Politics

Church Systems: Lessons from Trump

I’ve been watching the political process culminating in the two party conventions with an ulterior motive. I want to know which party has a healthy organization, is the American democratic experiment on the fritz, and how any of this applies to the local congregation and its struggles to remain relevant and united.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

In the children’s game of Rock, Paper, Scissors: Fear is represented by the stones that cause us to stumble, Reason is the pair of Scissors that cuts away falsehood, and Faith is the insubstantial seeming Paper that wraps up our fears and overcomes them. So, Rock (fear) breaks Reason (scissors), Scissors (Reason) cuts undeveloped Faith, and Faith, as always, defeats Fear. 

 

Keep Competition Where it Belongs

Being a Cleveland Cavs fan by marriage, I was intrigued to learn that the Republican convention will be held in their basketball court. Somehow the wood floor that hosts hundreds of hours each year of elbows, shoving, and intentional fouling, will be covered over so that neat rows of chairs and a podium may exist in the midst of the arena. If the Republicans have a contested convention, some are promising that there will be more blood sport happening that week than what even the NBA allows. I pray not. Politics, like religion, should not be a competitive enterprise.

Outsiders

It is hard to celebrate Palm Sunday, and read Psalm 118, with today’s newspaper in your hand without reflecting upon the term outsider. The stone which the builders rejected, has become the chief cornerstone. Is this being said about Jesus, Christopher Columbus, or Donald Trump? You form a mental picture of Jesus leading his noisy throng up to the gates of Jerusalem. The religious and political leadership of the nation is standing on a parapet high above, and crying out for someone to bar the door. Now shift the mental picture and see the towering glass building of Wall Street, and dodging the yellow cabs below is a parade of Bernie Sanders supporters, shouting about breaking up the big banks and raising the minimum wage to $15. Perhaps we need to step aside from Palm Sunday a moment and consider the role of an outsider, both for our personal religious journey, and for our common good.

 

Palm Sunday
Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Accepting Ambiguity

Many of the politicians that I’m not voting for have one thing in common, they distrust science. They may be respected physicians, but they’ll balk at the fundamental theories that have enabled science to provide us with genetic testing, and one day, will cure cancer. Or, they may be savvy business pros, but they’ll ignore the environmental red-ink of climate change, or the science that says that this debt cannot be deferred. This primary season has be marked by a constant stream of bogus statistics, created by candidates to support their pet policies. Scientists have a term for this, they call it Confirmation Bias.

Choose Life!

Wednesday, I drove my wife to the emergency room with what had been, only an hour before, a minor condition. Within a short time after arriving, a doctor said to me, “It is a good thing that you brought her in when you did.” Why did I bring her in when I did? Because we had health insurance. If we were uninsured, as we had been back in the 1980s, I would have held off. It’s just a bug, it will pass. My dithering may have been fatal.

 

Want a King?

The problem with Trump is that he doesn’t live in a world where he can see a woman in a hijab, shepherding her children onto the school bus and think to himself, “hey that family shares my hopes and dreams.” The problem with our country, is that 30% of the people want to live in Trump’s world. It’s a world where language is used to hurt, not heal, where might makes right, and where public service has been forgotten. It is the land of a people who desire a king (1 Samuel Chapter 8) and a man who says, “I’m smart enough for the job.”

Ecology

Psalm 8 and the Genesis creation story reveal something that can only be learned from revelation: that our dominion over all creatures, as well as, our responsibility for the environment, is not something humanity gained by evolving into the top position in terms of intelligence, nor have we conquered the earth by our own might, ecological dominion is instead a gift, a matter of grace from our creator. This is why Pope Francis’ voice on climate control is a significant addition to the debate. Many have stopped listening to the scientists who say that our carbon emissions have already raised the average temperature of the planet, and unless checked, will create chaotic weather, dramatic climate changes that will threaten the world food supply, and raised sea levels, that in time, will flood our coastal cities. Those in authority receive this bad news much as an alcoholic receives the advice that he should stop drinking. Facts are not enough. The Bible tells us, however, that to abandon our role as wise managers of the planet is sin.

    Psalm 8 has three striking lines:

Verse 2: Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

Pentecost 22
Sunday, October 4, 2015

Never Call Them Stupid

Imprecise language is the bane of group processes. Whether you are Donald Trump, Bill Maher, or the substitute teacher for the kindergarten Sunday school class, your audience deserves a better word choice.  Unless you are referring to a recent blow on the head, as in to be knocked stupid, the word “stupid” is always a poor choice. Not only is it inflammatory, it distracts us from the choice we must make whenever we talk about motive. I write novels and none of my characters are stupid. Whenever they make a bad decision or commit a felony, the proper word for what they are doing is either incompetence or malevolence.

Political Problems

It is hard to bite the hand that feeds you. It requires courage and a whole hearted dependency upon God to do it more than once. Thing is, people who keep people, like pets, and feed them everyday in paternalistic ways, are many. Most of us belong to something or someone who is happy to feed us. Three notable exceptions are Groucho Marx, Jesus of Nazareth, and the prophet Samuel.

 

Groucho famously said, “I refuse to be a member of any organization that will have me.”  His team then went on to make the film Duck Soup. This 1933 classic pokes fun at the rising Nazi movement in Germany, while at the same time delivering jabs at the way political systems own all of us. It was the last film made by the Marx Brothers for Paramount, because Groucho habitually bit the hand that was feeding him.

 

Pentecost 5
Sunday, June 7, 2015

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