There are places I remember…

 

 

 

 

 

Places, practices and people form us. For many years, I looked at representations of the saints, recited the words of the liturgy and listened to the words of spiritual leaders. Sometimes I was bored, sometimes the words were tedious and made no sense and sometimes the presence of God shined through. Faith is more than cerebral. Faith is incarnate. Faith involves the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Even if God does not dwell in buildings built by human hands, humans are shaped by the physicality of faith. This has always been the scandal of the Word made flesh and the nemesis of creation shunning gnosticism, past and present.

My faith was shaped in no small part by the visual beauty and the familiar words of prayer of years of worshiping at All Saints Episcopal Church and Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ. My faith was also shaped by the people who I came to know as teachers and counselors – Paul Urbano, Ken Whitney, Anton Renna S.J., Al Miller S.J., “Sister” Mary, and the small prayer group that met Monday nights. They were able to listen and support a teenager trying to get through some tough times. I was also able to witness the Spirit firing up the church through the preaching & teaching of Dennis Bennett, Terry Fulham and Francis MacNutt.  Those were years of hope about what the church could become that turned to disappointment as the ECUSA drifted farther and farther into irrelevance. However,  over the years God was at work and I was able to encounter worship scholar Robert Webber, the Alpha evangelism program and most recently Wellspring in Englewood, CO an Anglican congregation that combines sound preaching, God glorifying music and a liturgy in which the words are prayed with sincerity and passion. Ancient & future worship is alive!

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Yes, indeed, “unworthy to lead.”

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“…the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored. The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.”                                                                    Donald J. Trump (7/21/16)

8/12/17 – Charlottesville:

3 dead (Lt. H. Jay Cullen, Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, Heather Heyer); 33 injured

10/1/17 – Las Vegas:

58 dead, 489 wounded

“You fascists bound to lose…”

 

19321932 – Berlin / 2017 – Charlottesville

 

 

“All You Fascists”
(Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Billy Bragg)

I’m gonna tell you fascists
You may be surprised
The people in this world
Are getting organized
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose

Race hatred cannot stop us
This one thing we know
Your poll tax and Jim Crow
And greed has got to go
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose.

All of you fascists bound to lose:
I said, all of you fascists bound to lose:
Yes sir, all of you fascists bound to lose:
You’re bound to lose! You fascists:
Bound to lose!

People of every color
Marching side to side
Marching ‘cross these fields
Where a million fascists dies
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose!

I’m going into this battle
And take my union gun
We’ll end this world of slavery
Before this battle’s won
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose!

 

 

 

“Give me that alt-right religion…”

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“We reject the false doctrine that the Church could have permission to hand over the form of its message and of its order to whatever it itself might wish or to the vicissitudes of the prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day.”

The Barmen Declaration (1934)

Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas is an unabashed Trump enthusiast. Jeffress preached to Trump on Inauguration Day from the Old Testament example of Nehemiah, the humble servant who leads the effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, endorsing Trump’s border wall since “God is not against building walls” and feeding his already inflated hubris by urging him to ignore his critics, stating “we have never had a president with as many natural gifts as you.”   From what’s been seen so far, not only is this patently untrue considering the long line of predecessors but Trump does not need to have his grandiosity encouraged! Besides distorting and misapplying the Word of God that he is supposedly commissioned to steward faithfully, preacher Jeffress resorts to fawning over a man who is undeserving of praise, whether it’s his crudeness, especially towards women, his failing financial track record, fueling conspiracies and false allegations about birth certificates, eavesdropping and secret recordings, repeated blame shifting and demagoguery and demonization of the media and those who disagree or confront him about his distortions of reality.

On the 4th of July, at the “Celebrate Freedom Rally,” in that good old, Baptist patriotic amalgam of civil religion & American greatness, with a mega-flag along with his mega-Baptist choir, Jeffress called Trump “one of the great patriots of our modern era and a president who cherishes the sacrifice and service of those in our armed forces.” I suppose he was referring to Trump’s 5 deferments from serving in the Vietnam war or his petty tirades with the Gold Star Khan family or belittling of Sen. John McCain. Trump is not the only one who seems to have difficulty with distorting reality. It beggars the imagination how the good pastor could even consider Trump a great patriot. As for the song “Make America Great Again,” I’ll take “In Christ There is No East or West” any day.

It’s hard to take this silliness seriously. Sadly, Jeffress is sickeningly sincere. What’s missing from Jeffress’s messages, is Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom. The true gospel is greater than any one political party, political leader or country. It is for all people and all nations, none of which may claim special status. It is not limited to 4 years or 8 but eternal. Jeffress has joined the line of spiritual leaders who sell their birthright for a mega-mess of porridge, who join the ranks of court prophets, sycophants who abandon the truth and fidelity to God to rub shoulders with the mighty (1 Kings 22).

It would be great if this could be dismissed as a Southern Baptist aberration but the adulteration of anemic churchianity with politics, right, left or “alt,” subtly undermines and distorts the real work of the church.  The true Christian faith is misrepresented. Since the baptism of Jesus, the gospel of his kingdom has thrived in or despite a variety of political environments. It does not need the repeal of the Johnson amendment to succeed.  It does not rely on flag waving or coddling demagogues. It does require faithful men and women of integrity and boldness to refuse to worship a golden ego (Daniel 3) or a tempting political offer on a mountain peak (Matthew 4:8) when they see one.

 

 

 

 

Subversive Declarations…

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“…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…”

1776

Happy 4th (and human rights for some)

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On this 4th of July, as we remember and celebrate the freedoms declared in the “Declaration of Independence,” remember the numerous children (average age between 6-9) confined in conditions most Americans would not tolerate for their own children, such as four of the 35 children currently detained at Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania – aged three, four, seven and 16 – who have been at the Center for over 500 days. The imprisonment of children, started under the Obama administration, continues with Trump which means big business for over 250 jails and private prisons (such as GEO & CCA) at a cost of over $2 billion a year.

“Woe to the land that’s governed by a child”

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So the MAGA hatted, right wing agitators and provocateurs are in hysterics over a play with an assassination scene with a lead character resembling Dear Leader. They must have missed the day in school when Shakespeare was covered. Yes, dear followers its Shakespeare, a 16th century English playwright who like to have famous figures killed off in course of the drama. A few examples:

Richard the Second? Tortured and Executed

Richard the Third? Slain.

Romeo and Juliet? Teen Suicides.

Hamlet? Dead

Macbeth? Lots of dead.

Coriolanus? Killed by conspirators.

Titus Andronicus? Lots of blood. Rape. Mutilation. Severed Heads. Cannibalism.

Yes, ol’ Shakespeare was a mighty blood thirsty fellow!  Real dangerous stuff!

The orange haired bouffant buffoon currently ruining the country from the Oval Office joins the illustrious ranks of other famous politicians and blowhards who have been added to the cast of Shakespeare productions in the past such as Obama, Hillary, and Mussolini.

Will there be an executive order from El Trumpe banning English playwrights as unpatriotic and subversive?

Will the Department of Homeland Security crackdown on bootleg copies of SparkNotes?

I would recommend remedial courses in English literature for summer reading.

(Title: Richard III- Act 2, Scene 3)

S.B.C. calls the alt-right out.

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Sounds like there was a ground swell refusal to allow denominational bureaucrats to stall and remain silent:

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017, decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

ISIS? Nothing new…

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Ignatius Maloyan was an Armenian Catholic Archbishop who was trained in Lebanon, served in Egypt and the Mardin province of the Ottoman Empire. In the summer of 1915, the Vali of Diyarbekir, Reşit Bey, commenced the Armenian Genocide in Mardin. Arrested and In court, the chief of the police Mamdooh Bek ordered bishop Maloyan to convert to Islam; the bishop declined, and was beaten, tortured, chained, and imprisoned.

On 10 June 1915, Ignatius and over 400 other Christians, including fourteen priests, were force marched into the desert. When they stopped, bishop Ignatius celebrated an impromptu liturgy with scraps of bread.  100 of their number were taken by Turkish troops to nearby caves and murdered.

As he watched his priests and faithful massacred in front of him, Mahmdouh Bey, offered to spare the Archbishop’s life if he would convert to Islam. Archbishop Maloyan first vowed loyalty to the Sultan in all purely civil matters, but added, “I’ve told you I shall live and die for the sake of my faith and religion. I take pride in the Cross of my God and Lord.” This enraged Mahmdouh Bey, who ordered the column to depart for a valley about four hours’ distance from Diyarbekir. There, on June 10/11, the remaining 200 deportees were killed and Maloyan was personally executed by Mahmdouh Bey. The local population stripped the clothes from the bodies of the victims, which remained untouched for five hours until they were all collected, doused with petrol, and burned.

In this corner of the world, people of all faiths still suffer from hatred and cruelty.

Hear the prayers of those who abide with you in dangerous times and in dark valleys,

and who die with your name on their lips.

Draw them quickly to your side where they might know eternal peace.

AMEN