MY humble TWO BITS

Disclaimer: Almost by definition, “my humble two bits” will not explain away everything or fix it.  This is not intended to be a comprehensive introspection nor a complete remedy.  

It’s my assessment that Ukraine is suffering from pride – not the least American pride.  The war unfolding on the world stage today is the cost of pride, plain and simple.  Every death and tragedy we witness (or experience) as part of this war or as a result of it will be directly linked to arrogant, unchecked, ugly pride.

I am getting to be “an old guy” now, and I have been around some.  I’ve seen things.  I don’t know it all, but I certainly know the stone the builders reject, and so I have a worthwhile perspective which sooner or later needs to be taken seriously.  If I can hone it down to a humble two bits, I will do my best to make it simple enough to consider.

One of the headlines on my newsfeed this morning comes from Fox News, an interview between Tucker Carlson and Col. Doug MacGregor stating, “There’s nothing US can do about Russia invading Ukraine.”  Wow!  “Nothing.”  That’s the message on Fox News from our military leaders.

Nothing.”

Let that sink in.

Actually, I listened to the interview, and the actual quote from the Colonel was, “There’s not a damn thing we can do about it.”

Nothing.”  “Not a damn thing.

The greatest military in the world is telling the greatest nation in history on the channel that wants to Make American Great Again that there is nothing, not a damn thing, we can do about Russia invading Ukraine.

That is a lot of pride there just throwing in the towel.

Here’s what I think: I think American pride has been in competition with Russian pride for a very long time – since WWII at least.  I was watching when Ronald Reagan prophetically called on Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!”  That was truly a proud moment for American pride made complete when just a few years later, that wall came down in a cloud of high drama and the Soviet Union crumbled.

Many of us who lived through the Cold War are still alive today and remember very well the way that animosity shaped life at home and around the world.  The Russians were as proud as the Americans, but then suffered terrible shame in the end.

But it wasn’t the end.

Not really.

I recall a certain public shaming of Donald Trump by Barak Obama at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner a few years ago.  That public shaming of such a proud man came back to bite in 2016 with a vengeance!  The world has not been the same since!

Well, it’s quite easy, especially as an American, to ignore Russia on a day-in/day-out basis, but Vladimir Putin rose from the rubble of the Soviet Union to lead Russia, and he certainly has felt the sting of that day when the wall came down.  He felt it every day since then.  America shamed his country, his proud country, and then practically ignored him.  It happened on his watch.  But he slowly put the pieces back together and is now pushing his imperial boundaries again as he rebuilds his nation’s pride.

When I was a kid, most young people today have no sense of this, but we called the communists “godless.”  There was good reason for that, of course, but we thereby counted ourselves as God’s chosen people, but we did not humble ourselves doing that.  Not one bit.

If we had spent the last 30 years humbling ourselves and served Russia in Christian humility, our proud leaders would not be telling us today there is “not a damn thing we can do” or that there is “nothing” we can do today.

There is something we can do about it, but you can’t see it through your pride.

Let me suggest Americans humble ourselves today, kneel down before Jesus, and pray for our enemies.  We serve a mighty God of love who loves Russians, Ukrainians, and Americans and wants us to treat one another as loving brothers in a single family.  That will not happen as long as we remain too proud to kneel.

That’s my humble two bits.

I’M A CRITIC! DON’T BUILD ME NO MONUMENTS THOUGH

“They don’t build monuments for critics…”  It’s a quote from … well from somebody.  I looked it up online, and from what I can tell, some form or other of the quote has been around a very long time.  However, it appears the phrase is credited to people over a long course of history and only made famous in the last few decades. I think, and I could be wrong about this, that I had a coach back in junior high who would say it from time to time.

Anyway, whoever deserves credit, it’s not me.  All I can say is since I am a critic, I don’t expect no stinking monuments in my honor.  Wasn’t asking for one either.

I get it.  You work really hard on your life’s passions, someone comes along and deflates your sails with their criticism, and this is the encouragement for counteracting it.  Am I off base?  Or do I have that right?

Critics.

What can I say?

Nobody wants to be deflated and discouraged.  As a general rule, that is not helpful.  On the contrary, we need more encouragement, not discouragement.  I personally am working very hard on a book which I asked a few people reading here to review and critique.  I got them to read it, and I can’t tell you how encouraging it is that they did!  It puts a lot of pep in my step, boosts my confidence, and encourages me to continue to work on it, to work even harder with excellence.

But my reviewers criticized me too.  At my request, of course!  They criticized me not to be ugly, but to help me see where to focus my attention as I set out improving it.

Critics.  Gotta love them… Right?

I love mine!

By far, most of the prophecy we read about in the Bible is criticism of the people of God – or especially their leadership.  Not always criticism, and not always negative, but a lot of the time it’s exactly those things.  In fact, critique is so central to prophecy in general that in many contexts these terms are synonymous.

Critiquing the people of God is necessary.  So often, leaders get big ideas and start pursuing them, sometimes even with excellence, yet fail to serve God with them.  Sometimes even the critics get swept up in these big ideas endorsing them as if nothing is wrong and thinking everything is right.

Usually, false prophets work in the king’s court for the king.  They know where their paycheck comes from, and so it becomes tempting to just rubberstamp the king’s big ideas.  Even the people of God are not immune to this problem.  Jezebel employed the prophets of Baal; they seemed to always endorse her and Ahab’s big ideas.  She didn’t like her main critic, Elijah, and tried to have him killed.

Yeah.  That’s how it goes, even with the people of God.

You know?

One time even King David, a man after God’s own heart, got a big idea about serving God.  It was a stroke of genius too!  It demonstrated his love for God!  And David even did the right thing by running by his prophet on staff, Nathan, who also thought it was a great idea and hauled off and endorsed it before he heard from God on it!

Wow!

Nathan was one of those rare staff prophets who was willing to criticize the king when need be, and on this occasion, he wound up having to come back the next day to retract his endorsement.  But David and Nathan bucked the trend in a lot of ways, I reckon.  David wound up taking off in a really bad direction on another occasion doing some really stupid “guy stuff” like guys do sometimes when they get a little too idle.  When it came to Nathan’s attention, he confronted David with all the critique of a godly prophet, and David had the gumption to listen and heed him.

That’s critics for ya.

Probably better value them.  Probably better listen to them.  

Nathan demonstrates, they aren’t always right.  Even a prophet of God can make a mistake, though he had better have the humility to work that out in short order.

Of course, you can’t just trust every critic willy-nilly.  But woe to those who do not heed when the prophet speaks for God!

He may not need a monument, but you sure might need his critique.

It’s worth considering.

You know what else?

Jesus was a prophet too.  Luke’s Gospel tells us he was a prophet mighty in word and deed.  He certainly was a critic too.  Sometimes a harsh critic.  I mean, he might call you a snake, a hypocrite, or a dog!

That don’t make him a hater.

But you probably need to listen to him.

WOW! I THINK I REALLY STEPPED IN IT

From time to time, I find myself in exchanges (discussions) in the comment threads of various blogs (rarely my own) where I say something that either others misunderstand (and then sometimes at which they take offense) or that I misunderstand, and then make an idiot of myself. 

Well… with that fresh on my mind AGAIN today, I think I will go back and publish this old post which has been gathering dust for a while now.  It’s not actually a good read.  I don’t recommend it for casual reading.  I just put it down as a marker for reference.  I might want to appeal to this if a struggle in the quagmire develops at some point.

So, here it is:

SIMPLE MISUNDERSTANDING? OR IS ONE OF US A JERK???

True story, but so many of both the nouns and verbs are changed to protect the “innocent” that calling it “true” is pushing the boundaries. (Not the first time, actually.)

So, I am tiptoeing through JUDGMENT with this one, trying hard not to step on a landmine, but I nonetheless want to “process my feelings” after a fashion – and certainly my thoughts. I feel confident that a real tech sleuth can (should they be so motivated) uncover the real facts of the real exchange, but I am counting on any such people not finding the interest to read here at all. And anyway, if it is uncovered, then PERHAPS it could lead to a real reckoning too.

Here’s whazzzzup:

Every now and again (more so recently than usual), I go poking around on the web (the blog-O-sphere particularly) for people discussing issues/items that interest me. A lot of the time I pause and look and then quickly move on. Once in a while I leave a “like” and once in a really special while, I leave a comment.

I try to be respectful, though sometimes I lean more toward tact – there MIGHT be some edge or bite to my comment. However, I aim to be true to my own ideals, and so being snotty or irreverent or especially crass is just not my practice.

NOW… maybe “ugly” is in the eye of the beholder. No doubt in the final analysis, beauty is, and therefore so is ugly. But it’s seldom locked up there. Witt or charm or ugly tend to come across fairly plainly even if subtle. My idea of tact is to show baseline respect, but going straight to the challenge, probably being brief about it too.

I am aware that especially on the web and in the blogs with all the anonymity, the lack of facial expressions and voice inflection and so on, that we rely more on context than all those usual nonverbal cues to judge character and mood etc. Such judgment is ripe for misinterpretation on its best day, how much more when leaving a comment?

So, let’s give leeway. Right? Therefore, I will stop short of judging. And besides, in this particular scenario, looking back over my own comment, I can see where a particular word choice on my part lends itself to misunderstanding. I have to presume the one (or others) on the other side of that conversation might possibly make that much error themselves if not more. The exact intention of a comment is not always well conveyed from the sender or understood by the receiver. In fact, if you look at the basic communication model in Speech 101, it’s amazing a clear message ever gets through!

So, with all that in mind, I found a post on a blog I never visited before. I thought it was insightful and meaningful, if a bit overly erudite. (I definitely relish smart people’s ideas, but I try to crunch them down into simple bits, myself – not always, but yeah.) And in this post, dealing with some heavy theological analysis, there was a fairly simple, true-to-life example given too. It was one I resonated with personally.

In fact, the post seemed to uncommonly criticize a church’s reception of a commonly undesirable type visitor. “A clash of cash and trash,” as I am apt to call it. And I found this blogger’s erudite style confronting it might just mean something to the larger Christendom I would hope would find this message. So, I liked it and gave comment.

I sincerely thought my comment was supportive as I described a personal experience I once had as a young man which seemed to dovetail so perfectly that I couldn’t image it was mere coincidence. I almost hit the “reblog” on it! (I’m tempted to do it now, but I think that will not solve anything and will only exacerbate Christian uncharity. So, I won’t.)

But my response was not acknowledged for several days. Even I moved on with other things and forgot it. Then as I looked at my record of conversations, I discovered this all-but-forgotten post and comment had responded to me. I was excited to have stirred of a reaction! So, I looked.

Uh-oh.

This was a response that rapidly felt like being called into the dean’s office! I, too, have been taught the civilized technique of making criticism sandwiched between two compliments, however, somehow I got the idea that the two compliments should carry some weight and the critique minimized if possible in order for it to be effective. (By the way, I don’t think that really works all that well. It sure isn’t working on me!)

But then, I find the feedback opening with a compliment of something of menial value – at least it appears that way at first blush to me. I found the critique part to be quite long and dominating (9 paragraphs, counting the cut-n-past parts where I was quoted back to myself) with a quick repeat of the compliment on the way to signing off. In the middle, I was schooled at length about making sexist and ageist remarks. (Or was I being racist? In the interest of keeping this nebulous, let’s just say it was one of those.) The schooling was full of tact. I never was insulted in the slightest. Again, this felt like it was scripted at the dean’s office or maybe HR with attorneys present! And if it wasn’t for the fact that I am already in full agreement with everything I was schooled on, I would think this professional rebuttal is appropriate.

My first cue that something is amiss is that this responder is preaching to the choir!

Don’t get me wrong here. I am not interested in sounding erudite. I would crunch that down purposely. But hurting someone with my words is not a desire of mine. However, like a lot of people, I struggle to find that line between excessive political correctness and sensitivity. I would prefer to err on the side of gruff without detonating verbal nuclear blasts. I absolutely refuse to use “the N-word,” but not because the word itself is any worse than any other, but because of the particular history wrapped up in it. There is nary a context where I can use that word that it won’t cause people (myself included) enormous pain which would overwhelm my reason for using it in the first place. Other words are hurtful too, but still useful, good, and right if handled with sensitivity and higher purpose. Even the N-word would be, except for the profound insult and injury it encapsulates.

On the other hand, I prefer to refer to the homeless as “the homeless” or even “bums” since I think all the sanitizing of the language does more to assuage those who are the problem than to help or avoid hurting. Too many do-gooder brothers and sisters get tight-fisted with their money while acting horrified at the term “bum.” Once upon a time, the empire was feeding “Christians” to lions, making the word amount to cat-food and filling it with contempt. But I am one, and I am not ashamed of the Gospel or the name Jesus either. I will wear it, even if it makes you uncomfortable. I very much want to deal with your contempt for both Jesus and bums – who are human beings.

But I will not throw the N-word around because white people like me have abused black people so egregiously throughout history that it is part of my respect to leave it alone. There is no instance where I can use that word and it not cloud my ideals to the point of overwhelming them.

So, I wrote something which had a course edge to it regarding a gender/race – or was it financial situation? I went back and looked at my words, and honestly, I don’t see the offense. I could have told this story to my mother, right to her face, and I would not have worried in the slightest that it might cause her offense. However, there was one word choice I used (not in itself sexist or racist in the slightest, by the way) which might lend to a mistaken meaning. In fact, I can see where it might be even confusing if the context is in question.

Therefore, I think my blog responder could have been confused by my remarks. My guts tell me that if this responder had read it through a couple of times (or more) it would quickly appear that there is more than one way to interpret my word choice, which would open the possibility of a much less coarse reading. And given the time lapse and erudite response, I expect it was read and reread.

But even more, I went back and read the original post also, and once again I was moved by it. AND I see where the author there recites a story similar to mine (which prompted me to convey mine) in language narrowly close (in my estimation) to the language I used (minus the unfortunate word choice – a single word which in millions of other contexts would in no way conjure up race or sexist ideas, but in this one almost could).

Wow! So, this really deflates my experience with this blogger. I really had none there before, but could have been wide open to more. But now I am getting schooled in be-nice-to-“little people,” and in such a way in which actually, serves the point I was initially responding to AND joining my voice to back at the start!

So, I went to the “ABOUT” page to find more context for this exchange. And what do you know? The erudition is very purposeful here. That is built right into the blog and no accident. But rather than wax eloquent about experiences or goals for blogging, this blogger outlines how there is little time for blogging, actually. There is, though, a fair bit devoted to conflict/disagreement and the like, and readers are warned that such will not be indulged. There is no time for it. And in the most erudite terms the message “My Blog: If you don’t like it; leave it” (like a message about America on a bumper sticker) is made quite clearly.

So, here I am thinking, NO WAIT. I really think you are schooling me in what I already believe… No wait, I think we are saying the same thing… is giving way to NO WAIT… you don’t like me. You don’t really want to hear from me.

I was tempted to rebut the rebuttal and try to iron out the wrinkle, to say, wait -man – I think you misunderstood me, but of course maybe I misunderstand you. I certainly didn’t mean to disparage “little people” with my remarks, though I did intend to paint a stark picture of one person in particular, alright. One that my church would shun out of hand and not love on vain grounds! In fact, I think you were making a very similar point.

But then it hit me. Nine paragraphs of erudite redirection kinda does the very thing to me that we both complained churches do to “little people” (only in my case with no rac/sexist component). The subtext of the exchange says, YOU ARE NOT WANTED HERE. Thanx for reading, now move on. We are playing church here, and you might spoil it with your comments.

But wait! My comments resonated with yours!

WE don’t have time to argue, just take your comments and move on. Any more from you will not be published here.

Really?

I will stop short of resting there. There is enough room for misunderstanding in this little relationship, but not enough room to repair it. That appears to be clear.

What do I do with this?

Good question. Honestly, I don’t know.

But it so happens that I recently posted about the Silent, Moral minority, and in it made mention of screaming and not being heard. Not that I was screaming (I wasn’t), but that a shepherd at church told me I could scream at the top of my voice, the church would not listen. And right about the time that post generates a response dealing with that, this other post generates its response with all the limiting factors firmly ensconced.

I am not actually on some anti-PC rant here or ever. I don’t try overly hard to honor PC rules, for one thing, I can’t keep up with them. I share some of their values, but certainly not at the same level. When I sit to eat at Aunt Bea’s, I mind my manners more acutely than I do when I am visiting my old fashioned, sexist, half-drunk mechanic in his garage with two of his other buddies. The guy is great with fuel injection and prices! I value him too. But he is sexist, racist, and vulgar as well as cheap.

But I also value homeless friends on the street a HELL of a lot more than my shepherds from church. I have put my actions where their “people-experiencing-homelessness” mouths don’t give a dime AND teach others not to give a dime too. I embrace humility, humiliation, and shame as part of my prophetic calling to speak up for them. I hear my street friends refer to themselves as “tramps” and “bums,” and I think you need to stomach that language too. Humble yourself enough to love a bum or a tramp instead of sanitizing the language and acting like that is love.

Oh… and please, please, please… if a slutty-dressed hooker, or black homosexual, for whatever reason, darkens the door of your white, middle-class, erudite, upscale church some Sunday, please, please, please do everything in your power and the grace of God to make her/him feel welcome. God loves that person far more than you ever will.

Yeah.

I almost posted all of that, but then the responder on the other end of this thread came back the day I was about ready to his the “publish” button, and says, “Maybe I misunderstood you.  If that is the case, I apologize for schooling you to death.  You made a good point.”

Okay.  That is a completely inaccurate quote, but it paraphrases well.

Thus, I decided NOT to publish after all.  Not at that time.

But since I find myself in a new quagmire which smells and looks like it is fed from that other one, maybe posting it now is a good idea.  Lay down a marker for “discussion” etiquette and appeal to it for civility in the future if need be.

Blogging.

Ain’t it a hoot?

Let me go ahead and apologize NOW for hurting your feelings.  I didn’t MEAN to.  I hope we can find the grace to put THAT behind us and move on with the important matters.

Of course, if your feelings are hurt, not because of a misunderstanding or because of a personal attack, but because of a critical argument… well… I will try to be sensitive, but I will suggest it might mean you should consider changing your position.

EXILIC IMPETUS

On my bookshelf, I keep a little book, a study in homiletics, called Exilic Preaching.  I haven’t read it in a very long time, but the compilation includes essays by Walter Brueggemann and Barbara Brown Taylor which impact my way of thinking.  Taylor is an especially spicy preacher, and her essays call Christians to a mindset of total reliance on God where we “get real” about faith and find resources for living from another world.

Someone reading here was likely impacted by Hauerwas and Willimon’s book Resident Aliens in a similar fashion.  I expect their book was a bigger hit for sales and is more readily known.  While Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution is completely different in style, it also has a similar impact on many readers, I expect.  And yet, for my money, Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire by Walsh and Keesmaat did more to reframe the Bible and impact me than any other book I ever found.

Jesus, it turns out, achieves more salvation, defeats more and greater powers of darkness, and makes a bigger impact on creation once he is condemned, stripped naked, tortured, and killed by the world systems and powers – the ultimate exile, alienation, revolution, and subversion – than at any other point in his mission.  He does more with less against bigger foes from outside or underneath because that is how God is glorified in mortals.

The things I am pointing out are as plain to a faithful Christian as the nose on your face, yet so easily dismissed at the same time.  Our “Christian culture” is, and for so long has been, caught up in massive cathedrals, fantastic budgets, shiny things and money, and with all of that power too, the this-worldly power and this-worldly wisdom of those things.  The power of the perception that the church is here to stay due to outward appearances rather than what’s in the heart.

TV preachers with private jets are perhaps at the far end of that spectrum, but that is so last decade now.  Today, the church hitches the wagon to “Christian nationalism” – to flag, apple pie, and partisan politics, as if we are not exiles, not resident aliens, as if not only do we get a vote, but you should go count them again and again and again until you can find 11,780 more votes, because we are the majority, the proud, the MAD Christians who want our country back!

Damn it!

We are willing to “fight like hell” for … for … for … for Jesus, of course.

Yeah.

That’s not the Spirit of God raising Jesus from the grave; it’s the American can-do spirit that can’t raise the dead.  

Pilate asks Jesus if he is king of the Jews, and Jesus claims his kingdom is not from this world.  If it were, he says (and get this part clearly if you can), “My servants would fight.”

Let me draw on another book for a minute.

Many years ago, I read David Horowitz’s autobiography, Radical Son.  Back in the 1990s, when it was published, I was still a young man thinking I needed to get involved, to get informed, and vote.  I lived in Arizona at the time and listened to a lot – I mean a LOT – of political talk radio, and one evening Horowitz, who I had never heard of before that time, was interviewed about his book.

Horowitz has lived a fascinating life.  Politically, he has gone from one extreme to the other, or at least almost to the other.  He grew up in the 1950s the son of Jewish Communists keeping their political views “underground” – especially in those days.  The 1950s when the name “McCarthy” was synonymous with political witch hunts.

I had grown up thinking McCarthy was a nut.  I still think that, but I grew up thinking his scrutiny was utterly baseless.  That, it turns out, was not the case.  There really were Communists among us, and they really did plot revolutions.  They didn’t have nearly the clout or the reach McCarthy feared, but they were real, alright.  Horowitz gave a firsthand, personal account from the insider’s (or should I say “outsider’s”) perspective.  (Well, he definitely was an Outsider’s Insider!)

Horowitz was just a child, but his parents hosted clandestine meetings of fellow Communists in the basement of their home.  They wrote and read books.  They got informed and acted on their information, all while culturally sanctioned almost into oblivion.

But here’s the oddity of that: it took faith to live like that.  Surely an irony for godless communists, but also for the rest of us too!

I will never forget how Horowitz described his father taking him for evening strolls around the neighborhood, quietly discussing how life will change after the revolution with such courage and confidence, all in hushed tones lest their ambitions be discovered, and they become persecuted.  They would look at street signs like “Washington” or “Franklin” streets, like “Liberty” or “Constitution” avenue or boulevards.   The older Horowitz taught the younger that after the revolution, they would change those names to something like “Lenin Place” or “Stalingrad Way.”

As a Christian, reading Horowitz’s account of such faith in the revolution to come while enduring the status of exile or resident alien, I envied something I couldn’t quite put my finger on at the time.

There are at least two suggestions I would like you to consider after pointing all that out.  1) The homeless, and homeless ministry, have unseen resources from another world that the church in America today NEEDS to find.  “The poor are rich in faith,” says the Good Book (Jas. 2:5).  We surely need the poor to share their wealth with the church!  It is the kind of wealth the church needs more than any other.  2) Instead of running to the ballot box to fix our issues with CRT, mask mandates, defunding police, or higher taxes, let us plot revolution through our lifestyle of love, of patience, with hope and faith while we pray and seek first the Kingdom of God and letting him add to our lives the things we need.

Life like that might get pretty raw, but it is The Way of Jesus and his Abundant Life.  It is the bearing of his image that the world needs.

HERE’S THE THING:

The thing is this:  I have this thing with which you can do this thing.  But first you have to make the thing before you can use the thing or share the thing with others.

And well, anyway, the thing I got ain’t some kind of a kit or nothin’.  However, there are certain things that go into this thing, without which, it’s nothing, literally No-Thing.  This means there are important things required for this thing to be the thing it’s meant to be.

But that doesn’t mean you have to yield to every convention.  You can still be quite creative with this thing, and in a sense, the sky’s the limit.  If you can imagine it, the thing should work – in theory.  But maybe that’s the rub too.  If YOU can imagine it, then I have a thing.  Meanwhile, I am stumped about somethings.

So, anyway, I have this thing, and except for the things inhibiting my thing, I am pretty excited about the thing.  Don’t want to exactly unveil the thing prematurely, but it is a real thing, almost.  And in the meantime, just talking about the thing with you like this helps me figure things out.

So, thanx for listening.

DIP IN THE BOWL

Mark 14:17-21

BACKGROUND

Today’s post is prompted in part by a news item I read recently and in part by a private conversation I had with a handful of readers here via email regarding the massive slide into “Christian nationalism” I find in church today and to what extent I am still part of the brotherhood (or those Christians who elevate Trump and/or party above Jesus).  Can I still be a brother to such people?  What do I do with them?  What will they eventually do with me?  Stuff like that.

Politics have become increasingly my focus on this blog the last three or five years.  I sensed the GOP’s invasion of the church years before that.  In fact, I sensed it since the 1980s when I was a kid, but in the old days, that was an invasion of the “evangelical church” at large, not our little sect.  Then in the 1990s, as a young adult, I read a pop-theology book by Steve Farrar that demonstrated to me the ever-deepening entanglement of the GOP with the house of faith (still at large but starting to infiltrate our sect now too).  Then in the first decade of the current century, I began to see firsthand evidence that it was impacting the mission of the congregation I served and tearing us apart.

That congregation has, in recent years, split!  And in the split was revealed to me not only the GOP influence, but a liberal political/theological reaction in it I had not appreciated before.  Who knew that in Lubbock, Texas we had a liberal agenda cooking in our church?  I didn’t, but it was there and finally revealed itself.  Both are partisan, and the split cracked almost entirely down party lines – at least where the issues at hand were concerned.

My point is not to get into “the particulars” of those issues, but to say allegiance to Jesus was quietly given to lesser powers – party politics – and that took over the church!  These were my brothers and sisters!  And in the end, they preferred the worldly teachings of either the liberal Democrats or the conservative Republicans to Jesus.

My analysis in no way denies the politics of Jesus but giving oneself over to either party does.  (I expect there is a fine distinction there for some readers.)

Here’s where the problem impacted me:

I was a street minister with an outreach church who was doing amazing things for the poor, racially diverse neighborhood where our assembly met.  For a number of years, we expressed evermore daring and risky outpouring of God’s love and unmerited grace to people who desperately needed it, but who largely could not fathom the sacrifice that had been, and was being, made on their behalf.  (Same as you and me experience Jesus, of course, but the white, middle-class people of our congregation were finding another side of that coin too.)

Even while we were neck deep in our own sacrifice (still a long way from selling everything, giving it all to the church or poor so that no one went in need, but definitely on that slope!), I began to analyze how many of my brothers and sisters spent their … their… let’s call it “off hours” when away from the assembly… watching Fox News and devouring the kind of political agendas expressed there.  I was no rocket-surgeon, but I could see plainly that the nice folx at Fox had no interest in the kind of giving and sacrifice we were pouring out to the poor.  On the contrary, they championed something more like a “tough love” where you cut those poor people off the dole!

My first reaction was amazement!  Look what God was doing with us!  Despite ourselves too.  When we got together, we were better than the sum of our parts!  We set aside all our smaller, worldly agendas and worldly wisdoms for the Spirit of God to move in us, and I was amazed by that.

And then it hit me.  I better not point this out to anyone.  This little arrangement is extremely fragile.  I figured the only way this worked was because (up until that time) the sect I was raised in had always resisted the trends of the larger evangelical influences in important ways.  I could plainly see that my brothers and sisters did not want our local, state, or national government doing this work, but for the church, that was another matter.  But of course, there is a fine line there, and if you believe the philosophy instead of dickering over who provides the care, then our mission would soon succumb to political pressures.

To make a long story short, it was soon after these observations that one of the ministers introduced our church to the book When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert, a book which claims to be biblical, and does start off that way, but which betrays a commitment to that ideal as it slowly blends conservative politics with ministry in a voodooish syncretism.  (Seriously, by the time you reach chapter 9 in that book, you find them endorsing microfinance loans and the forced repayment as the answer to the problems despite their remarks being a complete betrayal of the Jubilee they endorsed in the early chapters.)

Suddenly, the church had a way to smuggle in GOP politics in under Jesus’s name!  This book gave them the cover they needed, and soon church leadership stopped all the outreach for months while they revamped it all and then began selling our charity to the poor at reduced prices!  (Nowhere is that found in the Jesus of the Bible, by the way.)

(Also, by the way, I want to point out to you, dear reader, that in about a dozen years since that overhaul of mission, the poor in that neighborhood are still there, still poor, and still every bit as needy as they were when the complaint about our sacrificial giving arose in the first place.  BUT the church is now split and limps as a pathetic shell of the glory it once shown to this town.)

THE POINT

I tell of that to set the stage for my point, which is a question:

IF my church is going to go apostate, what do I do? 

This is not a usual problem.  It’s usually and historically the other way round.  In fact, my childhood was filled with people who either “fell away” or “backslid” as we sometime say, or they might fall into sin – usually of a shameful and sexual nature – and thus might face church discipline.  Even the passage in Matthew 18 outlining church discipline banks on the premise that the whole congregation, if need be, will put out an unrepentant individual, rather than an individual putting out a church.

Seriously!

The problem is quite complex at this point.  We are not talking about a simple sin of just one category like lust or greed or murder.  Everyone sins, and we must all repent.  We all must not think too highly of ourselves but be humble about our own feet of clay and in our handling of the sins of others, recognizing that we too suffer temptations.  At that level, it’s still hard, but not overly complex.

But we are talking about people now who give allegiance to lesser powers rather than Jesus (kind of a whole other order of sin, a matter of idolatry) but who continue to claim the Name!  It’s idolatry in Jesus’s name!  (Maybe all sin is that in the end, I don’t know.)  The faith is bankrupt.  If there is any vestige of it left, it’s hard to detect, and honestly, we must remember that if it were an individual we are talking about, the church might be called to put that one out of the assembly!  In that case, you would no longer treat the person as a brother or sister, but as a Gentile and tax collector.

Wow!

Of course, in the years since, I have confronted the church about this.  The church refuses to listen to me.  The church of which Jesus declares the gates of hell cannot withstand betrays him and leaves me standing there alone in faith.

Wow!

Now I have a whole OTHER order of problems.  How can I be sure I am right and everyone else is wrong?  I mean, I can get that a lot of people might be wrong, but literally everyone else except me???  That’s generally a pretty good indicator that the problem is me.  We used to even say that as sort of a proverbial wisdom when I was young!

But, of course, we also used to say, “If everyone else runs off a cliff, will you jump too?”

Going to the Bible with this problem, I find Elijah faced with something similar in I Kings 19.  Idolatry has taken over Israel from top to bottom, and he feels so very alone in his faith and allegiance to God.  Yet even that is somehow part of God’s plan, and he needs to trust God despite appearances (a lesson that takes so many different shapes, colors, and sizes!).

Who is my brother and sister?  What shibboleth should I require?  Will there be a secret handshake??  When do I cross from faith into paranoid delusion???

Hmmm…

The moment I abandon the LOVE of God, I embrace paranoid delusion.  

BROTHER JUDAS

Every now and again, you meet a family who has lost a loved one, but I don’t mean grandma and grandpa.  Everyone loses grandma and grandpa eventually, but every now and again you meet a young family without the mama or the daddy, and it ain’t always because of divorce.  Worse yet (can it be worse?), sometimes the loss is one of the kids.  When that happens, the loss is a perpetually painful subject, and you might meet and know these folx a surprisingly long time before they tell you of this loss.

But the ones who are really, really reluctant to talk about the loss are those who sent one to death row.

Think about it.

He was a young boy.  So full of promise.  Potential.  Handsom too.  But we don’t talk about him much because you might’a heard of him.  Yeah.  He made the papers but for all the wrong reasons.

Yeah.  You read about him.  You know what he did was absolutely despicable.  An utter betrayal of faith.  It’s easy, really, for people to hate him – at least to dread him.  But he was my brother before all that.

I know what you read about him.  I read it too, and while there was some truth to it, I assure you, you did not get the real skinny.

You heard he was greedy.  Right?  Yeah.  I heard that too.  I read it in John 12:6.  Seriously, that is one single verse in the whole Bible!  You do know, don’t you, that three other witnesses who testified made no such mention of Judas at all.  Did you realize that?

Yeah.  One little verse taken out of context, and suddenly my brother Judas is reduced to some greedy jerk who would sell out Jesus for his greed.

Look.  I don’t deny John’s testimony.  Judas did have an issue with that, alright, but even John isn’t telling you that to explain Judas’s whole motivation.  That’s just the way the media spins it.  In fact, you learn that bit about Judas in a story about something else entirely, not about his betrayal.

You gotta put all that in proper perspective, okay?  Judas was not simply some creep who only blindly worshiped money and would sell out anyone or anything at any time just to get his hands on some more dough.  He felt bad about what he’d done, you know?  He killed himself because he looked into the pit of his soul and found where the road paved with good intentions leads, and that is what got him.

Look.  If you want to understand my brother, you gotta go back before all of that.  People these days don’t even remember when Judas was a great hero of Israel.  Well, a few Catholics do, but most evangelicals and other Protestants have no clue.

You have to go all the way back to the Maccabee revolution, about 150 years before Jesus came along.  The Maccabees were a remarkable family of warriors who led Israel into independence from Seleucids and Ptolemies.  The one Maccabee brother who proved to be the fiercest warrior and most blessed of God was Judas Maccabee, The Hammer, who crushed the enemies of God in holy righteousness and won freedom for our people that lasted almost a hundred years!

Mama and Papa named my brother after him!  A lot of people did that for several generations afterward.  It wasn’t any different than you find in the American South after the American Civil War when everybody and their cousin took the name Lee.  Judas’s namesake always reminded everyone who met him that our family remembers the glory days, and we will always be ready at the next chance to win freedom for our people!  That’s in our DNA!  It definitely was in Judas’s DNA.  Just imagine, every single time someone addressed Judas by name, they invoked The Hammer, and Judas wore that name proudly.

Iscariot was not his last name.  Some misinformed people think that too, but no.  Iscariot is kind of an obscure designation passed around in secret society type groups.  You might have heard of zealots, people armed and ready for open conflict the moment God gives us the signal to move.

Yeah.  Well, you have your average hot-head zealots, of course, but then you have your covert assassins who aren’t sitting around waiting.  Judas “Iscariot” tells me (let me whisper this part in your ear, it’s sensitive information*), Judas belonged to a secretive warrior society called Sicari.  Yeah, these brave men never left home without their concealed carry weapon, and they could strike with stealth even in an open market with precision accuracy against infidels in power.

That’s how Judas rolled, okay.

If you think he was simply driven by greed, you don’t get the whole story.  I won’t deny greed played a role in Judas’s motivations, but that was not some greed in a spiritual vacuum.  It never really is anyway.  Greed is always attached to something, and for Judas, his desire for money was a desire to fund the revolution.  Yes, I think he let visions of glory go to his head.  He sought personal glory and fame like Judas “The Hammer” had found.  Judas Iscariot wanted to leverage his name to make a name for himself!

But, of course, he was ultimately working for God.  Isn’t that always the temptation, though?  You have big plans to do great things for God, and you sorta overlook the fact that you’re really kinda trying to bring glory to yourself.  It’s a common mistake, but of course the stakes are higher when it comes to warfare, to assassinations, and especially when it comes to Jesus.

Oh, Jesus brings a pollical agenda with him alright.  For Jesus of Naz, there is no separation of Israel and state any more than there is a separation of church and state in Europe.  No.  Jesus aimed to be crowned King of the Jews – about as political an ambition as there ever was!  But, of course, he had a completely otherworldly approach to that crown than anyone ever saw coming!  Judas, meanwhile, had political ambitions too, but they, sadly, were completely entangled in this world, in the Age that is Passing Away rather than the Age to Come.

So, you see, Judas follows Jesus around for almost three years along with the other eleven, but unlike Peter who totally blows the pop quiz Jesus hits him with in Mark 8, Judas was paying attention.  Suddenly, Jesus is talking about dying, about laying down his life for the kingdom cause, and Judas, the taker of lives for the glory of God, is listening carefully – and calculating.  He totally gets it.  This messiah wants to die!

Oh… he didn’t, of course, really understand everything, but those passion predictions stuck in his craw.  The other disciples couldn’t grasp what Judas did.  Judas suddenly realized that he was backing a messiah who was going to die for God’s glory, and that just didn’t compute!

Who does that compute for even now???  REALLY???

Judas knew then he had to get out of that band of revolutionaries.  Jesus was doomed and dooming himself, but Judas would not go down with him.

He thought about it long and hard.

It would not be enough for him to simply bow out of Jesus’s entourage.  People knew he was a follower of Jesus.  You recall, Peter faced that problem at Jesus’s trial in the courtyard too!  The servant girl put it together, and called him out, and even Peter denied Jesus, vainly, of course.  Judas could see he had to extricate himself from this doomed messiah.  At the moment, his mission was still covert, but later, he would need everyone to know that it was him, he had betrayed this Jesus for the fraud he was.

Thirty pieces of silver?

Greed?

Yeah.  Greed was involved, okay.  But thirty pieces of silver were not just some shiny precious like a ring in the hands of Gollum.  No.  It was just the right amount of money to make a lot of sense for Judas’s next step.  It was cheap enough of a betrayal for people to say, hey, he didn’t do it strictly for the money, he did it on principle, but it was also enough to fund starting his own movement.  Judas would have to take matters into his own hands and serve God as messiah himself in the next revolutionary movement – one he would lead himself.

Are you catching on to the idea now?

I AM SPARTICUS – ahem – JUDAS

Judas brought his politics with him into his discipleship with Jesus and look how it served God; look how it served Jesus; look how it served Judas.

We all are guilty, not only of sin, but of remaking God in our own image.  All of us.  It is a constant temptation, and one better off acknowledged and confessed so that it might be dealt with in some way approaching appropriate.  This certainly was true of Judas, though he never acknowledged it.

But here is what’s true of Jesus:

Even with Judas, the betrayer, in his group, Jesus did not kick him out.

Isn’t that interesting?

Jesus who foresaw the betrayal, who even predicted it for the Twelve at the supper, did not kick Judas out, but dipped in the bowl with him anyway.  They ate together!  Judas was always welcome with Jesus, right up until he rejected life itself.

It is so heartbreaking to look at Judas there like that, so close to LOVE in the flesh, eating with him and yet so hard hearted he could not see it.

Wow!

Let that be a cautionary tale for us all!  Me and you.

But let it also indict our political ambitions – our religio/political ambitions especially.

What is a shibboleth at the table with Jesus where even the betrayer is welcome?  It is my politic, and that is my own downfall, I think.

I write this because I struggle with it too.  If you read here often, you surely recognize that.  I have so much angst and struggle with my own blood kin, my church family, as well as the public at large along political lines today.  I even stress over and over again that I too identify myself as conservative in so many ways, big and small, and in ways which conservatives used to claim were important to them.  I can’t get a meeting halfway, not three fourths of the way, and not nine tenths.

The only meeting I get is at the bowl where we dip together.  The LAST supper.  And I feel the betrayer get up from that meal and leave to do his dirty work.  I can see it as clear as day!

But as I follow Jesus out that door afterward, it is a cross I go to with him.  Not fooled by what is coming one bit but holding out love to my enemies who are also my brothers, my beloved brothers.  I have dreams of greatness which I tell them of, but they plot against me instead.  And I strive to be shaped into the man of God who will one day arise out of a tomb or dungeon and reunite with them in tears able to say, what you meant for evil, God meant for good.

It’s the very best I can find in the Bible.

I am weak to the work.  But it is the best I can find in Jesus, and if I didn’t find it in him, I think he would not be worth following.

God help us all.

Remember you read this AFTER the coming election.

God bless America.  Please, God.  Bless America.

….

*My hypothetical presentation of Judas is largely my own making and NOT well-established theory accepted or promoted in biblical scholarship.  Let me state that clearly for the record.  However, the bit about the origins of the title “Iscariot” which I present is not mine.  At this time, I do not recall where I read that, but I am clear that it was presented hypothetically when I found it too.  However, I maintain that the conjecture is in fact plausible.

DIVORCED FROM HOME

Pieces

I’m not sure anyone makes the connection between divorce and homelessness.  If they do, I sure don’t see it; I never hear about it.  Even I neglect to talk about it much, though to my credit I have given it honorable mention as far back as some of my earliest blog posts.  (I posted about it within my first 20 publications.)

I am not in a position to quantify, measure, or in any way professionally analyze the correlation, but I sense strongly it is there, and it is causal – at least in part.  I personally experienced a brief brush with homelessness as a young adult, and I experienced the divorce of my parents when I was young and my own marriage as I entered middle age.  I have insider knowledge as well as observation from the field, and I want to call the church to look into it.

As with so much, the American church is out of touch with both homelessness and divorce.  I think in this regard, the church tracks right along with the wider culture’s denial of death – you know that phenom where we culturally brush death to the margins?  Jesus, of course, does not marginalize pain and suffering, but rather seeks it out for his loving attention, but Americans deny, deny, deny in countless ways big and small.

Even the attention we give to such pain is generally a diversionary tactic reinforcing the larger and more important denial.  Our help with suffering is always at least as much smokescreen as help!  I recall as a newly divorced person, I arrived at a church (featuring “Divorce Care”) in relative (almost complete) anonymity and asked for help.  I was sent to a small classroom where I showed up before anyone else and waited.  Finally, the “instructor/facilitator(s)” arrived once they realized they had a live person seeking their care!  (It seems the program was not well utilized by others, and sometimes no one showed up at all.)

I was greeted warmly, as you might expect, and shortly we were joined by one other person, a woman.  Ha!  There were two of us at this fine Wednesday night Bible-meeting!  And since we were “running late,” it was said, “We better get started.”

At that point, the one instructor announced to the other that we were working our way through the video series and had last watched number five.  Thus, we needed to prepare to show number six.  He then turned to his two new pupils and gave us each a little workbook.  The cost of the book was $10, but we could pay next time.  He apologized for putting us in the middle of the series, but it made sense to him that we stay on course with it rather than start it over for new people.

What was the video lecture about?

It was about how to deal with children of divorce.  You see, when you get divorced, you are not the only one suffering, but the kids also.  They often feel it’s their fault!  This comprehensive video series covered that phenom too, and we were jumping in on it AT THAT POINT.

I raised my hand.

There literally were only four of us in the room, only two of us pupils, and I raised my hand!  I was called upon to speak, which I did.

I announced that I had no children from my marriage.  I wondered if I really needed this video at all and seeing as how no one else had arrived except one, perhaps a different video would be more “effective?” – if you know what I mean.  At that, the other lady was asked if she had kids, which she affirmed, and so we stayed the course with the video series despite its complete uselessness to me.

Now… Even I think this next observation sounds a bit whiny, self-centered, and pitiful to me, but I am a firsthand witness as well as experienced, but I was in bad shape that night.  I was in need of help!  I needed some hope and healing.  I was in acute pain of a deadly sort.  I wasn’t entirely myself. 

But the church couldn’t be bothered with my needs.   This multimillion-dollar enterprise had a program for divorced people and keeping up with the video series was more important than the people being served.  (Might explain why attendance was so low.)  You would think that lesson five on handling finances or lesson seven on dealing with depression would have been suitable to both the pupils, but instead we stayed with lesson six, and “served” only half the class with a video while serving the need of keeping up with the series, and while maintaining a “Divorce Care” ministry which looks good in the brochures, anyway.

You would think we could just set the whole video series aside and just prayed.

As it turns out, the “instructor/facilitator(s)” were themselves personally experienced with divorce.  Presumably, and I definitely believe this, they came to the task with uncommon care because of it.  But I suspect they had been assured that they need not be overly skilled in leading a group; they need only set up the video and assign some reading in the book.  I have to guess at that; I don’t really know what caused us to be so slavishly bureaucratic.

Meanwhile, the church could boast in its “Divorce Care” ministry, one of seventy the church provides to the larger community!

What can I say?

I got my rubber stamp and never returned.  I think now, I know why we were the only two in attendance.  We were new and didn’t know better.

Oh… by the way… the same church is one of the MAJOR sponsors/contributors to Lubbock’s Premier (Pseudo) Homeless Church too.  (If you’ve read here much over the years, you know that wonderful ministry runs on a million-dollar budget serving the homeless in amazing ways with all manner of extensive services yet manages to kick the flock to the curb every night at about 5pm closing time.  (All in the name of Jesus, of course.))

Disconnect

I think I have said enough now to demonstrate the disconnect between what we say and do, what we mean and what we really mean.  There is a smokescreen there behind which we hide our lack of care, a smokescreen that looks like care in the brochures, but maybe not so much down at street level.

I in no way think this problem is exclusive to the church I attend(ed) or to the church of Lubbock.  In fact, I think the church of Lubbock is highly representative of others.  We are deeply American through and through.  Even our most cherished rituals by which our most historically sectarian exclusivity and rigidity are shed now more in some esoteric, even generic and cultural, shame than in well-thought-out repentance.  It’s all a little too kneejerk and consumerist.  Probably with a deeply denied fear that the church is shrinking, and a desire to make ourselves more appealing to seekers in hopes of staving off oblivion.

Hmmm…  The gates of hell cannot withstand us, but we will sell out at the first sign we aren’t part of the cool kids’ clique.

I reckon I am starting to cast too broad an aspersion with that line of thought, and it is a bunny trail, really anyway.  But I will let it stand as a marker.  Argue it if you want, you might change my mind or enhance my opinion, nevertheless, whatever the reason, there is this disconnect.

Reframing

I think we need to consider carefully whether “homelessness” isn’t – AT LEAST IN PART (a significant part at that) – a result of divorce.  I don’t see the two matters as all that much separate.  Homes are being broken in this culture every day, and anymore, it seems so matter of fact in the church as well as the larger culture!

For that matter, the whole notion of “growing up and leaving home” is a modern phenom for most people!  A version of it has always existed, I think – certainly since Abraham and Sarah, but it has not been the go-to lifestyle for the public at large until the Industrial Revolution and especially since WWII.  Sure, there were always soldiers and sailors and merchants and some Gypsie-type cultures, but not for the masses.  These days, you are born into a home and from diapers you are set on a course to grow up and leave it for the American Dream.

Marriages in more primitive cultures are so often arranged by the parents.  Your sex life is a gift from your parents!  It’s not something you leave home to discover.  But in the late 1970s, when I was still in the first grade, I laid eyes for the first time on pornography my older cousins had secured when I went to visit my family who lived in another state!  “Home” was spread out, invaded by porn, and we were all on a cultural trajectory designed to leave it.

We trash our homes like we trash a rental car!  It’s our cultural way.

I doubt very much that the church can or should try to put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak, but we surely should address such things somehow!  Can you remember not so long ago when James Dobson was all the rage with his “Focus On The Family”?  Can you remember not that long ago when one of the major political agendas was “family values”?

Where is Dobson now?  (Old, I know, but what about his concerns?  When was the last time you focused on the family as a church?)

Where did our political agenda for the family go?  (Is it all tied up in resisting CRT now?  In revamping election procedures?  Really???)

Hmmm…

I think “Home” got lost at church.

It is so easy, these days, to look at bums on the side of the road and think, “They like living that way,” or “They are just lazy and don’t want to work.”  I won’t deny there is SOME truth to that sometimes.  But if we place even that truth (to the extent it is true) in the larger framework of historical and cultural understanding of “home,” we might find there is an anchor which the culture around us has come loose from which facilitates the drift into new chaotic waters where we currently find ourselves.

And I would champion that kind of analysis.

I suggest the church consider it, and then let’s see where we go from here.

Hey…  As an addendum to all of that

Let me hasten to say, and link you to another post, that I found deep healing for myself as a divorced person in a little book by Erik Routley called, Ascent To The Cross.  Maybe that little book just spoke to me in a language only I could receive, but as a divorced person dealing with the throes of bewilderment and personal pain, I joined Jesus in Routley’s little book as he examined the Psalms of Ascent and we joined Jesus singing them as he made his journey to that fateful Passover where he would die.

That book says NOTHING about divorce!

Not a word.

And yet in it, Jesus found me and asked me to help him climb that mountain to his crucifixion, and I found meaning in my life as I joined him doing that.

If I were leading a “Divorce Care” ministry, I would pass out copies of that book!

Here is a link that the post on that:

This Little Book Might Have Saved My Life

A SCOOP OF “POOP”

For those of you who want to get the real poop on real poop, just hit the streets.

In case you don’t know, when archaeologists dig up ancient cities, they particularly like to find the trash heap – the dump.  That’s where the truth about people is found – in what they throw away.  Same with detectives investigating crimes; they stakeout the trash.  (Just watch a crime show.)

With this in mind, what do you think the refuse says about you?

What about your rejections?

What do they say about YOU?

Hmmm…

Drive past a beggar recently?

Did you turn your face away in rejection and leave them to the gutter?

I once watched a manager at Walmart walk all the way across that massive parking lot to run off a beggar near the property entrance.  Walmart doesn’t want “those people” there.  Why?  Because you don’t.

Where do these rejections congregate?

Down by the river.

On the other side of the tracks.

In a galaxy far, far away.

And congregate, they do.  They are the trash dump of humanity.

Gehenna was the trash dump of ancient Jerusalem.  A great place for archaeologists to study, by the way.  It’s all built up now, so you might not know it when you entered the gates of hell these days.  But every town has one, and even the church uses it.

What do you think an investigator will learn about you THERE?  About your CHURCH?

Have you ever been down to the trash dump of humanity?  Have you ever listened to the poor?

I have.

I listened to a young lady and her man tell me about people stopping at red lights only to roll up the window, lock the door, and turn up the radio during their time there.

Can you imagine being a human being, created in the image of God, existing in his good creation, and standing at a corner where people do that?

I heard about a hundred homeless people complain about the “executive minister” at the homeless “church” by name – singling him out – for not caring, for running them off after hours, for playing favorites and all that.  Seriously, “about a hundred” of them.

Can you imagine a church where about a hundred of the members dread their pastor?  Only at the homeless “church.”

Do you send a check there to support that?  Have you ever personally asked the folx there if they are loved or rejected by their pastor?  Or were you too busy rejecting them to ask?

Really.

Walk a block in those shoes.

Walk down to the congregation of dumpster divers and ask.

And investigate.

You might be surprised to find out about yourself there.  The mirror they hold up to you might not show a heart nearly as soft as you like to think.

“ABUNDANT LIFE” BROUGHT TO YOU BY NAKED PEOPLE OF THE BIBLE (move over super bowl commercials)

And now a word from our sponsor:

Hi, folx.  Agent X here for NPB.

Are you a “Christian” in today’s world?  Feeling a little baffled by “the meaning of life”?  Do you feel the rug ripped out from under everything you ever stood for or believed as a kid now that the good name of Jesus is pulled in every direction except LOVE?

Are you confused about faith?

Are you seeking answers to life’s big questions?

Did the God-hates-fags Jesus let you down when your children came out of the closet?  Were you following “the God of grace” to the ballot box or to the mob scene on January 6th?  Alternatively, has your Jesus made smokey, backroom tradeoffs with the devil, convincing your daughter that her “right to choose” takes priority over your grandchild’s right to life?

How’s that “God of grace” thingy workin’ out for ya?  Is it just lipstick on a pig???

In short, America, has your Jesus traded in the Power of Love for the Love of Power?

If you are no longer satisfied with your Republican’t Jesus…

If you are no longer comforted by your Demoncrat Jesus…

Come.

Come to the Naked People of the Bible.

Here at Naked People of the Bible, we teach you what LOVE really means, how to experience LOVE, share LOVE, and show LOVE – real AGAPE LOVE, not those cheap imitations you find in glory holes, not the simple platitudes of greeting cards, but the complete devotion to God and his Rule which makes all things new.

Here at Naked People of the Bible, you will meet the Adam and his wife, Eve.  They will show you that when God created the world, he made them in his very image: male & female – also naked… and vulnerable (even completely naive!).  As such, they became sexual beings whose loving/trusting unions displayed God before the rest of creation.  Want to learn how to have “mountain moving sex”?  Ask the original sexual beings, whose complete trust and fidelity in God brought them together and gave them rule over all other creatures.

Here at Naked People of the Bible, you will meet Jesus who walks on water, heals many of various diseases and afflictions, who pays his taxes with no complaints from coins found in fish mouths.  You will meet the Jesus who, when completely stripped of every stitch of clothing and murdered in a horrific miscarriage of justice, then supremely bears the image of God, proving that without any worldly power known to humankind, and without a single stitch of clothing, pretense, and no pockets for any dimes he also does not have, is equipped to show us God’s very self and God’s self-sacrificial LOVE.

Here at Naked People of the Bible, you can take a seminar on the teachings of Jesus and learn that you don’t need your money for anything worthwhile in life, that giving it up is better.  You will learn that the widow’s two mites are worth more than all the offerings of all the rich people.  You will learn that you can give to all who ask.  You will learn that in fact, you lack one thing: sell everything you have, give the money to the poor, count your blessings in heaven, and come follow Jesus!

Here at Naked People of the Bible, you will meet 3,000 people, who just like you, once were lost but upon the unleashing of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost were baptized and joined the Jesus movement, who also quickly began selling their possessions and giving it all to the church so that no one had need of anything, and therein found abundant life!  You will meet missionaries who carried the good news of this LOVE around the world, seeking the Kingdom of God first while all their needful things were added unto them abundantly.

If you find your life is driven by market forces, political hype, war, and hysteria, but the meaning of life is lacking and you have no abundance, come to the Naked People of the Bible.

Repent today!

Act now while supplies of the Age which is Passing Away last!

DESCENSION

Descent to the Cross

Many years ago, I heard a sermon (ostensibly) preached by a medical doctor who prepared a medical exegesis of Roman crucifixion.  All these years since, there are details I don’t recall, but the sterile, white-lab-coat, unflinching analysis of Jesus’s death jarred me in a way I will never forget.

The examination began with the mental/emotional stress of accusation and arrest – the psychology of false accusation and insult.  It continued through sleep deprivation, beatings about the head, flogging and lashing, loss of blood.  The crown of thorns, the blood and sweat, and eventually nails driven through flesh.

As I recall it, the point was made that nails through extremities are not fatal.  The nails did not kill Jesus.  Crucifixion is, of course, a death sentence, but even more it is a degradation ceremony, stripping the condemned of any dignity, privacy, reverence or care.  The condemned is tacked completely naked with arms spread open as a billboard for the world to see the psychological, emotional, social, familial, and physical breakdown which does not end with death, but in most cases the corpse is left to rot there continuing the degradation process.

It was also noted that the part causing death is the collapse of the diaphragm in the relaxed position after complete exhaustion, causing the condemned to stop breathing.  Breathing in the crucified condition is only done by taking leverage from the driven nails and pulling oneself up to take in a breath.  Also noted, the analysis suggested that your average strapping, farm-boy (or carpenter’s son) might continue in this condition for days in most cases.

Also noted, for particularly grueling observation, the raw meat of one’s back having been flogged would drag against the splinters in the “old rugged cross” every time a breath was taken.

Wow!

Let all of that sink in a moment.  Even Mel Gibson might have missed something!

It would not be uncommon for a condemned man on a Roman cross to either spend those precious breaths pleading mercy (a quick death) or cursing his tormenters.  However, that makes it all the more remarkable that Jesus spends his dying breaths blessing and forgiving his tormenters.

One other observation that stands out in my memory is how that in the case of Jesus, the death came abnormally soon.  If you recall, the thieves on either side of him required their legs be broken in order to hasten their deaths before the holiday, but Jesus did not.  This suggests that when Jesus was done blessing and forgiving, and when he said, “It is finished,” he simply stopped pulling himself up for a breath of air.  His work was done, and thus he died laying down his life rather than it being taken.

What can I say?

The sermon made an impact on me.

Within a few years of my exposure to it (I believe the sermon made a circuit through many churches and Christian social circles), I became a street minister.  Not long after that, I began reaching out to the homeless particularly.

Descent into Ice

Sometime after that, we had a homeless person freeze to death one night in a major storm here in Lubbock.  A year after that, we had another.

It was shocking to think that in Lubbock, Texas people might freeze to death for lack of a warm place to spend the night, and sure enough, there are complicating circumstances which “enable” the system to open up cracks for people to fall through.  But somewhere along the way, I found a couple websites claiming to describe blow-for-blow, the mental/physical degradation process the average human body goes through when freezing to death.

There might be worse ways to die, but I gotta say, freezing to death is an awful one.  The fact that it happens at all in this town is a crying shame.

Descent into Oblivion

But all of that makes me think that going from being a housed American to being homeless is a degradation too.  It doesn’t matter how high you started.  You might be rich and lose it all (that has happened) or you might “age out of foster care.”  There’s a lot of ground in between those scenarios too.

Frequently, it starts with poor mental health and/or addiction, but eventually you can’t make the rent.  The bills come due and pile up.  The mental stress alone of a bill causes irritability in my home quite literally every month, and we usually pay ahead of time, make double payments, and all that.

But when they go unpaid a couple months, you get torn with shame.  Perhaps you ask for help, ask for extensions, ask family and friends for personal loans and the like, but of course a loan must be paid back which effectively creates another bill!  The moment that personal loan from a family member or friend comes due, that relationship gets strained – taxed with burdens and shame.  It becomes easy at that point to lay low, to dodge friends and loved ones as much as possible.

The isolation well underway now, choices are made about how to handle the shame.  Friends and family now know you are in the rears, and you are not dependable, and when the car is repossessed or the house is foreclosed/rental eviction (whichever), you seek a sofa to surf or sleep in your car.  How do you look someone in the eye now?

You literally rob Peter to pay Paul.  And after a few months of doing that, you realize you are giving up either food or medications, and sometimes both, and you lose heirlooms, keepsakes, pictures, and so many irreplacables too.  So, when you find yourself with a ten-spot, you know it is only a drop in the bucket of your problems, and in no way will fix your life, but it will afford you a drink, and that sure sounds good.

Hmmm… more slippery slopes, more steeply slippery.

After exhausting your friends and family for sofas for a few weeks or months, after running aground with two, three, or nearly all of your closest relationships, you sleep in your car one night or find a shelter service, or you check into a mental hospital.  The moment you set foot the first time into one of the “services” you experience a form of “culture shock.”  The moment you sleep in your car, you experience extreme isolation and vulnerability.  Take your pick.  Either way, you have now joined the ranks of those “outside.”  You are no longer an “insider.”

Within a week or a month, you find all the rules and hoops to jump through at the services to be like a game of twister.  You were jumping hoops for creditors for a year before, and now this headache is just someone else’s vanity.  You might not be in freefall, but you’ve been descending every step of the way for over a year now.  You’ve toyed with the idea of selling your body or some drugs before, but now you really don’t have anything to lose, and getting high might at least feel good.

How long has it been since you felt good?

You don’t deserve to feel good, and you know it.  But you can’t hardly deny the impulse.

A few days after that, you realize that travel toothbrush you’ve been using, one of the last vestiges of sanity, normality, and life you still enjoy, got lost or fell in a dumpster you were diving to find food.  It’s right about then it dawns on you that you don’t really need to brush your teeth; it won’t help anything.  You haven’t had a shower in three days, and in fact, you squatted to use the bathroom in broad daylight by the same dumpster where you found lunch yesterday.

You didn’t get here because you woke up one day and thought you would just want to be a lazy bum.  No.  You fought like hell every step of the way and lost nearly ever battle in this war before you got this far.  And so, with a needle in your arm, you figure this is where God wants you, and you can’t fight him.  Thus, you resign to your fate.  No one loves you, and never will again.  Every scrap of food or comfort you ever get the rest of your life, you will only get by lying, cheating, stealing, and manipulating.

It’s not your fault.

It’s the way the world works, and you should have wised up to it long before you ran out of options, because you could still be enjoying middle-class comfort if you had only been willing to steal and cheat way back when your problems were still just a pile of bills.

Hmmm…

It’s a variation on a theme, I reckon.  But it’s a soundtrack to millions of lives.  More and more every day.

Come Quickly, Lord Jesus!