Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lincoln's legacy - Red states receive blue cash

This article is depressing, Was the Gettysburg Address a mistake? at Politico by Chuck Thompson who writes strongly in hope of letting the southern Tea Party states secede. He's pretty much calling their bluff and hypocrisy. In general, the "liberal, socialist" states pay more in taxes than they receive back from the feds, and the southern states receive more than they pay. See graphic here and article here.

 Thompson writes in the article concerning the South's response to Reconstruction was "... casting itself as the woebegone victim through typically radical politics (obstructionist), religion (evangelical), race relations (segregated), education (under-funded) and business (anti-labor), has done its level best ever since to remain an emotionally estranged partner who nevertheless sticks around for the financial support."

The Northern liberals keep donating their money to help the poor in other states including those in states who need assistance. Those states who proclaim fiscal restraint to the detriment of those in need, that the feds then come to pick up the tab for. Now with the highly imperfect ACA (Obamacare) which sought to help more of the sick by paying for them to be on Medicare, many of these states refused the offer, and prefer to keep the needy in need. In places where megachurch pastors refuse to publicly comment on the unmet need of the poor in their states being blocked by their states.

The reason the federal government is offering to get everyone insured is because the states and the charities could not get it done. People were suffering and going into bankruptcy because of unaffordable healthcare, but churches, charities, and proud state governments could not, perhaps some would not, solve the issue, nor even stem the bleeding.

On this anniversary of the Gettysburg address it would be nice to strive for the ideal of the Declaration of Independence which Lincoln appeals to in the opening and close of that short speech.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
....that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

If we all are created equal, let's treat our neighbors as nicely as we'd like to be treated. If the people want medical care, let's stop obstructing their government from getting it to them. I'll give Lincoln the last word, close to the end of his life at the Second inaugural address, spoken like someone familiar with the open-handed posture in the parable of the good Samaritan.

With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds. Abraham Lincoln

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Open-handed - a posture personally, theologically, and politically

Last night a friend from church asked me what side I fall on politically. Old labels carry too much baggage though. I know who I have been and I know who I want to be. I want to be someone who loves God and loves my neighbors. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, when Jesus explains through a story who
The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijna...
The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijnants (1670) shows the Good Samaritan tending the injured man. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 qualifies as a "neighbor" (anyone in need) and what it looks like to love them (generosity of time, space and money), I see an all encompassing philosophy of life. It's a philosophy that is unhindered by artificial social barriers. It sees unity with all who bleed. No one in need is excluded. All are included. The examples of villains in Jesus' story are those who cannot be bothered with the inconvenience of aid, who cannot forget past grievances, who transfer the faults of a group onto the individual, who delight in justice instead of mercy. What makes the Samaritan good is the open-handed posture. What makes the others in the story counter examples is their closed-handed.

What makes Jesus intriguing to so many is his open-handed posture. But he wasn't always. His hand was closed to those who hurt others. His hand was closed to those whose hands were not open. A closed hand ignores the cries of the poor, the moans of the sick, the songs of (incorrect) worshipers. A closed hand takes instead of receives. An open hand gives, defends, heals, and protects.

I fall politically where I fall theologically, where I want to fall personally. Call me open handed, because progressive, or liberal, or inclusive, or generous are too easy. Open-handed is much harder, but more beautiful.
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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pastors who practice conspicuous consumption

I'm not naming any names because this is a recurring issue for pastors who come into wealth. They start living wealthy and proudly. Then they get called out on it and respond angrily. "God has blessed me. You're just jealous. Who gave you the right to judge me?"

I'd like to defend the multitudes.

The "haters" are simply responding to the juxtaposition between the Jesus they read about and the lifestyle He condemns. These people are not haters, but brothers and sisters, crooked like all of us. But even Balaam learned from his talking ass.

Matthew 6:19-21

The Voice (VOICE)
19 Some people store up treasures in their homes here on earth.This is a shortsighted practice—don’t undertake it. Moths and rust will eat up any treasure you may store here. Thieves may break into your homes and steal your precious trinkets.20 Instead, put up your treasures in heaven where moths do not attack, where rust does not corrode, and where thieves are barred at the door. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Jesus

Omid Safi who blogs at "What Would Mohammed do?" and is a Professor of Islamic Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - explains this much better than me on his latest blog post Jesus doesn't want you to be rich. Even though he does not believe in Jesus as his savior, I don't think he is hating on anyone.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Trying to be a lover and not a hater

I think, because I don't know for sure, that a posture of love presents as civil, kind, humble, generous and inclusive. For whatever reasons, especially in my defenses of fundamentalist christianity, more so online than in real life, I have not presented myself in these ways. I might have thought was behaving out of love, but I wasn't.

One of the slogans in evangelical christianity is that we become what we worship. What was I worshiping that was hard, lacking grace, ignoring other people's stories that didn't align with the big picture I believed? Words on a page? Elaborate assemblages of those words? Safety? Worshiping the Word of God, a person, deity in the flesh, complicated and dangerous is so much more difficult. It's the simplicity of it that makes it difficult. Living by two rules, love Him and love my neighbor, is too open ended.

I wanted to title this post, "trying to not be an asshole," but it might not be very loving to some of my neighbors who would read this. That's my current life goal, to not be a stinkin' chute of waste in the world. It's still not as good as love my neighbor and love Jesus. The difference with Jesus's commands and others is the lack of the word "not."

A lover is civil. A lover is kind. A lover is generous. A lover is inclusive. A lover also pulls down old blog posts that do not present love.

Galatians 5:22-24

The Message (MSG)
22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
23-24 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.