Thursday, September 25, 2008


"Where there is no vision, the people perish"
Proverbs 29
If you have watched the news in the past few days you have seen what many call a pending financial crash forming. The "mortgage crisis", "financial perfect storm", "2nd great depression" it what you will, but it isn't good and is was completely avoidable. Had the people who were SUPPOSE to be leading and serving the people of this country removed their heads from their asses or the asses of those who supported them financially we wouldn't be facing close to 1 TRILLION DOLLAR bailout...or the best example of a goat roping that has ever occurred.
I have traditionally supported republicans so let me trash them first. The accounting measure that is on the books that is causing all of this crap is contained within legislation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The legislation was born out of the rubble and over-reaction of the Enron debacle. It was designed to protect investors...which is you and me...from large companies cooking the books and having companies fleece the public---we all know that fleecing people is the government's job and they want exclusive rights to that. Who signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act into law? George Bush. Who controlled congress when this act passed? Republicans. What's wrong with this Act specifically regarding our current crisis? It was reactionary, not visionary. It went too far to correct a problem that wasn't the primary problem with companies submitting fraudulent financial reports and in so doing, it has prohibited the sales of poor mortgages at a decreased rate and requires the companies to list the value of them at $0...which is moronic. Good job republicans!
And now for them democrats...good gracious. Inflated home prices were necessary for the democrats to claim that the economy was so great and wonderful when Bill "have sex with anything that has a pulse" Clinton left office. However, the inflated home prices were screwing the entitlement people that continue to elect democrats. So what did they demand of Freddie and Fannie? Give a loan to anyone. If they can't afford it...well don't worry about that little detail. If so many sub-prime loans will be offered that the poor people or poor planners or greedy people will be in ruins within years...well, pay that no mind because we are the government and we will burn that bridge when we come to it. And I suppose that kind of horrible vision is all fun and games until someone gets the very people you were trying to keep happy...on both ends. What's worse than someone not being able to afford a house? Someone being lied to by government mandate and told, "You can afford it" which only leads to not being able to afford the house and being in the midst of foreclosure. Good job Dems!
And so the idiots on the right are now in meetings with the morons on the left and what is the leading thought among the galactically insane? Let's use the very people and the very systems that caused this financial hurricane to fix it. It would be like putting a child molester in charge of babysitting and carpool. Have they proven to be incompetent? Yes. Have they proven to be criminals? Yes. Have they proven to be leaders? No. So let's put them in charge of the clean up much more must we see to declare with our voice and our votes that the current systems...ON BOTH SIDES OF TE AISLE suck beyond belief and exist to pamper themselves and their wealthy contributors on the backs of our tax dollars? I hope not too much more.
And speaking of a voting voice...where has B. Hussein Obama been on this issue? He hasn't been in the Senate to actually do his job in over 3 months. What about J. "I was a POW" McCain? The same. Where is the outrage? They have not denied their paychecks. They have been getting paid for months without ever showing up to work...which actually gives me an idea. How much better off would we be to give Congress a severance package to just abandon their positions, not run for re-election and not screw anything up further...I would actually support pissing away that amount of money.
In my opinion, the number 1 requirement for leadership is to have know the potential risks and rewards found within the steps you are taking and even in the ones you are about to take. The second requirement for leadership is the willingness and ability to endure pain and to ask the same of others. This means sometimes correcting poor leadership, like we currently need to do as a country, requires pain. We as a country enjoyed the surging stock market and the ability to borrow more money than we could actually afford. Now we have to pay up.
I would love to see us pay up with something other than the cost of an all-out, no holds barred, political revolution. Who's with me? Perhaps the people of God can climb out of the asses of the republicans and democrats...realizing that the answers for our times and all times have never been found in the kingdoms of this world. Participating further in these systems only perpetuates the farce. Participating further in these systems under the auspices that one side of the aisle is more closely associated with God or Jesus is blasphemy of the worst kind. Maybe while we are revolting against the intellectually and morally retarded politicians we can round up James Dobson and Chuck Colson, then tie them together with Tony Jones and Rob Bell and horse-whip them for aligning themselves and their respective religious followers with political parties. How many times must we scream the words of Christ, "MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD"

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Red Hen and The Way Things Are

The little red hen called all her friends together and said, 'If we plant this wheat, we shall have bread to eat. Who will help me plant it?'
'Not I,' said the cow. 'Not I,' said the duck. 'Not I,' said the pig. 'Not I,' said the goose.
'Then I will do it by myself,' said the little red hen, and so she did.
The wheat grew very tall and ripened into golden grain. Who will help me reap my wheat?' asked the little red hen.
'Not I,' said the duck… 'Out of my classification,' said the pig. 'I'd lose my seniority,' said the cow. 'I'd lose my unemployment compensation,' said the goose. 'Then I will do it by myself,' said the little red hen, and so she did.
At last it came time to bake the bread. 'Who will help me bake the bread?' asked the little red hen. 'That would be overtime for me,' said the cow. 'I'd lose my welfare benefits,' said the duck. 'I'm a dropout and never learned how,' said the pig. 'If I'm to be the only helper, that's discrimination,' said the goose. 'Then I will do it by myself,' said the little red hen.
She baked five loaves and held them up for all of her neighbors to see. They wanted some and, in fact, demanded a share. But the little red hen said, 'No, I shall eat all five loaves.'
'Excess profits!' cried the cow 'Capitalist leech!' screamed the duck. 'I demand equal rights!' yelled the goose. The pig just grunted in disdain And they all painted 'Unfair!' picket signs and marched around and around the little red hen, shouting obscenities.
Then the farmer came. He said to the little red hen, 'You must not be so greedy.' 'But I earned the bread,' said the little red hen. 'Exactly,' said the farmer. 'That is what makes our free enterprise system so wonderful. Anyone in the barnyard can earn as much as he wants. But under our modern government regulations, the productive workers must divide the fruits of their labor with those who are lazy and idle.'
And they all lived happily ever after, including the little red hen, who smiled and clucked, 'I am grateful, for now I truly understand. But her neighbors became quite disappointed in her. She never again baked bread because she joined the 'party' and got her bread free. And all the socialists smiled. 'Fairness' had been established.

A Woman's Body? What?

I continue to hear from people in and near my circle about the upcoming election and the reasons to vote or not vote for a candidate. While the issue of abortion has been brought up in this campaign like it has in most recent campaigns, this post is not really about politics...but it is about abortion.

I continue to hear the arguments against making abortions illegal and it seems the most common one is that the government doesn't have a right to tell a woman what she can do with her body. That's sounds really nice but I would beg to differ. I think the law has a lot to say about what a woman...or man for that matter...does with her body.

If I were a prostitute, and I am not, I would use the same argument. Who does the government think they are? I mean if 2 consenting adults want to have sex and exchange some money, why do they care?
And what about drug use...If I were a drug addict, and I am not, I would argue that the government is being unfair and overbearing in their treatment of me. If I want to use a drug that may cause harm to my body I have the right to do so without governmental interference, no?
And what about laws that imprison those who MAY be a threat to themselves? You don't even have to harm yourself...just potential threat is enough to be locked up against your will. So if I were into self-mutilation, and I am not, I would argue that it is my constitutional right to be able to do with my body anything I wish...because this same argument works for abortion rights.
In fact, I think that abortion would be more closely associated with someone being a threat to themselves and others. We can call it a choice, a right or whatever we want but at the end of the day what is being destroyed is a human that is forming and growing. If I called the authorities (government) and said that I was thinking of harming myself and my infant I would promptly be arrested and detained until a time that a professional deemed my to be sane and competent. Yet, if a woman calls the authorities and says that she wants to have an abortion they don't bat an eye...that's weird to me since "abortion" is code for "I want to have this human living inside of my body murdered and removed".

Anyway, I know that few topics are more controversial than abortion but since I am not one to shy away from controversy I had no problem dealing with it today.

I will finish with a reminder to those who claim and intend to follow Jesus, me included. Whether you are a man or a woman you are not your own. You have been bought at a price.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hippocrates and Jesus

First of all...props to my buddy Robert for mentioning the most popular statement from the Hippocratic Oath and doing so in relationship to Social Justice. The Hippocratic Oath, in its classical form, includes within the practice of medicine the declaration to do no harm...and it goes further in that vein to state "I will keep them from harm and injustice."

That's amazing to me to think that Hippocrates was concerned with the idea of injustice and the role of the physician to keep people from it. While it may be less than remarkable for someone to be concerned about justice and injustice, it is remarkable to me to think that someone largely in a reactionary capacity, like a physician in the 4th Century, seemed to understand that actions lead to unintended such, in doing no harm the physician, according to Hippocrates, should be able to look ahead to the chain of events that treatment can cause. I think society today, specifically American Society, can learn a thing or two from Hippocrates about doing no harm and keeping people from harm and injustice.

I recall a stark contrast between the two internships I did in Africa. The area of greatest contrast was that of assisting the indigenous people. While interning with Greg Newton in Tanzania in 1998 I learned a strategy that was essentially a hands-off approach. I understood Greg to operate from the standpoint that he was there to bring the good news of Jesus and while that may well include aid of some kind in some places, providing aid to any significant degree within that tribe would likely serve as an obstacle to his real mission at some point. In 2000 my time with the Aja Tribe of West Africa was completely different. I remember a meeting, several actually, that centered around providing food for the villages who had a poor crop of corn. I also saw the almost daily visitors that would come by for money...having had the previous internship I wondered if the message of Jesus was being drowned out or lived out by the assistance. I still wonder about that today.

In my society I wonder if the entitlement programs are great ways to provide help to the down and out...I think Jesus called some people, "the least of these". Are we "doing no harm" by providing generation after generation shelter, food, healthcare, etc.? Do we keep people from injustice through the provision of basic needs or do we further enslave people through continued governmental support...never encouraging or rewarding self-sufficiency, independence or advancement?

I think it is important to remember that justice doesn't equal "easy", "comfortable" or even "natural". Some times justice is difficult. Remember the words of Twain..."Men and rivers both become crooked when the easy way is taken". If we really desire social justice and if, as followers of Jesus, we really wish to do the best things for people and do them out of love, perhaps the best thing for us to do is make sure that through aid, help or programs, we are not doing harm or indirectly creating a new form of injustice. If we will do that I think both Hippocrates and Jesus will smile on us.

And by the isn't really original to link the Hippocratic Oath to Jesus. A 12th Century Byzantine Manuscript of the Oath was written in the shape of a cross. Go Monks!!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Night With Brian McLaren

Last night I had the chance to share in a great conversation with Brian McLaren. I say that it was great because how often does a small group of maybe 20 people get to spend any meaningful amount of time with a thought-leader and author on the scale of a Brian McLaren? It was also great because it was thought provoking...and really for me it was emotion-provoking.

What I mean by that is that I left very frustrated, a bit angry and disillusioned...if you don't know me you may not realize that those emotions for me are not necessarily negative emotions at all. Typically my frustration is linked to a certain level of dissonance and my anger is due to some system in my life that just isn't completely functional. Here are some of my rather frustrating thoughts from the conversation...

1. McLaren is supporting Obama. I am not. But that's not the frustrating part. I can handle and actually value differing opinions. The frustrating part is that it seems that McLaren is putting a lot of stock in politics in general. After discussing some of the "systems" he describes in detail in his book, "Everything Must Change", I asked Brian if he feels like his participation in politics...even to the degree to endorse a not participating in the dysfunctional systems that he says "must change". His response was that by note voting he feels that we are really voting to maintain the status quo. He doesn't like the status quo and as we have all so often heard, "the only thing required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing". I think McLaren is making the mistake made for so long by the "Conservative-Christians" in thinking that the only or even the best way to get things done or accomplish work for the Kingdom is through political means. Obviously some of the words of Jesus are political in that they are subversive. However, I think the people who most interacted and supported politics during the times of Jesus were not those primarily concerned with the Kingdom of God....probably in some form they were the Herodians, Pharisees and Sadducees. If that is indeed the case, why would any of us, Brian included, feel that not voting is some how detrimental or even negative?

2. I learned a cool yet troubling stat that Mike shared with us all last night. This stat is angering because it is yet another example of people of faith not putting their faith and walk with Jesus where their mouth is (myself included). In the state of Alabama there are 10,280 churches. That seems like a lot but it is really about one church for every 440 people in Alabama. Here is the kicker...guess how many children in Alabama are in foster care? 10,000!!! So that means that if every church...not every family or every person, but if just each church agreed to raise a child in this state the foster program would be empty. This would have amazing and far reaching effects in the state and within the Kingdom of God. Imagine the social, physical, emotional and spiritual implications of this act...yet most churches and the people that flood the church pews weekly seem more focused on politics, finances and growth strategies than on the 10,000 children within our state in need of a stable and loving home. Go figure.

3. I am increasingly aware of the arrogance on both sides of political and social issues. Though I have often tread there as well, noticing it is now pretty nauseating. For example, last night as we were discussing social justice and compassion a great question was raised by someone. The analogy that was being used was how followers of Jesus might be continuing to enable systemic dysfunction if we rescued people out of a dangerous river without ever asking why people were continually pushed or jumped into the river to begin with. He asked how McLaren would distinguish between the people who have chosen to be social victims and therefore to some degree "deserve" some of the crap in their lives versus those who are victims at no fault of their own. In keeping with the analogy...who is being pushed into the perilous water and who is jumping?
The response by some in the room...including me...was that it was a very valid question and one I often ask. Right or wrong, I am much more likely to be generous or sympathetic to those who haven't chosen to jump in the river. The reaction from some...judging the rolling eyes and the "what an idiot" looks was as though this guy was a buffoon for even suggesting that some people choose to be victims or choose to not have a great life. It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that for every Rush Limbaugh there is a Bob Beckle...for every sincere question on either side there is an arrogant reaction.

Over all the meeting was a good experience...enlightening to say the least.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Truth Becomes Relative When We Push Agendas

I have enjoyed watching a certain sector of our political and media groups change their opinions quickly and drastically. The flip-flop of the week happens to be over Sara Palin. The more liberal types, specifically the women liberation folks, have long said that the more conservative groups were too dominated by males and the lone way a woman could get ahead or get into the White House was to support a Democratic Agenda and Democratic Candidates. That was one of the things that Obama has said needs to "change". And behold...a woman has broken through the "glass ceiling" on the Republican side and is she celebrated? Is she a hero to women everywhere? Hell No!

So far, Palin has been portrayed as an irresponsible mother since she has 5 children and isn't at home to raise them. She has been compared to something on par with white-trash because her 17 year-old daughter is pregnant and not married. I vividly remember the media portraying certain evangelical folks as mean and closed minded when they suggested the same about famous girls in Hollywood in similar circumstances. Palin's youngest child has Downs she applauded for her willingness to love and give birth to a child that will be a challenge to her and her family? Nope! Bringing life into this world has been called a mistake. Why? Why? Why?

Where is the National Organization for Women? They should demand that their feminist supporters support this woman for VP. Where is the ACLU...demanding DNA tests from Palin to disprove the rumor about her daughter being the biological mother of her youngest child being made of anyone else would be met with mass hysteria. Has anyone asked for a DNA sample from Obama...I mean, what if one of his daughters is really the result of his wife having a little sexual action on the side? Has anyone asked McCain, Obama or Biden how they have been able or if they will be able to be good fathers and be an elected official? It only makes sense that if Palin can't be a good mother and the VP, neither can Biden be a decent husband, father or grandfather.

I love the idea of Palin being the VP candidate. Not just because of anything she stands for or because she seems to be a pretty tough lady...but because she has helped shed some light on some groups who have been able to operate under the radar and under false pretense. Just like Obama being the democratic nominee makes the need for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to go through the country crying (and taking up donations) about inequality obsolete, Palin makes the women's rights groups less important, especially if she ends up being the VP. The "Reverend" Jesse Jackson said that he wants to cut the "nuts" off Obama...I suppose the liberal women want to lob off Palin's breast? Who knows...

And, since I am fair and balanced...why not point a finger at the more conservative groups too? I am sick and damn tired of hearing about the christian conservatives and the issue of abortion, same-sex marriage and the separation of church and state. If I can shed a little of my opinionated light on these topics for a bit you may see why I say that.

For 6 straight years we had as leadership in this country:

George Bush-a conservative, christian, republican

Congress controlled in both the House and Senate by conservative, christian, republicans

and arguably a 5-4 majority in the U.S. Supreme Court of conservative, christian, republicans.

List for me the efforts made or even discussed on the abortion issue....I'm waiting....nothing? Well "nothing" actually is the correct answer. The men and women, elected largely by christian conservatives to combat the "evils of liberalism" such as abortion and same-sex marriage did not once vote to outlaw abortion or otherwise overturn Roe v. Wade.

Well at least they outlawed gay marriage right? ....that utter silence is only broken by the proverbial chirping crickets....because we all know that these conservative christian men and women didn't have the first election regarding the "sanctity of marriage".

Well, at least we can now have the absurd notion of separation of church and state tossed aside, right? Nope...sorry, these people, again, conservative...well, you know, didn't once vote on the first aspect of this issue what did these christians in "leadership" do while in control for 6 years? In fairness they did vote to begin a war in Afghanistan and Iraq...I think they voted themselves a pay raise...and um, they...well, they had to have, ummm, uh. OK, much more of that and I will be reading like Obama without a tele-prompter.

Unfortunately, it seems that agendas abound on both sides of the political aisles. We can try to push these agendas through the fear of taxes, fear of losing social security or fear of something the end of the day it is difficult to see any aspects of God abounding on either side. In American politics everyone has a price, and please note that I said everyone...for some it is comfort, power and name recognition. For others I suppose it is 30 pieces of silver...but it is still a price and it is still compromise for the sake of control...not really a Godly proposition.

Speaking of "Godly Agendas" and people using the name of God to invoke emotion, reaction and zeal...a friend of mine reminded me today of this quote...can you guess who said it?

"Everyone in the country needs to turn to the one true God and ask for forgiveness, and submit to His law. We all need to turn back to our roots and pursue God and His righteousness.
We must immediately pull all US forces out of Iraq and the Middle East in general.
The government must not allow this fall into moral decay. It must forbid evil with the hand, tongue and heart. The Scripture is holy and must be in a place of honor in government.
The US is currently so immoral and debaucherous, wrapped up in material greed and sexual sin, that God will bring judgment upon it. Who can forget President Clinton's immoral acts committed in the Oval Office? After that, the US did not even bring him to account, other than that he 'made a mistake', after which everything passed with no punishment."

That's too easy, right? James Dobson? Jerry Falwell? What about Max Lucado? Billy Graham?

No's kind of a trick question because though it sounds very christian and very conservative, the lone aspect of "liberal" politics could give it away as neither "christian" nor "conservative"...the one who spoke the above is none other than the most wanted man in the world....Osama Bin Laden.

and in the words of Paul Harvey....Good Day!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Living and The Dead

Obviously death, dying and a deep meaning and understanding of life has been on my mind lately. In the Bible I find a very fine line between the living and the dead and that line doesn't always have to do with a beating heart or functional bodily organs. Jesus claims to have come so that we might have life and have it to the full. So obviously some people live lives that are more full than others. We also hear Jesus refer to some people who presumably have decent vital signs from a usual perspective but he calls them "white-washed tombs"...nice to look at but dead and rotting inside.
I have visited this idea many times in the past and quite a bit recently. At my aunts funeral I came to realize more than ever that life and death are defined by God alone and that God's operational definition has little to do with a pulse, blood pressure or functioning brain...but it does have everything to do with the heart.

I hate to single anyone out (not really but I am suppose to feel that way, right?) so I will do my best to speak in code...
My aunt Lynda now lives. She is alive in heaven and I don't question for a minute if she is dead. She lived a life of service to God and others and her incredible faith carried her until God did call her home. We are promised in God's Word that we will never die if we have a life hidden in Him.

By stark contrast, I have another family member who is still alive...according to worldly stipulations anyway. Despite her pulse, she is as cold as a block of dry ice. She has a blood pressure but she is a calloused as the palms of a lumberjack. She may be walking and talking, much to the dismay of many, but she isn't alive. In fact, she has been dead for some time now. I don't know how she died but she did and now she seeks to insure that others die with her...or at least hangout with her in her own grave of pitiful spite, regrettable envy and limitless bitterness. She spews venom when she speaks and no one can cast a shadow of darkness over an already gloomy funeral scene like her.

I pray she will change but nothing has been a catalyst for that change yet. She doesn't have a relationship with those you would think she would die to know, her own child most specifically...and its by her choice I might add. She doesn't seek to know some of her grandchildren...who are really amazing young people, despite her siblings begging her to and reminding her that the people she distances herself from are her own flesh and blood. She is pitiful but it goes beyond that. To me, being pitiful implies that one can't do any better. She is to be pitied but she is also to be avoided. While I hate the plight she has deliberately chosen for herself, I hate more so that she has deliberately chosen it. She will die a physical death one day...alone and bitter, and my regret for her personally will be that she chose to never live.

Until that day, I pray she changes. I pray in some way she can become a more loving and kind person. Forgive my skepticism but I just don't see her changing. I am sorry for her child, grandchildren and others who continue to miss out on life with a mother/grandmother...but under the circumstances, I can't really say that they are missing anything that they would prefer to miss. I hope that hearing the good reputation and legacy of love and service her own sister left behind will mean something to her and will prompt fact, if that didn't touch someone at the funeral I would encourage them to check their pulse...but being alive and being dead is what we are talking about anyway, right?

I pray that we all learn to live a full, abundant life...a life measured in love. If we don't we will be this life and in the life to come.