Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Does God Love?

Heard this hymn on radio yesterday ...

Impacted me ...

The first verse ...

Breath on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love
What thou does love,
And do what
Thou wouldst do.

I've sung that hymn ten thousand times.

But yesterday, I heard the words.

That I may love what thou does love ...

And what is it that God loves?

And yesterday, it was Bible Study.

The first 5 Chapters of Isaiah.

What is it that God loves?

The justice proclaimed by Isaiah?

Help the oppressed.
     Defend the orphan.
          Plead for the widow.

Or the glorious Year of the Lord.
Proclaimed by Jesus in his home-town sermon?

And, then:

That I may do what thou wouldst do ...

And what is that God does?
     God creates and empowers?
          God saves and makes new?
               God raises the dead?
And makes life where none previously existed?

Is this what God does, among other things?

Isaiah offers it clear:

God will judge between the nations.
     And settle disputes
          Of mighty nations.

Then they will beat 
     Their swords into iron plows
          And their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword
     Against nation:
          They will no longer learn how to make war.

Is this what God does?

Paul says, He's the one who comforts us in all our trouble.
So that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble.
We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God.

I want the breath of God, for sure.
     I want life.
          For myself, my family, my friends.

Like Miss American, I want world peace and everyone to love one another.

But do I love what God loves?

Do I do what God does?

Big questions?

Yeah ... big questions.

And they hurt.

If I let them roll around in me, bumping up against my
     Carefully placed spiritual furniture.

Big questions, for sure.

They cry out for some answers.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Preaching for Commitment???

42 years of ministry ... did some preaching ...

Some of it on commitment ... like, get with the program ... decide.

Maybe a lot of preaching on commitment ... don't be spiritually ineffective.

Lazy ... sloppy ... self-serving ...

It's not about convenience, it's about commitment.

But I wonder ... did my preaching sound like a commercial?

Self-serving ... after all, without commitment, no congregation.

Without a congregation, no job.

Without a job ...

As of late, I think: maybe all this preaching for commitment is an act of "little faith."

Does not God create the heart and shape it?

Did not Jesus promise to build his church?

Preaching for commitment deprives the congregation of something vastly more important.

The fullness of the gospel story.

Jesus and the prophets ...

Jesus and John ...

Rewriting Israel's history.

Hebrews ... Jesus becomes the very center.

He's the Lamb and he's the Priest.

He's the Temple and the Curtain.

He's our all-in-all.

Preach that, and lives are changed.

Maybe not the big numbers big institutions need.

But real numbers.

Real vision.

Real love.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Eastwood, Detroit and GOP

Hats off to Eastwood and Detroit ... prosperity for the people is anathema to the GOP which has forgotten that everything from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Erie Canal, the coal and steel industries and the Interstate system are the product of of government and big biz working together for the welfare of the nation. The GOP has become childish and petulant - but such is the mindset of the privileged wealthy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Abortion, Roman Catholics and Conservative Christians

I've supported the rights of women to have an abortion for a long time. I'm 67, in my 43rd year of being a Presbyterian pastor, and I don't remember a time when I didn't support women's rights on this issue.

As for my Roman Catholic sisters and brothers, I wonder about their pro-birth stance, and by pro-birth, I mean the general notion that once conception has occurred, the woman is merely the carrier of a new life and thus has no say-so whatsoever about it.

She is beholdin' to the gods, or to the god of the Roman Catholic Church, to carry the foetus, the child-within, to term. Period! It's the will of god, as they say, but with darker dimensions in play.

1. When I was in Detroit, working with Dr. Jack Kevorkian on physician assisted suicide, I received dozens of letters from Roman Catholics with one consistent theme: suffering in this life is good for the soul. I suspect some of this plays a role in the pro-birth position.

2. Furthermore, a generally degraded notion about women still lurks in the dark corners of the Roman Church - women are to be seen, not heard. At best, they are baby-factories. A woman is determined by her biology, her ability to get pregnant and bear a child. This is her destiny, her calling, her responsibility, and, of course, it's all determined by god.

3. Much of this notion was forged in Medieval Europe where disease and war decimated the population for centuries, so the church unwittingly played into the hands of the kings and landed nobility by promoting a pro-birth policy to help replenish the labor supply in Europe. Slavery, from the word "Slav," was a part of Europe's pagan and even Christian legacy. The need for labor spurred the turn to slavery in the 1400 and 1500s in Europe and ultimately in the Caribbean Islands and the United States for the production of sugar (the Crusades brought back sugar) and cotton. And everyone agreed, now that Africans were a steady supply of cheap labor, that it was okay for the Christian world, white, to enslave those from the "Dark Continent," providing cheap labor as well saving the slave from the pagan world of Africa. Since people of color were less than fully human, the White Man's Burden was all the important - to take care of these "children," even as they worked the fields for the White Man's Profits.

4. Hence the silly restrictions on birth-control and the edginess about sex-education. Getting pregnant is a woman's highest calling, and anything that diminishes her chances of pregnancy are to be opposed. Hence, Santorum's opposition to birth-control.

Conservative Protestants share the same views:
1. All pregnancy, whatever its origin, is of god.
2. All pregnancies, then, must be carried to term. Period.
3. The woman has no right whatsoever to any decision in any of this.
4. A woman's body is never her own - it belongs to the foetus.
5. A woman's destiny is child-bearing - she is a baby-factory.

All of this plays a huge role in the ambiguity Conservative Protestants still have toward women in the workplace, in the pulpit and in the home. Women are still very much second-class human beings in Conservative Circles, determined not by their minds, but by their wombs.

Powerful Conservative Protestant Men love to have some arm-candy at their side, and perhaps will fund abortions for their wives and daughters in private clinics, reached via private jets, but in their public persona, they maintain a pro-birth stance. Working-class Conservative Protestant Men can't afford such luxuries, so they pay a terrible price as well, as one child after another is born. Is it any wonder that conservative men are often bitter about women and cruel to them? The womb becomes the man's enemy as well, and many a poor man flees from pregnancy, abandoning the women and the future-child.

In both groups, the pro-birth mindset is mindless and bitter, driven by a pro-birth fanaticism that rarely yields to reason, compassion, or reality.

The pro-birth position is evil in its degradation of women, men, and the children it produces. 

Millions of children are doomed to a life of hardship and sorrow because of pro-birth fanaticism, which prohibits sex education, birth control and generally disregards the deeper issues of poverty, under-employment, unemployment, the lack of health-care, and the lack of good schools for the children.

In the worst-case scenario, a pro-birth position still produces cheap labor for the nobility.