Monday, July 3, 2017

Evangelical Schism

I have long been concerned about the "schism" between "church christians" and "real" christians, i.e. those who have a "personal relationship with Jesus" and those who don't, a schism fomented by evangelicalism, with its non-covenantal preaching, but rather a conversionary preaching, a "come-to-jesus" ethos rather than that of God coming to humanity, a reflection of what I call the Corinthian Complex assailed by the Apostle Paul, wherein the use of tongues gave some in the Corinthian Church a sense of superiority over other "second-class" christians who lacked, or didn't seek, the gift of tongues.

Vol. 3.4.601-2, Barth's discussion of "the schism" fomented by monasticism, a schism blessed by the church, wherein it was the monk who was truly called, truly a christian, the one who truly puts on Christ, sheds light upon the evangelical schism, based upon much of the same dynamic as that of the Middle Ages.

As Barth puts it: "What were and are all external schisms compared with this schism which the Church allowed, willed, blessed and finally achieved within itself by making and teaching and institutionalising the distinction between first-class Christians who have a "klasis" [calling] and second-class Christians who have not" [p.602].

At least in the Middle Ages, "other" christians were at least lauded for their work, which was to enable and sustain the monastics, who, with Christ and the Saints, were working out the salvation of the world.

Whereas in the evangelical world of America, there are no "other" kinds of christians, only pretenders, only the deceived, only a "churchy" kind of christian who is no christian at all, and, thus, bound for hell.

A schism, indeed.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Life Is a Mystery

Life is a mystery.
That’s what it is.
Crazy, wild, mean.
Stomach-tumbling.
Churning.
Burning.

Does anyone really know what it is?
I don’t think so.
That’s why we have religion.
It tries to tame the wild beast.
Give it some meaning.
Point the way and say it’s ok.

Is that what Jesus did?
And so they killed him.
His meaning wasn’t their meaning.

They meant money and power.
Temples and tables.
Full of money and meanness.
Dead lambs and throat-slit bulls.
All for a price, of course.
That’s what they meant.
To tame the beast.
The wild mystery.
We call life.

They thought in terms of conquest.
Who’s in and who’s out.
Who’s naughty and who’s nice.

Jesus tried to tame the beast.
With tiny words of kindness.
A welcome to little children.
And the lady at the well.
And Mary who wanted to be a disciple.
And sit at the feet of the Master.

There’ll be none of that, they said.
That’s not how the beast is tamed.
Our way or the highway.
Make your choice.
The crown of gold.
Or the cross of misery

So they tamed him.
And we’ve been scratching our heads ever since.
Their way, or his.
Their way is money and power and glory and war.
His way, hmmm … different.
Frightening is his way.
Terrible and true.
Unsure and not so safe.

How do we tame the beast?
Ride the mystery?
Talk to the storm?
We call life?

The crown of gold.
Or the cross of misery.

Today you’ll be with me in paradise.
Balderdash.
Or is it?
Can there be something here?
To tame the beast?
Ride the mystery?
Go to the source and drink?
Cool water …

On a hot day?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The America I've Known ...

The America I've known for most of my life,
And for which I've watched good and decent people strive:
Overcoming the Great Depression, Dust Bowls and disasters ...
Working through the horrors of McCarthyism,
Expanding civil rights and ending, mostly, segregation.

And a host of good things.
Sound diplomacy, mostly.
GOP Presidents, less than good, but mostly tolerable.
And too much given away to the rich.

But attention still paid to Working America.

Now, being trashed.
Tossed out on the rubbish heap behind a billionaire's home.
The American Worker savaged.
Mutuality destroyed by American individuality.

A poisonous me-first cluster-bomb.
Exploding across the land.
Racism rampant born again.
Misogyny revamped.

Here I am, 72, soon to be 73.
And my America is being thrashed and trashed.
By the greedy and the cruel
By religion run amok.

Evangelicals who are nothing more than Baalists.
Osteen lovers of wealth and dreamers of dominance.
Robbing the treasury of my nation.
Giving it away to the Philanthrobbers.

All is lost, it really is.
In a cesspool of GOP Chamber of Commerce.
Reliance upon the Almighty Dollar.
The Capitalist Way, the Truth and the Life.

I'll not look the other way.
Though a forthright view of things is hideous.
I'll not put on an alternative-fact smile.
Though tears are more than likely.

Now is the time to tell the truth.
The King has no clothes.
The promise of greatness is a chimera.
Birthed to win votes.

Tell the truth.
I think that's what my heroes did.
Jeremiah in the muddy well.
Isaiah in the temple.

Paul to the Romans when he spoke of grace.
And James to those who gutted the faith of life.
And John to those who cheapened love.
And Jesus to the bankers.

And Wycliffe and Huss.
And Luther and Calvin.
And Bonhoeffer and Barth and Bultmann.
And Martin Luther King, Jr.

All's well that ends well, is for sure.
I believe in the good ending.
But not always a good path in the meantime.
But the path upon which God walks with us.

I'll trod that path in the years that remain.
It'll surely be for others to clean up the present mess.
Cleanse the air and the water again.
And set the people free.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Reading Some ...

Reading some Psalms this morning, and
Then a poem by Edward Thomas, who
Died on a WW1 battlefield.

And then the note about Robert Frost, and
The Road Not Taken.
A joke for his friend, Edward Thomas.

Who could never quite decide what road to take.
And then would sigh.
For want of taking the other.

Melancholy is the mood sneaking around in my mind.
A gentle sort of feeling, a quiet sadness, not quite so sad:
Things come, and things go.

And roads are taken.
And young men die in the mud of ancient battles.
Roads to take no more.

Such is life, as it unfolds.
Like some kind of spring flower.
Only to dry up and blow away.

Having done its critical thing.
To produce a seed, in hope.
For another day.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

God's Joyful Judgment - Early-Morning Thoughts

From Psalm 98 ...

Let the floods clap their hands;
     let the hills sing together for joy
      at the presence of the LORDfor he is coming
      to judge the earth.
      He will judge the world with righteousness,
      and the peoples with equity.

For some, the judgment of God has been used as a tool to inspire fear, because fear is a handy tool to corral the folks, get 'em in line, fleece 'em and fool 'em.

How many children over the millennia have gone to bed terrified of god, dreaming of a lurid end, with the sounds of some screaming preacher or priest echoing in their little minds.

And how many adults have emotionally crashed and burned in the fear of committing the "unforgivable" sin ... crossing some invisible line, and not ever knowing it until the Last Judgment, when its too late to do anything about it.

But here in the Psalm, and plenty of other places, we have a joyful anticipation of God's Last Judgment ... and a good one it is ... because God is utterly and completely righteous, i.e. faithful to God's creation, to all of its creatures, rocks and stones, and to you and me, brother and to you and me, sister.

Faithful to save.
To love.
Forgive and make new.

To welcome and receive
To bind up and heal.
To restore the lost.
Give sight to the blind.

Release to the prisoner.
Food to the hungry.
Rest to the weary.

Utterly fair, utterly kind, comprehensive and inclusive, God's judgment sets things right, recalibrates the mechanisms of life, fine tunes the whole thing, to be sure that it's working just right, as God intended.

No fear here.
No nail-biting and angst.
No threats, no hellfire and damnation.

Only joy.
Clapping and singing.
Because the LORD is coming.
To judge the earth.

Hallelujah and Amen!


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Saturday Prayer

Holy Saturday Prayer, 2017

Now what, dear God?
Now what?

Pilate has retreated to his palace.
The soldiers to their barracks, except for a few:
Guards at the tomb.
Sealed with a stone.

Where they buried my LORD.
Yes, my LORD; that’s what I said.
Can it get any worse?
My LORD, I said.

My LORD: I cried.
It’s what I believed.
It was my hope.
He was my prayer.

So, there they stand.
In their rough and ready gear.
Hardened soldiers in a troubled land:
Palestine. Filled with fear.

There they stand, relaxed, mostly.
They have a job to do.
They’re ready for it.
They can handle it.

These soldiers do their duty.
A thousand days before, and more to come, they know.
They’ve killed plenty along the way, and they know they’ll kill again.
They know how to do it, swift and hard. These Palestinians are nothing.

It’s been a long night for them.
Chilly and damp. 
They’re tired. Me, too, O God.
My heart reeks with weariness.

Now what, dear God?

Now what?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

There Are Times

There are times I wish:
To be lost in my theology.
Guilt, grace and gratitude.
And all the rest, for a better attitude.

But I can't.
Every word of theology I read.
Sends me into the moment.
Into the crimes of the times.

Crimes against earth, wind and fire.
Crimes against the children.
Crimes against the people.
Crimes against the nation.

How can I lose myself in the rhetoric of faith?
When insanity swirls like a dust devil?
When prophets cry out?
And Jesus is lead into Pilate's chambers?

I can read some poetry; that'll help.
But, dadgumit all, every word therein zings.
Rings with poignancy and pain.
Dark nights and chilly winds.

Unrequited love.
Longing for the lost.
Wondering what it means.
Words trapped in heavy frost.

Read the Bible.
But it doesn't get any better.
From Adam's sin to the bloody cross.
Humanity bound and bitter.

I'd like to lose myself.
Close my ears to the noise.
Close my eyes to the sorrow.
Close my mouth and be silent.

But I can't.
I'm a human being.
I can't ignore.
The horror.