Sunday, July 05, 2009

Hi, this is God. Please leave a message...

Hi, this is God. I can’t come to the phone right now, please leave a message after the tone.

There have been good times and hard times when God has been quick to call back. Even if it’s only to leave a message, I’m here. I’m working on it. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to you.

Lately when my phone rings, it’s always someone else.

Elie Wiesel wrote about God’s silence in the night of the Nazi Genocide. My sense of proportion isn’t that far out of whack. I know that losing my job and savings isn’t the same as dying at Auchwitz. I don’t know anything about that kind of suffering.

But I do know about the silence of God. Run a Google search on that phrase and count the clich├ęs and platitudes. For centuries people have tried to speak for this speechless Father, this unmoved Creator. But there’s the trouble. No creature can say anything to compensate for the sense that the God’s back is turned.

After the self-pity, after the unrequited love has passed, there is a choice to be made. If God is not calling back – if God is indifferent to my life – how do I set my own course? How to keep believing in myself when if seems God has given up on me?

When God abandoned Jesus, he gave up the ghost. I don’t have that luxury. My suffering is real, but far from biblical. The great models of perseverance and faithfulness in the scriptures aren’t much help. I’m no Jesus, no Job, not even Jonah. The sufferings of Pennsy aren’t going to matter to anyone in 50 years.

So if God isn’t going to pitch in, what do I have to rely on?

Will. First, I have to choose to go on, and so I do. I choose to keep living.

Love. God does not return my calls, but Mrs P does. My mom does. My sisters, my oldest friend, even our animals. They believe in me and their faith gives me strength.

Wisdom. Betrayal is a great teacher. Not every one who acts loving actually loves. Not everyone who receives feels gratitude. There is a part of a man that he can’t afford to give away, not if hw wants to go on living, working, fighting for the people he loves.

Honor. That old fashioned word that means the value of a name. The shine has been dulled over the years, the finish dented and scratched, but in the end, my only real treasure is the value of my name, the value of my word.

Jesus told the story of a man who held a feast. The fine people he invited chose not to attend, so the man opened his doors and welcomed in the folks he could trust. The common people of the street who may not have been as highly regarded as their “betters”, but who were faithful to the host who offered his hospitality and himself.

God is welcome in my life, and may choose to return someday, but for now I have to go on without the voice I have grown so accustomed to. If God chooses not to walk with me, so be it. I will continue to walk. I will walk as God taught me. I will continue to pray into the silence and to work through the darkness.

I have waited long enough for God to speak. It is time to face the silence with the people who love me enough to call back.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Freedom For Iran - By Any Means Necessary

The day that the black man takes an uncompromising step and realizes that he's within his rights, when his own freedom is being jeopardized, to use any means necessary to bring about his freedom or put a halt to that injustice, I don't think he'll be by himself.
During his journey to Mecca, Malcolm learned that the "prophet" he followed had distorted the message of Islam. He tried to tell the world and was murdered.

For 12 long years I lived within the narrow-minded confines of the 'straightjacket world' created by my strong belief that Elijah Muhammad was a messenger direct from God Himself, and my faith in what I now see to be a pseudo-religious philosophy that he preaches.... I shall never rest until I have undone the harm I did to so many well-meaning, innocent Negroes who through my own evangelistic zeal now believe in him even more fanatically and more blindly than I did.
Today, the people of Iran are seeking thier own rights and freedom from tyrants and false prophets. God forbid our nation - founded on those very principles - should leave them by themselves.

I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being, first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.
America must act with wisdom so as not to become an obstacle to freedom in Iran. But when we do act, we must do so as the people in Tehran's streets have done - to put an end to injustice, without compromise, by any means necessary.

Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression.

The Malcolm X Project

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Power of Hope

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen -- Hebrews 11: 1
"Substance" and "evidence": solid stuff. We are used to thinking of faith as a sort of smoky spiritual thing, as if our faith is what allows us to have hope – to see the unseen. But this scripture suggests otherwise. Faith is not the cause, but the product of hope. Without that hope for things not seen, we can never know the gift of faith.

And what a powerful gift it is. Just look at this role call:

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: -- Hebrews 11: 17 – 32
There is great power in faith. It lets us move mountains but it does not exist in a vacuum. Like serenity, faith is a child of hope.

If we renounce despair, if we choose to live in hope, then God’s gift to us is faith: the power to do amazing, irrational, radical, miraculous things. This is more than just the sugary sweet “positive attitude” that so many exhort us to pretend we have. Hope is not a sunny disposition and a clench-jawed smile. Hope is a hunger for the invisible. It is living as if the things we cannot know are in fact true.

Our history, our experience may teach us that failure is inevitable. People will always disappoint, power will always corrupt, and ambition will always fall short. Life may teach us those hard lessons, but living in hope is living as if people can succeed, as if power can be used for good and goals can be reached. The letter to the Hebrews promises that a life lived in hope will have power – that substance and evidence of the unseen and unknowable Kingdom of God that we call faith.

Do not grieve your lack of faith. Rather choose to live in hope, knowing that faith will be added to you.



Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Serenity is the Child of Hope

What to do about the culture of despair? For starters, we might begin closer to home.

There are lots of discouraging things happening in our lives these days. We're losing count of the number of friends who have been laid-off. Friends and family are sick, some seriously so. Bill collectors are learning our names and our 401(k) manager won't take our calls. Much has been lost, and we fear losing what's left.

For a person inclined to mental darkness there is never a shortage of reasons to expect the worst, but these days it's hard for even the merriest of us to keep looking for silver linings. It is tempting to flee our hard lives by focusing on "big issues". To worry about questions like, "What can I do about the culture of despair?" instead of, "What can I do to make our house more peaceful for Mrs P when she comes home today?"

Serenity is the child of Hope, and serenity comes from knowing the difference between the things you can change and the things you can't. I can't change you. I can't change the world. But I might be able to change myself just enough that God can use me to make a difference for someone.

Now that's a change worth hoping for.


Path God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Gospel of Despair

Where does this end? There are a couple of ways this pattern plays out. The most likely one is that the extremist commandos go a bridge too far -- they're successful on a scale that scares the rational rebels into putting down their guns and bombs, leaving the really crazy actors back at the level of lone wolves...

The other (far less likely, but far worse case) scenario is that the entire country is persuaded to take leave of its senses and take sides, launching a civil war. Given the number of Americans, both left and right, who are thoroughly disgusted with the corporatocracy and increasingly convinced that Congress is too corrupt to deliver even the basics to anyone who's not rich enough to write their problem on the back of a check, it's not a far stretch to imagine a right-wing populist movement that sucks large chunks of the working and middle classes into a full-scale revolution. If the conservative movement does not take a stand against these extremists, they may find that their silence will give permission to actions that are far worse.

... The best thing progressives can do right now is stay in close touch with our base, do whatever we can to restore average Americans' faith in their government. In this incendiary environment, we can't afford to let them lose faith.

Tragedy at the Holocaust Museum: Stand Up To Terror
Thursday, June 11, 2009

-- By Sara

I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “right-wing”. I’m not sure it applies in these cases. The language implies a separate member of the same body - one bird, two wings. These domestic extremists, whatever their ideological framework are not on the far right wing, they are part of another bird altogether.

I’ve been doing some research on White Nationalists, including choking down Von Brunn’s book. These people loathe the “right-wing”. They aren’t conservatives; they are revolutionaries who anticipate a war they consider to be inevitable and imminent. The website “White Aryan Resistance” or WAR has changed its name to “The Insurgent.” Their model is no longer the organized militia, but rather the so-called Lone Wolf. As the examples from Orcinus suggest, they are more likely to resemble suicide bombers than secret societies.

The author’s point is worth considering for the church as well as for the nation. Americans ARE losing faith in the ability of their institutions to function. As a child of the seventies, I was raised to question authority. Today, we find ourselves questioning authority’s very existence. Is there any institution that does not lie, cannot be bought, will not betray those who put their trust in it?

There is nothing less biblical, less Christian than despair, yet the gospel of despair is being preached all over our nation today. We are being told there is no reason for hope; failure is inevitable, even desirable. Once it seemed quaint to mourn the loss of civility in our public discourse. Today we need to recognize that much more than good manners are at stake. We need to demand the best of our leaders, both secular and religious – but we also need to accept our own responsibility in the equation. Our language does have consequences and much more than the tone of our national debate is changing.

Fear has always thrived at the extremes. As that fear starts touch both the right and left banks of the political mainstream we can choose to oppose it, or else surrender to the prophets of disaster. It has been fashionable to throw the expression “culture wars” around in a metaphorical sense for some time. How can Christians keep it from becoming literally true?