Thursday, April 29, 2010

What is happening to us?

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

and by that time no one was left to speak up."
~Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984),
in a January 6, 1946 speech before representatives of the Confessing Church in Frankfurt.

Could we paraphrase this famous quote?
"They came for the Mexicans,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Mexican..."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thoughts on Paul's instructions

This morning our Epistle lesson in Church was Acts 20:17-35. The first seven verses is Paul saying goodbye to the Christians in Ephesus. But two parts of the sections really spoke to me, to the two parts of my personality that I share on this blog, the parts that might seem paradoxically contrary to one another but that over and over again here on PP&P I explain not only coexist comfortably, but are in fact integral to each other. The theologically conservative part and the politically progressive part.

In verses 28- 31, Paul warns that there will be those who will try to mislead the Church.

28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

Lutherans teach that the enemies of our souls are the world, our own sinful natures, and the Devil. From my point of view, selfishness, fear, materialism, and sociopathy are all pressures we should be careful of succumbing to. I'm also of the opinion that blind commitment to extreme political ideology has a way of eclipsing the genuine laws of God, His commands of love and reconciliation, with inflexible absolutist moralism and the myth of "rugged individualism."

Verses 32-35 address my progressive side. Paul preaches the Democratic family values of empathy with responsibility. We all need to pull our own weight, work is important- but so is compassion and sharing. He writes against greed and materialism (coveting). Life's not about accumulating and then defending wealth or possessions. The purpose of and reward for our labors is to help others. Notice the famous Christmas time idiom- we might think its a pithy proverb from Ben Franklin, but it's God's own word.

 32"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. 34You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "

A lot of right wingers like to stir up fear of "socialism" by accusing the Democrats of  trying to engage in the "redistribution of wealth." Like the government is trying to steal what you've worked so hard to acquire by taxes. That's why Republicans renamed the inheritance tax the "death tax." They've propagated this selfish belief system where it's absolutely immoral to interfere with free markets by regulating them and a heinous, unspeakable sin for the government to expect its citizens to contribute to the common good.

They've convinced people that it is somehow immoral to help the poor because it might inadvertently teach them to become dependent and enable whatever  ungodly behavior that must have condemned them to poverty in the first place. Forget about the fact that chance or greed or unbalanced systems or, dare I say it, racism, may have been to blame for their plight. And what God tells us through Saint Paul is that the TRUE purpose, and indeed reward for earning wealth is actually to help others!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Age of unReason

A new treatment (digital) of an old drawing (from college) of a bust of Benjamin Franklin. 

From television to texting, from 24 hour news cycles to never-ending campaign cycles, 30 second sound-bytes and incivility... I imagine that our founders would be disappointed in how post-literate, anti-intellectual, uncompromising and unreasonable America has become.

Isaiah 1:17-19 (New International Version)
 17 learn to do right! 
       Seek justice, 
       encourage the oppressed. 
       Defend the cause of the fatherless, 
       plead the case of the widow.
 18 "Come now, let us reason together," 
       says the LORD. 
       "Though your sins are like scarlet, 
       they shall be as white as snow; 
       though they are red as crimson, 
       they shall be like wool.
 19 If you are willing and obedient, 
       you will eat the best from the land;

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Liberal Values

Matthew 25:40 - Passage Lookup - New International Version -

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

If we believe that America is "of the people, for the people, and by the people," then offering some kind of safety-net, healthcare reform, public education, any kind of social program is not "redistribution of wealth," Socialism, or teaching people to be dependent on the government instead of being responsible for themselves- it actually "WWJD."

"Love each other as I have loved you." John 15:12

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's all in their world view. Law or Gospel?

Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives by George Lakoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Fascinating. Lakoff is a "cognitive linguist," some of his observations remind me of the symbols and archetypes of Carl Jung. Enlightening.

If there's 3 things I like it's psychology, good writing, and politics. This book has all 3, but don' t let my comment about Carl Jung put you off- this is a breeze to read. Fun and easy.

Lakoff explores the perceptual "frames" or world-views of the left and the right and explains why language is so powerful. He thinks that it is important to be able to articulate your values clearly and speak in terms of positive assertions rather than negative criticisms or reactions.

His basic preface is that there seems to be two basic world-views in America right now, the "Strict-Father Family" model and the "Nurturant-Parents Family" model. At first I thought it correlated with Thomas Hobbes and John Locke- but now I realize that it is much more like the differences between the Puritans and the Quakers. On the right you have the punishing rugged individualism of James Dobson's "Focus on the Family," and on the left you have the empathetic, community-orientation of Jim Faye's "Love and Logic."

I really think that this book would be good for both liberals AND conservatives, and even independents. I don't think that he maligns or libels conservatives, if anything, I believe he just clarifies what most Republicans already know about themselves and in many cases already admit about themselves.

What I wish would happen is that other, "casual" conservatives and independents would read this book and have their eyes opened- so that they'd become aware of the broader strategy and the powerful propaganda that the far-right has been using to take advantage of them. But as soon as they find out that it was written by a Berkley professor- I'm sure that their "frame" would kick in and not let them even give it a chance.

I hope you'll give it a chance because, bottom line, he explains why & how they've been winning for the last thirty years and what we progressives need to do to compete more effectively in the marketplace of ideas.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 09, 2010

Just Stay

"Let mutual love continue. Do not neclect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured." ~Hebrews 13:1-3

A former student of mine recently forwarded this email story. I don't know the author, it's origin or whether it's a true story or not- but the point it makes is powerful and profound.

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside.
"Your son is here," she said to the old man.
She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened.

Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent.. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile.
He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital - the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.

Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he waited.

Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her.
"Who was that man?" he asked.
The nurse was startled, "He was your father," she answered.
"No, he wasn't," the Marine replied. "I never saw him before in my life.."
"Then why didn't you say something when I took you to him?"
"I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn't here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed."

I came here tonight to find a Mr. William Grey.
His Son was Killed in Iraq today, and I was sent to inform him. What was this Gentleman's Name?
The Nurse with Tears in
Her Eyes Answered,
Mr. William Grey.............

The next time someone needs you ........ just be there. Stay. “Just your mere presence is God’s gift to someone else. Your presence has purpose

Monday, April 05, 2010


"Jesus models a new kind of authority, a servant-leadership that ministers to the members rather than waits to be served by them. He does what, in that culture, slaves did: He, the Lord, washes the feet of the community."
- Joan Chittister, from her book, 'The Liturgical Year'

Jesus is alive. Perhaps you've heard the slogan before that says, "He died for me, I will live for Him."

Not only is Jesus our Lord and savior, but the people who say He was a social revolutionary are right. He was. He touched the lepers, He ate with the sinners and tax collectors, He o throw stones at prostitutes, he sat and visited with Samaritans, He welcomed the little children, He washed his disciple's feet, and He suffered, died, and went to Hell in our place.

So throw out your hierarchies and forget about  your assumptions about power, prestige, and even authority. We are all equals, but the King of the universe is our example. He gave up everything to be a servant, to love and care for, and minister to others in need. 

Make us like You, Lord. Amen