A night of blessing

Last night was our ministry night at Flying J.  We had some of our usual guests and missed some of our other folks.  The night started as it usually does – with laundry.  We get people set up with laundry, get it going, and then head over to Denny’s for a meal.

This time would be a bit different though.  After we placed our orders, I invited everyone into an informal worship at the table.  I read the Gospel lesson for this coming Sunday, then asked everyone what they wanted to lift up in prayer.  Each person had a prayer concern or a thanksgiving to share.  One of our families was grateful for being able to get into a house.  This was truly a blessing that we all cheered for.  When everyone offered up what their prayer was, we prayed together.

Then we did communion.  Everyone participated.  It was quite a meaningful moment for me – to offer communion in a restaurant. We used a loaf of Italian bread and grape juice.  And everyone communed, including the children.  Here we were, about 15 people celebrating the Lord’s supper – people who the Good News was created for.  People who can truly appreciate what daily bread is.

And then our food came and we continued with our conversation.  The kids and some of our guests told jokes, we laughed, we heard stories, we listened.

And when it was time for the bill, I was handed a check for $11.50.  For 15 people.  I thought there was a mistake.  No, no mistake.  The waitress proceeded to tell me that someone paid for the vast majority of our bill – over $165.  Wow.  What a blessing.  We don’t know who our angel was, but we were grateful to them for their immense generosity.

We finished up dinner, got several people set up for showers, and were on our way for the night.

Ministry at Flying J is never dull.  There are serious concerns and challenges that each person and family faces – often many challenges thrown in all at once.  Often there are things that have no easy solutions.  But we are there.  We spend time with people who face these challenges.  We can’t solve the challenges that people face.  But we listen.  We offer respect.  We offer a sense of community.  We make sure people are clean and fed.  And now we worship together too.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much.  But I know that it far more than just the limited material things that we can offer.  This is what Good News for the poor is all about.  It’s a message of recognizing people’s humanity.  It is a message of community and reminding people that they matter.  It’s a message that lets people know that they are not alone.  That they are loved.  That they have worth and value because they are God’s children.

Our nights at Flying J are not just a blessing for the people who we serve.  These nights are a blessing for us also.  It is not uncommon that our families come with extra supplies to be distributed to others in need.  One of our guests came with a coupon for a discount at Denny’s.  They may not have a lot, but what they have, they share and contribute.  It’s their offering for this ministry.  And that is a blessing.

Families on the edge

I hear from many families that are right on the edge.  Usually they are families on the wrong side of that edge.  They are families that are trying to do the right thing, but are just shy of making it.  In the last week, I’ve heard from several families who are on the edge of being homeless.  They are the families that live in the motels along the Carlisle Pike.  They pay a ridiculous weekly rate for a crappy motel room.  What they pay has been climbing more and more – some as high as $400 a week.  That’s more than many mortgages in this area.  And for what?

I spoke with one family yesterday on the phone – and the phone call lasted about an hour.  They told me they were looking for help with paying the rent for the motel room they are in.  The woman starts a new job today, but won’t be paid until next week.  The guy has an application in with the company who owns the motel – for a position at another motel that is owned by the same family.  He said he felt pretty good about his chances.  He wants to work.

They are on the list with the county homeless assistance program – #2 on the list in fact.  They have been working with a plethora of agencies over the last 10 weeks and the follow-up has been slow.  Mostly because there just isn’t much available to help people like this family.  Apparently a roaring economy doesn’t trickle its way down this far.

And this family is not alone.  If I had to guess, I would say there are a couple hundred similar families with similar stories along the Carlisle Pike, in the dozen or so motels.  This is not an exaggeration.  Each of these families are in similar situations – They are right on the edge.  They are one medical bill or auto repair bill away from true homelessness.  They have enough to pay the exorbitant weekly rent for their room, but don’t have enough to save up for a security deposit and first month rent, which would be cheaper and better in the long run.  They are trapped in a vicious cycle.

When I spoke with this family, the guy told me they were originally number 842 on the list to receive help for housing.  842.  That’s a long list.  That’s a serious problem.  And that’s just one county in Pennsylvania.  Multiply that across the country and you start to get a sense of how bad the situation is.  The economy might be roaring for some, but it is failing for so many more.

What is the Christian thing to do?  I think it is to ask the dangerous question – why is this happening?  Blaming all these families as the sole cause of the problem is a cop-out.  It is an answer that swears off a responsibility from the rest of society to respond and offer a correction.  The Christian response certainly isn’t to say that only the strong survive and that the ends justify the means.  That is the heartless answer, but one that some in positions of power seem to believe in.

We are limited in what we can do.  There are only so many people we can work with – we are already stretched thin.  There is only so much money that we have access to.  Yet the need far exceeds what we are capable of.  And saying no to someone who is just on the edge is difficult.  And it sucks.  But sometimes, it’s all you have because of the limitations.  We can’t help everyone.  But in those times, I can at least spend an hour listening to someone.  I can ask questions.  I can treat a person with respect.  I can believe them.

At the end of the phone call, the guy thanked me for listening and for any help that we might be able to offer.  The women thanked me as well.  I wasn’t able to offer anything materially.  But I offered what I had – a listening ear, encouragement.  What do you have to offer?

What is greatness?

Greatness has many definitions.  How we use the term is often loaded with meaning and symbolism.  The world offers a definition that typically includes ideas like big, more, victory, recognition, followers, prosperity, might, strength, etc.  The world always wants to be moving towards greatness.  Except we never really arrive there.  There is always something else that needs to happen in order to actually be great.

How does Jesus define greatness?

It’s a topic that comes up in this coming Sunday’s Gospel reading.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when [Jesus] was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.

(Mark 9:33-34)

Who is the greatest?  What is greatness?  Even the disciples get caught up in it.  It’s reassuring to me that humanity hasn’t changed all that much in 2000 years.  We still don’t get it.

Here is Jesus’ answer to the question of what greatness is:

He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

(Mark 9:35-37)

Greatness to Jesus is not about being front and center and grabbing all the attention.  It isn’t about having the best economy, biggest and strongest military, the most money or resources.  It isn’t about having the most likes or followers on social media.  Greatness isn’t about a nation at all according to Jesus.  It isn’t about who you can destroy.

Instead, it’s about who you value and how you value them.   It’s about being a servant to those who society finds to be without value.

Children in Jesus’ time were a burden in Jesus’ time.  They only gained value when they could work and produce.  But Jesus’ response to the question of greatness is different.  One is great when they recognize the humanity of others who society excludes and devalues.  One is great when they empower and remind others of their humanity – when they take what they already have and give it to others.  When we build up those around us, rather than build walls and fortresses to protect what we have.

Last week we heard Jesus ask the disciples – “Who do you say that I am?”  And he went on to say:

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

(Mark 8:34)

Who do we want to follow?  Jesus or someone else?  We can answer who we actually follow based on how we define the words that we use.  Are we living by Jesus’ definition of greatness or someone else?

Last week we heard Jesus ask the disciples “Who do you say that I am?”  This question is for us also.  Who do you say that Jesus is?  Is he just a nice guy?  Is he someone we should listen to when times are good?  Or is he someone who we listen to, regardless of how we are doing?  Is Jesus someone we can push aside when it gets uncomfortable and inconvenient for us to follow him?

Who do you say Jesus is?  And whose definition of greatness are you following?  Who is the leader that you follow?

Futile conversations

There are some conversations that are futile – there is no sense in participating in such conversations.  You are only going to be wasting breath and getting frustrated.

I classify most political commentary in this category.  Listen to a political radio commentary for about five minutes and you’ll understand.  I do this every now and then just to hear what the partisan “gospel” is currently being spewed.  It’s good to know what others in society are thinking – even when you don’t agree.

You can get the same reaction when you surf the internet.  I usually get my news updates from a variety of sources in opposition to each other.  I check CNN and Fox News, Real Clear Politics and Politico.  These offer me a good variety of stories coming from very different perspectives.  Often, I’m more interested in seeing which stories are missing, rather than what is there.  What’s missing is usually pretty telling and offers more news and commentary than any of the articles ever could.  Generally if a major news story is missing, it means the partisan hacks haven’t figured out the spin to try to explain it away yet.

When I listed to the radio partisan hacks, I listen to hear what the spin is for their favored party or politician – and there is always some excuse for their “guy” or party and something to blame on the other party.  Always.  Without fail.  Their team can do no wrong ever. And when there is something inconveniently truly bad for their side, well, then you can be sure that there will be disparaging remarks and personal attacks on the opposition.  It’s actually quite predictable.  Which is why you only need about five minutes to listen.

Of course, this happens in other areas of life too – sports is a great example.  Just try talking with a die-hard fan of any team.  Good luck getting anywhere.

Religion fits this category too.  Religion is prone to this because it often dwells in areas of truth.  And there are some who value truth over anything else – their version of truth anyway.  Orthodoxy of thought becomes the most important thing.  It is their way or the highway.  Never mind that the person making this determination is just as broken as everyone else.

What is it about being right all the time that drives people to put aside everything else?  What is it about showcasing how wrong your opponents are, even in light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

Why do people do this?  Does it have to do with a person’s identity?  Does it have to do with power – who has it and who is trying to get it?  Does it have to do with privilege?  Does it have to do with beliefs?  Does it have to do with status in society?  What is it?

I know this much – I’m a bit tired of it.  Very tired of it actually.

Can I be bull-headed at times – sure.  Am I convinced I am right on any given subject – of course and so are you.  But here’s the thing.  I want to have conversations with people who see the world differently.  I want to learn how people come to their conclusions.  I assume I can learn something from them.  I may not agree or change my mind, but what will happen is that I will gain an understanding of a different perspective and see the humanity in the opposition.

I think the biggest thing that bothers me about people who make being right into an idol is this – they make no effort to see the humanity of those they disagree with.  There is no effort to see that someone could come to a different conclusion for what are typically very good reasons.  There is no effort to learn – only protect their own opinions as God-given truth.  There is no variation.  There is no growth.  There is only blame, shame, name-calling, putting up walls, and demands.  You can’t have a conversation with someone like this.  And that’s the frustrating thing for me.  It becomes an all or nothing event.  It’s about only two options – a binary “conversation” of right and wrong.  There is no sliding scale with these folks.  And unless you buy everything, then you are considered the enemy.

I suppose this isn’t going to change anytime soon.  So I’ll keep listening for a few minutes to hear what people are being fed.  I’ll keep looking for the news that is missing on the web.  And I’ll keep talking with people who want to actually have a conversation.

As for those who are only interested in being right, and not actually listening or talking – well…I don’t have time for such nonsense.  Call me names if you want.  Shout out how wrong I am.  While you’re busy doing that, I’ll be busy living out the Gospel – loving people, serving, caring for people who need care, talking with people who want to talk, sharing Good News, visiting people, etc.  Mr. Partisan Radio guy, maybe you should try it sometime.  You claim to be a Christian.  Why not build up the Body of Christ, rather than tear down those you disagree with?  Why not ask for forgiveness when you are wrong?  Why not do something productive?  Why not see the humanity in others?  There’s a whole big world out there that goes beyond the binary us and them.  It can be scary, but it’s a beautiful world Mr. Partisan Radio guy.  A beautiful big world that doesn’t operate on your binary either or perspective.  There is much to learn.

Life cycles

A life cycle has some major components – the beginning of life, the middle, and the end.

In Christian theology, we speak about life cycles too – birth, living, death, and resurrection.

We believe that each disciple and follower of Jesus will experience each of these life stages.

And so will the church.  The church in the West appears to be moving towards the death stage – at least organizationally.  But changes are happening – good changes.  In a way, these are changes that are the fulfillment of death and resurrection.

Resurrection can only happen once there is death.  On Sunday, we heard Jesus tell us that if any would be his followers then they must deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow him.

The question is this – where are we following him to?  To death.  So that resurrection can happen.  New life.  Thriving life.  Life that looks far different from it does now or did before.

The reality is that it is easy to talk about this.  It’s easy to talk about death and resurrection.  But it’s not pleasant for people or churches to actually go through it.  It becomes real all of a sudden.  The talk hits us in the gut and we learn what this really means – significant change for our lives that impacts us directly.  We are creatures of habit.  We prefer the status quo.  It gives us a sense of control over our lives.  And yet, what Jesus offers is not the status quo.  It is a new normal.

That is what following Jesus is about – a new normal.  An uncomfortable newness.  But a newness that is much better.

When you can’t help someone

Yesterday I reached a point in which I couldn’t do something for someone.  It sucked.

Our congregation has been working with many people – those experiencing displacement, those in poverty, those living in motels, etc.  The need is immense.  And it can be overwhelming.  And there are limits as to how much one congregation can do.  The biggest limit we have is financial and energy.  There is only so much time.  There are only so many people who can help.  There is only so much money.  There is only so much.

And when you come across someone who has need and you can’t do much for them because you have reached these limits, it sucks.  It is like a gut punch for you and for the person.

But it is what it is.  We aren’t people’s saviors.  We are called to do what we can.  And sometimes there isn’t anything we can do – because we are limited.  Even in that limitation, we do what we can – we offer some food, some phone numbers of agencies that might possibly be able to help, and a recognition of someone’s humanity.  It’s not much, but it’s what I had.

Maybe we should have done something else.  But I don’t know what that would have been.

Maybe we should have done more.  But I don’t know what we could have done with the limitations we have.

We’re running thin.

And so there are times when we get to see our own limitations, our own brokenness.  There are times when I deliver bad news instead of Good News.  This is the world we live in.

There are about a dozen hotels/motels along the Miracle Mile.  Half of them have weekly residents – people who pay by the week to live in a small crappy motel room and pay between $250-450/week for this privilege.  That is far more than many mortgages in our area.  There are literally hundreds of people and families who live this way in this area.  Thinking about this makes me sick.  And each week, I meet more and more of these folks – doing what they can to survive.  They are trapped in a vicious cycle with little hope of escape.  They know they need better housing, but there are limited options for housing.  And so these people are trapped paying a ridiculous “rent.”

We are limited.  We are just one church.  I’m just one pastor.

My goal is to work with people who want to have their lives changed. We do that by creating an environment where people can have an encounter with Jesus.  Sometimes that happens with material things.  Sometimes with non-material things.

As overwhelming as it can be, we keep moving forward.  We keep plodding along.  When we get to experience a success story – of someone getting up on their feet and being where they want to be – we cheer and celebrate with them.  And we keep building relationship with them.  That’s what it’s all about.  That’s what keeps me going.  That’s what is my comforts the pain of limitation that we all experience – those times when we can’t help.

We are limited, just like the people we minister too.  And we get to be changed when we encounter Jesus in the people we meet – just as they are changed.  Amen.

Radio theology

When I drive to appointments and meetings and visitations I often have the radio on.  And more often than not, I have it on scan.  I do this for a few reasons.  First, I’m not loyal to any radio station or type of music.  I actually like a wide variety of music and so I like to keep my options open.  Second, I like to hear what I’m up against theologically on the “Christian” radio stations.  You would not believe how much bad theology exists on “Christian” radio stations.

Sometime this week I was scanning while driving and came across a radio program on a Christian station and I stopped to listen to what they were talking about.  I quickly learned that it was a program focused on Israel.  The host was super excited about efforts to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.  The host was talking about the potential locations of the Holy of Holies, and how it might be where the Dome of the Rock is, or it might be 300 feet to the north.  He spoke about the return of the red heifers that are used for ritual sacrifice if archeologists can find the nine jars of heifer ashes that supposedly were put below the temple.  He was super excited about all of this.

Let me just say for the record – this is crazy talk.  And dangerous.  And the question is for what purpose?

Now I know the answer to that question.  It comes from a belief that certain events need to happen in order for Jesus to come back and set off the Rapture.  Here’s the problem with that line of thinking – we are completely arrogant if we believe that God needs us to do something to trigger Jesus’ return as if God restricted by our actions.  Why in the world would anyone believe that we have to help certain events along in order to Jesus to come back?  That makes literally no sense.

This type of theology is dangerous and destructive for numerous reasons.  Getting into some kind of religious conflict with Muslims over a holy site is not a good idea, and is not of God.  What happens when things don’t go according to “the plan?”  What happens when there is a response with violence for violent actions against people of other faiths?

Will those who push this kind of theology take responsibility for any death or destruction that would be caused by such an action as rebuilding the temple?  I doubt it.  They are too busy thinking they are right to care for people and creation.

Bad theology has real consequences.  The bible gets manipulated and abused enough.  We don’t need bad theology adding to that.

Is faith only private, or is it also public?

A common statement that is made by many is that faith is only a private matter and should have no bearing on public things.

I understand the sentiment.  If faith is only private, then faith is about personal actions and a personal relationship with God.  And faith, then, won’t impact anything in public.  There is a healthy concern here about mixing faith and politics and impacting policy.  I understand this.  And I think this idea is faulty and misguided.

Telling me that faith is just a private affair is really about having your cake and eating it too.  I have a hard time accepting this line of reasoning when I, a pastor, am asked to  offer a prayer for an event that is completely civic oriented.  If faith is only a private affair, then why have a prayer at a civic event?

To be perfectly frank, a faith that is a private only affair is weak.  It says that God isn’t interested in changing the world or even impacting it in any way.  Why bother offering prayers for the world then?

Tell Jesus that faith is a private affair – He was crucified by the empire who decided that what he was teaching and doing was raising a revolution against Rome.  How about you tell that to John the Baptist who was beheaded by the king who didn’t like what he was teaching.  Or maybe you can tell it to Peter who was crucified upside down by the empire.  How about Paul who was beheaded by the empire.  Or James who was killed by King Herod Agrippa with a sword.  Or St. Thomas Beckett, who was murdered by assassins of King Henry II.  Or pick any other martyr who died at the hands of a government leader.

Or tell it to John from Patmos who wrote the book of Revelation.  Revelation isn’t some kind of distant future prediction, support of Rapture (which is really bad and dangerous theology), or a guide to how we need get ourselves into a war to set things in motion for Jesus to return.  It was written in opposition to the Roman empire and everything it stood for – it’s violence, it’s use of military, it’s economic system, it’s worship of Nike the god of war, it’s theology of conquest and might makes right and the ends justify the means, it’s conquest, etc.  It’s very much a political book that is designed to be faith in public in opposition to a deadly and destructive system of governance.

Or how you tell the practicing Jews who died at the hands of the governing Nazis in their concentration and death camps because of their faith.  Or how about Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was put to death by the Nazis just a few days before the end of WWII because of his faith.

And that’s not counting the numerous stories of women who died for their faith either.  Do a google search to see the numerous stories of women martyrs who died for their faith at the hands of governments and leaders.

Tell it to the Lithuanians who put crosses on a hill to promote their independence and express their faith, only to have the Soviets bulldoze it multiple times, and posting  guards with orders to shoot anyone who tried to put up a cross.

A private faith that doesn’t have a public impact is worthless.

It is a faith that says you don’t believe God has an impact on the world.  It says you don’t accept the vision of Revelation 21 – God restoring creation and making all things new again.  It’s a faith that has trouble with Jesus talking about the in breaking of the Kingdom of God into the world and how that kingdom changes the world.

I’ll say it again – a faith that remains only private is worthless.

Governments and officials have used and abused faith throughout the centuries in order to manipulate and give excuses for their policies that dehumanize, divide, and subjugate people.

The most recent example, although certainly not unique for either political party, was Attorney General Jeff Sessions citing Romans 13 in defense of the administration’s immigration policy that caused children to be detained and locked up in cages for crossing the border.  It was a an abuse of faith and manipulation of Scripture in order to make an excuse for a policy that goes against everything the bible states about how to treat a stranger in your land.

Don’t tell me that faith is a private only thing and then proceed to tell me what you think the government should or should not do when it comes to such issues as abortion, the death penalty, immigration, feeding people, homeless policy, health care, marriage laws, etc.  Don’t tell me that faith is a private only thing and then use theological arguments on any issue the nation faces.  You can’t have it both ways.  Either faith is private only or it has an impact on the public sphere.

Do we believe that God intervenes in the events of history or not?  If so, what does that mean and will it impact us publicly today?

What about the prophets who spoke God’s word to kings and rulers?  Should they have remained silent because faith is a private matter?  What about the bible telling us that God used Darius I, the king of Persia, to bring God’s people out of exile in Babylon?  How is that faith remaining private only?

What about the stories of God using Daniel to speak God’s word to the kings of Babylon during the exile?  Should Daniel have kept his mouth shut because his faith is only a private matter?

What about the story of Esther?  Should she have kept her Jewishness quiet and only as a private affair?  She didn’t.  And by speaking up, she saved her people from death.  If that isn’t an example of faith having a very public impact on the world, I don’t know what does.  If Esther had decided to keep her faith private, the Jews would have been slaughtered.

What about the prophet Zechariah speaking about God intervening in history?

What about these stories and more?  A faith that is only private is equivalent to putting restrictions on God. Why would we ever want a God that is limited in action to only our private lives?  Why would we ever want a God who has nothing to say about government, policies, and leaders?  Why would we ever want a God that turns a blind eye to injustice and never demands that faith be lived out in a public way?

How in the world does having a private only faith match up the idea of the unfolding of the Kingdom of God and our participation with it?

Why on earth would we want a God that doesn’t force us to examine and explain our excuses for our partisan loyalties that conflict with God’s word and God’s commands?  Why would we ever want a God that will turn a blind eye on us for not following God’s commands when they conflict with our ideological beliefs?

That’s not a God I want to follow.

When we put these restrictions on God, we are claiming that our ideology is our theology, that our leaders are the messiahs we will listen to and obey, that the government is our salvation, that the laws and policies of our political preferences are the word of God, that the written and spoken words of political leaders and pundits are prophetic words of God.  When we do that, we have made government and party loyalties and leaders into an idol, a god that we can control and that we get to determine how it impacts our life and what it demands of us.

Such a god as this comforts our ignorance, fear, anger, and desire to be comfortable.  Such a god makes excuses for us to cast out the stranger, to dehumanize others, to use physical and verbal violence as a solution, to believe that the ends justify the means and that only the strong survive.

Such a belief has consequences.  That kind of god will discard you and forget about you when you question it or when your loyalty waivers.  Such a god will cast you aside when you become one of the others.  Such a god is not concerned with your survival or comfort.  It doesn’t proclaim a promise of hope and offers no salvation or hope of resurrection.  It only demands unquestioning compliance and servitude.  That is not a god I worship.

The God I worship is a God who encounters us individually and corporately.  This is the God who impacts lives and history.  This is the God who sits above all governments and will outlast all governments.  This is a God who commissions disciples to have an impact on the world by the living out of faith.

Jesus said:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

(Matthew 28:18-20)

Rule of Law vs. Rule of a person

The rule of law is about a group of people debating and then deciding in an open manner the rules by which they will live.  Not everyone may agree with all the rules, but they live by them because they have decided to be part of a larger society and the benefits that come with that.  That’s the ideal anyway.

The rule of a person is about one person deciding what the rules are for everyone else.  The rule of a person also means that the rules can change in a second if the ruler decides that the rules should change.

The rule of law creates a sense of commonality – where the rules are supposed to be blind to individual circumstances.  Again, this is the ideal.  Sometimes the rule of law is used against people and whole groups of people.

The rule of a person creates a sense of servitude and uncertainty.  No one has any idea what rules they will have to follow today or tomorrow.  The rules may completely flip-flop.  Whereas action A is legal today, Action B might be legal tomorrow while Action A has become illegal.

The rule of a person has been the most common form of governance in human history.  All the ancient kingdoms ended up living by the rule of a person.  Some started with some variation of the rule of law – think Greece and Rome.  But they devolved to dictatorship and tyranny eventually.  And they paid the price.  When societies devolved into the rule of a person as their operating governance, they gain a few things – a false sense of order and safety, disrespect of anyone classified as an “other,” conspiracy theories to blame problems on, corruption, incarceration, and narcissism in leadership.

Take a look at some prime examples – Ancient Babylon is a great example.  So are the kingdoms and reigns of the men who ruled what came from Alexander the Great’s empire.  The Roman Empire is a great example.  But those are all ancient examples.

The French during their Revolution exemplified these characteristics.  But that’s almost 250 years ago.

Communist Russia and Nazi Germany were extreme examples that aren’t that old. Nor does it stop with politics.  Organizations suffer from this form of governance as well.  So do religions and churches that are centered on personalities.

We should be really careful with our governance – whether it be regarding government, religion, churches, businesses, or organizations.

While it may feel good to personify the rules in a single person, it is not wise. It does not end well.  When we believe that only one person holds the truth and is the only person that should be listened to, we are in trouble.  When we decide that one person sets the rules for everyone, we are in trouble.  When we make excuses for a leader who manipulates people and tries to use other arms of governance for their own purposes, we are in trouble.  When we make our loyalty to one person above all other things and ideas, then we are in trouble.

Not all will see the trouble that lies ahead.  Not all will experience it.  Some will be so convinced of their beliefs that they will have blinders on.  So be it.

But let those who have eyes see and those who have ears hear.  And let those who see a transition to the rule of a person live lives that move us towards the ideals – whether that be the rule of law, being a disciple of Jesus, or a company or organization that enhances lives.  You can’t change others, but you can live differently.  That’s how the world changes.

 

Things I don’t understand

There are many things I just don’t understand – and may never truly comprehend.

I worked many years in politics and campaigning and I can honestly say – I just don’t understand so many things.  I don’t get the whole the “deep state” conspiracy.  I don’t understand why people are devoted to someone who would throw them under bus in an instant.  I don’t understand why the right is moving so far to the right while the left seems to lurching further to the left.  I don’t understand how character mattered a few years ago, but now it doesn’t.  I don’t understand why we are embracing the belief that the ends justify the means.

I don’t understand why American Christians claim to be followers of Jesus, but then many ignore the things he calls on followers to do.  I don’t understand why we aren’t welcoming the stranger when Jesus calls on us to do just that.  I don’t understand why we aren’t loving our enemy when Jesus tells us to do that.  I don’t understand why we aren’t favoring the poor when the Bible is full of sayings about how God favors the poor.

Yes, there are many more things I don’t understand.  To think about these things and more makes my head hurt.  It leaves me in a state of confusion.  None of it makes sense.

And that’s the thing.  It doesn’t make sense.  None of what the world is doing makes sense.

A prime example – I read an article from an author that was convinced that he had to expose the “Deep State” – that mythical secretive shadow government running everything.  I stopped reading a couple of paragraphs in when the author thought that one of the ways to expose the Deep State was to make the government more transparent.  I have no issue with transparency – I think it’s a great idea actually.  Yet, I have to laugh.  We have an administration full of people who are anything but transparent – and yet there is some kind of secret government screwing things up?  Huh?!?  That makes no sense.  Unless someone has blind loyalty and ignores the reality of what is happening.

I don’t understand because so many things just don’t make any sense.  Sense is unnecessary when there are people hellbent on being right.  It comes with many descriptors – Orthodoxy, Fundamentalism, Partisanship, infatuation with a leader, Messiahism, Etc.

The real question becomes this – what do we do going forward?  I don’t have the answers – I wish I did.  Here’s what I know.  I will speak up when I believe I can be heard.  It doesn’t always make sense to speak up – especially when your words are just going to be ignored.  I will continue to follow Jesus.  I will continue to write.  I will continue to question the insanity that the world seems engrossed in.  I will continue to seek truth.  I will continue to love and serve my neighbors.  I will continue to listen for understanding.  I will continue to talk about uncomfortable things that happen around us.  I will continue to attempt to find common ground with others.  I will continue to see the humanity of each person I encounter.  I will continue to proclaim Good News.

What will you do?