The Old College Try

I have no idea why I was able to get a couple of lines of text into a post the other day, whereas previous to that nothing. All I can say is that last time this happened, a week or so into the problem, it suddenly lifted. Not that I went back to blogging as usual. No. I had a new normal. But, it worked. A couple new hoops to jump through, but I was back.

Here I am this morning just allowing time to pass and see if time will tell yet again. Each word and line I type in this post suggests my problem has passed yet again. Though obviously, now, there is every indication that it will come up again unexpectedly.

Life on the web!

I was born a long time before this blogging thing was even possible. To be honest, I am more at home with a phone on a loooooooooong cord that stretches from the kitchen to the back room. (If you are over 40, maybe you know what I mean.)

So… I guess I will stop short of saying “I’m Back, Baby” in this post. Just be grateful that I have a handful of people willing to stop by this blog and check my pulse.

So, to you I say, THANX.

If this goes through

The Conclusion of the Matter

Please listen to this “noise maker” and give your prayer, time, and care to the cause.

Thanx

Prove It

In December of 2020, Manna Cafe director Kenny York spent two weeks as a homeless man in a quest to find a solution to the homelessness crisis in Clarksville. He challenged both government and church by asking, “Do you care? Prove it.” As a result, many of you are now asking, “How can we help? What can we do?” Kenny offered this answer:

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SOS

Here we go AGAIN! I am suddenly revisited by the same gremlins that took over my blog almost six weeks ago and kept it hostage for a couple of weeks (about). I am trying everything my tech-challenged brain can think of to counteract this problem, but I keep running into the same brick wall over and over again. I have no idea if, or when, I will be free of this nonsense again. But I hope to be blogging again soon.

Fat Beggars School of Prophets

I seem to have lost control of my blog. Major technical difficulties here. Trying to

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DAY 4049

I went to Eucharist the other day, and it was like waking from a long, loooooong, deep sleep.  Like coming out of hibernation, and I am not a hibernating animal, so… extra bizarre, really.  Like coming from a coma where I was in a nightmare, only I couldn’t remember the dream when I woke up.  I think, really, I am still just waking up to it.

Eucharist.  Waking up.

I almost can’t remember coming to the table.  Everything changed so drastically once I was there.  It was like a change in epochs.  There was all that came before, and all that will come after, and it all hinged off this table.

I woke up in prison.  A foreign dungeon, damp, dark, and smelly.  A most uncomfortable rot.  All but guaranteed to die there.  And yet somehow alive, like a lamb standing though slain.

Eucharist.  Waking up.

Yeah.  I been meditating lately (as any reader here knows) on The Gospel of Joe and finding Jesus meeting me in dark places in my own heart at the table where Joe dines on the bread of salvation meal at segregated tables, which Brueggemann calls a first run of “separate but equal,” with his brothers who have yet to recognize him, the brother they almost killed, the brother they threw into a pit, the brother they sold into slavery, the brother who had told them of his dreams of greatness and of haybales and stars bowing before him.  That’s a mouthful of table meditations.  But it is only the first course, for at these segregated tables, Joe dines on the bread of salvation which God feeds to a starving world, people from the farthest reaches of empire come to beg his mercy and receive blessed salvation from the foresight God orchestrated in a pagan king’s dream and a prisoner’s dream interpretation.  And the brothers do not recognize him; nor do they see that they have just made his own dreams of grandeur come true when they, not recognizing him (yet fearing him), bowed low before him and begged his mercy.

And I wake up to Jesus there in that meal.

And in Joe, I see Jesus recognize me at the meal as I fail to recognize him – as I fail to fully grasp the crimes, the sins, and the contempt I have put him through as he dies on a cross for me, as I, even now at the meal, still live the lie I call “my life” and bear the burdens of a scorched conscience, and all the spiritual contortions I put myself into just to present a dignified face in front of my other brothers, as I look at the clock and wonder if this is going to take much longer since I have plans.

Eucharist.  Waking up.

And in Joe, I see Jesus withdraw to weep over me.  I can hear him wailing around the corner, and yet I don’t understand.  He sees things in me I don’t see.  He wants to hear word from me about things back home.  He wants this connection with me that has been lost, and here we are so close, so close… so… so… so close to it, and yet my eyes are not open to the truth, the possibilities, the meaning – not yet.  And he is overcome with emotion of all kinds.  And I am sitting there oblivious to the Truth behind the truth.  (Oh, I know some of the truth, but not all of it.  I know I killed my brother a long time ago; I know I have lived a lie ever since; and I know that at this table, I receive life-preserving sustenance, but there are depths and mystery beyond the telling seething just beneath the surface that I have yet to realize, and yet my brother who I killed is here dining with me fully aware of EVERYTHING in the face of my ignorance, and he is overcome with feelings.)  And I can just see it, without seeing.

Eucharist.  Waking up.

I am seeing something else in Joe too.  It’s not all Jesus, at least not just in some straightforward fashion.  It might be someone else.  It might be me.

I see Joe as a young man, a young man full of potential, vigor, and… and… and… DREAMS.  Big dreams.  He even seems fast tracked to fulfilling them.  His heart is full of them, and he finds himself at their center, celebrated, feared, beloved and worshiped.  He is Tyler Durden’s ROCKSTAR!  And somehow, I think I have been there.

But somewhere in the midst of all that sleep, all that hibernation and coma, Joe got crushed, pulverized, minced.  What little mercy there was in sparing his life in that pit and selling him into slavery and into empire was long overcome with endless dread, dashed hopes, and soul-grinding disappointment.  Somewhere in there, Joe began to realize he was not a young man full of potential anymore.  He became “Jack’s raging bile duct.”  All was lost except the memories… memories left alive with only the power to torture his soul.

This goes on year after year after year.

Did I mention this drags out a long time?

And still it’s not finished.

Nope.  Not yet.

In fact, there is further descent.

Just when there seemed to be some stabilizing factor, just when Potiphar gives him some dignified responsibility, and he earns a modicum of respect (nothing like he had dreamed as a young man, but… you know… making lemonade out of life’s lemons!), along comes the false accusations, and down, down, down Joe descends into the waves of the Apocalyptic Sea like Jonah.  And when he arrives in the dungeon (a big, smelly, fish belly), one of the worst, most forgotten places on earth, he seems to stabilize there too, only to be forgotten all over again.

And this goes on for year after year after year.

And it is not finished yet.

And languishing down there in that pit, in that hole, in that deep place beneath the Apocalyptic Sea, the giant fish of forgotten rottenness swallows Joe whole.  The cup bearer leaves him there, and… and… and… …”it is finished.”

Finished.

It is finished.

Words that will come up again in another epoch.

Oh, how my soul aches with Joe there.  I come to the Eucharist, and I find Joe there.  Except, no.  No, wait.  He is here at the segregated table dining on the bread of salvation and his dreams from his youth, those BIG DREAMS of youthful potential…. Well, they just came true, but they came true in a way like he never expected.

We could say his dreams came true like he never dreamed.

How ironic is that?

And Joe (Jesus), who meets these wayward brothers (me) there at the table dining on the bread of salvation, having just realized his ultimate dreams, but now having found them fitted into an ultimate reality too big for haybales and stars, sees everything, EVERYTHING in a new light.

What I had meant for evil, God meant for good.

Wow!  That is a heavy thing to wake up to from the coma I was in before.

That is the LOVE I dared not dare to dare.

Jesus is doing business with me in dark places in my heart I don’t like to think about and sure don’t want to admit.  I try to live a lie everyday.  I try to hold my head up with some dignity, but the truth behind the scenes is that I killed my brother and left him for dead a long, long time ago.  That I told my Father, to his face, that the boy died from an animal attack, and I showed irrefutable proof of it when I handed him those wonderful robes he was wearing just before I put him in that pit.  I just left out the part about how I was that animal.  And I covered my tracks with animal blood so as to convince our Father of it all, and of course to clear my name of any wrong doing.

And then I lived this lie.

Year after year after year.

Compounding the depths in which I plunged my brother in suffering and forgotten rottenness.

And it went on and on and on and on.

And I came to my Father’s table on many occasions hoping it would add something to my life AND looking at the clock thinking it was taking up too much of my time – all at the same time.

I did that.

Eucharist.  Waking up.

And yet, I woke up in prison.  I woke up in a smelly, dark dungeon.  I woke up in forgotten rottenness. I woke up in a fish belly under the Apocalyptic Sea.

And I found myself in Jesus there.

For I remembered what was forgotten all along – that my brothers had left me in a pit to die, that they sold me out and sent me packing.

In fact, I estimate that I am on about Day 4049 right about now, that is 4049 days since April Fool’s Day 2010 (give or take), that day when I crossed over the threshold from the White, American, middle-class with a tent to the harsh reality of the homeless in Tent City.  And none of my brothers cared.  In fact, they abandoned me there.

And I had dreams!  DREAMS I tell you!!!  I had dreams that my brothers would care!  And they did not.  And they still don’t.  And any hope that they might, they continually crush at every turn.  EVERY TURN.  EVERY TURN!

And here at Day 4049, down in this forgotten dungeon, I am coming to see what Joe saw in his dashed dreams.  What you mean for evil, God means for good.

I yearn now for my brothers to join me at the table.

I withdraw to weep.

There are so many feelings, FEELINGS of all kinds.

But, I see that there is a worldwide bread-of-salvation plan unfolding out there in which my biggest dreams play only a small part.  And I see that in God’s hands, Day 4049 is one very small day and one very small price to pay for a seat at the table in GLORY to which I am invited to share.

Eucharist.  Waking up.

A MESSAGE OF HOPE FOR ALL MY F*CK BIDEN BROTHERS FROM CHURCH

In my previous post, I lamented all the false prophets in the church these days who wrongly prophesied that Donald Trump would be president, and I considered how terrible it is for the church to be so full of false prophets.  No doubt the post deals with American politics, with the recent election, and with the disappointment of many at how that has turned out, but – BUT – but I had thought I was talking particularly to people in the church about things of the church.  We have prophesied falsely (not all of us, but many).  This false prophecy itself is a news item on TV, in papers, and on the radio and internet, AND I find it coming up in personal conversations.

I never heard so much talk about false prophets in the last 40 years!

I am a little surprised by that, and disappointed in the church (again).

(Have I made clear yet the difference in points here?  False prophecy in the church is my point; the election and Trump and all that is incidental to my point.)

And one of my respondents takes the opportunity to claim “the election was stolen.”

You know what?  That may well be.  I don’t really think so, but it may well be.  However, for those of us in the church, disciples of a crucified messiah giving ourselves over to his Kingdom Rule, isn’t the election totally secondary to the issue of the church being full of false prophets?

Let’s get our perspective right here.  Whose reality do you live in?  Trump’s or Christ’s???

The answer to the false prophecy problem could have been said thus: Trump did win, the election was stolen, and thus the prophets got it right.  But if that is the case, then why are the false prophets walking it back now?  And, anyway, that was not the response I got.  I only got the first part, the part about how the satanic Democrats stole the election.  I mean, I know this is a complex issue, but not that complex.

But it has me thinking of the parable of the minas in Luke 19 too.  In fact, my little exchange here on the blog keeps echoing off that passage in my mind.  I wonder if it does in your mind too.  Let’s talk about it, because I think there is tremendous hope to be found in it, if you turn your heart to Jesus.

This parable is Jesus’s last sermon before entering Jerusalem, by Luke’s account.  It comes on the heals of his encounter with Zaccheus in Jericho.  There seems to be a little confusion with this parable (not uncommon with parables, actually) since some of the characters therein seem so disjointed from one another on the one hand, and since this parable sounds so similar to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.  In fact, the two parables are very similar, and the biggest difference in them seems to be the inclusion, in Luke’s parable, of these disjointed characters and the business regarding the nobleman being crowned king.  This bit about the nobleman frames Luke’s parable, and adds much to the drama.

It turns out that this nobleman, Jesus speaks of, goes to a distant country to receive his kingdom, and there are some from his homeland who send a delegation to prevent this.

Now on the surface, and without context, this story already doesn’t make any sense.  Kings are normally born into the role, and those who are not normally fight for the crown.  Of course, all of this is a bit foreign to us Americans, since we are so far removed from kings and kingdoms, and especially since in modern times even those nations with kings and royal families, function largely ceremoniously anymore.  But for most nations throughout most of world history, once a dynasty was started, the crown was passed down from parent to child.  This process is typically only interrupted by either rebellion of subjects or when another king conquered this kingdom.

But that leaves us asking why the king in Jesus’s parable goes to distant land to receive a kingdom.

This kind of arrangement happens amid empires.  The Roman Empire rules many nations and allows their kings to remain in place as client kings.  The empire has a vested interest in determining who will be king in those vassal nations, and so this king must go seek imperial approval.

But wait; there’s more!

It so happens that in the recent past (recent to the time Jesus tells this parable), Archelaus, son of Herod, had gone to Rome to receive his kingdom – Judea!  Archelaus was the OFFICIAL king of the Jews, and not king of the Jews because God says so, but because pagans in Rome say so.

This did not sit well with many Judeans of the time who did not like Archelaus and who did not want this man to be their king.  Some of them had sent a delegation to Rome to try and persuade the senate not to make him king of the Jews.  But, Rome overruled them, gave the kingdom to Archelaus anyway, and when he returned to Judea, he rounded up those members of the delegation who had opposed him and executed them in ruthless, merciless fashion.  The whole thing was kind of treasonous!  Archelaus could not be God’s messiah, he was not God’s chosen king, but Rome’s!  And this was God’s people under his evil rule!!  This just should not be!!!

Hmmm…

Right about now, you should be FEELING this parable.  I don’t care if you think Hillary should have won, Trump should have won, or Biden should have won, the context of this parable is bouncing sparks off our contemporary situation any which way you like, just about now.  And last I checked, we don’t elect kings!

Hmmm…

And yet somehow God’s Word is relevant.

But wait; there’s more!

Jesus goes on to talk about how this king in his parable, the one that sounds so familiar to those contemporary listeners in his day (Archelaus) and ours (Clinton/Trump/Biden), has put some servants to task during his absence in the distant land.  He has given them these minas.  Let’s just call them dollars – a lot of dollars.  Enough to do some real business with during his absence.  This is the part of the parable that really seems like Matthew’s parable.  And this new king calls the servants back in to see what has become of his investments while he was gone.

It turns out that one of the servants has made a really good return on investment, another a fair return on investment, and a third has made no return on investment at all.  This new king rewards the servants who invested well according to their ROI’s, but he is harsh on the one who failed to invest (showed no faith at all).  But, like Archelaus before him, he then calls in those subjects who formed a delegation opposing his crown and has them killed.

What is this parable talking about?

(A lot of people, and I mean A LOT, think this parable foretells the Second Coming of Christ.  That is not how I read it, and so if you are put off by the fact that I don’t see it that way, then go ahead and bow out of this post here.)

As I see it, Jesus is talking about a whole other King.  A mysterious throne that no one is giving much thought to in any of this discussion so far.  And yes, it has to do with loyalty and with devotion, but not to Archelaus, not to Clinton, Trump, or Biden, and not even to Jesus himself in any way someone would EXPECT his Kingdom Rule to be established.  No.  Not at all.

As I see it, everyone there that day expectes a messiah who would come to the capitol city and take it by storm,  There was an expectation that the new king would finally represent God, having been chosen by God to rule, and would kick some serious Roman tail, kick some serious traitor tail, and leave a bloodbath in his wake.  In fact, there were zealots a plenty ready to storm the capitol and take it back for God!  No one expected Jesus to take up a cross and thereby receive a crown.  No one.

No one expected or even desired that.

But even within that, there is more.

Jesus is bringing reward and punishment with him when he comes to receive his crown, but there is one more deeply hidden and subversive part of this which I think is lost on Christians largely to this day: God is coming back to the capitol city to be crowned King of the Jews.

Yes, God.  You gotta reach way back to get this, but go look into I Samuel 8 where the people of God come to Samuel and demand a “king like the nations” and notice that God tells Samuel that these people are rejecting him (God) as their King.  Those people who come to Samuel demanding a “king like the nations” are taking the role of those delegates who follow this nobleman (God, in this case) to the distant country in Jesus’s parable seeking to prevent him from receiving his kingdom.

These delegates are still doing this to this day.

In Jesus’s day, the day he stood in Jericho about to enter the capitol city and preached this parable, the people of God were still bickering about whether Archelaus should be king of the Jews, all the while Jesus was embodying the God they already rejected.  This, in the face of people who didn’t like Archelaus BECAUSE HE WAS NOT GOD’S CHOSEN KING, BUT ROME’S!

Are you catching the drift yet?

They were right about Archelaus not being God’s chosen.  Absolutely right about that.  But so what?  All that matters is that in Jesus, God is coming to take the crown himself!  Right under their noses too.  And he is taking a crown on a cross!  There is more to this story waaaaaaaay down in the depths of it.  God is coming!  He is coming to take the crown of his people on a Roman cross!  God is not the slightest bit thwarted by Archelaus or Rome in this, and anyway, those who formed the delegation rejected him were rejecting God!

It does you no good to reject Archelaus!  It does you no good to reject Biden.  (For that matter, it does you no good to reject Trump either, but that is not where the rub is in church today.  Now is it?)

There is a judgment coming with him.  Maybe you need to get back to work investing for God’s Kingdom Rule and not wasting it on these others.

But the hope in it is that our God brings reward with him.  And those of us who repent and join Jesus AT THIS VERY JUNCTURE, will receive that reward.

So, I invite all my F*CK BIDEN brothers to repent.  Come to Jesus.  There is hope, and there is time.

Come.

FALSE PROPHETS ABOUND 2021

Is your church embarrassed by her false prophecy?  Or are your prophets running around trying to “walk it back”?

I am stunned by all the false prophets exposed this past election season.  I hear about them on the TV news, the internet, and even personal friends in conversation these days, and I must say: That’s a lot! And it’s rather sudden too.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I have heard of false prophets before.  When I was a kid, I heard about them a lot in Bible class or in sermons at church.  I didn’t hear about them in the news media or covers of magazines in the check out stands in those days, and friends rarely brought up the concept in regular conversation, but false prophets certainly were fodder for many a sermon.  Once in a while we might hear the term “false prophet” associated with someone like Jim Jones who claimed prophecy and led his followers into murder and mass suicide.  (That seems like a pretty good indicator of a false prophet to me, alright.)

The Bible gives one clear indication of a false prophet.  There maybe many indications, actually, but one is very clear and spelled out sternly.  If the prophet’s prediction fails to come to pass, you know he was not speaking God’s Word.  That is a fairly simple test.  (Of course, if a prophet predicts things which won’t come about for more than a lifetime, then you would have to wait a long time to determine his prediction based on this test, but otherwise it is pretty simple.)

I think, though, that prophecy gets pigeon holed by that idea unfairly.  There is a common misconception that all prophecy is about predicting the future.  But it is not.  Predicting the future is prophetic if someone claims it is the Word from God, but pundits predicting outcomes based on their research are not even attempting prophecy.  Thus, a prediction might not have anything to do with prophecy, and even if it does, that is only one small piece of the overall category of speech or acts we call prophecy.

Prophecy is a Word from God, not from the prophet.  It is God’s Word shared THROUGH the prophet, and God says a lot of things about the past, the present, and the future, not just the future.  A false prophet making bogus predictions about the future is speaking his own word, not God’s, and that makes him false.  He claims to speak for God when he does not.

The Bible says such a prophet should die.  You cannot trust him.  (See Deuteronomy 18 for some of the clearest passages on this.)

That is really harsh, but prophets who speak presumptively cannot be trusted, and God wants you to trust him.

But now we have pastors turned prophet coming out of the woodwork claiming that Donald Trump will be president come-what-may, yet it has not come to pass.

I hear of pastors in Tennessee, California, and elsewhere, some of them leading massive congregations of Christians grabbing headlines with these claims, and proving, biblically speaking, that they do not in fact speak for God.  This is not just some innocent mistake.  These prophets claimed to speak for God but really spoke their own wishful thinking instead.  They are leading people astray.  They are promoting power-grab ideals which would sooner speak for Mars, Zeus, or Jupiter than for Jesus Christ.

Let me fill out the picture just a little more for you.

Though there is not a single passage of Scripture which outlines this observation, if you study prophets all through the Bible and look for characteristics between good ones, bad ones, true and false ones, you see trends arise which are informative for this discussion.  False prophets tend – TEND – tend to work for the king (different kings at different times and places).  They are courtiers, court prophets on the king’s payroll.  They are the “king’s wise men” in a sense.  Much like the president’s cabinet, his top advisors.

In that court position, there is a strong temptation to give the king news he WANTS to hear rather than the truth irrespective of his desires.  Who wants to be the prophet to tell the king his plans will not work or that he has failed or brings up the king’s sins?  That could cost a prophet his life, his livelihood, and tank his resume on grounds other than whether he speaks for God.

The exception proves the rule.  Look at Nathan who confronts King David.  In fact, he confronts David (see II Samuel 12) over his sin with Bathsheba putting his own life and career at risk (David has already proven himself willing and capable of murder to keep this thing quiet!)  And we know that Nathan faces the temptation to counsel the king favorably according to the king’s desire based on a conversation he has with David about building The House of God.  There (II Samuel 7), Nathan is too quick to endorse David’s plans, plans which are in no way evil anyway, yet afterward hears from God about it.  This requires Nathan to walk back and amend his earlier endorsement with God’s Word on the matter.

Nathan was a good prophet.  He risked his life in the way of Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so many others.  He did not settle on the word which felt good to share with the king, but relied on the Word God actually spoke to him.

Hmmm…

Funny strange, not funny ha ha, but a prophet who speaks falsely deserves to die.  A prophet who speaks truly is likely to die.

So, over the course of the past few months, I find the stories of false prophets bursting out of the church’s witness to the world around us.  By far, most of these instances have to do with predicting that Donald Trump will win the election.  But that has proven over and over and over again to be “THE BIG LIE.”  And yet pastor after prophet after pastor has spoken up in public, gone on record no less, to claim a Word from God on this, and then to falsely predict that Trump would win.  Let this trash the credibility of these “prophets” and not God, in whose name they vainly speak!

There false prophecies certainly stroke the ego of their (president) king!  And if they had been true they certainly would have stroked the ego of many a prophet, would have earned him a nice cushion in the court.  As it is, though, it has watered down the church’s witness in America yet again, and done so in a big way.

Where are all these followers going for the truth now?  What witness should America turn to for truth now?

Did those churches where these “prophets” spoke up so boldly just dry up afterward?  Or are these sore losers licking their wounds, justifying themselves in their own eyes, and continuing on as if this is all just okay with God?

Somebody talk to me about “absolute truth” NOW!

Think about it.

THE SLAVE SHIP GOSPEL (The Gospel in Black and White)

Our Southern, white, slave-holding brothers and fathers somehow allowed, and in some cases encouraged, their black slaves to “come to Jesus.”  It’s a phenom I never actually studied critically, but one I recognize and to which I have entertained less-than-academic thoughts.  Based on the state of the church in America today, and especially the South (and especially the cultural division based on race), I don’t see where this evangelistic effort was all that important to those in positions of power – except as far as it controlled the slaves.

It appears, ironically, to have become important to the slaves and their descendants.  And, that is the bigger irony to my way of thinking.  If I were oppressed and enslaved by a whole culture of people, I would think that I would resist their religion.  But from what I know of world/Bible history, the Jews are the exception, they are either the only (or one of very few) cultures of oppressed people to maintain their religious heritage even as captives and slaves.  It appears that the assimilation of religion is more common, historically.

I would like to think (and I do, frankly), that the Christian religion/faith is true, and that by whatever means black, African slaves and their descendants come to it, they have arrived at the right place, spiritually speaking.  This puts me in an odd place to criticize though, but I will deal with that more at another point.  Suffice it to say, I sense that from my vantage point I see through both a lens of pride and humility, and they can’t both be right.  I am sure my views are flawed, but I must work with them anyway until they can be righted later.

So, there is a lot there in the mist for me.  As I move forward with my observations, I do so with humility – intellectual humility on the one hand and a heritage of guilt on the other, for almost certainly, my ancestors in Georgia owned slaves.  I descend from slave owners, as best I can tell.

One of the points most clear to me in the mist of this discussion is the fact that the Bible never comes out and actually condemns slavery.  This is all the more complicated by the fact that some of the most important abolitionists in history (Wilberforce, for instance) were driven to abolition by their Christian ideals.  I certainly have more sympathy for those abolitionists than for us “Christian” slave owners who capitalized on the Bible’s lack of condemnation in service to our own justification.  If the issue had to slide one way or the other rather than staying on the Bible’s target, I prefer the way it went over all, and thus eventually slavery was outlawed.

However, I believe the Bible envisioned something very different.  Entirely a whole other category.  And as great an admiration as I have for Dr. King, I have yet to discover it in his work, though I will stop short of blaming him since I might have missed it in his lectures and since I think some issues become so extremely divisive as to leave not center ground upon which to stand.

No doubt the Bible completely defangs slavery, seen most clearly in the New Testament, but it does not forbid it.  In fact, I suggest the Bible promotes it, but, promotes it, as I say, defanged.  The slavery the Bible encourages is almost completely unimagined by the world today, and I think by the church too.  But when St. Paul (and others) describe themselves as “bond-servants” or “bond-slaves,” they are promoting their own enslavement to Christ.

Bond-slavery is a form of slavery in which a slave whose master sets him/her free, loves their master so much as to voluntarily remain as the master’s slave.  In ancient times, this decision was marked ceremoniously, and involved putting a ring in the ear of the slave designating this slave as a slave for life in service to their beloved master.  Some of the New Testament writers describe themselves this way, and it is clear that is a good thing.

But to imagine a servant in that position is to reimagine slavery too – at least as it pertains to the relationship of those two people in particular (slave and master).  But it also suggests (and I think this is entirely lost on the world and on the church today) that volunteering to serve, to humble oneself to slavery and service to others, is a welcome attitude in the Kingdom of God.  I am aware that some passages appear to complicate this idea (such as I Cor. 7), but I think when these passages are handled carefully, they do not actually refute my hypothesis here.  Humility and service are not inherent to slavery, but they do fit slavery like a hand in glove.  You actually can be a rebellious slave, but of course there are no forms of slavery where that is the ideal.  And I think Americans are very bad at imagining the world ordered in humility, thus we have not reimagined slavery defanged with LOVE.

Slavery will never be thoroughly vanquished by legislation.  If Jim Crow and segregation and institutional racism don’t make my point, nothing will.

Slavery defanged by love, though will, I am convinced, vanquish the cruel slavery we know from history.

How is that done?

That is church work.  And it is church work that the church in America has completely abandoned, I think.  The fact that “Sunday is the most segregated day of the week” proves my point.  Rare, and to very little extent, are the Christians mixing it up racially, and yet race relations in our country are tearing our country apart.

Read the book of (the letter to) Philemon and watch St. Paul speak to a church in which a slave has rebelled and run away, a slave known for not being very useful to his master before running away, and visualize Paul (my thanx to N.T. Wright for helping me see this) take the master by one hand and the slave by the other, thus striking a crucifixion pose, and pleading for the grace of one, the promotion of the other, and offering to pay any restitution owed if it will restore this master and slave, not so much as master and slave as much as brothers.  Paul never comes right out and demands that the slave be set free, but it seems likely his case puts the master on that trajectory.  However, it is also clear that if the relationship he seeks to build up between them is realized, their brotherhood will overwhelm the slavery between them with love.  If Paul demanded Philemon set Onesimus free from slavery, this might then support abolition, and it might complicate bond service, not to mention (I Cor. 7).

Those slave-master Christians of the American South who preached Jesus to their slaves left that part out while promoting their lording it over others – a thing Jesus clearly dismisses elsewhere.  Markets in human servitude capturing, killing, oppressing, and shipping people to distant lands away from their homes, their families, their language and culture against their will is wrong on every level, and yet our kind of preaching attempted to justify that kind of slavery and keep the slaves in line in their vain suffering which lasts for generations and for hundreds of years.  If, on the other hand, these white Southerners had seen fit to sail themselves to Africa, get off the boat, go into African villages and offer their service to the black people they found there, that would have been entirely a Christian thing to do, and I would hate to undercut that notion as I try to right the history of the way it worked out.

Where is this brotherhood today?

Is it in the American church?  The church which segregates Sunday so profoundly while breaking no laws to do it?

Hmmm…

I am looking for it myself.  I am daring to prophetically imagine it, and hopefully to find it and live it.

I think my church needs to do this too.

When we get on board THIS SLAVE SHIP, we will spread the Gospel in Black and White, I think.  And that gospel might bring powerful healing to some truly deep wounds in our society, I hope.