Monday, May 29, 2017

Threats?



I've heard some concerns raised by some on the more conservative side of things about the Left "abandoning" its values. By way of example, they offer the rioting and protesting that has happened in places like colleges when conservative figures have arrived to speak.

For instance, those graduates who walked out rather than listen to Mike Pence address a graduation ceremony.

First of all, I would just say that I share some concerns about actions like rioting by those on the left and trying to block conservative speakers. Liberalism is about free speech, amongst other things and we need to be careful to not appear to quash that which we support... even when that speech is used to advocate detestable values or by rather repugnant people.

On the other hand, one can value and hold dear the right to free speech AND at the same time say, "But I have no interest in hearing this person speak and you can't make me listen to them..." especially when that person (Trump, for instance) has committed horrible acts or promoted atrocious policies. It can be an act of resistance to refuse to even listen to what that person has to say.

For instance, until such time as Trump admits his sexual predatory behavior and apologizes for that behavior (indicating recognition of the actual wrong he has done), and repents and turns away from that behavior, I have zero interest in listening to what he says. He is a sexual predator and pervert and that's enough.

[And I say that as someone who, in my real life, does have to deal with sexual predators and can do so with some good grace. But there is a difference between dealing with the marginalized and down and out on their road to recovery and giving a pass to a sexual predator who has ascended to the most powerful office in the land.]

At any rate, all of that is to say that valuing free speech does not mean that we should not resist, at times, listening to what an oppressor has to say. One person's right to free speech is not an indication that others have to listen to their speech. Only an actual snowflake would insist that they must be heard.

Still, there are lines that are being crossed by some very few on the Left that I disagree with. Your right to refuse to listen to someone does not mean that you have the right to deny others the opportunity to listen.

And, on the other hand again, that isn't to say that people don't have the right to protest, for instance, a candidate that shows up to give a speech.

Free speech all around. That IS a liberal value and we should be wary about crossing that line. For the most part, I do not see this as a problem on the left, but there are some few instances where lines have been crossed and, to the degree that it has happened, those few liberals are forsaking the ideal of free speech in seeking to balance resistance and supporting free speech. Be aware.

Now, having said all of that(!) I get to the point of the article linked above.  There is serious concern that conservatives are being way too silent about those on their side who are abandoning basic decent values.

Trump IS a pervert and a sexual predator. By his own repeated admissions and boasting. Not a pervert in the sense of "ew! he does things my religion does not approve of...!" but a pervert in the sense of oppressor, of one who ogles teen aged girls who are half or all naked and then boasts and laughs about it publicly... in the sense of grabbing women by the pussy and boasting and bragging about what he can get away with because of his position of power. That is serious deviant and oppressive behavior. That shit should have been not a slight red flag, but a deal breaker. There should have been a line in the sand that so-called "family values" conservatives should not be willing to cross and, by and large, they did. Not just a few outliers, but in sufficient numbers to score an electoral win.

Beyond that, there is this common cause amongst some conservatives - including Trump and those in power - with those who are amongst our most serious threats. Several studies and reports from law enforcement types say that our greatest threats of violence comes from the Right Wing extremist types discussed in the article above. These are people who have been told (by Trump et al - now "main stream" conservatives), that the media is "the enemy!" that they tell "lies" and that those dark and foreign people - Muslims, Mexicans, black urban folk - are a threat to our way of life. As are "liberals" and the gays.

Mainstream conservatives are forsaking traditional values of humanity and liberty and truth-telling. This is a great concern and I hope to see, at some point, conservatives to start to speak out against it. Thanks to folks like John McCain and, at least temporarily, even Al Mohler, who have done so to some degree. May their tribe increase.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hard Questions... Reasonable Questions


I like reading conservative Christian commentary. Call me crazy, but I do. It helps me to think through positions and invariably raises questions. I sometimes ask Stan at the Winging It blog some questions and, even though he doesn't post my questions and says that he doesn't read my questions any more, nonetheless, he regularly answers them, often in a second blog post. Good for him.

He recently did this in his post, "Hard Sayings, Give to the One Who Asks..."

In an earlier post, he raised questions about taking the Bible's teachings literally. I asked him if he took Jesus' command literally, "Give to EVERYONE who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back." and, if so, I would like to ask him for $500, please and thank you.

In his post and his answer to my question, he gave a very good and correct answer, I think. He said...

You may say you believe that all this stuff is woodenly literally true, but what you believe is always displayed in what you do.

No, this can't be taken that way.

Jesus was making broad statements to provide principles. What we need to do is discover the principles He was trying to provide. That's much easier, much clearer, much more reasonable. We are not to hate. We are not to lust. We are supposed to have integrity. These aren't that hard to figure out.

On the question at hand -- "Give to everyone that asks" -- what is the principle? It is unavoidable that the principle is compassion and generosity.


So, Stan is saying that the rules/commands/teachings in the Bible need not always be taken woodenly literally. Even Jesus' commands to his followers are not to be taken woodenly literally. These are more of guidelines, Stan says, not woodenly literal rules.

Well done, I applaud Stan's answer and thank him for answering the question. I followed up with another question, something along the lines of, "Why then, take so many of the more 'sexual teachings' woodenly literally? There are two lines in the OT that say, "Men shall not lie with men. If they do, kill them." and Stan takes that teaching (the first half, anyway) woodenly literally. THAT, he says, is a hard rule for all times and all people. Why does he think that rule should be taken woodenly literally (and indeed, extrapolate out to clarify that this means gay and lesbian people can't marry those they're attracted to, even though that is not a literal rule anywhere in the Bible), but not Jesus' command about money?

And to Stan's credit, he answered that question, too, saying,

The point is not "Don't take it woodenly literal." The point is "Take it as intended. Historical when historical, poetic when poetic, parable when parable, analogy when analogy, hyperbole when hyperbole, doctrinal when doctrinal." Those who take it in a woodenly literal fashion every time make as much of a mistake as those who never take it at face value.

Fair enough. Thanks again for the answer. But then, this begs another question... and that is the point of my raising the initial question and this question remains unanswered:

So, who decides which lines in the Bible ARE to be taken woodenly literally and which are not? Is it not the case that you, Stan, are using your reasoning and making your best judgement to decide if something is literal? And that is certainly what I'm doing.

So, if we are both using our human judgement to make this call, even if you disagree with me, can you not respect that I, too, am seeking the good and the right and God's way? And can you not agree that you have no rational or biblical basis to say, "MY human opinion (and those who agree with me) are authoritatively, objectively correct and those who disagree with us are objectively wrong..."?

The thing is, humility.

We all have our opinions when we read the Bible (or Koran, or Huck Finn, etc) and reach conclusions on truths and opinions. But they are human opinions, God has not told Stan or me what God intended, or what Matthew or Luke intended, when they wrote what they wrote. Except for things that are demonstrable (Israel was an actual nation is provable, Jonah was an actual man is not provable), we can't prove our opinions. They are human opinions and thus, it is not rational or fair for some to say that they are the ones who speak authoritatively for what God intends.

In all things, humility, this is a reasonable opinion on unprovable matters and, I'd say, consistent with biblical teachings.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

~St Paul. Probably.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Magical Thinking



When I was a young lad in the environmentally conscious 1970s, I was at my cousins' house one day with my younger brother. Looking for something to do, the older cousin (probably a teenager) suggested we have a design contest. Each younger cousin would draw out a plan for helping reduce pollution problems (yeah, a weird game, I know), and then the older cousin would be the judge and announce a winner.

I jumped right on this and started laying out a complex underground fan system that would draw pollution out of the air through a series of fans and vents, blowing the pollution underground through the sewer lines to a completely sealed container of some sort. As a ~eight year old, I was pretty impressed with my engineering problem-solving prowess.

My younger brother, on the other hand, had only managed to do this: He drew a big red button and when you pushed the button, pollution disappeared, he said. Poof! Of course, I scoffed at such a childish answer.

The time came and we presented our plans to the older cousin and... she said that my younger brother won!

"W-what?!" I sputtered. "That isn't a plan! It's a wish! There's nothing to say why it works, it's not a real solution!" There was no convincing the judge of the righteousness of my reasoning.

I have been reminded of this story this year, pretty much every time that Trump or one of his supporters says things like, "No one knew how hard it would be to come up with a great healthcare system" or, "This being president is more difficult than you'd think!" or, "Here's what we're going to do: We're going to SOLVE the problem with a GREAT answer. No one will believe how great the answer is. We'll just cut taxes in half! We'll just make Mexico pay for a wall! The wall will just fix things! We'll just..."

These are like my younger brother's answers. They're examples of magical thinking. "No one knew how hard it would be to find good health care solutions..."?? Of course people did! Anyone who looks at the complex problems associated with paying for health care, who has read up on the research behind the topic, who is familiar with the process of creating big policies, who has READ... anyone who has thought about it and given it some research knows things just don't magically happen.

We don't just magically "fix" the economy by cutting taxes for the wealthiest in half. Someone has to be an adult and pay for our bills. We don't just magically fix environmental issues by creating a big red button that "solves things" and then cutting all the actual regulations that do affect change.
In my brother's defense, he was probably six or seven years old. In Trump's defense... well, there is no defense.

Come on, people, wishful thinking is not a plan. A half page of bullet points is not a tax system. Dreams without plans are just wishful thinking and that is fine for children, but when it comes to national policy, we need adults in charge with adult thinking and adult solutions.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter as Murder Ballad...


A song from my church today. "If It Hadn't Been for Love," which is originally a fantastic murder ballad from Chris Stapleton (check it out). With a little adaptation, we played it as an Easter song, which strikes us as quite appropriate.

Peace.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Jesus Was a Madman



Jesus was a madman
wild-eyed and dangerous
hanging just at the margins
associating with the undesirables
and untouchables 
and unwanteds
'til one day
he just plain snapped

And the clearing of the temple?
That was a horror story,
animals screaming
people running and gunning
money rolling 'round the floor
and flying out the windows
and out the doors
dark and terrifying
hideous and horrible.


Here, there was a mild-mannered preacherman,
teaching,  preaching love and peace
siding with the least of these
til one day, geez Louise!
he just goes
jack-rabbit
insane
in the temple of God
yelling, whipping,
calling down curses
upon the people
which is to say, 
upon the businessmen

They say he was possessed by demons
A secret servant of satan
Beelzebub's bud
Foaming-at-the-mouth mad

Right there in the Big City
Right under their noses
Right in their faces.

They gonna kill that man, for sure.

They gonna kill that man.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tragedy


I took a stick
and wrote a story
upon a softly rolling creek

And then I laughed and laughed and laughed
like a woodpecker in love


It was a comedy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Season of Lengthening Days



We live in 
a season of lengthening days

We must believe this to be true

Even when the skies whisper gray doubt
and the streams run slow and
ice-covered.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Today, I Looked Up



Today I looked up and, 
to my amazement, 
saw a great blue heron
flying across the sky
with her impossibly long legs and dinosaur wings

I saw a miracle, 
grace in flight
When I looked up today.

Yesterday, I did not look up
And I didn't see anything.
No grace, no miracle, nothing.

And I wonder what I would have seen

if I'd looked up.






Wednesday, February 15, 2017

You Are the Light of the World



“You are the light of the world.”

That's what Jesus said.

He said that I am the light of the world!

The sort of light that makes people 
smile and whistle with delight, that
brightens the very fields of the earth
making the grass sing golden songs.

Jesus said that 
you and I 
are this beautiful
powerful
world-changing light...
 
a light like 
the very sun above us,
a light that can not be hidden or
turned off.

That's what Jesus said about us!

That's some kind of pressure...

but who are we to disagree?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Coffee House Celebration


My church has, for 25 years, hosted a monthly open mic coffee house called the Urban Goatwalker. The Goatwalker has been a safe place for members of the community to meet together to share songs, coffee, snacks and friendship. It has been a welcoming place for everyone, especially for our friends who too often find themselves on the margins of life. We celebrated the Goatwalker's 25th birthday last Saturday and it was a grand time. Many, many thanks to all who have made the Goatwalker the blessing that it is and has always been.

The video above has a few snippets from this week's coffeehouse.


Welcome

Welcome to strangers
to friends, old and new
welcome to travelers
and welcome to you

Welcome to fans of Tupac
And fans of Thoreau
Bienvenidos a mes amigos que habla espanol

Whether you like guitars or drums
Or poetry by Rambo
You are welcome here
Even if you like banjo!

Whether you walked here on foot
or rode in on wheels
We are so glad you're here
you're kind of a big deal

Your smile when you smile
makes our hearts swell
but your tears and your frowns
are welcome, as well

The thing is, we like you
you're great, without compare
and we are so glad that you
you specifically
Have made your way here