Athens (but not Greece)

Athens (but not Greece) (1,224)

July 31st, 2011

5:32 A.M.

I am in my Kia Amanti, which now has 201,851 miles on it. It is still running. And so am I, as I drive on this Sunday morning down to Athens, Pennsylvania, to do a 10:00 A.M. presentation at the AthensUnitedMethodistChurch. It is normally my practice to go down the day before to set up on the Saturday night. But there were two obstacles to that this week. An opportunity came up to share on Saturday evening in the Rochester, New York, area, and also all the motels in the Athens, Pennsylvania area are presently occupied by workmen drilling for natural gas—which I quickly found out was not what I thought it was.

So I am on the New York thruway driving away from Rochester towards my destination. It is beautiful—looking like it is going to be a gorgeous day, and the few cars on the road seem courteous, although I am sure a bit curious about why I am traveling early, possessing a tale of their own.

You can plan to wake up at the crack of dawn and even go to bed early the night before in preparation for such an excursion. It doesn’t really make any difference. The body kind of does what the body wants to do. I think that’s why some people insist they are not “morning people”—because somewhere deep in their thinking, they presume that one should awaken refreshed, rejuvenated and exhilarated for the day. When that doesn’t happen, I think they draw the conclusion that there must be something wrong with them. Actually, it is rare for human beings to rise from the bed motivated. End of story. There’s always a little something that’s bugging you physically, taunting you emotionally, troubling you mentally or trying to spur you on spiritually. That’s why I describe the human experience as the most organized mess possible—organized in the sense that the pieces appear to be linked in some inexplicable way, but a mess because they are not willing to cooperate with one another on any given occasion.

So I feel awake, but I have a crick in my neck (having been attacked by a motel pillow), a sting in my knee and a song in my heart. (I just threw the “song in my heart” part in so I wouldn’t come across too cranky.)

I thought I would take you on the journey with me today, which means I will be posting a little later, so I can give you the full representation of what happened during the Athens service. Jan is kindly typing for me as we drive down the road, and with a little luck we will find T-Mobile service so we can post this without using carrier pigeon. (Jan doesn’t really want to be typing right now. Jan really wanted to eat breakfast before we typed jonathots, but alas, there really wasn’t anything open. So she is trying to maintain all the dignity of her Southern training, without resorting to any grumbling or cursing whatsoever. Admirable.)

What am I thinking about this morning, you might ask? (Actually you probably wouldn’t ask, but I do need to move my story along.) I’m thinking about what I want to share with these folks. I usually end up with thirty-eight to forty-four minutes on a Sunday morning, depending on whether I stay on their schedule or accidentally steal some moments. It’s not much time—especially when you don’t know the people and you spend the first eight to ten minutes convincing them that you were born in a civilized country and do have a birth certificate.

I have at my disposal, or better stated, availability, songs to sing, instrumental music, jonathots to share, stories of the road and bits and pieces of insights on Jesus’ gospel, which he hoped we would continue to propagate instead of just building edifices to his name. Those essays fall into three major categories. Some are life lessons, some are stories from my personal portfolio, and then the rest fall into a category of spiritual anecdotes delivered in a parable style, with a moral to the story.

You really want a little of each type, but not too much of any one. If you put too many stories in about yourself, you open yourself up to the grumpers who contend that you’re just trying to praise your own accomplishments. If you do too many on life’s lessons, then you kind of come across like a bald, overweight schoolmarm. And the problem with sharing about Jesus in the church, believe it or not, is that because everybody thinks they already know everything about Jesus, the subject can be panned, or even viewed as taboo because you might step on a few toes and doctrines along the way.

Now I’m not trying to portray that it’s an impossible task or even brain surgery (although I don’t know why I use that comparison, having never studied cutting open the cranium). It’s just that time is precious and if you believe you have a mission in life, which by the way, may be the main reason you push past those aches and pains on a morning like this, you always want to make sure you put your best foot forward and give the freshest blessings you can to those you meet.

Look! The sun is beginning to rise. I rolled down my window to see if the sun had any complaints. None that I heard. I saw a deer standing by the side of the road. Aside from the fact that it appeared to be a bit annoyed that I was zooming by, it, too, was ready for the day. And then there was a bird that just flew onto the road, seeking some nourishment via carrion. Not my preference, but who am I to criticize?

The next stop will be breakfast—and Jan will be happy.

We’re supposed to be at the church to set up at 8:30. I don’t particularly like Sunday morning set-ups because there are so many people around, and when you do a sound check in an empty church building, it always sounds loud, which every amateur hearer will be happy to point out. I can try to explain that it’s going to sound different when people arrive, or that I’ve done this for a long time, but it only sounds defensive and honestly, in a world of thin-skinned people, bruising is too easy. So I usually just smile and say, “Thank you”—unless I’m in a grumpy mood or woke up with a crick in my neck.

I will take a brief hiatus at this point and drive until we can satisfy Jan’s primal urge for morning food. And then we will continue.


Jan survived until we got to Watkins Glen, New York. It was touch and go, and a little nastiness and fussiness began to etch its way across her features, but we found a Burger King, which did provide us breakfast (except when we got two miles down the road, we discovered they forgot to put in one of our sandwiches, so doggedly we returned to retrieve our portion. The mission had an almost scriptural feel to it: “He who endures to the end will get some the sausage and egg croissant.”)

We arrived in Athens fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, so we threw away our trash and sat back to enjoy the peace and quiet for a few moments. Arriving at the church, we were greeted by a wonderful gentleman named Ed, who carried our equipment in for us since we are now old and teetering on decrepit. (Actually, I guess “teetering” might be a forewarning of decrepit.)

Pastor Marty was delightful, with a gentle spirit and an open heart. The business of religion often turns ministers into aged technicians in frustration long before their time. The smart ones, filled with spirit, find a way around it. Such is Marty.

The congregation arrived, and like a lot of small-town churches, they weren’t really sure what to expect from us. Sometimes they wonder if having fun in church—as we suggest—is proper … or even legal. Actually, I think some of the teenagers keep an eye on the back door to make sure the police don’t come in to make random arrests. What would be that charge? How about “giddiness without a license?” Here’s another one: “joy speakable that should remain unspoken.”

I love my job. I get a chance to turn strangers into hearers and hearers into thinkers and thinkers into feelers. If they get that far, we usually end up friends. If they don’t, they usually just grab cookies and coffee and run for the door, hoping that next week some sensibility will return to the holy of holies.

Before the program began, we took some time to piece together those essays and stories I told you about. I think we achieved a good mix. I liked one fellow who came up to my book table afterwards and said, “I want to tell you it was wonderful. And Amen.”

I said, “I see. You like the best of both worlds.” He laughed.

Isn’t it glorious to see people laugh? I never saw anybody firing a gun while giggling. Although completely impractical for aiming, it also is implausible because of the nature of humor.

We met some wonderful, middle-America people, dreams still intact, wondering when politicians will leave them alone long enough that they can get about the business of making them come true. It was a great day.

I’m once again in my car on I-86, driving back, with Jan reminding me that I promised we could stop somewhere and eat on the way home. (Jan may be the most slender glutton I’ve ever known. I consider that a compliment—to have a vice that has no visible evidence. I was never able to succeed at that. Jan has been very nice to type all these insults without smiting me or editing as she went along.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this morning, as we criss-crossed down through New York to take you with us to Athens, Pennsylvania.

Athens, Greece, was considered to be the birthplace of democracy. Athens, Pennsylvania, was a place we just left—where democracy still survives.

Published in: on July 31, 2011 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment  


Initiative (1,223)

July 30th, 2011

It was time to punish myself. I had spent a wonderful, productive day and was settling in for the evening and decided I would risk a bit of torture, so I turned on the news. Now, I bounce between CNN and Fox News in an attempt to create some balance, which actually ends up being the personification of the word “bounce.” The subject of the night was the issue of many nights prior and probably many in the future—the debt ceiling. (My quick suggestion on the matter would be to allow Visa or the local bank to make the decision for the government the same way they do for me. But that’s just a childish thought, I’m sure.)

What struck me on this particular tour de force through media hell was that each Congressman, Senator and even the President felt that it’s very important to draft a plan that bears his name—to prove that they have shown initiative in the endeavor. Sitting there, I realized that the definition for “initiative” in our country has become the following:

I must come up with an idea of my own that can be enacted, which will be pure to my motivations and concepts, so that when its fruit is born I can take credit for the success, ye somehow leave room to share the blame.

Is that really initiative? Is initiative the determined piece of pride within me that insists that every project must be stamped by my ideas and my sense of origin to be worth anything? That’s actually the definition of vanity. It is a vain and inglorious philosophy that believes we have the capacity for understanding what needs to be done, even in the matters that pertain directly to ourselves.

Can I be the first to say it? I am not smart enough to solve everything—even me. Maybe that is the beginning of true spiritual discovery. I am not self-sufficient. I am not able to conjure the best plan for handling the situations that come across my life without input. Matter of fact, the death of all creativity is the belief that we no longer need to drink anything in before we pour something out. I am not self-contained.

I would like to give you a fresh insight on initiative as I see it. It is in four parts.

1. Having all my senses available to be aware of what really needs to be done.

2. Accessing my limited files of understanding and applying them wisely to the situation as needed.

3. Admitting my lack and seeking wisdom, assistance, guidance and fortification from the forces of God, humanity and nature.

4. Finding what’s best to do, submitting to the wisdom of a better plan than my own, and pursuing it faithfully—with great loyalty.

Can you imagine what would happen if people would begin to understand the value of limitations and therefore the importance of one another, culminating in the inclusion of God?

I think there is no difference among Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or atheist as long as they believe that their personal human package is enough to solve any situation that comes their way. They are all foolishly locked into their own prison of personal preference.

I don’t know whether it has occurred to anyone in Washington, D.C. that we might need everybody to solve our problems. It might mean that the final plan would have a generic name, like “Us Working Together” instead of Bill’s, Bob’s, Sam’s, Jack’s or Barrack’s Plan. But we might have the soul satisfaction of knowing that since we collaborated and absorbed all of the good stuff around us, our chances of success will be heightened—and our failure can be shared gladly.

Initiative is when we are smart enough to realize … we’re kind of dumb.

Published in: on July 30, 2011 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Politigous, Part V — Finally …

Politigous – Part V(1,222)

Finally …

July 29th, 2011

I recently opened up my refrigerator and discovered some avocado, left-over sweet potatoes and turkey sausage. It was lunchtime. Feeling a spark of genius, I decided to mix the three foods together. I like avocado; I also like sweet potatoes. Turkey sausage is great. Except … when you mix them together. To put it bluntly, they don’t cooperate. It was horrendous—an orangy, greenish-brown blob of nothing. I ate it because I am a well-trained, fat boy from a German household, always afraid to leave food behind—in respect to the starving children in India. It was not a good casserole.

Neither are politics, legalism and religion meant to be a dish. Honestly, continuing the parallel, I don’t know which one is sweet potato, avocado or turkey sausage, but perhaps we should dispel the analogy at this point. The politigous insist on blending the three together, creating a climate unacceptable for human growth. The politigous believe that everything should be done for the good of the nation, through the Constitution and laws, while simultaneously defending God’s will. He or she promote a most unusable feeling of self-righteousness and paranoia, which could be summed up as: “I believe I’m better than you but I’m going to keep you down just in case I’m wrong and you end up being better than me.”

It is beneath the United States to fail to compete in the market place, but being critical of other nations and cultures. It is certainly against the fabric of our consciousness to isolate ourselves off and refuse to be the forerunners of great ideas. Beware the politigous. He or she will not be happy unless you agree with them in entirety.

Candidly, I don’t agree with anybody in entirety—including myself. I will often come up with arguments within my emotions that I find stupid. I have to eradicate them if I want to continue to function as a human being.

This is not a case of finding what is “for the good of the nation.” Even good politics requires that you study and pursue what is good for the people. Because ultimately, it is the people who will vote their own political future. You might be able to fool them for a while but when enough evidence collects to your detriment, you will have to leave in disgrace.

What are some ways that we could politically do what is “good for the people?”

1. Once and for all, set a standard for the word “equality” and live by it. The fact that we’re still trying to achieve equal pay for women, equal housing for blacks and granting people with varying lifestyles the right to be joined together shows that we have yet to arrive at a true definition of equality. Is it a nation of equality, or is equality only given to those people who fall into a spectrum of so-called normalcy? It is a question that must be resolved.

2. If we’re going to do what’s for the “good of the people” we need to eliminate the electoral college and let the President be voted in based on the popular total. (I also suggest the first place winner should be President and the second place, Vice President, which would give us two different parties within the walls of the Oval Office, and force interaction in the Executive Branch, instead of assuming it’s possible in the Legislative Branch.)

3. If we’re going to find out what is “for the good of the people” we need to stop having public debate, which has become a screaming match—bratty children trying to talk over the top of each other. Each side should put forth its best candidate, who should share opinions freely for five minutes. At the end of that time, the population should be able to weigh in on the choice.

Is this idealistic? Yes. But the practical is only achieved by pursuing the ideal. You can never find the common sense when you begin with pessimism.

Likewise, we must understand that legalism, whether in the Constitution or the Bible, is putting forth the belief that our forefathers—or prophets of old—knew more about spirituality and God than we do. I just don’t believe that. There is just too much technology, culture, emotion, art, beauty and struggle that have happened since 1776 – or even since Moses crossed the Red Sea – for me to believe that we are deficient in comparison. If you’re going to find the spirit, I think there are three steps to achieving it:

1. The spirit always blows to the betterment of human beings, not to the promotion of any code of ethics.

2. The spirit allows room for God’s grace and for human mercy. All rules and regulations that are inflexible to the circumstances surrounding a predicament will eventually destroy the light of justice.

3. The spirit permits us to understand more about ourselves first—and then apply it into our circumstances and eventually trickle it off to others. Laws are usually levied against strangers while truth is best digested within.

Finally, we must stop trying to “defend God’s will.” My God is not fragile. My God can take a billion questions from a million atheists and not flinch. My God is not afraid of sin. My God understands human beings and doesn’t roll his eyes at the thought of them. It is our responsibility to stop trying to defend God’s will, and instead, admit our inadequacy and begin to learn God’s ways.

How do we do this?

1. Admit we are flawed and make sure we are the first one to point it out.

2. Learn the difference between analyzing and being critical. Analyzing is stating facts already in evidence, with the goal of finding a better way of doing things. Criticism always has elements of reality mingled with personal attacks.

3. And finally, God’s ways are higher than our ways, so it’s important that we acquire the mind of Christ. And what is the mind of Christ? God, man and nature have no conflict whatsoever as long as they submit to each other.

The greatest gift you can give to your country is to refuse to mix things that are not meant to mingle. Politics, legalism and religion are a threesome never meant to be in the same bed. It will take intelligent believers who refuse to put Jesus on an elephant or a donkey, but instead, let him ride the white horse of purity and love of people … to victory.

Can we do this? I try every day with a three step process:

1. Stop the meanness.

2. Listen and don’t take sides.

3. Do what I can for the people God sends my way without wondering about all the rest.

I can recommend it. It won’t make you a good politigous, but you will go to bed at night—joyously sleeping like a baby.

Published in: on July 29, 2011 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Politigous, Part !V — Defending God’s Will

Politigous – Part IV(1,221)

Defending God’s Will

July 28th, 2011

The politigous does go to church. He or she finds great comfort in an atmosphere of worship, where the sermons are speckled with the defense of God’s will. In other words, there is some evil or injustice threatening the fabric of faith, and it is our job to construct a solid fortification against the onslaught.

The politigous approaches spiritual matters the same way he or she views the Constitution. The Bible is the Bible and must be accepted as the Bible and is either considered to be the “infallible Word of God” or the “personally interpreted rendition” of that particular politigous’ favored cause.

But as in the case of the Constitution, the Bible has been amended many times and has marched forward in the pursuit of the betterment of humankind. In fifty words or less, the Bible can be summed up as:

God created the world. The world evolved. God changed his mind. God destroyed the world. God felt bad about it, decided to work with people. People wanted religion and not God. People wanted kings; people wanted sacrifice. God hates sacrifice; came to earth as Jesus to tell them. They killed him. He turned it into salvation. Salvation was preached. God will create a new heaven and a new earth.

That was sixty-nine words. Sorry. But there you go. I see lots of revisions, don’t you?

When I read the Bible, I rejoice because it is full of human discovery of the true nature of God, filled with frailty, moving forward to an understanding of inclusion and ultimate salvation.

I have no intentions of defending God’s will. I think God does pretty well without me being His bodyguard or His henchman. The true job of any believer is to take his life to learn God’s ways. God’s will is like my will—it’s locked up deep within His heart and motives. The only way you can really evaluate me as a person is by my ways—and God’s ways are not complicated at all. It is not His will that any should perish. He loves the world. He’s not afraid of humanity and He has provided a way of escape from all temptation.

The politigous turns religion into the legalism of the Constitution because everything has to be for the “good of the nation.” So the Jesus of the New Testament has to match the God of the Old Testament, which needs to transform the United States into the “chosen people” of God’s present liking. There’s the problem—because God loves Chinese, Russians, Germans and a host of others. God, who does not look on the outward appearance, fails to recognize the flag pins on our lapels as significant to our value. He looks on the heart. And the best way to express our heart is to understand that our journey is not about defending God’s will, but instead, learning God’s ways.

As with the Constitution, the politigous believes that those who wrote the Bible are more anointed and supernaturally charged than those who live today. It is an implausible premise—because we know that God is no respecter of persons and it causes us to forget that we need prophets and messengers today to deliver the truth of God’s ways in our own language and for our own culture.

I have said it many times and I will say it again—one of the things I most admire about Jesus is that even though he lived an anointed life, he told his disciples that they would do greater things than he did. It is amazing to me that those who believe in the theory of evolution often, for some reason, cannot fathom that spirituality is also evolving from monkey business to deeper human understanding.

Life is not about defending God’s will. It is not about arguing with people about the inerrancy of the Bible. It is also not about limiting the power of miracles in the word of God to try to appear more intellectual than your backwoods brethren. It is about taking the available information from the holy constitution called the Bible, garnering as much wisdom as possible and allowing the spirit of God to amend the word to reach the hearts of people.

Am I saying there are contradictions in the Bible? I am saying there are amendments. Do I believe the Bible is the Word of God? The Bible is the Word of God at the moment it was written, waiting for others to come later to understand better—and enlighten more.

The politigous loves to have everything settled so all we have to do is fight for it. But everything isn’t settled. And what we believed, even twenty years ago, has quietly changed without people acknowledging the evolution. This is wrong.

There is nothing wrong with changing as the spirit of God teaches you to grow—as long as you’re willing to admit that transformation of the reality of truth is geared to the most effective way to save people, not the best way to defend God.

So how do you know if you have become a politigous in the matter of defending God’s will?

1. You spend more time debating the Bible than living out its better ideas.

2. You get offended when you’re scared into believing that evil is overtaking the world rather than contending that a little bit of good goes a long way.

3. You actually think that God can be forgotten instead of living the kind of life that makes it impossible for Him to disappear.

The politigous wants to defend God’s will, which he or she has defined as the traditional rendition of religion as expressed by the forefathers. It is our responsibility to realize that we are the next generation of God’s desire and therefore, we should live our lives charging the gates of hell—instead of building altars to the past.

Published in: on July 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Politigous — Part III Through the Constitution

Politigous – Part III(1,220)

Through the Constitution

July 27th, 2011

People just love to stomp around and act like they are the ones that have discovered the “great truth.” The politigous does this by constantly talking about the Constitution. You would think that the Constitution of the United States of America was written by the finger of God. As you know, it wasn’t. It was written by men who moved on the understanding they had at the time—to try to forge a document which would externalize the internal desires they had to build a nation of free people.

I think it’s humorous when people debate what the “framers of the Constitution” had in mind. Although they were very learned men for their time, none of them had ever flown in a jet airplane. None of them knew anything about antibiotics or even advanced treatments for cancer. None of them had a full comprehension of what it meant to grant civil rights to all individuals. None of them could imagine an Internet with trillions of loggings for billions of people. None of them thought human beings could drive over 60 miles per hour in any type of vehicle without suffocating. Many of them still believed in witches and thought farming was the sole occupation of integrity.

So even if we do discover what the original framers of the Constitution felt about certain matters, it does not bring the document current with our times without intelligent, spirit-led leaders who have the sensitivity to update for the good of the people.

It’s about justice—and justice, to me, is like a tree: it consists of a trunk and branches. Certainly I would agree that the Constitution of the United States is the trunk. And most of the wood in a tree is in the trunk. We were given a fine foundation to begin our journey as a nation. But most of the beauty of the tree of justice is in the branches. After all, a series of trunks does not a forest make. What makes a tree look like a tree are its branches.

Twenty-seven times we, the people, have had to go in and correct the Constitution, supplement the Constitution and amend the Constitution in order to meet the needs of human beings. It is a beautiful process.

Let’s look at it more closely. The original document contained the words that people who had black skin were not to be counted as a whole individual. It was later amended to admit that this was erred—that they should be given full rights as complete humans. And then it was still later amended to grant them equality without segregation.

An amendment was made to the Constitution to prohibit alcohol. The failed experiment was later amended by another amendment—repealing the previous one.

We have grown.

The twenty-sixth amendment says that the voting age should be eighteen years. This occurred in a time when we were asking people arriving at that particular life experience to go to war—when we wouldn’t even let them vote. It seemed ridiculous. So we changed it.

The politigous wants to extol the glory of the Constitution, but it is not through the Constitution that we have become a great nation. It is through discovering the spirit of freedom, the spirit of acceptance, the spirit of openness, the spirit of inclusion and the spirit of welcoming that we have amended our own words to allow everyone to be encompassed under the great tent of America.

We have branched out from our original trunk to create greater beauty.

Anyone who extols the founding fathers over becoming the fathers who are finding ways to make our nation better for our people now is a deterrent from allowing the beauty of freedom to grow in the spirit.

We see the need in our legal system. There are more men and women in prison for using drugs than for murder. It is something we will have to deal with. Is it possible for us to lessen the punishment for misuse of narcotics without either condoning the practice or legalizing it? What will make us a great nation is finding the right spirit to induce that debate towards a better human end.

We must find out how to once and for all make bigotry forbidden in our nation instead of hiding behind archaic laws that allow for the mistreatment of one another. What spirit can we conjure in ourselves for goodness and mercy—to begin this search?

The politigous wants to talk about the Constitution instead of discussing the spirit of America, which is to move always toward justice and freedom for all.

Now, the job still gets done. It’s just that the politigous makes the process very painful, drags it out and many people get hurt because they lack the basic dignity of pursuing their happiness. I am certainly not suggesting that we do away with laws or reject the Constitution. I’m just saying that a document that has been amended twenty-seven times is probably going to need another go-over yet again.

It’s just that simple—and to try to strictly follow the wording and legalism of a dream we call America is to remove the spirit of the patriots who died for the cause. No one who gave their life at Gettysburg knew exactly every little, subtle nuance that would be necessary to make this a great nation. But they did understand that the country was being threatened by a sense of false loyalty and oppression—and without stopping these two nasty pieces of nonsense, the nation just might perish.

I don’t understand what will be necessary to keep the United States of America going forward, but I do recognize that the next great awareness will be achieved through finding the spirit of the Constitution instead of upholding the letter of the law. The Constitution of the United States is like faith in God—it is a living, breathing organism that demands the daily bread of discovery to nourish its loins.

Yes, the Constitution is the trunk of the tree providing the most wood, but the amendments are the beauty of the branches. What will be the next amendment? What will be the next wind that blows in spirit, demanding freedom and justice for all? You can not accidentally discover the spirit. Jesus said you must “ask, seek and knock.” There must truly be an active pursuit—a search party, if you will—to find the spirit of the law instead of just the letter. Here are three ways I would suggest that we, as a people, stay in the spirit of Americainstead of merely revering the Constitution:

1. Never silence the voice of someone who wants freedom. You may not agree with him; you may not like his lifestyle or nationality. But when we silence the voice of another, we gradually open the door to silencing our own.

2. Never accept things as they are if there’s a possibility for making them better. Despair is not an American virtue. We are not a people who believe there is no recourse. The recent introduction of despair into our society is the admission that we have run out of creative ideas to improve ourselves. Nothing could be more un-American.

3. Finally, don’t welcome change, don’t fear change—just allow change. Change will happen whether you like it or not. When it’s obvious that change is in the wind, learn its benefits and get behind its better parts. That is really the best we can do as believers and Americans.

When you remove these three practices from the dream that we call “Old Glory,” you begin to create just a government—without allowing for the expansion and needs of its people—and that is too bland and predictable to be America.

So the politigous talks about the Constitution and fails to understand that twenty-seven times we have found a new spirit, to breath life into an aging carcass.

God bless America. God bless the spirit that makes America work.

Published in: on July 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Politigous Part II — For the Good of the Nation

Politigous – Part II(1,219)

For the Good of the Nation

July 26th, 2011

His name was Caiaphas. He was a politigous.

He loved his country, extolled the law and was in constant pursuit of what he deemed to be God’s will. He was probably a very good man; he probably had a family. He certainly, like all humans before him and like those who came after, was obsessed with his own dreams.

But history will record him for only one sinister action. Chairing a committee assigned to decide what to do about a young preacher from Nazareth, he came to the conclusion that “it is better for one man to perish than the whole nation perish.” It made sense to the whole room, for after all, they were also politigous. It sounded noble, righteous and it was certainly within the bounds of legality.

A few short days after the statement was made, Caiaphas and his committee crucified the Prince of Peace. So Caiaphas is remembered as the plotter and murderer of Christ. On the other nail-pierced hand, Jesus is remembered as the Savior of all people.

Doing “what is best for a country” is more than waving a flag. It is more than posturing on the law and constitution. It is certainly much more than believing that God’s will is a tablet of stone with no room for mercy and grace.

I learned this when I became a parent. I read many books; I listened to other parents pontificate on standards, mores and guidelines for raising up children. But in the heat of the battle of taking care of another human being—one of my own making—the books had to be set aside, the laws had to be reviewed and the will of God was not nearly as clear as it seemed when it was in black and white.

For sometimes your children decide what your spiritual path will be. Sometimes the roads they choose change the direction of where your mercy, tenderness, passion and even discipline will need to go. So I have stood in a room and heard my children praised, feeling the natural pride that any human would under those circumstances. I have sat in a principal’s office and heard my child decried as a hoodlum, and still had to ride home in the same car with the little rapscallion, needing to provide both punishment and love. My sons have been cheered and also, at times, jeered. I have seen them run for touchdowns in a football game and also throw an interception, providing support on both occasions. I’ve even perched myself in a courtroom as a judge made decisions on their future, based upon their erroneous actions.

I will tell you this—being a father demands that you look out for the good of your children, not merely act out a parenting plan.

With that in mind, let me say that in my mind’s eye, the real father of this country is Abraham Lincoln—because as the politigous folks of his day rallied for the good of the nation to keep slavery in place so the South would be appeased and cotton could still be grown for profit, he stepped forward and started talking about “the good of the people.” At Gettysburg he phrased it best: “…that this nation of the people, for the people and by the people shall not perish from the earth.”

I get tired of nationalism which only ends up hurting people. I am weary of legalism that can only tell me who is forbidden and doesn’t provide doors to welcome in the stray lambs. And I do not believe in God’s will that has no sensibility to include human frailty.

The government must be “of the people”—in other words, spawned from the genetics of the human will to birth a nation. It must be “for the people”—as the natural evolution and discovery of what is truly right unfolds, we must learn to be flexible to the “better angels of our nature.” (Once again—Lincoln.) And finally, the government must be “by the people.” Electing representatives who do not represent the best interests of the populace, but rather, represent the political party, creates a Caiaphas situation, not an Abraham Lincoln solution.

Case in point: I support our troops. Here’s how I do it. I respect their service to the country, but I travel the United States teaching and preaching peace, personal responsibility, loving one another and being flexible to change so that these brave soldiers don’t have to go off and be killed in conflicts that were unnecessary.

I support the troops by suggesting they be paid more, get better medical benefits and be granted the dignity afforded to a worker on an assembly line in Detroit. I support the troops by knowing that a volunteer army draws from the poorer segments of our society, and therefore, these young men and women need greater consideration instead of being treated as sacrificial lambs. I support the troops by believing that if we’re going to have another war, we should re-institute the draft, to make this national cause universal instead of being segmented off to one portion of our society. I support the troops by having them be a standing army instead of a fighting army, and spend more money teaching our young people to become negotiators rather than warriors.

War is not the best for people. It is the final alternative which destroys lives and does very little to protect the nation.

The politigous is determined to extol the concept of a country above granting courtesy to its citizens. Had it not been for Abraham Lincoln, this country would not only be divided, but would have continued to carry the sin of slavery as a curse on itself for decades to come. Who knows? Maybe even to today.

Because when is it ever convenient to do that which is truly righteous? And what is righteous is to consider the children instead of just considering your own cause. Every parent understands this. Every parent knows there’s a time to set aside the books—even the morals—to stand with your children.

The politigous wants to do things for the good of the nation. Caiaphas thought he was a good Jew—but history shows that he wasn’t. History shows that he killed his brother and took away the salvation of the people.

And it was only the grace of God that was able to resurrect it.

Published in: on July 26, 2011 at 11:50 am  Leave a Comment  



July 24th, 2011

It happened two nights in a row. One evening a gentleman told me that he knew “Jesus was a Republican” and the next night a lady informed me that “Jesus certainly would have been a Democrat.” They thought they were being cute. You might have found it equally as clever.

I don’t—because I deeply support the separation of church and state. I believe this not because I feel the church is a great danger to the state. Actually the introduction of religion into politics renders it even more ineffective. No—I am a believer in the separation of church and state in order to keep politics out of the pew.

When people begin to project a political philosophy onto Jesus, I have to put my foot down and say, “Stop it.” We need one thing to be pure in this country, if nothing else—and that would be an abiding faith that God is no respecter of persons and that “whosoever will may come,” so that we all can be brothers and sisters. You may find that a big of unrealistic drivel, but when you remove it from our society, you create armed camps which are prepared to do battle against one another—both in the name of the Lord.

The Pharisees tried to make Jesus political, and he told them to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar and unto God the things that are God’s.” Isn’t that the separation of church and state?

My trepidation—especially with the upcoming election in 2012—that once again the church is going to be turned into a battleground of cultural philosophy instead of a movement towards spiritual renewal.

In this country, we have fostered a new religion. I call it the Politigous—the unhealthy blending of politics, legalism and religion, forming a self-righteous gathering of voters who campaign for their conscience instead of the good of the people. It is not limited to conservatives or liberals. Both parties jockey for position on the issues which they think will trigger the most outrage and fear within the populace.

Any leader who thinks he does service by frightening his constituency must be prepared for the two outgrowths of all fear: ignorance and poverty.

What are we suffering from in this country right now? A severe bout of ignorance and an ever-increasing sense of being impoverished. Why? Because our leaders have made it permissible to be afraid. Our psychologists have made it seem normal to be apprehensive. And our churches promote the notion of an “end to the world”—an earth they have not yet embraced with love.

The Politigous: They have three axes to grind: (1) the good of the country; (2) the law and Constitution, and (3) God’s will. If we’re not careful, our churches will become “dummy corporations” to front parties, laundering political capital instead of becoming challenging prophets of God, questioning authority and making a better world for all people. It’s hard to take care of “the least of these, my brethren” when we’re always concerned about the popular majority vote.

It is initiated by the ambiguous notion of “doing what’s good for the country.”

And that’s where we’ll start tomorrow…

Published in: on July 25, 2011 at 12:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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