Monday, June 16, 2008

Honest Conversation, part I

Happy Father's Day, PDX!

Well, it was yesterday, of course. Time to ponder this important role. And repair it. But on to the point.

My old military colleague plans to write a book. He lives in an upscale community on the West Coast, but his roots are in the rust belt of Pennsylvania. He's interested in social trends and what has happened to his place of origin: white flight, decreasing population, increasing poverty, increasing crime. He notes that so-called liberal interests have sought to bring low income housing to the area he now lives in but have been prevented from doing so by strong opposition (from folks like himself). He notes that the difference between where he now lives and where he used to live in PA is the absence of low income people of a certain race. He wonders "when we can have an honest conversation" about this without eliciting cries of racism.

I put on my thinking cap and replied with four questions for him to ask himself:

1. Whis is/are "we"?
2. What is conversation?
3. What is "honest conversation", as opposed to the dishonest variety?
4. What is my expectation of the conversation?

These questions made me think about them also. I'll share my thoughts tomorrow.


Pastor Roger

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Christian Supply


Went to the Christian Supply store yesterday in search of a small, cheap communion set. Current one-day/week supply ministry has me calling on people who can't get to church. Two men, both veterans, and anyone else sick or just out of the hospital.

I can barely stand to set foot inside the Christan Supply store. It's as though I need to hold my breath before entering, quickly run inside to see if I can find what I need/want, then escape to breathe the fresh vehicle exhaust on busy SE Division Street. Really. Went there once looking for candles. Found better, cheaper ones at Fred Meyer. Far better, way cheaper.

Since the word "Christian" is always used as a noun in the New Testament, never as an adjective, should I understand the name of this store this way? That is, does it supply Christians to the world? I didn't see any on the shelves. I did see a lot of needless junk that will soon end up in landfills. There's a yellow and black plastic flashlighlight made in China. It's Christian, I guess, because it has a sticker saying something about Jesus lighting the way. Batteries not included. Life expectancy of the product? About 10 weeks if you never use or drop it.

There are bad art prints of a Jesus so cosmetized, idealized and fictionalized that he would never touch lepers, tax collectors and sinners. Not without 24 hours at a day spa, hair mousse and a pedicure.

The music department is a mystery. Large flat screen TV's run non-stop videos of "Christian" rock conerts with light shows, blue smoke in the air, screaming teens, weeping SUV Moms and Jesus-haired young studs wearing five kinds of die-cast metal crosses. Each. I have scrounged and scrounged and scrounged the recordings looking for things I could use to lead the singing at my little Operation Nightwatch worship service on Sunday evenings. Almost all of it is unusable because it is about performance, hype, manufactured and manipulated emotions that encourage listening but not singing, non-participation rather than participation. In other words, a concert, not worship. Even the stuff packaged and promoted as designed for leading worship. I thought worship was about doing, not watching...

Is this what it takes to be a Christian in consumer culture? Do we comment on our culture by not only copying it but also by trying to outdo it?

Never did find a communion set. Cheapest ones I have seen in catalogs have been around 40 bucks. They go way up from there depending on how much cuteness you want.

Escaped empty-handed. Ah, the fresh exhaust and traffic noise! L'chaim!

Went to the little Salvation Army thrift store on NE Halsey Street. Found a nice little blue/white china dish (Israelite colors) for a paten and a nice little glass goblet for a chalice for 99 cents each. Found a great little Liz Claiborne genuine leather bag for $2.50. All I have to do is shorten the strap. No vinyl. No shipping clear from China. Well-made. Sturdy. Simple. Basic. Not destined for a landfill or rummage sale in 90 days. Total price: $4.48.

WWJB? What would Jesus buy if he went to Christian Supply? Is this what he had in mind as the fulfillment of seeking first the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof?

What do you think?

About 10 blocks away men stand on the I-205 overpass with their signs. Several weeks ago one of them, a Vietnam vet, said to me, "I've been standing on this bridge for six years and no one has ever offered me a job." And we consumers bitch about the economy and gas prices.

I guess we've all been too busy trying to get to the next source of Christian supply. WWJB?


Pastor Roger

Friday, June 6, 2008


A moment of silence, please!

June 6, 1944. D-Day. Sixty-four years ago over 6,000 Americans died on the coast of Normandy. More by nearly half than in 5+ years of the war in Iraq, more than in six months of 1967 during the costliest period of the war in Vietnam. Many didn't even get to fire their rifles. Some drowned. Many didn't even make it ashore. That was just the first day.

It seems a ghastly sum of butchered humanity. It was. It is. But alongside the commitment and loss leading up to that point it was a loss considered acceptable, one that could be absorbed.

June 6, 1944.

The Beatles song: "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?"

I'll be that in just over two years. Those who were 20 on D-Day are 84 now. The ones still with us are dying at a rate of over 1,000 a day. Time marches for those long since beyond doing so.

A few moments of silence, please! Amen.


Pastor Roger

Romancing the "R-word"

Good mornin', PDX!

Koine Community forum with Dr. Jeffrrey Parker of Reed College was a great discussion last Wednesday evening. We talked about where dollars go in our community when we buy things, what makes the old economic engine tick along. Or not.

Many interesting questions came up. Such as: Can oil prices continue to rise, can the dollar continue to fall? Yes to both. Could there be a crash? Yes. Is it likely? No one knows, but it's not in the interest of nations such as China that hold megatons of dollars to have that value shrink precipitously. Still..... the U.S. hole of buying more abroad than we send abroad is enormous and getting deeper.

Read a news report today about concerns over job losses and still-higher oil prices. Fear is that "consumers" will stop spending on "nonessentials". Seems 2/3 of our economy is based on consuming nonessentials. If the majority of what keeps our so-called standard of living and quality of life going is nonessential and killing the planet, it's no wonder we are in trouble. And our deathly fear is that there will not be more of it, that it might slow down? Wow!

Luther said that what we cling to in times of distress reveals who and what our god is. Read today that South Carolina is also selling Christian license plates with the words "I believe" on them. Believe? Believe what?

Bible says something like knowing the followers of Christ by their fruit (what they do in the world) not by their license plates. Might it also follow that the same people might by known by their non-consumption rather than their consumption?

Used to be that consumption was a synonym for tuberculosis. Maybe we shoulda left it that way.

Look out for your neighbor today. And tomorrow.

Pastor Roger