Friday, June 29, 2012

Stop Hating Leaders and Become One: The First Health Care Mandate

Say whatever you like about the constitutionality of the health care law, it will not solve all the problems as some hope, and it will not be the fiery apocalyptic end of civilization as others tend to argue.  My concern is how did we even get here in the first place?  How does any "modern developing" society that believes in evolving intellects and advancement find itself in a place that must cajole people to move.

We idly sit by criticizing our leaderships every move demanding them to make changes that allow for better jobs, better pay, affordable healthcare, and equal access to education and opportunities.  The majority sees the world as an incomplete place and we point figures at past leaders, opposing political parties and contentious markets for our problems.  When did we adopt the belief that real change must trickle down from the top?

What if the only way to provide better jobs, equal opportunities and health care was through small local changes?  The early church had it right.  The church had the message of Jesus Christ upon the cross, the message of forgiveness and hope, the message of eternal life.  The early church also believed that they were called by their messiah to advance his kingdom here on earth.  The advancement of Christ's kingdom does not come with holy wars, forced conversion, or a Christian nation-state, but through caring for the poor, widow, and orphan.

The early church quickly attracted a following because of their encompassing way of community.  No one had shortage of food in the church because they all shared their meals together.  The rich with the poor sat down side by side, brother next to brother, sister next to sister as equals and ate the same meal.  If someone was out of a job due to famine, cutbacks, or being blacklisted because of their faith, the church carried the family through and helped them find a job.  If someone was injured and could not work, the church would not only carry the family through the difficult time by taking care of food and shelter, they also provided physical care or the injured.  If famine destroyed your farm, your house burnt down, a plague ran through your town, there were no sick days there was no insurance, there was no equal cheap access to health care, the church was formed together to take care of every need.  The only mandate was to love at all tiems with everything (literally everything) you had.

This kind of community extremely attracted the poor, but it quickly grew so that even the wealthy could not ignore the power of the movement.  The power and provision was always driven by Christ as their Lord and savior, but as the church grew in size and influence they began to focus less on local communities to address problems.  The Churches started becoming regional, then national, and then global.  The church formed a hierarchy that imitated the powerful nation-states, with a Pope at the top, cardinals as governors, bishops as local magistrates, and priests as alderman.  The church became an ineffective government.

The early church understood the importance of influence not through money, or power, but through joining together, eating, praying, living together and providing for needs.  The church did not try to fix the world, it tried to care for those within her reach, and this enacted a chain reaction.

If we want change we cannot hand it over to leaders governing from the top of the world.  Change begins by reassessing our values, reaching out and joining with our neighbors, and committing to care for those within our reach.  Everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to change themselves.  Everybody wants to save the world, but nobody wants to save their neighbor.  A smaller focus means a bigger change.

It is time we focused on doing the right things, like making sure we are paying our neighbors livable wages, not because someone makes us but because it is right.  We need to make sure our neighbors are getting enough food to eat instead of handing them a form for food stamps.  We need to join together and help find shelter for those struck with tragedy, and not wait for the government to do it.  It is time we do the right thing for our neighbors without passing it off to anyone else.  The kingdom of God is coming, and Christ with it, and we will be judge on his mercy, and how we care for each other, if we rely on some other force to care for our neighbor why we turn our back, we may miss out.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

When Progress becomes regress

When progress becomes regress

And cities are set on fire

The rage of the people will burn bright

Tottering ideals expire.

Tyrants feed, dictators greed

Who can lead the wild flame?

When the earth begins to turns backwards

All the unknown need a name.

Mass killers only hinders

More than generals can command.

The devil wages the fiercest war

For much more than our mere land.

When what's torn part is our heart

And we cannot find our soul.

More is needed than our human pride

A mender to make us whole.

Ideals burn placed in the urn

And everything is in soot

We refuse to build it back again

We will shake it from our foot.

A new place with a new grace

Unlike all others before

What was started from the beginning

God will finally restore. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

How to Raise a Bully

Grade schoolers cussing out bus monitors?  Karen Klein, 68, was hit with a barrage of profanity from pre-adolescent school children.  They make sexual taunting passes at her, and blame her for her eldest son suicide that happened 10 years ago.  If you watch the viral video, you see the children are relentless, even continuing while Mrs. Klein cries.  Throughout the video you feel extreme discomfort and sympathy for this poor woman.  However, those who work with students on a regular basis may not be too surprised by the taunting.  Teachers, aids, and monitors are being cussed out regularly.  I was cussed out by a seven year old in the parking lot of our church.  While this incident with Mrs. Klein goes far and beyond most cases, I believe it is a sign of the continuing trend of our society.

Yahoo recently released on article detailing the "non-issue of profanity and nudity in television.  Censorship is turning down the "bleeps" and the "blurs" of foul language and nudity, and allowing more to been seen and heard.  Censors believe there is too much censorship!

Another trend is happening if you watch the Disney network.  "Innocent" and "kid friendly shows" are containing more themes of disrespect to bumbling parents and clueless adults.  I challenge you to watch a show and count the times the adults disrespected or considered idiots.

Another article has just been released that reveals teens spend an average of 10 hours a day connected to media (tv, computer, music). 

Kids are plugged into more media, media is showing more language and sexual content, and children are using more language, sexual content, and practicing complete disrespect.  Do you suppose there may be a connection?

I have spent the last month without watching television (except for a few minutes of a Cubs game when I was visiting a sick friend).  Also in the last month I have only listened to the radio 4 different times, less than 30 minutes each time.  During this month, I have extra time to read, go to the park with my daughter, and pray.  The best part is not what I am getting, but what I am missing, all the negative messages.

The principle made an official statement assuring the public that the students who participated in the hazing would receive discipline, but what about everyone else?  Don't we all deserve some punishment in this?  This is not High School students throwing these insults, they are middle schoolers.  Are we not to blame in putting these words, these sexual images, these scenarios of entertainment that encourage disrespect before their influential eyes?  Could we actually say these students ought to know better when they have not been shown better?

W only know what we see.  You cannot expect someone to know better when they don't see respect, love, kindness, and patience lived out.  It is not enough to verbally teach the meaning of such words, they must be seen in action.

When Jesus called his disciples he did not call them into a classroom, tell them to open and text book and read the definitions of love, respect, and forgiveness.  Jesus did not just teach his disciples, he showed them.  When he called them he said "Follow me."  When he told them it is better to serve than rule, he showed them by washing their feet.  And when Jesus wanted his disciples to learn the depth and power of forgiveness, he surrendered himself to death on a cross.

Our children are simply living out the lessons they are taught on the internet, television, music, and us adults.  It is time we start showing the lessons children out to live out, and block the message that we do not want them to practice.  It is perfectly acceptable to refuse to allow children to watch violent images, sexual images, and prevent them from hearing offensive language and negative lyrics. 

I think it is time we act like adults and begin showing our children what is commendable, and blocking what is condemnable.  Let us clean up our act, clean up the media we allow to influence our children, and clean up our schools.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mercy Not Sacrifice: The Idolatry of War

2,000 American Soldiers now have died in Afghanistan.  The suicide rate for our soldiers has reached nearly one per day.  The momentous number of fallen soldiers is the culmination of 3,900 days in Afghanistan.

Every time a son or daughter is brought home in a box, tears are shed, hearts are broken, and the ubiquitous phrase "she/he paid the ultimate sacrifice" is announced as a word of comfort.

I am growing weary of this "sacrifice."  I have become infuriated at the idea of us proudly sending our children across the world.  Boys and girls who ought to be busy going to college, starting families, building community are given rifles, an enemy, and a paycheck.  This is an impossible life that has claimed 2,000 soldiers in this war.

Today is Flag Day, and many homes, businesses, and churches will wave the banner of our nation high in patriotic pride.  But this flag is drench stained with so much blood, the gore has made me ill.  I feel dirty and guilty every time we sell the idea to our children that people must die so we can have the freedom to vote for indifferent politicians who break apart families by sending them to war.  Too many have returned home dead.  Too many have returned home severely injured.  Too many have returned unable to cope with the things that no man or woman or child or soldier should have to see or do.  Too many unable to cope with the evil drown their lives with liquor, drugs, or other self-destructive tendencies.  Other's cannot cope and end their lives.  This is the "ultimate sacrifice" we are willing to accept for our lives of "freedom."

The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel saw terrible acts of sacrifice happening in their day.  Mothers and Fathers were actually sacrificing their own children to idols.  Ezekiel cries out

"You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols" (Ezekiel 16:21).

Can you imagine such a heartbreaking image?  What evil can manipulate parents to surrender their children to the temple flames of a grotesque god?  Yet, we participate in the very act today.

While none of us may physically put our children in a fire, we put them on buses and planes and send them to distant lands, knowing their life is in the hands of the United States.  We do this in the name of freedom, in the name of democracy.  We believe that freedom cannot exist if the flag fails to fly.  We are willing to have our children die so a government can continue to promise us what only God can give.  Is it not Jesus who brings freedom (Luke 4:19)?  What god then are we trusting when we sell our children to war?

We sacrifice our children, then go to church singing God bless America and Ezekiel says,

"On the very day they sacrificed their children to their idols, they entered my sanctuary and desecrated it. That is what they did in my house" (Ezekiel 23:39).

We believe that guns and missiles will ensure our God given rights when 2 Corinthians 10:4 says the weapons followers of Christ use are not weapons of the world.  We believe we can have peace and freedom by sacrificing our children when 2 Corinthians 3:17 says freedom comes from the Spirit of the Lord.

I know many who are enlisted and on active today.  I pray that they may not have to encounter violence; I pray that they may come home safely, but I most earnestly pray that we stop relying on our children to do what only God can and has promised to do.  The ultimate sacrifice is not our children, the ultimate sacrifice is Jesus Christ upon the cross, through him we have freedom, peace, and life.