Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Resurrection:" An All-to-Familiar Show

I've been watching ABC's "Resurrection" since its premier. Not bad. I actually like it. I know, I know ... it's a little like "Lost" that keeps everyone guessing (and a little ticked off). And, yes, it is based on the French TV series "The Returned" but I don't care about any of that. I'm interested in -- and enjoy watching -- the development of the society around the people who have returned from the dead. The "why" and "how" will be up to the writers and I'm sure they will, in due course, explain all that. What has fascinated me is the response of the community to the circumstance. Really, I've enjoyed that development.

Some people pull together and want to learn and understand. Some react with fear. A few turn violent. There are those that react in mob form and those that react rationally.

Some are opportunists that will use the occasion consolidate some power, especially in a church setting.

It is the last person I want to discuss. Helen Edgerton - played by Veronica Cartwright -- is such a character. I've seen "Helen" many, many times in the form of a church member who seeks to use whatever means possible to bring drama, dissention, and harm. This person will take a truth (usually a half truth) and beat people up with it, under the guise of "telling you what I feel," which is really just an excuse to be rude and very, very mean.

Yes, "Helen," the script writers put you out there in all your glory.

Pastors see these "Helens" (or "Harolds") all the time. These people are a thorn in the pastor and church's side. These individuals keep things stirred up to the point where it is not worth the effort because the church / pastor is sabotaged almost constantly. These people are not recognized until they come out from the shadows, filled with rage, discord and strife. Once they raise their head to strike, the pastor will be able to recognize their subtly, but by then the poison is already injected.

And they use "truth" as a weapon. "The church has the right to know." "Just be honest, right?" "I believe in openness and transparency."

Let's remember the Prodigal Son (LK 15:11-32). According to the older brother, the Prodigal wasted the Father's inheritance money on prostitutes and wild living (Lk 15:30).  Think about it: we never would have know that fact had the older brother not told it. The truth can be just an excuse to be mean, when the Grace Thing would be to just keep it to himself.

Yes, "Helen," I recognize you, but you have had a lot of real-life names in real-life churches, and each time you have caused much harm to real people.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It's People. That's How Jesus Did It.

I'm prolly gonna get shot at for this one, but here goes.

The blog post below takes about 7-10 minutes to read. Read is slowly. Catch the significance of each sentence. It's really powerful.

It's also not politically correct for most circles -- at least, most Baptist Circles in this part of GA. Why? Well, it basically says that most of our Christian efforts are not effective, and they are not effective because -- well, really -- the ethic of Christ that is relational to those on the margins is lost in the American church. The church today is more concerned with politics, saying "no" to just about everything, or throwing money at programs / politicians / powermongers. In the end, the eternal ethic of Christ is something talked about, but not lived. While most in the church are fighting against the legal contract of marriage being open to all citizens, the least among us are treated with an insidious contempt by neglect. The powerful abuse the poor while we watch the latest mid-term polling forecast.

Worth the read.

Experimental Theology (Richard Beck)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Daily Blog

I remember well Ms. Dell Wilson. She was my high school, sophomore year, Literature instructor. I actually liked her. She was smart and, I know now, a really good teacher. And for a student like me that loved high school but despised lit class, she was a God-send.

Ms. Wilson would make us "journal" every day. I do mean every day. Usually for only 10-15 minutes, but we had to write. She didn't care what we wrote, but it had to be grammatically correct, with proper sentence structure, and a cohesive theme. Now, understand that Ms. Wilson would not assign a topic, unlike Ms. White, who would assign those esoteric and ambiguous ideas of "love" or "happiness" or "fear." I suppose being part of the human race should have automatically qualified me for speaking to those topics, but I wanted something more real, more practical, more tangible ... something along the lines US policy on the Middle East, or perhaps the legalization of marijuana. Those were topics that I could analyze and present some facts to support. But "love?" Geeeesssshhhhhh.

So everyday I had to come up with something to write about. Every day. Did you hear that, EVERY DAY. After about 2 weeks I had exhausted my arsenal of hot button political topics. What was left? What do I write about when the Arab Oil Embargo is only 5 years removed, the reinstatement of the draft is being discussed, and I've already talked about all those things?

This day she gave the standard 15 minute assignment. I look at my paper. I look at my pen. Nothing. It wasn't happening. So here I am two weeks into the semester, and I had nothing. Nothing. It was crunch time. Ten minutes left. Now, only 5 minutes left. A blank paper before me. Sweaty palms and a lot of fear as to what a grade of zero would do to my GPA. I had to do something ... anything ... but it had to be NOW.

So I wrote exactly what I was feeling, warts and all. I don't remember everything I wrote, but I do remember my first line specifically:

I'm tired.

That's it. That was my first line.

Second line was a bit more dramatic:

I have no idea what I need to be writing about.

Third line was a bit more personal:

I have a date Friday night with a girl that I really, really like.

Those lines I remember. I didn't number them but I treated each line as its own paragraph. And I kept writing those lines. While I don't remember all of them, I remember some others were along the lines of: "I wonder what this world will be like in 25 years?" "I have a test in math I need to study for." "History is my favorite subject."

Honestly, I believed I would get an "F" on the paper. It was simple. It had no depth. There was no analysis or development of thought or argument. It was just words on a paper that told what I was thinking and feeling in the most succinct manner possible.

The next day we have to do it all over again. So here I am --- again --- trying to come up with something to write about. And, again, nothing.

Then Ms. Wilson says something while she is sitting at her desk, out loud so everyone can hear. She is reading the journal entries from the day before and she calmly says, "Ryan, that was a very good journal entry you wrote yesterday."

That's all she said. She never looked up. She never made eye contact with me. She did not do anything but say that. THAT. 

And it clicked. 

In my mind, I got it. It all made sense. The point of daily journaling is to write, not to always develop a term paper with footnotes and arguments that looked like a legal brief. No, the point is to be simple and cathartic. Somehow, just putting down the words of exactly how I felt, what I feared, what I anticipated, and what I was thinking ... THAT is the whole point ... and it does ME good. It is not for anyone else, though that is a great thing when others can involve themselves in the expression, but the point is to write an express my own Whatever in a way that organizes my own thoughts and for my own benefit.

I can't help but think that blogging on the internet is nothing more than the culmination of Ms. Wilson's 10th grade lit class.

Thanks, Ms. Wilson. You done good ... er, uh, well. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mom is Getting Older

Yeah. I've been away.

I have spent the last two years trying to handle a world where I am the primary sole caregiver for my mom. It's been extremely difficult as I juggle all the things I need to do.

Funny thing is that it is harder than, say, a 5 year old. A young child will fall, wail, get up, and a kiss makes it all better. A 75 year old will fall and it's a ride in the ambulance, xrays, and 6 months of doctor offices.

Guilt. I suppose I feel more guilt than exhaustion, though the latter is certainly real. I feel guilty because I am unable to do it all, as in everything. I had always believed it was just a matter of scheduling, commitment, determination and planning. I even had some pride in myself that I could do more than my peers, tackle the tougher assignments, be more in-depth regarding a topic, and still have time to give to a few Good Causes to boot. No longer.

I'm lucky if I can just put out the daily fires that need to be extinguished, and I'm leaving the infernos still raging from the previous day, week, or even month.

Yet, I feel compelled to write. Not just for someone who may be reading this but for me. Yes, me. I need to put my thoughts together in some format that makes the world make sense again. I need a voice. I need a place to lament. I need that blank screen to scream, yell, curse, shout, cry, or just speak, even if it's only to myself.

I miss people.

Really. I miss people. That sounds strange to me; strange because it is my job to meet people, understand their unique situations and needs, offer solutions, give comfort, celebrate, or just chat. That's my job. I do it well. I talk with at least 30 people a day in serious conversation. But I miss people. Not people as in human contact, but people as in complete strangers who just strike up a conversation and enjoy the moment of that real connection. Or time with friends when we can sit and enjoy the meal without the worry of getting home in time to make sure the medicines are taken, the cat box is emptied, the food is stored away properly, or having enough drive time for the next medical appointment. No, I'm not talking about the employees at the grocery store who know me by name because I'm there nearly everyday to get food, prescriptions or cleaning supplies. Nope. I'm talking about conversations for the sake of conversations; laughter from the belly; sharing stories never heard before; feeling other people's hurt and not just my own.

I miss that. I miss feeling the humanity in others because I'm consumed with the demands of being a parent to my kids, and a parent to my own parent. There is no time left to feel -- I only have time to do.

I'm not my best for anyone: the rest of my family, my clients, or the causes I support. I'm my best for a situation for which I have no control and I am only along for the ride.

America is going to have to come to grips with my present reality as the Baby Boomers begin to enter the retirement years. Soon, my reality will be the norm, not the felt-sorry-for-circumstance-of-someone-down-the-street. Society will have to come to grips with the financial and emotional drain of aging parents. I'll leave that discussion for another time.

Now, don't get me wrong in all this. I am not complaining about task at hand because I'm thankful I can do this. I wouldn't trade this situation for anything in the world. It's been fun getting to know my mom in a whole new way. Frankly, I never knew she knew so many swear words, and that she could use them so quickly and so correctly in such amazing patterns.

What I'm saying is that one day, I'm fairly certain, my kids will have to do this for me and my care. I apologize to them now for their future anxieties. But what of others who have no one, nor the resources, to care for their aging relatives?

I no longer have the answers, the time, nor the energy I once had. Instead, I have a mom who needs me. And it's the least I can do.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Judge Amanda Williams is Having a Bad Day

Finally. It is finally her day to have to answer for her actions. I'm betting she is not going to like it when all the rocks are pulled up for everyone to see the Gestapo tactics she has used to run roughshod over Glynn and Camden Counties for a long, long time. (See my prior blog post and the comments. I should also say that I received several emails from people recalling similar stories to what Ira Glass had reported in his This American Life spot.)

Here is the link to the AP story.

Whether it goes to a full hearing or not, I don't know. She may settle. I'm hoping she doesn't settle because the people whom she has terrified for two decades deserve to have it all laid bare; they deserve some vindication with her public embarrassment.

Judge Amanda Williams could also face criminal charges if it is found she did indeed make false statements concerning the investigation (link to The Republic).

If you want to read the actual charges against her, check out this link.

Lady Justice can be really nasty when she is pushed over the line. Judge Williams has been pushing a long time and Lady Justice is finally pushing back.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2012 Presidential Qualification Question

Politics sorely disgusts me. That used to not be the case as I enjoyed the sparring, discussion and learning. Now, not so much. The reason is that discussion and learning have taken a back seat to the campaign of character assassination and presenting half truth (or sometimes, not even truth at all).

Of course, we've seen all this before. It is nothing new. Still, it is "new" to me in the sense that I really believed some of the people I personally knew were above that. They weren't.

So I'm a bit jaded. Ok. Very jaded.

There is an interesting read by Bruce Gourley in the Baptist Studies Bulletin, Oct. 2011 concerning the current kerfuffle over Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith. It is a good analysis.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Time for Outrage" by Stephane Hessel

Stephane Hessel is a hero --- a French Resistance leader in WW 2. And no he has written a book, Time for Outrage, and has managed to tick off a lot of people. Why? Because he has sold 2 million copies in France and his book is now in 30 languages and is just now released in the US. (Actually, it is a pamplet but here is the Amazon Link.)

Hessel, at age 94, is still fighting and encouraging others to do the same. The difference is that instead of fighting against the Nazi Regime, Hessel is calling for fighters to rise up against injustice. Of course, injustice is a broad term and is often quite arbitrary.

Some injustice is easy to spot: racism; bigotry; and crime. Or is it? What about corporations that legally (though not ethically) take land from average citizens? What about governments that use the taxpayer to fund legal actions against everyday citizens who stand up to fight against corruption? What about protesters who stand up for the least among us, while corporations and politicians ignore the plight of the weak and powerless regarding health care? What about parents who stand up against the educational system that promotes mediocrity while ignoring the needs of the handicapped or gifted? What about citizens who stand up for the right of minority faiths when the majority taxpayer wants his religion to get preferential treatment by the government?

Sadly, those sort of injustices are seen as political actions by the left instead of what they really are --- injustices on the weakest citizens by the power, influence and money of the majority. What should be a call for justice is marginalized by the political majority.

Jesus was treated no differently. Why should we be surprised today when it happens again?

This inspires met. (NPR Link.)

"If you want to be a real human being — a real woman, a real man — you cannot tolerate things which put you to indignation, to outrage," he says. "You must stand up. I always say to people, 'Look around; look at what makes you unhappy, what makes you furious, and then engage yourself in some action.'"

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jefferson, the Anti-Christ and Supporter of the Separation of Church & State

It is almost absurd for the modern American to think of Thomas Jefferson with contempt or scorn, but in the early days of the Republic, Jefferson was not liked very well by the religious establishment. The reason, simply put, is that Jefferson had adopted that crazy, radical, out-there notion that America needed the complete separation of church & state. He came to this conclusion from both a secular point of view as an Enlightenment thinker, but also was greatly influenced by the Virginia Baptists who adopted the separation of church and state as a theological construct.

Naturally, this position ran afoul of the established churches since they would be losing their semi-official power structures (and in some case, the official position of power). Thus began the labeling of Jefferson as the Anti-Christ by most religious leaders of that day, who made the claim that America would collapse because it didn't recognize God in its founding document or make Christianity its official religion.

But the Baptists found Jefferson to be a friend in their call for the separation of church and state (Link). Now granted, Jefferson wouldn't have made a good Baptist in this theology but the Baptists did support Jefferson and even delivered a Big Cheese to him to show their appreciation.

All of this reminds me of today where it seems that the very people who are trying to protect the religious liberty of everyone often becomes the target of those wanting the majority faith to get a favored status. No different today than it was in Jefferson's world. Same players. Same issues. Different dates on the calendar.

As the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty puts it (Link):  The same Constitution that refuses to privilege any religion, protects all religions. As a result, we are a nation of Christians sociologically because we are not a Christian nation constitutionally.

Keep that wall.

Monday, September 26, 2011

ALA Criminals Say Amen or Serve Time

Bay Minette, AL, has instituted a new policy for criminals with misdomeanor convictions to serve their time either in jail or in church.

WKRG.com News Link

What were they thinking?

Silly me. Obviously they thought a Little Bit 'O Jesus would do these people some good. So instead of relying on the private religious groups their opportunity to minister, the city has decided to help the Holy Spirit out by using the tax payer's Sword of Justice, and require prisoners to choose their sentence.

So church is now a punishment?

Wonder how these people would feel if a mosque chose to be one of the preferred organizations on the list?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Taking a Trip

I've always enjoyed going places. Why, I even get excited driving 10 miles down the road to Hiram, GA, a town that now has my favorite Mexican restaurant in all the world, Jalapeno Joe's. (Their Chicken Soup must be one of the dishes served in heaven. I'm certain of it.) There isn't much else in Hiram and the traffic is something Stephen King would like but that is not the point of this post.

I'm going on a vacation tomorrow. So I thought I would suggest a blog I found for some of you that enjoy some really good writting that makes you think. Now I mean really think. And have your ideas challenged.

Experimental Theology by Richard Beck.

Check it out.