorrow flows and spills over into the nation.

Many in the South stand against this; yes, this I know. But the current status of the South is frighteningly regressive, from statehouse to statehouse, and my sympathies to those of enlightened mind and heart who have to live in such environments.

One can only hope that RW people in the South will see how deceived they've been by a couple of centuries of preachers and politicians.

And I can only hope that women and men of good faith and conscience will confront these evils for what they are, and offer to the world something far better.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Comparing US to other Nations

Comparisons between the US and some European countries always bring howls of protest from those who are blindly committed to American Exceptionalism, the crippling belief that we're special, if not superior to everyone else.

Sadly, such nonsense makes it impossible for Americans to learn from others ... I mean, after all, what's to learn, when we already know it all, have it all, and can do it all - the American Way?

I'm reluctant to writer any further, but I'll push on ... having recently spent a few weeks traveling in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, by car and train, I can only conclude that their roads are magnificent, and their trains, plentiful and comfortable, run on time.

All of this with various forms of universal health care and support for education.

The people are happy, can't understand America's current health-care mess, enjoy eating out, love the sunshine, have generous family-leave time, and dress well.

Heaven on earth?

Of course not, but a simple reminder that America isn't the last word on everything, and slipping further behind, we're likely to have the last word on nothing, as the rest of the world, even the Third World, outstrips us in environmental care, affordable housing, public transit, health-care and education.

Some needed changes:

First off, American Exceptionalism is a lie ... the world if full of great nations, large and small. We badly need to get over ourselves.

Secondly, lots of nations are doing a far better job of caring for their citizens than we are. Imagine that.

And that means we have to learn from others. I know that galls some, but like it or not, if we can't learn, we will fail, and fail badly.

The current message of conservative politicians doesn't help right now, but sadly, theirs is a message that still has plenty of street appeal for a segment of the American People who find it necessary to think that might makes right, or something like that.

Progressive voices offer us our best hope, but their message doesn't carry the weight of a John Wayne or Charlton Heston.

I hope that Americans can awaken from their slumbers and begin to see how the lies of our conservative leaders are destroying us; that John Wayne and Charlton Heston are no help whatsoever, except if you're rich and wanna stay rich by robbing everyone else of life, health and hope.

I see hopeful signs ... people are sick of failing schools and the failed promises of charter schools ... people are sick of lousy roads and our lack of public transit ... people want health-care, decent jobs, wages and benefits.

Maybe, just maybe, folks will see how other countries are doing it, and that we can and we must learn from others, because we're in a real mess right now.

Tides turns, and I think the tide is turning to a more populist message, the kind that guided Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, even Eisenhower at times, and certainly Carter, Clinton and Obama, too. But now's the time for even more ... if America hopes to find its rightful place in the world story.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Anti-abortion Activists and Universal Health Care

Just read a piece about anti-abortion efforts across the nation, now going after 20-week restrictions.

I thought: I would feel a whole lot more comfortable with these folks and their efforts to restrict abortion if they supported:

1) Universal Health Care for everyone in America.
2) Expanding Medicare and Social Security.
3) Full funding for public education and scaled back on their support of charter schools.
4) Climate change research and funding.
5) Universal voter registration.
6) Sex education in our schools.
7) Free contraception.
8) A woman's right to contraception without fear of employer reprisal because of "sincerely held religious beliefs."
9) Marriage Equality.
10 Efforts to end the death penalty.
11) Fair taxation of the wealthy.
12) Infrastructure rebuilding.
13) Labor unions and collective bargaining.
14) Efforts to raise the minimum wage.
15) Maintaining Jefferson's Wall of Separation between Church and State.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Nixon, Billy Graham, and White House Religion

June, 1969, Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of American, concluded his sermon in the Nixon White House with the following prophecy: "I hope it is not too presumptuous of me, in the presence of the President, to say that future historians, looking back at our generation, may say that in a period of great trials and tribulations the finger of God pointed to Richard Milhous Nixon, giving him the vision and the wisdom to save the world and civilization" ("One Nation Under God," #KevinKruse, p.252

Billy Graham played a determining role in selecting clergy of various faith traditions who would echo the party line: that faith and politics were now, finally, wedded together in the White House, all for the wellbeing of the nation, of course.

Nixon and Graham, often standing side-by-side in various religious and political events, represented this happy marriage that would renew America and set us on a course of national revival and international power.

Yup, and we all know how it ended ... iconically, the Rabbi was party right: "the finger of God" did point to Nixon ... much like the prophet's finger pointed at King David, "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12.7).

The macabre dance of religion and politics in our nation has long endured ... sort of life a really, really, bad marriage, with all kinds of abuse and manipulation, but never, ever, a divorce. In some ways, I suppose, the two can never be separated in America, any more than they can be separated anywhere, because human beings, in the most part, are always political (I know of no other alternative) and incurably religious (especially as we use our religion to justify our politics), what with politicians using religion to enhance their own power and various religious leaders more than eager to bask in the glory of state pomp and power.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Terror of Mountain Top Removal

From our friends at Coal River Mountain Watch ...

On March 26, about a dozen McDowell County residents and supporters from Coal River Mountain Watch, OVEC, and Appalachian Voices told the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection that they did NOT want another Jim Justice mountaintop removal operation in their community.  Annette Brichford, former director of Catholic Charities in McDowell County, shared her experience with another Jim Justice operation: "Our daycare staff had to wipe coal dust from the kids' eyes after they played outdoors. When they blew their noses, it came out black. We had to hose down the dust from the playground equipment every day... I fear the same thing for the children of Endwell Head Start if another Jim Justice mountaintop removal site is permitted."

Al Justice, Coal River Mountain Watch member and founder of Dry Fork Watershed Mountain Watch, said, "You're robbing our future economic development.  Where's the economic development that was supposed to come with the existing permits? You know it's criminal. You know it's wrong."

Other residents, including retired coal miners, spoke of their concerns about increased flooding from having so many mountaintop removal sites together, and about the deadly health impacts from mountaintop removal, such as the demonstrated links to increased cancer.

Dr. McCawley speaks about health impacts of ultrafine particulates near mountaintop removal sites
On March 28, Dr. Michael McCawley, Chair of the Dept. of Occupational and Environmental Health at WV University, addressed a crowd of Charleston area residents. His research has found "smoking gun" elevated levels of ultrafine particulates near mountaintop removal sites. 
Some key points:
-Ultrafine dust is so small that it can easily penetrate cell membranes, including into the unborn.
-Ultrafine dust is already associated with some of the illnesses that are elevated near mountaintop removal, such as cancer.
-Clouds of the stuff can travel for miles without dissipating. Charleston is vulnerable to ultrafine dust from nearby mountaintop removal sites such as the KD#2 site.
-There is presently no regulation of ultrafine dust and its health effects on the public. Existing Clean Air Act protections in some places do not address this threat.

What can you do about this public health threat? Call and email your US congressional representatives and urge them to support the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act (ACHE Act), H.R. 912. You can find their contact information, details about the ACHE Act, and links to health studies here

And continue calling Gov. Tomblin at (888) 438-2731(888) 438-2731 FREE to tell him that, until his WV Dept. of Environmental Protection understands the health consequences of the permits that they are granting, they have no business granting any more permits. They can start by withholding the Jim Justice permit, number S400511, within a half mile of Endwell Head Start.

Are you, or do you know, a coal miner who has been laid off?
If so, please note this opportunity for financial support and retraining here. The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a $7.4 million National Emergency Grant (NEG) to WorkForce West Virginia to provide retraining and reemployment services to dislocated coal miners and displaced homemakers impacted by mass layoffs and coal mine closures. There is an informational meeting April 10, 10 AM -2 PM, Southern WV Community and Technical College, Mt. Gay, Logan County.

Thank you for all your support! Words of encouragement mean a lot to us. So does your financial support at our new donation page. This is one way that we're trying out new ways to engage our friends. Another is a new donation button on our Facebook page here. Please try it out and let us know what you think.

Have a joyous Easter and Passover, and celebrate life as spring blooms all around us!

Vernon Haltom
Executive director, Coal River Mountain Watch

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Billy Graham Did Enormous Damage

Okay, I'll say it.

Billy Graham did enormous damage to American Christianity.

Many of those who "came to Christ" at his "crusades," never came to Jesus the Christ at all, but only to their own fears of hell-fire and damnation. Many, I know, were looking for an out from troubled lives - alcohol, poverty, a lousy job and who-knows what else.

And they came forward in droves, driven in large measure by mass-hysteria, fearfulness and longing.

They joined local churches, many of them led by men (mostly) who were poorly trained, who "knew the Bible" by rote and were able to string together verse-upon-verse to the "delight" of the congregation, while slowly spinning the web of pride (in being saved) and hatred (of the unsaved).

I have no doubt that Billy Graham was a decent sort of a man, but his message was a mess, and those who "came to Christ" via this message laid the foundation for the Right Wing destruction of the American Christianity.

When Hearst told his newspaper chain to "puff Graham," Hearst recognized a religion that could serve his own conservative purposes, and so emerged the strange and now deadly relationship between Capitalism and American Christianity.

Sadly, it was American Christians who were duped and played for fools. Hearst and his capitalist culture trumped everything and won the day, and men like Billy Graham bore the message that America was godly and good, Communism was godless and bad, and that American Capitalism was god's will for the world.

Yes, Graham tore down the rope of racial division at his crusades, but only to give the audience a message that has proved both hollow and tenacious. Hollow for want of a full biblical message, and tenacious because its "true believers" cannot admit how flawed the whole enterprise is (after all, look at the money, look at the buildings - the very things that impressed the disciples when they strolled through Jerusalem with Jesus, and which Jesus dismissed with a snort).

Yes, yes, yes, there was good in it, too, because good shows up in all kinds of places, but clear-headed thinking is needed. The mess we have today has to be studied and its roots discerned if we're ever going to find a way out and help American Christianity recover its mind and heart, the fullness of God's Counsel and the power of Scripture's prophetic message proclaimed by Jesus.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fundamentalism and Capitalism Are in Love

It's impossible to say who's using whom in the strange, if not demonic, alliance between fundamentalist christianity and hyper-conservative capitalism currently carrying such a big stick in our churches and in our national politics.

Each of them, by themselves, is dangerous enough, because both eliminate all ambiguity. For them, "truth" is clear, and clearly in their possession. Questions are not allowed and swift is their punishment of doubters and naysayers.

Together, they represent the very worst of human potential: repression of creativity, restrictions of freedom of thought and choice, mistrust of scientific exploration and education ... and the subsequent elevation and apotheosis of market forces, the reliance upon military means to harness the world and the love of wealth as proof of divine providence.

We live in fateful times, as we witness the coalescence of dangerous impulses, multiplying their effectiveness and threat.

It's happened before, so we know that it can't last. Sooner or later, the human spirit, the divine spirit, mitigates these demonic forces, raises up prophets who shed light upon their evil and call them to account, generates creativity, new choices and the unexpected breakthrough ... sooner or later, history corrects itself, but not without damage and sorrow.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Despising the Poor

Poor people have always been despised by the powerful ... poor people remind the powerful, I suppose, just how lucky they are, and maybe they're just one moment away from losing it all. Poor people also remind the rich of their social responsibility. The rich and the powerful don't like to consider such things, so they run away from reality, buttressing their lives with more and more things to prove to themselves how powerful and good they are, while despising the poor. 
Is it any wonder that Jesus held out very little hope for the rich to enter into the Kingdom of God? And Jesus isn't talking about something beyond death, although that's included, but the here and now. The Kingdom of God is always possible, here and now, not in totality, but in bits and pieces, and sometimes even big pieces, like when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and the Berlin Wall fell. 
With every kindly thought, every good deed, every effort to make life better for another, to make government the means of mercy, to provide good schools and decent jobs - here is the Kingdom of God. All of that, and more, is a part of God's creational intent, a part of God's reign, God's rule over time and history. Right now, yes, we can live in the Kingdom of God when we embrace the life of Christ and follow him in word and deed (here I speak to Christians). But every religious tradition, a reflection of the Spiritual Presence that creates faith, has the same option, the very same possibility.
But the rich fool and his barns, the rich man with Lazarus at his gate, the rich who despised Jesus and collaborated with Rome to kill him, will hear none of this.
It's always been this way, but these days, there's a certain and curious cache to it - what was reserved for drawing rooms and privileged conversation now has become "the American Way," and for many religious people, even a "christian" value.
The rich and the powerful have alchemized something evil into something "good." It's now virtuous, even godly, to despise the poor, to condemn them for their ways, to see them as undeserving, ineligible for even the crumbs of the table.
Something very wrong has emerged in American Culture ... and millions of Christians, bowing down, I suppose, at the altars of Mammon, have fallen into line on this one.
I don't understand how it happened, but I hope that people will awaken, that the Spiritual Presence that gives life will prod and prompt awareness, open eyes, that folks will see the evil, and reach for the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Obama's Faith

That which clearly reveals the strength and reality of Obama's faith is its ambiguity ... the very thing hated by evangelicals, for whom ambiguity is a lack of faith, and for the evangelical, there is nothing more frightening than the possibility of an "uncertain" faith. 

Yet, uncertainty is the essence of our existence, and is the only way of opening doors and keeping them open. 

As for his faith being Christian, there is no doubt about that, whatsoever. His childhood and his adulthood have been shaped by the Christian tradition, it's symbols, it's understanding of history and justice and peace, with the Christ at the center, his cradle and his cross. 

This isn't about dogma, but vision and hope. Sadly, evangelicals are drowning in dogma - and it's sapping their life, creating huge amounts of anger, frustration and judgment of others. 

And, unfortunately, the evangelical definition of faith and Christianity has prevailed in the media and popular, only because the media and America itself has thoroughly dumbed themselves down since the days of Niebuhr and Tillich and Barth and the energies of the Civil Rights Movement with a leader like Martin Luther King, Jr.. This is the rich and deep Christian tradition that shapes Obama, and whatever the outcome may be in the popular imagination, he has done us a great service by disconnecting the Presidency from the deadening and dysfunctional dogma of evangelicalism.

After posting this, I added the following in reply to another comment:

Too many sermons on "true" vs. "pretend" christian have characterized evangelical christianity. And, of course, the great boogeyman of evangelicalism: secularists trying to "work" themselves to heaven ... this kind of "theology" has caused tremendous harm to the American Spirit and is a poor reflection of the Christian Faith, it's Scriptures and the manifold variations on its many themes over the centuries. 

Evangelicalism is a drop in the bucket, and not a very clean drop at that. It's the whole ocean that counts, and finally, everyone of us is in that ocean, an ocean of great love. None are lost; all are found ... and for all of us, it's never easy, and no one can claim a morally or spiritually superior understanding of God or life or faith. 

President Obama is one of a handful of Presidents who truly has a grasp of the Christian Faith in its largest dimensions. And that kind of faith scares the daylights out of evangelicals who have long traded in tiny ideas and restrictive dogma, believing themselves to be "true" christians and the rest of us only "pretend" christians. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Beware the one who says, "after much prayer."

Beware the one who says, "after much prayer."
"Much prayer" guarantees nothing, especially when the "prayer" is cut off from the heart and soul of Scripture, Love God and Neighbor, the prophetic witness against hypocritical prayer (always self-serving while talking about God), the witness of Jesus to all such false prayer, the witness of Paul and the early church reminding new believers that prayer and justice and kindness are intrinsically linked.
Every crime in human history, and then some, has been committed by folks "after much prayer," believing in their own self-appointed holy destiny. 
Women were denied the vote "after much prayer," and later on ordination. Blacks were refused lunch-counter service and their civil rights "after much prayer." 
These days, LGBTQs are denied medical help for an infant, and other such essential rights, by folks who say, "after much prayer." 
To protect such nonsense with "religious freedom" legislation is to make a mockery of both religion and freedom.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Two Systems Locked in Battle

We have two competing systems of thought for how our nation needs to work, to realize its dreams and fulfill the promises of the Declaration of Independence.

One system focuses on wealth, the building of wealth and the protection of wealth - a system that our Founding Mothers and Fathers knew well, a system from which they sought escape, a system they would not repeat here.

The other system focuses on wellbeing, the mutual responsibility we all have for one another, to maximize the benefits of life here and now and provide protection for those who need it, whatever the reason may be, because at the heart of a wellbeing system is generosity without condition and kindness without questions.

In the wealth-system, some do exceedingly well, many struggle, and a few are plunged into misery. The wealth-system is very good at wealth for the few, and poverty, or near-poverty for the many.

The wellbeing system sees to it that everyone enjoys a minimum of good life - wages, benefits, education and retirement. It's a system that produces lots of wealth, but not at the expense of the many.

Right now, these two systems are locked in mortal battle for the soul of our nation.

Huge amounts of wealth are poured into promoting and protecting the wealth system, telling huge lies about how good it will be for all of us once the wealth system is fully in place, everything privatized, and big government replaced by big business. For the time being, the wealth system has prevailed, and we see its fruits clearly: wealth, great wealth, for the few, a shrinking middle class, and the spread of poverty - here and abroad, as America's gigantic wealth-system sucks life out of the world, for that's how wealth-systems function, like parasites.

There are plenty of people right now, people of faith, various philosophies, politicians and professors who see clearly the goodness and power of a wellbeing system, and they labor mightily for America's better day.

The choice is up to us - to buy the lies of the wealth-system and be cheated of life, or to embrace the wellbeing system and share life, abundantly, with one another.

The wellbeing system is biblical, what the prophets envisioned and worked for, what Jesus offers and gave his life to raise up and what the early church practiced. To be faithful to Jesus is to embrace the wellbeing system - wherein the mandates of creation are honored and the goodness of the covenant practiced - wherein the earth is cared for and all creatures honored, and the biblical "trinity of human need," the widow, the orphan and the alien, is welcomed, loved and cared for.

That's how I see it, and to that end, that's how I live.

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
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.