Monday, April 23, 2012

Wal-Mart Blessings

Walmart has single-handedly put tens of thousands of small family-owned businesses out of business.

Sure, selling things at discount prices, but all across America, small towns lost their downtowns and much of their social structure, not to mention Bill and Fran and Sammy and Lydia, who sold the underwear, the wrenches, the TVs and washers in the small stores, and they knew you, and you knew them and you both loved your community. 

Walmart is a monster, as is the 1% - and there is no pay-back whatsoever, except a little more junk in everyone's home, miserable jobs, oh yeah, and ya' get to wear a Walmart vest!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Culture of Rape

Reflections on the rape of disabled girl recorded on a cellphone video - in South Africa.

The culture of rape, which is alive and well here in the US, too - wherever women are denied their rights because of gender. Just watch what's happening in the GOP right now, the systematic reduction of women's rights. 

Yet some of the comments seem less interested in understand the cultural role of rape and more interested in expression racist junk.

But all that aside, the culture of rape is rooted deeply in much of Africa, too - some of it rooted in Christian missions aligned with the brutality of the Colonial era, where whites regularly rapped African women who "worked" for them. Christian mission repeatedly stressed the "sinful" nature of the woman and her secondary status as God's punishment for Eve's "original sin."

Islam, as well, has generally considered women secondary human beings.

Rape is always a function of power, and the Colonial powers repeatedly demonstrated their superiority with rape as well as the machine gun. The plight of South Africa today is the culmination of Apartheid, the Boer Wars and Britain's systematic denial of human rights. Unemployment is rampant, and as SA sorts itself out, all of sorts of tragedies and social dislocation are occurring.

Rape is also rooted in the deep structures of the world itself - men have always tried to prove themselves superior with sexual dominance.

Just some thoughts - racial stereotyping doesn't help, nor does wishing violence on the perpetrators - we can, and we must, find ways to make a better world. And men everywhere need to think deeply on their attitudes toward women.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Church Advertising

Driving by a non-denominational church the other day, with its typical slogans of “welcome” and “enjoy,” “casual and contemporary,” “a church for people who don’t have a church,” it occurred to me that “non-denominational” churches have to advertise, and all advertising has to appeal to the worst within us - our self-serving instincts.
Places like Willow Creek (at least in the past) refused to advertise, relying only on word of mouth and the personal lives of its members.
In the past, denominational churches didn’t have to advertise, either. Yet, here we can say, they relied on “cultural connections” as much as on word-of-mouth and the personal lives of their members.
Whatever the situation, how much better if all churches quit advertising, other than a name out front, and perhaps a simple word of hope or praise. 
The church in America has to cease appealing to the worst instincts of self-help, self-aggrandizement, self-love and America’s endless quest for personal satisfaction, achievement, youth, beautiful hair and shiny white teeth. 
Infantile at best, demonic at worst, these instincts can never produce a healthy Christian, but only those who claim the name of Jesus for their own personal journey, to maximize the gains of this life and to finally get to heaven when it’s all done, leaving behind an changed world, a world that has been shopped and used, but never loved, and never once given the care mandated by Genesis 1 & 2 and Genesis 12 … not to mention the call of the prophets for justice, kindness and humility. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Presbyterian Schismatic Behavior

I’m not worried!

We Presbyterians are behaving as we always have, rooted as we are in the Reformation: from time-to-time, someone gets a bee in her or his bonnet and strikes forth to “reform” the church, make it better, restore it, recover it, renew it and generally rescue it from spiritual miscreants and all the other usual suspects.

The latest flap over ordination is just one short chapter in a very long book.

I suppose a thoughtful reader of our story might well ask the question: Do we ever learn from our behavior?

Do we learn, for example, that whatever “reform” we’re after will be realized in a substantially reduced form, occasioning the need for further reform somewhere down the line?

Do we learn, for example, that the very things we now are fighting against are likely to be resolved, if not by the church, then by society, as was the case for emancipation and women’s ordination (though, for some, the issue of women’s ordination remains a debatable matter)?

Do we learn, for example, that evil is not external, but within - that what defiles us is not what we might eat, but rather what issues from the heart? Jesus offers this advice to temper both those who would identify “evil” as residing “out there” somewhere, either in food or in people and those who would claim an inner purity greater than someone else’s inner purity.

There is much to learn from our story, and most it is that we don’t learn much at all and are likely to repeat the story at least twice every century. Right now, we’re on target for a new Presbyterian group, and before this century draws to a close (I won’t be here to see it, and chances are, many of you reading this right now won’t be here either), we’ll likely see another group emerge, with the same hopes of restoring, renewing, recovering and reforming.

I’m grateful for the new ordination standards - for me and my house, it’s been a long 35-year struggle, and when it comes to marriage equality for LGBTQ persons and related matters, the struggle remains, even as the struggles of environmental degradation, corporate predation, and war remain.

I wish we could find better ways of witnessing to the world, but such doesn’t seem to be an option.

In the meantime, I hope we can maintain some lines of communication, with none of us committing “the unforgivable sin” - that of demonizing one another, attributing motives to the Beelzebub.

I’m not worried.

We will find our way, and the Kingdom of God will continue to emerge from within our ranks, mostly in spite of us, I suppose, though we often like to think that it’s emergence is because of us.

I’m not worried, but saddened that we Presbyterians learn so little from our story.

But I’m not worried about that either.

God prevails … God always does … and stones get rolled away, even as we show up with our spices, ready to finish the burial.