Monthly Archives: May 2019

Rev. Franklin Graham Launches a Revised Bible

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham

Kierkegaard’s Ghost

(News that’s fake, but credible)

Today Rev. Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, unveiled the Alt-right Revised Bible, a fresh translation of Holy Writ revising substantially the New Testament cannon long recognized by the church as authoritative. “When I finally got around to actually reading the Bible, I was shocked and appalled at what I found there,” said Graham. He went on to say that he was particularly distressed by many of the things Jesus is reported to have said. “I think Jesus was basically a good person, but I think he was swayed and given a lot of bad information by the liberal media.” Graham went on to point out that his New Alt-right Revised Bible is not really a departure from the original. “As I see it,” said Graham, “we are simply putting into the Bible what Jesus would have said if he had had access to accurate news and wise counsel. There was no Fox News in the first century.”

Other evangelical leaders praised the new Bible as a significant improvement over the original. Said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, “This Bible gives us a Savior we can respect instead of a weakling who tells us to ‘turn the other cheek.’” 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 concurred. “It’s a Bible that I think our president and Republican leaders can really get behind,” said Jeffress.

Here are a few of the revisions found in the Alt-Right Revised Bible:

When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. Yea, verily thou speakest truly, Andrew. We must feed ourselves with this bread which by our labor hath been honestly earned. Let us not give it freely to the crowd lest we go hungry and their incentive to support themselves be destroyed.

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. said unto him, Nay, I would not. Knowest thou not that health care is not a right and that thou art not entitled to anything from him that supporteth himself and that payest his fair share of tax?

For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. not even the crumbs shall be given to thee, O woman of a hostile nation proven to be a haven of terrorists. If thy daughter perish, what is that to us? My nation first.

And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. shall be entitled to a mulligan; and he that shall put away his second wife shall be entitled to a mulligan; and he that committeth adultery against his third wife shall be entitled to yet another mulligan. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?  And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him. Yea, verily, strike ye hard. For well thou knowest that the only way to stop an evil person with a sword is a good person with a sword.

In addition to the revisions, there will be several amendments addressing issues that Jesus failed to discuss. These include condemnation of abortion, same sex marriage, socialism, feminism, liberalism and other abominations. Look for the Alt-right Revised Bible to appear on book shelves soon.


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.”

Holy Outrage


Acts 16:16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
John 17:20-26

Prayer of the Day: O God, form the minds of your faithful people into your one will. Make us love what you command and desire what you promise, that, amid all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed  where true joy is found, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.” Acts 16:16-18.

I usually trust reputable translations of Biblical texts, such as the New Revised Standard Version and its predecessors. Occasionally, however, I have my doubts. This is one of those occasions.  Something about the above reading seemed a little off to me. So, I summoned up as much New Testament Greek as I could recall from my college and seminary years, pulled my Greek New Testament off the shelf along with the Arndt & Gingrich lexicon and the Moulton & Geden concordance and went in search of anything that might have gotten lost in translation. Often as not, these rare forays of mine leave me with a somewhat refreshed recollection of Greek vocabulary and grammar, but little else. This time, however, I might just have found something.

On the face of our English reading, it seems that the Apostle Paul was simply annoyed by the slave girl who, for whatever reason, was following him about and seemingly promoting his mission. But the word translated as “annoyed” in our reading is the Greek word, “diaponeomai.” Though it can be so translated, as the New Revised Standard Version does here, the word can also mean “to be greatly disturbed” in the sense of being morally outraged. In the two other places where  this verb is found in the New Testament, it has precisely this meaning. In Acts 4:2, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were outraged that Peter and John were preaching Jesus and the resurrection. In Mark 14:4 the disciples are morally outraged by the anonymous woman’s use of expensive oil to anoint Jesus. However misguided such outrage may have been in these two examples, the point here is that the word used to express such outrage rises far above the level of mere annoyance. This is not the story of an apostle’s irritability leading him to employ the name of Jesus to quiet a pesky girl. Paul is not annoyed. He is outraged.

Paul had good reason for outrage. The slave girl was what we would call a victim of human trafficking. She was the property of her owners who were exploiting her spiritual/emotional/mental bondage for their own economic gain. So far from being impressed by Paul’s liberation of this girl from her bondage, her “owners” are angered that “their hope of making money was gone.” Acts 16:19. For them, she was a cash cow whose udders were now dry. The biblical narrative follows Paul and Silas into prison,  however, and we are left to wonder about the fate of this poor slave girl. I would like to believe that the liberating word spoken by Paul broke not only the yoke of demonic possession, but also that of her servitude. I would like to believe that she found her way to liberation and freedom. But the Bible gives us no such assurance. We know very little about this young woman. Was she merely a child now abandoned to fend for herself in the streets? Or did her owners find some other means of extracting profits from her too horrible to contemplate? Tempting as it is to to follow Paul and Silas on their remarkable journey, perhaps the Spirit would have us stop at this point and feel a little Pauline outrage.

When we hear the term “human trafficking,” it calls up images of young people trapped in the sex trade. This horrific form of exploitation is surely worthy of our attention and concern. I believe, however, that human trafficking in the sex trade is symptomatic of  something deeper, namely, an economic system that views human beings as “commodities” whose time and labor can be exploited for whatever compensation the almighty market deems appropriate and without regard to their needs. Once you accept the proposition that a person’s worth is measured by what s/he can earn from producing goods or services for anyone willing to pay for them, it is not such a great leap to the sale of human bodies to gratify the lust of whoever has money to buy them.  A culture in which one’s value is measured by one’s employability in a profit-making venture is, in the Pauline view, demonic. Holy outrage is the only appropriate response-even if it gets you arrested.

How did the slave girl in our lesson fare once she became worthless to her owners? We don’t have to speculate. We know only too well what happens to people deemed worthless. We only have to witness the fate of the homeless in our streets. We needn’t look any further than refugee camps the world over filled with people deemed to have no economic value sufficient to justify their reception into any nation. We have only to listen to the hateful rhetoric of our president toward people coming to us desperate to escape hopeless poverty and violence. Our world has little use for people deemed “valueless.” The worst part of all this is our lack of outrage, our sense that the exploitation and disposal of people as so many commodities is somehow normal.

This is the story of an apostle’s outrage against an oppressive hierarchical economy that reduces people to commodities. It is the story of an apostle preaching good news to the poor and liberation to the captives, a word that has power to topple the pyramid of oppression and return to its victims their humanity. And yes, it is also the story of what happened to the apostle as a result.  But we are not ready to move into that portion of the narrative until we experience in the depths of our souls the outrage that sparked it.

Here is a poem by Claude McKay expressing a little of that holy outrage. Read it-and be outraged.

Harlem Shadows

I hear the halting footsteps of a lass
In Negro Harlem when the night lets fall
Its veil. I see the shapes of girls who pass
To bend and barter at desire’s call.
Ah, little dark girls who in slippered feet
Go prowling through the night from street to street!
Through the long night until the silver break
Of day the little gray feet know no rest;
Through the lone night until the last snow-flake
Has dropped from heaven upon the earth’s white breast,
The dusky, half-clad girls of tired feet
Are trudging, thinly shod, from street to street.
Ah, stern harsh world, that in the wretched way
Of poverty, dishonor and disgrace,
Has pushed the timid little feet of clay,
The sacred brown feet of my fallen race!
Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet
In Harlem wandering from street to street.


Source: This poem is in the public domain. Claude McKay (1889-1948) was born Festus Claudius McKay in Nairne Castle, Jamaica. He came to the United States in 1912 to attend the Tuskegee Institute. McKay was shocked by the racism he encountered in this country and that experience of culture shock shaped his career as a writer and poet. McKay became a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a Black American intellectual, social, and artistic movement centered in Harlem, New York spanning the 1920s. His poetry celebrates peasant life in Jamaica, challenges white supremacy in America and lifts up the struggles of black men and women striving to live their lives with dignity in a racist culture. You can learn more about Claude McKay and read more of his poetry on the Poetry Foundation Website.

President Trump Gives Alaska Back to Russia

See the source image

Kierkegaard’s Ghost

(News that’s fake, but credible)

Today the White House announced that President Trump reached a deal with Russian President, Vladimir Putin for the return of Alaska to Russian jurisdiction and sovereignty.  The United States originally purchased what is now the State of Alaska from Russia through an agreement negotiated by then Secretary of State, William H. Seward, on March 30, 1867 for the sum of  $7.2 million. Russia is reportedly paying $10 million for re-purchase. “The president believes that this gesture will restore and strengthen friendship between our two countries,” said presidential press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The transaction, evidently negotiated in a series of e-mails between the two leaders, will be signed next week at a special ceremony in the Rose Garden where Mr. Putin is scheduled to appear with President Trump. Sanders brushed off concerns that the presence of Russian troops and military installations on the Alaskan frontier might compromise national security. “To the contrary,” said Sanders, “a strong Russian military presence on the North American continent will provide a necessary deterrent to the growing power of the Democratic House, the deep state and the liberal press. They’re are the real enemies of the United States.”

Opposition in Congress has been strong even among Republicans. “I sent a strongly worded objection to my e-mail draft box,” said Maine Senator Susan Collins. Senator Lindsay Graham also expressed concern over the president’s decision, but added “I still support Donald Trump as do the American people.” Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell likewise expressed dismay, though he criticized the Democrats and the media for its coverage of the Alaska transaction. “We need to view this whole thing in context,” McConnell said. “The president has an overall strategy. This is just one tiny piece of it.” The only Republican senators unequivocally opposed to the deal are Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan.

The president  lashed out on Twitter at critics of his decision. “I know real estate,” he said. “It’s what I do. Seward was an idiot. Served under a president who got impeached. No wonder he paid $7.2 million for an icebox. I sold it back for $10 million! $2.8 million profit!” In addition to the aforementioned payment of $10 million, Russia is also transferring several commercial lots in downtown Moscow to an American company, rumored to be a Trump subsidiary. “Fake news,” the president shot back. “The company is wholly owned and operated by my son, Donald Jr. No ownership by me.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hinted that there might be further such transactions to come. “We are looking into the possible sale of California, Oregon and Washington to Russia as well.” Though stressing that these talks are in the very preliminary stages, Mnuchin went on to point out the advantages of Russia taking over the defense of America’s western border. “The savings in military costs would be astronomical,” he said. “We could give all that land away and still come out ahead.”


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.”

What It Takes to Heal Nations

San Diego Solidarity Brigade & OLBSD Projections for Racial Justice - Dismantle White SupremacySIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5
John 14:23-29

Prayer of the Day: Bountiful God, you gather your people into your realm, and you promise us food from your tree of life. Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit we may love one another and the world you have made, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.” Psalm 67:4.

“On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22:2.

The relationship between Gods people and the “nations” is-well, a little bit complicated. In the Hebrew Scriptures the nations are often seen as enemies of Israel. “Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.’” Psalm 2:1-2. These verses reflect the geopolitical reality of 9th and 8th Century Palestine where relatively small kingdoms like Israel and Judah led a precarious existence among other petty kingdoms vying for control of the fertile crescent in the shadow of the great Hittite, Babylonian, Egyptian and Assyrian empires. The nations and their ambitions posed an ever-present existential threat to Israel.

Particularly insightful is Psalm 82 in which “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.” Psalm 82:1. The “gods” referenced here are the gods of the various nations. See Rogerson, J.W. and McKay, J.W., Psalms 51-100, The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible (c. 1977 by Cambridge University Press) p. 164. The religion built around these gods functioned as a divine justification for the hierarchical regime that stratified human society from the king down to the slave. In contrast to these gods who “judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked” (Psalm 82:2), the God of Israel gives “justice to the weak and the fatherless” and maintains “the right of the afflicted and destitute.” Israel’s God “rescue[s] the weak and the needy; deliver[ing] them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4. Indeed, this unique God to a band of escaped slaves turns the hierarchical regime of these other so-called “gods” on its head. So, too, in the New Testament the “nations” personified by Herod and Pontius Pilate were instrumental in the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus. Acts 4:27-28. In the end, the nations will be judged for their neglect and abuse of the poor, the hungry, the naked and oppressed. See Matthew 25:31-46.

This is not the entire story, however. Abram was called and blessed in order to “be a blessing” and so that by his and Sarai’s descendants “all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.” Genesis 12:1-3. Psalm 87 speaks of Zion as the mother of peoples from many nations, some of which were mortal enemies of Israel. The Lord declares to the prophet Isaiah, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6. John of Patmos visualizes the people of God’s new creation as coming from “all tribes and peoples and tongues.” Revelation 7:9. “The glory and honor of the nations” are to be incorporated into the new Jerusalem and by that holy city’s light the “nations shall walk.” Revelation 21:22-27. The nations as nations are objects of God’s redemptive goal for all creation. Like individual persons, they stand in need of God’s healing touch.

There is plenty of healing that needs to be done if the nations are to dwell together justly and peacefully in God’s new creation. I can’t think of any nation, past or present, that does not have injustice, violence and blood in its history. Every nation, including my own, has a tendency to demand loyalty that belongs to God alone, impose its own nationalistic agenda on the rest of the world and neglect the most vulnerable people under its jurisdiction. The indictment made against the Near Eastern deities in Psalm 87 could as well be made against the nations of the modern world. So, how does God go about “healing” the nations?

A nation is healed the same way individual persons are healed: through repentance and forgiveness. The delightful Book of the Prophet Jonah suggests that such a thing is indeed possible for the most wayward of nations. But it is hardly realistic to expect it occur with the speed and thoroughness that repentance overtook the empire of Assyria in response to the prophet’s message. There are some suggestive events in our own time that I believe give us clues about what national repentance might look like. One example is The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) assembled in South Africa after the end of apartheid. The TRC was a court-like body before which witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences. Some of these witnesses were selected for public hearings. Perpetrators of violence under the former regime could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution. A register of reconciliation was also established so that ordinary South Africans who wished to express regret for past failures could also express their remorse. The TRC hearings were crucial to South Africa’s transition to full and free democracy.

So how might repentance and healing take shape in our own nation? Clearly, there is much for which we need to repent. But if there is one defining sin of the United States it is the pervasive and systemic racism built into our nation’s founding document and the social and and economic arrangements under which was built an empire on the lands of dispossessed peoples and on the backs of enslaved Africans. If there is one sin that continues to breed violence, poverty and injustice it is the ideology of white supremacy that manifests itself not only in the overt activities of the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and white nationalist organizations, but in the more subtle and therefore more lethal practices of discrimination in government, education and the workplace.

Proposals have been made for reparations in some form to descendants of slaves, most notably, Representative John James Conyers, Jr.s “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act” (H.R. 40). This legislation would “establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.” Few political leaders have been willing to promote even the notion of such action.[1] It should be pointed out, however, that restitution to persons wronged by the American government under color of law is not a new idea. At the end of the Civil War, General William Sherman issued a series of orders granting each freed slave family forty acres of tillable land in the sea islands and around Charleston, South Carolina. This land was to be for the exclusive use of black people who had been enslaved. Around 40,000 freed slaves were settled on 400,000 acres in Georgia and South Carolina.  (However, President Andrew Johnson reversed the order after President Lincoln was assassinated, and the land was returned to its previous owners.) Under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 the U.S. government apologized to Japanese Americans for their internment during World War II and provided reparations of $20,000 to each survivor in compensation for loss of property and liberty during that period. Additionally, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act transferred land, federal money, and a portion of oil revenues to native Alaskans. The moral imperative is clear. The legal precedent is there. What we lack is the will.

Admittedly, reparations to African Americans in the United States posses many difficult and perplexing issues: What form should reparations take? Cash payments made through restitution courts? A vigorous affirmative action initiative? Programs aimed at developing predominantly black communities and schools? Who administers the process of reparations? How will reparations in any form help to dismantle the hateful ideology of white supremacy and its ongoing contribution to discriminatory conduct? Should there be a “truth commission” component of reparations? Such perplexities, though daunting, should not deter us. Imperfect and flawed justice is still better than allowing injustice to continue. Nothing worth doing is easy and we have to start somewhere. Representative Conyer’s bill seems as good a place as any.

This is hardly a “hot” partisan political issue. Neither of the two major parties has shown any strong desire to make racial justice a centerpiece of its platform. But for disciples of Jesus, reconciliation isn’t a peripheral issue and it cannot be set aside in the interest of an election. Because “healing of the nations” is the end game for God’s new creation, followers of Jesus cannot be neutral when it comes to addressing this chief sin afflicting the nation in which we reside. The only way is forward and into the light.

Here is a poem by Elizabeth Alexander urging us to march forward into the light.

Praise Song for the Day

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.
I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.


Source: Praise Song for the Day, (c. 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander, pub. by Graywolf Press). Elizabeth Alexander was born in Harlem in 1962. She grew up on Washington, D.C., however, where her father, Clifford Alexander, served as United States Secretary of the Army and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairman. She earned her Ph.D. at University of Pennsylvania. Alexander is chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a professor of poetry at Yale University. She composed and read the above at President Barak Obama’s inauguration in 2009. You can find out more about Elizabeth Alexander and read more of her poetry at the Poetry Foundation website.





[1] In a paper opposing reparations by the U.S. government, the National Legal and Policy Center cites a Harper’s Magazine estimation of total of reparations due as of 1993 at approximately “$97 trillion, based on 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865, compounded at 6% interest through 1993”.This figure does not take into account the corrosive effects on black families and their opportunities resulting from years of overt segregation or the continuing effects of ongoing systemic discrimination.

In Defense of Extremism and Intolerance

United Church of Christ at March for Our Lives DCFIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

Prayer of the Day: O Lord God, you teach us that without love, our actions gain nothing. Pour into our hearts your most excellent gift of love, that, made alive by your Spirit, we may know goodness and peace, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” John 13:34.

This is not a “new” commandment in the absolute sense. The commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself comes directly out of the Hebrew Scriptures and lies at the heart of Torah. It is new only in the sense that we view it now through the lens of Jesus’ death and resurrection which reveals the depth of God’s love for us and which we, for our part, are called to practice toward our neighbors and one another. In Jesus, God takes love to extremes.

The term “extremism” has unsavory nuances. If someone calls you an extremist, it is probably not intended as a complement. The word conjures up images of suicide bombers, white nationalists and religious fanatics of all flavors pushing their perverse agendas by all means necessary-including violence. To be sure, these are all examples of extremism. But are they the only kinds? What about people like Saint Vincent de Paul who took generosity to extremes? What about people like Saint Francis of Assisi who took compassion to extremes? Isn’t discipleship about taking love to extremes? Isn’t Jesus’ determination to exercise love and healing rather than self defense against those who came to take his life about the most extreme expression of love imaginable?

Like everyone else, those of us in the church are suspicions of people who “take things to extremes.” We prefer moderation. If there must be change, let’s make it incrementally. Let’s be thoughtful and deliberate. By all means, let’s not take things to extremes! According to our lesson from the Book of Acts, the church leaders in Jerusalem felt that perhaps Saint Peter’s baptism of a gentile family was taking things a bit too far. They would become increasingly alarmed by Saint Paul’s mission to the gentiles.  Many in the New Testament church seemed to feel that Paul was taking things to extremes. The Book of Acts gives us the picture of a church struggling to keep up with the Spirit of God pulling it incessantly to new extremes.

“Moderation” and “tolerance” are the supposed counterbalancing virtues to the vice of extremism. Admittedly,  prudence might dictate practicing moderation in some areas of life, such as alcohol consumption. Wisdom and charity require my tolerance of the neighbor’s screaming children. But neither of these tepid virtues serve us well as guiding principles. We fault Nazi extremism for crimes against humanity, yet could we not as much fault millions of moderates of that time who tolerated conditions under the Third Reich and chose not to take love to the extreme of standing with the victims of state violence? Moderation does not go to the extreme of supporting racism, sexual abuse of women, separation of families, abuse of power and environmental degradation. But it will tolerate all of these things as long as the stock market goes up and unemployment goes down. Moderation would never deny a child food or access to medicine; but it will tolerate childhood poverty and disease if the price of addressing it takes a bite out of the wallet. Turns out that moderation and tolerance are often just polite words for cowardice and self-preservation.

Extremism is not really the problem. It’s all a matter of the extremities. Extremists for hateful ideologies have demonstrated that they are prepared to injure, kill and even die for their perverse beliefs. They are prepared to close borders, gate their communities and segregate their schools to protect the purity of their nation and culture. In response to all of this, the last thing we need are moderates willing to tolerate it. What is needed are extremists unwilling to tolerate evil, extremists equally committed to opening borders, breaking down walls and pledging their allegiance, not to any flag or nation, but to that kingdom composed of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9. If extremists of hate are prepared to embrace a bomb in furtherance of their perverse aims, extremists of love must be prepared to embrace the bomber accepting all that may follow. Disciples of Jesus are those who are prepared to die taking love to extremes.

Here is a poem by Denise Levertov dismissing the banal moderation that makes a false virtue of tolerance.

Goodbye to Tolerance

Genial poets, pink-faced
earnest wits—
you have given the world
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.
Goodbye, goodbye,
                            I don’t care
if I never taste your fine food again,
neutral fellows, seers of every side.
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.
And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never
falter: irresponsive
to nightmare reality.
It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
because you choose to believe it is not your business.
Goodbye, goodbye,
your poems
shut their little mouths,
your loaves grow moldy,
a gulf has split
                     the ground between us,
and you won’t wave, you’re looking
another way.
We shan’t meet again—
unless you leap it, leaving
behind you the cherished
worms of your dispassion,
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,
wry-humored balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? … then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle
for joy …


Denise Levertov (1923–1997) never received a formal education. Nevertheless, she created a highly regarded body of poetry that earned her recognition as one of America’s most respected poets. Her father, Paul Philip Levertov, was a Russian Jew who converted to Christianity and subsequently moved to England where he became an Anglican minister.  Levertov grew up in a household surrounded by books and people talking about them in many languages. During World War II, Levertov pursued nurse’s training and spent three years as a civilian nurse at several hospitals in London. Levertov came to the United States in 1948, after marrying American writer Mitchell Goodman. During the 1960s Levertov became a staunch critic of the Vietnam war, a topic addressed in many of her poems of that era. Levertov died of lymphoma at the age of seventy-four. You can read more about Denise Levertov and sample more of her poetry at the Poetry Foundation Website.

President Trump Shoots Man on Fifth Avenue

Kierkegaard’s Ghost

(News that’s fake, but credible)

This morning President Donald Trump allegedly shot and wounded a man identified as James P. Maga in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue in New York City. “I did it to prove a point,” said the President. “I told you I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and my supporters wouldn’t care. You thought I was joking. I don’t joke.” Mr. Trump’s supporters in congress are standing by him. “As usual,” said House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, “the Democrat party and the liberal media are taking this out of context and sensationalizing it for political purposes. The America people aren’t going to be fooled by this tsunami of fake news.” In fact, the latest polling from Reuters, ABC, Fox and CNBC all seem to confirm that the president’s base of support is holding firm notwithstanding the alleged shooting.

Attorney General William P. Barr has declined to prosecute Mr. Trump for the alleged shooting. “First off, you don’t indict a sitting president,” he said. “Second, I have reviewed the statements of the 789 eye witnesses, the eighteen surveillance films that appear to show Mr. Trump firing a pistol, the DNA samples linking Mr. Trump to the alleged weapon and results of ballistic tests linking the gun to the bullet striking the victim. My determination is that the evidence is insufficient to charge the president with a crime even if that were legally possible. I am currently investigating the individuals who placed the 911 calls that triggered the bogus investigation into this unfounded accusation. Prosecution may very well follow.” Meanwhile, the President’s legal team has been defending the president against severe public criticism for the alleged shooting. “Shooting someone in New York City is not a crime,” said presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani. “I should know. When I was Mayer of New York, the cops shot lots of people for lots of reasons and for no reason at all. They always got away with it. And that was just cops. This is the president, for godsakes!”

At a press conference this afternoon Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president’s action. “The president has made it clear that the American people don’t care about peripheral issues like whether or not the president colluded with Russia, obstructed justice, appointed sexual predators to the Supreme Court or shot somebody on the street.” She went on to say that these matters “are fixations of the liberal media.” Sanders insisted that as long as Americans see the stock market going up and unemployment going down, they will continue to support Donald Trump. “That’s all the news they care about,” she said.

The victim, James P. Maga, is being treated for non-life threatening injuries at an undisclosed hospital. He has issued a statement, however, to make clear that he holds no ill will toward President Trump. “I voted for him and I support him 100%,” he said. “I am proud that I could take a bullet for Donald Trump. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.” Maga’s family also expressed their appreciation for the president. “He’s been doing great work for America,” said Albert Maga, the victim’s father. “Sure, he’s got some rough edges and does some crazy things. But that’s what we love about him. He’s not afraid to shake things up.”


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.”

Love That Won’t Let Go


Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

Prayer of the Day: O God of peace, you brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep. By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete in everything good that we may do your will, and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17.

I used to do that for my own children whenever they suffered the pain and indignity of a skinned knee or bump on the head. Additionally, I would kiss the site of the wound, blow on it, give it a gentle rub and tell them everything was fine. It always worked. I think that was largely because, at the tender ages of three and four, they believed me when I told them I would take care of them, keep them safe and protect them from everything scary-including monsters lurking under the bed. I encouraged my children’s simplistic faith in my ability to protect them because I wanted them to feel safe, loved and secure in their home.

I often wondered, however, whether I was doing the right thing. Clearly, I was over promising. There are plenty of terrible things form which no parent can protect one’s children. Much goes wrong in the life of a daughter or son that mom and dad can’t fix. That became painfully evident to me the night my infant grandson Parker died a day after he came into the world. There was nothing I could say or do to take that pain away from my son, pain that I felt deeply myself. All I could do was hold him as we wept. In the final analysis, that’s all we really have to give our children.

I thought again about that dreadful night as I was reading our gospel lesson for this Sunday in which Jesus promises that “no one shall snatch [my sheep] out of my hand.” John 10:28. In the worst of times, we remain in the Triune embrace of our God. Or, as St. Paul puts it, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39. Tragedy, suffering, doubts, traumatic wounds and all kinds of evil are capable of causing us to doubt and perhaps lose altogether our trust in God and God’s goodness. But our salvation does not rest on the strength of our faith, but on the strength of God’s faithfulness. It is only because of God’s tenacious faithfulness that it is even possible for us to have faith.

But is a hug all that God has to give us in times of despair? I would rather say that a hug is the best God has to give us. The whole point of the Incarnation was to make it possible for God to hug us with human arms, love us with a human heart and dry the very tears from our eyes. The Book of Revelation, so frequently misused to support the lurid and bloody  fundamentalist fantasies of global carnage, is actually summed up in just this: the horrors that have been inflicted upon us and the ones we have inflicted upon others will finally find healing in God’s eternal embrace. That’s not a quick fix, but it’s a real one.

Here is a poem/hymn by George Matheson giving profound expression to God’s stubborn and determined love that will not give up on us. (Sadly, it did not make the cut for the most recent hymnal of my church.)

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Source: The lyrics of this hymn are in the public domain. George Matheson (1842-1906) was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His sight was impaired from birth and, by the time he entered his teenage years, he was nearly blind. In spite of this limitation he enrolled as a ministerial student at Glasgow University where he excelled in his studies. Matheson served several parishes in Glasgow and the surrounding area. In 1886 he became pastor of the large and prestigious St. Bernard’s Parish Church in Edinburgh. Matheson authored several books on theology and published one volume of poetry. It should be noted that Matheson received a great deal of assistance from his sister who learned Greek, Latin and Hebrew to help him through his theological studies and also helped with his pastoral responsibilities. You can read more about George Matheson in his biography, The Life of George Matheson, (c. 1957 by Hodder & Stoughton) available on line at this link.