Wednesday, March 14, 2018

My Response

I just heard a politician say that if you don't vote for candidates that support Trump, then you are not a Christian. This is my response. I know it is long, but you have to read to the end to get the full intent and effect. Please indulge me.

The Prophet Isaiah, quoting God, said: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? --Isaiah 58:6-7

The Prophet Jeremiah said: This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow., and do not shed innocent blood in this place. --Jeremiah 22:3

The Prophet Ezekiel said: The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice. --Ezekiel 22:29

The Prophet Amos said: This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.  They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals.  They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. --Amos 2:6-7a

The Prophet Micah said: My people, you have stolen the clothes right off the backs of your unsuspecting soldiers returning from battle, you take away the lovely homes that belong to the women of my nation. Then you cheat their children out of the inheritance that comes from the Lord. Get out of here, you crooks! You’ll not find rest here. You are not fit to belong to the Lord’s people, and you will be destroyed. --Micah 2:8-10

The Prophet Habakkuk said: You are doomed! You made your family rich at the expense of others. You even said to yourself, “I’m above the law.” But you will bring shame on your family and ruin to yourself for what you did to others. --Habakkuk 2:9-10

The Prophet Zechariah said: This is what the LORD Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.” But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. “When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,” says the LORD Almighty. --Zechariah 7:8-10

The Prophet Malachi said: “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. --Malachi 3:5

The Apostle James said: Listen, my dear brothers:  Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have insulted the poor.  Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?  Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?  If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. --  James 2:5-10

The Apostle John said: If anyone has material possession and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? --1 John 3:17

Jesus the Christ said:  "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger* and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger* and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger* and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger* or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." --Matthew 25:31-46

Meanwhile, in America, Evangelicals say, “If you don’t vote for politicians who support the agenda of our Pussy-Grabber in Chief who slept with a porn star while his wife was pregnant and who cheated thousands of working people out of money he owed them, then you are not a real Christian. Oh, and don’t forget, real Christians do not bake cakes for gays.”

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Quotes from the Saints and the Prophets

After reading some of my Trumpangelical aquaintances FB posts on this Sabbath day, I felt led to post a few quotes from the Biblical prophets and Early Church Fathers. Yes, I realize I've probably wasted my time since the Trumpangelicals apparently think much of the Bible and the probably all of the words of the saints are fake news.
You are not making a gift of your possession to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his.
Ambrose of Milan, 340-397.
Isaiah 10:1-4 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? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you put into the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help but fail to help.
Basil of Caesarea, 330-370 A.D.
Isaiah 58:6-7 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you put into the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help but fail to help.
Basil of Caesarea, 330-370 A.D.
Jeremiah 5:26-29 Among my people are the wicked who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch people. Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor. Should I not punish them for this?” declares the LORD. “Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?
Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours but theirs.
John Chrysostom, 347-407 AD
Ezekiel 22:29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.
The rich are in possession of the goods of the poor, even if they have acquired them honestly or inherited them legally.
John Chrysostom, 347-407
Amos 8:4-7 Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”— skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. The LORD has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.
Share everything with your brother. Do not say, “It is private property.” If you share what is everlasting, you should be that much more willing to share things which do not last.
The Didache
Micah 2:1-2 Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. 2 They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance.
Christians love one another. They do not overlook the widow, and they save the orphan. The one who has ministers ungrudgingly to the one who does not have. When they see a stranger, they take him under their own roof and rejoice over him as a true brother, for they do not call themselves brothers according to the flesh but according to the soul.
Aristides, early 2nd century
Habakkuk 2:9-10 CEV You are doomed! You made your family rich at the expense of others. You even said to yourself, “I’m above the law.” But you will bring shame on your family and ruin to yourself for what you did to others.
How can I make you realize the misery of the poor? How can I make you understand that your wealth comes from their weeping?
Basil of Caesarea, 330-370 A.D.
Zechariah 7:8-10 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: This is what the LORD Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.” But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. “When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,” says the LORD Almighty.
Malachi 3:5 “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.
When you are weary of praying and do not receive, consider how often you have heard a poor man calling, and have not listened to him.
John Chrysostom, 347-407

Monday, August 7, 2017

How to be a Neighbor


Like most folks who have read (and in my case, preached on) the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37, I always thought the point of the story was Jesus answering the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor.” But after reading David Young’s excellent book, “Systems, Salvation, and Solidarity,” I have come to see his view that the real questions Jesus wants to invoke in this story is, what does it mean to fulfill God’s command to love your neighbor and am I being a good neighbor to everyone I encounter?

To understand this properly, you need to read Luke 10:25-37 in light of Leviticus 19:1-18.

Well, don’t just sit there! Go read those passages and then come back here.

Ok, glad you’re back. The first thing I want you to note is that when the lawyer responds to Jesus’ question, “What is written in the Law?", the lawyer replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind"; and, "Love your neighbor as yourself.”

"Love your neighbor as yourself" is the summation of the Leviticus passage I asked you to read. Note that it begins with a passage about keeping the Sabbath. Thus, I think it is fair to say that our state and federal legislators who refuse to raise the minimum wage and thus force many of our lowest paid workers to hold down two or more jobs and work a seven day week just to afford the barest necessities are not being good neighbors to the working poor. And they certainly have no right to say they want America to be a Christian nation when they force people to work a seven day week to survive.

If you think about the "harvest" passage starting at verse nine in Leviticus as an instruction for the wealthy to provide for the poor among them, then the "neighbor" is the poor person, whether citizen of alien, who needs our assistance to survive. We love our neighbors by making sure their basic needs are provided.

I think we can extrapolate from verse 13 that for a business owner to be a good neighbor to his employees, he or she must pay them a living wage. Verse 14 tells us that we must not, like our current president, shame the physically disabled but instead be a good neighbor to them by removing stumbling blocks that keep them from thriving. In verse 15 we see that a judge is a good neighbor when he shows no partiality based on class in his rulings. And in verse 16 we are told not to do anything that might endanger a neighbor's life. When the Thumpublicans in Congress and the White House do away with OSHA's workplace safety regulations and the EPA's environmental protections are not they indeed endangering the lives of their neighbors, their fellow citizens? And in so doing, are not these self-proclaimed Christians flagrantly disobeying the command of the Scripture to love their neighbors as themselves?

End of my rant. Thank you for reading it all.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I Pledge Allegiance...


I Pledge Allegiance...

As a Christian, I pledge allegiance first to Yahweh’s Kingship. This is not a statement against the United States but is, in fact, a statement for the kingdom of God. It is a statement for the teachings of Christ; for the Sermon on the Mount; for parables of the Good Samaritan and the Sheep and the Goats; and for the scores of verses in both the New and Old Testaments that command both church and secular peoples to adequately care for the poor and to love aliens living in their lands as if they were brothers and sisters.

As both a former UAW and USW member, I pledge allegiance to labor. This is not a statement against the United States but is, in fact, a statement for the rights of working people in the United States. It is a statement that recognizes the thousands of union members (and even their spouses and children) who lost their lives, too often from bullets fired by U.S. troops and state and local law enforcement, in labor’s fight against child labor and for the eight-hour day, the five day work week, job safety and a liveable wage. It is a statement that demonstrates which side I am on as today’s politicians in both prominent parties try to roll back laws protecting workers and working conditions.

In solidarity with the people I walked alongside in the 1960s voter registration drives in Mississippi (but admittedly always with the knowledge I could flee to a place of safety--i.e. White Privilege), I pledge allegiance to the Black Lives Matter Movement. For truly I believe that people who can’t bring themselves to say the words, “black lives matter,” don’t, in fact, believe they do matter. I say this because so many of the folks I know who insisted we can only say, “all lives matter,” made excuses for, or seemed to be ok with, the Trump campaign’s frequent use of memes, slogans and video’s lifted directly off of white supremacist websites. Frankly, that scares me. It says to me that they are ok with the beatings I and my colleagues received at the hands of the KKK and WCC back then and would not raise a fuss if it happened again in our day.

And remembering when my wife was the assistant director of a public library but received no benefits because the library board said they could not afford them, but then gave full benefits to her male replacement “because he was a father and husband and needed to support his family,” I pledge allegiance to the Feminist Movement. I have been very fortunate to have always been able to find meaningful employment. I want to live in a society where that same opportunity exists for my daughters-in-law and my granddaughters. When my wife was a senior in high school she wanted to be a scientist. She was a National Merit Scholar. But her high school counselor would not help her apply for scholarships to college because, he told her, if she got one, it would mean a male student would not get it and he would need the degree to support his family after college. Instead, he helped her get into a local hospital’s nursing school. I want to live in a society where my granddaughters will be encouraged to excel in whatever excites and motivates them.

And finally, yes, I pledge allegiance to the United States of America. Not to the white male dominated America of our past, but to the America envisioned by Thomas Paine, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, César Chávez, and the tens of thousands of people working today to build a society where every man, woman, and child is respected regardless of ethnicity, family background, or place of origin. I know I won’t live to see that day, but my prayers will eternally be with those working to that end.

And God bless all who endured to the end of my rant. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Maria Skobtsova

Maria Skobtsova (Mother Maria) was an Orthodox nun who was arrested by the Nazis for the crime of aiding Jews to escape from Paris and France after the German invasion. She was sent to the gas chambers at the Ravensbrück concentration camp on Holy Saturday, just weeks before Germany surrendered, in 1945. Perhaps her best known quote is this: "At the Last Judgement I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked if I fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and the prisoners."

My Imprecatory Prayer

Psalm 94:6-7 They slay the widow and the alien; they murder the fatherless. They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed.”
Psalm 146:9 The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
My imprecatory prayer for these difficult times: Lord God, Almighty Father, I ask, I beg, I plead with your Word in my lap, that you will indeed prove that you do see, that you will indeed "frustrate the ways of the wicked" who sit in power in Washington acting like you don't see as they plan to enact laws and regulations that will most certainly cost many, many lives.
Protect, Father, the innocents, the aliens, the children, the elderly that your very Word commands us to love, from those who are preaching hate and doing harm. Show us how to promote justice in this time when the most powerful are proving they care only for the rich and powerful. Grant us the courage to speak out and go the way of Shalom even though it may cost us dearly. Amen.

Make It So

Psalm 12:5 “Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the Lord. I will protect them from those who malign them.”
Make it so, Almighty and loving Father. Make it so in our time of need. For even now, as your Word says, "The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men"(Psalm 12:8).

A Religion of Hate or Compassion?

"Jesus in his solidarity with the marginal ones is moved to compassion. Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of "lawfulness" in Jesus' time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion. The norms of law (social control) are never accommodated to persons, but persons are accommodated to the norms. Otherwise the norms will collapse and with them the whole power arrangement. Thus the compassion of Jesus is to be understood not simply as a personal emotional reaction but as a public criticism in which he dares to act upon his concern against the entire numbness of his social context." -- From "The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann
Sadly, most non-Christians in America today think of Christianity as a religion of hate rather than as a religion of compassion. Largely, I think, because biblically illiterate church goers spend so little, if any, time reading the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 25:31ff.

Better to Listen to the Prophet than the President

Zechariah 7:8-10 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.'"
Meanwhile, our president who received a reported 80% of the Evangelical Christian vote is sending his ICE agents to arrest undocumented Hispanic parents of young children while they are driving their kids to school. His Secretary of Education is talking about eliminating free school lunches for undernourished poor kids, and both the White House and "Freedom Caucus" members of Congress are proposing significant cuts to WIC. Already we have zip codes in America where the infant mortality rate is higher than in some third world countries. And cuts to WIC will certainly increase our already embarrassingly high number of baby deaths due to poor nutrition and inadequate postnatal care.
The verses above from the Prophet Zechariah are among hundreds of verses in both the Old and New Testaments that command both secular (political) and religious rulers to adequately provide for the needs of the poor and the aliens living in their land. The fact that so many purported Christians vote for people whom they know will do just the opposite suggests to me that either they don't actually read the Bible they profess to love, or it is not Christ they worship, but Mammon.

It is no wonder then...

In his book, "Vision of a World Hungry," Thomas Pettepiece writes, "James considers it natural that a person with faith also has works. It is not a heavy and moralistic Christian duty, it is the Christian lifestyle...response comes from faith.
"On this theme, the Bible is clear and direct in both Testaments--God loves and cares for the poor. Jesus said to be perfect. In other words, to be imitators of the perfect God, to do as God does. If we are to love God, we are to love and care for the poor and hungry, too. 'You will know them by their fruits' (Matthew 7:16) he said, and by that he meant we are known by our behavior...."
So on the one hand, we have literally hundreds of verses in Scripture that command God's people to care for those marginalized by society, particularly the poor and the aliens living amongst us. And on the other hand, we have powerful people in the White House and Congress who, though claiming to be Christ's followers, demonize, shame and plan to harm the poor and the aliens whom God commands us to protect and love.
It is no wonder then, that the New Testament epistle writers warned us time and again to be on the watch for "false prophets" and "anti-christs" in our midst who seek to subvert the Gospel. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.