Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tragedy of the Extreme Right

Violence is the code of the Extreme Right.  No compromise, take no prisoners, my way or the highway, God is my co-pilot, vitriolic righteousness, guns-guts-God are mantras of this dictatorial mass.  Democracy is dismissed, people are harmed, the world is at risk.

This Extreme Right despotism is international.  Anders Breivik, self-styled Norwegian patriot, proclaimed his righteousness by murdering men and women, boys and girls.  Why?  Islam must be driven out of Norway, immigration must be stopped, and multi-culturalism is a mistake.  "Actions were atrocious but necessary.... Before we can start our crusade, we must do our duty by decimating cultural Marxism.... Once you decide to strike, it is better to kill too many than not enough, or you risk reducing the desired ideological impact of the strike."  Calling for a Christian civil war to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination, Breivik writes, "Seize political and military control of Western European countries and implement a cultural conservative political agenda."   Now, think Al Qaeda, Hamas, Zionism.

In the United States, the Southern Poverty Law Center is the watchdog of the dramatic rise of the Extreme Right Wing militia and hate groups.  In their recent Intelligence Reports, they cite some quotes: "They are animals, yes, but a lower form than a dog....", writes columnist Debbie Schlussel, characterizing Muslims.  "A sexual degenerate, an American-hating communist....", says Brett Reese, a member of the Greeley-Evans Colorado Board of Education referring to MLK, Jr.  "Use live amunition.", proclaims Jeff Cox, Indiana Deputy Attorney General.  "If shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem.", trumpets Virgil Peck, Kansas State Representative.  Hate has gone mainstream.

The Tea Party embraces violence.  The vitriol of anti-immigration, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-tax, anti-investment, anti-Obama, anti-compromise, anti-Muslim rhetoric is poisoning political civility and paralyzing the legislative progress. They are like adolescent "Lord of the Flies".  And too often it is in the name of Jesus, lifting the Cross of Christ as their clarion banner that they proclaim their mastery.  They are the ultimate embodiment of Grover Norquist's "starve the beast" mantra, bringing the nation to the edge of economic collapse, whistling as the nation hurdles toward the cliff of default, and creating even more unemployment.  The nation is held hostage by this economic violence.

What can we do?  I would suggest we try living out the gift that all people are created in the Image of God as described in Psalm 146:

Praise the Lord!
Happy are those whose hope is in the Lord their God....
Who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry....
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
the Lord upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked  [God] brings to ruin.

As God and Jesus are, so are we called to reflect.  Now is not the time for personal hatred.  Now is the time to be the hearts and hands of Jesus: to sit at the table and break bread together, to have conversation, to pray for and together, to develop friendship, to learn from each other, to educate, to speak the truth in love, to be honest, to do Bible study together, to worship together, to be open, to draw each other closer.   Now is the time to confront the Extreme Right with the Spirit of Christ.

Near the end of the Civil War, Secretary of War William Stanton told Lincoln to punish and destroy the Southern enemies who started the war.  Lincoln's response reflected the Spirit of Christ: "Do we not destroy our enemies when we make them our friends?" 


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tea Party: False Prophets

I must admit to a degree of admiration for the Tea Party folks.  They passionately love America, they speak up, they bring a moral fervor to the national scene, they spout a Jesus line, and they demand action on our rising debt challenge.  This is democracy in action. This is also prophetic action.  It appears the Tea Party passes the test.

The prophet speaks with moral passion.  The prophet looks at society and addresses the wrongs.  The prophet calls out those who would do harm.  The prophet speaks truth.  The prophet purports to speak for God. It would seem the Tea Party passes the test.

But there are serious disconnects.

The standard for prophetic legitimacy is the Biblical prophets.  When comparing the Tea Party prophets with the Biblical prophets we notice glaring short-comings.

GOD/JESUS VS. AYN RAND:  The Biblical prophets listened to the Spirit of God, sought the will of God.  The Spirit of God spoke of justice, of mercy, of love for the other and creation.  In contrast, the god of the Tea Party is unabashed Ayn Rand, unfettered capitalism.  Trust the corporations!  Trust the free markets!  Trust the bankers! Profit is god!  The market will take care of us!  Taxes are anti-god!

THE COMMON GOOD VS. EVERYONE FOR THEMSELVES:  The Biblical prophets speak of the common good.  Work for all, food for all, opportunity for all, dignity for all, health for all, safety for all, equality for all.  In other words, ALL FOR ALL.  The Tea Party mantra is get what YOU can.  Not one for all and all for one, but one for one. Cut taxes and let me have what is mine.  Leave me alone to fend for myself and all will be well.  Give me the freedom to be ME!  The Tea Party is "meism run crazy!"

PERSONAL VS. IDEOLOGICAL:  The Biblical prophets were dedicated to compassion and justice for the person.  The Tea Party is committed to ideological purity at the expense of the person.  The TP may speak of "personal freedom", but the personal is exclusionary.  ON BALANCE, the TP is anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-share the wealth, and anti-African-American.

KNOWLEDGE VS. IGNORANCE:  The Biblical prophets knew the reality of society.  The BP understood the sources of injustice.  The BP refused to allow their voices to be bought off and silenced by the wealthy powerful.  The BP refused to protect those who sucked the life out of society.  Conversely, the Tea Party's critique is silenced by the facade of political "minders" bought off by greedy Wall Street and corporate barons.  The political and business leadership the Tea Party trusts are wolves in sheep's clothing.  The Tea Party are lemmings heading for the cliff of moral and economic oblivion.  And they don't even know it.

The powerful are playing the Tea Party for fools.  The Tea Party is a "puppet theatre" of manipulated actors who falsely believe they are the main show when in reality they are only pawns of the powerful. They believe they are prophetic, but they are only puffing prophetic puppets of greed.  And they don't even know it.  False prophets all.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

What Child Am I?

John Denver wrote a song featuring children as the inspiration for new life. Some say it is his finest composition. It is called "Rhymes and Reasons".  The refrain of the song is:

So the children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers.
Their laughter and their lovliness will clear a cloudy day.
Like the music of the mountains and the colors of the rainbow.
Come and stand beside us, we can find a better way.

Carrying the children motif further, the Gospel of Matthew narrates:

[Jesus says], But to what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children
sitting in the marketplace, and calling to one another,
'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn."
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say,
"He has a demon." The Son of Man came neither eating nor drinking,
and they say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners!"  
Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.
Matthew 11:16-19

At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of 
heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things
 from the wise and the intelligent, and have
revealed them to the infants...."
Matthew 11:25

Let the children come to me, and forbid them not,
for of such is the Kingdom [Reign] of God.
Matthew 19:14

And from the prophet Isaiah:

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
Isaiah 11:6

What we see are different portraits of children.  Some are responsible, perceptive, and obedient to the common good, and some are immature, ignorant, and dedicated to satisfying their own pleasures.  

What makes the difference?  The immature and ignorant children only want others to dance to their tune, to respond only to their demands.  They want others to feel only what they feel, to cry only over their misfortunes.  They see only their truth.  They name call.  They deceive.  They lie.  They judge who is in and who is out on the basis of social propriety, of who caters to the wealthy and powerful.  They revel in themselves.  They glory in their positions of privilege among the powerful.  They revel in their pleasure.  Their world is about them and being secure in their specialness of superiority.  They have found themselves and celebrate the discovery.

On the otherhand, the responsible and wise children take comfort in Jesus.  They look outside themselves and embrace the character of the Christ.  There is realization that life is outside themselves. They surrender to the unity of love.  They trust because they know they are loved.  They love by openning themselves to receiving Christ's love. They lose themselves in Christ, in connection with others.  They live in trust of the promise of Christ.  They gather to listen.  They are receptive.  They consider the other.  They are attracted to the magnetism of love.  They bring diverse people together and create community. They honor differences.  Life is about relationship and making sure all have enough.

Conversation about children seems appropriate because of the political gridlock in Washington and in my own state of Minnesota.  Our state government has shut down over the governor's demand that the upper .03% of wage earners pay an increased tax so that education and health programs can be funded, and the Republican's demand that there be no more taxes, only cuts in programs.  Furthermore, August 2 looms as a dark cloud for our nation as political gridlock and ideological regidity have paralyzed our leadership, driving our nation to the precipice of default, another recession, more damage to already damaged pensions and 401(k)s, more unemployment and hardship,  as well as great damage to the rest of the world.  If we think tiny Greece could cause international chaos, just imagine what our default would cause!

I would suggest that what we have are adults acting like children.  Yet, as we can see, there are children and there are children.  What is the way through this morass?

I propose the following.  First, ask what child am I?  Let's be honest.  In reality, we are all doses of both, in varying degrees depending on what is at stake at the moment.  Confession is in order.  Second, show courage and humility to adopt the character of the wise and responsible child.  Third, listen not only to your base, but to those outside the beltway, to the whole of the country, to the needs of the common good, to the struggling, to the middle class, the unemployed and under-employed, the vulnerable.  Fourth, ask critical questions of the responsibility of the wealthy, the banking industry, and Wall Street for the benefit of all of society. One's place in society needs to be not only about satisfying your stockholders, but also caring for the stakeholders (all of us).  Fifth, each side needs to realize that their side represents only one half of the country.  Sixth, let your actions involve a balanced cutting of waste and MORE investment in job creating projects.  People create wealth by what they do through their work.  The way to the future is to have everyone work their way out of the hole we are in.  People want to work!  Worthwhile work gives hope and optimism!  Provide the projects and opportunities.  Seventh, realize that wealth does not trickle down, but spreads out through the labor of the people.  The Huffington Post reports that corporations have reaped 88% of all financial growth since the start of the recession.  Therefore, figure out how to spread the wealth around. In other words, INVEST.  Eighth, accept that ALL PEOPLE are created to live together in peace, justice, and harmony.  Accept that the lion will remain a lion and the lamb will remain a lamb. Accept that adjustments need to be made for each unique life.  Accept that each life has unique needs for their existence.  Accept that life is not about dominance, but community, caring for each other, seeing that all are protected and free.  Accept the words of the late Paul Wellstone, "We all do better when we all do better."

What child am I?  Come and stand beside us, we can find a better way.