Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veterans Day Reflections

Freedom is not free. In this broken world, broken people seek to harm and oppress others, and to take what is not theirs. Soldiers and sailors stand to defend the innocent from such aggressors.

Today we remember and thank all those who have served in the United States military. While we may long for a world in which the military is unnecessary, we owe our freedom to those who will stand with force to keep us free.

America has not always been right with foreign policy, but every citizen here has the right to express opposition. We can also look back at our history and recognize mistakes. We can even argue about the intention of those in our history.

This freedom--the freedom of property, thought, expression, religion--this freedom is worth defending. It is worth refining. It is worth debating. It is worth exploring. It is worth celebrating.

Thank you, veterans, for serving this great country, and giving us the freedom to keep on arguing, voting, creating, and reflecting. Without you, the broken powers of this world would crush us.



Monday, November 9, 2020

Why Politics Becomes Dirty Business

The world of politics looks like a mess these days. We constantly hear about corruption and scandal. One politician strikes a shady deal to line her pockets, while another cheats on his wife just because he can. 

People who seem to have good morals and noble character seem to go bad when they get to the Capital.

I met a former congressman from Oklahoma some time ago who had served in the U.S. Congress for 10 years. He told me something I have never forgotten. "People are elected and go to Washington," he said, "believing that it's a cesspool. When they've been there for a while, they start thinking that it's a Jacuzzi."

The ability to wield power changes people. We begin desiring to use power for good, and then we reframe what is actually good. Before long, we can do mental and ethical gymnastics to justify all sorts of behavior. We vote for bad legislation to get other people to vote for our good legislation. We hide shady deals behind a cloak of national security. We help out our friends in business because, obviously, when businesses succeed everybody wins.

 And politics is the art of compromise. We learn how to make deals to keep our campaign promises. It's a short leap to compromise morally, for the greater good, of course.

I say, "we" because every human is tempted by power. We may believe that we would never fall to corruption if we were elected to office. I suspect that nearly every elected official believes that when first elected. Yet so many cave to temptation. Maybe you would be the rare exception. But this corruption sneaks up on the unsuspecting.

We desperately need some statesmen and stateswomen who can respond to the call to leadership and stay grounded in humility and accountability.

The Constitutional system of checks and balances is a pretty good way of stopping corruption. But obviously we need honorable people to make it work.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Holiday Season, COVID Style

Here we are, well into November, and the holiday season is fast approaching. We can't do the normal holiday stuff this year, or can we? Now we have to figure out whether it is safe to travel across the county or the country to gather in homes with family. Do we go or not? How many is too many, in the house, at the table, in the room... Do we wear masks? Do we hug?

How long should the Thanksgiving gathering last? Do we serve the food differently? Do we put a jug of hand sanitizer right next to the gravy?

Sigh.

I looked for the latest COVID-19 statistics on my phone's news app, where I have reliably found that info for months, but it was nowhere to be found. Seems suddenly that's not so important. While cases supposedly are surging, the election results seem to overshadow everything else.

I'm sure that we will get plenty of advice from politicians and physicians very soon, so we can make good decisions about safely gathering.

We did family Easter celebrating by Zoom. I am not a fan. We really need to be with each other. Maybe now more than ever.

Let's be careful and wise, not spread germs, but share love. That's not easy these days.



Friday, November 6, 2020

Waiting

I find that waiting is hard work. Right now we are waiting for the pandemic to end. Unfortunately today's new infections set a new record in the U.S. Waiting is especially hard when we don't know how long it will take. 

So, we find ourselves waiting for normal life to return, and now we are waiting to know who the president will be next year,

And there's another kind of waiting: waiting on the Lord. We wait for God's guidance, his assurance, his answers to our prayers. We don't know how long it will take for God to show up. In the meantime, he lets us grow through the waiting.

In this season of waiting, let's tune in to what's really important. Wait for it.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Arguing Christianity

Ever wonder why Christians focus so much on beliefs? According to Amy-Jill Levine in The Bible With and Without Jesus, Christianity is the first religion solely based on beliefs. As a Jew, Levine offers a helpful perspective for us. Most religions have a heavier cultural, ethnic element. One is born a Jew, Hindu, Buddhist. But historically one chooses to be a Christian. Obviously people are born into Christian families, but in evangelical tradition children are still urged to choose the faith.

So, if Christianity is based on beliefs, not heritage, then we must be very careful what those beliefs are. What do you have to believe to be a Christian? To answer this question, the Christians through history have offered extensive "creeds," statements of specific beliefs that express orthodoxy, or right belief.

Jews, on the other hand, freely argue their opinions about their scriptures. They don't worry about being labeled heretics. For them, Judaism is like family. It's permanent. You can't be kicked out, no matter what you believe. "Two Jews, three opinions," as the saying goes. One can speak of an atheist Jew, but there's no such thing as an atheist Christian.

Jews and Christians both argue within their traditions, but Christians are more interested in deciding who is "in" and who is "out." We must determine who is right and who is wrong. Jews are stuck accepting each other, even those with strange views of God.

Seems like we can learn something about accepting each other.



Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Freedom from Politics

Today we can celebrate freedom from political ads. It was almost humorous to hear competing ads back-to-back during TV commercial breaks. So, even if the election is not settled, at least we are free from those ads.

Can we be free from politics?

History shows that we need governments. We need some rules for orderly society, and we need some means to encourage people to follow those rules. That's what government is all about. Some versions of governments have been good for populations, and many have been cruel and oppressive. When government is absent, anarchy rules until that vacuum is filled with, usually, some sort of tyranny. Government, then, is necessary in human society, even if it is typically full of imperfection. We need government.

Unfortunately the delivery system for government is politics. It is full of imperfect people with imperfect motives. People long to have power but rarely anticipate the corruption that comes with power. Even those who begin with good motives learn to compromise on principles for the sake of their larger agenda. Corruption nearly always creeps in.

If we want to be free from worldly politics, we need to focus on Jesus as our King. He has the greater power of love. He transforms the people in his kingdom. There is no corruption in his reign.

We can free ourselves from the mental tyranny of worldly politics by remembering that Jesus is our King. Yes we need to participate in worldly government, voting and staying informed. But the kingdom of Jesus is greater. He says, "Take heart! I have overcome this world!" (John 16:33).

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Election Day Prayer

 Lord, we are a needy people.

We need justice, community, connection.

We need freedom from addiction, food on the table, health in our bodies.

We need hope.

Our land promises freedom. But freedom is fragile. We must handle it responsibly.

Today we in this land we choose our own leaders. Few in history have had this choice.

As we choose leaders today, remind us that our ultimate hope must be in you. 

Politicians will disappoint, even betray. Populations will make foolish choices. Power plays rule the day.

Let us return to you for hope, for help, for life. Let us stand for justice, for freedom, for kindness. Let us forgive, and turn from our own selfishness. 

God, have mercy on us.