Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alice Walker Quote

‎"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." - Alice Walker

FYI: African-American novelist, poet and activist Alice Walker says she became a radical due to the influence of Howard Zinn who was one of her professors at Spelman College during the 1960's. I knew Zinn at that time because he was the father of a friend of mine and occasionally  lectured at the socialist commune I was living at in 1962-63.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Changing Goals

When I wrote for and helped edit a left-wing newspaper back in the late sixties and early seventies I saw myself as America’s next E.B. Debs or, at the very least, the next Herbert Aptheker. Years later, when I was in graduate school in Flordia State's counselor education program, I was sure I was going to be the next Carl Rogers. A decade later, when I was in seminary, I saw myself as the next Billy Graham, but with strong Walter Rauschenbusch leanings. Now that I’m in the autumn (if not winter) of my years I find that what matters most is that I be remembered fondly by my grandchildren.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Bible and Slavery

All of my life, but especially down here in the southern United States, I’ve heard that the Bible never condemns the institution of slavery. I guess because I’ve heard it so often, I never questioned the statement’s veracity. I read the Bible through every year and have never noticed anything that would specifically challenge that teaching.

Until today. Look at 1 Timothy, verses 8 through 10 in your Bible. Of the translations I have, all but two of them render the Greek noun, ἀνδραποδιστής (andrapodistais) in verse 10 as “kidnappers” (NKJV, NASB, RSV, NAB, CEV), or “menstealers” (KJV).  

Only the New International Version and the English Standard Version correctly translate ἀνδραποδιστής as “slave traders” (NIV) or “enslavers” (ESV). The ESV’s note on “enslavers” reads, “That is, those who take someone captive in order to sell him into slavery.”

According to The New Testament Greek-English Dictionary, edited by Thoralf Gilbrant, the word ἀνδραποδιστής “…is used of those who trafficked in human beings whether by enslaving free men or stealing the slaves of others for resale.” It has no other meaning.

In 1 Timothy 1:8-10 the Apostle Paul is lumping slave traders in with “the ungodly and sinners…the unholy and profane,…those who strike their fathers and mothers,…murders, the sexually immoral,…liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.…” (ESV).

It seems to me that if Paul is condemning those who enslave, then the whole institution of slavery is tainted as well. Those are my thoughts on ἀνδραποδιστής. What are yours?

Friday, September 9, 2011

War = Profit

"If we could just take the profit out of war, there wouldn't be any." -- Woody Guthrie

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"I'm A Friend of the Fetus"

(Carole Rose Livingston)

I am no friend to the fathers and mothers,
And I am no friend to the sisters and brothers,
And I am no friend to the poor and oppressed,
And I am no friend to the weak and distressed.

But, I'm a friend of the fetus!
A friend of incomparable worth!
I'm a friend of the fetus!
Right up to the moment of birth!

When it's a baby I will not go near it.
I will not feed it, no I will not rear it.
And when it is crying, I won't even hear it,
For I have no room in my heart for a human.

But, I'm a friend of the fetus!
A friend of incomparable worth!
I'm a friend of the fetus!
Right up to the moment of birth!

I will not weep for it, I won't lose sleep for it.
I won't not care for it, I won't be there for it.
I'll back away from it, I won't go gray from it.
I will not pray for it, and I won't pay for it.

But, I'm a friend of the fetus!
A friend of incomparable worth!
I'm a friend of the fetus!
Right up to the moment of birth!

I believe a fetus is a human and I'm totally opposed to abortion. Nevertheless, this song speaks to me because I think it is true of many if not most of the Christian Right, Pro-Family, Anti-Abortion activists. They are friends of the child in the womb, but could care less what happens to the child after birth.

The Tea Party/Rethuglican legislators who oppose increased funding for mental health programs that serve returning veterans (who are committing suicide at an alarming rate), or who vote to reduce funding for food and formula for newborns and toddlers when the USA has a higher infant mortality rate than many third world countries, are just as guilty of murder as the mother who aborts her fetus because it is not convenient for her to have a child at this time. 

You Betcha

As I was pulling into a parking space at the drugstore, I noticed a man standing outside the door using his atomizer. Immediately after taking a few puffs and putting it away, he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and proceeded to light up. I guess he needed to clear his lungs to get the full nicotine effect.

I couldn't help thinking to myself, "What kind of idiot whose asthma or COPD is bad enough he needs an atomizer, continues to smoke?!

But when he got into his pickup truck and pulled away, I saw the "Palin in 2012, You Betcha" bumper sticker on the back of his vehicle and somehow it all made sense. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sharing the Sacrifice

Public school teachers in the United States spent more than $1.33 billion out of pocket on school supplies and instructional materials in the 2009-2010 school year, according to new research released by the National School Supply and Equipment Association. When my wife was teaching in the inner city, in addition to out of pocket expenses for school supplies, every year we bought at least one winter coat for a kid that did not have one. Most of the other teachers in her school did the same. 

Teabaggers and Rethuglicans keep talking about "sharing the sacrifice." Teachers have been doing that for decades already. Instead of cutting teachers' salaries and benefits, maybe it's time to cut the salaries and benefits of our elected officials. It's way past time for them to share the sacrifice.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Timely Quote from Honest Abe.

The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, and more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the Bankers in the rear.

Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.  Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money powers of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in the hands of a few, and the Republic is destroyed. — Abraham Lincoln

Some things, apparently, have not changed much in the last 150 years.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Regime Change

No matter who we voted for; no matter what political party is in power, when we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” we are in effect praying for regime change. We are declaring ourselves to be aliens in the land where we are living… citizens of another Kingdom that always was, is and will be.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Christian Wrong

It might surprise some to learn that a retired Baptist preacher has such sentiments, but I believe the Christian Right denies the very Scripture they purport to proclaim.  Those who identify with the Christian Right tend to believe that all undocumented aliens should be rounded up and deported. The Bible commands in very strong language that we treat aliens living amongst us as if they were native born (Lev 19:33-34).  

The Christian Right/Tea Party folks are opposed to increasing the minimum wage to a living wage. The Bible, on the other hand, condemns the practice of not paying hired hands fair wages and actually pronounces a curse on those who take advantage of poor laborers (Deu 24:14-15, Mal. 3:5 & James 5:1-6). Therefore, in light of Scripture, I think it is safe to conclude that the Christian Right is neither Christian nor right.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Time to Rethink How We Do Church?

There are over 2,000 verses in the Bible that deal with social justice issues; how God’s people ought to care about and for the “least of these” in our midst. A number of those verses contain prophesies of God’s wrath to be visited upon religious and secular leaders and their communities who do not adequately care for the poor and marginalized who live among them. (For a representative sample of those verses, click on "Scripture Verses" in the column to the right.)

How is it then that in “Christian” America, where our infant mortality rate rivals third world countries, where unemployment remains high, where everyday millions of children go to bed hungry, how is it that 99% of the average American church’s income is spent on itself? Maybe it’s time to rethink how we do church.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lazy Jesus?

A conservative friend who purports to be a Christian, told me recently that poor people are lazy. Let’s test that theory with a syllogism:

Poor people are lazy.
Jesus, by His own admission, was so poor He was homeless (Luke 9:58).
Therefore, Jesus was lazy.

I don't think a true Christian wants to go there. Perhaps a new definition of poor is in order?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"The Righteous Care About Justice for the Poor"

Proverbs 29:7 – The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

The Hebrew word translated as “righteous” is tsaddı̂yq (pronounced tsad-deek'). It literally means just, justified or lawful (in this case, obedient to God’s law). The Hebrew word translated as “wicked” in this verse is râshâ‛ (pronounced raw-shaw'). Though râshâ‛ is translated as wicked in a number of the Old Testament passages, it is also often translated as “condemned” or “ungodly”.

As forceful as these words were when Solomon first wrote them, they are even more so when translated in the light of the New Testament. The righteous person who cares about justice for the poor is the one who has laid aside ego and picked up his cross to follow Jesus wherever he goes... even into the hood or the barrio. The person who has “no concern” for the poor is the râshâ‛, the ungodly one who is eternally condemned.

It amazes me that so many professing Christians in our state and national legislatures can ignore warnings like this in Scripture as they hurry to dismantle or severely cut programs that provide formula for hungry new born babies and adequate health care for permanently disabled veterans in order to pay for the tax cuts requested by their corporate sponsors.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Great Quote!

"Civil disobedience is, traditionally, the breaking of a civil law to obey a higher law, sometimes with the hope of changing the unjust civil law. ... But we should speak of such actions as divine obedience, rather than civil disobedience. The term 'disobedience' is not appropriate because any law that does not protect and enhance human life is no real law."
Sister Anne Montgomery, R.S.C.J.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Tea Party's America

A few months ago I stopped into a local fast food restaurant for lunch. It was after the lunch rush and there was only one woman working the counter and one cook in the back. The woman waiting on me appeared to be in her late fifties or sixties, and looked very tired. As I was placing my order, an older gentleman who had been in the dinning area began heading toward the exit. The woman behind the counter shouted at him and ran around the counter, grabbed him and ushered him back to his seat. She returned to the counter, apologized and began taking my order again. Once again she had to stop before I was finished and lead the older man back to his seat.

When she returned, she explained with tears in her eyes that the man was her father and he had advanced Alzheimer’s. I told her I understood what she was going through because my mother had died with the disease three years earlier. The woman told me, "Back when I had a full-time job I took him to an Alzheimer’s day care Monday through Friday, but they aren’t open on weekends.” She went on to say that her manager was not working that day, but she was pretty sure when her boss found out she was bringing her dad to work with her, she would lose this job too.

Our local congresswoman, Marsha Blackburn (TN), is a Tea Party Republican who voted against healthcare reform and was opposed to extending unemployment benefits. If anyone in her family is stricken with a catastrophic disease, she will certainly be able to adequately provide for their needs…with the nice salary, health benefits and perks provided to her through the taxes on low wage earners like the people in her district working multiple minimum wage jobs trying to make ends meet. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Qualifications for Being a Servant

"You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."
Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Truly Righteous Always Promote Justice

Any way you read it...

Proverbs 29:7 NIV -- The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Proverbs 29:7 NASB -- The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, The wicked does not understand such concern.

Proverbs 29:7 CEV -- The wicked don't care about the rights of the poor, but good people do.

Proverbs 29:7 KJV -- The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.

Proverbs 29:7 ESV -- A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.

Monday, January 10, 2011

False Doctrine

Matthew 4:23:Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”

John 14:12:  “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

History proves that Jesus was not saying in John 14:12 that each believer would perform greater miracles than He did. Rather, the gathered disciples, the church, in the power of the Holy Spirit would do “greater” works than Jesus in both number and geographic territory. So if Jesus both preached the Gospel and healed the sick, then it follows that those who call themselves his disciples should be doing likewise.

I find it quite ironic then that the Christian Right who are so self-assured in their belief that they are the “true” followers of Christ today, are determined to deny adequate health care to those who cannot afford it.  In the guise of “protecting” them from the so-called inadequacies of “socialized medicine” Tea Party and conservative Republican Christians want to deny to the unemployed, under-employed, and low wage workers any access at all to the healthcare they and their families need. Thus the working poor and the unemployed are left without the opportunity for the healing Jesus provided for free to those who needed it by the very people who claim to be His followers.

Too many of those who have been called by Christ to do what “I have been doing” for the poor and disfranchised among us are instead putting most of their time and energy into protecting their tax shelters; leaving the least of Christ’s brothers (Matt. 25:40) to fend for themselves. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

St. Jerome

"All riches come from iniquity, and unless one has lost, another cannot gain. Hence that common opinion seems to be very true, 'the rich man is unjust, or the heir to an unjust one.' Opulence is always the result of theft, if not committed by the actual possessor, then by his predecessor." -- St. Jerome

St. Jerome is recognized as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. I am neither, but being an orthodox Christian (small “o”) and a pro-labor, pro-civil rights, pro-immigrant Democrat, his teaching certainly resonates with me. I can’t help but wonder how right-wing Republican and Tea Party activists in the Catholic and Orthodox faiths reconcile their beliefs with the words of this early church father.