Friday, November 22, 2019

Impeaching Oneself...

Nope. Not going to be about what you thought, once again. If "impeachment" is a remedy for a public official who cannot be charged with a crime while in office, how does that compare with how we are called, as Christian believers, to be accountable for sin? See--not what you thought.

If we believe the New Testament biblical narrative and the teachings of Jesus and Paul, forgiveness of our sins is an act of God's grace and not contingent, at all, upon our actions. We receive this gift by saying "yes" to it--no magic incantations, no throwing clams at the sun, no self-flagellation--not even any specific "sinner's prayer" we have to say out loud with a qualified salvation "counselor." So, this lifting of the charges against us by God puts us in a similar position to the President of the United States, whom the Justice Department says cannot be charged with a crime while in office.

Now that we're forgiven, where does "accountability" come in? This is where we must impeach ourselves. What I mean by that is that we set out to live into our redemption by incorporating the teachings of Jesus into our attitudes, actions, and judgments. This process of integrating our faith into "real" life is what some might call discipleship. The problem is that the church has made such a big deal out of being "saved" or "born again," we have so downplayed the actual aim of living as a redeemed, beloved child of God. There is so much focus on "sin" in our lives that it often turns us into spiritual narcissists--it's all about us. Or, if we aim the "sin" beam on others, it's about THEM, and why they should be judged. In this distorted effort, it's time to impeach ourselves for violating the terms of our "office"--"Go and make disciples of all nations...", not "Call out the sin you see in other people and tell them exactly what they must do to be saved like you." (I think Jesus addressed this impeachable offense with the story of the speck in the other's eye and the log in our eye...)

The Bard said, "To thine own self, be true." This is the first step in following the teachings of Jesus to "love your neighbor as you love yourself." It means we are compelled to get to know ourselves at a sober, honest level--Like God wants to know us--which leads, necessarily, to a healthy level of self-respect. And from this good grounding, we are able to help and serve our neighbor, offering dignity and respect to them as well. Notice that the end result of getting our own act together is serving and respecting the other. Why is it so easy to move to judgment, rather than love, when we finally find our spiritual footing? What part of "Judge not, lest you be judged" don't we get? Judging rather than loving is an impeachable offense, which is way beyond our pay grade. The promise of grace says God won't do it, so we must impeach ourselves from this temptation.

It has become almost a joke today that when public officials are charged with an offense, they rarely take responsibility, either denying the charge, or invoking the useless assessment, "Mistakes were made." Accountability is becoming a profane concept, culturally. Copping to a faux pas, apologizing to those offended, and asking forgiveness is a sure way to get dumped in the next election or get fired from a job, in the current environment. This shift is truly an impeachable offense, especially for the Christian, but again, it is we who must impeach ourselves in order to short circuit this "blame game."

I have a confession to make: I'm a really good excuse maker-upper. I can be pretty creative in crafting excuses to let myself off the hook, from time to time. The worst of this is not what I tell others, but what I swallow myself in order to sincerely believe my own excuse! For, you see, if I am truly convinced the excuse is genuine, it is easy to broadcast it publicly. Yes, there are times I can convincingly lie to myself, and believe my own lie. If I believe it, I can act on it with integrity. If this sounds nuts, it IS! And yet, I'll bet I'm not alone in this pesky, personal, prevarication process. What say you? Yeah, it's probably human nature to save one's own posterior first, but according to the teachings of Jesus, this is also an impeachable offense. "The one who wants to be the greatest among you must first become the servant of all." Jesus' teachings can be viewed as "A Guide to Avoid Becoming a Narcissist."

I spoke with a friend the other day who told me of his journey, and how he has, through a series of life events that would have caused 99.9% of the rest of us to throw in the towel, come to truly love and respect other people. He feels a deep emotional and spiritual connection with others, harbors a profound sense of gratitude for how his life has turned out, in spite of past suffering and peril, and believes he is truly connected with mother earth. I think he came to see me, last least partly, because he wondered what he is doing "wrong." A truly humble man, he wished to share some of his story with others, but didn't want to seem like he had found some unique "secret." Truly, what he has found is faith, the divine--and himself. And he is quite comfortable with that. I suggested that he share his story in small doses, lest he either not be believed, or someone decides to nail him to a cross. His story may have been the most UNimpeachable one I have heard in a long time. I was blessed to hear it, and quick to affirm it.

Hold your own hearings, my friends. Draw up your own Articles of Impeachment to "fire" those parts of your journey that disconnect you from God, others, or yourself. But remember, your vote is the only one that counts, as in Jesus Christ, God has already voted. Live into your redemption, Yinz. One by one, it will transform the world.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

A Blog about nothing...

If Seinfeld could be a show about nothing, might a blog be so? Well, if you take stock of everything happening in the country, there are thousands of pieces of news to address, so, basically I'm on news overload. Hence, I've decided to write about nothing. Here goes...

Bloom County is a cartoon drawn by Berkeley Breathed, a talented, but possibly deranged artist. In Bloom County, Breathed has created a host of beloved characters, including perverted attorney Steve Dallas, a young Jerry Seinfeld-like human named Milo Bloom (after which the strip is named, and around whom the "action" takes place), Bill the Cat, who is pretty much the feline version of Jeffrey Lebowski, and the "Kramer" character, played by a flightless waterfowl named Opus. Breathed uses the light-hearted antics of his penciled protagonists to perform all manner of satire and spoof, much of it social commentary, and, of course, some political. The actual syndicated comic strip ran in hundreds of newspapers across the USA, until Breathed took a break in 1989. He recently began drawing it again, distributing it for free on a Facebook page. His foils over the years have included presidents (including Donald Trump before he was elected), Hollywood elites, and fictitious politicians standing in for real life politicos. Around presidential election time, the American Meadow Party has its convention, at which point it typically nominates Bill the Cat and Opus as their candidates, to run against the party favorites of the other two major parties.

My favorite "race" strip was during the 1984 election cycle when Ronald Reagan was running against Walter Mondale. The American Meadow Party yet again nominated Bill the Cat (who was temporarily deceased, at that point until strip genius Oliver Wendell Jones resurrected him from one of his nine lives) and Opus, the penguin, who had left the convention to go out for Ding Dongs. As they had just completed their nominations, a man with a "Mondale for President" hat stuck his head in the door of the hotel room where the Meadow Party was meeting, asking,
    "Is this the Democratic National Convention?"
Milo Bloom replied,
   "No, this is the American Meadow Party."
The Mondale supporter inquired,
   "Oh? Who are you guys putting up against Reagan?"
Bloom answered,
   "A dead cat."
To which the Mondale man shrugged his shoulders and answered,
   "Oh, what the hell..." and joined the Meadow Party.

As one who gets WAY too torqued over political happenings and social justice advocacy, Bloom County is a needed piece of comic relief. Even though Breathed's strip is a soft version of Doonesbury, without shying away from all social commentary, it soothes the inflamed spirit and uses its mix of lovable, anthropomorphic animal characters and loony humans to build a joyous, two-dimensional community.

See, nothing.

Halloween just ended and Thanksgiving is coming, so that means Pumpkin everything is on the shelves. As one who likes only Pumpkin Pie, I am malignantly disaffected. Is there anything left that is not available in Pumpkin flavoring? Here are a few things I can think of: Pez candy; ketchup; Tootsie Roll Pops; meatloaf; axle grease; bourbon; Communion wafers; multi-vitamins; and olives.

I also eschew flavored coffees, if you exclude Irish Coffee, which I do like as a dessert. Other than that, I like my coffee coffee flavored, without Hazelnut, Vanilla, Maple Bacon, or Pumpkin.

Speaking of Halloween, why is it so hard to find apple cider all year round? Apples are grown somewhere all of the time. This is disappointing.

On a political note: don't forget to vote on Tuesday, November 5. You should always vote when you have the opportunity--it's an American right, and a civic responsibility. I urge you to vote "NO" on Marcy's Law. Using only 75 well-chosen words to describe a 500-word amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution, it is being marketed as a "no-brainer" victim's rights bill. However, it hides what may be serious limits to the rights of the accused, and since it requires several changes to the PA constitution, it violates the constitution, which states that changes to different parts of the constitution should be enacted individually, not in an omnibus referendum like this with a simple "YES" or "NO" vote. Both the ACLU and the League of Women Voters is urging a "No" vote on Marcy's Law, and I concur.

Speaking of pumpkins, I've seen a lot of posts on Facebook and other social media decrying why someone would steal a child's carved pumpkin from their front porch. Unless the pumpkin is observed smashed in the middle of the street, I've come to realize that it has probably been taken/eaten by a white-tailed deer. The deer like pumpkins, and deer are everywhere around our developments, because we have built whole communities over their former home woods.

Well, that's all the nothing I can think of for now. This doesn't bode well for this weekend's sermon...

What's Next?

  What’s Next?   2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 6:1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 6:2 David and all the people...