Monthly Archives: October 2018

Love isn’t Everything-it’s the Only Thing

TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Psalm 119:1-8
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31

That does not mean there are no other commandments or that other commandments should be ignored. It does mean, however, that there is a hierarchy among biblical commandments. In other words, all commandments are not equal and they have never been so treated. For reasons that still escape me, sexual purity stands for many believers near the pinnacle of our moral hierarchy. I know whereof I speak. I grew up in a church that refused to perform or recognize marriages in which one or both partners had previous marriages ending in divorce. I know first hand the pain our “doctrinal position,” inflicted upon such individuals and their children. And though we were outwardly civil to single mothers, it was clear to me (and surely to them) that we viewed them with a mixture of pity and contempt. They served as cautionary tales for our girls and objects of our condescending charity. More than anything else, they allowed us to glory in our moral superiority.

According to Jesus,  neither adherence to standards governing sexual behavior nor any other standard of conduct hold sway. For Jesus, love for God and love for the neighbor determine the shape of our obedience to all other commandments. This “great” commandment is the loadstar. I use the singular intentionally because, in fact, the two great commandments to love God and love the neighbor are actually the same command. Because the Word of God is the Word made flesh, because our neighbor is the only true image of God we have, the only way to love God is by loving our neighbor.

Of course, we all know that “love” is a vacuous and sentimental word in our vernacular. How much meaning can a word have when I can use it both to express my devotion to my wife and my craving for rum raisin ice cream? For the biblical witnesses, however, love has real content. Paul tells us “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I Corinthians 13:4-7. Love that is godly is always directed toward what the rest of the world regards as “the least” of human beings. By this we mean the homeless, the hungry, the prisoner, the sick and all other marginalized people. Matthew 25. Love does not regard national identity, borders, citizenship, class distinctions or racial divisions. Luke 10:25-37.

The most striking thing about Jesus’ love is that it is extended even-no, especially-to sinners. We are in the habit of thinking about sin strictly in moral terms, but that is not the way it is used in the gospels. The term “sinner” is not a label that God slaps on people. It is rather a label that people slap on one another. More specifically, the term “sinner” is one that the religious, social and political elite stamped on those they deemed threatening, unclean or merely useless. Its purpose was to keep people in their place, especially those at the base of the social hierarchy. For Jesus, forgiveness of sin is less about pardoning offenses against some moral code than it is an erasure of this insulting, hurtful, discriminatory label that deprived so many people of their humanity, put a stumbling block in the way of their discovering God’s love for them and reinforced the machinery of oppression. It is in this context that we must understand Paul’s radical assertion that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…[and that all are] now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24. Where all are sinners, nobody is any longer in a position to claim righteousness over against anyone else. Because righteousness in God’s eyes is a free gift, no one can lay claim to it on the basis of merit or use it as a branding iron to mark others as “sinners.” Nothing remains other than for us to love as we have been loved, to “Throw out [one’s soul] full force on another soul,” as the poet, Elizabeth Barret Browning says.

How, then, does one love one’s neighbor as oneself? Here are what I think are some helpful guiding principles.

1. God’s priority, and therefore the disciple’s priority, is the “sinner,” that is, the persons our culture seeks to exclude and deems the “least.” That does not mean God hates people that are rich, white, successful or powerful. It is, however, a recognition that, like the rich young man in Jesus’ parable, many of us have a lethal addiction to privilege. Not only is that addiction oppressing the poor, but it is also strangling our own souls, hardening our hearts and preventing us from fully experiencing and practicing love. We need to recognize that the liberation of the oppressed is our own salvation as well.

2. “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12. That means I need to get inside the skin of people that cross my path and see the world as they see it. That requires a lot of non-judgmental listening, something that I find hard to do. I often wind up having to hear a lot of things about the world and about myself that I would rather not know. But I cannot really love another person until I can empathize with him or her.

3. Love must sometimes be tough. Jesus frequently had hard words for those who opposed him and even for his own disciples. That is because he loves us too much to let us continue in our self destructive ways. Love must often speak prophetically against individual and collective acts of injustice, selfishness and bigotry. Such speech is frequently met with opposition and resentment. That is OK. Love is not about reciprocity. It aims at healing the neighbor and we all know that the medicine we need is not always pleasant to take.

4. HOWEVER: Never forget that the neighbor is a person loved by God and created in God’s image. That image is not always easy to discern, but it must be taken on faith that it remains in the most unappealing of individuals. The great commandment extends also to the enemy.  Matthew 5:43-48. Love depends on my believing that all human beings (myself included) are capable of transformation. It also depends on my willingness to be transformed, to accept that the cause of hostility might well rest with me rather than my enemy and that I might be the one in need of forgiveness. There is a difference between speaking hard but life giving words and simply venting your spleen on people you can’t stand.

5. Love means taking risks. It’s dangerous. When you extend your hand in friendship, you might get a nail driven through it. When you stand with sinners, you can be judged as one. When you speak up for those who have no voice, you can be silenced-perhaps permanently. But if Jesus’ faithful life, obedient death and glorious resurrection teach us anything, it is that love is worth the risk.

Here is a poem about risky love by Elizabeth Barret Browning.

Love

We cannot live, except thus mutually
We alternate, aware or unaware,
The reflex act of life: and when we bear
Our virtue onward most impulsively,
Most full of invocation, and to be
Most instantly compellant, certes, there
We live most life, whoever breathes most air
And counts his dying years by sun and sea.
But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth
Throw out her full force on another soul,
The conscience and the concentration both
Make mere life, Love. For Life in perfect whole
And aim consummated, is Love in sooth,
As nature’s magnet-heat rounds pole with pole.

Source: This poem by Elizabeth Barret Browning is in the public domain. Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) was held in high regard throughout her lifetime surpassing nearly all other female poets of the English speaking world eclipsing even the work of her poet husband, Robert Browning. She had a formative influence upon American poet, Emily Dickinson who hung her portrait in her bedroom. Browning was highly skilled in multiple languages reading voraciously the Greek and Latin classics as well as the Hebrew Scriptures. Though the beneficiary of a privileged upbringing, she was a passionate advocate for the oppressed on the issues of slavery, child labor and the exploitation of colonized peoples. You can read more about Elizabeth Barrett Browning and sample more of her poetry at the Poetry Foundation website.

 

Trump Applauds Saudi Leader as Ally in the War on Media

The Ghost of Kierkegaard

(News that’s fake, but credible)

President Donald Trump had nothing but praise this morning for Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Notwithstanding his denials, the crown prince has been implicated in the brutal murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. “He [bin Salman] says he didn’t do it and doesn’t know anything about it,” Trump told reporters today. “That’s good enough for me.” But he went on to say that, even if bin Salman were involved, “Good for him. Hey, any guy that can do a journalist like that, he’s my guy.”

Notwithstanding pressure in congress for strong sanctions against Saudi Arabia in response to Khashoggi’s killing, the president expressed reluctance to sanction the Saudi’s. “I have a strong relationship with the crown prince,” he said. “Mr. bin Salman, along with my good friends Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, is a strong ally in our war against the media. You know, none of these leaders’ countries have a free press. But look how well they run their governments! When Kim Jong Un speaks, his people snap to attention. I wish the American people were that disciplined. And they would be if the press were more disciplined. But the press is totally out of control. That has to end. You don’t hear the Russian press saying bad things about President Putin. In Russia, the press is under control-like it should be here-instead of being the enemy of the people.”

When confronted with the President’s remarks later today at a press conference, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained that the President has no intention of limiting press freedom. “The president firmly believes in the freedom of the press,” Huckabee Sanders insisted. “He was calling enemies only those news organizations reporting ‘fake news.’” She pointed out that there are several news organizations loyal to the president like Fox News and Breitbart that will always be free to print or broadcast whatever they wish. “News organizations that report fairly and in an unbiased manner the president’s spectacular success in reviving the economy, restoring America’s place of leadership in the world community and his stellar moral character have nothing to fear from this president,” she said. Counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway agreed. “If the press wants freedom, all it has to do is start reporting some alternative facts.”

Meanwhile, the president’s allies staunchly defended his position. Rev. Franklin Graham dismissed the mainstream media as an instrument of the devil, left wing propaganda, terrorism and, worst of all, the Democratic party. Tony Perkins of the Family Research council agreed. “They all work for the Democrats who are allied with atheistic, God-denying, America hating scientists who think we all came from a bunch of monkeys and that a little coal dust is going to destroy the earth.” He further pointed out that all the truth we need was written into the Bible hundreds or even thousands of years before being recorded elsewhere. “So who says we need the press to help us find the truth?”

Senator Mitch McConnell echoed these sentiments, saying, “The mainstream media is an instrument of left wing radicals bent on conducting a smear campaign against the president’s agenda.” He went on to complain about the press’s coverage of his own plans to subsidize the recently passed corporate tax cuts with spending cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and health care generally. “When the general public gets wind of what I’m up to, I can’t even sit down to a quiet meal in a restaurant anymore. Wherever I go, somebody is getting on my case about their sick children, poor relatives and hungry neighbors-like I give a damn!” He concluded by remarking, “I just wish those busy body reporters would leave me alone and let me do the work I need to do for  my real constituents, the ones that finance my campaign.”

FAKE NEWS ALERT: The above article is satirical. The events it describes didn’t happen. “There are people who will say that this whole account is a lie, but a thing isn’t necessarily a lie even if it didn’t necessarily happen.” John Steinbeck,

Reformation or Re-formation?

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 126
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52

Prayer of the Day: Eternal light, shine in our hearts. Eternal wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance. Eternal compassion, have mercy on us. Turn us to seek your face, and enable us to reflect your goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

This week’s lesson from Jeremiah as well as the psalm celebrate the liberation of exiles from captivity and their joyous homeward journey under the sheltering protection of the God who frees slaves, champions the cause of the poor and leads the homeless to a homeland. In our gospel reading, Jesus halts his journey toward Jerusalem to heal a blind beggar, a loud and bothersome fellow that the rest of the crowd tried to silence. These lessons are by no means atypical. The Bible, especially as it is read through the lens of Jesus, paints the picture of a God whose heart bleeds for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, the sojourner with no country to call home, the hungry, the poor and the noisy outcast at the side of the road that everyone else wishes would just shut up.

From whence, then, cometh the God of “America First”? How the hell did we wind up with this deformity called the “prosperity gospel?” How can those of us from the American “mainline” protestant churches, bastions of middle class respectability that we are, claim to worship the messiah who calls disciples from among “the least” of every nation, tribe and tongue? How did we get to be the church of white privilege?[1] How is it that self described “evangelicals” can be found in such large numbers howling with laughter as our president mocks a man who is disabled and makes fun of a woman trying to piece together what happened to her in the wake of a sexual assault? Can anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of Jesus find this funny? And why are so many self-proclaimed Christians cheering that same president who now proposes to meet a band of refugees fleeing violence and poverty with military force?

Of course, I am aware of all the historical currents, ancient and contemporary, that brought us to this pass. I am also painfully aware that the church in every age has always been less than a perfect witness to its Lord. Even in its finest hours, its witness has been clouded by self-interest, timidity and tunnel vision. This week we observe the 501st anniversary of the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther. Luther certainly had his character flaws, blind spots and prejudices. The Reformation movement failed to address some critical issues, became captive to political agendas inconsistent with the gospel and produced some horrific unforeseen consequences. Yet, to his credit, Luther recognized what was really at stake, namely, the truth of the gospel or, you might also say, the truth about God. That truth is known as one knows Jesus. Jesus is at the heart of the scriptures and the scriptures are rightly called God’s word in their capacity to lead us to faith in Jesus.

In view of all this, it is remarkable how little is said about Jesus these days, both among evangelicals and mainliners. As to the former, see the satirical piece in Kierkegaard’s Ghost. For the latter, see my post for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. It is equally remarkable how little Jesus figures into what passes for public Christian witness these days. Evangelicals in Alabama were ready to go to the trenches in order to keep a monument bearing the Ten Commandments in front of the state house. But has any Christian group, evangelical or otherwise, ever advocated for posting the Beatitudes in public? Has anyone ever suggested enshrining Jesus’ admonition to love the enemy on the wall of the Pentagon? And how do you explain the fixation of so many American Christians on abortion and homosexuality-two matters Jesus never so much as mentioned-while blatantly ignoring his clear and unambiguous call for his followers to sell their possessions and give alms? And how much of the frantic “do gooding” activity in which we engage is actually grounded in and constitutes a clear and unambiguous witness to the crucified messiah? The only conclusion I can reach is that for North American Christians, conservative or progressive, mainline or evangelical, Jesus just isn’t that big a deal.

Therefore, on this anniversary of the Reformation, we should perhaps be asking ourselves what shape reform ought to take. What does return to the radical good news proclaimed in Jesus look like in our context? Is reform really just a matter of tweaking the machinery of the old order? Can we be re-formed without formal dissolution? One vision of reformation has been offered to my own ELCA by #Decolonialize Lutheranism. Decolonialize has articulated a refreshingly Christocentric proclamation of salvation by grace:

“As Lutherans, our greatest gift to the world is our theology – the recognition of human beings as simultaneously sinner and saint, the theology of the cross, and our holy insistence upon the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. But most importantly, Luther’s ultimate contribution to the Christian world is his insistence on justification. If Article IV of the Augsburg Confession is the article by which the church stands or falls, if all and any are ‘freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith,’ then this means that Christ has justified everyone and everything before God. And hence, if this is so, then no one is to be excluded – indeed, cannot be excluded – from the love and power of God: human beings, nature, earth and all stars, indeed all of the created cosmos. Attempts to do so are not only impossible, but are even a most foolish attempt to thwart the holy will of God. Therefore, Justification lays at the center of all that #decolonizeLutheranism stands for, and all that we hope to accomplish.”

Therefore,

“The time has come for marginalized communities to lead our church into the 21st century –  people of color, the disabled, all genders (women, trans, and gender nonconforming), sexualities, ages, incarceration or immigration or citizenship status, and others. Since early Christians were never bound to respectability and social perceptions of right behavior, and often boldly contradicted these standards by lifting up the lowly and the down-trodden, #decolonizeLutheranism believes that we must all do likewise. Because of this, every member of the church is to be aware of and respect all of the voices in the room, not just the most evident or numerous, for each sings a part in God’s chorus.”

Of course, “talk is cheap.” Unless accompanied by concrete proposals, bold theological assertions are empty. This group, however, has specific reformation goals. These are set forth at this link. In short, Decolonialize is calling for the inclusion of ten bishops of either of color, gay, lesbian, transgender or disabled. It recommends tripling the number of female bishops; equalizing salaries for minority/women clergy and reforming seminary curricula. Little is said about how this is to be accomplished without doing violence to our representative polity or creating in its place an even more repressive hierarchy. But where the representative polity’s chief problem is its failure to be truly representative by reason of which it is doing violence to those with little or no voice, then we have to ask ourselves whether there is any virtue in protecting from violence a structure that is doing violence to our members and our witness to Jesus. The risk that these bold proposals might fail must be weighed against the clear and present reality of systemic failure in the status quo and the dangers of doing nothing to transform it. Reform and renewal never come without risk, failure and a measure of loss. As people guided by the theology of the cross, we ought to know that.

In the meantime, I am waiting, like poet Lawrence Ferlingghetti, for a rebirth of wonder, the capacity to be astounded at the good news of resurrection for the crucified messiah, the awakening of a community to the hope that once sustained it. And every so often, I see the foundations of the old order shudder; the proud certainty of the oppressor suffer a spasm of doubt; a blinding flicker of hope seep through the cracks in my cynicism; and I know that the old skins cannot forever restrain the new wine. At times like these, I am able to believe that the gentle reign of God will undo the militarized borders, class distinctions and systemic engines of oppression, both within the church and throughout the world, just as surely as the sun is bound to rise.

I am Waiting

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

Source: Ferlinghetti, Lawrence, These Are My Rivers: New and Selected Poems (c. 1993, New Directions Publishing Corporation). Lawrence Ferlinghetti, born March 24, 1919, is one of American’s last living poets of the “beat” movement, which included Allen Ginsberg, Kenneth Patchen and Gregory Corso. In addition, he is an accomplished  painter, a socialist activist and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. Ferlinghetti is best known for his book, A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), a collection of poems that has been translated into nine languages, with sales of more than one million copies. He earned a master’s degree in English literature from Columbia University in 1947. From there, he went to Paris where he earned a doctorate in comparative literature. You can learn more about Lawrence Ferlinghetti and sample more of his poetry at the Poetry Foundation website.

[1] I base this claim, which some might find offensive, on the results of a comprehensive demographic survey of the American Religious landscape done by the Pew Research Center. The study shows that the membership of my own church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) continues to be 96% white, notwithstanding numerous official statements trumpeting our openness and diversity. Furthermore, the northern midwestern states, where ELCA membership is primarily located, were instrumental in electing the current president whose racist sympathies are well known and crudely expressed.

Of Humiliation and Humility

Image result for servantTWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

Prayer of the Day: Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth. Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom, and make us desire always and only your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

“So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’” Mark 10:42-45

Humility is perhaps the most misunderstood of virtues, being frequently confused with humiliation. Though both words are derived from the same root, they each represent quite different concepts. Humiliation is an act of violence committed by one person against another. To humiliate someone is to degrade and embarrass him/her. It consists in using verbal abuse, peer pressure or perhaps even physical assault to put someone else into what you believe to be their proper place. Humiliation is the means by which one’s privileged position within the hierarchy of the status quo is preserved. It is hard at work in the heart of racism, sexism, nationalism and gender bias. Sadly, it is now the weapon of choice in the realm of so much of our political and religious discourse.

Humility, by contrast, is a habit of the heart. A humble person seeks his/her place without regard to where that place might be in any sort of hierarchy. S/he does not necessarily lack ambition. Rather, his/her ambition is focused on his/her calling to be of service to the neighbor. Whether such service takes the form of running for public office or scrubbing the office floor matters not at all. The world might value these respective callings differently, but humble people understand that, when the kingdom of God is revealed in its fullness, “many who are first will be last and the last first.” We cannot control or predict the magnitude of our contribution to the advent of Christ’s gentle reign. After all, who could have imagined that the child born to a homeless couple in a barn out on the frontiers of the civilized world would turn out to be God’s beloved Son? What the headlines raise up as great people and significant events are not necessarily the ones God employs to accomplish God’s redemptive purposes.

Humble people are not lacking in self esteem. Rather, knowing that they are highly esteemed by the one who claimed them in baptism, they have no need for popular acclaim or recognition. They are free to pursue lives of service that bring them joy, satisfaction and sustaining friendships without vexing themselves over whether they have “maximized their full potential.” They are able to rejoice in the accomplishments of others without envy and take pride in their own accomplishments without measuring them against those of anyone else. Life for them is not a competition to reach the top because they know that, in fact, there is neither top nor bottom. They understand that their names, their deeds and their achievements will likely die with them and they are fine with that. Humble people are “simple folk…who grow strong and beautiful in their season, toil at honest labor till it ends [and] fade away with grace when it passes…expect[ing] nothing in return.”

Humility is not to be confused with weakness or timidity. Humble people stand tall and strong against injustice, oppression and for what they believe to be right; but their moral courage is tempered by knowledge of their own limited understandings. For that reason, the humble person never shuts the door to dialogue even with the seemingly most unreasonable foe. Neither is s/he afraid to make compromises to serve the greater good or confess freely when s/he is shown to be wrong. To be sure, in our current cultural climate, “backing down” or “giving in” is deemed weak and cowardly. Compromise is synonymous with surrender. Humility knows, however, that refusal to admit error or accept a reasonable compromise is the worst form of cowardice and that “there is no mind so weak as that which is too strong to be changed.” Humble people know better than to view life as a series of wins and losses. It is enough for them to live honestly and with integrity as servants to all the neighbors placed in their path. That is as much success as they want. That, too, is what Jesus means when he tells his disciples that “greatness” in God’s kingdom consists not in the service one is able to command, but in the service one is able to give.

Here is a poem that, in a round about way, seeks the kind of humility about which Jesus speaks.

In Search of Prime Residential Real Estate

I’d Like to live in a place
Where you can get a cup of coffee
Without having to specify,
Large, very large, jumbo,
Mocha, Columbian or Java.
Let me make my home
In a place so far from
The nearest metropolis
That you can’t get reception
For network stations
Without a computer
And that with difficulty
As there’s no broadband access.
Let history’s great moments
Make their way to me
Through the lens of local news
And humbly take their place
Beneath those truths
That are timeless,
Real and unchanging.
I want to live on open land
Where nothing obstructs my view
Except the sky.
And let that sky be so wide
And so chuck full of stars at night
That nobody looking up into the heavens
Will ever be able to imagine
That he’s any more important
Than a Spring tulip that’s long gone
Before the end of May.
I want to live among simple folk
Who, like that tulip,
Grow strong and beautiful in their season,
Toil at honest labor till it ends,
Fade with grace when it passes,
And expect nothing in return.

Source: anonymous

 

 

 

American Evangelical Leaders call for Jesus’ Resignation

IMG_0280 (1)The Ghost of Kierkegaard

(News that’s fake, but credible)

A group of Evangelical leaders, including the Rev. Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, Jerry Falwell, Jr.,  president of Liberty University, Rev. Robert Jeffress  consultant to President Donald Trump,  and Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family recently issued a call for the resignation of Jesus of Nazareth. “We believe the time has come for Jesus to step down,” the statement declares. “We mean no disrespect toward Jesus,” Rev. Franklin Graham explained. “But the church today needs a leader who is willing to speak an uncompromising word against homosexuality, same sex marriage and abortion. Jesus has never spoken a word on any of these issues. We need a leader who is not afraid to stand up for Christian values like border security, national defense and capital punishment. Jesus is soft on every one of those critical issues.” Rev. Jeffrees agreed, pointing out that Jesus has never stood up for the second amendment and has even made statements that undermine the right of the people to bear arms. “God’s not an open borders kind of guy,” he said. “So how are we supposed to keep your borders closed by ‘putting up our swords'”?

Additionally, his critics claim that Jesus takes harsh and draconian positions in areas calling for sensitivity and understanding.  “For example,” says Tony Perkins, “Jesus is on record stating that ‘whoever divorces his wife and marries another has committed adultery with her.’ That’s entirely too severe,” said Perkins. “A man can expect to go through a few wives in his lifetime and he ought to get a mulligan or two on that score.” He went on to say, “I mean, marriage is no big deal-unless it’s same sex marriage. Then, of course, it’s an abomination.”

Perkins also took issue with Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek” when stricken. “That’s bull!” said Perkins. “Look, you only have two cheeks, right? How often are you supposed to turn them? Jesus clearly doesn’t understand terrorism or the threat posed by liberals who mock us true Christians, bully us and deprive us of our rights. Doesn’t he realize we have the second amendment for a reason?” Dr. Dobson pointed out that Jesus has shown decidedly socialist tendencies in exhorting his followers to “sell their possessions and give alms,” noting that such “give-aways,” however well intended, destroy the incentives of the poor to better themselves by fostering dependency. “That,” he maintains, “is a leading reason for the erosion of family values.”

When asked who might succeed Jesus, Mr. Falwell didn’t hesitate. “We may have our new savior sitting in the White House this very moment. No one can dispute that Donald Trump’s election was a miracle of God. God has shown us who his real son is.” When confronted with Mr. Trump’s seeming moral failures, Falwell replied, “Look, God called King David a man after God’s own heart even though he was an adulterer and a murderer. Donald Trump is only one of those. That makes him twice as fit as David. Really, who would you rather see on the throne of David? A liberal snowflake like Jesus or a principled conservative like Donald Trump?” So, too, Graham said that Donald Trump has been a “champion” for Christians in the United States. “Who is like the Donald?” he said, “Who can fight against him?” His colleagues concurred.

For his part, President Trump expressed openness to accepting the office of Jesus. Tweeting in response to the above mentioned statement, Mr. Trump stated: “I would make a great savior of the world. I’m best qualified for Job. Jesus is huge disappointment. Three years. Just got killed. What has he given us. Says take up the cross. Sad.” When pressed on this statement by reporters, Mr. Trump replied, “Look, Jesus says the least are the greatest. That’s loser talk. I’m not a loser. Believers shouldn’t be losers either. As savior, I will see to it that Christians win for a change. In fact, they’ll win so much they will get sick of winning. No Christian will suffer under my watch.”

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FAKE NEWS ALERT: The above article is satirical. The events it describes didn’t happen. In the words of John Steinbeck, “There are people who will say that this whole account is a lie, but a thing isn’t necessarily a lie even if it didn’t necessarily happen.”