Friday, January 29, 2010

Divided We Stand

Just some musing this morning:

When we talk about "ideology" in politics, we are mostly talking about two poles of thinking: conservative and progressive. In our thinking about these ideologies, we may find ourselves anywhere between the two extremes of these divergent opinions.

To "conserve" something is to try to preserve it, save it, keep it intact. It looks backward, always. It tries to hold onto something "valuable" in the past and keep it alive.

To "progress" is to move forward. The eye is now fixed on some goal, and is looking to tweak or fix something so that it works better in the future.

Which idea is correct?

In Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address, the body language of Congress was conspicuous. Basically, both sides were expressing their agenda. Conservatives lost big-time in 2008, so they are in the bunker until next year when, if they get the numbers they think they will, they will be able to resurrect the legacy of the Bush years, or something like it. So their mentality is to put things off and do nothing if necessary since there is no way they can agree with anybody across the aisle. So they rarely applaud and, when Obama speaks, they look like they are eating lemon skins.

Progressives were enthusiastic, even though many of them are mad at Obama. He reached out to those rascal pinheads across the aisle and see what he got. Who does he think he is? The Great Physician? Come on, Obama. You were hired to lead. Get with the program (or programs, as the case may be).

As I look at this comic/tragedy, I am thinking, "Why aren't they all seated together - mixed?"

Our nation's been polarized for at least two decades. Both elections, George Bush barely squeaked by. I even called it a "miracle" when he was elected the first time, by a "hanging chad." The analysis on TV always shows the red and blue states at loggerheads.

Now the two parties and Congress are fairly unpopular with an electorate that is "fed up." Fed up with what? Mostly with a stagnant economy that went sour. They woke up one morning in 2007 or 2008 and the sky was falling, houses were foreclosing and 401Ks were being read the last rites. So folks are "mad as hell." And so is Congress. The folks on the other side of the aisle are the problem...of course.

But what is this mass of voters out there thinking? Are they hearkening to the baleful songs of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin? Are they ready to pounce on Pelosi and pound her into political hamburger? And what of the young who don't often yet have entrenched political positions? What are they thinking about a government that is handing them a debt to pay when they have no work? It's a frickin' mess.

But the conservatives and the progressives each hold the absolute answer and the twain shall not meet. Obviously. No matter how skilled the rhetoric of bipartisanship that streams from Obama's silver tongue.

Are the two parties a relic of another age - the passing modern age of absolutes and polarization? Is there any way to reconcile the desires of those who want to hold on to the "secure" monuments of the past and those who are willing to risk creating a new future?

I think there is - at least to a point. There'll always be tension between these two poles. But part of the chasm between them is an endless class war that translates, in philosophy, to the capitalist vs. the socialist (or, in Marx-speak, the bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat - the rich guy versus the poor guy). In history, the rich guy always oppresses until the poor guy rises up and overthrows the machine. The barbarian arrives at the gates.

Democracy is more civil. It works out the kinks in the fabric of society through tedious and patient ironing. We have a system that allows all voices to speak, be heard, and have a voice. This results in a rather noisy cacaphony.

In the Hegelian ping-pong that results, the hopeful movement is always progressive while retaining a healthy conservatism. Checks and balances. Why can't it happen now? It is. But it's messy. But it's the best we have until we find something better. We'll get through this.
I tend to think, these days, that the two great political philosophies of the modern age - liberalism and conservatism - can find common ground. I think the twin theories of the industrial age now doing a segue into the digital age - capitalism and socialism - can link arms without destroying either ideal or its benefits. Am I Pollyanna?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Disclosure of Christ

Below are 15 of the 24 verses in the NT that use the Greek word "parousia," which, in our modern translations, are usually rendered "coming." That use may have been a theological conclusion rather than an exact rendering, which might more clearly be "revelation" or even "presence." I inserted the word "disclosure" below as it is another synonym for revelation. When read, with this word inserted instead of "coming," with that word's theological implications, I see these verses taking on a different character.
In the first Matt. 24 verse I also inserted the word "Jewish" in parentheses adjoined to the word "age." A futurist would place the word "church" here; but a preterist reads this as Jewish. That is, Jesus's disclosure to the world replaces God's Jewish emphasis. The disclosure of Jesus renders the old age as past, if not obsolete.

Futurists would see this disclosure of Christ as a future event, which I don't think is totally invalidated by the preterist view. In that case, the full disclosure doesn't occur until the end of this present "church age," instead of the Jewish age. That's why I'm also exploring an added, logical concept suggested here: the parousia is ongoing, or progressive in nature. That is, Jesus was disclosed in the ruination of Jerusalem and in the subsequent history of the church, culminating in the full disclosure at some future date, when all of mankind will actually see him at the resurrection.

. Matt. 24:3 - "And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your disclosure (parousia), and of the end of the (Jewish) age?"
2. Matt. 24:27, 37, 39 - Jesus repeatedly said, "So shall the disclosure (parousia) of the Son of Man be."
3. 1 Cor. 15:23-25 - "But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are at Christ's at His disclosure(parousia), then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet."
4. 1 Thes. 2:19 - "For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord at His disclosure (parousia)?"
5. 1 Thes. 3:13 - "So that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the disclosure(parousia) of our Lord with all His saints."
6. 1 Thes. 4:15-17 - "For we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the disclosure(parousia) of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord."
7. 1 Thes. 5:23 - "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the disclosure (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ."
8. 2 Thes. 2:1 - "Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the disclosure (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him."
9. 2 Thes. 2:8 - "And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His disclosure (parousia)."
10. James 5:7 - "Be patient, therefore, brethren until the disclosure (parousia) of the Lord."
11. James 5:8 - "You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the disclosure (parousia) of the Lord is at hand."
12. 2 Peter 1:16 - "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and disclosure(parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty."
13. 2 Peter 3:4 - "And saying, "where is the promise of His disclosure (parousia)? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation."
14. 2 Peter 3:12 - "Looking for and hastening the disclosure (parousia) of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning and the elements will melt with intense heat!"
15. 1 John 2:28 - "And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His disclosure (parousia)."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dogma Blender

2 Peter 1:19-21 (New King James Version)
19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Verse 20, above, is rendered in the NIV this way:

20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.

As I meditated on this, I was thinking about the problems of interpretation down through history and to the present day. Our own -- or our "private" -- interpretations often become dogma.

Here is the explanation of dogma:

1. a system of principles or tenets, as of a church.
2. a specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down, as by a church: the dogma of the Assumption.
3. prescribed doctrine: political dogma.
4. a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle.

Above, the NIV translation makes the most sense, that Peter is trying to say that the Word of God is not man-made. But I also like the King James rendering because it suggests that prophecy and biblical mystery is enigmatic and not subject to human interpretation -- that is, it does not or should not yield intractable dogmas.

The history of the church is one of trying to establish reliable dogma:
There were the early arguments over the identity and deity of Christ that led to the establishment of the Trinity doctrine; there was the huge split between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox; there was the later Protestant Reformation that led to schisms of all kinds and establishment of new dogmas; the ideas that became dogmas like Arminius' and Calvin's teachings; and the rise of dogmatic movements within Pentecostalism, Fundamentalism, and even Evangelicalism -- including the prophecy dialogs that rose from John Nelson Darby. The list of the establishment of competing dogmas is enormous.

In the Wiki article, it says of dogma: The term derives from Greek δόγμα "that which seems to one, opinion or belief" and that from δοκέω (dokeo), "to think, to suppose, to imagine"

Basically, dogma is our suppositions raised to absolutes. These become organization-foundations that are more immovable than God Himself.

But the church is moving into a new milieu ahead: a world of disintegration and reintegration.

I thought of this illustration: If you take a blender and put in various ingredients, then turn it on slowly, the pieces begin to disintegrate before they reintegrate into something else. At the close of the Modern Age, the blender was beginning to be ratcheted up and absolutes began disintegrating. The future -- what we now call post-Modern because we don't know what it will be -- looks to be a reintegrating into a new concoction.

With regard to church dogmas, this pressure places them under intense examination and a resulting disintegration into something else. These dogmata may have institutions behind them, but the dogmas themselves are breaking down. What will emerge is not a new dogma, but an integration of what the faith is, what it really means. It doesn't mean the dissolution of what was past, but a reconstitution that points to what it really is.

We have interpreted scripture until we are blue in the face, so to speak. We have strained it through various grids, tweaking as we went, and even going to war over it. In fact, often, our goal was to establish the complete credibility of our suppositions about the message of Jesus Christ. That would make us secure, and security is not actually faith. What we need more now is the ability to adapt.

The Modern Age was about nationalism and nation-states: the post-Modern world is about globalism. The mindset of the Modern Age was redux and "we-they" thinking: but the new world is "both-and". The blender is a-stirrin'.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Idiot Winds

The tale of Markopolos vs. Madoff doesn't bode well for
future regulation of financial industries, but it may yield
clues as to how to make the SEC (and others like it) more
effective. Larry Kudlow thinks this guy should head the
SEC -- and I say why not? That would be a very Lincoln-
like thing to do. Here, SEC, is your new boss, your former
biggest nightmare. He is the Eliot Ness of the New

That said, the dude could become just as frustrated as the
head of such an organization because, though Madoff
should have been obvious, nobody flat cared that much.
He seemed to be making green. He was impregnable.
Still, yes, whoever appoints such people, I'd say Markopolos
is your man.

Where's the Madoff money? At present, 950 million has been
found. That should ease the gobs of investors who used
Madoff a bit. Also, the total lost may be more like 25B, not
the 50B he told his sons.

Markopolos, though, is saying there are 14 more Madoffs out
hiding in the weeds in Europe. Be careful, scammers, there
are also terrorists in them thar hills. Financial terrorists and
human bombs hiding out together -- now that's a potential

Meanwhile, we're finding out that some of our legislators
are above the law and are exempt from paying the taxes
they exact from us. Shades of Rome in decline!

Apparently, the only thing anybody can agree on in this
new stimulus is to tackle the infrastructure. Then do it!
Get it started. You don't have to start big, especially if it's
all fluff -- a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying

Idiot Wind -- Dylan

Someones got it in for me, they're planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish theyd cut it out quick, but when they will I can only guess.
They say I shot a man named gray and took his wife to Italy,
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me.
I cant help it if I'm lucky.
People see me all the time and they just can't remember how to act
Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts.
Even you, yesterday you had to ask me where it was at,
I couldnt believe after all these years, you didnt know me any better than that
Sweet lady.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth,
Blowing down the backroads headin south.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
Youre an idiot, babe.
Its a wonder that you still know how to breathe.
I ran into the fortune-teller, who said beware of lightning
that might strike
I haven't known peace and quiet for so long
I cant remember what its like.
Theres a lone soldier on the cross,
smoke pourin out of a boxcar door,
You didnt know it, you didnt think it could be done,
in the final end he won the wars
After losin every battle.
I woke up on the roadside,
daydreaming bout the way things sometimes are
Visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head
and are makin me see stars.
You hurt the ones that I love best
and cover up the truth with lies.
One day youll be in the ditch, flies buzzin around your eyes,
Blood on your saddle.
Idiot wind, blowing through the flowers on your tomb,
Blowing through the curtains in your room.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You're an idiot, babe.
Its a wonder that you still know how to breathe.
It was gravity which pulled us down and destiny
which broke us apart
You tamed the lion in my cage
but it just wasnt enough to change my heart.
Now everythings a little upside down,
as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped,
Whats good is bad, whats bad is good,
you'll find out when you reach the top
Youre on the bottom.
I noticed at the ceremony, your corrupt ways
had finally made you blind
I cant remember your face anymore,
your mouth has changed,
your eyesDont look into mine.
The priest wore black on the seventh day
and sat stone-faced while the building burned.
I waited for you on the running boards,
near the cypress trees, while the springtime
Turned slowly into autumn.
Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull,
From the Grand Coulee dam to the capitol.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You're an idiot, babe.
Its a wonder that you still know how to breathe.
I cant feel you anymore,
I can't even touch the books you've read
Every time I crawl past your door,
I been wishin I was somebody else instead.
Down the highway, down the tracks,
down the road to ecstasy,
I followed you beneath the stars,
hounded by your memory
And all your raging glory.
I been double-crossed now for the very last time
and now I'm finally free,
I kissed goodbye the howling beast
on the borderline which separated you from me.
Youll never know the hurt I suffered
nor the pain I rise above,
And Ill never know the same about you,
your holiness or your kind of love,
And it makes me feel so sorry.
Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats,
Blowing through the letters that we wrote.
Idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves,
We're idiots, babe.
Its a wonder we can even feed ourselves.

BTW, the best version of this song, by far, was
the live
performance by Dylan with the Rolling Thunder Review
(click on the purple)
on the album "Hard Rain".

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christophobes vs. Homophobes

You might want to view this video of Rick Warren (click here) for some clarification of his views on the sanctity of heterosexual monogamy. Of course, I agree with him. I also agree that he has the freedom of speech to state his beliefs. What is glaringly absent here (and in much of the heat coming from gays and liberals) is a discussion of the real issue, civil rights. Warren says he loves gays, so his problem is not "homophobia." It is a civil problem. The pressing issue is the question: Do gays have the right to the same civil protections and advantages governing and given to monogamous hetero couples?

Most evangelicals say no, because they are afraid we are redefining marriage and giving state sanction to it, thus offending God. But no state can redefine what God has set in place. The problem we have here is our concept of equality under the law. "Equality" doesn't favor Christians or anybody else, in the civil sense. If people are law-abiding and commit no obvious crimes, they can do what they want under constitutional protection, and should enjoy the rights given them in our secular, pluralist society. That's where the real debate is here. It is not theological, it is political and social.

I don't know if Rick Warren has thoroughly vetted this angle of the debate. It wouldn't seem so. I think many evangelicals entertain the myth that we live in a Christianized society and all laws should be dictated by theological principles. Warren says he loves everybody. I'm sure he does. But actions speak louder than words, and, in this case, the problem is about justice more than biblical morality. Can you have true justice in this world when you create a legally mandated caste system of preferred people and pariahs? Aren't you saying, "I love them, but I don't want to give them any rights?" Isn't that an Old Testament system of sequestering people? Maybe God says, "I don't agree with this, but under the present systems, treat one another with fairness." Is the way to lead gays to Christ to persecute them and place them in leper colonies?

The other problem here is the evidence of science. Christians have branded homosexuality as purely a behavioral problem (free will). Science seems to be finding that they tend to be born that way (predestination). The argument then is resolved, for many, by saying you are genetically predispositioned to have gay preferences and can't help it. Thus, you are a minority that enjoys all civil rights afforded anyone in a democratic/pluralistic society. Theology, in our society, generally fails to trump science, since science is objective (hopefully) and theology is more subjective. We can believe something, but we can't force that belief on everyone else. We Christians need to "deal with it" and focus our attentions on doing the business we are commissioned to do: love our neighbor as ourself.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thy Will Is Complex

If It Be Your Will by L. Cohen

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well
And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will
If it be your will.

Comment: No question, Leonard Cohen was one of the great singer-
songwriter poets. He often wrote, actually, scathing commentaries on
religious belief, particularly Christian. This one seems to plumb the
depths of the problem of predestination. Paul said, "Who has resisted
His will?"

Romans 9:
18 So God does what he wants to do. He shows mercy to one person and makes another stubborn.
19 One of you will say to me, "Then why does God still blame us? Who can oppose what he wants to do?" 20 But you are a mere man. So who are you to talk back to God? Scripture says, "Can what is made say to the one who made it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "—(Isaiah 29:16; 45:9)

So even a skeptic like Cohen can see the problem.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Saving Little Richard

"If God can save an old homosexual like me, He can save anybody."
~ Little Richard

No doubt what Little Richard is saying here means a lot to him. He is kind of saying, "I've been one bad dude, folks, and God has saved me."

The question that bugged me for a long time was, "What exactly do we mean by the word saved?" I began to notice that what people meant by "being saved" was in the eye of the beholder. The line between the "saved" and the "unsaved" was not easy to find. In the eyes of some, there are not many saved at all. In their eyes, often, the vast majority of the human race is headed for everlasting hellfire and brimstone, and that would likely include poor Little Richard here who has deluded himself. In other words, it was hard for me to pin down what exactly being saved meant.

I finally reconciled this, in my own mind, by observing that, according to scripture, salvation comes by faith and it is a gift of God. But the actual arbiter of this condition was confession: "No man can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit." That is, our confession is what identifies that we are followers of Jesus no matter what anybody ~ including other Jesus followers ~ thinks of us. I am not judged by you. My confession, like Little Richard's, is that Jesus has saved me.

But that doesn't go far enough. We've seen the signs in our lifetime that say "Jesus saves." And we saw the graffiti that said He saves green stamps (which nobody saves any more.) The point is, to say "Jesus saves" is an open-ended question: what does He save?

The answer is, He saves or is saving the world. He is in the process of saving this whole thing that has been, like Little Richard, polluted and destroyed. But Christians have tended to deny this. We sift this good news through a screen that says, "Only the righteous will be saved." Yet, there is none righteous, no, not one. That includes you and me and Little Richard too.

So is Jesus saving a part or the whole? And if He is the savior of the whole shebang, what difference does it make if we follow Him? Because, in following Him, we are way ahead of the curve and we are in on a secret. But it is not to remain a secret. The truth is, "Jesus saves it all." We were ruined and Jesus is the savior: that's the good news (or the gospel, if you will.)

The salvation issue becomes uncomplicated and not up to the arbitrary criteria that various persons and leaders might construct from their "private interpretations." This also frees us, as believers, to love our neighbors, our fellow human beings. We are no longer bringing a message of condemnation to the world, condemning everyone who doesn't fit our worldview. What we are really saying is, "Do you see this world? It is passing away. God is replacing it, through Jesus Christ, with a far superior system."

This is fabulous, and hard for many to grasp. In fact, for many it sounds like heresy (a belief that offends God.) I wasn't comfortable with it either. But now I can say to Little Richard: "You're right, bro. God can save anyone. In fact, He has."

I have long said that it was not the birth of Christ but the cross that was the crux of history. Whatever happened before, it all changed when Christ died and rose again. How radically did it change? We don't see it all yet. But, like Paul said, "Every knee shall bow." Wow.