Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Early On

Every year after Thanksgiving I'm surprised when the church calendar says it's a new year. Advent marks the beginning of the church's annual liturgical review of the great stories of the faith.

Traditionally it starts with the prophets, who warn that God is among us and will show her/his self even more clearly in the days to come. Get ready! they shout. I'm always puzzled at this exhortation. How can a human being get ready for God?

It's this great human gift and problem of looking into the future. As far as we know, other mammals aren't able to imagine the future in the same way we do. They live their lives much more in the "now" than in the "then." But humans are so in love with the future, we think anything is possible there. The allure of a future we can imagine makes us all less attached to the present, I fear. We put off anything we can. The present? Well, we're just passing through.

The answer for me is the spiritual skill of waiting. It's some of the toughest emotional work we do, holding ourselves in the present while expecting something in the future. It's not about gifts and presents, I think. It's about waiting for God to be fully revealed to us and to a hurting world.

I will be thinking about Waiting this Advent. How hard it is, why it's important to grow that emotional muscle, what living in the present while expecting the future feels like. I think it's the central work of faith, managing the now and then. A belief that both the present and the future deeply matter. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Depression Support Coalition - Speaker Series

I'm speaking in Burnsville on Thursday, December 1st at 7pm on better managing our minds, bodies and relationships during the holiday season.
Please join us!

Depression Support Coalition - Speaker Series

Sunday, November 13, 2011

No More Comments

I spend some time every day on the internet, social media and news sites included. I have come to the belated conclusion that comments on stories should go the way of dinosaurs.

In my lifetime, I have had to face, listen to and read more than my fair share of ignorant, hateful and biased responses to things I have said, written or decided. Now that I am no longer a public leader (thanks be to God), I don't have to subject myself to that kind of human detritus any more. So why do I do it online?

I'm convinced the ability to post whatever comes to mind is one of the worst things about technology in our generation. People can wound, judge, belittle and hurt others without the normal consequences of face to face communication.

So here's to trying to ignore anonymous rantings on public stories. I'm going to try to hold on to my tenuous belief that the more educated, thoughtful and socially responsible people in the world don't write comments because they are too busy being useful, kind and helpful in the world.

As for you haters out there, I'm so done wasting my time on you. You never grow up, and you never go away. Time I do.



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jesus Was Not a Marxist


          This fall’s public demonstrations begun as “Occupy Wall Street” follow in the time-honored political traditions of modern cultures. Concord, Massachusetts; Selma, Alabama; Tiananmen Square, China; Cairo, Egypt: people have risen up in massive numbers across the world to seek change. Whether you have joined them, or even disagree with their perspectives, as a democracy we all value the power of citizens to peacefully organize to seek justice and change.
            The energy of Occupy Wall Street-like gatherings is born in the increasing gap in our country between the rich and the poor, and a shared impatience with the lingering effects of our last recession. Wall Street in New York City, the geographic center of the United State’s Stock Exchange, is also home to many of the world’s largest financial institutions, many of which were involved in complex tinkering with mortgage lending that sparked our long economic slide. Too big to fail, our own tax dollars have been spent to bail out the biggest banks and other financial giants, as many of us watch our savings, pensions and home values shrink. We have all suffered, the poor disproportionately, and finding the villain in this melodrama seems like a natural thing to do.
            When at its best, the Christian community has traditionally been an advocate for the sick, imprisoned, and the poor. Taking it’s mission from the example and command of Jesus, to tend to the sick and suffering, “the least of these,” it makes sense that activists and clergy from all parts of the faith have joined the demonstrations taking part around the country this fall. I celebrate the long legacy of Christian ministries that have sought to bring love, light and relief to those in need. I praise the clergy who gather in the streets with the protesters as witness and support for those who live, chant, and demonstrate for change.   
            But I won’t sit silently and let one particular claim I have seen recently in social media go unanswered: “Jesus was a Marxist.” No, he was not.
            Marxism is a modern political movement that has its roots in the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. They argued that human beings could establish a perfect economy if everyone shared their resources communally. A new communism would develop following a class struggle, the result of failed capitalism. Marx believed that religions are “the opiate of the people,” dulling their will to revolt. While these ideas do serve as a stark contrast to the rigid classes and oppressive, generational monarchies of old European and Asian cultures, the application of these ideas in real human cultures has failed.  The Soviet Union, China, East Germany, Somalia, North Korea, and Cuba have been cultures of oppression. The powerful hoard power. The weak are kept weak and anyone opposing the powerful is kept behind bars, barbed wires and walls, or killed. Exactly what part of this broken political model would Jesus advocate?
While Jesus constantly advocated for the sick, suffering and oppressed, he rejected the pressure to start a revolution or class war. In fact, he repeatedly said his “kingdom was not of this world.” Instead of setting up a new government, as some of his disciples believed he would, he lived on the margins of power and when confronted, told the Pharisees to “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Jesus’ vision of God’s kingdom is about bringing all people to God’s table: rich, poor, powerful, weak, visible, and invisible. It pointed to a way of seeing the world far different than how human beings do. Jesus pointed to a kingdom of peace and justice that included women and children, the old and infirm, the powerless and the powerful. This is God’s kingdom, not ours. When we live with this vision, we share in the vision of God.           
Jesus was a healer, a teacher, a sage, a prophet, and a revolutionary, the Messiah who refused to lead a revolt. After a short life, he was executed because the earthly powers feared his kingdom of peace, healing, inclusion and non-violence. Call him a revolutionary for God. But for Jesus’ sake, don’t call him a Marxist. It’s just plain wrong.  

(First published in the Savage PACER, Saturday, 10.22.2011)