“America First” has become “America Last”

For those who’ve followed this blog (or my ministry) for the last several years, I think you’ll agree that I try to strike a balance between my own beliefs and views (which are clearly rather Progressive); and emphasizing the importance of listening-to those who have different perspectives.  And, I believe this is imperative if we are serious about our faith: we must make a determined effort to really understand where others are “coming from.”

As I see it, we’re all in this together.  And, we cannot make progress towards a better future for all UNLESS we all believe together that it is a better future.  But, there comes a point where the line between reasoned debate and outright insanity is crossed.  That has happened repeatedly in the last few months, and isn’t going to end any time soon.  Even so, I have tried to differentiate between the actions and beliefs of our demonstrably incompetent and self centered president; and the well founded anger and doubts of many who support his administration.  Anger and concerns which many of us on the Liberal side of the spectrum actually share.  There is much more that unites us than divides us, even now.

But for me, this decision of the president’s to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord is the last straw.  (This article from the Weather Channel does a good job of summarizing what this will mean for us.)

Now, for those who have questions about Climate Change, fine: have questions. Ask them. Ask lots of questions. And when well informed folk respond, listen.

But the president’s decision goes far beyond that: it not only flies in the face of unequivocal scientific research and findings; but also puts the USA at odds with the ENTIRE WORLD.

No good can come of this in an environmental, economic, political or diplomatic sense. It isolates us from our allies and economic partners.  It removes us from our former status as a respected world leader.  We are well on the way to becoming the bully with a big stick whom others will have to join together to knock back into line.  It is hard to imagine a worse decision being made by any past, present, or future president – short of starting another global war.

I’m always happy to engage in reasoned dialog on the issue of Climate Change.  But, it is not a left vs. right issue, but a right vs. wrong issue: do we listen to what ALL reputable scientists are telling us? Or, do we subscribe to the conspiracy theories and “research” promulgated by a tiny band of deniers whose motives and qualifications are for the most part highly suspect?

For this country to remain strong, for it to retain it’s position as a world leader, requires more than just a large economy and an oversized military.  Other countries will eventually eclipse us on that score, and even sooner than we might think.  Such leadership solely through raw power cannot endure.  For us to remain a leading nation in this world requires us to lead in other ways.  Sadly, the current administration and leadership in Congress does not understand this, and is leading us down a path from which we will take decades to recover, if we ever do.

Follow Me

lonely_footsteps_in_the_sand_by_daila0701-d3ncbfdOur reading from Matthew chapter 4 this morning tells us how Jesus called his first four disciples – all fishermen; saying to them, “Follow Me.”

This puzzles me, because the first chapter of Matthew tells us that Jesus will be called “Emmanuel” – “God with us.” This speaks to how we see God as always right here, alongside us. Through Jesus-Emmanuel, we know God experiences what we experience. God feels what we feel. God knows birth and death just as we are born, and will someday die. “Emmanuel” is a statement of our equality before God. We are one of the many children of God standing alongside the first child of God, Jesus Christ.

So, how can the same Gospel teach that we are following behind Jesus (as the disciples were and at the same time walking with Jesus, our sibling, at the same time? Is Jesus our leader or our companion?

Now, how some interpret the idea that we “follow” Jesus troubles me. “Following Jesus” does not mean that we are desperately clutching at the hem of his robe to be dragged into Paradise. “Following Jesus” does not mean that we must adhere to some very specific interpretation of God’s Word or risk eternal damnation. “Following Jesus” does not mean we check our brains, or our hearts, at the door.

On the other hand, some people go a bit too far with the idea of Jesus as a companion. Yes, Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us.” But, this does not mean that Jesus goes everywhere that we want to go. Jesus is our companion. But companions walk together. They support each other.

We do not slavishly follow Christ. But then again, we cannot expect Christ to follow us just because we want him to! And yet many, Fundamentalists and Progressives alike, believe exactly that: justifying their own particular perspectives as the only one that is blessed by God. (Well, except atheists, who just want you to believe their particular perspective!)  Many go further, claiming we’ll be blessed only if we have enough faith in what they believe. Really?

Continue reading “Follow Me”

Compassion and Leadership

It is clear from his interactions with these students that this is not simply a show for the cameras. The President is involved: asking these young scientists questions, encouraging them, and engaging in extended dialog with them; not allowing other (more “adult”) priorities to distract him.
Whether we agree with his policies and political stances or not; we must admire how, in so many ways, the President is constantly and concretely demonstrating how much he cares for people, all people.
Which of our current crop of Presidential candidates show that they care?
Do we really want our next President to be someone determined to destroy people’s lives through deportations, carpet bombing, or draconian social and economic policies?  If a candidate demonstrates a complete lack of compassion for so many whom we see as “other,” can we reasonably expect them to concern themselves at all for how their leadership will impact us?
Our faith – and in fact every Faith – begins with compassion and love. If these things are not present in the words and deeds of a prospective leader, then they have no business being in the business of caring for this nation.
– Allen
Copyright (c) 2016, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as proper credit for my authorship is given. (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site – or just email me and ask!)

Challenged

It’s all so easy when no one challenges your views. No arguments, no wasted time or energy in the discussion of technicalities, no need to build consensus, no need to defend what you believe, no need to educate others who have differing opinions. No dissension! You have time to get things get done! And, in today’s world, with things moving so fast, especially when one or more crises are brewing (as always seems to be the case), it’s easy to not even listen for any dissension, and easy to justify squelching those who do question or challenge what we have to say.

Modern Remnants Of Herods Temple, Destroyed 70 AD
Stones at the base of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: remnants of the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 AD.

Delivered at ARK Community Church, Dalton MA, November 2, 2014.

Scriptures:
Micah 3:5-12
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12

In the early 1960’s, Paul T. Fuhrmann was a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He would often present the following list (which I’ve amended slightly) to students in his Church History courses, claiming it was from his grandmother…

Grannie’s Notion of Church History…

  1. The ancient world was a desert, such a wilderness that not even a chicken could be found there.
  2. In the year 1, a King James Bible in English, bound & printed in New York (by the American Bible Society) and sold at $1.00, falls to the ground in that desert.
  3. The Apostles Peter, John, and Paul run to grab that Bible & organize the Primitive church, which was exactly like our church. Things were marvelous because the Apostles did things exactly as we do.
  4. In the year 100 the Devil came in and upset and corrupted everything, then went on to set up the Pope and later (much later) the Tea Party. The Pope plays all sorts of dirty tricks to make money. The Tea Party spends all sorts of money to play dirty tricks.
  5. In 1520, Martin Luther finds a Bible in chains, translates it, and the Bible spreads like butter on bread. In his barn in Rome, the Pope gets mad and swears to get even.
  6. In 1536, John Calvin comes in and organizes the UCC. Since he was intelligent, he must have thought exactly as we do in everything, and so did everything just as we do. The evidence of this is found in his two volumes of Institutes.

Please join me in prayer…

Lord, let it be your voice that speaks through my mouth, and let our hearts and minds be open and receptive to hearing the Word you have for us here, today. Amen.

It’s all so easy when no one challenges your views. No arguments, no wasted time or energy in the discussion of technicalities, no need to build consensus, no need to defend what you believe, no need to educate others who have differing opinions. No dissension! You have time to get things get done! And, in today’s world, with things moving so fast, especially when one or more crises are brewing (as always seems to be the case), it’s easy to not even listen for any dissension, and easy to justify squelching those who do question or challenge what we have to say.

Continue reading “Challenged”

Waterboarding, Baptism and the Dilemma of Women in Politics

1398707253422.cachedSarah Palin’s statement while speaking at the NRA Convention this week “if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists (as quoted in this article from the Daily Beast) once again shows that she is not a person given to connecting brain to mouth.

Yet, I also wonder, given how she phrased it – and her followup comments: is the underlying motivation for these thoughtless and harsh words because she does not want to be perceived as “soft,” per a common stereotype for women?

This is a charge often leveled against women in political office: Are they tough enough?  Are they capable of actually making hard decisions?   Are they the person you’d want to have in the Oval office when a crisis is at its’ peak?  We’ve seen such language and accusations used against not only Palin, but also Hilary Clinton, Wendy Davis, and even (for those of us who remember the early 1970’s) Shirley Chisolm.

Continue reading “Waterboarding, Baptism and the Dilemma of Women in Politics”

Church 3.0

 

VT_2007_03_ 015This is a repost of an article found on TheBlueYarn.com and written by Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, the current Conference Minister for the Southwest Conference of The United Church of Christ..  Very worthwhile reading for those of us who see the decline in church participation as an opportunity for renewal and rebirth.  (With thanks to Davida Foy Crabtree.)

UPDATE (4/28/2016): The registration for the domain where this blog post was found (Church 3.0 at theblueyarn.com) has expired, meaning that the original article is now unavailable.

I found a review of a Book written by John Dorhauer that covers the same topic, and which was written at about the same time: Review: John Dorhauer, Beyond Resistance: The Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World.

Also, Rev. Dorhauer recently left his position as leader of the Southwest Conference of the UCC to become President of the United Church of Christ