Archive for April, 2010

Don’t Wanna Be Like The Nine Healed Lepers . . .

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

On the contrary, I want to praise God publicly for healing me after church today. I was suddenly gripped with a searing pain in my left arm, the kind of pain that occasionally happens and is quite a bit beyond the chronic pain I’m accustomed to. But a brother at the service prayed for me and the Lord healed it, and that’s the kind of thing I just LOVE to write about!

Welcome Aboard, And Thanks To Google!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

I figured my response to a new reader might get buried in her comment regarding my enthusiastic endorsement a couple of months ago of the Oxford Women’s Study Bible, so here’s a more-prominent “thank you” to Neeci, whose very nice comment was a welcome dose of encouragement.

Neeci, you might want to check out my review of the John Eldredge “Wild At Heart” phenomenon, and either way, I appreciate your reading and hope you spread the word!

Soap, Soup, and Salvation

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Back in the mid-80s, I came across a band that I still love — Lone Justice, fronted by the phenomenally gifted Maria McKee, whose voice is a national treasure and whose songwriting beyond compare. The band, a funky mix of country, cow-punk, and roots rock, split up after only two albums; on their first, simply titled “Lone Justice,” Maria belts out “Soap, Soup, and Salvation,” an ode to Gospel missions that’ll knock you right out of your Birkenstocks. And, for all of you raised on Methodist camp songs, there’s a terrific surprise at the end.

I don’t know how to imbed songs or lyrics, but you can find the lyrics and, I think, listen to the song at:

http://www.cmt.com/lyrics/lone-justice/soap-soup-and-salvation/590762/lyrics.jhtml

You want a high-tech, media-swollen blog? This isn’t it. But listen to Maria sing — anything, I mean, even the back of a cereal box — and you’ll thank me, I promise.

Even if you don’t like punk music or a Western-swing country version thereof. Enjoy.

Were Nazis "On The Left"? Bedfellows, Buzzwords, and Acting "Big"

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

(These comments are expanded from my post yesterday on Moscow’s Vision 2020 community forum, regarding the insistence of some on the Right that the Nazi Party were “leftists”).

When I was a kid, the worst thing that could be said about you was that you were “acting big,” a charge so vague that it was, ironically, fraught with significance, since it could be assigned by any older kid for anything deemed unbecoming a younger kid. You may not have known what you did to deserve “she’s just acting big,” but when it was spoken of you, it was enough to prompt a thorough review of the day’s actions, interactions, and actionable offenses. And by the time I became one of the older kids, the name-calling and invective had evolved; by Junior High, being thought of as “acting conceited” was the dreaded result of bringing personalized pencils to school, organizing one’s locker, or siding with a teacher in a classroom debate. I was, to almost no one’s surprise, a prime offender — a smart-mouthed, bell-bottomed, shag-haired font of conceit and “big” acting.

By college, my friends and I laughed at the thought that America in the 1950s was a place where virtually any divergent political view could nail even the mildest as a Communist, and we were sobered by the ugliness of the ’60s and ’70s, when we knew people whose interracial friendships or marriages earned them the vile ugliness of “N—er lover,” which, actually, I had had thrown against me in school. By adulthood, I came to understand that name calling made as little sense in politics as it did on the playground, but resulted in something far more dangerous than simple hurt feelings. I also realized that in politics, hurling labels at your opponent was a shortcut and a distraction, a way to “participate” in the debate without the tiresome study of actual issues and positions.

I see this today in the Tea Party and, to a much lesser extent, among liberals frustrated by the inexplicable rise to prominence of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. But it’s the Right who’ve reached for and grabbed the gold ring of political name calling — Hitler! Nazi! — and who’ve stormed the gates not with sober analysis but with shrill pejorative and wild invective. And while it may sound like so much name calling on my part, I’m at a loss as to how else I can describe the utter stupidity of equating the Democratic Party and the politics of Barack Obama with Nazism.

Facts do matter, here and elsewhere, and no reputable student of political science, history, or economics would call the Nazis “leftists.” That Beck, many of the Tea Party non-party, and a crop of young Right-wing pundits do is tragic, but demonstrates my point. Obama’s policies may not be prudent to some; they may be dead wrong, too conservative or too liberal or too complex or too fluff-filled. But they, and he, are not like the Nazis, although I think he might be, to some, just a tad conceited. I think it’s undeniable that many on the Right don’t like seeing a Black man in the Oval Office, and traits of his that on an Anglo man would be admired are now, like so many personalized glitter pencils, evidence of his “acting big.” Can we really deny that racism is a factor in much of the anti-Obama name calling?

It wasn’t the smartest kids in school who were bent on screaming “you’re conceited!” to everyone they didn’t like, and it’s not the sharpest tools in anyone’s political shed today who hurl “Nazi! Hitler!” at everyone they disagree with. But sometimes those who’d rather not be troubled with study and analysis are stirred out of their stupor and leap into action when they hear certain buzzwords. I sincerely hope that in continuing, however absurdly, to insist that the Nazis were “on the left,” these folks are not mistakenly conflating the Third Reich’s “social Darwinism” and “socialism” with, say, Darwin-as-anti-Biblical-creationist and “socialism” as any attempt to establish a genuine social safety net for the poor, however limited. Words and labels are often dead wrong when applied out of context — especially the ones that are today incendiary.

After all, “Darwinism” and “evolution” are, to the Right, ugly liberal ideas that tear at the fabric of our putative national faith. Ditto for the “socialism” of idealistic, maybe even scruffy, college kids who flirt with the Socialist Workers’ Party and dream of living on communes, co-ops, and collectives, and who grew up, in the Tea Party’s current way of thinking, to be full-blown Marxists.

But that’s not how the Nazis used those terms. Far from it. “Social Darwinism” explained eugenics and the virulent racism and anti-Semitism of Hitler; the “socialism” of the Third Reich was an original hybrid of collectivism and conservatism of the kind not seen on mutualist worker communes in Vermont, but in the devastated economies of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Only the sloppiest of scholarship would suggest that the Nazis’ goals and the results thereof were in any way “from the Left.”

I’ve seen some conservatives make the mistake of borrowing words from the Nazis’ own 25-point political ideology and latching on to the ones that sound “liberal,” simply to vilify their political opponents. Posters of a Hitler-mustachioed Barack Obama can only possibly make sense among a group of people dedicated to the lowest common denominator of political namecalling — equating someone with Nazis. The pundits on the far Right know damned well that the policies of the Democratic Party, even at their most liberal, are politically antithetical to the fascism of the Third Reich, but they depend on the appalling and tragic ignorance of those they whip into a frenzy. It’s not often that people who are foaming at the mouth with hate know or care about truth, and that, I find, seems to serve well the goals and methods of today’s Tea Partyers.

Bad News For Poor People, Good News For Those Who Ignore Them.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Breaking News; my comments appear after the story:

Orofino Health and Welfare Office Targeted For Closure
Associated Press, April 6, 2010

BOISE — About a third of the state’s field offices for the Department of
Health and Welfare, including one in Orofino, are being closed and 126
workers laid off within the next two months as the department struggles to
cope with a shrinking budget.

Department officials announced Tuesday that offices in American Falls,
Bellevue, Bonners Ferry, Emmett, Jerome, McCall, Orofino, Rupert and Soda
Springs would close within the next two months, and some services in the St.
Maries office would be shifted to Coeur d’Alene.

“The closures will cause hardship and inconvenience for many people, but
resources are not available to continue the current level of office
support,” the department wrote in a press release . . . “

**********************

Jesus said, “The poor you shall always have with you.”

There’s nothing whatsoever in his words and public ministry, however, that suggests it was no big deal — something his disciples could toss aside, like the promise some day of a count of the hairs on one’s head, or sentimentally file away with falling sparrows, crumb-scrounging dogs, and lilies of the field. And nowhere does Jesus or the Bible that is his Word offer consolation to those Christ-followers who find themselves annoyed with the poor for being so damned . . . publicly poor. Poor, and needing the help of his people, and often receiving it through the public treasury modeled by Joseph in the Old Testament and rendered unto Caeser in the New.

And so let’s acknowledge, then, that the poor today are, in fact, actually among us, and in Idaho, they’ve just had more doors — doors that lead to medical care and education — creak slowly yet stubbornly closed in their faces. What a sad, disturbing culture we have if we treat news like this with nonchalance or, worse, rationalization of the type that’s often woodenly carved out of Jesus’ observation that poor people were going to be around for a good long while.

That those who benefit from these Department of Health and Welfare offices are low-income families, usually with children and virtually all with hard-working parents, is a given, and their lack of access to services, predictable. The poor don’t have lobbyists, PACs, or the attention of those in power. We shouldn’t be too surprised, though, when Caeser ignores “the least of these” who belong to, and represent, Christ Jesus. Governance in a fallen world pretty much guarantees it.

But the outcast and the needy don’t often have the advocacy of the Church, either. Those in society whose religious faith charges them to care for these people too often explain aware both the need and their obligation to remedy it. When Christians forget the poor, it’s a sin and a tragedy. Worse, though, is canonizing the active neglect of poor women, children, and men via appeals to the wonders and virtue of free-market faux-Libertarianism, an exegetical dance that requires quick-stepping around Biblical imperatives and spinning the needy through an exhausting polka of self-serving, dishonest employing of the Word in service of disobeying the Logos.

Too many Christians today, and certainly in those pastoral blogs originating from Moscow, are enamored of calling government programs for the poor “charity at gunpoint,” as if the obscenity of poverty is that taxpayers are called to chip in to provide a societal safety net to try to mitigate it and not the ugliness of poverty itself, a grinding lack of food, shelter, healthcare, comfort, and security these self-identified Christians would certainly offer Jesus if he appeared to them in person.

Sadly for them and tragically for the suffering and oppressed, Jesus himself DOES appear to them in person. He just sometimes shows up as a single mom in Orofino with sick kids, and our attempts to impress him with political, economic, and Scriptural justification of our contempt for those kids will be and has been laid bare. We can’t expect to dazzle him with our insouciance toward poor people without a promise of devastation when he demonstrates his insouciance toward us. “The poor you will always have with you,” and, just as certainly, so will we have those who wonder what possible concern that is of theirs.

The Things That Bother You Late At Night . . . Or, Impending Signs Of Ultimate Doom

Monday, April 5th, 2010

I’m fairly certain that none of the signs of the Apocalypse will make their debut in TV commercials, and it’s not at all likely that one of the symbols of the evil upon us will be inscribed on or in any way involve paper towels. Give me a minute, and I’ll give you chapter and verse.

But it’s clear that our culture is in a downward slide and that there’s abundant cause for despair in the hearts of those who seek peace and pursue it, rejoice in truth and proclaim it, and appreciate beauty in the world God’s given us. I’m not a post-millennialist, and so I tend to think things will continue to demonstrate the “sin as leaven” principle throughout our culture until Christ comes. There will be crime, wars and rumors thereof, and rampant debauchery. And, of course, the malappropriation of great songs for commercial purposes.

Nowhere is this greater than in the Brawny paper towel commercial cluttering the late-night airways. A woman, a homemaker JUST LIKE ME, is in the grocery store, facing an entire wall of Brawny paper towel dudes — handsome, hirsute lumberjack-looking Perfect Men — who serenade her with “Lean On Me,” the classic from the great Bill Withers.

(Withers’ follow up single was “Use Me,” but far be it from me to suggest escalating boundary issues).

“Lean On Me” is a great song, a tender song of deep friendship, one that reminds me of my teenage years and one that reminds my dear friend Caroline of me. (Awwww…) It’s not some throwaway piece of pop culture crap, and it’s not one of the scores of forgettable musical slices of the ’70s. And most of all, it shouldn’t be up for grabs in selling paper towels, the presumed benefit from which is significantly less than what Withers promises his friend in the song. If my primary source of philos love is the Brawny guy, I’m in deeper doo-doo than any paper towel can clean up. I suspect Mr. Brawny might also be marketed to remind me of my eros love needs, but I have my own brawny guy for that, thanks.

I cringed when I heard the Beatles’ “Revolution” in Nike ads, and I don’t enjoy listening to the Peaches and Herb classic “Reunited” when I consider my dust mop purchases. “Reunited” reminds me of my heartbreaking relationship with D. P. in my junior year at Cholla High School, which left me feeling quite similar to a mop, curiously enough. “Lean On Me,” though, is in a whole ‘nother category. Please, Mr. Brawny guy — go away. Don’t sing to me. Just give me double-quilted layers and leave my heart alone.

Easter Evening

Monday, April 5th, 2010

I hope all of you enjoyed a blessed Easter, contemplating the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus — and living as if it were all true. True, and for you. He really did do it all for you, and Max Lucado’s successful marketing of the phrase makes it no less true and no less astonishing in its implications. Jesus loves me, this I know.

And Jesus knows me. This, I love.

Anyway, my prayer is that each one of you live lives of Resurrection Power. And may you love in ways that roll every stone from the tombs of your hearts and of those around you.