Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hold On There, Hoss

In comments, Ben Gosden:
"God does not ask us to change. God does not demand that we change. God doesn't care if we change. God just loves us."

Doesn't the love of God elicit a response of change? "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That proves God's love toward us." Is the love of God not the catalyst for transformation? (transformation = becoming more like Christ via sanctifying grace)
I would be more amused if this wasn't something that had been clear (at least to me) for, I don't know, decades.

The comment begs all sorts of questions, not the least of which is, "Um,  so?"

"Elicit a response" . . .  Sometimes the response is running the other way.  Sometimes it's spiritual deafness.  Sometimes it's a shrug.

What part of this comment means anything other than, "Well now, we can't let grace really be grace now, can we?"

Several years ago, I made a comment that, associating with the kinds of people he did, Jesus probably didn't get all schoolmarmish when folks said the first century equivalent of "Fuck".  I was chastised for this to no end, but I stand by it.  That's not who Jesus was.  That isn't how Jesus operated.  So many times, we hear how Jesus told people, "Go and sin no more," except, of course, he didn't always do that.  Neither did he tell people, "OK, I'll heal you/free you from demonic possession/offer you living water, but only if you promise to do good stuff for the rest of your life."  No, time and again we read of Jesus having pity or compassion for those who were suffering, and doing what was necessary to make their lives whole.

We rarely read about how they lived their lives after that crucial encounter, the exception being the Apostles and St. Paul.

Did the Samaritan woman at the well leave the man with whom she was shacking up?  I have no idea, the text doesn't say, and, really, does it matter?  For the reader of the story, isn't enough that this Gentile woman, a despised minority in an unclean land, encountered the Living God in the flesh who offered her love and compassion even though he knew everything about who she was?  When the man blind from birth came to Jesus, he didn't say, "Yup, the dude's blind because his parents were horrible people."  He said, "This man was born blind so the power of God could be revealed through his healing."  What a magnificent testimony that Jesus could see in this individual an opportunity for the revelation of the power and majesty of God!

With no questions asked.

The great gift of John Wesley is the reminder that following Christ offers the opportunity to live a life in and with the full knowledge of the grace of God in Christ.  It is never easy, requiring us to share our burdens with one another, hold one another accountable in love to the promises offered us in the Spirit.

The thing is . . . this isn't a requirement.  We need to stop thinking of it this way.  We need to stop considering it as such.  We need to stop teaching this.  Stop.  Stop stop stop.

God never never never ever ever ever ever ever gives up on us.  We either hold the cross and empty tomb as the lenses through which we come to understand our lives, individually and communally, or we should just say, "To hell with it."  These realities, as the primary revelation of who God is, exist whether we believe them or not, whether we accept them as significant and meaningful or not, whether the human race goes extinct or not.  The first lesson is - God is Love.  Everything else flows from that.  There are no buts, there are no conditions, there are no codicils, no limits.  This is true whether one has never heard the Good News - "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God's love for us" is what St. Paul explicitly calls "Good News" - or has lived within this reality all one's life.  The freedom we have from the Father in the Son through the Spirit is real freedom, including the freedom to say, "No".

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Actually, You Didn't Build It On Your Own

I find the whole "You Didn't Built That!" nonsense almost comical.  Never mind the reality that Gov. Romney is, as Jon Stewart says, deliberately misrepresenting Pres. Obama's speech.  Politicians make gaffes all the time, yet Pres. Obama didn't make one.  Bad grammar?  Sure.  Is bad grammar a "gaffe"?  No.

Here's a small dose of reality.

Whether you start a lemonade stand, or a small steel fabrication plant, or a dry goods store, you didn't do it on your own.  The idea for the business may well be yours.

You still need folks who agree with your contention that such a business might succeed.  They're sometimes venture capitalists or banks.  In his biography of John D. Rockefeller, Ron Chernow quotes Rockefeller on the necessity of open lines of credit with a series of banks as he expanded his wholesale business to include the newly discovered oil wells in northwest Pennsylvania.  Had those banks not kept open revolving lines of credit, what began as a typical distribution center for urbanizing America might well have ended up just one of hundreds of dead Cleveland businesses in the earl post-Civil War era.

If businesses succeed, they might go public, which is little more than moving from banks to individuals and groups in the constant search for investment capital to maintain and expand their businesses.

Then, of course, there are all those pesky government regulations, like state incorporation laws that shield individuals from fiduciary and civil penalty should the business go belly-up.

Then there's the physical infrastructure that allows businesses to connect with potential customers.  Not only are those constructed and maintained by public entities; very often, they are created by the state in an effort to create an environment in which businesses can achieve their goals.  The first fifty to sixty years of our Republic was a veritable orgy of investment in roads and canals, then railroads, connecting an expansive and expanding continental nation in order to make both governance and commerce easier and profitable.  Historically, the United States government levied exclusionary tariffs on foreign goods to promote the growth of domestic business and industry.

Finally, there's the public-as-customer, allowing businesses to sell to public entities their goods and services, from food and beverages to planes, trains, and automobiles.  Some enormous business entities exist solely on public largess; they are private corporations, but their only customer is the United States government.

This isn't "grade school Marxism", as some doofus said on FOXNews. This is grade school American civics.  President Obama should be applauded for reminding us that Ben Franklin was correct: We hang together or we hang separately.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Folks Are Leaving The Churches

One would think it possible to allow some decent interval between an event as horrible as the massacre in Aurora, CO and opening one's festering gob and spewing out nonsense.  That filter, alas, doesn't seem to exist for some folks.  First this:
If a Christian dies early, if a Christian dies young, it seems tragic, but really it is not tragic because they are going to a wonderful place.. on the other hand, if a person doesn’t know Jesus Christ.. if they knowingly rejected Jesus Christ, then, basically, they are going to a terrible place.
Then, of course, there's Rick Warren, invited by then President-elect Obama to give the invocation as his inauguration.
When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it
Most folks who were around eleven years ago remember the chat between Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, a couple days after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, in which they mused that our many liberal social and cultural habits and practices had, perhaps, brought upon us God's wrath in the form of three thousand dead people.  Of course, they soon apologized, or at least issued what passes for apologies from people like this who really believe, as Jimmy Stewart once said, the sons-a-bitches deserved it.

Rick Warren has removed the tweet above, but as the Atheist Examiner website notes, it's still up on his Facebook page.  A later tweet seems to claim this particular tweet does not relate to the Aurora shooting.  However, Warren's record is against him, as the story above makes clear.

As for the Newcombe, the guy who comforted the mourning by telling them their dead loved ones were burning in hell for all eternity, should he apologize, I am sure he will not mean it any more than Robertson/Falwell meant their retractions/apologies.

I recently did a series of posts under the general theme "Everything's Connected".  I also have engaged in some thoughtful discussion with some United Methodist clergy on recent trends away from religious affiliation in the United States.  On a personal note, let me say that, given the rest of my personal beliefs and social and cultural commitments, were I not also deeply invested in my own Christian faith, I would no more associate with any organization that called itself a church, than I would tap-dance naked in a minefield.  Because, it isn't just these incidents.  It isn't just a few people or organizations or parachurch groups.  There are whole denominations that are dedicated to the proposition that, having been blessed with the Truth, they feel no obligation to sugarcoat their condemnation of pretty much everyone and everything.  Why should anyone not familiar with religion make any distinction between, say, a publicity-whore like Warren and the promotional material of the United Methodist Church?  Why should someone who never attended church care that the UCC and the AFA are really very different organizations?

While many UMC sit and ponder why it is more and more young people shrug and walk away (yes, I know there's evidence that there has been growth in membership and attendance among that much coveted age-cohort in our denomination; if true, then why is the hierarchy still acting like their feet are on fire and their asses are catching?) they might just want to consider this.  Instead of harrumphing about the absence of the word "Jesus" in denominational promotional ads, maybe they need to open their eyes and ears and take a look around.  "Jesus" is associated with a whole lot of heinous, horrible stuff.  Young people are smart, savvy, and most of all, discerning.  Since Jesus gets hauled in to hatred of gays, the damning of dead people, the promotion of ignorance, and the defense of violence, it seems to me we might need to be a bit more forgiving of these folks who look at our constant bleating of "Jesus!" and say, "Forget it.  Not interested."

If it weren't for the reality that I believe and live differently, I would probably do the exact same thing.  That I believe and live differently is just an accident of biography and circumstance.  Folks need to keep that in mind.

Virtual Tin Cup

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