Saturday, April 30, 2011

royal wedding, american response, and my thoughts

nothing capitalized in the title seems appropriate at this point.

I did not rise at 4am to see the wedding. Yes, I have a great love for Wales and all (well, most) things Welsh. The prince (not really being Welsh) does not fit into this same deep passion - yet. So, the wedding was not of interest to me.

Furthermore, I am an American of the breed that still considers our rebellion against the crown, and the what it stood/stands for as a good thing. So, once again my egalitarian proclivities made the world's hub-bub over a wedding of two young people seem silly.

Stopping at the grocery store today the checker and the bagger were two older black ladies. They both chattered to me about the royal wedding. The checker said "I went to England today." Now  she merely meant she stayed up all night and spent her day watching the ceremony and the post ceremony, and the replays and all. I found myself intrigued by this interest in the royal wedding on the part of two older African American women in Lynn, MA.

So I ask myself, what is this interest? and is it good?

Is it romanticism driven by the knight upon the white horse and perfect happy ending picture, which drew these women to the royal wedding?

Or is it the crude greed of capitalism creating this romantic picture, for a good advertising moment, and willingly posing it against the values of the American spirit.

Does this wedding give hope that the common person can rise up from the bottom to reach high dreams, or does it create a dreamy lottery ticket version of that same hope? 

Does this wedding remind us of the beauty and integrity of marriage, or create a retreat from the hard work of relationships into the escapist world of romance novels?

Does this wedding remind us of the commonality and equality of all people - that we all put our wedding garments on in the same way, and share the same need for companionship or does it distance us from a certain set of our fellow human beings, by setting a standard of elegance, and earthly perfection no one else will be able to attain?

It is possible that is does good for one person, and sets up a poor identity for another. So the event is neither good for the world, nor bad, but some small combination of both.

These are my thoughts, and my critiques, and my night ramblings. 

One of the two elderly black ladies at the grocery store mentioned that she was getting married soon. 

I said, "Your wedding is going to be better than the royal wedding." and I meant it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Good Friday Revolution

Today the world's greatest revolution began. The overthrow of the power systems of this world were set in motion. Kingdoms shall fall, rulers shall fail, and all leaders shall be matched against the values of this revolution. In the end of times everything shall be stripped away except that which has been built upon the tenets of this revolutionary movement.

Horrifically, those who are key mediators of this revolution often do not understand its social and corporate ramifications, and as a consequence we build structures contradictory to the revolution itself. Today, Good Friday, is a day which calls us back to the dark beginnings of this revolution.

This revolution was founded in gentleness, and seeded in sacrifice. Its arrival was announced in parables spoken, and healings performed by the wandering Nazarene, but its full blown and violent genesis was paradoxically initiated in the loss, betrayal, death, and confusion of the cross.

Today the earth shakes beneath the kingdoms of this world, and the barriers between the clergy and laity are being ripped from above - by Heaven itself, and we are being called back to the revolution. In darkness we enter it, in hopes of emerging to the dawning of a new day.

Could this day mark both the beginning of the revolution and the end of the all our world's power systems? Will every nation, every denomination, and every corporation be judged and found wanting on the basis of this day? Will every person stand facing the call of accountability to the values of the cross of Christ? Is today both the beginning of the revolution and the end of it as well? Could it be that not only all our sins, but all the power structures of this world were slain at Calvary in some radical act of revolution?  Is this what He meant when He died and said, "It is finished?"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Synchroblog on Living Under a Rock

So the Synchrobloggers live on, and this month I have finally rejoined the fray after threatening to do so for a number of months. This month the topic was about Christianity living under a rock. Nice! Rock on Synchies! Here's the list of the all the bloggers invovled:

Phil Wyman at Square No More –  Apocalyptic fervor spurs benevolent giving (oh, that's me)
Marta Layton at Marta’s Mathoms – Getting Out From Behind The Rock
Alan Knox at the assembling of the church – Living The Resurrected Life
Mike Victorino at  Simply A Night Owl – Crawling Out From Under A Rock
John Paul Todd at E4Unity - Still Asleep In the Light
Patrick Oden at Ravens – A Resurrection
Brambonius at Brambonius’ blog in english - hiding the Resurrection life like a candle under a bucket?
George Elerick at The Love Revolution – (for)getting the resurrection
Jeff Goins at Jeff Goins Writer – Resurrection
Tammy Carter at Blessing the Beloved – Rock and a Hard Place
Kathy Escobar at the carnival in my head – little miracles
Christen Hansel at Greener Grass – Resurrection Rhythm
Christine Sine at Godspace – Palm Sunday Is Coming But What Does It Mean
Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity – Living The Resurrection
Steve Hayes at Khanya – Descent into Hell and penal substitution
Bill Sahlman at Creative Reflections – Do We Live Under a Rock of Belief?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Apocalyptic fervor spurs benevolent giving

Thousands of born-again Christians are selling their homes across the United States. They are signing over their bank accounts to non-Christian relatives, and giving away everything they own to their neighbors. This appears to be spurred by an apocalyptic fervor.

Family Radio owner and founder Harold Camping has declared that an event called the rapture will occur on May 21st. On that day faithful followers will suddenly disappear and go to be with God in Heaven. "Billions will be left behind to experience the judgment of God," Camping says, "the Bible guarantees it."

Those faithful followers appear to be giving away all they own to people whom they believe will be left behind.

Christian Johns, a carpenter from Salina, KS sold his home, and is living in a tent on the edge of town, beneath a billboard which carries the message of the May 21st Judgment Day. Johns paid for the billboard with his own money just as thousands have done across the US. The rest of his money he gave to a church in Salina whose pastor was recently accused of having affairs with multiple women in the church.

"Well, I know that pastor ain't gonna to be goin' in the rapture." Johns said, "So I gave him the money so he can preach the Gospel to all those people left behind."

Johns' benevolent activity is being modeled across the country. Televangelists' have experienced as much as a 300% increase in donations. Sources indicate that Benny Hinn's ministry is preparing a special series of Left Behind Crusades this summer, and they are purchasing a private vacation island for Rev. Hinn based upon the over abundance of donations in the last few months.

An itinerant preacher not wanting to be named said, "It is generally agreed among us that this is a great time to be a false prophet. A little rapture frenzy is fantastic when it comes time to pass the plate."

In Grand Rapids, MI Muslim families have been finding anonymous envelopes filled with cash left on their doorsteps. Notes left with the cash say, "This should help you through the days of judgment. Just remember, when God's wrath smites you, and your family has the plague Jesus still loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."

Marci, whose family moved to the US from Pakistan 7 years ago is secretly thinking of becoming a Christian, "My neighbor was a very mean man. He told me everyday for 7 years that I was going to go to Hell. Now he moved away, and I found all this money on my doorstep. Maybe Jesus does love me. Jesus got rid of my mean neighbor, and gave me lots of money."

Christian author Tim LaHaye's best selling Christian Fiction series Left Behind is having a sales revival and is climbing up the New York Times best seller list. The sales representative on the phone at Christian Book Dealerrs said that most purchases of Left Behind are being sent as gifts to non-Christian friends and family. The Christian Book Dealers website has a special Judgment Day sale page, but currently lists the Left Behind series as "on order" with a 8 week delay in delivery.

Joshua, 37 who lives with his parents in Florida recently checked out of a drug rehab program when his parents signed over all their assets to him. His parents Jan and Paul Breese are traveling the country warning people of the impending day of judgment.

"We are traveling to as many cities as we possibly can," Jan said while passing out pamphlets in New Orleans recently, "because this is the day we have been excitedly waiting for. Billions are going to be left behind with God's wrath sending them earthquakes, and famines, and plagues and all that stuff."

"I don't know anything about this judgment my mom's talking about," says Joshua, "but it doesn't seem so bad being left behind. I'm throwing a really big party on May 22nd."

for more information on this subject see Left Behind: The Party!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The end of sacrifice and the change of social order

In the current broken condition of this troubled world our heroes and even our simple helpers are people who must rise above the normal activity of self survival, and the constant pursuit of power or pleasure. This is true for all true heroes and for all faithful helpers. The moments of noble heroism, and the actions of honest helpers are recognized by the capacity for people to extend themselves beyond themselves. Their thoughts do not consider their own own health, safety, property, happiness or convenience; and this is what makes them the heroes and helpers who warm our hearts, and change - or maybe even save our lives.

Our broken world requires sacrifice.

It requires sacrifice if the oppressed are to be liberated. It requires sacrifice if the poor are to be promoted and provided for. It requires sacrifice if the lonely are to be befriended, and the disenfranchised included.

Time is sacrificed. Money and personal property are sacrificed. Convenience and simple joys are sacrificed by people everyday. These sacrifices are small intrusions into our lives, which help make another person's life the better. Long term sacrifice of these simple things, and the greater more dramatic sacrifices of life, or personal safety, or liberty, or health, or reputation move a simple person into the realm of heroism.

Heroes are rare because long term or larger sacrifice demands selflessness, and the number of us who think little about ourselves is few.

The search for self is the more common way to live.

Self survival, self promotion, self assertion, self help and any number of other self appeasing practices are the traffic patterns of everyday life. They are the regular activity for all of us. We work to eat and keep a roof over our heads. We stop to play for pleasure. We press forward with dreams in order to accumulate fame and fortune.

Even in helping others we often (but I refuse to say "always" as some would insist) do so tainted with the stain of self promotion.

To complicate the matter, self survival is a necessity. We have been set into the wheel of this rat race and it seems we have to run to remain in the same place.

This is the curse of brokenness.

This broken world demands extra labor in order for it to work normally. We are the recipients of a system drawing down towards a demise whether slow or sudden.

We know this when our computers age, and it takes more time to keep fixing the problems than to accomplish our work for which we bought the computer. A leaking ship must be bailed out constantly just to make it back to port. Our old cars eventually require more work than they are worth. These examples are like our world. Even the maintenance of status quo requires sacrificial labor.

This is evidenced by the scientific and religious trends pointing us toward apocalyptic visions of a decaying and/or judgment bound earth.

So we are called to repentance and to change the way we do things if we are to maintain even the status quo of this broken system in which we live. The call to sacrifice has sounded, and is being shouted at us not only by the voice of religion, but by the voice of science also. Give up something. Do something. Act or die! or at the very least if you do not act you will kill the future for your children. Reduce your carbon footprint, follow the moral codes of God - the clarion of repentance depends upon the source of the call and the apocalypse which is being warned.

This is the call of the generation in which we live. But, is it significantly different than those generations which have gone before? Probably not. We are an apocalyptic people because life is often hard and this world in its broken state always appears to be wearing us and itself down.

The curse of this brokenness is not that things remain the same without significant sacrifice to make them better, but that things are falling apart and moving toward either the dark, cold, heat-death of the universe, or an opposite sudden fiery judgment of God.

Then enters the sacrificing saints, and the exploitation experts.

Every sacrifice we make is being pulled by the tension of this world's brokenness. On one side of the of each sacrifice stands a group of people who are willing to join the cause and help out. They are interested in working alongside you, and are willing to give - even from what little they have. On the other side of each sacrifice stands another group of people who see the sacrifice as an opportunity for personal gain. This group is willing to give a little in order to gain more. They will pull on the heartstrings of your desire to give, and thereby benefit themselves. They will use the momentum of others' work and passion to gain notoriety for themselves.

The sacrificing saints come from every walk of life. They are the poor who have learned that a poor community needs everyone working together for everyone to survive. They are from among the rich, who are thankful for the over-abundance, and realize it comes with responsibility to help those in need.

The exploiters too come from every walk of life. There are poor people who work the systems of sacrifice in order to survive, but they remain always willing to take, and never willing to give. There are rich people who have become rich by exploiting others who are willing to sacrifice, and famous people who have accomplished their successes off of other people's labor.

Sacrifice is weak.

Sacrifice is exploited by those who mimic it's passion to help, and do so only in order to personally gain from being at the fountain of poured out blessings.

Shut-ins give from their small resources to televangelists who promise great blessing from the sacrifice, and drive big cars and stay in luxurious accommodations on the sacrifices of our grandmothers. Non-profit organizations call in millions of dollars a year and somewhere someone cheats the organization, and the resources never reach the intended target except perhaps with a high price. Places such as Haiti and the African continent have been besieged with NGO and non-profit scams. Someone is growing rich on the sacrifices intended to help the poor, the orphaned, and the sick.

The fact that sacrifice inherently carries this weakness does not keep me from doing the right and sacrificial thing - helping others in need. It does cause me to evaluate the places I give to, and consider who I partner with in labors of justice and caring. The weakness of sacrifice also enhances my sense of a final justice. God will judge our thoughts, our goals, and our actions one day.

Sacrifice will not be required in a perfect world.

The day of great justice will be a day of perfection when the brokenness of this world will no longer plague humanity. Where there is no brokenness, no sacrifice will be required to keep the system running.

When that day occurs, those who have lived sacrificially will not struggle with the fact that there will be no more scratching and fighting for survival. They did not struggle against others in the broken system, and by thereby they learned to live in a perfect system without destroying it.

Those who have exploited the sacrifices of others will not survive the perfect world. When there is no more sacrifice they will not know how to live. They have survived off the blood, sweat and tears of others, and the blood sweat and tears will not be there.

I recently wrote a rather dark poem with this theme entitled, "nor smiles upon these leeches' lips". Perhaps it needs this theological description of sacrifice to fully make sense.