Tag Archives: Inquirer

We are called to develop a trust system.

Relationships in the community, whether it is the church community or the city community take trust if they are to flourish. The proverb says:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother — Proverbs 18:24 NIV

The proverbs are so honest about life! This one is drawing a contrast we all experience. On the one hand, there is wickedness and superficial gunk that messes up the togetherness we’d like to experience. There are friends who pretend to be friends; they fill up your time with a lie. There are companions who do nothing but chatter; they fill up conversation space but not your heart. There are acquaintances who remain superficial; they fill up on your affection and generosity but never attempt mutuality or sacrificially give. There are a lot of people who might share a drink with you in a noisy bar, but they don’t bind themselves.

On the other hand, there is a friend who is worthy of the title — it is possible! We are all looking for them, or despairing that we can’t seem to find one. There are people who will go deep, who will connect, who are real, who can be relied upon. Those are the kindred souls with whom we feel bound our whole lives. We want that.

Jesus is that kind of friend who sticks “closer than a brother” — the “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34), the one who comes with the ancient promise of God: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). People who have Jesus for a friend are blessed (see John 15:14). We can trust him. If we follow Jesus, we’ll see he is moving into the world to make friends and make more friends who can be a friend like him. He is restoring a trust system. We’re moving with him when we  dare to look at what the world is really like (and ourselves!) and try to figure out how to be like trustworthy brothers and sisters in the world.

Trust is shot down on the streets

The recent outbreak of consciousness about the proliferation and protection of automatic weapons has highlighted the level of mistrust in the United States. While hundreds of thousands rallied during the March for Our Lives, NRA allies in Congress pushed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. “Congress is currently considering bills that would force every state to recognize every other state’s concealed carry permits,” said Sen. Stanley Chang, D- Hawaii.  Ideological warfare and mutually assured destruction playing out on every block destroys friendship; Christian intellectuals lament the death of trust.

Violence from your neighbor: a teenager or mentally unglued person with a gun no one will regulate, a drug dealer with an automatic weapon, a soldier or insurgent with bombs and weapons in your neighborhood, a super-rich country flying drones overhead, none of it makes for trusting relationships. The proverb notes this.

A violent person entices their neighbor
and leads them down a path that is not good. — Proverbs 16:29

Philly.com keeps track of homicides and puts them on a map.  Periodically they dip into Camden. They try to tell the truth. The president has 75% of the population suspecting that news outlets broadcast “fake news.”  But they try. They also point out the valiant people who try to undo the violence.

Trust is the alternativity we crave

Many people have been “lead down a path that is not good.” We, the people of God, the Jesus-followers, the Church are called to be the alternative, the antidote to the poison, along with good people who would painstakingly make a murder map so we can see what is going on. The proverbs invite us to trust those who can be seen to deserve it, because they are the cement of society. Jesus invites us to develop a trust system so we can rebuild what is being torn down.

We can start by being trustworthy and daring to trust another. We can build cells, teams, congregations, and a network that is devoted to building a trust system. The Circle of Hope proverb in the title says we are convicted to do just that. What might that practically mean today? A few general ideas:

  1. Trust first. Life is too short to wait until someone proves trustworthy (as if you had that right, anyway). Let them prove untrustworthy and make it hard for them to do it. Treat them like Jesus treats you, who entrusts you with the Spirit of God.
  2. Tell the truth. The world is too messed up to hide (as if you could succeed in that). Let people know who you are. Speak the truth in love to them like Jesus speaks to you, who affirms your value and hopes for your best.
  3. Risk relying on people. The world is too dangerous to be alone (as if you ever are). Let people hurt you and recover. Submit to others out of reverence to Christ, who will save you, who lives with you in an eternal now.

One more proverb:

Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil,
but those who promote peace have joy. — Proverbs 12:20

There is no little deceit woven into our hearts and seeping into us from the troubled world around us. A few people reading this probably think that proverb is “fake.” But most of us know, since the Holy Spirit brings the conviction to life in us, that promoting peace is the way to joy, even if it is hard, disappointing or unaffirmed. We are called to develop a trust system. Just living in the alternativity of its promise is joy enough. When we taste more of its reality, it is that much better.

We are called to develop a trust system.

Like I was saying last night, relationships in the community, whether it is the church community or the city community take trust if they are to flourish. The proverb says:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (18:24 NIV)

On the one hand, there is wickedness and superficial gunk that is messing up the togetherness we’d like to experience. There are friends who pretend to be friends. There are companions who do nothing but chatter; they fill up time but not your heart. There are acquaintances who remain superficial; they never attempt mutuality or sacrificially give. There are a lot of people who are fine for sharing a drink in a noisy bar, but they don’t bind themselves.

On the other hand, there is a friend who is worthy of the title — it is possible! There are people who will go deep, who will connect, who are real, who can be relied upon. Those are the kindred souls with whom we feel bound our whole lives. We want that.

Jesus is that kind of friend who sticks “closer than a brother.” And Jesus is moving into the world to make friends and make more friends like himself. We’re moving with him when we  dare to look at what the world is really like (and ourselves!) and try to figure out how to be like brothers and sisters in the world.

I think the Inquirer did an OK job of lamenting the state of relationships in the Philadelphia region last week. They made a graphic that served to highlight the level of mistrust in Philadelphia and Camden. It is at the left. Since 2003 in Philadelphia and Camden, the number of murders almost equaled the number of U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq during the course of the war. That is a shocking comparison.

It is worth being shocked about, but I have to point out that it is a false comparison. We have enough self-esteem issues without the Inquirer making it worse with misleading graphics! The highest number of soldiers in Iraq was in 2008 when there were about 158,000. That is less than one-tenth the number of people in Philly/Camden. What’s more, the comparison is grossly misleading because upwards to 127,000 Iraqi civilians have been documented casualties of the war. In case you are bad at math, that’s nearly thirty-seven times the number of U.S. soldiers killed, and it is also just the number of documented casualties. So it was actually much, much safer to live in Philly during the Iraq war.

Nevertheless, such violence from your neighbor: a teenager or mentally unglued person with a gun no one will regulate, a drug dealer with an automatic weapon, a soldier or insurgent with bombs and weapons in your neighborhood, a super-rich country flying drones overhead, none of it makes for trusting relationships. The proverbs note this.

A violent person entices their neighbor
and leads them down a path that is not good. (16:29)

The Inquirer made us feel like we are terrible (again). I think it was important for them to tell the truth. They tried. They also pointed out the valiant people who have been trying to undo the violence every year since 2003 and beyond. Someone in the organization either procured or made a map of every homicide in the city. Here are the murders in the immediate area of our building at Broad and Washington since Circle of Hope began in 1997.

Many people have been “lead down a path that is not good.” We are called to be the antidote, along with good people who would painstakingly make a murder map so we can see what is going on. The proverbs invite us to trust those who can be seen to deserve it, because they are the cement of society. Jesus invites us to be the cement of society. We can start by being trustworthy and daring to trust another. We can build cells, teams, congregations, and a network that is devoted to building a trust system. The Circle of Hope proverb in the title says we are convicted to do just that.

It’s a Fracking Outrage

Circle of Hope was rather well-represented at the anti-fracking rally last Wednesday. I suppose we are one of the few employers who assume employees will be unavailable during protest hours.

Natural gas drilling in coal-country shale is a proven way to contaminate water. People who live nearby a site have already lost their wells. Numerous people up and down the Delaware River basin are sure it will contaminate the sources of water for millions of people. The more radical among these (like most of my friends, I think) want the whole  process to be banned and the government tax breaks given to green energy, or to children in Africa, or to Philly schools, or to anyone but the corporations who have the inside track on making sweetheart deals with the government on the backs of desperate people who will say yes to anything for a way to deal with their imminent foreclosure.

Here is a positive explanation of fracking by Chesapeake Energy Co. [link]

Here is a negative explanation of fracking on the Marcellus Shale Protest
website [link]

Shale Outrage on Arch St.

One of the things I found fascinating about the protest was the interaction between the groups. The people staring out the Convention Center window had a lot to say about the protesters and they didn’t mind the reporters hearing them. Aubrey McClendon, the head of Chesapeake Energy said the “extremists” outside would turn the clock back to the Dark Ages (when, I suspect, McClendon would have been adept with a broadsword). “Our success has disrupted their dreams of a fantasy world of no fossil fuels.” [Inquirer article]

That statement is what makes me want to write this post. On the one hand, I admire it because such a broadsword statement is an effective way to change the subject. The bigger the lie, the harder it is to refute. I am not sure you can be a CEO or a Republican candidate unless you have mastered this technique. Let’s see if I can explain how it works.

1)    There has to be some basis for saying what you say. In this case, it is true that people (like me) dream of a world in which people use their brains and money to produce things that don’t destroy the planet. It is true that our demands will destroy whole industries, like Chesapeake Energy (based in Oklahoma City, which is very near the Dallas Cowboys). It is true that we don’t care if the industries are destroyed. We are extreme like that.

2)    But a good broadsword statement has to change the subject from whatever rational thing your opponent might be saying. The point is to make them look bad before you are looped into an actual dialogue that could cost you profit or power. For instance, it is obvious that the main point of the Shale Outrage protesters is not about some la-la land future. It is an argument about the science and the politics of huge, irresponsible corporations exploiting the land and poor people. They want Chesapeake energy to prove that they are not going to poison everyone. They think it would also be nice, as former governor Ed Rendell suggests, that they pay some taxes.

3)    In summary, when you can’t answer the questions, you change the subject with a big lie. It helps to call the opponents extremists when you say your extreme statement. As a lord of the manor, you hire out the convention center that the state has bought you to say such things. Get former governor Tom Ridge to be your front man.

The Inquirer did not have to look very hard to find juicy quotes to set up the red state blue state drama that reporters love to set up these days. McClendon just came right out and said stuff you suspect CEOs are thinking but find impolitic to say. I  suppose he was preaching to the choir when he said that gas drilling has created thousands of jobs, tax revenues, billions in wealth created and retained in the United States. “And remind me, what value have the protesters out there created? What jobs have they created?”

I feel obligated to talk back in the name of Jesus to giant people spouting nonsense like that. Drilling shale or not, if you have enough power to roll into the convention center, buy up our mountains and influence the public, you need to watch what you say.

1)    For one thing, the people in themselves have value. They don’t get their value from
their contributions to the economy.

2)    We are not slaves who should be grateful for whatever crumb some big corporation throws us, grateful for having one of the scarce jobs that roll through while the gas is being extracted, grateful to get the next crumb after you are done with us — if the landscape can still produce crumbs after we lose our job!

3)    And the big thing: Read Isaiah 10, Mr. McClendon. You are sounding like the King of Assyria. You should watch what you think you are creating. I’ll quote it in the
King James for you:

For [the king] saith, “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man:
      And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.”
      Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.
      Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. (Isaiah 10: 13-16)

You can see that I think God is not happy with armored CEOs with verbal broadswords, especially when they are talking down my buddies in the street who produce quite enough, thank you. But maybe even more, I am not happy that the big talker in the big convention center, backed by the big government welfare check, is teaching his minions to talk the same way he talks. The reporter was wandering around the convention center looking at people taking cellphone pics of the protesters outside on Arch Street. He overheard one in a blue blazer talking into his phone saying, “All these people look like they just came out of Cuba. Don’t they have jobs?”

At least one had a job. I called my assistant last Wednesday so he could care for one of my many needs, only to realize that he was undoubtedly at the protest.