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.