Saturday, December 29, 2012

Throw Out ALL Politicians in 2014???

A friend of mine suggested that in 2014 we throw out ALL our politicians, but in reality, we need to throw out only half, and elect politicians sympathetic to the vision of those remaining.

Our current gridlock is the result of a divided nation; we've sent to Washington a House Divided, so to speak.

What vision do we have for our nation?

I won't expound on the two visions, and their variants, competing for the soul of our nation; I've done that plenty enough in this and my other blogs and via Twitter and Facebook.

Yet, it would seem that in the most recent Presidential election, America chose one of those visions over the other. Some say it was a close election, though not as close as others in our recent past. But it does reveal a nation divided.

So, we don't need to throw out ALL our politicians, but rather make a choice as an electorate: What vision do we have for our nation? What will see our nation through the immediate challenge of the next 10 years, and what will build our nation for the next 50 years, the next 100 years?

The choice belongs to the American Electorate.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Prayer Has Never Left School

Prayer has never left the schools ... teachers and students alike pray, at home, at work, in the mosque, synagogue, temple or church - whether they be Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish or Christian or whatever.

What we DON'T need are organized, or ritual, prayers said by a teacher or principal over a loudspeaker system or before athletic events.

Whereas our public schools were once an extension of the Protestant Establishment (which is why Roman Catholics created their own parochial system), the diversity of the nation has brought us to another place, wiser and more respectful of all the religious traditions that now make up the American quilt of faith.

"Prayer in schools" has become a favorite tagline of conservatives, but in reality, it's one of those throw-away phrases that's impossible to define and thus meaningless; though it's not the first time that folks get all riled up over meaningless religious jargon and cant.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Strategies of Fear

One grows weary of the far right and its cries of alarm at every turn of the road,  it's creation of "enemies of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," yet it's a tactic as old as time, a tactic long-practiced in America.

When I read the following from 1919, a missive sent to America on New Year's Eve by the U.S. Attorney General, Mitchell Palmer, I thought I was reading an editorial piece from Fox News.

It's instructive to read, so here it is:

Twenty million people in this country own Liberty bonds. These the Reds propose to take away. Nine million eight hundred and thirty thousand people in the U.S. own farms and 3.8 million more own homes, which they would forfeit. Eleven million have savings accounts in savings banks and 18.6 million people have deposits in our national banks at which they aim. There are hundreds of thousands of churches and religious institutions all of which they would abolish. In other words, 110 million hard-working and saving Americans who own property, love liberty and worship God are asked to abandon all the ideals of religion, liberty and government which are the outcome of the struggles of their fathers and their own development and to place themselves, their homes, their families and their religious faith in the keeping and their property under the domination of a small group of Lenins and Trostskys. The [Red] movement will not be permitted to go far enough in this country to disturb our peace and well-being or create any widespread distrust of the people's Government. It will fall away before the light of popular knowledge and appreciation of its aims and purposes.*

On January 2, 1920, in thirty-three cities, twenty-three states, "radicals" were caught up in a net of fear, in the name of peace. Thousands were arrested, detained, and many badly treated. Ultimately, of the thousands promised by Palmer to be deported, only 556 aliens were deported, mostly for immigration violations that had nothing to do with "sworn enemies of America," Bolshevism and anarchism.

Palmer, of course, had political aspirations, and what better way to win the heart of America than to create "enemies," and then defeat them.

In the long run, it's a tactic that never works, but in the short-run, creates havoc and suffering.

*Savage Peace by Ann Hagedorn, p.421.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Eisenhower Tax Rates???

What could we do if tax rates for the wealthy were at the Eisenhower level?

We could engage in one of the greatest public works building projects ever seen.

We could repair some dams, take others down, and even build some new dams.

We could do the same with bridges, highways and water and sewer systems.

We could lay down miles of light rail and trolley track ... we could revolutionize public transportation.

We could build new libraries ... and fully-fund our public education system.

We could help railroads rebuild their trackage.

We could fully-fund our national and state parks - we could have the greatest park system in the entire world.

We could provide for the homeless and the mentally ill ... and for our wounded vets.

And just maybe, provide single-payer health care for the entire nation, and get ourselves out of one of the worst health-care delivery systems that has made us the laughing stock of the world.

And all of this for starters.

One of these days, Americans will figure out how to be a real nation - a nation with a solid reputation for wisdom and compassion.

A nation that sets the pace for the world - a nation of greatness.

We did much of this under Eisenhower ... we can do it again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

For My Fellow Americans - Taxes

BTW, if I have to pay a little more in taxes to see that every American has access to affordable health care, I'm more than happy to do that.

All of this crabbing about taxes smacks of a profound immaturity, if not anarchism. I write this as a proud and grateful American, and a Christian with a deep sense of our common need to offer help to one another, especially to those who, for whatever reason, find themselves on the bottom or the heap.

And, yes, FDR's SS and Obama's Affordable Care Act can be compared, because both are devoted to the common good, with a special regard for those who need some help. And school is out, or the jury is in, on SS - I worked hard all my life and contributed to SS, and now I'm collecting it.

Hats off to FDR who took millions of elderly out of the poor house and gave them a dignified retirement; and hats off to Affordable Health Care and Obama who has expanded the health care of America, something good for the entire nation, that will save millions of sick days and make everyone healthier and safer, including pregnant women, infants and children.

You bet, I'll be happy to pay more for my fellow Americans.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

GOP Madness and Taxes

As for me and my house, I can't understand why the GOP would be wiling to put Medicare and SS on the chopping block, raising taxes on the Middle Class, but refuse to raise taxes on those who can well afford more, many of whom, real patriots, have made it clear to Congress that the health of this nation rests upon those who can pay more in taxes and should - not in killing the safety net for the Middle Class.

We are not out of money - those in charge of the GOP are just too damn selfish to pay their fair share, hiding behind the nonsense of being "job creators" - not true; most have inherited their money and live off of what mom and dad gave to them, and what the bankers can create through manipulation bordering on criminal.

We've got plenty of money in this land, and we can do it, and do it in style, and there will be plenty left over for big boats and fancy cars; in fact, there will be more. Money funneled through the Middle Class grows; money through taxation on the wealthy provides the means for roads, schools, national parks, and a million other things.

Those to whom much has been given, much is required.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

America's Underbelly - A Story Not to Be Forgotten

A few days after Christmas, "... the victims of America's last lynching of 1918 were buried in Alabama - two black men, ages fifteen and twenty, and two black women, ages sixtine and twenty. All four had been hanged in Mississippi from the girders of a bridge spanning the Chickasawhay River. They were suspected of murdering a local doctor whose actual murderer, a white man, would be found several days after the hangings. As the four victims stood on the bridge with the nooses around their necks, they begged the white men to set them free. Despite the severe beatings they had endured to force their confessions, they continued to profess their innocence. But this only agitated their killers. To stop the cries of innocence, one man repeatedly struck the older of the girls in the mouth with a wrench, hitting her enough times to knock out all her teeth. She was five months pregnant. The younger girl was also pregnant, due in two weeks. They hit her enough times in the back that she was nearly unconscious by the time the four were hanged. On the afternoon of the burials, the younger girl's mother believed that the baby in her daughter's womb was still alive. But no one knew how to save it and everyone was afraid to seek help outside the circle of friends who had come to mourn the dead that day."

~ From Savage Peace by Ann Hagedorn, pp. 44-45.

When I read this chilling account on the morning hours (November 17), I knew that I was reading the story of hell - hell created by white men in the Deep South, white men hating themselves for who they had become during centuries of slavery, only to hate the once enslaved all the more. Were these white men drunk on white lightening? Or just drunk on their own insanity of power and hatred? I'm sure most of them were in church for Christmas singing, "Silent Night," and were likely in church again the next Sunday to hear about Je-e-sus and how Jesus saves.

There is something wrong in the Deep South to this very day - hence the riots that broke out in the early morning hours on the campus of the University of Mississippi after President Obama's reelection Nov. 7.

The Deep South remains crippled with this poison, and all dressed up in the righteous rags of States' Rights and religion, this so-called "Southern Strategy" threatens to cripple the entire nation politically and financially.

Sadly, in all parts of the country, and now especially in the mid-west, these poisons have found new homes in the hearts of old white men who no longer "feel at home in the world that once belonged to them," and young white men who find themselves unable to claim the "American Dream."

Whatever faith you may possess, I hope the above account shakes you to the core of your soul and leaves you disturbed.

For this is a story that continues to live in America's underbelly, and, in some tragic ways, in every white American.

Perhaps humanity can never fully expunge the poisons of racial hatred, but awareness of it's deadly nature, and a mindfulness of its symptoms, will enable us to control it within ourselves, and name it when it rears its ugly head, though wearing a fine suit and sounding oh so erudite.

America's underbelly - a story not to be forgotten!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Snake-Handling, God's Will and the GOP

Early 70s.

West Virginia ... Camp Creek ... Joe Turner - the Jesus Only Church, and snake-handling.

A young man, in one of two Presbyterian Churches I pastored, hunted and bagged rattlers for them on occasion, and told me of a time when he had a full sack lying on the floor of his home - he kicked and poked it around, then brought it to the church, and when the time came to "prove your faith" with snakes, the snakes were so angry, they bit everyone!

Snake-handling to prove faith is a fascinating folk practice with a decided "political" flavor.

In a nutshell, if you're bit and die, and they loved you, then it was simply the Lord's time to call you home.

If they didn't like you, you died because you didn't have enough faith.

Either way, whatever happened, there was a "reason" for it that allowed the snake-handling worldview to remain intact. Nothing could sway the faith of the faithful. Whatever happened - oh well, they had a way of incorporating it into their worldview.

Such are the diehard Republicans who confessed to the world the power and the glory of their god who would sweep Romney/Ryan into office!

A god who would cleanse the nation of Roe v Wade, do away with terrible communist unions, put a lid on uppity women and people of color, rid our schools of evolution, do something about all those free-loading illegals and plunge us into the glories of religious war against all those dadgum Muslims!

Well, it didn't quite turn out that way.

It seems that America, rather decisively, said No!

So, here's the deal.

These folks prayed for god to intervene and save America. They believed it was doing to happen.

It didn't.

Now what?

Well, this is clearly of the devil.

It can't be god's will.

Or, it might be god's judgment on a godless nation.

What they cannot accept is that it might simply be god's answer to their prayers, to intervene on behalf of the nation, for the sake of the future, for what is right and good.

Oh no. None of that.

Obama is a socialist, and worse than that, a man of color who likes gays. He isn't even an American.

In reality, there is no change looming on the horizon for those who handle snakes. Whatever happens, their worldview goes on, unchallenged, unchanged.

They're angry at the devil, that's for sure, for spoiling their plans, and angry at the godless people around them who choose the ways of wickedness.

This backwood's ignorance has been brewing for 200 years, ever since the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801, through the Scopes Trial of 1925, Billy Graham in a Los Angeles tent, 1949 - and so on. With Graham, it emerged from the woods of America and soon took center stage.

What with megachurches and TV (fundamentalism was a phenomenon waiting for TV), it blew across the American landscape like a hurricane. Add to that private schools and home-schooling, and for the last 50 years, along with Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan, a virulent form of christianity, a pro-capital, America-first, brand of faith, a faith full of hatred and violent images, an anti-science faith, has been shaping faith and culture for millions of Americans.

It will take a long time to root this out of the American mindset. It will retreat, and we'll see many of the megachurches close their doors and sell their campuses to community colleges, so that real learning might occur in those buildings mostly built on ignorance, fear and unrelenting pride.

Yet, this kind of junk is always part of human DNA - call it original sin, if you will, but in some form or other, it will re-emerge, ready to take on the demons of the world, offering a brand of faith, "bigger, better, brighter" than others, and willing to lead this nation, or other nations, into insanity once again.

Like those snake-handlers in West Virginia, nothing can sway their faith. Whatever happens, they have a reason for it, a reason that leaves their crazy faith intact!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Vote for Romney/Ryan!

If you've hitched your wagon to the 1%, then vote for Romney/Ryan.

If you believe that men like Karl Rove, Donald Trump, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Sheldon Adelson have your best interests at heart, and that of the nation as a whole, then go ahead, vote Romney/Ryan.

If you believe that the economic policies of the Far Right, the T-Bags, George W. Bush and the whole union-busting, hate-the-evil-Empire policies of Reagan are the right course for America, then, yes, vote Romney/Ryan.

If you believe that Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin articulate a coherent message of hope for the nation, and for women and children, and set a worthy example for your daughters, then go ahead and vote for Romney/Ryan.

They will deliver on their promises!

They will destroy affordable healthcare for Americans ... they will further erode public education ... destroy unions and end collective bargaining ... roll back minimum wage, privatize Social Security; severely limit Medicare and all other safety-net policies; unfetter big biz from regulation and encourage Wall Street to run wild ... end all efforts at marriage equality; remove the rights of women in healthcare, compel birth - regardless of its origin; the military will be ramped up and more wars will be fought ... with no one to monitor our food supplies and the water we drink and the air we breath ... drilling and mining will pillage the environment without heed ... because God watches over us and prevents global warming.

If you think the 1% are wealthy now, just wait!

If you believe the 1% care about you, and your future is connected to theirs, then vote for Romney/Ryan.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Pray Not!

My soul is distressed.

As the hymn says, "Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decided."

I fear that Americans have grown so shallow, so self-serving, so selfish and prideful, and so "christian," that America will make the wrong decision. If it does, so goes the judgment of God. It fell like a hammer on prideful Jerusalem, with all of its religion, and on every empire since.

I hope and pray that America will remember who is it, by our founding mothers and fathers. I fear that folks like Pat Robertson and Donald Trump have won the day. And if they have, then so be it. But it will be a sad day for America when money wins and power triumphs.

When the 1% trump the 99%; when The People surrender their voice to the insanity of the privileged class. It's happened before and it might well happen again.

I pray not. I pray not.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Mourdock, Rape and God!

Another example of the pro-birth crowd and its idiocy.

Pro-birth - that's what it is.

Birth at any price.

Rape, whatever!

Who cares about the mother?

Who cares about the criminal intent of the man?

It's what God intended.

And who can argue with God?

The whole thing is so wrong, on so many fronts.

It takes a loving God and twists God into a monster.

It makes light of evil.

It's obsessed with birth.

It has no regard for the women as a human being, but only as a baby-factory.

I keep asking: Where does this crap come from?

What kind of a church promotes this junk?

Who are the preachers blabbing such nonsense?

I've been a pastor for 42 years.

I have a D.Min. from a fine seminary with an excellent faculty.

I've read widely, and continue to do so.

I've been a faithful follower of Jesus all of my adult life and some of my earliest memories are of God's gracious presence.

Mourdock is wrong and he doesn't speak for God.

His opinion is warped and dangerous.

He doesn't belong in a pulpit.

And he doesn't belong in the Senate.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Well, That's Capitalism." Bunk!

A man hears of his neighbor's loss of pension at a major airline, after working there 30 years.

The man says approvingly of his neighbor's setback, "Well, that's Capitalism."

To which I say, "Bunk!"

It's greed that drives the economic engines of America these days ... unrestrained greed - that with a pen-stroke, wipes away pensions and benefits ... or foolishly puts in amateur refs for NFL football games because, in spite of 9 billion in revenue and everyone prospering, NFL ownership smells a chance to make even more by taking away ever-more from their first-line refs.

This isn't Capitalism.

It's greed.

It's insanity (which, of course, is what greed is).

Capitalism has always favored the wealthy, of course (every economic engine of the world does, including Socialism and Communism). But as the United States grew, folks like Teddy Roosevelt csaw the need for restraint, and if the owners of capital couldn't help themselves, then government, of the people, by the people and for the people, would.

Our best years have always been times of great fairness - when strong government restrained the greed of the Robber Barons.

Both Republican and Democratic Presidents have acted to support The People, and The People have prospered.

But it unravelled with Reagan, and it's been going crazy ever since.

Like a pack of hungry wolves, the owners of capital (they're not the producers, just the owners) have smelled blood, and have gone after its workers, their unions, their wages and benefits ... and, now, are mounting a full-scale attack on Social Security, Medicare, and so on - all in an effort to "win the game."

If this is Capitalism, then we're all doomed.

But whose to say what Capitalism is?

There is no set-in-stone definition of Capitalism - it's an evolving tool that at its best, with good partnership between workers, owners and government, provides living wages and benefits and a reliable degree of social security.

Capitalism has always been a partnership between the three entities common to economy: owners, workers and government.

Keeping in mind the following:

1. Money in the hands of the few does very little.

2. In the hands of the many, it drives a healthy and growing economy.

And that's what Capitalism is all about.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jerusalem the Capital of State of Israel? Bible says so???

A petition to sign up in support of Jerusalem as capital of the State of Israel, because the Bible says so ... ...

Here's my note in reply:


Oh please, this is just baloney, and bad Bible as well.

Israel, as a religious/political entity, hasn't existed since Babylon tore down the walls in 568 BCE.

The political State of Israel has existed only since 1948.

It has no more claim to Jerusalem than anyone else.

Jerusalem, in fact, should be an international city, shared by all of Abraham's children.

Come on gang, you're mouthing the stuff of radical Zionism, and crazy dispensationalism, philosophies denied and repudiated by many Jews and Christians.

If you truly claim to follow Jesus who said of the temple: it'll soon be done! and overturned its tables, then you can no longer abide by these foolish claims and political ambitions.

The State of Israel is no more or less than any other political entity anywhere. To claim divine dispensation for its political ambitions is a violation of Scripture and the world-wide love of God for all the nations.

Israel's crimes, funded by the US, against Palestinians have intensified over the last ten years, including a systematic effort to rid the country of Arab Christians.

Right now, it seems the State of Israel is increasingly under the grip of radical Orthodoxy - a group of people and ideas no different than any other radical group hiding behind the skirts of God.

In Christ, for Christ and with Christ,

Rev. Tom Eggebeen
Los Angeles, CA.


On Sep 25, 2012, at 6:57 AM, Presents wrote:

Over 3,000 years ago, Jerusalem was recognized as the capital of the Jewish people. 
Yet today, the United States government, in defiance of a law passed in 1995, refuses to 
recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the nation of Israel. Every other nation in the world is 
allowed to designate their own capital…except for the Jewish state. 

Stand with us, the Jerusalem Prayer Team, as we launch the Jerusalem DC (David’s Capital) 
Campaign to call on the American people to recognize Jerusalem - the entire, undivided Holy City - 
as the capital of Israel, and to do so publically.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kennedy Family, Wealth and Romney

Just saw a slide show of rarely seen photos of JFK, Jackie, and their family.

They were a family of great wealth.

And often burdened by the temptations and problems of great wealth.

But they possessed an America Quality - that of public compassion.

Sadly, I've seen the wealthy of America succumb to the greatest temptation of wealth - to look upon others with contempt.

It's this very attitude that prompts Jesus to say, "It's easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a person of wealth to enter the Kingdom of God" (not a place, but a way of life).

How striking might it have been if Romney had stood before his wealthy cohorts and said to them, "We didn't build it. All of America built it. We're the luckiest people in the world, and we're fools to think that we did this by ourselves. So I stand before you today, asking you to contribute to my campaign, and I ask you to welcome all of America with compassion; I ask you to step up to the plate and pay your fair share of taxes, and even more - because the Bible says: 'to whom much has been given, much is required.'"

But he didn't. Instead, he portrayed Americans as a lazy and dependent - the attitude of contempt.

With his wealthy folks, Romney raised a few more million, but he lost the heart of many. His obvious contempt for so many Americans - does he really believe this, or was he saying only what his audience wanted? In either case, he's wrong.

If Romney believes this, he's not fit for the Oval Office.

If he says such things only to please his monied friends, he's not fit for the Oval Office, either.

It's a sad day for the GOP as it has hitched its wagon to the wealthy - and not the great wealthy, but the greedy wealthy.

We have much to learn from the old and true wealth of America - families, surely not pure, but with a sense of compassion and duty - compassion for all, and a duty to make this a better nation.

National Debt and the GOP

The huge debt we owe to the world was put into high gear by Reagan - when the GOP told us that we didn't need to pay taxes, and then began to borrow madly to be sure Americans had plenty of cake to eat. We paid no attention; now suddenly, the GOP gets all uppity and holy about this business. No wonder they didn't invite any of Bush's people to their convention.The GOP wants us to believe that others are the cause of the problem. And, yes, it's a real problem, and won't go away until all Americans, especially the wealthy, step up to the plate via taxes and vow to pay for America. The GOP has tried to give us the world on the cheap; it can't be done, and now the GOP is rushing about madly to blame others for its own foolish monetary policies.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

GOP Complaints!

GOP complains that Obama had his chance to fix things ... in reality, to fix their mistakes.

It has taken us decades to get here, beginning with Ronald Reagan's pillaging of the American fortune, shifting moneys to the wealthy while telling the poor to go to hell, gutting unions, killing regulatory agencies and laws, spending on overseas' wars, covert interference all around the world to further the interests of Big Biz.

The only exception (sort of) to this slide into idiocy was George H - a moderate Republican.

Clinton's fiscal responsibility gave us a surplus - imagine that.

And then W.

And it's been hell to pay ever since.

The t-bags and their congressional toadies were determined to undermine every effort by the President to address the problems created by the Bush/Cheney cabal, and the Republican hijacking of the American Way.

Because the "problems" are not problems for the Koch Machine.

The problems plaguing the nation right now play into the hands of the global market and the continuing transfer of wealth from the pockets of the many to the hands of the few.

Do the Koch Brothers care about America?

Hell no.

They care about their corporations; this is their world, this is their nation, this is their life, their treasure, and "where there treasure is, so is their heart."

The GOP is full of lies and deceit, having driven into isolation all remaining moderate Republicans.

It's a terrible day for the nation as it faces a choice so dramatic in consequences; consequences that will chart the future for decades.

I hope and pray that we'll make the right decision, and for everything I know, and with everything I've learned over the years, Obama offers the greater hope for a better future.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ryan, Lies and Racial Overtones

From good friend and able writer, The Rev. Dr. Robert Dahl, a good preacher and a keen observer of American craziness:


Paul Ryan said in his speech last evening "Everything is free but us."  Who is the "us"?  Yes, looking at the crowd, that became clear.  He finally got to the race baiting!  It wasn't exactly a great grammatical line, but it was effective at pitting "us" agin' "them." 

He's good, he's real good, he's the best deliverer of the convention so far perhaps with the exception of the Governor of New Mexico, but he is a race bater -- another white child of privilege (Yes, in spite of his father's early death, the family is the most prominent in his home town.) talking about "the way we were" in white, semi-rural, safe, Andy Griffith, Aunt Bee, Opie, Mayberry land and how what we were and are is about to be taken away from us by those who get everything for free, the freeloaders, which is what I think he was saying.  Draw your own conclusions as to what that code language means.     

As a speaker?  He was coached well and intensely over the last couple of weeks by, as I'm told, the best coaching that money can buy. He was really, really, really good at delivery -- the staccato lines, swift alliterative bullets, this and that faster than speed, zingers against the opposition, one liners, pregnant (no pun intended) pauses, gestures, facial expressions, cute smiles, winks, shrugs, co-opting fine quotes of great ethical leaders for his own purposes, appeal to God with a God crowd for justification of his positions, all form and no substance and many lies (as fact checkers have determined).   No one has thrown red meat like Ryan at this convention.  But when all the analysis of the speech is done it will be shown that the speech will not have lasting effect but will have been an aborted effort.  And why?  Because of the phony baloney content.  

He was preaching to the proverbial choir, but if the intent was to win over the five percent independent vote, assuming that five percent is intelligent enough to examine the facts, the speech will backfire.  Hopefully, independents are looking for truth and, if so, they will be turned off by deceit.  

It reminds me of my speech classes in college and the emphasis on the importance of delivery for the professor.   I pooh-pooh-ed it and then Shakespeare set me straight with the speeches following Caesar's death in the tragedy Julius Caesar.  One side (Brutus) swayed the masses not by content but by delivery. Delivery is very important. The other side (Antony) swayed the masses with both delivery and content.  My objection then and still is that content is more important than delivery but I have to acknowledge that delivery is important in giving a speech.  

I have concluded that delivery is incredibly important for both good and ill, but that only delivery and integrity of content is ultimately good and that which will ultimately persevere.  

Might I offer as an example a young Austrian with incredible oratorical skills who was able to tell falsehoods to a needy, needy, humiliated people to move them to the horror of mass murder?  However, the oratory of Churchill and Roosevelt, which combined delivery with the power of truthful content, won the day, the civilization and the future.   Do you see why I, a preacher and a former adjunct professor of preaching, still favor content?

I stand in fear of the great orator and what false appeal to fear can do.  I appreciate the great poet.  I stand in awe of the one who can combine the two -- great oratory and great poetry, and I don't mean the canned kind of poetry, but the poetry of truth as experienced in the mythic, metaphor,  simile and sometimes even the literal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ann Romney, June Cleaver, Harriet Nelson

From my dear friend, Bob Dahl:

What I just thought of is that Ann Romney's speech at the GOP convention in Tampa, Florida was at root anti-contemporary women  and anti-Mitt!  

Basically, in describing him she was describing a workaholic deal-maker while she told the audience that the moms hold it together -- like moms that stay home and wait to give the kids an afternoon snack and help with the homework and hop in the car to get them medical attention if needed.  And then she said that Mitt would WORK tirelessly for you, day and night.  Actually, I think I  heard some undertones of resentment.  If so, wouldn't that be telling?

What I heard her saying was "I love you, 1950's version of white, suburban moms.  I love you June Cleaver; I love you Harriet Nelson. I love all of you 1950's white, suburban mothers. I am one of you."  
What I didn't hear her say was, "I love you, career woman mom, working for self-fulfillment and to make ends meet. (In all fairness, she did passingly mention single working moms.) 

What about "I love you, welfare mom living in one of the worst neighborhoods in America with the knowledge that your sons will either be dead or incarcerated by 19 and your daughters may be trapped in the world's oldest profession.  I love you, welfare mom, caught in a vicious cycle, trying to break out without a break, being attacked by payday loan companies like Bank of America and gouged by salary theft if you do happen to get a minimum wage job flipping burgers. I love you, welfare moms, just like Jesus loves you and weeps for you and yes, Mitt's going to do something for you so you can have a chance at the American dream and your kids will be safe"?

But, hey, she did look nice in a 1950's white, suburbanite mom way.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Appeals Court Blocks Graphic Anti-Smoking Images

Smoking causes billions of dollars in damage every year - to life and health and to the American work force. If tobacco were newly discovered today, it would be an illegal substance.

I find it interesting how the First Amendment is more and more used to defend corporation as if they were people - oops, that's right. They are people, aren't they, thanks to the SCOTUS and its right-wing ideologues, and they can sell us anything without risk, and if they're making money, even better. After all, profits are the American Way. It's all about money and greed and some fantasy of prosperity.

This appeals court is weighted by Bush-era appointees; it's ideological leanings are evident in virtually all of its decisions - highlighting, once again, that the greatest influence a president has is in the appointment of judges.
I welcomed the graphic images - let people see what they're doing. We don't need to let our citizens live in a cloud of innocence; if these ads caused one person to quit, and one young person to not take it up, then it's worth it.

To hell with the tobacco companies; they are pigs! Old man Duke, in the 20s, knew that cigarette smoking was dangerous, and prohibited his children from smoking. Did it stop him from growing tobacco and making cigarettes? Of course not. The man was a pig. And he tried to atone for his sins by building Duke University - on the bones of dead Americans; dead from smoking.

America's love affair with Big Biz is leading us down a path that can only end badly. Money is our god, and greed is our piety.

Smoke away America; cough your fool heads off. And hats off to the Bush judges who are as blind as bats and careless with the wellbeing of the nation, forfeiting their right to be judges.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

All Economies Behave the Same

All economies behave in much the same way - like the game of Risk: sooner or later, there's only one player left, and they have it all. Without regulation to sustain good wages and jobs for the middle class, money migrates to the top - the wealth concentrated in the hands of the few and the rest of the society struggling to make ends meet.

The genius of FDR was to provide the "artificial" constraints that allowed the development of the Middle Class. Yes, WW2 was a huge boost, along with strong unions and Social Security, both of which are deeply hated by the wealthy who see unions and SS as an affront to their initiative and rights.

It's a sad, sad, day for America. We are witnessing the unravelling of our greatness, and the GOP is cheering it on for reasons that make no sense, not to even then - hence all of their strained rationales and bizarre grandstanding, while hiding behind "their love of the newborn," "their regard for motherhood and marriage," "their faith in American," and "their desire to restore our greatness."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Challenging the Episcopal Dean of Cathedral Church of the Advent

The Episcopal Bishop Kee Sloan of Alabama, voted in favor of the new ritual for the blessing of same-sex unions, but won't allow priests in his diocese to perform it.

I quote from the article:

The Rev. Frank Limehouse, dean of the 3,400-member Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham’s largest Episcopal church, said his church will not "bless any sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman."
"The Bible is clear about this," Limehouse wrote on his church's website. "If anyone who declares the Bible teaches otherwise, then I wouldn’t doubt his or her sincerity, but I would have to question their training in biblical interpretation.”

In response, I wrote the following email to Mr. Limehouse:

Dear Pastor, 

You've managed, in just a few words, to dismiss those who favor gay marriage as ill-trained in Scripture and faithless. 


That's mouthful pastor.

I'm one of those with whom you disagree.

I'm well-trained.

I'll not defend my faith; that belongs to Christ himself.

But I will challenge you.

You could have simply said, "As I read the Bible, here is where I stand." Though perhaps the hardliners want more than that.

I read the same Bible you do, and yet we come to different conclusions. 

That's how God designed this whole thing.

So that we can never retreat into some unassailable position, but have to bear responsibility for our decisions of faith, and especially our ethical decisions. To claim an authority above all question is the stuff of inquisitions and fanatics.

I quote Bonhoeffer:

The responsible man acts in the freedom of his own self, without the support of men, circumstances or principles, but with a due consideration for the given human and general conditions and for the relevant questions of principle. The proof of his freedom is the fact that nothing can answer for him, nothing can exonerate him, except his own deed and his own self. It is he himself who must observe, judge, weigh up, decide and act. It is man himself who must examine the motives, the prospects, the value and the purpose of his action. But neither the purity of the motivation, nor the opportune circumstances, nor the value, nor the significant purpose of an intended undertaking can become the governing law of his action, a law to which he can withdraw, to which he can appeal as an authority, and by which he can be exculpated and acquitted. For in that case he would indeed no longer be truly free. The action of the responsible man is performed in the obligation which alone gives freedom and which gives entire freedom, the obligation to God and to our neighbour as they confront us in Jesus Christ. At the same time it is performed wholly within the domain of relativity, wholly in the twilight which the historical situation spreads over good and evil; it is performed in the midst of the innumerable perspectives in which every given phenomenon appears. …. … responsible action is a free venture; it is not justified by any law; it is performed without any claim to a valid self-justification, and therefore also without any claim to an ultimate valid knowledge of good and evil. Good, as what is responsible, is performed in ignorance of good and in the surrender to God of the deed which has become necessary and which is nevertheless, or for that very reason, free; for it is God who sees the heart, who weighs up the deed, and who directs the course of history.

Your congregation needs to be helped along the way to embrace the faith rather than hide in it, to accept the risk of decision-making rather than deferring the decision to some outward authority that absolves the believer of responsibility.


Tom Eggebeen, Honorably Retired and Interim Pastor
Calvary Presbyterian Church
Hawthorne, CA


If you want to write to Limehouse, here's the address I used:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Horatio Alger Stories Energizes GOP

From my good friend and fine writer, Bob Dahl:


Unfortunately, it seems many, many Americans live with the Horatio Alger stories as reality and truth.  This is the group that wants desperately to go with Romney and Ryan's view of life:  individualistic, pull yourself up by your bootstraps Ayn Rand capitalism.

Some of these, the most vulnerable, are the group described by John Steinbeck in a 1947 interview:  

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

This is a target group in this election for the Democrats and there are thousands upon thousands of these Americans who will vote against their best interest because they don't want to give up the illusion.

Sometimes reality is so hard to face, but facing it is the only way to reality. 

We don't get anywhere without each other.  It's the social contract with America.  

I sit penning this because of my ancestors, wife, father, mother, children, relatives, friends, teachers, church, pastors, physicians, dentists, private and public scholarships and grants, social security when my dad died, social security, medicare and medicaid for my mother when the funds ran out, state health insurance obtained by employees and teachers bargaining collectively and all the other benefits I have as a citizen of the USA.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Self-Made Man

Yup, I made me, and I'm damn proud of it. No help from the government, not even Mom or Dad or my bro, much less God. I did it all. And if you knew what was good for you, you'd start making yourself, right now. No more handouts from parents, friends, or anyone else, for that matter. And tell God to take a hike, because you're doing it your way, all by yourself. And one day, you'll be damn proud of that, what you made of yourself, all by yourself, with help from no one. And, by the way, did you know that "help" is a four-letter word? Get help from no one, and if anyone asks for help, tell 'em to go to hell. They're too damn lazy to work, so who cares. Yup, I'm damn proud of making me me, all by myself.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Difference Between Tolerance and Inquisition

I take issue with the claim "christian beliefs" - Dan Cathy may be a Christian, but what a christian happens to believe doesn't automatically make the belief "christian." 

It's his take on things; the way he reads the Bible, or what his church has taught him, but not automatically what all christians should believe. 

Folks like Dan Cathy forget just how diverse christianity is; he's entitled to his views, but it sure would be nice for him to say, "This is how I read the Bible" rather than saying, "This is what the Bible says" - huge difference, and has often been the difference between tolerance and inquisition.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Charter Schools are Terrible

Charter schools are a huge mistake. The truth be told, conservatives have long fought against public education by slashing tax-support, forcing staff reductions, imposing impossible standards, and then claiming that our schools are failing. 

Conservatives across the nation were unable to get vouchers, so they went for charter schools instead- as the third leg of their educational reform: private schools, home-schooling and charter schools.
Denying millions of dollars to our public schools, they turn around and give millions of dollars to corporations to run the schools, and their track record is abysmal.

Time to dump charter schools and tell the conservatives to take a hike. Fund public education and support our teachers, and we will have fine schools all across the nation.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What If ... no Iraq Invasion

What-ifs are hardly worth the time, but sometimes, after a bad decision, or at least a decision that seems fraught with ill, it's worth while to indulge, if for no other reason than learning.

What if Bush hadn't pulled the trigger on Iraq, and instead, focused everything on the capture of Ben Laden?

Here are some of my thoughts.

Al Qaida would not be as potent as it is today, and Afghanistan and Pakistan might be more stable.

Israel and the Palestinian question would remain, but I wonder: would it be less volatile?

Iran might have taken care of Iraq, with another war, or something more clandestine to eliminate Saddam.

If not Iran, perhaps Saudi Arabia.

Or a stealth raid by Israeli commandos might have taken Saddam out.

Our debt-crisis would be far less.

The thousands of American soldiers returning home with severe emotional and physical injuries would be minimal.

And the nearly 6000 American deaths (Iraq and Afghanistan) would be considerable less.

Bush would have been able to claim credit for Ben Laden's capture or death.

Al Gore might have won.

Monday, July 23, 2012

More Religious Hooey from Glenn Beck

It seems that Glenn Beck and a Messianic "Rabbi," Jonathan Cahn from Wayne, New Jersey are now into reading Isaiah as a "harbinger" of things to come.

Here's my response:

Bad Bible reading ... but, then, from the far right, there's plenty of it. Isaiah would be the first to protest the use of his material in this way. 

What makes anyone think that all of the Bible is devoted to the United States? The Puritans and many others since then, and now David Barton and his "history" hooey, have tried to prove a divine status for the US, what with this being the Promised Land, "a new Israel" with a "manifest destiny." If an individual thought like this, they'd be labeled a hopeless narcissist. 

Folks on the religious right have often the read the Bible as a "road map" for the future. They're in good company, so to speak. At the turn of the Millenium, (no silly, not the recent one, but the first - 1000), all kinds of foolish predictions about this and that and the end of the world, as well. 

Throughout the 19th Century, English Millenarianism reached new highs, or lows, with predictions, all of which failed. The most recent and embarrassing example of this cockeyed thinking is Harold Camping. 

Within all of this, bits and pieces worth considering: US arrogance, for sure, with our constant military adventures (we are the Empire), our mistreatment of Native Americans, our reliance upon slavery, the Jim Crow laws, our abuse of women and their rights, environmental abuse, our violence and our love of guns, our love and worship of wealth and the wealthy, our mistreat of the American Worker, our vast economic inequity, continuing racism and a host of other social ills. These are the sorts of things Isaiah highlights for Israel; these are the sorts of things highlighted by The Prophets in general, and by Jesus in the Gospels. 

While all of this has some bearing on the US, none of it is intended for the US alone, as if we were special. "For God so loved the world" and the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE brought that chapter to a close. 

God is no longer in the land business, either in Palestine or in the Northern Hemisphere. God is judging America, not because we're special, just because we are, as God judges the nations of the world, all of them, large or small. For the world belongs to God, and there is no Promised Land, there is no "new Israel," there is no "manifest destiny," except, "love one another as I have loved you."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Greed, Presbyterians and General Assembly

Good Grief!

That's all I can say.

While GA was considering a motion regarding corporate greed, some misguided soul stood up and proclaimed, "Greed is necessary to our system. Without greed, it wouldn't work."

And then added, or perhaps was it someone else, "American Business is based upon two principles: greed and charity. Because I'm greedy, I'll start my business; and because I'm charitable, I'll give you a job."

At the local gathering of the Red Neck Twine Convention, I'd expect to hear this.

But on the floor of General Assembly, out of the mouths of presbyterians (please note the lack of capitalization), those who stand in the tradition of John Calvin and his profound and still applicable understanding of sin?

And if Calvin is a stretch.

Read the Book of James.

Listen to Jesus.

Check out the prophets.

Now, some thoughts about greed.

To suggest that the entrepreneurial spirit is driven by greed is an insult to millions of Americans who have started up companies, in order to build the better mousetrap, to be their own boss, to bring to fruition an idea, or just to do it.

All of these folks would be insulted to hear anyone suggest their motive is greed.

The motive is higher and better than that, and may even include the profit-motive, but most start-ups are done by folks with a good idea, and they'd be happy just to make a living and support their family.

So, what about greed?

As I have known it, greed flourishes in corporate offices on the 34th floor of anonymous office buildings in anonymous cities around the world. Greed flourishes when the bottom line and Wall Street demand stock performance and nothing else counts. Greed flourishes in such places where corporate heads have long lost touch with the gals and guys on Main Street, including the small business owner and small manufacturer. Greed is evident when decisions are made that cost millions of jobs, and millions in salaries and benefits, while protecting the wealthy, enhancing their profit-flow, and providing corporate jets and limos.

Yes, I have greed in my heart. We all do. But greed needs the 34th floor to truly flourish. All dressed up in Armani Suits and fine Italian Shoes, when a $1000 dinner is nothing but chump-change, and a quick trip to some exotic resort in South America is just another weekend away.

Greed is ripping to shreds the American Dream, because corporate structures have virtually consumed all the nation.

In days past, when even large companies were still owned by families, there were levels of accountability and kindness. But with ownership passing into the hands of stockholders around the world, with stocks being manipulated by Wall Street Jockeys who have never dirtied their hands on an assembly line or worked up a sweat other than in an expensive health spa, greed has finally found an environment where it can grow without competition, and grow it does.

How sad that a GA Commissioner would mouth such nonsense.

GA did the right thing on the motion, but my heart is grieved by the man who stood on the floor of GA and trumpeted the wonders of greed.

Tara Spuhler McCabe & and the PCUSA

Our duly-elected vice moderator, the Rev. Tara Spuhler McCabe, resigned yesterday, July 4, under a hail of gunfire - opps, I mean vitriolic criticism, bitter and mean-spirited attacks.

It's a sad day for the Presbyterian Church.

It seems that Tara presided at a same-gender wedding - oh dear, what is this world coming to?

And it was likely that charges would be brought against her, because law-abidin' pastors ain't supposed to deal with such things. No sirree bob!

I'm sad today for Tara, and for our church.

But I'm not surprised.

Christianity is a war-torn world. From theology to territory, to the two World Wars fought primarily by Christians against Christians, Christianity is more like Syria today than anything else. The peace of Christ is mostly an illusion, a tool used to clobber one another - "my peace is better and bigger than your peace."

And so it goes.

Did the liberals expected the conservatives to go along with this.

But the conservatives are in no mood for cooperation or tolerance.

And who can blame them?

In their world, everything is going to hell in a handbasket, and they stand fore-square on the truth, as they see it, and they're willing to go into any back alley anywhere and fight for what they believe to be true.

I would rather we sit down and reason with one another, but our world-views are totally different. Old School, New School, Luther and the Bishops, whatever - sure wish it could be another way, but not this side of the Parousia.

I wish Tara well, and well she will do.

Though the memories of these days, the strident attacks on her character and faith, the language and the bitterness, will all linger for a long time to come.

She's wounded, as anyone would be.

And from such wounds, grace ... even as into such wounds grace is poured.

Blessings Tara.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Organized Crime and America's 400

Investigating unions and the underworld, Robert F. Kennedy wrote in his 1960 book, The Enemy Within (cited in L.A. Noir, by John Buntin, 2009, p.244):

"[T]he gangsters of today work in a highly organized fashion and are far more powerful now than at any time in the history of the country. The control political figures and threaten whole communities. they have stretched their tentacles of corruption and fear into industries both large and small. The grow stronger every day," so wrote Robert F. Kennedy in his 1960 book, The Enemy Within, a study of organized crime in the 50s (cited in L.A. Noir, by John Buntin, 2009, p.244).

As I read Kennedy's description, it was as if I were reading an account of the 400 in America today - their tentacles have reached far and wide, and with growing power and confidence, they manipulate and threaten politicians with the goons, ruffians and thugs working for them (the t-bags and the NRA). 

Folks like the Koch Brothers and their cabal threaten whole communities and are working feverishly to change the character of America wherein they can have a freehand to do as they please, and skim off every dollar they can for their own personal fortunes.

Is there a difference between today's Big Biz Boys and Girls and the organized-crime families of the 50s?

Power is power, and power always corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Only a strong Federal Government with regulatory powers (the enemy of the Wealth-Cabal) can contain Wall Street.

Wall Street has demonstrated an unwillingness, perhaps even an inability, to govern itself.

I suppose, like a hungry lion, we ought not be surprised when it acts out of hunger. Nor should we be surprised when rapacious Wall Street devours everything in its sight, including our Democracy.

And that's a crime against The People of America!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Saving Souls for Gloryland in Jaspar, Texas

The amount of violence tolerated by the Christian Church, committed and perpetuated by the Christian Church, is enough to make the Christian Story a lie, as least a lie as to how we've told it.

From the wars Christians have fought against Christians, from the colonial period of enslavement, going all the way back to Constantine and his conversion, when suddenly it became a glorious thing to be a soldier and fight for the Empire, with the promise that anyone who fights for "god and country" (and those two are always permanently stitched together) qualifies for eternal glory and the praise and gratitude of their nation.

Recently, the New York Times published an unnerving story about Jasper, Texas, made "famous" a few years back when three young white boys chained James Byrd, a black man, to a car and dragged him to death, June 27, 1998.

He was buried in Jaspar's one cemetery, a cemetery divided by an old rickety fence, torn down some months Mr. Byrd's death, as an act of reconciliation and racial unity.

Fourteen years later, Jasper's cemetery remains segregated, with whites up on the hill and blacks below, no longer divided by a literal fence, but now the fence of tradition.

"It's our tradition," one old white man says, for blacks to be buried below the hill.

Racial tensions have once again flared with the firing of Jaspar's first back police chief, Rodney Pearson, who's wife, Sandy, is white (oh oh!).

After his election, whites arranged for a successful recall of several black city councilman, replacing them with a white majority who then promptly fired Mr. Pearson.

I wonder about all the white churches in Jaspar.

Oh, that's right. I know what they're doing. They're busy "preaching Je-e-sus!" and "saving souls for gloryland."

I know how hard it is to grapple with social issues; I'm a pastor, and I know first-hand how entrenched attitudes are, like the demons of the New Testament - touch 'em, and they scream to high-heaven. They truly know who Jesus is, and want nothing to do with him.

Which brings me back to the first part of this essay - how the church came to ignore, or accept, and worse, approve of violence.

Christianity, as we know it, comes out of 1800 years of Empire and war … Christians fought Christians … Christians colonized and enslaved peoples around the world, … Christians cheered the sword and sent their children off to war … and there stood the clergy, with holy water and prayers … all for god and country … [from "There Will Be Blood"].

And as long as churches are busy preaching Jesus and saving souls for gloryland, what with programs and Bible Studies and VBS and displays of patriotic hoohah, the cries of blood shed and spilled upon the earth go unanswered (Genesis 4.10).

In God's own time, of course, but what about us?

Can we turn a deaf ear to the cry of blood rising up from the earth, blood that we have shed, either directly through our wars and inquisitions, or indirectly, by winking at the cruelty of others and our "traditions" of racial and ethnic intolerance?

It's a bloody business, for sure, and I, for one, would rather not have to deal with it, but then I have to carefully pick and choose the Scriptures I read and from which I preach. Not only pick and choose, but deform and misrepresent, in order to "save souls for gloryland."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Elephants in the Room - by Charlotte Ellison

Dear Blog Readers,

A good friend of mine, the Rev. Charlotte Ellison, Grand Rapids, MI, offers the follow reflection on life and events in the Reformed Church of America.

When I read her note, I was immediately struck by its relevancy and its depth of faithful thought.

As the RCA struggles with many of the issues confronting American Christianity, it's helpful to read some commentary from inside the Western Michigan Beltway!

Blessings Charlotte, and thanks for permission to republish your essay in this blog.

Tom Eggebeen
Los Angeles.


Those of us in the RCA are spending a good bit of time talking about "unity" this Synod season--it all rests in identity, though--who are we, where do we receive our identity from, what is diversity and what is a basic distortion of our identity--do we most faithfully resemble our Lord when we protect ourselves from any variant in the interest of purity or do we most faithfully reflect our Lord when we go forth with an imitation of his engagement of the world, his apparent acceptance of people of many conditions and his welcoming them to a place of forgiveness, grace and acceptance.

I think there is always a temptation to confuse "unity" with "uniformity", always a need to project our sense of purity onto the image of Jesus' desire to call all to fellowship with his heavenly Father, always the temptation to "defend the faith" in a way that undeniably resembles the Pharisees and always a strong human impulse to be carried by those factors and hidden currents of our own unrevealed human psyches, projecting into Jesus those "imperatives" of our own fragile selves.

The hidden elephant in the room, in my opinion, has less to do with our openness to women in office (now thirty years in, and still contested), our position regarding homosexuality (do we offer hospitality and healing acceptance or do we participate in the persecution of anathema for the protection of the purity of the body), do we continue our exchange with theologically kindred bodies (sharing Reformed roots but with different histories) or do we narrowly define those "pure" enough to fellowship with as those who have even more strict standards of "purity" and closed communion.

I think the elephant in the room is our commitment to an identity that has little if anything to do with our Christian identity--our love of sectarianism, the ethnic roots of this particular tribe, the Dutchness which is nationalistic and nostalgic, a "brand" of theological virtue known for its scholastic rigor but not well regarded for its inclusiveness or gracious application of is magisterial theology of Grace.

I think the RCA struggles with a current of sectarianism that perpetually is oppositional, defining who is the "real" reformed communion by erecting ever more strident and exclusive marks of the true church and schizming into smaller and smaller communions that produce bigger fish in little ponds, the historic reward for leading the charge of schism.

It is sectarianism, and it is an offense to the gospel and a vanity and those further up its stream are not well positioned to instruct us on its benefits, so when we bemoan our communion with the PCUSA and long for closer ties with the Orthodox Presbyterians, for instance, that is a clear marker of this sectarian spirit at work, I think. Sectarianism is a terrible distortion of the Gospel and if you want to see its effects, one need look no further than North Ireland for examples of Orangemen in their oppression of Catholics in the name of the "true religion" through the propagating of an exclusive and utopian distortion of the church.

Our identity rests in one place--Christ Jesus, as revealed by his life and the witness of the whole Word of God, rightly interpreted, not appropriated with weak hermeneutics and self-styled but theologically ignorant leaders who are trying to "re-brand" their own version of what is "reformed" by simply asserting with vigor that it is. To be Reformed is to take the whole counsel of God and follow the Word of God wherever it leads, even if that reveals a long arc of justice, a widening inclusion into the family of God and a manifestation of Grace that is almost beyond our human ability to comprehend it. Reformed ever reforming. May God's spirit be powerfully present at Synod this year.

Charlotte Ellison
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Roman Catholics and Religious Freedom

Nope! Not buying this line of argument. It's not about religious freedom, as if this has ever been the concern of the Bishops' Club? 

Let's be honest, shall we? It's about control of women and their bodies, because women and their bodies are nothing more than incubators for little Bishops and Cardinals and Priests and maybe even a Pope, not to mention soldiers who were the cannon fodder of Catholic nations for centuries, as they fought one another and colonized the world.

And what a great way (someone is getting a raise on this one) to deflect interest from the plague of sex-abuse that has crippled the church and destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of Roman Catholics and their families.

Go to war with the President, and veil it as a defense of religious freedom. 

Women, kiss your hard-won freedoms goodbye if these silly boys with their flaming hats and lacy vestments win the day.

And to anyone who cares about truth and freedom, don't let these ploys turn the investigative spotlight away from the culture of sex-abuse that has long permeated the privileged Bishops' Club and their predatory priests.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Walter Wink - Redemptive Violence

Facing the Myth of Redemptive Violence
By Walter Wink

The belief that violence “saves” is so successful because it doesn’t seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It’s what works. It seems inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god. What people overlook, then, is the religious character of violence. It demands from its devotees an absolute obedience-unto-death.

This Myth of Redemptive Violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today. When my children were small, we let them log an unconscionable amount of television, and I became fascinated with the mythic structure of cartoons. This was in the 1960s, when the ”death of God” theologians were being feted on talk shows, and secular humanity’s tolerance for religious myth and mystery were touted as having been exhausted.

I began to examine the structure of cartoons, and found the same pattern repeated endlessly: an indestructible hero is doggedly opposed to an irreformable and equally indestructible villain. Nothing can kill the hero, though for the first three quarters of the comic strip or TV show he (rarely she) suffers grievously and appears hopelessly doomed, until miraculously, the hero breaks free, vanquishes the villain, and restores order until the next episode. Nothing finally destroys the villain or prevents his or her reappearance, whether the villain is soundly trounced, jailed, drowned, or shot into outer space.

Few cartoons have run longer or been more influential than Popeye and Bluto. In a typical segment, Bluto abducts a screaming and kicking Olive Oyl, Popeye’s girlfriend. When Popeye attempts to rescue her, the massive Bluto beats his diminutive opponent to a pulp, while Olive Oyl helplessly wrings her hands. At the last moment, as our hero oozes to the floor, and Bluto is trying, in effect, to rape Olive Oyl, a can of spinach pops from Popeye’s pocket and spills into his mouth.

Transformed by this gracious infusion of power, he easily demolishes the villain and rescues his beloved. The format never varies. Neither party ever gains any insight or learns from these encounters. They never sit down and discuss their differences. Repeated defeats do not teach Bluto to honour Olive Oyl’s humanity, and repeated pummeling’s do not teach Popeye to swallow his spinach before the fight.

Something about this mythic structure rang familiar. Suddenly I remembered: this cartoon pattern mirrored one of the oldest continually enacted myths in the world, the Babylonian creation story (the Enuma Elish) from around 1250 BCE. The tale bears repeating, because it holds the clue to the appeal of that ancient myth in our modern media.

In the beginning, according to the Babylonian myth, Apsu, the father god, and Tiamat, the mother god, give birth to the gods. But the frolicking of the younger gods makes so much noise that the elder gods resolve to kill them so they can sleep. The younger gods uncover the plot before the elder gods put it into action, and kill Apsu. His wife Tiamat, the Dragon of Chaos, pledges revenge.
Terrified by Tiamat, the rebel gods turn for salvation to their youngest member, Marduk. He negotiates a steep price: if he succeeds, he must be given chief and undisputed power in the assembly of the gods. Having extorted this promise, he catches Tiamat in a net, drives an evil wind down her throat, shoots an arrow that bursts her distended belly and pierces her heart. He then splits her skull with a club and scatters her blood in out-of-the-way places. He stretches out her corpse full-length, and from it creates the cosmos. (With all this blood and gore, no wonder this story proved ideal as the prototype of violent TV shows and Hollywood movies).

In this myth, creation is an act of violence. Marduk murders and dismembers Tiamat, and from her cadaver creates the world. As the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur observes (The Symbolism of Evil, Harper Collins 1967), order is established by means of disorder. Chaos (symbolized by Tiamat) is prior to order (represented by Marduk, high god of Babylon). Evil precedes good. The gods themselves are violent.

The biblical myth in Genesis 1 is diametrically opposed to all this (Genesis 1, it should be noted, was developed in Babylon during the Jewish captivity there as a direct rebuttal to the Babylonian myth). The Bible portrays a good God who creates a good creation. Chaos does not resist order. Good is prior to evil. Neither evil nor violence is part of the creation, but enter later, as a result of the first couple’s sin and the connivance of the serpent (Genesis 3). A basically good reality is thus corrupted by free decisions reached by creatures. In this far more complex and subtle explanation of the origins of things, violence emerges for the first time as a problem requiring solution.

In the Babylonian myth, however, violence is no problem. It is simply a primordial fact. The simplicity of this story commended it widely, and its basic mythic structure spread as far as Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Germany, Ireland, India, and China. Typically, a male war god residing in the sky fights a decisive battle with a female divine being, usually depicted as a monster or dragon, residing in the sea or abyss (the feminine element). Having vanquished the original enemy by war and murder, the victor fashions a cosmos from the monster’s corpse. Cosmic order requires the violent suppression of the feminine, and is mirrored in the social order by the subjection of women to men and people to ruler.

After the world has been created, the story continues, the gods imprisoned by Marduk for siding with Tiamat complain of the poor meal service. Marduk and his father, Ea, therefore execute one of the captive gods, and from his blood Ea creates human beings to be servants to the gods.

The implications are clear: human beings are created from the blood of a murdered god. Our very origin is violence. Killing is in our genes. Humanity is not the originator of evil, but merely finds evil already present and perpetuates it. Our origins are divine, to be sure, since we are made from a god, but from the blood of an assassinated god.

Human beings are thus naturally incapable of peaceful coexistence. Order must continually be imposed upon us from on high: men over women, masters over slaves, priests over laity, aristocrats over peasants, rulers over people. Unquestioning obedience is the highest virtue, and order the highest religious value. As Marduk’s representative on earth, the king’s task is to subdue all those enemies who threaten the tranquility that he has established on behalf of the god. The whole cosmos is a state, and the god rules through the king. Politics arises within the divine sphere itself.

Salvation is politics: the masses identify with the god of order against the god of chaos, and offer themselves up for the Holy War that imposes order and rule on the peoples round about.
In short, the Myth of Redemptive Violence is the story of the victory of order over chaos by means of violence. It is the ideology of conquest, the original religion of the status quo. The gods favor those who conquer. Conversely, whoever conquers must have the favor of the gods. The common people exist to perpetuate the advantage that the gods have conferred upon the king, the aristocracy, and the priesthood.

Religion exists to legitimate power and privilege. Life is combat. Any form of order is preferable to chaos, according to this myth. Ours is neither a perfect nor perfectible world; it is theatre of perpetual conflict in which the prize goes to the strong. Peace through war, security through strength: these are the core convictions that arise from this ancient historical religion, and they form the solid bedrock on which the Domination System is founded in every society.

The Babylonian myth is far from finished. It is as universally present and earnestly believed today as at any time in its long and bloody history. It is the dominant myth in contemporary America. It enshrines the ritual practice of violence at the very heart of public life, and even those who seek to oppose its oppressive violence do so violently.

We have already seen how the myth of redemptive violence is played out in the structure of children’s cartoon shows (and is found as well in comics, video and computer games, and movies). But we also encounter it in the media, in sports, in nationalism, in militarism, in foreign policy, in televangelism, in the religious right, and in self-styled militia groups. What appears so innocuous in cartoons is, in fact, the mythic underpinnings of our violent society.

The psychodynamics of the TV cartoon or comic book are marvelously simple: children identify with the good guy so that they can think of themselves as good. This enables them to project out onto the bad guy their own repressed anger, violence, rebelliousness, or lust, and then vicariously to enjoy their own evil by watching the bad guy initially prevail. This segment of the show – the “Tammuz” element, where the hero suffers – actually consumes all but the closing minutes, allowing ample time for indulging the violent side of the self.

When the good guy finally wins, viewers are then able to reassert control over their own inner tendencies, repress them, and re-establish a sense of goodness without coming to any insight about their own inner evil. The villain’s punishment provides catharsis; one forswears the villain’s ways and heaps condemnation on him in a guilt-free orgy of aggression. Salvation is found through identification with the hero.

Only the names have changed. Marduk subdues Tiamat through violence, and though he kills Tiamat, chaos incessantly reasserts itself, and is kept at bay only by repeated battles and by the repetition of the Babylonian New Year’s festival where the heavenly combat myth is ritually re-enacted. Theologian Willis Elliott’s observation underscores the seriousness of this entertainment: ”the birth of the world (cosmogony) is the birth of the individual (egogony): you are being birthed through how you see ’all things’ as being birthed”. Therefore “Whoever controls the cosmogony controls the children”.

The Myth of Redemptive Violence is the simplest, laziest, most exciting, uncomplicated, irrational, and primitive depiction of evil the world has even known. Furthermore, its orientation toward evil is one into which virtually all modern children (boys especially) are socialized in the process of maturation. Children select this mythic structure because they have already been led, by culturally reinforced cues and role models, to resonate with its simplistic view of reality. Its presence everywhere is not the result of a conspiracy of Babylonian priests secretly buying up the mass media with Iraqi oil money, but a function of values endlessly reinforced by the Domination System. By making violence pleasurable, fascinating, and entertaining, the Powers are able to delude people into compliance with a system that is cheating them of their very lives.

Once children have been indoctrinated into the expectations of a dominator society, they may never outgrow the need to locate all evil outside themselves. Even as adults they tend to scapegoat others for all that is wrong in the world. They continue to depend on group identification and the upholding of social norms for a sense of well-being.

In a period when attendance at Christian Sunday schools is dwindling, the myth of redemptive violence has won children’s voluntary acquiescence to a regimen of indoctrination more extensive and effective than any in the history of religions. Estimates vary widely, but the average child reported to log roughly 36,000 hours of television by age 18, viewing some 15,000 murders. What church or synagogue can even remotely keep pace with the myth of redemptive violence in hours spent teaching children or the quality of presentation? (Think of the typical “children’s sermon” – how bland by comparison!)

No other religious system has even remotely rivaled the myth of redemptive violence in its ability to catechise its young so totally. From the earliest age, children are awash in depictions of violence as the ultimate solution to human conflicts. Nor does saturation in the myth end with the close of adolescence. There is no rite of passage from adolescent to adult status in the national cult of violence, but rather a years-long assimilation to adult television and movie fare.

Not all shows for children or adults are based on violence, of course. Reality is far more complex than the simplicities of this myth, and maturer minds will demand more subtle, nuanced, complex presentations. But the basic structure of the combat myth underlies the pap to which a great many adults turn in order to escape the harsher realities of their everyday lives: spy thrillers, westerns, cop shows, and combat programmes. It is as if we must watch so much “redemptive” violence to reassure ourselves, against the deluge of facts to the contrary in our actual day-to-day lives, that reality really is that simple.

Redemptive violence gives way to violence as an end in itself. It is no longer a religion that uses violence in the pursuit of order and salvation, but one in which violence has become an aphrodisiac, sheer titillation, an addictive high, a substitute for relationships. Violence is no longer the means to a higher good, namely order; violence becomes the end.
(First published on 16 November 2007.)
© Walter Wink was Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. Among his various books are The Human Being, Peace Is The Way, The Bible in Human Transformation, The Powers That Be, and Homosexuality and Christian Faith.

Dr. Wink died May 10, 2012, but his legacy of thought in these and other areas continues to resonate widely. Article originally reproduced with the kind permission of Christian Peacemaker Teams Christian Peacemaker Teams ( is an initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers) with support and membership from a range of Catholic and Protestant denominations. Backing violence-reduction efforts around the world is its mandate.