Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wearing 'religious gear' - inhospitality in action

I've been doing quite a bit of thinking about religious gear. Think of it like this. If you are an Ohio State football fan - you wear OSU gear. This is almost mandatory if you go to a home game. You will receive strange looks and possibly comments if you show up with some other gear - especially if the gear you are wearing has nothing to do with the two teams on the field.

Religious gear has nothing to do with the substance of a life that is shaped by the teachings of a religion. It is just gear. I can wear a cross around my neck - but it is not necessary for me to do that in  order to be a follower of Jesus. In fact, it does no one any good for me to wear it for the whole world to see. And yet, some would say it helps to remind them that they are a Christian - or that they are reminded of the kind of person they are to be if they are a follower of Jesus. Is is necessary? No. A person can be a faithful, living follower of Jesus and you may never see that person wearing any Christian gear.

Religious gear often becomes more of the life of religious folks than the life into which those people have been drawn. Communities of people are known by their look. The religious gear somehow becomes seen as essential. In fact, the gear can even become how one is included or excluded - how one obtains access or is shunned - how you are identified or become the recipient of hospitality. I remember when I was growing up my mother and grandmother always kept an embroidered handkerchief in their purse so they could put it on their head when they went to mass. That's religious gear. Somehow the gear became vital - essential to how one went about the life of the faith. If I would have put on such a piece of gear I would have been asked to take it off when I went to mass. Hmm.

Usually I am told that religious gear is meant to help a person or a people remember the life they are to live. That has never been a good reason to me. I do not think religious folks suffer from amnesia because we do not put on the right gear and wear it in the right places. We suffer from amnesia because we forget the life that is to be at the center of our living. I do not need to wear a Browns ball cap to remind me that I am a Browns fan. In fact, with the way the Browns have been playing - it might be good for me to forget. But I will not. I do not need to wear a cross or eat fish on Fridays - especially in Lent - in order to be reminded that I am to follow the way of Jesus.

Religious gear - I would suggest - nurtures inhospitality and serves to divide people even when the core of the faith talks of peace and the oneness of humankind. The expression putting on your Sunday best was common and the expectation was that you would dress up for worship. In fact, if you did not - if you went to worship in a t-shirt and jeans - you might be asked to leave or there would be made very made obvious that you were in the wrong place - you were not one of the good religious folk. Sunday best is really nothing more than everyday best - it is not a dress - it is a character, a life, a way of being a neighbor to all. It does not matter if your head is not covered or your shoulders are exposed or you wear sandals or your ankles are visible or you are not in a suit or fine dress. All the gear can be shed and it need not be called necessary. It is not.

Religious gear is disrespectful even though I have heard so many times that you should wear this or not wear that out of respect for a person's religion. Really? The faith of a person is not about clothing. We would do much better if we would respect the actual lives of those of various faiths - maybe even listen to what it is they teach. Religious gear becomes a way religious folk attempt to respect their image of God and yet I find that it often creates unnecessary distinctions among people who are looking toward the vision of a peaceable reign for all. I might even go so far as to say that religious gear mocks such a vision. Religious gear may seem to build an identity among people of this or that faith tradition - but how often is that need to identify become a primary component in how we stay separate from others. As at a football game between rivals, our religious gear invites rivalry to intensify. It allows for the creation of an us v them that can lead to violence and simple disrespect. And yet, it doesn't always. Many people are able to see the superficiality of religious gear and respect the lives of those others.

If you noticed, religious gear is not merely that worn by folks who are part of a traditional faith community. Religious gear is also quite secular. It sets limits as to who is welcome. It creates a community for those who abide by the guidelines for appropriate gear. It cares not for the character of the people or their values or how they will act if an emergency situation is created. No, it draws lines and makes for distinctions that often fuel disrespect and even a warring madness.

Maybe I should consider gear that is vital and necessary and critical for a person to be or do that which s/he is expected to do. In the Columbus Dispatch this week there is a series about fire fighters. Now, they wear GEAR. If they did not wear their gear we would have no fire fighters and we would lose many people in and around fire settings. The flame retardant clothing, the masks, the oxygen tanks, the helmets, and the boots make up gear that is necessary for fire fighters to do their work - complete their mission. Religious gear is not like that. A certain hat or head covering is not necessary to live the life of one's faith. A variety of clothing tied to a group of religious folks is not necessary to live the life of one's faith. I can be a faithful follower of my God even as I have no clothes of any type that might associate me with any religious people. That, I would submit, is central to life that seeks to make all of us truly human - in the image of God. Our lives - not that which we wear - becomes the way we identified along the way.

But as I end, I would urge all of us to respect the religious gear worn by people of various faith communities. Maybe the respect comes by asking, 'Why is that necessary? Why do you wear this or that?' Then, also sharing what religious gear you wear or do not wear and why you wear it or why you have put it to the side. But most of all, I find that it is not necessary to wear the gear of others even if we say it is out of respect. Maybe we would all move around with each other a bit more easily if we left the religious gear to our home or places of worship while simultaneously making damn sure we do not let the visitor/stranger to our communities of faith think they are not one of us - not one of the good ones - not welcome. But I rant.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Nothingness - living as though it is real

Beyond what is - is nothing. This was an odd experience. I had just gone to bed. This is a time of the day - even though it is usually quite short - that my imagination soars. I don't always like that experience and it is quite hard to turn it off once it starts turning out ideas and images. Often, this is a time in which I figure out a problem or have an idea that seems to bring a potential resolution to the direction of a storyline. At other times, I come to some kind of decision of what I must do. I have even resolved an issue within a sermon on which I have been working. Unfortunately, there are those nights when I think I am going to remember what came to mind - but alas, by morning, there is quite nothing. At other times, I wake in the morning and go directly to some paper and write myself a note. If I am really struck by my pre-sleep thoughts, I may even leave bed quickly and write something down. I should keep a bedside journal but I wonder if I would cut short my flow of thought if I was to get up and write down and idea that was not yet complete.

I say all this because while I was on vacation I considered nothingness. Yes, right there in bed after a full day that should have put me right to sleep. I realized that there was nothing to consider - how can one consider something that is not and will not be!? It all started with the internal question: what if I did not wake up - what if I died during the night? My first thought was - well, nothing. I simply would not be anymore - I would be an inanimate object. To my wife and to my friends and enemies I would be a collection of memories. Yet, their memories would mean nothing to me as I would be nothing - gone - dead. In these bits of pre-dream ramblings, I let go of an after life - no heaven and no hell. No rewards - No punishments. No cosmic party. Just nothingness - the end.

I suppose I was set off in this direction because of a book I have written just recently. It is fiction. It is  in a diary format that records my first year after I came to the realization that I - at age 64 - can fly. I use the expression go up. The connection to my bedtime mental wanderings has to do with one of the abilities that goes along with being able to go up. I have no super powers - but I am able to lift people and take them with me. As long as someone is holding on to me or I am embracing someone who is within reach of me - I can take them all up without it being a burden at all. I test that ability regularly in an attempt to find a limit. None so far.  But, if I try to lift an inanimate object - a stone, a bike, a basket - I can only lift something that my normal everyday - bad-back body - can handle. The people around me - folks that are alive - shit, we're flying baby.

Nothingness comes into play as I toyed with the notion of something being inanimate. In the book I don't try to lift any animals because I don't need to be coated in animal poop nor do I want to frighten a dog or a cow to death. But there is an incident when I attempt to rescue two homeless people who have jumped into a rain swollen creek near our home. I was able to latch onto the woman, pull her out of the water, and take her back up to the bridge and her friends. But then, I go back to find the man. I see him caught up on a thick branch near the shore - his face in the water. I attempt to move him - he is too heavy. I try to take him up - no way. I look more closely at him - he is dead. He has become an inanimate object that is beyond the weight I can lift - or even pull. Nothing at all.

I consider my ability to lift people to be organic. It is as though we are connected - we are able to interact - we are alive and part of something more than simply being individual people. I suppose I see that ability as being a part of being truly human - alive (though I haven't tested animals yet). This is not great notion. Rather, my book of fiction has created a living conundrum for me. There is nothing to come beyond who I am and the life that is available to me everyday. Plans for tomorrow are great and they are fun to anticipate - but right now, how am I alive - how am I alive with others. While I was in my pre-sleep mental wanderings, I found myself to be placed into moments of deep peacefulness. It was - I thought - the way I need to be even during the day. The last time I thought about such stuff was prior to my heart surgery. I am the only family member - among those who have looked into it - who inherited the heart of my gramps - a bicuspid aortic valve. It did him in during the 1960's and near the age I was approaching. Though the surgeon told me it is a good surgery to have and I was in really good health, I had the feeling I was at the end - there would be no other side of surgery. Back then, I first thought of nothingness and realizing that I would not know the outcome if I did not make it to recovery. I thought I was about to enter nothingness - though I did not tell that to my wife or daughter at that time - that would turn the waiting room into a real sea of mourning or a grand celebration - who knows.

So, nothingness. Can you live with that? I am finding that I buy it more and more. I am finding that it is making the stories of the Scriptures come eternally alive for me. Resurrection is endlessly present. God's Reign is utterly available. The Spirit of God pulls at my life like the wind blowing at pentecost and the bringing of creation. Grace a way of life. Hell very present as part of the day. I know, this is no great insight - no profound new thought. But is has made me think of so many people - so many relationships - so many life concerns - so many ways to expand the life at hand - so many ways to actualize a life that considers the welfare of all. So rather than attempt to flee the notion of nothingness, I'm finding myself caught up in more and more moments of liveliness. The stories of Scripture now inform the quality of what it is to be human - humanity when its potential shows forth the wonder of what we are able to be together.

anyone know a publisher who is interested in fiction - book two is already underway. :)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Under God - is a lie

Fear of the other - the ones not like us - rules the land of the free and the home of the brave. I think it is good to note that fear does not make one free and fear often turns the frightened into a mob ruled by fear - not bravery.  

In the 1950s, the prepositional phrase under God was added to the Pledge of Allegiance by a fear-filled people. It was as though a person or a people - if they mentioned the word God or declared that God was on their side - would then be safe from that which they feared. Those folk back then claimed ownership of God - as we still do. Well, I would prefer to say they created a god. Even today, those who claim to be close to God are really close only to the god they imagine will protect them against other gods - other powers - other demons. Demons become those who do not follow the god of our making.

To make the claim that we are under God is to say we are willing to be a part of the character of the God who shows no partiality and finds rest in God's ceaseless affirmation of all people. This would be a wonder-filled reality. Unfortunately,  I think it is not the reality visible among us. When we use the expression under God in the Pledge, I think we are simply lying. Though we are not lying if we mean: the god of our liking - the god who we can control - the god who acts the way we act - the god who draws lines in our favor - the god who we use as an excuse to do as we please - the god who is ruled by fear just as we are. But we should then write it as under god.

In some way, when I hear people talk about being God-fearing people - I now take them at their word. They are afraid of the God who welcomes all - abides with all - rescues all - loves all - sees to the well-being of all - graciously respects the diversity of thought and actions we each bring to the table within a peaceable Reign. God-fearing people only want their god to reign even if it is at the expense of other people. And yet, their god fears any attempt to display the character of the God who risks everything and anything for those too often labeled as other - outsider - a threat. At great expense, God unites and heals and is creatively shaping our character and therefore, we are always changing - even evolving (ahh). So, fear not.

I get a real kick out of seeing and hearing God-fearing people trying to protect God. In reality they are working like hell to protect their image of god. I used the word hell intentionally here. God-fearing people attempt to paint the world as going to hell whenever it is not going as they want it to go. So we have had to put up with God-fearing people who want to go back to a day when people of color and other faiths and other cultures were not among us - or at least could be contained to places away from us. That attempt to protect their image of their god creates a piece of hell on earth. It is manifest as the power of division - fear - hatred - and a dis-ease of the heart that turns compassion and hospitality from gifts we offer to others to gifts we withhold for a few.

I see God as the creative force that opens our heart and minds and lives so that we are able to experience the expansiveness of a love that lets no one go. But God-fearing folks want their god as they have created their god. As that is the case, we have to put up with fear-filled people who think they are being victimized when the world of their own making is not the world others want and seek. When folks who fear the God-of-all it is easy to play the card of a victim and demand religious freedom - but that is a lie also. They don't want religious freedom - they want their way of seeing the world to be held in greater regard than all others. They want us to dwell in their place under god - a place in which the God-of-all is dismissed because that God cannot be controlled by them. The hell that they fear is coming into the world - is the hell that is whipped up by their fears. There are too many lessons throughout history that have shown us again and again that when self-proclaimed God-fearing folk take hold of the steering wheel of the day, they are the masters of creating hell on earth for everyone.

So back to the Pledge of Allegiance for a moment. When God-fearing people fear the world around them they will never be able to offer shelter to the stranger - lift up the downtrodden - welcome the alien - abide with the left out - sacrifice life for the for those labeled unworthy. Unfortunately, if all we can do is claim to be God-fearing people we will never live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We will live only within a lie that attempts to fabricate a holy place and holy people that is nothing more than sheer blasphemy. So fear not - live by grace - live into the image of God - be ready to be surprised by a new life.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

There are people walking off the edge everyday

Let me share two situations in which I found myself in the past weeks. I'm not doing this to shine a light on me. Rather, I am sharing them because I realize how easy it is to sit in the dark - let the world happen out there - talk endlessly about what can be - speak and tell stories that will hopefully inspire new life.

I am blessed with all sorts of friends and acquaintances that I consider as people who live on the edge. It is an edge in which their everyday lives are made available for the well-being of others. That is an edge of life that most folks avoid. It is much easier to turn back from that edge and focus on the well-being of my own kind and how I can protect that which I have fooled myself into believing is mine - all mine.  And yet, I know so many folks who seem to walk off that edge - every damn day - in all sorts of ways - and it is as though that is simply the life they live - no reward or praise needed. But when I look closely at them they shine and they make the world shine and most of the time the brilliance take place within the simplicity of being utterly human without partiality and with the courage to be self-giving for the well-being of all.

These blessed ones may or may not be religious folks. The inspiring part for me is that they are folks who step in and go about doing. They don't act up because it is a part of their job - they act up because they consider that being available to others is a vital part of how they are humanly present in the day. They act up on many levels. They write letters. They take time to physically stand with and for those who need the presence of others. They risk saying and doing that which is not a part of the pattern of the day. They use their language and ideas to open up the possibility for a life of healing and then they put meaning to those words through the actions of their everyday life. They see injustice and bias and bigotry and they make sure those sores are laid open so that the miracle of healing can be seen by everyone - even those who are unwilling to acknowledge the wounds around us. Nothing is put off for later. Service is not something that is done in another place and time. What is and what has been is simple a part of that which could be and therefore they do not settle for that which is.

I have always found that as I am near these folks who act up and are willing to expand the meaning of what it is to be truly human, it is like being in the middle of prayer - or - some might say - mindfulness. I begin to see things and hear things and feel things I know I too often have passed by on my way to build the day or the world as I want it or like it. These folks are willing to explore life that is beyond their own way of living face and therefore encounter surprises that disrupt their thinking and acting and begin to shape a new way of living. These folks are ones who are not colorblind because they want to see the differences and the variety and the strangeness of what it is to be fully human. These folks see time as a gift that we are handed and a gift that we are able to share with others - and they have the audacity to  explore the contents of that gift - right now. These folks read and study and ask questions and risk being wrong because they understand that when they think they are right or must be right - they may fall into the many groups of people through history who saw no value in others and even saw them as expendable.

So, what did I do recently that is making me reconsider everything I do within the realm of my ordinary humanity. I made a phone call. And then, on another day, I turned the car around. I will leave it at that.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Because of Them - We are Becoming

Because of them - we are inspired to expand our notion of we. For without them, we will never experience the fullness and wonder and beauty of our humanity. We are less human when we are afraid of them - for they help make complete our humanity.

What is it that causes fear and anxiety around the notion of dreamers and foreigners and exiles who are already in place in our country and long to stay here. I do understand the need to move those folks out who violate the laws of the land. I do not understand the need to deport those who are as much as the fabric of an orderly and creative and productive society as the rest of us. My question today is a simple one. It comes from the realization that I do not know an illegal immigrant who has taken the job of a U.S. citizen. Do you? Don't go on and on about them - the ones in another state - the ones you read about - the ones thrown into that vast pile of no-good foreigners who are not really one of us. Simply reflect on your life. Do you know of a Dreamer that has taken the job of someone close to you - do you know of an illegal immigrant who caused you to get paid less or made you lose the skills you may have needed for your job - do you know of an immigrant who somehow caused you not to fulfill your dreams - do you know of one of these folks who made your educational choices a mistake. We are being told that millions of citizens have lost their jobs (had them taken away) by those immigrants from over the southern border. And yet, I have yet to meet someone who lost their job to one of 'them.'

I don't think the Youngstown steel mills folded because of illegal immigrants. Coal jobs are not being grabbed up by the illegals. Fast food jobs are not disappearing or out of reach for young adults. What I do think is an issue, though, is that there is a great need to place blame on some people so as to explain or give excuse to why other people are not working. When there is that them upon whom we can point a finger or at whom we can throw a stone - for some reason many folks seem to feel better about themselves. For example, when a person must face his/her own shortcomings or inability to reach his/her goals or deal with the simple bad luck in life or anxiety about not having life turn out as expected - it is quite natural to turn to the other (them) and rid oneself of feelings and situations with which they are unable to deal - by dumping all that on them. Those feeling (a whole bunch of them) quickly move into anger and that anger often needs to be directed toward someone other than ourselves. We have to come up with a them. We all do it. It is quite easy. We can make ourselves sound like winners because we work to make them into the losers.

And yet, those who are often painted as thieves or cheats or scoundrels because of their country of origin and their legal status in this country - are most often those who are attempting to live the dream of being a part of this country. Yes, the way it has all been unfolding may not fit the laws-at-hand. But, the laws-at-hand must never been written in stone for then we do not use the law for the sake of creativity and vibrancy and life. Instead, the law can become the stones used to destroy the visions of those who most resemble the proud ancestry of immigrants like my grandparents. Yes, it is different, but we are a people blessed to be a blessing - we become greater when we are free to welcome the stranger and foreigner along with being brave when we encounter those who are not just as we are. The privilege of being a citizen of this country is that we are handed the privilege to make sure that all the people - even those still yearning to be 'we the people' - are invited to share in the experiment that is still unfolding. No need to fear. We need to work at exercising our privilege to serve others as we all become the people who have always dreamed of a new day filled with liberty and justice for all. It is quite possible - even necessary - to live within a rule of law but to do so with a loving heart that is wise and not ruled by fear.

This week I was able to stand with others alongside Edith. She went into sanctuary at the Columbus Mennonite Church. She is an illegal alien. She is courageous. She is productive. She has raised a family and they are making a place within the creativity of this country. Forget about the when and how they have come to this place in life - look at the substance. We must have new eyes - eyes open to new avenues of being a people in the midst of changing time. We must do that without falling for the temptation to bitch and moan and blame. When Edith willingly showed up for appointment at the ICE office - which meant leaving her place of sanctuary - she was walking into that time and space in which there were no sure bets on how one will be able to move forward. Instead of staying safe - she walked into that which could have been the end of things. As I was standing there and listening and watching, I realized she was walking into holy week. Yep, she was like a lamb willingly walking into that which could have been and that which may still be the slaughter of her life and family. That is a strong image but I do not mean for it to be mere hyperbole. All the powers of the land - the anger - the fear - the hatred - the blame - work to put an end to the marvelous opportunity for all of us to reshape our humanity by working at reuniting the separated. It is an act of re-union because though they are not like us and we are not like them - we are the making of humanity - the image of God. When we work to reunite that which we have caused to be separate - because of all the shit we do to one another - we open ourselves us to a future beyond our fears and within the unfolding of a humanity that has been beckoning us to come and see the presence of God among us. Yes, a presence always in the midst of them and us - that endlessly moves toward becoming we the people of God - the whole bunch of us - even those beyond our laws and boundaries and biases.thenm

Friday, August 11, 2017

There is no fire and fury within God's Peaceable Reign - stop blessing it

This bit of a rant has been triggered multiple times. First it was, as I previously noted some weeks ago, seeing Evangelical pastors laying hands on President Trump. I think I called them court prophets - not meant to be a compliment. Then there is the megachurch Baptist pastor from Dallas who said that Trump is God's instrument for smiting the evil Kim Jung-un. I suppose one can still misunderstand the whole notion of the Peaceable Reign of God to which the Scriptures endlessly give a witness and still convince thousands of people to trust that which he might have to say about God - no matter how badly it reflects the glory of God. Hmm. And yet, if you lean in to hear more, it is the same kind of violence and lies that appears to have a foothold on people in general. Nothing redemptive here. Then there was a person on a podcast who said two things that made me stop and listen. He said that as a scientist, he does not 'debate' so called religious folks in regard to evolution verse creationism because: they do not fit at the same table - they are not in the same discussion - and to do so would mean that he is saying it is worth his time and energy to debate a creationist. To this point he also said he thinks that creationist types want to debate him simply because they then will have a platform for their crap (my word). It was this same person who noted that the greatest religious threat to the U.S. is not radical Islam. He said it comes from radical Christian Fundamentalist/Literalists. Though he is not at all tolerant of radical Islam, he said elements of Islam are primarily a threat to Islamic countries for what they want to install in those places. Thus he points to Christian Fundamentalists and what they seem to want to do here.

The modern American Christian literalist or fundamentalist does not know of the God of Jesus' peaceable Reign. Rather, they are masters at religious rules and rituals and images that are meant to place the knowledge of good and evil in the hands of a few who are to then hand that knowledge over to others. The result: a bunch of so-called religious people who have come to believe that their vision of the way life is to be - is to be the vision all are to have. Why? Because, they would say, the Bible tells them so. Which, by the way, the Bible does not. When the voice of Christianity is left in the hands of these folks, the only seed they really sow is death. That is, they master the rules of division - they perpetuate the brutality of us verses them - they define morality along the lines of certain acts that are easy to scapegoat and ones in which they do not participate (or have not been caught) - they call for emotional adherence to a list of rules that, if not obeyed and followed, will be their demise and the ruin of all things.

Again and again, I have to walk back into the stories of the Gospels and into the writings of Paul to see that the church is defined by how it is seen siding with and entering into fellowship with and living with and dying with and being persecuted with all the folk who the self-proclaimed moral and holy ones would kick out - reject - shun - and even put to death. The Literalist - the Fundamentalist have let loose of church - as a character - and embrace the character of the world. They do this by painting over their actions with religious words and religious symbols in the hope that they will gain power and prestige in a world aligned with the holy violence of all time. So rather than giving us a vision of the Prince of Peace - the shalom of God - they become the children of death held together by fear, threat, and condemnation in pursuit of control of all things. But the control they long to have - is nothing more than the an attempt to have the world made in their likeness - forget about the image of God. So being a religious person or saying that one is religious doesn't reflect God's image at all. It is used as an excuse to judge others - condemn others - justify our own thoughts and acts.

God would not have us - any of us - smite others. The people using religious words and stories for their own benefit like to smite others. It is a tribal and ancient way of control that still has the power to turn thoughtful and loving people into those who are quick studies of the power of fear and threat. Thus, the God of peace and forgiveness and reconciliation and self-sacrificing love is transformed - quite masterfully - into a god who looks like us: the evil side of us - the payback side of us - the frightened side of us - the controlling side of us - the we must destroy and we must win side of us. It is a very easy transformation. Rather than a love that is open for all and is meant to become the life of us, the message is that there are always a few conditions - a few exceptions - a few troublemakers - a few of them who are out to ruin God's goodness and love. Yet, no power - no one - no group can ruin God's goodness and love - it is constant - eternal - unable to be held by one side and not the other. Therefore, when a megachurch pastor or a small church pastor or a group of pastors try to teach any of us to draw back and protect ourselves from them, don't yell at them and tell then to go to hell - for they are already living in it and trying to make sure the rest of us join them within the hell they are trying to create.

The threat of Christian Literalism/Fundamentalism is the real hell trying to be unleashed on us. It uses sweet talk and sentimentality to deliver us into a limited and restrictive reign of division that will always turn out to be a reign of evil and never the promised Reign of God's love. This is why it is almost impossible for those of us who are not Literalist or those of us who are of no 'religious' persuasion at all to even enter into discussions with those who are hawking what I will call a message of anti-love - or anti-Christ - or anti-resurrection into new life. We are living in different realities. Yet, the bridge has to be built - the confrontation must be as gentle and peaceful as Paul's resistance to the religious establishment from which he came and Jesus' unceasing movement alongside and with those who he was told do not count. I don't find that easy to do. It is as though we use the same words to talk of different realities. It might do us well to talk about the hellishness we each fear. Maybe, in that dialogue, we will dismantle the hellishness around us that still talks in words like fire and fury - as though that will bring about peace.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

court prophets at the White House - like court prophets in every age

When I recently saw the photo of Christian pastors laying hands on President Trump - blessing and praying for him,  I thought of the court prophets in the days of the Kings of Israel and Judah. They were the court prophet who said everything the Kings wanted them to say - they went along - they were the spokespersons for the interest of the Kings. Those prophets had their places in the courts of power and only had to make sure the the mechanisms that kept things going - just as is - would continue on their way with the blessing of the religious order. These prophets were good at giving advice that would not ruffle feathers or make the world of the Kings uncomfortable. They were religious yes men afraid of the power of the Kings and willing to do anything to make sure the Kings never felt as though their power was faltering or being threatened. Those prophets brought good news to the Kings but it was not the Good News of God's Reign. That Good News came out of the mouths and through the actions of the Great Prophets - those who could not be bought off - those who understood the vision of God's Reign that was to be embodied by the Kings and the People. They were the Great Prophets who also knew that the Kings avoided living into the vision of God's Reign - so they challenged them and risked their lives speaking the truth of God's Peaceable Reign to Kings who were possessed by the powers and riches that usually rule the world.

I have no problem with prayers being said for our leaders. I would prefer them being said by faith leaders of many faiths - but that simple proposal frightens some folks. As I say that, I would have felt better about there only being Christian pastors in the room with the President - if those pastors represented the fullness of voice and presence of those who claim to be followers of Jesus. The news story said they were Evangelical pastors. I would love to have seen clergy from other expressions of the Church present and in the midst of the prayers and the laying-on-of-hands. Trust me, it would not have been the same event. I know faithful followers of Jesus who would have wanted to lay hands on the President's head in order to heal him of the dis-eases of pride and arrogance and self-consumption and then deliver him from the power of greed and obsessive self-adoration. As you may be hearing, I think the prayers and laying-on-of-hands may have taken on a different dynamic. Maybe in such a gathering we would be handed an opportunity to hear if there were any Great Prophets in the room. For as I would bet, there was not greatness in that room - just the perpetuation of life that never seeks the Peaceable Reign of God.

I must admit, the clergy and the people of the church can often be the ones who go along with the power of the day. Rather than seek out the welfare of all God's people, we stand back as long as we have what we want - or - we think we will get what we want - or deserve  - or need. Folks turn to preachers of prosperity and gold shimmering lifestyles because it is easy to be seduced to believe that such a life is God given. That is actually ancient, religious stinking-thinking. Yet, if we say God gives such prosperity and such golden lives, it may be that we are really being handed a way to care of others. Teaching the world how to live together - not against one another - often means we cannot and must not go-along and bless that which is. The Great Prophets would never go along and bless the Kings actions or inactivity. They would press for life filled with the compassion of a Good Shepherd - one who would step into the position that helps bring people to new life - new everyday, down-to-earth life. They were never talking about a life after this one - a life in which we would get our due reward or punishments. They would stand up the Kings to call for actions - for life - for peace - for justice - for the well-being of all - NOW.

So, I'm going to be watching. I'm going to be watching to see if our President - so blessed as he was in the oval office the other day - will begin to seek the well-being of all - will take all the power he has been given and use it to to empower the least among us - will lean into the needs of the world and listen to voices of those whose lives are simply not counted - will step away from the power of his self-proclaimed Midas touch and learn what it is to embrace those who have been deemed to be worth-less and untouchable - fired.

I am also going to be listening. I need to hear words shaped by the breath of God that will make us all sit up - for those words may not be words we want to hear. None of us can afford only to be handed words we like to hear - words that build us up - words filled with accolades and compliments. We must be fear-less and listen to words of truth that are the essence of God's creative power for life. That kind of truth comes when we are able to hear the differences between the voices of lies and truth-telling - bigotry and openness -  hate and love - compassion and indifference.  It is then that we will come to understand which voices sound like the Great Prophets of the Promised Reign of God and which ones are the voices of prophets courting favors.