Monday, October 31, 2016

"The gradual decline of the notion that the church needs some sort of surrounding 'Christian' culture to prop it up and mold its young, is not a death to lament. It is an opportunity to celebrate. The decline of the old, Constantinian synthesis between the church and the world means that we American Christians are at last free to be faithful in a way that makes being Christian today an exciting adventure."

-- Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony

Sunday, October 30, 2016

If there is one thing I've learned from Buddhism, it's how to enjoy washing dishes.

-- DC

Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Aspiring to appropriate the spirit of the love commandment ['Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.’-Mark 12:30-31], I have developed a healthy appreciation for paradox, the ethical paradox.  Give and you shall receive; empty yourself and you shall be filled; lose yourself and be found.  Every sacrifice (the word means to render sacred), every work of love, or selfless deed of praise, is redemptive both for ourselves and for others.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed by a sense of insignificance and powerlessness, we lose ourselves together with our ineffectual fretfulness, in the concrete work of the commonwealth of God, the work of justice being done and love being shared, the work of healing and wholeness, the saving work.  Something powerful is at work here, akin to the proverbial planting of a mustard seed, yielding well beyond anything that might be measured in terms of self-gratification on a quid pro quo basis.  In the words of Jesus, 'the measure you give will be the measure you set, and still more will be given you' (Mark 4:24)."

-- Forrest Church

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”

--Noam Chomsky

Monday, October 24, 2016

"No man is fit to command another that cannot command himself."

-- William Penn, 17th century Quaker, founder of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A few years ago my wife and I went to Munich, Germany to visit our son, who was living there at the time. Munich is a beautiful city, with a rich culture and a deep history. Munich was also ground zero for the Nazi movement. There are still signs of Munich's descent into madness, such as exterior walls of buildings which--to this day--have pockmarks from machine gun bullets. Walking through the city, one occasionally comes upon a plaque indicating that a synagogue once existed in that spot.

One day during our visit to Munich we took a trip to the outskirts of the city to visit the Dachau concentration camp, which has been preserved for posterity. I learned that Dachau was the original, prototypical concentration camp--conceived and implemented in 1933 by Munich's Chief of Police, Heinrich Himmler. Initially, the people imprisoned at Dachau were political opponents and critics of the Nazis, journalists, activists, religious minorities (such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Quakers), homosexuals, Gypsies and immigrants. Later the camp was expanded and began taking in Jews. The inmates at Dachau were subjected to all of the barbaric cruelties that Nazi concentration camps would become infamous for.

That visit that day changed me. The Germans of the 1930's were an educated, cultured, religious people. But they were also beleaguered following WWI and were vulnerable to a charismatic and ruthless strong man who promised to restore their nation to its former greatness. The churches were, initially at least, largely compliant--and in many cases even supportive--of the rising Nazi regime. I realized on that day in Dachau that the seeds of the worst kinds of evil lie dormant in every culture, every nation, every religion. All it takes are the right circumstances and personalities to cause those seeds to germinate and grow, coupled with a lack of diligence on the part of those who should know better than to allow it to take root.

This is what has troubled me most deeply over the last year in this election cycle: What I have seen here in the 21st century U.S. of A. is indeed reminiscent of what occurred in Germany in the late 1920's and early 1930's. I'm not saying there is a direct parallel between Hitler and Trump. Trump is not Hitler. If history repeats itself it is only in the broadest sense that recognizable patterns of cause and effect do emerge.

This is why I've tried, in my own miniscule way, to speak against Trump and Trumpism--losing a few friends in the process. This is why I've been so heartened by the trouncing of Trump. And this is why I remain deeply, deeply troubled by all of the good devout Christian people who supported Trump or simply remained silent.

Monday, October 10, 2016

I've been reflecting for the last couple of days about the Trump audio scandal, and particularly about the excuse that it was just "locker-room talk." 

When I was a young man, I played in bar bands and lived the "sex and drugs and rock & roll" lifestyle. This typically entailed a bunch of guys living and traveling together in tight quarters, spending their evenings at nightclubs and parties, and often preoccupied with sexual conquest. There was plenty of "locker room talk": dirty jokes, sexual braggadocio, etc. I don't recall anyone making claims quite as predatory as Trump's boasts, but it may well have occurred.

But here's the thing: we were 18, 19, 20. We were "lost boys" intentionally living an anti-social lifestyle. We were not 59-year-old married men with children. Even back then, at our most crude, if a 59-year-old man were hanging out with us saying the things Trump said in that audio, I think we would have been creeped out.

By my early-20's, I had outgrown all of that. It seems to me that Trump never did.

Friday, October 07, 2016

I'm not sure what I'm more disgusted by: the lecherous things Donald Trump boasted about doing to women in that leaked audio, or those who will continue to support him despite the lecherous things he boasted about doing to women.