Saturday, February 25, 2012



It was her instant answer to the question I posed to the group of young Christians. She didn't hesitate for even three seconds.

"Outrage," she said.

The question was this: If instead of his speech to Congress after 9/11 in which President Bush had promised to find and bring the cowardly killers to "justice" (usually code for "war"), suppose President Bush had instead proposed a different way forward. Suppose he had read the Beatitudes instead. What would have been the reaction?"

"Outrage," was the one-word answer.

No one in the group offered a different assessment. It seemed that I had tapped a category of thought so alien to us that it was as empty as the near-vacuum of space.

Last Tuesday, word leaked out that some Q'urans and other Islamic religious materials had been burned in a fire pit used to dispose of garbage and other refuse outside Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

There was immediate and predictable outrage. At least 28 people are known dead, hundreds more wounded. For many in the impoverished land of Afghanistan, the routine of life has been brought to a complete halt.

Thursday, two Americans were killed in retaliation. Yesterday, two more Americans were shot dead right at their desks in the Interior Ministry. They have families somewhere. So do the soldiers now on even higher alert. These soldiers' job had become much more difficult, if not impossible.

How did the books come to be fuel for a garbage fire? How was the decision made? Were they torn up fragments being given a dignified disposal by fire as one is to do with a torn U.S. flag? Would anyone consider burning a U.S. flag in need of retirement along with food scraps, packing material and other wastes?

No. We would be outraged.

But outrage leads only to more outrage.

That is, unless the cycle is somehow broken by responding another way. Jesus spoke the Beatitudes for a reason. It wasn't to show off a class writing project the he himself was going to read for a project--and then never pay attention to again.

The Beatitudes weren't a liberal coward's way out of the hard questions of life: great in theory but absolutely no traction on the road of life.

They are the word of God spoken by none other than the Word of God.

There's enough outrage to last eons.

Maybe a different kind would be nice to try for a change.

Why haven't we taken Jesus more seriously? At his word...?

That's, well... an outrage.



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lord Save Us

At Operation Nightwatch Bible study this month, we've been viewing and discussing Dan Merchant's 2008 documentary film "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers--Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing America?" In one segment, Merchant looks at the culture wars and our efforts to assign blame to things like "Hollywood".

At one point, local screenwriter Mike Rich (Finding Forrester and others) comments that people ask him frequently
"Why doesn't Hollywood make more (wholesome) movies like____(fill in blank)_______?"

His frank reply? "Because people don't go to see them, that's why."

Merchant's work is quite timely because one of the prominently featured Christians on screen is now a serious contender for the GOP nomination... And so far, some of his campaign sound bites seem set to ignite a culture war all over again.

I can't tell you how many adults and elders I have met--people in positions of leadership in churches and community institutions--who say they no longer read or subscribe to our state's largest newspaper "because there's never anything good in it."

Secretly, I wonder if their TV and cable viewing patterns would be consistent with that. Those same folks would have missed this story this week by a local secular journalist (also in the documentary film, BTW) who also cares passionately about people:
So, yes, indeed. Lord, please do save us from your followers (ourselves) if we aren't humbled and inspired by these stories only because we have refused to look. Every dollar we spend, every hour we devote, shapes the community and the world we live in, for good or for ill.

As Christians, we are by definition good news people. Sometimes, it's right under our noses just waiting for us to be part of it.

Pastor Roger

Monday, February 13, 2012

Speaking in Tongues

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Acts 2:3-4 NRSV

What happened back there in Jerusalem among these first believers during the festival of Pentecost?

This passage has always given me the "willies", mostly because I don't trust the experience of the people who insist that they've genuinely had it. Or that it did any good.

Apostle Paul cautioned that unless it could be made sense of by another person (interpreted) for the good of the community, the practice of speaking in tongues should mostly be shut down.

Paul gave much more weight to prophecy. Somebody needed to speak on behalf of God in a way that helped the whole faith community to do the work of God in the world.

That would inevitably mean overcoming their own internal and external obstacles.

* * * * * * *
She was as wound up as the main spring of a grandfather clock that has stopped running... when the attempt by everyone to restart it has been to wind the spring a little tighter rather than oiling the bearings and washing out the gum deposits that have brought the movement to a halt.

She spoke in fluent English. Heavily tinted with the accent of another language, her mother tongue.

She had much emotion to unload. So many disparate details that I could not begin to hold them all. She has obviously experienced some trauma in her life. How much real, how much imagined I will never know. Regardless, it's what she carries.

I listened to a ton of it. I hope it helped her to expend and release this energy. Maybe her internal pressure gage dropped a few PSI. I hope so.

It reminds me of a time when my daughter had a lot to unload. Nobody would have accused her of "speaking in tongues" as we imagine some highly spiritual and churchy experience. But she sure had a tongue of fire. And at that point in time, it was my job to hear and absorb as much of it as she could unload.

I hope the firey tongues I experienced recently from another person helped her. I know what I heard is only a portion of what she has at times experienced in life. And she carries it with her.

Maybe instead of seeking to speak in tongues as evidence of a spiritual experience we should seek to "listen in tongues". That is, can we be spectacular listeners and observers?

God help us to listen when the firey tongues around us open up a bit. God help us to be calm in a storm.



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Halftime in America

Halftime in America...

The rusty voice of Dirty Harry stirred up the dust at the big football party. I guess. I wasn't there to see or hear it.
A video replay is available at:

Truth be told, I sure don't miss Nixon. I also don't miss the amnesia of President Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" feel-goodism.

Same President Reagan who answered the most difficult questions concerning some presidential conduct (Iran-Contra, arms for hostages in Iran, no less) with the immortal words,
"Uh... well... I don't recall."

Truth is, he may have been telling the truth.

But long before his sad descent into Alzheimer's disease, one of his White House speech writers said that Reagan had "this marvelous ability to reinvent reality." You could play back to Reagan a recording of what he had just said 10 minutes ago, and Reagan could insist passionately and sincerely that he had never said such a thing.

His own speechwriter said that...

It may explain how President Reagan could be seen as a fiscal conservative yet embark on a $5 trillion defense buildup while never proposing one balanced budget during his eight years in office. Years later, V.P. Dick Cheney took that fumble and ran with it, crowing, "President Reagan proved that budget deficits didn't matter." Maybe not at the time...

But it's our fault as a free people, because we chose not to make deficits matter to us. If somebody could make us feel good... RR did that for some of us. For a while.

We have so much to do in this country. Amid a tsunami of negative political campaigning with tidal waves more yet to come, I found the replay of the Clint Eastwood pep talk an absolute breath of fresh air.

Next best thing was that I read that Karl Rove was "offended" by it. Really? SWELL!!!!

Personally, I've always been pretty offended by Karl Rove. He was not alone by any means, but if any one person in the USA helped steer us to the negative polarities and stagnation we are at now, it was Mr. Rove.

Here's something from Mr. Rove's bio. I read a few years ago that Mr. Rove had attended six colleges but had degrees from none of them.

There are people who are geniuses who don't need degrees. I'll grant that. And Mr. Rove was indeed a master of his craft in the same way that Bonnie and Clyde were masters of theirs. For a while.

But there are also people whose work ought to be peer reviewed. And as Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians who believed that grace had made all things "lawful" for them, even incest and feasting on idol's food, "Not all things are helpful." (1 Cor 6:12)

We might ponder this. On Sunday when the two teams were in the locker rooms, were their coaches hammering them with 99.5% negative ads?
Not all things are helpful.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dreamboat II

Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine. Genesis 41:35-36.

Joseph, sold by siblings in that early record of human trafficking, becomes the voice like the one in the Simon and Garfunkel song, "Sounds of Silence."
"The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls..."

That's happened more than once in history. But you can have prophetic writings all over the place to no avail if the decision makers of society never go out to read them, never ponder them in their hearts.

Pharaoh had dreams. Joseph, the foreignor of the slave-worker class, had the key. "Seven fat years," Joseph told Pharaoh, "and then seven lean ones after that." Pharaoh built a safety net. At God's direction.

How about that? World superpower, construction giant. Inventors of paper and beer, metal smelters, irrigators, sculptors, artists, scholars, historians, medical rearchers and surgeons... That's who the Egyptians were. Their legacy is still world-renowned.

But God doesn't set them up for extinction by giving them seven fat years so that they over-build, over-spend and over-consume, only to die off when they are totally unprepared for the seven years of famine. God gives them the safety net through Pharaoh's dreams and Joseph's interpretation.

Pagan privilege or wisdom of the ages?

Mitt Romney says he's not concerned about the very poor because they have "the safety net." If it's in need of repair, he'll fix it. So he says.
If he becomes president of these Divided/United States of America (read 99:1), I intend to nail his unsoiled lapels to the wall holding him accountable.

"The" safety net. Boy, I'd give my last dollar to have him define that for me. "The" safety net is a monolithic, universal, one-size-fits-all glove that absolutely fixes everything for everybody in need?

Probably how he sees it from his perch. Goes around in $100 ironed blue jeans, pressed shirts and manicured hair trying to look like one of the rest of us. Sure.

Complains about needed defense budget cuts and troop reductions (gotta rein in that gov't spending, right?)... Wants to add 100,000 to the numbers of troops in uniform. Says nothing about dollars. Sure. Maybe he'll pay them out of interest earnings from his blind trusts and offshore accounts. Sure.

Just witnessed over a decade of war on two fronts, 85K American troops still in Afghanistan, complains about government spending without talking about how to finance wars, yet has five healthy sons, not ONE of whom has spent a single day in uniform in service of this country.

Yet there are thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and their families who have seen two, three, four, five or more deployments. One deployment for every one of his kids...

Nice that these military familes without jobs have "the" safety net. Nice that he and his family have had these underlings to serve as the Romney family's safety net in a decade of having our nation at war on two fronts.
It ain't too late for any of 'em to enlist. The election doesn't happen for nine months yet.

I must confess disillusionment. For years, I've heard it again and again and again. All the business of wasteful spending on poor people. Wasteful spending on mental health services, treatment for addictions, housing, infrastructure that would help people without cars get to jobs--if they existed, wasteful spending on schools and such frills as arts and music, as if man could live by math and science alone. All the ways we cut off the hands and fingers of God... I've heard it. And I get it.

There are people who believe that every last dollar ever spent by government is a wasted dollar and that the way to fix any safety net is to so thoroughly cut holes in it that anything in the net falls completely through it and into the abyss.

Then, to use the succinct description of H. Ross Perot, "problem solved!"
COMMENT: H. Ross Perot would never advocate what I've just said; but many talking heads today would. And do. And in all fairness to them, I actually believe that Mitt Romney really is a moderate by comparison.
I suspect that wealth can blind us, though. I don't know for sure because I'm not wealthy. And God knows, I never will be. So I don't know. Just living out my own prejudices, I guess.

But this much I do know. If Pharaoh ran on the platform of a seven year safety net that included the people of Matthew 25:40, I'd vote for that dude. In a heartbeat.
He'd be my dreamboat.

Seven years of holidays, and all I see is the sea...

Father, give us leaders who can really see.
Father, give us leaders who haven't spent their whole lives in prosperity.
Father, rasie up for us prophets like Joseph and Jesus.
And, Father, give us leaders who can walk a cubit in Pharaoh's sandalprints. Amen.