Realities

For a good number of years, every spring I would go to Boarders or Barnes & Nobles and buy books for summer reading – always one book only because of its cover. When I started reading books on my iPad in earnest, I fell out of my spring habit. Yesterday, I walked by a B. & N. and a book displayed caught my attention, so I bought it and a few other tactile summer books.

This particularly book, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” was written by a J.D. Vance whose “people” (extended family) originally was and is from the coal country of Eastern Kentucky – Jackson, KY. He is a graduate of the Yale Law School, now lives in California, and still refers to himself at heart as a “hillbilly.”

In his writing, I see where my “people” are from in both the incredible goodness and beauty of the place and also the horrific conditions people live under and through.

He uses his experience and observation to comment on the profound crisis among economically poor people throughout the country.

My own experience and observations lead me to this question – Why do we continue to tell ourselves (those of means and bleeding hearts) that a place and a people can exist on government assistance/handouts and still retain their dignity, a hopeful future, and cohesion as a beneficial community? Helping people in need isn’t the issue, but how that help is understood and delivered continues to be an issue. We have to approach all of this in a different way, because the way we are going isn’t working. (Until certain segments of the population understand this, they will never, ever understand how someone like Trump is elected President.)

Netflix OA

I just finished watching the first season of Netflix’s series OA. Great story telling. The best aspect of the story is the group of “misfits” – young and old – that provide the main medium of the story telling. Of course, it brought up all the old high school “misfit” / “geek” feelings that have gone on within me all my life.

It’s true that for whatever reason I’ve always been slightly off kilter from most other people. Every now and then, I find another kindred spirit, but rarely.

Watch it, if you can.

Down a different road…

‘But how can it be I am guilty before anyone?’ each of them would say, laughing in my face [even good naturedly]. ‘Well, how can I be guilty before you, for example?’ ‘Oh,’ I replied to them, ‘how can you hope to understand that,  when the whole world has long been progressing along another road, and when downright falsehood is considered by us as truth, and when we expect and demand similar falsehood from others.’ 

– The Elder Zosima (The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky)

We have the right, perhaps, but we have to be very, very careful

One thing to consider: A democracy is a messy proposition, and at times more messy than other times. The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, did not create a direct-democracy but a republican form of democratic state. This helps mitigate some of the craziness. An assembly of sane, rational, even if at times passionate, representatives of the People are to make decisions for the good of the People.
 
We need to remember that the Constitution, that profoundly liberal and radical document of its time, was preceded by the Declaration of Independence. When a government no longer responds to the wishes or needs of the citizenry, men and women have the right and obligation to take affairs into their own hands.
 
Can we understand that the rise in popularity of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders may be further explained as the result of a citizenry absolutely at their wits end with the Washington status quo? Nothing the People do – who they elect – seems to change the perceived fact that “representatives of the people” consider less and less the wishes and needs of the People.
 
The People believe the Government as it is, is broken. What then shall they do – shall we do? Would we rather have plutocracy? meritocracy? oligarchy? authoritarianism?
 
While these times are not the same kind of times as where the mid-to-late 1700’s, the People in these times may be ready to throw off caution in order to bring the Government back down to earth. We need to be vary careful… very careful!
 
From the Declaration of Independence:
 
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

The times and politics…

The Republican Party apparatus has to realize that this trash-Trump tactic is simply not going to work. The reasons people are showing support for Trump have little to do with whether they think he is virtuous or not – most know he is not. They express their support for Trump out of protest – they are sick and tired of “politics as usual,” whether from conservatives or liberals.
Nothing else has stopped “politics as usual” so far, so why not try Trump.

Someone said to me, recently, that we have Trump as the natural progression of decades of forced political correctness – this phenomenon is the natural result of it. If the “political correctness” juggernaut results in simply shutting-up people who attempt to express opinions that are not currently in vogue (liberal vogue or conservative vogue) without actually changing hearts and minds, this is the kind of end result. Out of pure frustration and insult, people will support someone who forcibly does the opposite of the demands of the current arbiters of political correctness (or accepted respectability).

I don’t believe that the majority of people who express support for Trump are unthinking, bigoted, misogynist, etc., idiots as Trump opponents like to assert. (Some are, but, some liberals are, too.) And, of course, the popular media feeds the controversy.

This is protest, and we are foolish if we don’t heed the tea leaves. The more the Party apparatus or others try to bring Trump down the presumed “usual way,” the more they are going to fail. Keep piling it on – it just makes the protest more fun for those protesting.

Can hipster Christianity save churches from decline?

“Christianity’s true relevance lies not in the gospel’s comfortable trendiness but in its uncomfortable transcendence, as a truth with the power to rebuff, renew and restore wayward humanity at every epoch in history.

“Research also indicates that millennials do prefer ‘real’ churches over ‘cool’ ones. Contrary to the belief that churches must downplay their churchiness and meet in breweries or warehouses in order to appeal to millennials, a 2014 Barna study showed that millennials actually prefer church spaces that are straightforward and overtly Christian. The same study reported that when millennials described their ‘ideal church,’ they preferred ‘classic’ (67 percent) over ‘trendy’ (33 percent).”

Read the entire article: Can hipster Christianity save churches from decline? (source: Washington Post)

Can hipster Christianity save the church?

Can hipster Christianity save the church?

5 reasons why young people are seeking old ways of doing church

This migration began in earnest back in the 1990’s and is not coming into its own. I look at my own experience and understand that those of us, back then, were on the forefront of this migration among X-er’s, and now even more so among Millennial’s.

These are the general 5 reasons:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Rootedness
  3. Mystery
  4. Icons & Symbolism
  5. Participation

From the article:

“The departure of young people from “new” churches to “old” ones can be deeply confusing to many who grew up with strict denominational boundaries. However, it has the potential to lead to healthy, restorative spaces for many of God’s people. After all, we are all one church. As Brian Zhand expresses it; ‘we need the whole body of Christ to properly form the body of Christ. This much I’m sure of: Orthodox mystery, Catholic beauty, Anglican liturgy, Protestant audacity, Evangelical energy, Charismatic reality — I need it all!’

Read the post, here

http://www.churchinacircle.com/2015/03/31/why-young-people-are-seeking-old-ways-of-doing-church/

What now?

So, what now? How often do we ask that question? For life? For work? For love? For faith? In excitement – in frustration – with anxiety – with joy – in anticipation – in wonderment? What is our disposition when we ask such a thing?

I find myself at this point, once again. So, what now? No bad, mind you, but a bit anxiety producing. It is through the struggle that the most precious… most worthwhile… most significant is realized. Unless, of course, we let it stymie us into inaction – we are stuck and can’t move forward. So, what now?

How are we influenced?

American exceptionalism today – the same as or similar to American “messianism” of the mid-nineteenth century… right before the Civil War? Yes, I think – and what it does, negatively, to the religion, the common perception of it all, and the spiritual welfare of Americans.

Professor Mark Noll in his book, “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis,” writes about the debates going on between pro- and anti-slavery theologians and biblical scholars leading up to the Civil War. The following quote comes from his analysis of Moses Stuart, considered one of America’s most competent biblical scholars of the time, a Reformed theologian, and how Stuart allowed his American citizenship (American messianism/exceptionalism) to overwhelm his scholarship and common application of scripture.

According to Noll, Stuart was compromised and thus blantantly inconsistent – his advocacy for slavery within his sense of “America” clouded his exegesis to the point of believing in the scriptural allowance of it. Are we are doing the same, today, in allowing notions of “America” to infringe upon and cloud what we are supposed to be and do as citizens of a different kingdom? We (many of us who claim Christ) make an idol of this nation-state and this notion of American exceptionalism. (This need not infringe upon the imagination of the American Ideal grasped by so many around the world and often forgotten by us, the supposed holders of it.)

From Noll, dealing with the specific debate over returning escaped slaves to their owners:

“Stuart, however, did not seem to feel that escaped slaves – considered as either Christians or potential Christians – had a higher claim on fellow believers than did Southern slaveholders considered as fellow American citizens. Rather, by overriding his commitment to standard Reformed theology, Stuart’s strong sense of American national messianism constrained his interpretation of Scripture. Even for this rightly honored defender of strict biblical exegesis, race exerted a powerful sway. White fellow Americans counted far more than black fellow Christians. Analogical Israel meant more than Spiritual Israel. A dubious theological warrant (treating America as the chosen people) exerted more force than a strong theological warrant (including blacks in the fellowship of the Church.” (Noll, p. 61)