WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS AIRLINE

Okay… I am posting on things I don’t REALLY know again. Working with some old and sorta vague memory here, but I think it was right about 10 years ago when I was listening to a show on NPR (something I rarely do) and they were talking about a new novel.  The inspiration for the novel?  The writer had heard that the most dangerous airline in the world was based in North Korea.

So, the NPR show discussed this phenom a bit.  Apparently, the idea that things are “going well” is so deeply and culturally ingrained in North Koreans that even when you put a pilot and two assistants in the cockpit of an airliner, when the instruments begin showing a problem to one of the assistants, she/he cannot bring themselves to mention it to the pilot who might thus address it.

This means that the flight is doomed, unless everything goes perfectly according to plan.  The plane will begin losing pressure, altitude, thrust.. whatever, and even as it starts falling from the sky, the flight crew will be in utter denial all the way to impact.

I was so charged up over this interview that I went and purchased a copy of the novel on a Kindle.  However, I just hardly ever read fiction, and I never finished this one.  By now I have forgotten the title.  But I never forgot that NPR show where the author was interviewed and this idea was discussed.

I feel like since 2016, and especially all of 2020, I have been buckled into a North Korean Airline seat taking my last wild ride.  I notice something is wrong; I even have some simple ideas about how to mitigate the huge problems, but none of that matters to the passengers sitting next to me.  I am just supposed to sit back and enjoy my flight.

Wow!

OUR ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

The last few weeks here at the Fat Beggars Home for Widows, Orphans, and Sojourners has been extra stressful.  I posted recently offering thanx anonymously for the food we were given by several friends after Mrs. Agent X’s sister reached out on Facebook appealing for help since we took in yet another child.  I will link that post here:

https://fatbeggars.wordpress.com/2020/09/18/fat-beggars-home-for-widows-orphans-and-sojourners-eats-5-loaves-and-two-fishes/

Just a very few days later, Mrs. Agent X’s other sister was killed in a car accident.  Suddenly, we had a funeral to attend to as well as four rug rat kids!  Grief has descended here.  It has been a tough month, and we are not past it all yet.

However, even more friends have stepped up to help.  Food came pouring in from all directions.  Babysitters.  Help.

Things are only just now beginning to slow down a bit.  (We had a wedding in the family just yesterday too!)  But the food has just come again and again. Sometimes double booked.  Our fridge is just bursting, and so are we.

I do not name names on this blog, and so I will not specify the people we owe so much thanx to either, but the kindness has been so overwhelming that I really must say THANK YOU again.

Jesus has smiled on this home during our hour of need, and I am grateful.  Praise the Lord!

We are cared for here, and God is good to us.

THANX

RACE RUNNING WITH PERSERVERANCE

Preface to the Preface

I started blogging about matters relating to race (race relations, racial justice, prejudice and the like) last summer as such things began heating up following (especially) the killing of George Floyd.  Race, as a topic in and of itself, is not the focus of this blog, but of course like lots of topics it does impinge on the focus here in big and small, direct and indirect, ways.  Thus, it is not a major stretch to take off on this tangent.

Also, I am NOT an expert.  I am not doing exhaustive research; my offerings will be largely anecdotal and personal (yet, I hope reflective of common thoughts, feelings, and experiences).  Any agendas I may push regarding race, I do as humbly as I can and with grace, mercy, and LOVE in mind.  I expect that as I bring up discussions on race, I will (probably inadvertently) reveal my own bias(es) and prejudice much of which will be subconscious on my part since I intend to strain toward equality and love.

The offerings here will be MY PERSPECTIVE on things with hope of accounting for my own mistakes, becoming vulnerable and open to correction, and to explore many different facets of racial diversity, not just the problem areas.  I will attempt to get both deep AND wide with exploration, confession, inquiry, and build trust while keeping ideas for prescription playing only a minor part.  

The issues are bigger than me.  I cannot resolve everything.  But I can, hopefully, build a bridge between my white, middle-class life of relative comfort and my neighbors who I largely do not know and whose experience(s) frequently (if not always) involve fear, oppression, subjugation, as well as misunderstanding as they interact (or even just live in proximity with) me and people like me.  And so… even though my aims are meager, as far as the notion of “making a difference” goes, I can “start with me,” pushing myself to be vulnerable, honest, open-minded, and willing to build fidelity with others (of any race, actually).  

I expect this post to be foundational for further discussion.  I may well refer readers back here from time to time.  Not that I will stick strictly to every word here, but to refer to the tone in which I wish to conduct discussion AND maybe a few of the worldview lenses I look through as I enter this space of sharing.  Hopefully, any changes in the foundation will be for mutual benefit or else will not change significantly and thus provide stability for the overarching conversation.

Thanx

Now for just THE Preface

This post in general is intended to preface further discussion.  And while the paragraphs above seek to set a tone of humility (first and foremost) and to lay out a general notion of the scope (secondarily), I want also to lay out a few thought-shaping ideas I have.  I don’t mean them to be written in stone, and they may prove not all that meaningful in the end, but I sense there are some bits (nuts and bolts) of thought that help construct a larger worldview and/or discussion.  

Simplification

This is starting to sound too erudite for my taste, actually, so let’s try to keep this a bit more colloquial, if possible.  This will not be a straight forward “series” in a regular sense, but a smattering of posts with an open-ended goal and no real end in sight.  When I come to the blog to talk about race, I aim to have a neighborly discussion like neighbors talking over the back fence.  I expect there will be times when I come off like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor talking to Wilson out back and then coming back inside to regurgitate depth and wisdom in simpleton language.  I don’t want to get too hifalutin, really.  I want to make a difference in me and in regular folx from my neighborhood, not write a doctoral thesis.

However, that said, recommending a published doctoral thesis for review by me or other readers here is welcome.  I don’t want to live in fancy college talk, but I don’t cut off any avenue of wisdom either.

Likewise, I do not want to chase the wind in some moral dimension either.  I don’t want to bog down in guilt feelings that are unrealistic.  I don’t want to chase moral phantoms, confess sins that either are nor real or that I have no part in, and such like.  However, I would rather err to that side than to not build a bridge of trust for fear of looking stupid.  The prima facie case is too overwhelming to discount here: White people have oppressed, harmed, subjugated, and killed people of color over the eons with impunity on grand scales.  I live in a world built on such foundations, and I have benefited from the order thus achieved in ways that are unfair and unloving AT LEAST.  

The Learning Curve (esp for White People)

The work of Richard Hughes provides an excellent example and likely template for me to consider at this point.  Hughes has sought to understand our culture and our biases and to teach the rest of us to think critically about such matters.  He’s been at it for years.  He has built a career largely on such grounds.  Almost two decades ago, he wrote a book called Myths America Lives By which explored a number of bases American culture takes as normative and formative which need to be challenged and rethought in more caring ways. Hughes is a Christian leader, as well as a scholar, and so is motivated by the love of Jesus.  This has dictated that he seek equality among races among other things.  

Obviously, Hughes’s heart is “in the right place” as we might say.  Yet a few years ago, as he entered into dialog with a panel of scholars addressing racial justice and the like, he was confronted by his colleagues of color for overlooking the biggest myth of all: The Myth of White Supremacy.  Hughes had to work through a bit of denial to see it, but once he did, he went back to the publisher and revamped his book.  

If that can happen to such a thoughtful idealist as Richard Hughes, a scholar who has become an authority on such things, how much more can I expect it in me?  

But, of course, in citing Hughes’s situation, I again come at this discussion on the erudite side of rhetoric, I fear.  I am not as smart as the rhetoric suggests.  But I am no stooge either.  I think general notions about how this kind of exercise is supposed to work come erroneously from gay rights.  

Civil Rights (Race and Sexual Orientation and Apples and Oranges)

In popular discourse, I find an ill-defined, heady sense that we are working out our prejudices against gays (LGBTQ+) and simply ironing out wrinkles in our own life.  But what if homosexuality is a sin?  What if homosexuality is a choice (at least in some – if not most – cases)?  What if so many of the issues surrounding sexual orientation are far more complex both morally and physiologically, psychologically and spiritually, than matters of race.  OR, what if there are different categories of complexity which render the comparisons between racial matters and matters of sexual orientation to be like comparing apples and oranges?  Some crossover, but not enough to just take it for granted???

I get the sense that as gays find “rights” and settlements against the discriminations they suffer (and I in no way mean to legitimate discriminations against people based on sexual orientation by virtue of my questions above either, but merely to disentangle the two overarching matters), the public discourse expects race matters to follow the same trajectory.  But I find enough differences there, personally, that I in no way equate the two, even if many of the similarities are overwhelmingly obvious.  The instances of white people trying to pass themselves off as black (or other color) are exceptionally small, but in a consumerist culture where choice is so prized that I can stand in the shampoo aisle at the grocery store and ponder no less than 38 versions of Suave Shampoo (as just one tiny example among MANY) to see the menu of sexual orientations and suggest that Americans are just locked into their orientation seems ludicrous to me.  On the other hand, if you are black, then you are black and there is very, precious little you can do on a daily basis to change it – or change the perceptions of others regarding it.

I also want to say a few words about “THE N-WORD.”

First and foremost, on this blog, you will not read me using the N-word.  There is much to be said about the word, not the least the dance around it.  In order to talk about the offensive word, I will use the standard designation “THE N-WORD.”  But this can (and I believe sometimes does) dictate discussion of “THE N-WORD” – the terminology used to designate the N-word without using the N-word.  It gets complicated/cumbersome to not just use the actual N-word, but that is not a good excuse to go using it.  

I will discuss my own feelings and understandings about the N-word in a later post, but I must acknowledge in a prefaced way that there are two terms here: One covering (normally) for the other but sometimes doing double duty; the other being avoided outright in effort to respect readers of color and not do damage to the trust I hope to build.

I hope that is clear.  If not, please ask about my point with this in the comments.  However, I expect to have a LOT more to say about the N-word in a subsequent post at a later time, and I want it clear up front that I respect how offensive that term is, and will avoid using it.

Humor Me

Jokes and funny stories need not necessarily be offensive.  I imagine that there is celebration of diversity hidden in jokes and stories that we surely don’t want to sacrifice, but let’s face it.  Jokes can and often do hurt.

How do we measure offense?  I don’t know a universal yard stick for this.  It seems to me that it is quite obvious that what is funny to one might be hurtful to another.  Thus it is obvious how this is NOT OBVIOUS.  

Yet, obviously there are degrees of inappropriateness.  If a joke or a story is told with the intention of doing harm, then how can we not call that racist?  Surely that is obvious, and if not, surely once it is made clear, offense finds its mark.  What about a joke or a story you don’t feel comfortable telling in front of people of color?  How might telling it be appropriate in private?  I am inclined to think it probably is not.  However, there might be educational value in such a thing. 

Then there is the matter of insensitivity.  I might use a phrase like “you people,” “your people,” or even “those people” in appropriate ways, but I might also use them in sentences which marginalize others, and I might not realize I have said something hurtful.  These are just three examples, but I am betting that on a long enough timeline, we will discover others too.  

It is my hope on this blog that if insensitive remarks are made by me or another, you call me out for it.  Help me account for such talk.  I stand to learn from the experience.  But I also ask your patience with me. Please don’t take offense and just leave or lash out in retaliation.  Give me a chance to grow from the experience.  I will do my best to show that favor to others also.  

What if the one feeling offended is hypersensitive and the offense is just extremely minor or not even real?

I think that is possible too, but I want to err to the side of sensitivity.  Neither my ancestors nor I have been oppressed, enslaved, subjugated and murdered on a mass scale either in personal history, recent history or ancient history.  

Finally, in a manner much like “Affirmative Action,” I will give preference to the minority voice here.  I think this needs to be said in case of hecklers.  Some of my white friends will come to this discussion strictly to turn the tables for the devil’s advocate position.  All things are not equal, and merely saying you take offense as a white person is not enough of a counterbalance for the offense taken by a black person.  

If you, as a white person, sincerely feel offended, please make your case for that.  If I cannot accommodate you, then change channels and watch something else.  I will try to accommodate sincerity with sincerity to the best of my ability and level-headed judgment, for I don’t want anyone to come here and be offended.  However, I am willing to bend further for the people of color than for my white brothers on this, and if that seems arbitrary, so be it.  

Give me a chance.  Give me two.  But if I cannot accommodate your white sensitivities, then bow out of this discussion.  I don’t believe I have nearly so much fence to mend with fellow whites as I do with people of color.  The interracial divisions are the ones I focus on healing here specifically, and I will not sacrifice that for intra-racial sensitivities – to the best of my ability.

FINALLY

I believe there are OTHER considerations that should go in this preface, but this is getting long enough now that I will stop.  However, I may well come here and edit or add to this list of considerations over time.  If I do that, I will make adjustments in red color font OR in the comments section so that I can demonstrate the goodwill gesture I start with today even if I enhance it in the future.  I want to lay these markers down right at the start and build on the foundation stones of goodwill a bridge from my perspective to yours.  I want to build trust and fellowship.  I am willing to make changes in myself as I go and to call out problem spots and stubbornness where insensitivities and racism persist among my kind and in me.

Watch for more to come soon.

Thanx

Agent X

FREEZE WARNING TONIGHT FOR LUBBOCK

It’s that time of year again.  Welcome to cold weather.  Many of us will enjoy the change of seasons and the Fall fashions that go with it.

But here at Fat Beggars, you are urged to remember the human beings, your brothers and sisters, who will be toughing it out through the night in the cold.

It has been several years now since someone froze to death in Lubbock, but not that many really.  It’s a terrible way to die.  But there will be hundreds surviving the cold tonight, and at least you can pray for them.

Thanx

PANDEMIC PARABLES

And the prophet led the multitudes to the blog site and sat down and began to speak in parables.  And he said nothing that wasn’t a parable.  And there were so many people gathered around that there was no longer room to even eat a meal.  And the crowds strained to hear his words clearly as he spoke through a mask.

And the prophet said, “There once was a surgeon performing open-heart surgery in the operating room under sterile conditions.  Everyone there assisting him that day ‘scrubbed in’ and donned a mask.  And the surgery was a grueling six-hour operation with the staff standing on their feet the whole time.  Yet, at about the fourth hour, the nursing team leader pulled his mask off.”

Just then a gasp was heard through the crowds gathered to listen to the prophet.  But he went on…

“As the assistant lowered his mask, the other teammates looked quizzingly at the surgeon wondering what he would do or say.  Yet the surgeon said nothing and pretended not to notice.  After the assistant had coughed and sneezed a couple of times, he put his mask back in place, and the surgery continued as usual from then on.”

After the prophet had said these things, some of his blog followers emailed him privately to ask what these words meant.  The prophet said to them, “To you has been given the mystery of infectious disease.  Those who are out doors are at lower risk, but to you who come inside, even into a very controlled environment, if you do not maintain precaution, put everyone in the house at risk.”

But the followers did not understand what he was saying until much later as they began getting sick and burying loved ones.

But the blogging prophet went on and spoke more parables.

“There once was a young mother and father loading their children, a toddler and baby, into the car to go to church.  They carefully buckled the kids in state-approved safety seats as mandated by law and as was the usual practice of all law abiding citizens.  But then half way to the worship service, the mother pulled the van over to the curb and stopped as the father got out of his seat, reached back and unbuckled the safety seats for the children, and then the mother resumed the drive for six blocks.  Then after six blocks, she pulled over again so the father could refasten the safety belts.”

At this the blog readers were astonished and began to murmur among themselves at the wisdom of the prophet.  But they still did not understand.

The prophet continued with another parable.

“There once was a family who took seriously the desire to show hospitality to strangers.  Being mindful that a lot of poor people they did not know might have a smoking habit, they set up a smoker’s bench outside their house with a shade shelter and an ashtray.  Clearly they wanted their new friends to feel welcome and comforted as they were hosted.  But when their guest came and ate and enjoyed himself and the charity of his host, after his meal, he pushed back from the table and lit up a cigar stub saying, ‘You don’t mind if I enjoy a little smoke now… do you?’  To which, the family hosting him said, ‘Oh… no.  One little cigar stub doesn’t hurt anybody.  The smell will be gone from here by next year.'”

With that, the prophet went out into the world and his followers puzzled on these matters for a long time.

MURDER/SUICIDE

I’m gonna go out on a limb with this and suggest that in this post, I will be saying what you really think, but mostly wouldn’t ever come out and actually say.

But first let me preface:

I am no fan of either murder or suicide.  Well, if you are talking about David Gilmour’s song Murder, then … okay… I am a fan.  But you know… when it comes to real murder… not so much.  So, I need that to be clear here at the start.  (I am sure there are some kooks out here on the internet who enjoy murder, and perhaps a few who actually desire to end their own life.  Let me clear this up right now; this post is not of you.)

Okay… so… now back to the murder/suicide thingy.

I feel terrible about death in general and murder and/or suicide is a particularly tragic way to go.  I worked in a psych unit for several years, and I have personally intervened in many suicide attempts.  I have struggled patients to the ground and wrestled nooses off of them.  I have talked them down from the edge.  I have prayed with them, and I have known people who carried through with it.

Suicide, as a general rule, is always painful for me too, even as a bystander/observer.  I am NEVER in favor of it.  NEVER.

I say “NEVER” in the boldest terms, yes, but there is this one small caveat:  murder/suicide.

I mean, if you literally are gonna kill yourself anyway, then please, please, please do that BEFORE you commit the murder!

Can I get an Amen?  Anyone???

I just really want that on the record.

Feel free to ask me what prompts this.  If I get interested readers anymore, I will be happy to discuss this further.

Thanx

“DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL”

At a Sunday worship service in a time far removed and a galaxy far, far away, I once heard the preacher set up his sermon very carefully by reciting a cartoon clipping he once saw in a newspaper depicting a church letting out after the worship service.  Keep in mind, here, I did not see this cartoon.  Perhaps others present that day had, but I had not.  I had to rely on the old preacher’s recollection of it just as you now must rely on my recollection of his recollection.

As I recall it, the old preacher described the cartoon like this: The parishioners emerge from the front doors of the church to descend the steps and leave, but as they do, they greet the old pastor who warmly shakes their hands and sends them on their ways with the words, “Don’t take it personal…”

So, there in the first caption we see the Wilson family, a bleak look on their faces, as they greet the pastor who tells them, “Don’t take it personal.”  (I imagine this first caption shows the Jones’s speeding away in their hot rod Lincoln… sorta off to the side of the picture, since everyone else there is trying to keep up with them.)* In the next caption, we see the Johnson’s emerge and shake hands with the pastor in much the same bleak way as he tells them too, “Don’t take it personal….”  And finally, in the last caption, we see the Thompson family repeat the process once again.

“Don’t take it personal…; Don’t take it personal…; Don’t take it personal.”

(Helluva refrain.)

Of course, as a modern American who happened to be a regular church-going worshiper, I, right along with everyone else there listening to this sermon, instantly recognized the humor … the point of the cartoon.  Most of us actually chuckled!  But I, on the other hand, pondered it a bit more seriously.

I figure it is good, even “healthy” – as we sometimes say, to be able to laugh at ourselves… to not take ourselves too seriously.  There is something of a gift of life for those who can do that and something of a curse for those who cannot.  But not all jokes are always appropriate or funny.  And actually, at least sometimes, they are rather thought-provoking.

This one provoked thought for me.

Why and how is this cartoon funny?  At what level?

Some preachers are just horses’ asses, and you should not take them serious.  Some sermons are just bad, and you should not take them personal.  But this kind of cartoon in a newspaper makes a blanket statement about church, about Christians vis-à-vis society, and it seems to me that it has the preacher muzzling himself!

Presumably the sermon was the Word of God brought by the preacher to the congregation.  As I point out above, that is not, in reality, always the case, but it is the normal, right, and good presumption of the church until proven otherwise.  Even the world outside the church, I think, has at least a vague notion of this.  Thus, the blanket statement in the newspaper cartoon suggests that the world (and the congregants inside the church) need not take the message seriously – or more to the point, personal.

Suddenly, I don’t find the cartoon funny.  God has a Word for his people and for the world at large, a Word he means you to take quite personal, in fact!

What kind of a world, what kind of a church… WHAT KIND OF A PREACHER … thinks this cartoon, this joke, this blanket statement is funny or appropriate to his own sermon?

Well, there are, I think, several avenues to explore for explanation to such questions.  In fact, if I were to tell the “rest of the story” about that preacher, that sermon, and that day, it would take this post in a whole OTHER direction. I am sure.  But even that exploration would, I think, come under a certain umbrella of categories, and so I want, for present purposes, to pose this overarching idea and open it up for further exploration (and especially discussion).

Chaplain of Empire

The cartoon the preacher that day described before launching into this sermon was designed to (with disarming humor) marginalize the presumed Word of God.  This preacher, presumably, has a Word from God for the congregation that Sunday, but he prefaces his own homily with an excuse for it and for himself.  This message, if taken seriously, would meddle in your business, get under your skin, might even call you to repent!  This message, if taken personally, might cause you cognitive dissidence, stir up conviction, or even (heaven help us) send you out into the world with some Other Worldly Agenda that confronts the precious world order we so delicately have constructed out of cards into a house for Mammon, Aphrodite, or Mars.

Most of us there that day, chuckled.  We laughed at the thought that the preacher would bring us a Word from God that we should not take personal.

That’s a preacher trying to “have it both ways.” Trying to actually preach the message he believes God wants preached, yet keep his job and not make waves in the larger world.  That’s a congregation trying to “have it both ways.”  Trying to let him do this, and the chuckle is a positive signal to him that we want off that hook too.

There is no fear of the Lord in such preaching.  There is, however, fear of empire.  In fact, there is endorsement of empire in hopes, ironically, that the empire will continue to afford us “Christians” our fragile, little charade – the last vestige of our faith.  (Not that we are hanging on to it quite as tightly as we hang on to our masturbation with one hand and the porn-scrolling keyboard and mouse with the other, but hey!  It’s a vestige, and hopefully that will be worth something at the Judgment!

(The sermon didn’t come out and say all that, but it’s seething between the lines, I think.)

Oh… and by the way, this kind of rhetoric reinforces the fact that you won’t find very many homeless people or people of color in your precious assembly.  It’s all very subtle.  More subtle than a “dog-whistle” in a presidential tweet.

I should get a bumper sticker for my car.  Maybe it could say, “Jesus: Don’t take him personal.”

Wow!  Brilliant idea.  As soon as I publish this post, I need to run down to the print shop and make up a bunch of them.  I could sell them for $5 a pop, probably right at the church house door as the Jones’s, Wilson’s, Johnson’s, and Thompson’s are coming out!  After shaking hands with Pastor Bates, of course (might wanna use hand sanitizer then, just sayin’).

See ya at church!

* ( insert smiley face here!  😉 )

JUBILEE VS. CAPITALISM, COMMUNISM, OR SOCIALISM

What if Jesus doesn’t support American capitalist economic interests? What if, in fact, the economy in his kingdom is something very different? Do you think modern, American Christians would be willing to sell all their wealth, give it to the poor, count their treasures in heaven and come follow Jesus?

Or not?

Yeah. Something to consider carefully, huh?

I was listening to a sermon on YouTube by Fred Craddock recently in which he referenced the Jubilee. Actually, he didn’t merely reference it, he more pointedly referenced the fact that there always seems to be some scholar in the class anxious to point out that the Jews never actually “observed” Jubilee. His observation struck me as true. There is always some smarty-pants schmuck in the room quick to point that out. I felt convicted, since sometimes it’s me.

But here’s the thing: Jesus brings the Jubilee. The Old Testament prophets dreamed of it, but never knew it. That’s true. But with Jesus, it comes. The seven week/seven year rhythm of Sabbath which every seven sevens dares Israel to set the clock back on all debts comes with Jesus’s mission through the church. I am only just now seeing it myself.

I haven’t taken seriously just how capitalist-friendly this Jubliee economic system is FOR A WHILE. You get into debt, and if it overwhelms you to pay it back, you lose the collateral put up to ensure the debt in foreclosure. That sounds like modern banking. But foreclosure has these limits on it. Limits which arbitrarily revert property back to the original owner/family at the Jubilee.

In my research into Heaven’s Hospitality, I am finding Jesus’s whole mission and message characterized by Jubilee. I am finding, thanx in no small part to some very interesting authors and books I have found, recently, a connection between his gospel preaching, his mission, and the Eucharist meal which links directly to Jubilee and all this forgiveness of debt.

I am also finding that Jubilee gets spoken of in regard to “forgiveness of debt,” but the flip side of it is a leash on greed! And the communal life of sharing and of Eucharist that the early church engages in is the heart of a larger Jubilee program where the rich sell their wealth, give the money to the church (or poor) as a means of ensuring the poor lack nothing they need!

That last part looks very communist to me. I think it is, in a sense, but certainly NOT the godless communism of Marxist Russia or even China. That would be the biggest difference, but actually, it is the church’s expression of Jubilee! And Jubilee already looks and feels a little capitalist but with limits on greed.

All this has me thinking too of socialism, which as the websites and educational television programs describe as based, ideally, on the ownership (or control) of the workers. The workers dignity seems to be the ideal there, but that also is not exactly Jubilee, though I can imagine Jubilee hitting the target socialism only wishes it could hit. In the Jubilee, the land (and property) actually belong to God and the property merely allotted as a gift to the people of God. They don’t earn their dignity or their wealth, and they need no socialist ideal to ensure their dignity, but rather the grace of God who wipes the slate clean every seven of seven years.

The church bares God’s Jubilee for the world.

The church.

This was done by the earliest church in Jerusalem, and it appears St. Paul’s efforts to straighten out the church made up of formerly pagan Christians in Corinth, with his special concern there for the way that church eats the Eucharist, thus suggests that church too may well have been expected to live out the Jubilee ideal.

If that is Jesus’s economic agenda for the world, then American Christians need to rethink EVERYTHING very carefully. It may be that we have kept the law from our youth, but lack one thing. And it may be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the American church to enter the kingdom of God.

Let’s talk…

QUOTING YOUR OWN PROPHETS

Below I want to highlight a handful of quotes I have found in recent days as I continue my research into Heaven’s Hospitality. There may seem a bit of randomness to my plucking of quotations here, but maybe just ask yourself this: If you were part of a class, a course, or a study group reading When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert and Toxic Charity by Lupton, and then if you were also an hour later attending a class, a course, or a study group where these (in some cases quite famous) authors and these quotes were also being studied, then what would you think about the “effective charity” being promoted in the first class?

I am betting you would wonder why Corbett, Fikkert, and Lupton show no signs of having studied these other offerings.

Maybe not, but I bet you would.

Let’s get into this:

“Today, when people look at the church and ask it, ‘Are you Christ’s body, or shall we look for another?’ the only true test to which the church can refer is that of our Lord himself. We have to point them to our table, to that conglomeration of sick, hurting people, with the nobodies up at the head table eating like somebodies, with the outcasts invited in and being filled with good things. If this isn’t church, what is?” – William H. Willimon as quoted in Come To The Table by John Mark Hicks, 2002.

“Disciples should use the table to share with the poor, to focus on God’s justice and love, and humble themselves among the people of God. The table is the place where communion should reflect divine values – God’s preference for the poor, justice and love, and humility.” – John Mark Hicks, Come To The Table.

“The Jubilee motif, articulated in Luke 4:16-19, not only invests the table with great joy, but it also calls the disciples of Jesus to embrace all those who are invited to his table. The table is inclusive and intentionally includes the poor, blind, and oppressed. The table reaches across all socio-economic, racial, and gender barriers as it unites lost humanity at one table.” – John Mark Hicks, Come To The Table.

“[T]he ‘religion of Christ was not only adapted to the common people, but despite all theories to the contrary, they are those best fitted to maintain and spread that religion. The rich corrupt it, the rich pervert it to suit their own fashionable ways.’ ‘The rich and worse, those not rich who aspire to ape and court the rich, are the greatest corrupters of the church.'” – David Lipscomb as quoted by C. Leonard Allen in Things Unseen: Churches of Christ in (and After) the Modern Age, 2004.

This next one is a long quote:

“The story of Jesus is strange in a culture that values power, success, and consumerism. After all, the story of Jesus is one of ‘downward mobility.’ [These lines followed by a quote from Philippians 2:6-8]…”

“The materialism and consumerism that obsess 21st century Americans is played out not simply in the individual homes and possessions of Christians; it is equally played out in our church life. In too many cases, churches carry the burden of an extravagant life that demands constant attention. As a result, these congregations make little difference in the world around them. The authors imagine a church that divests itself of all property and wealth to be set free in and for the world. Unfortunately, we’re compromised in this area as well – we simply don’t have the credibility to call for churches to embrace such material simplicity. So instead, let’s listen to Jesus again in his conversation with the rich young ruler. Imagine this story played out in the context of a church rather than an individual:

A certain church asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must we do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone,. You know the commandments: “you shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.”‘ They replied, ‘We have kept these since our youth.’ When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘There is still one think lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.’ But when they heard this, they became sad; for they were very rich. Jesus looked at them and said, ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for those whoa re rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.

Is it so unimaginable that this is the conversation Jesus might have with some churches today? Is it possible for the church to do all the right things and still lack one thing it needs? Is it possible for the church to be so consumed with its own life that it fails to care for the world around it?” – Mark Love, Douglas A. Foster, and Randall J. Harris, in Seeking A Lasting City: The Church’s Journey in the Story of God, 2005.

TWO MITES

Small coins clink, while large coins clank.

Silent the slip marked from the bank.

Announce your gift, lay claim to fame.

Ten foot tall, the donor’s name.

Then two mites fall in the chest,

the dink they make atop the rest

no human ear has ever heard

purchase not your meat or curd

THUNDERS through the heart of God

tectonic plates obey the prod.

How light the widow’s purse she bore?

The weight of glory and heaven’s roar,

the might it takes to drop a mite,

Explodes and sounds like dynamite!

I want to hear the sounds they make.

I pray the Lord my soul to shake.

Humble myself and bend my knee,

Confess him LORD, economy.

Squeeze myself into my gift,

I find two mites are hard to lift

or even to drop with any ease

into the hands of “the least of these.”