Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rev. Wright

I suppose I should, in some weird and twisted way, be grateful to the news media for bringing this pastor to my attention. This might hurt my chances of becoming president one day, but I like this guy and what he has to say (not everything he says by any means, I'm sure, but I thought this was really good). What I don't like so much, and have a growing intolerance for, is the insistence on the part of "political warmongers" to misconstrue another's words and then attack that misconstrual as though representative of that person. Growing up in an Evangelical Christian subculture, I developed an intolerance for Christians who would take a bible verse completely out of context and then use it to rationalize or justify whatever screwball idea they had about God or how to live (one that comes immediately to mind is the rationalization that speaking in tongues is somehow the pinnacle of one's faith, when the scripture that this comes from actually says almost the opposite). We see this all the time in the political "silly season" (as Obama refers to it), this ripping statements out of context in order to tear down opponents, arguments pretty much based in lies (misconstruing, misrepresenting another's words and thoughts). God forbid anyone shouting against Reverend Wright should actually sit and listen to more than an out-of-context soundbite before they make a sweeping judgement of the man and anyone he associates with. Here's a fuller context of one of the minor "inflammatory" things he had to say:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama does it again

Have we heard a more excellent presidential speech in our lifetime? What a refreshing change it will be to have this man in the White House...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wholeness / Holiness

A thought on the nature of Wholeness (or Holiness)...
It doesn't mean being completely independent in the way we usually think of that term - not needing anyone or anything else. In fact, I would suggest that Wholeness involves a balanced connection with others; Aspects of ourselves that are outside of ourselves; To be "hole-y", having empty places in our being that can only be filled by something or someone outside of ourselves. To know ourselves is to know where our empty places are; it is to see where and how others fit into our being. Think of anyone in your life whom you love deeply - can you imagine your life being whole or complete without them? Without your son or daughter? Without your parents? Without your husband or wife? Without your brother or sister? When someone we love leaves us, or dies, is not the most universal feeling one of emptiness? A part of ourselves is no longer there, and it is only right that we should feel that hollow place, and also right to say that no one will ever be able to fill that space in us again. No other could ever take the place of a loved one lost. (This is one of the reasons why the story of Job bothers me so much)

I recently heard someone say something along these lines: "I only need God, even if everyone else leaves me. My relationship with God is all that really matters". This is, in my opinion, unbalanced and unbiblical. To reject not only the centrality of the church in the Christian experience, but to deny God's own claim in Genesis that "it is not good for man to be alone". I would also suggest that if one's relationship with others is non-existent, then one's relationship with God probably isn't much better (Desert Fathers notwithstanding - But even the religious solitary will say that they do not live the life of solitude to get away from people, but rather in order to better serve and love others and the church in their unique calling).

Love involves not only giving, but receiving. Only in both is there whole love. To give and not need to receive is another form of selfishness.

To quote U2, there is a "God-shaped hole" in us that can only be filled spiritually, by God. And similarly, there is an empty place in us that can only be filled by those we love & who love us. Contrary to what some may say or claim, God does not fill that void, only our loved ones can. God was not satisfied just to have a relationship with Adam, God insisted that Adam also have a relationship with Eve, as well as insisting they have children. We may mean well when we advise others in their grief and loss to turn to God and lean on him for strength and comfort, but let's be careful that we don't imply that he will fill that emptiness inside of them. That is a place that will always be there. Part of our fallen state is living with emptiness, hoping in a day when God will restore all things.

It is an easy temptation to go from needing others and God to fill those proper places in us, to trying to get them to fit into empty places they are not and were never meant to fill. Receiving love can easily become an overbearing clinging and demandingness for the other to fill all our needs (often without regard for their particular needs, even those we can legitimately fill).

We don't like that feeling of emptiness, and part of our fallen nature is to try to fill that emptiness with all manner of distractions so that we don't have to feel what can never, for now, be filled. Something to remember and think on when we see the alcoholic, the drug addicted, the sexual deviants and adulterers, the depressed, the obsessive/compulsive, the demented, those lost and wandering, even the criminal and violent. They are no different from us. There is emptiness within all of us that we all rage against in our own particular ways, socially acceptable or not.


There is a desperation in everything meaningful we try to partake in... We want a real relationship with God, the ultimate reality, and instead the experience of so many of us is an unreality in relation to God. An Absence. A deep longing to embrace God, to love and live in his presence...yet an unfulfilled longing that finds us embracing our own imaginings. I despair because I want to be loved, and I don't know if I am. And my experience and flawed understanding both tell me I am not - not in the deep, fulfilling way that I long for. What kind of real, solid, loving relationship is experienced in the abstract only? Seeing in circumstance the hand of God - Loving? Angry? What does this good or bad really mean?

We seek to fulfill our longings, our emptiness, with human companionship, love, and we so often end in a clinging, controlling wreck...

(and that's my happy thought for the day...)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Military-family support for Obama

Frank Schaeffer (son of the legendary Francis A.) has this to say about why, as a lifelong Republican, he is supporting Obama this time around. (Read the whole article here)

This year the Republicans can't count on the military family's vote. Because Obama was right about Iraq, he may become the candidate of choice for far more pro-military voters than pundits might expect. Note: Since Senator Clinton voted for the war in Iraq she doesn't present a clear alternative to McCain or to the Republican Party. Of the Democratic candidates only Senator Obama has a chance to win the support of the military family. Here's why and here's how.

If McCain would only say what I suspect he believes -- that the Iraq war was a tragic mistake, that his support was a mistake and that our policy should be to take responsibility for the mess we've made, but that the best we can do is get out of Iraq as fast as is possible while causing as little harm as possible -- I (and others who mourn Bush's folly) might vote for him. Instead he is talking about "winning" and staying in Iraq for many years. How do you win a war you never should have started which was based on misinformation that morphed into outright lies?

McCain is face-saving and pandering to the Republican base at the expense of our military family. (Disclosure: In 2000 I went on several radio shows to argue for McCain's candidacy. A few years later McCain wrote a kind endorsement for one of my military-related books. I think it is a national tragedy that the Republican establishment destroyed his chances in 2000. Had he been president on 9/11 I'm sure that however he reacted to the attack on America that his actions would never have included invading Iraq.)

It makes me sad that I can't support McCain but I can't because the Republicans and Democrats share something besides trying to figure out what to do about Iraq. Both parties share a primary election system in which the ideological fringes have outsized importance. To get the nomination, candidates pander to the extremes. This pandering has fatally undermined any Republican's ability to lead us out of the mess Bush made.

Obama panders too when he promises we'll be out of Iraq in a year or so. He knows this is fiction. But Obama's pandering to his base is less dangerous than McCain's "never surrender!" pandering. That's because the ideological fringe of the Democratic Party is less dangerous than the ideologically extreme wing of the Republican Party.

The Democratic ideologues are merely unrealistic idealists, the sorts of village idiots that picket Marine recruiters in Berkeley. The Republican ideologues are bellicose warmongers who tarnish America's reputation and get our people killed. They are the torture enthusiasts, the war-of-choice enthusiasts, the radio talk show jerks who send other people's children to wars their own kids don't volunteer for. The Republican fringe goads America into acting like a bully. They are believers in a form of American exceptionalism that -- spewed by bizarre apocalypse-obsessed religious right evangelicals and/or Dr. Strangelove neocons -- is a jingoistic, toxic, fear-driven myth of "they" against "us" that if unstopped, will result in wars without end. And above all the Republican fringe isn't a fringe at all: they've become the heart and soul of the ugly fear-mesmerized party in power.

Republicans may talk about patriotism and honor but in fact through their stubborn support for Bush's war they have become our military's worst enemies. They literally get our men and women killed. But many of us in the military family have had it with the Republican's bellicose nonsense -- Bush's "Bring it on!" and now McCain's version; "I'll chase bin Laden to the gates of hell!" Enough is enough.