Tag Archives: Obama

Sisi, Bibi, Barr, and Obama: Deliver us from our distress

My loved ones and I were spontaneously constructing our own Psalm 107 as the news forced its way into our consciousness today. I know many of you are tuned out; the daily process of deception and destruction is hard to watch. So you might be distressed I am bothering you with “political stuff.” But I have to remind you, the 1% and their minions in government have taken the power in their hands and we are slowly being bled of our money and morals in the U.S..

Yet we persist. We are a circle of hope and we did not expect the government or the wealthy to save us – at least those of us who have been reading the Bible.

So we moved with Psalm 107’s refrain today in our litany of despair and frustration. We thought of each other and took heart as we joined in:

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress

Image result for sisi and trump
Click for Al Jazeera

Sisi

My friend Jonny was up in arms. According to a report released by Egypt’s presidency, the meeting today with President Sisi was Trump’s sixth since 2016, reportedly more than any other leader.  “Human rights groups have accused the Egyptian regime of carrying out widespread and systematic torture of political prisoners, silencing dissidents and using death sentences to settle scores. Sisi’s government has vehemently denied the allegations.” [CNN]

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress

Bibi

My wife and I sat down at dinner after watching Israeli elections returns for five minutes and said, “I’m not sure we are doing enough for those dear Palestinians we met when our delegation visited.” Trump advocates a permanent annexation of the Golan Heights, moves the embassy to Jerusalem, and essentially meddles in the Israeli election by campaigning for Netanyahu. Bibi essentially calls for a one state, Jewish nation which Haaretz calls apartheid in the making. Even the Wall Street Journal sees problems [WSJ].

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress

Barr

Meanwhile, Attorney  General Barr went to Congress and would not answer some fairly straightforward question. People ranted. [Rantt]

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress

Obama blamed again

As part of his Sisi press conference, Trump again blamed Obama for inventing the policy of separating children at the border and putting them in cages, while he righteously stopped the policy.

Maybe you think NPR is a fake news outlet. But here is what they immediately said about Trump’s remarks:

“Trump’s false claim that child separations were carried out by the Obama administration has been frequently refuted.

‘The Obama administration did not do that, no. We did not separate children from their parents,’ former Obama domestic policy adviser Cecilia Muñoz told NPR in May 2018. ‘This is a new decision, a policy decision put in place by the attorney general,’ which Muñoz said ‘puts us in league with the most brutal regimes in the world’s history.’

It was then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions who instituted the ‘zero tolerance’ policy at the Southern border in April 2018, which resulted in children being separated from their parents who were taken into custody for criminal prosecution.”

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress

I sat at dinner and lamented how I had seen a collection of mind-boggling leaders in my day. Maybe I have been one at times, myself. I was tempted to despair, especially since I know so many young people in the grip of the insanity (and I paid a lot more taxes on less income due to Paul Ryan’s tax give way “reform”).

But then I looked over at my dear wife, noticed the good food on my table in my nice house, recalled the wonderful note Howard put on our Coordinating Group’s check-in this morning, remembered how lovely it was to be with Rachel earlier in the day, admired the courage of one of my clients, enjoyed the unexpected public love from one of my friends – the wonders piled up as I gave thanks for Gwen’s signature brussel sprouts.

I can say with confidence:

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

Be at rest. God is with us, and with the world through us. Miracles are happening every day.

Top ten posts of 2015 and before

You may have missed some of the posts others found interesting in 2015!

1. Obama runs over Jesus in victory lap

Even though I give the speech a high rating (which I am sure Barack is waiting to hear), and even though I can whip up some admiration for the president’s audacity, competitiveness and attention to some of my greatest irritations, the speech made me glad, as usual, that Jesus introduced me to an alternative way of life and glad that Circle of Hope keeps giving me a chance to practice it.

2. If I tell you not to watch Kingsman will it make you want to see it?

Continue reading Top ten posts of 2015 and before

Education Is the Bane of Resistance among Jesus-followers, Too.

Let’s talk about how the educators or, better, how the “education industry” have created indoctrination camps that have subdued young Americans and broken any spirit of resistance to domination they might normally have. I’m talking about the mandatory sentences handed out to young people from age five to twenty-two. I’m talking about having some dialogue in the spirit of James, who wrote to the people of his time:

Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others. If your heart is one that bleeds dark streams of jealousy and selfishness, do not be so proud that you ignore your depraved state. The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom; it originates below in the earthly realms, with the demons. Any place where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you will discover chaos and evil thriving under its rule. Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace (James 3:13-18 – The Voice).

Somehow, the educators have convinced the young of this era that they can dispense with wisdom and becomes tools of the economy, that they can ignore their best instincts and submit to training that makes them little more than a part of a machine — and that includes a giant war machine to boot, that competition and ambition designed by the invisible hand and the national interest is their true destiny.

Education, as presently dominated, is the bane of resistance. And there is much to resist.

Schools Educate for Compliance.

Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award in 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance and has been quoted ever since, to no avail: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” Past generations discussed the problems of compulsory schooling that could make it a vehicle for an authoritarian society. But as the problems have gotten worse, the discussion has become more rare.

child_money_financial_after_school_programThe nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and to believe they are impotent to affect their situation. The essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.

The essence of most Christian teaching is boiled down into the same kind of goal: compliant behavior. This is epitomized by Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten ( 7 million copies sold and counting) which starts with: Share everything, Play fair, Don’t hit people, Put things back where you found them, Clean up your own mess. That ends up being the extent of most people’s Christianity — nice behavior! Obviously there is some goodness there, but it is a far cry from the Apostle Paul claiming that the disciple’s goal is to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and…take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). That’s not too compliant and would probably get Paul kicked out of kindergarten.

One would think Christians would be educated to be anything but compliant — peacemaking, yes, nonresistant in a strategic way, yes, but never merely compliant. But they let the schools dictate what passes for wisdom.

Already authoritarian schools have been legislated into even more tyranny

With “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” the corporatocracy instituted the fear-inducing standardized-testing-and-perpetual-competition tyranny that torpedoes any free thinking. Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of the test creators that judge the process and the grantors that fund the budget; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and certainly challenging and resisting illegitimate authority.

I have been instructed by many well-meaning elementary children to not have my aberrant, irreverent thinking on display because I will “get in trouble.” They are all business. The other day I was telling one of them why I did not fear death because the Lord would raise me up. That somehow sparked a thought in his mind about the boiled-down theory of evolution he had just been learning on the computer. He gave me the party line he’d been taught in response to my irreverent thinking. He will get to the top, but of what?

Meanwhile Paul continues to offer revelation that most Christian parents have totally forgotten, obsessed, as they are, with protecting their children’s capability to make it in the domination system.

For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools by a fool. But for those of us who are already experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, it is nothing short of God’s power. This is why the Scripture says:
          I will put an end to the wisdom of the so-called wise,
          and I will invalidate the insight of your so-called experts.
So now, where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the skilled debater, the best of your time? Step up, if you dare. Hasn’t God made fools out of those who count on the wisdom of this rebellious, broken world?  For in God’s deep wisdom, He made it so that the world could not even begin to comprehend Him through its own style of wisdom; in fact, God took immense pleasure in rescuing people of faith through the foolishness of the message we preach (1 Corinthians 1:18-21 – The Voice).

Any alternative to the education gulag is shamed

In 2006 a survey in the United States found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously did not say, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but that is not good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”

The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they seem to be of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class. I know no one is nostalgic for the Populist Movement of the 1880s and 90s. But American farmers with little or no schooling organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative and formed a People’s Party that received 8 percent of the vote in 1892. Regular, uneducated people made a difference. In the 1970’s the Jesus movement upended much of the church. It was a young person’s movement, not a gift from their leaders. Where are those kind of people now, fully indoctrinated?

The high priests of the educational system eerily resemble the religious leaders who threatened the common people for feeling warmed by the new, real teaching of Jesus.

         No one was willing to speak openly about Jesus for fear of the religious leaders.
 In the middle of the festival, Jesus marched directly into the temple and started to teach. Some of the Jews who heard Him were amazed at Jesus’ ability, and people questioned repeatedly:
        Jews: How can this man be so wise about the Hebrew Scriptures? He has never had a formal education.
        Jesus:  I do not claim ownership of My words; they are a gift from the One who sent Me. If anyone is willing to act according to His purposes and is open to hearing truth, he will know the source of My teaching. Does it come from God or from Me? If a man speaks his own words, constantly quoting himself, he is after adulation. But I chase only after glory for the One who sent Me. My intention is authentic and true. You’ll find no wrong motives in Me (John 7:13-18, The Voice).

I think our education has made us afraid to speak lest we offend the new lawgivers who run it (quite poorly, in Philadelphia). It is time the Jesus-followers, at least, follow Jesus in his bold assertion that He has wisdom from God to give as it has been given him. Standing on that foundation could help us resist the domination of children by self-interested powers, and would give those blessed warriors who serve children as teachers the courage to keep up their struggle to give what they have been given in the Spirit and not just as abused lackeys of the system.

Thanks again to Bruce E. Levine and his article republished in alternet.org

Further links not necessarily recommendations, just further voices.

Debt Has Broken the Spirit of Resistance among Jesus-followers, Too

Let’s talk about how the ruling elite have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken any spirit of resistance to domination they might normally have. I’m talking about having some dialogue in the spirit of James who wrote to the ruling elites of his time:

“Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you” (James 5:3-5).

Somehow, the elites have convinced the latest generation that whatever corroded gold they have will be taken away if they don’t conform; their only hope is to hoard whatever little wages they are paid in hope of having a retirement of limited self-indulgence!

money = speechBruce E. Levine writes, in a very telling article, that young Americans “appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans ‘Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?’ Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them” (Bruce E. Levine, republished in alternet.org).

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans – and young American Christians? This might take a few weeks to answer. But let’s talk again about one big reason we have been considering for years now: student-loan debt.

Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. When I went to UC Riverside in the 70’s my tuition went up to $215 a quarter and I was upset. At that time tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. Those days are gone in the United States, but public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many other countries. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives depose Mubarak in Egypt, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War back in the day all had one thing, at least, in common: the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

obama teacherToday in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. And, like President Obama says, a high school degree is not enough:

Whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma….We have one of the highest high-school dropout rates of any industrialized nation, and half of the students who begin college never finish…This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.

One has to go to college to get a ticket into the economy. And that mandatory ticket will cost you. The median undergraduate debt is close to $25,000. Add on consumer debt and the typical twentysomething debt is close to $45,000 according to a study from last year. Increasingly, it is easy to find college graduates with $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life.

The Bible has a lot to say about debt

But most Christians can’t listen to the Bible because their creditors might garnish their bank account if they did what the Bible says. Nevertheless, Romans 13 says:

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:7-8).

If you read this in an individualistic way, then whatever debt a person incurs is their lot. The debt industry would love to have us all feel that morality. It is ironic that the government and the corporations that own it (who are increasingly seen as individuals!), are not held to the same standard of individual responsibility. In fact they have special rights like limited  liability and, the big one, they can live forever.

When Jesus tells Simon a parable about the woman washing his feet with her tears, he at least suggests an outlook other than someone being endlessly responsible for their debt.

 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. (see Luke 7:40-49). 

In the Lord’s story, the money lender forgives debts when someone can’t pay. That’s one thing. But the big thing, as in Romans,  is that love is owed. Love is the goal. Forgiveness is the prize. In contrast, the faithlessness of our society is enslaving people. We’re taught that we will ruin someone if we disturb their supposed self-reliance. Being taken care of by society is considered wicked. But the corporations are very well cared for! Even if there was a vestige of Christian morality as part of the conversation, we would be better off.

And let’s not forget what Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s prayer

Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.

Smack dab in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, obscured by old translations and otherworldly assumptions, is a radical cry for Jubilee justice. In this most stripped down form of Jesus’ teaching — the bare essentials of what a disciple should bring before God in prayer — is freedom from economic debt for all of God’s children. The prayer is not just about sins like “My mother-in-law said something mean about me, so I should forgive her ‘debt of sin’ against me.” The prayer is about real debtors — people who are enslaved by the rich and their deceptive systems. It is bigger than that, but not less.

How do Christians “fight back?”

Among the Circle of Hope we say, “We are birthing a new generation of the church to resist and restore with those moved by the Holy Spirit.” That means at least four things in relation to the debt that is breaking the spirits of twentysomethings, especially:

1) We prophesy. Even if you think the truth will get you in trouble, you “go James” at the proper time.

2) We do not conform. Even if love is illegal, we practice it.

3) We create the alternative. In our community we are all about forgiveness and sharing.

4) We demonstrate the alternative. We get people out of debt. Our debt annihilation team is an extremely practical example of this. Our compassion fund distributions are usually gifts and always no-interest loans. Our cell members take care of each other. We have thrift stores full of low-cost items. We hold baby-goods exchanges. We support relief and development and advocacy through MCC. And we sure don’t follow every lie the domination system dishes out – instead, we live simply in the freedom of the Spirit. We find a new way through the wilderness of the present age.

America Bashing in the Movies for the Fourth

I was treated to two America-bashing movies over the Fourth of July.

The first one I viewed was by invitation of Shalom House. I was not surprised that a movie they liked went after our war-fueling government! Watching a truth-telling movie with the peacemakers ended up feeling like an extremely appropriate way to observe the Fourth of July in 2013.

dirthy warsDirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield [NPR review] chronicles the quickly-expanding role of the secret wars the White House wages out of our scrutiny — even scrutiny by Congress, it appears. Jeremy Scahill is the investigative reporter/star who is extremely cool and extremely helpful — we need some reporting beyond the usual Kanye updates and courtroom dramas we usually see masquerading as news. Scahill is the National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine and author of the international bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

As soon as I mentioned Scahill (who had been previously unknown to me, which might disturb him), Joshua popped up on my FB and said, “Jeremy Scahill and I were together for about a month in Iraq back in ’02. Good guy and his work has really blossomed. The film looks good, too.” Then Sarah Grey said, “Saw him speak and chatted with him a bit at Socialism 2013 last weekend– he introduced Glenn Greenwald. Two of the best journalists working.” So if you need him stereotyped, my very with-it friends can give you a feel for him. But even if he skews the facts and you are tempted to stand up and shout “You lie!” I just want to say — if only half of what he says about JSOC is correct, then everything you think about the Fourth of July might be in jeopardy — unless you think “freedom day” means that the “secret president,” Obama, has the freedom to fight a world-wide war on “terrorism” without any public knowledge, much less accountability. If that’s your idea of freedom, you are living in your preferred future.

The second movie was Gwen’s pick. I did not expect any America bashing from Disney. I just had gift card and nothing to lose. (I discovered we had used up the card at Tandoor, but we went anyway).

lone rangerI was surprised. The Lone Ranger: Ride for Justice (or more likely, The Lone Ranger: Jonny Depp Looking for a Franchise) [multiple reviews] is a pretty dumb, long movie — but that does not usually stop people from seeing what Jerry Bruckheimer is up to [personal fav]. This film has all the usual superhero formulas in it accomplished with trains and horses. But it also takes surprising swipes at all sorts of American conventions, pointedly noting how the Asians and Native Americans were mercilessly exploited in settling the Southwest (Monument Valley inexplicably standing in for Texas).

What surprised me most was one of the main themes of the engorged, lumbering plot. You will not likely see this film (and shouldn’t), so I will tell you. They keep asking the Lone Ranger, “What’s with the mask?” and Tonto, less frequently, “What’s with the bird?” Their answers have to do with their complicity with railroad barons killing and exploiting their way into silver country in order to buy the United States. That is a good theme to ponder while singing God Bless America!

It turns out that Tonto helped them find the silver and the dead bird he wears on his head is a sign of his grief and guilt. This makes him an outcast. Also, the Lone Ranger thought the rule of law would save the land and his mask is his recognition that the only appropriate response to the lying powers-that-be is to be an obvious outlaw. This makes him lone.

At one point the railroad man/silver magnate (also with a secret army) plummets off a destroyed bridge with his trainload of silver. The audience is treated to the vicarious satisfaction of the rich being destroyed. Wow! Happy July Fourth! Being complicit, grief-stricken, guilty, cast out and a bit lone are all appropriate ways to spend the national holiday, at least if Jesus is  any example. And He is.

I see no evidence that any of the prophecy being crammed into the media these days has any impact on the rulers or the general population. It is possible that presenting the truth by film blunts any actual human response. Movies artificially stimulate the brain and leave people doused with natural opiates [Bonus: Ted talk warning about kids and media]. Perhaps we all watched so many Power Ranger episodes as kids that we can’t keep our mind on the problems the prophets are noting — I did think both films kind of dragged, I must admit.

Maybe we can’t focus on what God says either. Too bad. Even the movies are echoing the Lord. As far as both these American-bashing movies go, this is what we should be listening to, over and over:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm. Psalm 20:7-8

Can’t you just hear Jesus saying that? You can certainly see him doing it.

I Know You Don’t Care, Ayn, but She Died from No Healthcare

I heard about a memorial service the other day for an old friend’s sister. She was a home healthcare nurse without medical insurance. She knew she had something wrong with her, but she kept putting off going to the doctor because she was afraid – afraid of what might be wrong with her and afraid she couldn’t pay for any treatment. When she finally couldn’t stand the pain and uncertainty, she went to the doctor. But it was too late, the cancerous tumor had burst and she died within weeks.

I think this woman had other choices than the ones she made. And I am sure there were personal reasons for her behavior which I do not understand. But the fact that someone could not afford health care and died as a result makes me want to speak to the powers in the small way I have at hand today – this blog post.

I am feeling the prophet Isaiah on the subject:

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
   to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
   and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
   and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
   when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
   Where will you leave your riches? (Isaiah 10:1-3)

The legislators in congress, who, for the most part, equal “the rich,” have made choices and are on the verge of making more radical choices that have an impact on us all, especially the poor.

It is reported that Congressman Paul Ryan makes every member of his staff read philosopher Ayn Rand, the shameless promoter of the gospel of aggressive self-interest. His new budget proposal reflects this.

 

Jim Wallis says, “Congressman Ryan’s budget isn’t really about deficit reduction. It’s about choices — choices that will determine what kind of a country we become. And Paul Ryan has made the choice to hurt people who don’t have the political clout to defend themselves. Two-thirds of the long-term budget cuts that Ryan proposed are directed at modest and low-income people, as well as the poorest of the poor at home and abroad. At the same time, he proposed tax cuts up to 30 percent for some of our country’s wealthiest corporations.”

While cutting into our country’s modest attempt at providing a social safety net, people who call themselves “deficit hawks”  completely ignore the most consistently wasteful, and morally compromised area of the whole federal budget — our endless and unaccountable military spending.

Isaiah says:

“Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims — laws that make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children. What will you have to say on Judgment Day, when Doomsday arrives out of the blue? Who will you get to help you? What good will your money do you?”  (Isaiah 10:1-3, The Message)

Ryan’s budget is a bonanza for the rich and devastation for the poor. That’s a fact. It is frightening that the main rationale for the cuts is about the so-called immorality of deficit spending, instead of about the choices the officials are making about what kind of country we are becoming. Further impoverishing the poor in order to add more wealth to the wealthy is not an acceptable political or moral strategy.

When President Obama offered his budget he said, “In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90 percent of all working Americans actually declined. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. That’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs. That’s not right. And it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.”

But what Obama failed to say was that we are currently wasting lives and billions of dollars in Afghanistan on a strategy that fails to make us any safer, which is its stated justification. And he should mention the billions being spent on Iraq, Libya and untold expenditures in trying to police the world. For instance, the U.S. has 3,500 troops in Djibouti, 53,000 in Germany, and 8,000 in Qatar.

Last night we had a congressman in our meeting (a first, I think). He seemed like a nice man. I managed to open up the Israeli-Palestinian mess as part of our closing prayer. He started talking to me about it as soon as I shook his hand. He immediately embroiled us the intricacies of visionless statecraft. The whole congress seems to be tied up with Randian, self-interested competition, which results in a predictable, endless conflict over protecting wealth and getting more. Where are the wise people? I told him I needed to leave the government to him while I tried to serve Jesus. Mostly, I mean that. But when someone dies because they can’t afford healthcare, because they have been made afraid to go to the hospital, I think we all need to put on some Isaiah.

[On a related note: join us this Friday for the Good Friday vigil outside of Delia’s gun shop, 4pm]

Patient Impatience

patient impatience

We are saturating ourselves with 1 Thessalonians and I am fixated with one phrase of verse 5:14: “Be patient with everyone.”

I think many people are called and are good at being patient in a “passive” way. They can really wait! They are good at being quiet and receptive. So they can wait for what God is going to bring to them.

I am becoming better at that, but I am still more of an “active” patience kind of guy. I have to be patient in my impatience. That’s why I was so glad to see that the word translated patience in 5:14 has the sense of letting your feelings embrace others, being “far feeling” — “Don’t keep your heart closed off; be patient.” It is an active kind of patience that trusts God to be present in a difficult relationship or circumstance. Patience is like a corral one builds for unbroken relational broncos; it is the best atmosphere for spiritual domestication.

Far feeling is hope-filled

I happened to run across James talking about patience today, as well, and he encouraged the idea I had about patient impatience. In his chapter five, James ponders what it feels like to wait for the Lord’s return to set things right in the midst of difficulties: “Be patient, then, beloved, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”

A farmer does not just sit around doing nothing while the Lord plants and tills the field. He can’t make it rain, but he can’t resist looking at the sky to see if there is going to be enough rain to bring in a reasonable harvest. He can’t resist digging ditches and cisterns in expectation. He is impatient, but patient. Being a spiritual farmer, a church planter and cell tiller, I relate. When the crop needs rain, I want it to fall. When we’re dry, I feel desperate. I’ve got to trust God, but crying out to God to get on with it and getting on with it myself is part of the process. If we don’t have any impatience with what is and what could be, I’m not sure we’re paying attention.

But of course we are all paying attention. We’re feeling anxious right now about how messed up we are, about how our relationships are not working, about how the world at large seems hell-bent. Today is probably full of stuff that could push us right to the edge.

The edge of untrusting anxiety

I know that this week, apart from my own personal development lag, I am impatient for reconciliation. Pen was enlightening me about further reasons Christian church buildings are attacked in Malaysia last night. Harry Reid is on the hot seat for saying stupid things about President Obama’s electability and highlighting how we can’t talk about race in this country. The very idea of “race” imposed on us bothers me. The domestication of Martin Luther King bothers me. There is a lot to be downright, properly angry about!

I don’t think I am going to get passive and quiet about all that very soon. Some things don’t deserve that kind of patience. What to do? I won’t be perfectly patient, any time soon. I will have to trust God to be who God is, coming to me in Jesus as a demonstration of his own great far-feeling, walking with me in my small turmoil and settling me down in him. My breath prayer for today is: patient impatience yes, untrusting anxiety, no.

Afghan War Anniversary

At least someone was out on the streets on the anniversary of the Afghan War yesterday.

http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/local/100709_protest_marks_afghan_war_anniversary

In the past few years, it has been fascinating to watch the country be muzzled by the new “no news” news which makes every issue a postmodern discussion of equal, red state/blue state opinions. More and more people now get their news from random internet sources who all have a point to push. Dialogue is dead. Everything is marketing.  

Meanwhile there was nary a peep of outrage around here yesterday, on the anniversary of the Afghan war — no lament over the fact that the government is still pouring billions of wasted dollars into the war and still wasting lives in their hopeless cause of domination. I am feeling sorry for Obama, since the previous regime alienated everyone who might have helped (like Iran, Russia, China) and decided we had enough wealth, power and the all-important juevos to fight a perpetual war on terror on our own. They propped up a fake, corrupt “democracy” (again)  and decided the dirt farmers of the Afghan hills would cower before their faceless weapons. Now what does a president do? A fabulous lack of wisdom, a tremendous act of godlessness (in the name of all that is good, of course) is hard to follow.

My sympathy notwithstanding, I am feeling a bit Jeremiah today, as my prayer book lead me to chapter 6:

I appointed watchmen over you and said,
`Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, `We will not listen.’
Therefore hear, O nations;
observe, O witnesses,  what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth:  I am bringing disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not listened to my words

While I do not think we have responsibility for what the country does, no matter how many times they try to convince us that this is a democracy in some remote representative way, I DO think the people of God have a responsibility to tell others to “listen to the trumpet” and to blow it ourselves at appropriate moments of dire warning. I find it kind of scary when we don’t seem to be “feeling it.”

I suggest we take off our muzzles, slough off our apathy, renew our resentment of godless domination, stoke our concern for people languishing in ignorance of God and their plight, and make sure (at least!) to say a few words of outrage to people who need to hear them today. It might be a good idea to remind a few people that our government has sent soldiers to Afghanistan for eight fruitless years, now; and they are still adventuring in Iraq. Politically, it is disastrous; spiritually, it is hard (even on our least-Jeremiah-like day) to even imagine a connection to Jesus.

Reorientation — education is not the key to your future

[I had a short offering to give last night at the “Re:Orientation” event. I thought I’d put an even shorter version out here for you to see what you think. We were presenting an alternative to what universities usually say during orientation.]

Friday we were going out to 69th St. to buy a birthday present with my 2-year old grandson, who loves to ride El. A nice man got on the train and started talking to him and I ended up talking a little, too. He ended up saying, “I like Obama, but he said he would bring the young people home. And that is not happening. Instead he wants to send more to Afghanistan. “ Like every president,  Obama says he wants world peace and then sends 18 year olds, mostly poor ones, to die to protect Citibank and Exxon. No wonder there were well-organized anarchists in Pittsburgh on Friday to represent the angry 18-year-olds. We have more un-kept promises from a new president (who makes a lot of promises!). The future looks like more of the past.

Is education the key to your future?

But that is generally not what the University teaches. Long before we go through the college orientation, the institution of “school,” in its many forms, has generally taught that the future will be better and it belongs to the educated. The omnipresent president was telling that to elementary school kids a couple of weeks ago.

Washington University in St. Louis was orienting physically-challenged students this year with this statement. “Work-based learning experiences can help a student make career decisions, network with potential employers, select courses of study, and develop job skills relevant to future employment. Through the interaction of work and study experiences, students can enhance their academic knowledge, personal development, and professional preparation.” That’s a standard statement of common sense in the university world. Of course they gave a shout out to acquiring knowledge and developing personally, but the big reason to go to school is to prepare for your future job, to make yourself into something that is employable. The future is all about getting a job so you better get the education to get the job.

reorientation

Education is the key to your debt

But there is a lot more to education these days than they tell you. It is like this: the real future is about desperately needing a well-paying job to pay off the huge debt you incurred to get the education to get a future.

The Wall Street Journal on Sep 4 had an article about student loan debt. For instance, Zack Leshetz, a 30-year-old lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has $175,000 in student loans from his seven years in college and law school. Lately he has had his eye on the real-estate market. “Everyone says that it’s a great time to buy a house,” he says. But that is not an option right now, thanks to $800 a month in payments—and another chunk of student loans in forbearance, which means payments are halted while interest accrues. “I find myself living paycheck to paycheck.” He has also been engaged since March, but has held off on marriage. “There’s no way I can pay for a dream wedding, or even just a regular wedding,” Mr. Leshetz says. “I feel like I’m putting my entire life on hold.”

This is not all the university segment of “school” says about your future, but this is certainly in there: education is the future – it won’t be cool if you don’t stay in school. But the secret message is that debt is your future – get the education and then become a slave until you pay for it.

Reorientation toward the alternative

I want to present an alternative. Using a university to gain wisdom and skill is fine, but Jesus has a lot more in store for us than university education provides or than we can afford to pay for.

The quote below is part of an account in the Bible in which Jesus and the disciples are talking to a man who has “made it,” so to speak, but who is still intrigued with Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!
[The kingdom of God is where God rules and Jesus is followed]
Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
[The “Eye of the Needle” is a small gate in old Jerusalem that is a challenge to big camels]
Those who heard this asked, (If it is that hard) “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with people is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said  to  them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God  will fail  to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
Luke 18:24-30

The university makes promises it does not keep. Jesus keeps his promises. But that is not my basic point. Jesus is calling for a basic reorientation.

The promise of Jesus

Your future is taken care of; live your life now. Jesus doesn’t ask you to wait until you get an education to be someone. As you know, education can only be a useful tool in the hands of someone who is someone; it doesn’t make you anything. Jesus makes you someone who can use an education.

You don’t have to wait until you pay off your debts to engage fully in life. If you had to pay off all your debts, financial and spiritual, you’d never get finished, and you would just incur more debt, anyway. Jesus forgives you your debt to him — the heart-debts you owe to God for turning away from him and pursuing education and career like they can save you, or pursuing anything else. He gives you the future free of charge.

We, as the people of God who follow Jesus, organized as Circle of Hope, have never waited for college-age people to grow up before we invite them to show up. They are welcome to be a full part and to own the church. We are not looking for people who have paid off all their debts and come in with no encumbrances of doubt, sin, and other baggage, we can forgive you, too, and let you get on with it. We don’t want anyone to use all their energy on serving a false hope and end up a full-on slave.

We invite you to join us in doing the most important thing you can do in your twenties — even while you are getting an education, or struggling to pay for your apartment or to pay off your debts. You are valuable to God. Together, our resources make a huge difference in God’s hands. This is what we always say — Re-orient with us and see. Come along and be yourself in Christ with us and see.