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Archive for May, 2016

Assumptions.  We all have them.  We all make them.  Assumptions are the ‘self-evident’ rules that we make about reality and that we use to help us seek explanations, render judgments, and decide which actions to take.  For each of us human beings they are the ‘unquestioned givens’ that are integrated, embraced and presented as ‘self-evident’ truths.

We human beings cannot reach adulthood (in this instance, ‘adulthood’ is biological, not psychological or emotional or intellectual) without having developed multiple sets of assumptions that are the tap roots that feed, nurture and sustain our perceptions, beliefs, judgments, and actions, etc.

Our assumptions powerfully influence (if not direct) how we come to understand cause-effect relationships (for example, understanding crime as a by-product of poverty not as a direct result of laziness).  Our assumptions form and inform our criteria for ‘good behavior’ (for example, ‘good behavior’ means showing concern for others’ misfortunes, or ‘good behavior’ means powerfully pursuing one’s own self-interests, first).

Our assumptions also help us construct our view of human nature (for example, humans by their nature are inherently good or humans by their nature are inherently evil).  Our assumptions also fundamentally influence (if not direct) how we conceive of our obligations and duties that determine what is believed to be appropriate for all of our relationships (think: family, friends, work relationships, etc.).

Our assumptions also powerfully influence (or direct) how we view the ‘world,’ ‘politics,’ and ‘the other(s) (think: strangers, immigrants, refugees, etc.).  More specifically, our assumptions, form and inform our view of those seeking elected offices and our view of the process by which we choose our elected officials.

Our assumptions determine how we view the role of the Federal Government versus how we view the role of the State Government (today, many are focusing on the civil rights of LGBT folks – do the States or does the Federal Government have the authority to decide).  Our assumptions influence and direct our individual and collective view when it comes to the topic of ‘rights’ – we are a culture rooted in ‘individual’ more than ‘collective’ rights.  When are the individual’s ‘rights’ to be determined by the Federal Government and when are they to be determined by the State Government and when are they to be determined by the Local Government (city, town, etc.)?  Our assumptions – individual and collective – influence, if not direct, how we will respond to this crucial question.

[To be continued…]

 

 

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Prior to ‘Paul’ there was ‘Saul.’  Saul was a zealot and a persecutor and after he was knocked off his high horse he continued to be a zealot.  As a zealot his mads were madder, his blues bluer, his pride prouder, his humbleness humbler, his strengths stronger, and his weaknesses weaker.  Both ‘Saul’ and ‘Paul’ had a gift – both were a genius when it came to making enemies.

Read his letters.  His contemporaries accused him of being a bumbler, of being insincere, crooked, yellow, physically repulsive, unclean, and off his rocker.  Over the centuries these charges have shrunk to one major charge (a charge I, for one, have pinned on him): He took the simple and beautiful Gospel of Jesus-the-Christ and muddied it up with obscure, divisive, and unnecessary subtleties.

PAUSE FOR REFLECTION.

The Gospel of Jesus-the-Christ is not simple.  Consider the following: Love your neighbor. Resist not evil.  Be not afraid.  I and the Father are one.  Sell all you have, give it to the poor and come follow me!  The only thing simple about the Good News (yes, gentle reader, these are ‘good news’ statements) are the words used.

Paul asks the questions that, with reflection, tend to emerge in all of us who seek to read and understand Jesus-the-Christ: How? Why? Whither? Why Not? Who-Me?  Paul digs into these, and other questions, with all of the tact of someone taking a power drill to bore a simple hole in a soft piece of wood.  Jesus’ ‘Good News’ blew up the world – beginning with Jerusalem.  Paul attempted to sort through the pieces in order to make sense of it all.

What did Paul get for his effort, for his pain?  He helps us understand ‘what he got’ in his letter to the Corinthians: ‘Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  Three times I have been beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I have been shipwrecked.  A night and day I have spent adrift at sea.  In danger from rivers…robbers…my own people…Gentiles.  In toil and hardship through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst…in cold and exposure…’ (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).  In his words I can hear both the whines and boasts of Othello.  He might even have wished that he was not the chosen one to spread the ‘Word.’   But say it he does and he means it.

Paul also says, ‘I will not boast except of my weakness.’   And he means this too.  The God who could work through the likes of him must, indeed, be more than a God.

So with a cauliflower ear and welts on his back and his often split lip and with the ‘thorn in his side’ (whatever he meant by that) – the thorn God gave ‘to keep me from being too elated,’ Paul went his way.  He wrote his marvelous punch-drunk, Christ-drunk letters.

Jesus-the Christ lit the fire called ‘Good News’ and Paul used its flame and heat to forge Christ a church.

 

 

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LOVE. . .

On Sunday afternoon the usual suspects gathered together for a celebration; on this afternoon we gathered together to celebrate my daughter, Rebecca’s birthday.  As I was driving home I was reflecting upon the wonderful, diverse, personalities that gather together for these times of celebration.  Lots of stuff filled the room – laughter (a given for this group), stories – current and past – trust, compassion, and tolerance (acceptance of each person’s quirky traits).  All of this, and other stuff, is always held in the arms of love.

The Ancient Greeks had three different words for love: ‘eros’ for lovers, ‘philia’ for friends, and ‘agape’ which is freely loving all – saints and sinners.  Some philosophical, humanist and religious traditions believe that these three are manifestations of a single reality.

To lose oneself in another’s arms, or in another’s company, or in suffering for all who suffer – including those who inflict the suffering – to lose oneself in such ways is to find oneself.  This is what life is all about.  This is what love is.

It seems to me that of all of our human powers love is the most powerful AND love is the most powerless.  Love is the most powerful for it alone is hot enough to melt the most frozen-heart or the most steel-heart – the human heart.  Love is also the most powerless because it can do nothing except with the consent of the recipient.

For some to say that love is God is labeled ‘romantic idealism.’  For others to say that God is love is either the last straw (this might well be the answer to the age-old question: ‘What is the Last Straw?’) or the ultimate truth.

For we who espouse to be Christians, love is not primarily an emotion; love is an act of the will.  When Jesus-the-Christ tells us to love our neighbors he is telling us to be the Good Samaritan – to first become aware of the stranger in the ditch, to then pause and approach the stranger and then to reach out, embrace the stranger with love and compassion and then to provide love that heals – love that makes whole.  Love trumps our fear of the stranger.  Love supports our caring for the stranger.  Love supports our sacrificing for the stranger (we even choose to sacrifice our well-being).  Love enables us to ‘lay down our life’ for the stranger (there are many ways we can ‘lay down our lives’ – death is only one of them).

I leave us today with Kent Keith’s ‘Paradoxical Commandments.’  Kent emerged these in 1968 and they have been taken and tweaked a bit by others (one version was attributed to Mother Theresa).  I offer us Kent’s ‘original’ paradoxical commandments as a way of honoring ‘the source.’

Kent Keith-Paradoxical Commandments

 

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It is the season for ‘wanna-be’ elected officials to bombard us with their ‘I am holier than thou’ or their ‘the other person is Lucifer incarnate’ t.v. spots.  Last night I was watching the local news (which I seldom do) and during the commercial break there were four ‘vote for me’ or ‘vote against him/her’ spots, back-to-back-to-back-to-back.  Each of these claimed that the ‘wanna-be’ elected official was a ‘True Conservative Christian.’

I believe the ‘true’ part – each of these folks does believe that he or she is ‘being true’ to who they believe themselves to be.  I am not so sure about the ‘conservative’ part.  ‘True Conservatives’ seek to conserve and each of these – all four – announced rather loudly that if elected they would ‘tear down,’ they would destroy and obliterate.  Not one word about what they would ‘conserve’ on our behalf (conserve on behalf of ALL OF US).

Now the sad news (versus the ‘good news’): A Christian – that is a ‘true follower of Jesus-the-Christ’ seeks to follow and emulate a progressive.  Yes, gentle reader, Jesus was a progressive; He came to change things up – which He did.  Don’t believe me.  That’s o.k.  How about: Do You Believe Jesus?  I have chosen a few of Jesus words that reveal (ah, ‘revelation’) that He was/is a progressive (there are more of these but the few I offer you will suffice for now).  I have also quoted from the King James Version of the New Testament for many of my Christian fundamentalist friends rely upon the King James Version.  So, here is Jesus in his own words – talk about a progressive agenda:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matthew 7:1-2 KJV]

 “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” [Luke 6:41 KJV]

 “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” [Matthew 5:9 KJV]

 “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” [John 8:7 KJV]

 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” [1 John 3:17 KJV]

 “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” [Matthew 23:28 KJV]

 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” [John 2:14-16 KJV]

  “And again I say unto you: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 19:24 KJV]

  But Jesus said unto them, “They need not depart; give ye them to eat.” [Matthew 14:16 KJV]

 “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew: 11:28 KJV]

  “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” [Matthew 25:34-40 KJV]

 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.” [Matthew 25:41-43 KJV]

 Consider that a ‘True Christian Conservative’ would be striving each hour of each day of each week of each year to ‘conserve’ Jesus as his or her ‘role-model.’  The Conservative Christian would be striving to live into and out of the path that Jesus provides us.  Jesus does not mince words – He is ‘literal’ and He is ‘clear’ – if YOU are going to follow ME here is the path you are to walk.  Jesus sums it up for the rich folks among us in Mark 10:21: Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”  [Note: You cannot get more progressive than this!]

 

 

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