Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011: A Mercifully Brief Retrospective

Beginning January 1st, 2011 was an extraordinary year, a year that will go down in history along with the previous two thousand and ten years, which is where we normally store used years. In history that is. 

Lasting an incredible 12 months it was a year replete with seasons, both cold and hot, holidays celebrated on Mondays in order to insure a steady supply of three day weekends for all except members of Congress who actually put in fewer hours than the chronic unemployed, and the occasional drone attack on worn out terrorists who don’t have Facebook or Wickipedia to keep them abreast of what’s hot in the counter-terrorism community.

So here we are in late December with nothing happening, and like, what better way to light up the coming year than with a retrospective on 2011? Unless of course, like me, you’re just glad it’s over. 

Hello 2012.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

So Long Dad

So Long Dad
June 28, 1928-December 5, 2011
It’s been a couple of weeks now, and I’ve finally got a little time to reflect on Dad’s passing. My sister took Mom home to spend Christmas with her five granddaughters and thirteen great-grandchildren, so Mom’s going to have some joy this Christmas along with the sadness and I’m going to spend the Christmas holidays relaxing with dear friends and renewing my spirit. That warms my heart.
The immediate aftermath of death is exhausting, there’s a mountain of details to be attended to, a funeral to be planned, a grieving 81 year old mother to be comforted, forms to be filled out. There was precious little time to mourn or even just sit and feel my emotions.
So today I think I’ll just write some things down. The sun is shining, a cool breeze rustles the palm fronds, and a feeling of peaceful reflection soothes my heart. Dad was an honorable man, a man of principles, and seriously old school. Right is right and that’s the way he lived. But since he was a man of few words, chatty is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Dad, if you wanted to hear what he believed you were going to have to listen to how he lived.
And since as a child and a young man I heard things with a defective ear, I ended up going all Prodigal Son on him. As a result my relationship with Dad didn’t really start until I was 38. In Luke 15 we hear the parable of the Prodigal Son, and my favorite part of that story is when the father is asked why he’s throwing a celebration at the return of such a loser and he responds, my son was dead and now he lives.
That’s how it went with my Dad, only a few details were different. In early June of 1989 I found myself sitting across from my Dad, broken and homeless, and Dad was yelling at me, talking to me like I was 10 years old not realizing I wasn’t nearly that mature. And the next day he got me to my first meeting of recovery, doing something not many fathers get a chance to do, give life to his son a second time.
It started a little slowly at first, but we finally became a father and son, not some fantasy relationship like in the movies, nothing dramatic, just father and son. I gave him a grandchild, of course by that time he was already a great- grandfather. (I tend to do things a little late.) We had holidays and visits and dinners, nothing for the history books, just father and son.
We went to church together the last ten years of his life, and I remember glancing over and seeing him and Mom holding hands. That’s a nice memory.
The last three years of his life dad was locked in combat with his body, a fight he was losing. But he never surrendered, never gave up. Every once in a while it would overwhelm him, “John,” he’d say, “I’ve finally met a problem I can’t solve.” But he’d shake it off and soldier on.
Dad’s gone now, and I haven’t had time to reflect on the meaning of his life. A year from now maybe the words would be different. But I had a chance, finally, to listen to how he lived and of this I’m sure….when I grow up I’d like to be more like my Dad.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hero of the Faith?

I gotta confess I don't get any of the controversy swirling around Tim Tebow. It's totally refreshing to see a professional athlete providing a wholesome role model instead of shooting himself in a bar and going to prison on weapons charges. Tebow's witness seems humble and lacking in self-righteousness, and while he's been granted a megaphone without any merit on his part other than athletic prowess, he seems to be handling it with admirable aplomb.
What I'm not sure about is elevating Tebow to hero of the faith status, I'm not sure that's fair to him or our faith. Telling sports writers they're on the side of Satan when they critique Tebow's 0n field performance is a little overboard, don't you think? Is the NFL really the place to engage in spiritual combat with unbelievers?
Let's face it, Tebow is probably the worst winning quarterback of the modern era, it's an absolute hoot how he is confounding his critics by actually winning games, but if he eventually fails is that going to be evidence of Satan winning out over Jesus? So let's admire him to the extent you choose to admire NFL players, be grateful that a sport seemingly dominated by lawbreakers has a really cool new role model in Tim Tebow (among others). But let's not invest anymore than that in Tim. It's not fair to him to put him on a pedestal he doesn't seem to ask for.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sexy Sin: Part Two

As I said in Part One of this post, I believe sexual orientation, gay or hetero, is not a choice. We are born with our orientation already hardwired. I believe this because I never decided what sex I was going to be attracted to, so why would it be different for gays?
Why is this question so important? If same sex attraction is a choice then gays are evil influences on the unwitting and sexually impressionable. Anyone can be lured into gay sex, so believers feel compelled to battle for legislation limiting the civil rights of homosexuals. If gays are born gay and heterosexuals born heterosexual then they are no threat to anything or anyone. The need for laws against gays disappears.
This still leaves open the question of sin. Not so much what constitutes sexual sin, scripture is not ambiguous in this area, rather the question is how to address the issue of sexual sin. We can stop the hypocrisy of trying to legislate against homosexuality while leaving sex before marriage up to the individuals involved. We can stop the homophobic reaction to gay sex while tolerating the far more damaging impact of adultery among believers, which destroys far more marriages than gay sex ever will.
We do great harm to any effort we make as believers to reach out to the gay community with our hypocrisy. Gays aren't stupid. they know that God hates ALL sin, so why are we only trying to legislate against homosexuals? Where's the great outcry among so called "values voters" for a constitutional amendment banning adultery?
Maybe we trust that God can heal an adulterers sinful heart, but fear He really needs some legislative help with the gay community.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sexy Sin

I was reading an excellent essay today in The Baptist Press about how we in the church should talk to and about homosexuals. You can read the essay here. It was reasonable, kind, all about welcoming the sinner without welcoming the sin. In both tone and love it stood head and shoulders above much of the hate speech I hear from believers disguised as Bible thumping.
Then, as so often happens the writer foundered on an issue that is central to the line of reasoning that gays and believers can't seem to bridge.
Is same sex attraction a choice?
Believers say yes, gays say no we were born this way. I think that the question leads to a couple of other interesting questions.  Is there anything besides it's sinful nature that is preventing you from making love with a member of the same sex? And if sexual orientation is a choice, when exactly did you decide your sexual preferences and what were the reasons for your choice?
For me the answer to question two is simple, I'm heterosexual and I never sat down, weighed the pros and cons, and decided "Hey, I think I'll pass on that gay stuff." I was simply born heterosexual, why wouldn't I think it could happen that way for gays?
As for question one, with all due respect to my gay friends, the idea of having sex with you is about as sexy as getting hit by a truck. Sorry, that's just the way I am. Sin is the very last thing preventing me from having gay sex, I can't think of a less sexy sin.
Obviously I don't think same sex attraction is any more choice than opposite sex attraction, where that leaves the discussion about how the church should deal with gays is best left for another post.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Power, Sordid Power

At some point in time, institutions that have grown strong and rich, certain that the growth they've experienced is evidence of the righteousness of their cause, those institutions begin treating the occasional misbehavior of their members or leaders as threats to the institution itself if discovered by the public.

It happens over and over, and in all fields of human endeavor: political parties, churches, corporations, and yes, major college football programs, to name just a few. All too often their first reaction is to cover-up. Make no mistake about it, the behavior of those in authority at Penn State was not just a colossal lapse in moral judgement, it was a criminal cover-up of child sex abuse (read the indictment).

Why? If in 1998, when the evidence of pedophilia on the part of a long time coach first came to light, had Coach Paterno gone to the police he would have been hailed as a hero. Instead, 13 years later and who knows how many more victims, Paterno's legacy lies shattered and rightfully so, the careers of those who participated in the cover-up are ruined, prison sentences loom, and the very thing they sought to protect, the reputation of Penn State and it's football program is permanently soiled.

It brings to mind the quote by Lord Acton that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The sordid reality is that if the typical pattern of pedophiles holds true, there are victims yet undiscovered that would have escaped the clutches of this man had everyone involved simply done the right thing back in 1998.

Somehow, the innocence of children became less important than the public image of a powerful institution in the banal minds of those too long in power.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

You're Lucky To Be Poor Here-Part Two

I saw a picture recently that combined a photo of an Occupy Wall Street protester with a picture of poor folks in some African country. The obvious (and factual) point being that if you're going to be poor, hungry, unemployed, and homeless it's better to be that way in America than in many Third World countries.

Now if we were actually doing something meaningful to eradicate poverty in those desperately poor countries you might have a case for urging America's poor to be patient, but since we spend trillions waging war against less-developed nations and pittances addressing their physical needs that argument holds little weight. The truth is that those who make the argument that our poor are just whiners are themselves doing nothing either here or overseas to alleviate poverty and hunger. They are the ones waging class warfare on the powerless.

Every great social upheaval of the last hundred years has occurred in societies where income and wealth distribution has skewed massively to the few while the many sink further and further into hopelessness. That's already happened in America, it's been documented by study after study, elites are waging war on workers in state and national legislatures and the Occupy folks across this great land are to be ignored or scorned only at great peril.

Monday, October 31, 2011

You're Lucky To Be Poor Here

There's a line of reasoning circulating among conservatives used to discredit political progressives, social justice Christians, Occupy Wall Streeters, and their so called "socialist" agenda that is almost satanic in nature."You don't see babies with distended bellies in America so quit your whining!" they say. As if being poor, unemployed, homeless, and hungry in America is one of the benefits of American Exceptionalism. 
Let's begin with conceding the point so that we can move on to the satanic nature of the argument. Yes, you're better off being poor in America than being poor in Afghanistan or Somalia. Using that line of reasoning to do nothing however, is pure evil. And that is what the neo and theocons would have us do. If anything, doing nothing in a country like ours when we have the ability to change our situation is at least as reprehensible as those that do nothing in countries without our resources.
And do not forget, the same people making this argument are the ones in full-throated roar to wage war on those countries. It's as if bombing them into regime change is their way of helping those babies with distended bellies. The same people arguing that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme gleefully spend trillions on bombs and war machines, all the while demanding that food aid to the Third World is out of control and must be cut or stopped.
So yes, I'm grateful to live in America and not Bangladesh, but is it socialism to say we can do better?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The Occupy folks are taking some real hits from all sides. It's said they're little more than a bunch of punk anarchists and wanna be hippies, incoherent, lacking in focus and largely absent clearly stated goals. They couldn't organize a baby shower much less an effective national movement for change we're told. Pastors and senators alike condemn the protests, sniffing that they are nothing but a group of undisciplined, self-centered losers, better off with a job at McDonalds than a place of leadership dealing with our nation's woes.

Who knows? Maybe the critics are right, maybe they'll soon fade away and leave the real work to us adults. But what if the scoffers have got it all wrong, what if these Occupiers are harbingers of a coming eruption, not the eruption itself? Maybe the Occupiers, and yes the Tea Party, are just plumes of steam, much the way a volcano begins emitting steam and gasses, sometimes years before it erupts?

I began experiencing a feeling of anticipation, almost dread,  the other day as I visited the blog We Are The 99 Percent. View it here . I saw the faces of nearly a thousand people posed next to handwritten explanations of the troubles they're dealing with, and the sense of desperation and fear they're facing almost leaped off the page. And there's millions more like that out here in America. Virtually every social eruption in modern times began with enormous financial hardship, huge gaps in income between the rich and well off and those struggling to feed their families, and a ruling elite scoffing at the suffering around them.

So, is it the eruption we're witnessing or are the Occupiers and Tea Partiers merely signs of an eruption still to come? How we answer that question will have a lot to do with America's future. God Bless us all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's the Economy Pastor

“I need something to believe in,” he said. “It’s either that or just give up.”~Protester at  Occupy Wall Street

We are blowing the moment. We are preaching a version of Christ that cannot be found in the Bible to a people  that is crying out for the Christ that is present in the Gospels. What relevance is there in fulminating against gay marriage to a father struggling to feed his children? We are preaching against evolution while families wonder how to save their home from foreclosure. Our food pantries and benevolence funds are empty while pastors rant against gay soldiers putting their lives on the line for our country.

We are preaching to a dying church what the corpse wants to hear, while outside the sanctuary people who desperately need the Christ who was an advocate for the poor and the powerless can't figure out how the church they see at Value Voters conferences has any relevance to their immediate needs. So they turn elsewhere for comfort.

It's about the economy Pastor, do you want to pander to the dead souls in the pews or do you want to put more people in the pews. We have a Christ perfect for this moment in history, so preach that Christ. You know, the Christ that preferred whores to Pharisees, that despised the moneylenders and spoke in admiration of the Good Samaritan, the Christ who gave us the beatitudes. We have what "they" want to believe in. The homeless, the poor, the hungry, the widows and orphans, we have what they want at this moment in history.

Will we preach it to them? Do we have the will to minister to their material needs, believing that this expression of love will create a desire to know about a Christ that demands His followers help others unconditionally? Or would we rather just try to legislate Christian behavior, forgetting that Christ preached salvation not legislation? The moment is right here, right now. Will we blow it?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Class Envy?

In a recent post David Sessions of Patrol magazine made the observation of a subtle shift in phraseology in the ongoing debate between the social justice crowd and those that feel it's nothing but class warfare. Read It Here He pointed out that conservative Christians have begun calling it "Class Envy", changing it ever so subtly from a clash of economic arguments to an accusation of the sin of envy.

So just for yucks I looked up the definition of envy and here's what I found. Envy is "a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, possessions, etc." Is that what the four million people who sank into poverty last year are feeling? Or the 14 million unemployed? Do the homeless, the hungry, the young people burdened with unpayable student loans because there were no jobs when they graduated, or the middle aged who can't get medical insurance because of pre-existing conditions, are they simply covetous?

Because if that's true that makes the problems real easy to deal with, we simply tell the poor, the unemployed and uninsured, the young people that feel the American Dream that was there for their parents is no longer attainable, the elderly who often have to choose between eating and refilling their prescriptions, we tell them to shut their lousy, whiny mouths, quit sinning, and get a job. Problem solved, we don't have to take action, and we come away with a clean conscience, brilliant!!

But what if we said "This must not stand!"? What if we got up out of our pews and stood with the 99%, the Occupy Everything folks, maybe started an Occupy Jesus movement and took our faith back from corporate christianity and became relevant to the troubles around us instead of spending precious time and treasure lobbying against gay marriage? Would that stem the tide of young people leaving the church because we're not relevant? 

Is there anybody left in America who doesn't know where we stand on evolution or school prayer? Is it too much to ask the folks attending the Values Voters Summit to give it a rest and work on poverty? I wonder how many new believers we'd get by showing them we care that their children eat before bed versus urging them to support the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell?

Thursday, October 6, 2011


 Numbers can be difficult to wrap our minds around. Take the number 4 million; it’s so large that we find it difficult to put it in perspective, how high would a stack of 4 million cheeseburgers be? Now try imagining a stack of 20 million cheeseburgers. See my point? What if instead of cheeseburgers we were talking about 4 million people plunged into poverty in the last year? Or 20 million unemployed or under-employed, or just plain discouraged into despair?
 When we’ve got 24 million people added to the ranks of people in poverty and unemployed, the numbers are simply too large to get a handle on. But each one of those 24 million people is in a life storm and they all have a story to tell. How long would it take to listen?
Not since the Great Depression have we seen numbers this stark, we all have friends or family members affected, we know their stories, but there is no way as individuals to grasp the enormity of human suffering out there, there are simply too many stories.~Excerpt From "Lessons From The Wheelbarrow"

There's a reason the church is deemed irrelevant by tens of millions of Americans. We're in an economic crisis of near historic proportions, more Americans live below the poverty line today than in anytime since the Great Depression. Millions of homes are in or near foreclosure, the percentage of Americans requiring food assistance stuns the imagination, at the current pace of job creation we'll not see a return to 5/6% unemployment for a decade if ever. And what are our so called religious leaders up in arms about? Gay marriage, evolution, and school prayer.

Could there be issues less important or relevant to the millions of Americans wondering how to feed, clothe, and shelter their families than gay marriage or creationism? Is it possible for the church to get farther from relevance to the immediate needs of their flocks or the people we're trying to reach for Christ than we are today? If a father asks "How do I feed my children?", "Vote against gay marriage, and for school prayer." is an answer unlikely to move him to Christ.

So it's no wonder that for millions of people in crisis, the church isn't relevant, in fact it's never even considered as being part of the solution because we're blindly focused on problems that have no bearing on hunger, unemployment, homelessness, and the gut wrenching despair that accompany those troubles. There is a season for every cause, and to the extent that the church focuses on problems that do not have relevance to the season we're in, we fail Jesus.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Speak Faith To Power

While I'm hardly a fan of the politicization of Christianity in the last 30 years, the recent secular outpouring against social injustice by the ragtag band of protesters called Occupy Wallstreet that seems to be mushrooming across this great land has really touched my heart. If the new blog, We Are The 99 Percent,  see here leaves you cold then you probably won't like what I'm thinking.

By now the sickening concentration of wealth in the hands of the top .01% of Americans is well known, almost yesterday's news. And where are our pastors and spiritual leaders while the percentage of their flocks in poverty is at historical highs? They're off ranting against gay marriage and Sharia law, fiddling while their flocks burn, to mangle an old saying.

Jesus would feel right at home with this band of broken Americans. They are the young people, burdened with student debt and no jobs, the middle aged, homes foreclosed and jobs sent overseas, the near elderly with no health insurance at precisely the time they need it the most. All this while the powerful are experiencing an explosion of personal and corporate wealth unheard of in our nations history.

Maybe it's time for those of us who've read the Sermon on the Mount to join hands with the 99 Percenters and speak faith to power, to let America know that Christ came for the weak and hungry, that this corporate christianity they see broadcast on TBN and sold out to the rich, is not what Jesus taught. I can't bring myself to urge political action in the name of Christ, I find that distasteful no matter what the cause, but millions have been turned off to Jesus by the Christian Right preaching an Ayn Rand kind of christian atheism and it's time we show the real face of Jesus to the hurting and the lost.

If we don't Satan will be glad to fill that role.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dress for Success

In a recent article in Relevant magazine the author made the claim that Americas cultural standards of modesty are sexist, citing as evidence that men are allowed to go bare chested on beaches and women aren't. Read the article HERE. Leaving aside for a moment the adolescent nature of that statement (Mikey does it!), it seems to me that women and men are held to different standards of dress as it pertains to modesty because, well, men and women are different.

Is allowing women to go topless on a beach really a way to achieve equality? Is that what they really want? Women are sexually harassed all too often, do they really believe that dressing provocatively is going to help?
Don't get me wrong, unwanted sexual advances are never justified....NEVER.....but until we figure out how to change the sordid reality of how many men treat women, a little restraint, modesty if you will, in how women dress couldn't hurt.

I've been through a number of changes in my lifetime regarding my attitude on the subject of modesty, ranging from my college days in the late 60's as a flamethrowing liberal raging against the outmoded mores of my parents generation. The Age of Aquarius, free love, radical politics, and rock and roll were the buzzwords of the day. Transparent tops and no bras were political statements not slutty dress. Then in my alcoholic days, it was all about slutty. Morals were buzz kill not a way of life, and modesty was boring. Hardly one of my finer periods.

Today, I walk with the Lord, I'm busy trying to help others recover from the devastation of addiction, AND, I'm 60 years old with a teenage daughter. It's called growing up, which some people never do. Loose morals, suggestive clothing, and disregard for common sense are no way to address life, and modesty is a sign of character, not uncool. My idea of what constitutes attractive in a woman has changed, I long ago shed the idea that casual sex was anything more than emotionally destructive friction, and I don't find women attractive that dress in a way that suggests otherwise. And I want above all that my daughter strive as much to show character as she would to appear attractive to the opposite sex.

I guess what's really surprising to me is that we're revisiting a conversation from the 60's and 70's that I thought had been settled in the rehabs of the 90's.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Yeah, But What Did He Really Mean?

In two recent articles in the Washington Post, one a rebuttal, the two authors claim that Jesus was A) a socialist, or B) a capitalist, two contradictory positions that they support using identical scripture. Both the Jesus was a socialist guy, read his article HERE, and the Jesus was a capitalist guy, read his rebuttal HERE, proceed to explain to us what Jesus meant when He said what He said, as if He spoke in highly complicated, multi-syllabled language too obtuse for us unwashed morons, unschooled in the finer points of biblical economics.

Really? Jesus preached on the finer points of socialism vs. capitalism? His words were so vague that we need other sources of information to explain what he meant? Mathew, chapters 5 and 23, were so intellectually dense that we need other writers, both in scripture and in the secular world, to explain them to us?

Or is Matthew 19:23-24 "Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” so maddeningly obscure we can't understand ?

Feed and clothe the poor, take care of widows and orphans, cling to a childlike faith, spread the Gospel, and love one another are not liberal or conservative political positions, they are the command of our sovereign Lord. Don't parse His words, just do it. Don't claim that these commands are the responsibility of the church, not government, then let your church food pantries go empty and families in your community go unfed.

Jesus did not say feed the poor that can prove they can't find work. He said feed the poor, period. Don't tell me Paul has the authority to put qualifiers on our precious Jesus' commands. When Jesus sent out the twelve His instructions were simple, "Heal the sick,raise the dead, cleanse those that have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give." Mathew 10:8 how hard is that to decipher?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Take Your Time

It is said that Satan once called to him the emissaries of hell and said he wanted to send one of them to earth to aid women and men in the ruination of their souls. He asked which one would want to go. One creature came forward and said, "I will go." Satan said, “If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?” He said, “I will tell the children of men that there is no heaven.” Satan said, “They will not believe you, for there is a bit of heaven in every human heart. In the end everyone knows that right and good must have the victory. You may not go.”  Then another came forward, darker and fouler than the first. Satan said, “If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?” He said, “I will tell them there is no hell." Satan looked at him and said, "Oh, no; they will not believe you, for in every human heart there's a thing called conscience, an inner voice which testifies to the truth that not only will good be triumphant, but that evil will be defeated. You may not go.”  Then one last creature came forward, this one from the darkest place of all. Satan said to him, “And if I send you, what will you say to women and men to aid them in the destruction of their souls?” He said, “I will tell them there is no hurry.” Satan said, “Go!”~Bruce Thielemann

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pastoral Search Report

 We do not have a happy report to give. We’ve not been able to find a suitable candidate for this church, though we have one promising prospect still. We do appreciate all the suggestions from the church members, and we’ve followed up each one with interviews or calling at least three references. The following is ...our confidential report on the present candidates.
* Adam: Good man but problems with his wife. Also one reference told of how his wife and he enjoy walking nude in the woods.
 * Noah: Former pastorate of 120 years with no converts. Prone to unrealistic building projects.
  * Abraham: Though the references reported wife-swapping, the facts seem to show he never slept with another man’s wife, but did offer to share his own wife with another man.
 * Joseph: A big thinker, but a braggart, believes in dream-interpreting, and has a prison record.
 * Moses: A modest and meek man, but poor communicator, even stuttering at times. Sometimes blows his stack and acts rashly. Some say he left an earlier church over a murder charge.
 * David: The most promising leader of all until we discovered the affair he had with his neighbor’s wife.
 * Solomon: Great preacher but our parsonage would never hold all those wives.
 * Elijah: Prone to depression-collapses under pressure.
 * Elisha: Reported to have lived with a single widow while at his former church.
 * Hosea: A tender and loving pastor but our people could never handle his wife’s occupation.
 * Deborah: Female.
 * Jeremiah: Emotionally unstable, alarmist, negative, always lamenting things, and reported to have taken a long trip to bury his underwear on the bank of foreign river.
 * Isaiah: On the fringe? Claims to have seen angels in church. Has trouble with his language.
 * Jonah: Refused God’s call into ministry until he was forced to obey by getting swallowed up by a great fish. He told us the fish later spit him out on the shore near here. We hung up.
 * Amos: Too backward and unpolished. With some seminary training he might have promise, but has a hang-up against wealthy people. Might fit in better in a poor congregation.
 * John: Says he is a Baptist, but definitely doesn’t dress like one. Has slept in the outdoors for months on end, has a weird diet, and provokes denominational leaders.
 * Peter: Too blue collar. Has a bad temper—even has been known to curse. Had a big run-in with Paul in Antioch. Aggressive, but a loose cannon.
 * Paul: Powerful CEO type leader and fascinating preacher. However, short on tact, unforgiving with younger ministers, harsh and has been known to preach all night.
 * Timothy: Too young.
 * Jesus: Has had popular times, but once when his church grew to 5000 he managed to offend them all and this church dwindled down to twelve people. Seldom stays in one place very long. And, of course, he’s single.
 * Judas: His references are solid. A steady plodder. Conservative. Good connections. Knows how to handle money. We’re inviting him to preach this Sunday. Possibilities here.
Author Unknown

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Are Atheists Always Wrong?

In a recent opinion piece in USA Today, Jerry Coyne, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago and avowed atheist asked the question, "Can atheists be good and moral people"? You can read the full piece here.

A Christian doesn't have to renounce his faith to answer with a hearty "yes they can". While I can only offer anecdotal evidence I don't live in a religious cocoon, I have dear friends and long time acquaintances that either worship other faiths or don't believe in God at all but share a moral code of behavior no different than mine. I remember telling a friend one day, "Man, the way you live and the things you believe you might as well BE a Christian, why not just take the final step and ask Jesus into your life?" Sadly his answer was no.

Where I differ with Professor Coyne was his assertion that secular moralism is inherently better than God inspired morality. Of course he cherry picked scripture to make his point,  "Was God being moral when, after some children made fun of the prophet Elisha's bald head, he made bears rip 42 of them to pieces (2 Kings 2:23-24)? Even in the New Testament, Jesus preaches principles of questionable morality, barring heaven to the wealthy (Matthew 19:24), approving the beating of slaves (Luke 12:47-48), and damning sinners to the torments of hell (Mark 9:47-48). Similar sentiments appear in the Quran. This isn't just philosophical rumination, because God — at least the God of Christians and Jews — repeatedly sanctioned or ordered immoral acts in the Old Testament. These include slavery (Leviticus 25:44-46), genocide (Deuteronomy 7:1-2; 20:16-18), the slaying of adulterers and homosexuals, and the stoning of non-virgin brides (Leviticus 20:10, 20:13, Deuteronomy 22:20-21)."

And yet we do that too, I could point out the real evil perpetrated by atheists on their fellow man, witness Russia during the revolution or Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge to name just a couple. But I would hardly care to dispute Professor Coyne's irritation at Christians who stupidly claim that atheists cannot possess a moral code of conduct because they don't believe in God. After all, aren't you glad salvation is not about good works? And therein lies the sad truth for atheists. As Christians we have much more than a moral code for living, we have the assurance of eternal life and the presence of the Holy Spirit here on earth. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Get In The Wheelbarrow

Would you like to know the difference between trust and faith? I love the story about going to the circus and watching the high wire artists perform dazzling feats of balance, a hundred feet in the air with no net. One high wire artist pushes a wheelbarrow back and forth and watching him you trust that he can do it perfectly without plunging to his death. Faith is getting in the wheelbarrow.

I'm having one of those wheelbarrow moments now, you know what I'm talking about, we've all had them. Some seasons of life seem to crush in on you, and the path ahead is not clear, so there's nothing to be done but get in the wheelbarrow. Dear friends in Christ scripture does not say you'll never experience fear, it does assure us that the perfect love of Jesus will cast out fear. It's waiting in the wheelbarrow that's uncomfortable.

So what I plan to do while I'm in the wheelbarrow is what I do every day I'm not. Pray, read scripture, and try to be of service to others, when I do that my life is less about me and I suspect that's alright with God.


In 1440 a German inventor, Johannes Gutenberg, invented the printing press and the nature of Christianity changed forever, the balance of power between flock and shepherd shifted, with power flowing steadily away from the church elite as the bible became available to anyone who could read. The importance of this shift cannot be overstated, as people gained the ability to read what Christ said and commanded for themselves, the ability of priests, popes, and pastors to manipulate the flock steadily eroded.
But the church elites still had one thing in their favor, the pulpit. As groups of believers splintered off from the Holy Roman Church, they soon formed their own bureaucracies and theologies, and with the rise of seminaries and divinity schools in the late 1600’s, they were able to control the pulpits of their denominations and thus the minds of the flock. So by the mid 21st century the body of Christ was just as rigidly controlled as it was in 1400, just with more flavors.
So now comes the internet and it looks like the shift in the balance of power that began with the invention of the printing press is racing towards completion and the religious elites are squealing like stuck pigs. One believer with a blog, a bible, and a way of speaking to other believers in a manner they can understand can reach as many people in a day as most any pastor and they don’t like it at all.
Some of their complaints are valid, the internet is the most powerful megaphone ever invented and there are a lot of morons out there propagating silliness of the first magnitude. Turns out false prophets have high speed connections too. It’s wild, undisciplined, often messy, but often exhilarating. There are incredibly moving voices being heard that would never drawn attention had it not been for a megaphone of their own, and my walk with the Lord has been enriched by people from all over the world, people I would never have known had it not been for the miracle of the World Wide Web.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Atheist And The Believer

A few days ago I commented on an article in the Christian Post that complained about atheists putting up 30 signs in bus stop shelters out in Orange County, California. The main thrust of my comment was we've got more important things to worry about, why are we getting our skirts all in a bunch over this tripe. What really annoyed me was the headline "Atheists Storm Calif. Bus Shelters with 'No God' Ads" Seriously? They stormed the bus stop shelters? Sounds to me like they blew a few thousand dollars.

But what happened after I posted my comment was almost comical. 81 replies and 31 "likes" later the whole conversation turned into an atheist versus believer tirade. 

First of all I had no idea so many atheists read the Christian Post. I have no interest at all in cabinet making so I've never read a woodworking magazine, why atheists hang around a Christian site is beyond me (although it certainly can't hurt). Secondly, it became clear after reading the comments both for and against the existence of God, that both sides completely neglect the central role of faith in the debate. A wise friend once told me that the atheist and the believer arrive at their separate conclusions with an identical leap of faith, that there is no conclusive, unarguable, scientific proof  for or against the existence of God, nor is there ever likely to be one (although Christians have nothing to fear from science).

Now I'm not an atheist so I'll not speak for them on the amount of faith required to believe there is no God, but I know that to believe in Jesus you're gonna need some faith. I know that because, excuse me here Mr. Atheist, the Bible tells me so, read Hebrews 11. So why do we as believers get all defensive when atheists tell us our faith is childlike and based upon belief in things unseen when that's what scripture tells us?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Make A Buck Off The Flock, Inc.

From an article on the Rapture industry, we read  "There’s even a new genre of chick lit called Rapture Erotica. Apocalypse Sex: Love at the End of the World ($4.99) focuses on characters who stare down the end of days by, according to its publisher, having “the best sex of their lives.” Read the entire article here.

Who even knew there could be such a thing as a Rapture industry? And what am I doing wasting my time trying to actually earn an honest living? Fortunes are being made selling fake history to Christians yearning for a fantasy version of how our country was born, theme parks are springing from the ground selling fiction to believers dying to know that dinosaurs walked with man, perhaps even Jesus. There's money to be made fleecing the flock and I'm doing time with actual labor? Shame on me.

Here's my plan, since the big market segments like prosperity ministries, creationism, fake history, and now the rapture are getting saturated with players I'm gonna focus on the niche market segments where the competition is scarce and there's still opportunity for someone with marginal ethics and a need to succeed. 

So welcome to Make a Buck off the Flock, Inc. Have you got a pet cause as a believer and you're looking for someone to support your crackpot ideas with books and DVD's? We're your guys. We don't have to believe what comes from underneath your tin foil hat to sell it, we just want to move product.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wall Building an Answer

Probably the two most successful Christian entrepreneurs of the last thirty years made a fortune by identifying what a well defined sub-group of Christians wanted to hear and then selling them books, DVD's, theme parks, T-shirts, and other trinkets that affirmed their beliefs.

Truth, accuracy, and integrity are no barriers to these guys, some Christians want to believe that this nation was founded as a Christian nation, we by God got a book for ya!!! Others demand proof that the world is 6,000 years old and if it takes a theory that proves dinosaurs walked with man then have we got a DVD for you. David Barton and Ken Ham are geniuses, they would have thrived in the hey days of the circus and the business empires they built, cleverly disguised as Christian education enterprises, are models of how to make a buck off the flock.

So let me know what you want to hear and how much you're willing to pay for it and I'll get right back to ya!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Should We Stop Inviting People To Church?

Should we keep inviting people to church? What has our almost maniacal emphasis on church growth and church plants gained us other than a steady decline in membership and worshipers? What if we stopped inviting people to church and just went into the community as a presence? What if we attended 5k's and passed out water to the runners courtesy of our church? Or helped with neighborhood cleanups? No conditions, no sermons, no manufactured events designed to lure people into the pews, just here, have some water on us, need help with painting your community center? I wonder how people would respond?

What if we were a constant presence at community events, we could wear T-shirts with our churches name, but other than that we'd just be there to support things they deem important to their community? Would they begin to view us differently, to accept us as friends without an agenda? There is an old theory that values attraction rather than promotion as a tool to effect change, if we were an attractive part of the community would our message be more attractive?

What we're doing now isn't working too well, maybe we should try just being in the neighborhood rather than lecturing the neighborhood.

She Was Not Good

I read a recent post by a clergywoman, another in a long line of stories that continue to romanticize the sordid life and banal death of Amy Winehouse.  It was titled, You Were Good, Amy Winehouse and I think a little clarification might be in order here. While there are a lot of words that accurately describe an active substance abuser, good is not one of them. Banal, deceitful, selfish in the extreme, abusive, useless, pretty much a plague on society, now those are words that apply.

What drives those of us who care deeply about helping dope fiends and drunks get sober is that we know the good that comes when a man or woman breaks the chains of addiction. But while they're IN their addictions they are loathsome creatures, and the way they die is ugly. Vomit covered convulsions, livers swollen with cirrhosis and the attendant stink that disease produces, children left parentless and permanently scarred by alcoholic behavior, brothers and sisters glad they're dead, it's tragic all right, romantic? Not so much.

I have a great deal of compassion for the Amy Winehouse that could have been, but she's just one of millions who wasted what might have been a rewarding life, and her very public self-demolition and all the ridiculous comments by pundits and even clergy who know nothing about the reality of addiction and it's often sordid end will not aid the cause of sobriety. She needs to be more of a "There but for the grace of God go I" story and less of a romantic-tragedy fairy tale.

In the meantime I think I'll just not drink and go to meetings.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Bible Elf

I ran across a passage in John that I had read many times but this time it really wowed me....in Chapter 6 it talks about many disciples leaving Jesus after he taught about eating His flesh and drinking his blood. A little too graphic for them I guess. And then it references that He was left with the twelve.....So, how many disciples did Jesus have before they deserted Him? And why did that just hit me? It's like I've totally ignored that passage as I've cheerfully read about the twelve disciples  as if that's all there ever were.

By disciples I'm referring to the passages in the gospels where at the start of His ministry Jesus collected twelve disciples who then dropped everything and followed Him around for three years after which he was crucified. Now it turns out He apparently collected a bunch more somewhere along the way who eventually deserted Him leaving Him with twelve. It's like there's a Bible elf that waits til I'm asleep to insert new stuff into passages I've been reading since I was a child, not counting a 21 year side trip into alcoholism during which the last thing you'd have caught me with was a Bible in my hands.

And that's just the start of my complaint. Turns out Jesus was a stealthy guy, constantly slipping away from mobs that wanted to kill Him, with no explanation about how he escaped other than it wasn't His time. Am I the only guy who thinks it would be interesting to know how He did it? He's there one minute and POOF, He's gone!! How cool is that? What were the miracles that John left out of His gospel because there were too many to list? 

Wouldn't it be cool to know that? The more I read the gospels the more I suspect that there was so much more in that three year ministry of the Lord than what got written down..... 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I Was Hopelessly, Miserably Wrong

In a recent post I lampooned the Brocton Rocs for selling an $80 hot dog at their minor league baseball games. Turns out they were mere wannabee purveyors of overpriced fast food. I now present to you the $1000 bagel, a $4200 pizza, a burger selling for $5000, and the piece de resistance, a $25,000 ice cream sundae. VIEW HERE

Granted, several of the chef's cheat by offering things like diamond encrusted spoons you get to keep after eating. And that's just wrong, it's a cheap trick to drive up the costs of the dish to make it appear expensive. What's really impressive is the use of edible gold in several of the dishes, yes edible gold, which makes you think that we might be able to segue into a whole new category, the world's most expensive bowel movements.

At any rate, I hereby apologize to the Brocton Rocs, $80 hot dogs are so yesterday they seem cheap. I'll have mine with Grey Poupon.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Just Another Surrender

I've read a lot lately about movements that use catch phrases like "Sold out for Jesus" or "Radical Christianity". I guess they call it that to indicate a high level of enthusiasm, and while I'm all for enthusiasm, what's wrong with just being obedient? Does honoring the Great Commission require being "Sold Out For Jesus"? Just how "Radical" do you have to get to take care of widows and orphans or feed the poor?  
When I read the Sermon on the Mount I don't get the feeling that Jesus was whirling about, driving the assembled multitudes into a hand waving frenzy, shouting emotionally as he worked the crowd into a lather of supernatural meekness. In fact, the only scripture where Jesus seemed to get all fired up was when he cast the money changers out of the temple. His demeanor in the rest of the Gospels was calm, steady, inspiring yes, but not like so many preachers today, sweating their congregations into action.
Jesus was a sea of calm in a turbulent era, I suspect that was a large part of His appeal. Maybe our need to get "Sold Out and Radical", to gyrate and spin, shout words of praise, and experience miracles is a result of simple disobedience to the day to day slog required to translate noise into action, to fully surrender to simple commands. I know that for me the inspirational stuff wears off quick, and then I'm confronted by the apathy in me, not the resistance of the world.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Midas Dog

The Brockton Rox, a minor league baseball team, is introducing an $80 hot dog for their fans. The foot-long wiener will get the royal treatment. After deep frying, it will be rolled in truffle oil, then coated in porcini dust. The dog is to be topped with white truffle shavings and crème fraiche. If that doesn't gild the lily enough, the frank will be finished with caviar and fresh roe.

This is an outrage! Not the eighty dollars, professional sports teams have gotten so adept at ripping off their fans I can't get too worked up about overpriced stadium food, but putting porcini dust, truffle shavings, creme fraiche, caviar and fresh roe on a hot dog? Are you kidding me? Does anyone here know what a hot dog is? You're gonna put truffle shavings on the ground up remains of animals that would never sell on their own, anyone for a pig's nose smothered in entrails?

Now here's the deal and this matter is not open for debate, Stadium hot dogs should only be available with ketchup, mustard, relish and onions, all of which are to be served in tiny plastic packets with those fake tear here instructions, packets designed to leave emotional scars on kids and adults alike. In extreme circumstances they may be offered with chili as long as the chili is the consistency of water in order to speed the transfer of the chili from the dog to your clothing.

Now I'd pay $80 for that....

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Pledge

In a year when pledges have become all the rage for Republican presidential primary candidates, The Family Leader’s Marriage Vow seems to be falling flat.

It seems only two of the 641 Republican candidates for president have signed it, which means one of two things. Either the unsigned candidates are willing to go to the mat with evangelicals to defend their right to commit adultery, or they realize that the vow does not address the single most important threat to marriage as we know it, creamed corn.

Just kidding. While there's some debate about the effect of creamed corn on marriage, that's another post. Seriously, the pledge says absolutely nothing, zip, zero, nada, about how bad children are for marriages. That's right, children. For thousands of years we've been told without children the species will die out, disappear, become extinct. But has anyone ever tried it?

Now don't get me wrong, I have a daughter, and having her has  been far better than a 13 year long case of halitosis. But she's really time consuming, way more expensive than $4 gasoline, and now when she orders french fries she eats the whole bag. 10 years ago there were always fries left over that I got to eat.
And that's the dirty little secret why the candidates won't sign the pledge. Everyone knows how bad kids are for the world, they're just afraid to admit it. Trust me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Well This Is Awkward-Part Five

I wasn't going to do another of these topics for a while, but a recent post in Politico caught my eye and frankly, if there was ever a perfect "This Is Awkward" topic this is it. It seems there is some talk about disgraced ex-congressman Anthony Weiner running in and winning the special election for the seat he just resigned from. He still holds a 60% approval rating in the district so if he promised to behave this time it's suggested he could win re-election.

After all, if a Republican senator (David Vitter) can win reelection after carousing with prostitutes, why not Weiner, he just thought about adultery. Sigh. Now I have a rather tawdry past, 21 years of drinking and drugging will put a few blank spots on your resume, so I'm in no position to play "holier than thou", but this is so brazen even I wouldn't have thought it possible. You gotta love this country, we certainly don't put a premium on good behavior.

Nonetheless, there's a reason millions of people risk their lives to get here. We got a great country, warts and all, and I wouldn't live anywhere else.

Web Sites I Enjoy

Here are some really cool websites(in no particular order). Enjoy!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Well This Is Awkward-Part Four

Church yesterday had me really conflicted. On the one hand we rightfully celebrated America, yet on the other hand we never got around to celebrating God. There was a great deal of triumphal exceptionalism and too little gratitude for my tastes. And little talk of God apart from the ridiculous assumption ....well I'll stop here with this thought.
Accepting that America is exceptional due to God's unmerited favor breeds the virtues of gratitude and humility. But a belief that America is the recipient of divine favoritism, on the other hand, breeds arrogance and triumphalism—an arrogance that robs one of any claims to being truly exceptional. ~Jonathan Merrit-Relevant magazine

As I was sitting here reflecting on my experience in the service yesterday I began to realize that my faith is an awkward mixture of fundamentalism and progressivism, I'm equally at home reading the Christian Post and Sojurners magazine. I think the idea that man and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time is as ridiculous as universalism. I believe that many on the Christian right have subcontracted their faith to a political party that treats them like Pavlovian Christians, every four years they spout family values, believers salivate donations and time, then as soon as they're elected they drop us like a hot potato. Yet I'm also convinced that as believers we need to have our faith inform our vote.

As a result of this curious mixture I've alienated folks with whom I otherwise hold much in common. So here's my deal. I believe that Jesus is "The truth, the light, and the way." I believe that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then to love one another. Mark 12: 30,31 And finally I believe we are to follow Jesus and become "fishers of men." Mathew 1:17 and His commands to feed the poor, heal the sick, and take care of widows and orphans should triumph over the unbridled pursuit of wealth, "unbridled" being the key word here.

If that bothers you feel free to stop hanging out with me, but I bid you go in peace.