We are the generation of the next shiny object. We are afraid to commit because we distrust everything. Institutions have failed us. People turn out to have clay feet or worse. Our I-pads, smart phones and other new technology has made us stimulus junkies with short attention spans. You interest me at first but no longer. Everyone wants to be at the happening place and at the same time if we do not find anything better we want you to hold our spot. Quite frankly something better may come along and we want to keep our options open. This sometimes seems the defining characteristic of these times.
So what is an organization, church, book club, etc., to do? People always miss them when they’re gone but could not give consistent support when they were here. In an ever changing world it is hard for organizations to stay relevant and some do need to go away. But many groups that are relevant have trouble maintaining critical mass.
All of this is in part a spiritual problem. It is a spiritual when we are not able to be in the moment. When we spend our time wondering what else is going on we can never be present. When we spend our time wanting to be somewhere else we are not living in the moment. And the problem with not living in the moment it is the only time you can live.
It is a spiritual problem when we are a respecter of persons. When we are always looking for better company or more prestigious company we disrespect and devalue ourselves and the people we are with at this moment. If we truly believe in the inherent worth and dignity of everyone we can be appreciative to be in anyone’s company. We can find something to value in that person and the time you are currently spending with them.
It is a spiritual problem when we have the inability to trust. When we lose the ability to enter the flow of a movement or group we find ourselves in constant struggle with life. To trust does not mean to forget or not to verify it means to remain open to the possibilities of a group or person and the journey you are sharing with. Not to trust is to leave one lonely and feeling abandoned.
It is a spiritual problem when we do not value the good things life has given us. Looking for other places to be and people to know means we do not have appreciation of what life has given us. We often do not value the prophet in our midst or the one who has always been there for us.
If we want something to succeed we must give commitment, public relations, supporting leadership, and the courage to do it ourselves. So listen up now the cranky philosopher says develop an attention span for more than a moment. Appreciate the people you are with and not the people you want to be with. Show some patience because believe me they are showing you patience you just haven’t notice. Remove the chip from your shoulder and get out of the past so you can live in the moment. Trust again or grow old and lonely those are your choices. I said it and unlike a politician I meant it.
SIN NEEDS TO MAKE A COMEBACK
Sin. There I said it. People hate the word because it has been misused so much. You know what I am talking about ‘If you do not repent of your sins you will burn in hell for all eternity.’ Of course they mean your sins not theirs are the ones for which you will burn. It is a Christian way of claiming the moral high ground while often taking the loving low ground. I am convinced the concept of sin was not to bludgeon others with but to make us aware of the human condition. So it saddens me when we seem to be losing our awareness of the human condition and swapping it for a fantasy that the culture, world, and I am perfect.
Sin has two things it wants to communicate to us. First we all find ourselves in a world full of the sins our fathers and mothers built before we were even born. Racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism, classism and all the other isms were in the air we first breathed. Even Jesus’ birth caused the death of hundreds of babies as Herod sought to extinguish any future pretenders to his throne. I have been born with white privilege from the moment I came into the world not of my choice or my effort. It just was. This is not to say we have not been born with good things but sin wants us to be aware of the bad.
We have not only inherited a culture that is tainted but we even have genetic make-ups that have been developed over centuries that may make us more susceptible to gluttony, alcoholism, quick tempers, and other characteristics we now know that at least in part are influenced by genetics.
Now if we do not recognize this inherited sin as it is called we are endanger of not being aware of the world about us. We will find ourselves being called out on our white privilege, sexism and defend ourselves by declaring such silly things as I am not a racist or sexist just because I spoke and acted like a racist or sexist. Instead of being aware and working on the culture you were born with and improving yourself without this concept you are doomed I say doomed to relive and reinforce it for the next generation. I was born into a racist culture but through the grace of God and a lot of work, interaction, learning, and changing I am no longer of this culture but of something new and different. There is the possibility to be beyond our culture we were brought in the world with but it is impossible to not be immersed in some kind of culture. And the bad news is no culture is perfect therefore we must ever be vigilant to not be of any culture as much as that is possible.
The second thing sin teaches us of the human condition is we are far from perfect. Not only have I come into a culture that is full of unwanted things, I am also capable of doing the wrong thing or being wrong even when I feel I am right. Paul said, to paraphrase, the things I want to do I do not do. The things I do not want to do I do. We have all been there haven’t we? If we are not aware of our potential to “sin” we are doomed to relive that history again and again. But when we know that we are capable of wrong we can hear the voices that in our lives that tell us that was not a good choice or that was less than kind. We can never admit fault or ask for forgiveness and never learn there might be another way.
The problem comes when we think sin makes us totally depraved without any goodness. Being caught in the web of the sin of culture or our own flaws does not take that goodness away from us. But the goodness is not in I feel like I am a good person. It instead relies on the fact that I am on a road to develop my goodness despite the sinful nature inside and the culture outside. Any goodness comes in attempting to do good.
Finally, stop being afraid of the human condition. We all sin and we all can do good. Take the condition you have been given and despite it work on doing good things.
WAR IS ALL THE RAGE THESE DAYS
Non-violence is out of vogue. How could it be otherwise? We have been at war for over thirteen years. So since the war began all the propaganda and mentality to support war have been the order of the day. You are a hero for merely putting on the uniform not for what you do in it. Young Adult Fiction is full of post-apocalyptic stories of horror and chaos. It is a dark threatening world out there and you need to protect yourselves from all these people who want to demand your conformity. What a great way to appeal to teenagers. The world has to be full of scary people and things to continue to see the need to fight. Some of this string of reality may be healthy but we are overdosed with it.
The dark side is immigrants are now threats to our democracy, white police officers are trigger happy when approaching blacks, and refugees are invited terrorists to our land. We are consumed with paranoia. Violent oppression of minorities is usually greater when we are at war. So the majority being whites are demanding their country back in order to make it great again. These feelings are only going to get worse as war abroad continues. When everyone is convinced of the war mentality we will have to fight each other here at home. We offer the explanation more guns will lead to less violence as the violence continues to grow.
Politicians are now instead of compromising choosing sides in preparation for the Armageddon that is on the horizon. If you do not believe me listen to Glenn Beck and others on the right. Beck and some other talk radio host are now hawking different commodities based on the unavoidable collapse of society. You need to buy gold because when the economy collapses your paper money will be worth nothing. Or be sure to buy ready-made food supplies to prepare for when the government collapses and food is no longer available. Buy guns to prepare to defend yourself against a government gone rogue. I want to ask which is it? Is the government collapsing or going rogue? It’s both I am sure. Amazingly as they try to prepare you for the fall of our government and economy they assure us they are the true patriots with the best interest of our country. Myself of course have the viewpoint people who talk me down and act like I am some threat to their existence are not consider my best supporters.
They even talk about non-violence. Beck especially talks about arming yourself with guns but use non-violent methods to deal with our political crises. He does this in one breath and in the next breath spends fifteen minutes ridiculing and slandering people who he disagrees. I guess he missed the memo where non-violence included your language.
Now here is my suggestion. Let us return to a mentality of non-violence. It would help with bi-partisanship. There would be no more inflammatory language, name calling, or demonization. All things necessary for a war mentality to whip up the masses to go to war. There would be no more Us and Them language. We would recognize each other as brother and sister in the same family. There would be no more not listening to each other. It would still be time to make peace not war. There would be no more my viewpoint or the highway. A viewpoint is something a soldier is to never lose so they can be more effective. Politicians have to support the boys no matter what in a war mentality. There would be no more we need to meet violence with more violence. This is a war mentality. There would be no more need to deny the other sides facts and information. In a war mentality facts that do not support the war are propaganda. Finally decisions would not be based on fear or ideologies but love for one other.
Now of course some will say that sure is pie in the sky thinking. Of course you would we have all been captured by a culture in a war mentality for thirteen years. Non-violence is not in vogue but maybe we can start a new fad and get out of this rut we have driven ourselves into. Maybe just maybe with a little touch up here and there non-violence can make a comeback.
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Humility has died. It was buried six feet under a long time ago. Everyone I know is sure of everything. And when they say they are not sure they say that is what makes them great. So if humility is gone have we lost anything, is the question we must ask ourselves. I must confess I miss humility. I long for the days of college and seminary when issues could be talked about as questions to be studied and not sides to defend. I remember the days of after graduation from seminary and receiving gifts of money and going to the bookstore and buying Hans Kung’s book Does God Exist? My wife looked at me and said we struggled through seminary all these years and the first book you buy is Does God Exist? I think we need a refund.
But why did humility die? Did our faith grow strong and we had no more questions? Did our arteries harden and we could not think of questions anymore? Had we discovered all the answers? Or did we forget to show humility before the great questions of life? I have learned two things in life that keep me humble. There is way more to know than I will ever know and the corollary to that is what I know is flavored from my perspective and life’s circumstances.
I have also learned some things I was sure of last week were wrong (children, good friends, and wives help with this knowledge). Now rest assure I am quite confident in my point of view as anyone who knows me can testify. But I try to always crack the door open to change, being wrong, or not having a full understanding of something. Gandhian philosophy says that we each have our truth and we discover the Truth when we dialogue with each other. This is the way of humility: we recognize that truth is found in others and we have only part of the story.
The problem comes when we encounter the over-believer who cannot be wrong. While they share their uncontestable viewpoint you lose the argument because you are willing to give. I have literally been in a heated discussion and to calm the heat have said I may not understand everything. And the reply was No you do not! You know I am right and you are wrong. At that time I realized winning was the most important thing to them. I have realized at this moment I cannot be heard. So I will try to get them to accept some small point (sometimes this happens and sometimes not) and then I move on. I have not given in I have moved on. This can be unsettling to them and yourself. They want victory and you have not given it to them. You feel uncomfortable because you are convinced you are right and now you must humble yourself and move on. A good retreat lets both of you return to the field on another day when maybe winning is not so important. But to stay on that battlefield may mean blood will be shed.
Humility is shattered when we do the humble brag, name drop, always want to sit in the chair of honor, or coyly demand we be recognized for our wisdom or some other desired trait. We all come into the world as narcisstic babies crying, demanding attention and our desires regardless of where and when we find ourselves. This primal cry or urge never completely leaves us. We may tend it and show some mastery but the least out of balance our lives get it can take control. And this is humility recognizing this primal selfishness that lives in each of us. To be sure selfishness helps the baby survive but at some point we need to discern is this the time and place and not let the primal scream control us.
All of religion tries to assert that humility is necessary for good relationships with the universe and others with any luck if we can show humility throughout our lives it will be said to be buried with us when we die. Because all the things we leave behind will be a testimonial to a life lived with grace, love and substance and our greatness will be recognized.
It all seems so long ago now, the day we created the Trump. We were so innocent then and could not possibly see what lay ahead. It began simple enough with cable. The three big news stations became in competition with the newly forming news stations of cable. Newspapers suddenly found themselves in competition with blogs and online news. The viewing public was no longer able to be divided into three and the reading public was being divided into smaller and smaller special niche populations. The mighty New York Times was bleeding readers. The news industries were struggling to maintain their audiences much less grow them. Who was leaving them were the audiences on the far right and left. How do we compete with these news agencies the big three said. We must have wider appeal to an audience that now can cherry pick their news sources. So it started.
The far right views once thought to be filled with hate and misinformation were now given equal credence with the norms of fact and the growth of a better society. It was called moral equivalencies. Everything was to be presented in equal time with equal moral sway. The newscasters and reporters were to be neutered and offer no subjectivity to be totally objective ( a lie unto itself) At first this seemed so right, views that had not been shared regularly before now found themselves on equal footing with the more progressive viewpoints and best of all unchallenged. After all it was the right thing to do. The public would be able to discern who was right. But how by the passion in their voice and the confirmation of already held beliefs told with certainty and facts made up or exaggerated? The big three’s moral side was now compromised with the confusion of were they promoting this view after all I saw it on NBC it must have some legitimacy because it was not challenged only shared. The public began to expect to hear other points of views no matter how outlandish. They also expected the outlandish non mainstream views to be given equal time and treated equally. The shouting began as groups with new found airtime demanded not only expression but agreement or else declare you anathema. Truth became irrelevant because now the more important thing was holding your ratings. Because they had not entered this bargain with the devil in an effort of airing new viewpoints for truth but for the ratings they would lose their way. The beast was rising up from the swamps of toxic news.
Then the right started their own media Fox, Talk Radio, Breitbart, etc. These organizations were not concerned with moral equivalencies and non-subjective presentations. They exhibited extreme Prejudice and were convinced they were balancing the left’s bias (at least some claimed this). But the big three and most other moderate agencies were now caught in the web of moral equivalencies and non-subjective reporting as their mantras. Which meant the public either received the bias right or a watered down moderate point of view. So when the Tea Party, who never amounted to more than 15% of the population, came they were able to dominate the news. They were new, loud and created good buzz which in turn created good ratings. No one seriously challenged them at first because if you did they would leave you and go to the new right media giving them the sought after ratings. So interviews became soft and information slanted to not offend. And their small group appeared big because they were everywhere challenging all comers making them the news. The network news were the Stepford news now perfectly polite and programmed to create ratings.
We began to live in an age where the moderate and left views are either attacked or ‘balanced’ by other viewpoints. The right is either catered to or ‘balanced’ as much as they are comfortable with. The norm and factual are now relegated to where the far right was in a corner and can no longer get the truth out.
Enter the loud mouthed politicians who attract attention with outlandish non-factual statements. The shouters were once the province of the talking heads but now politicians saw room to be loud and obnoxious as a campaign strategy to garner attention and inflated importance. Chris Christie was the accepted norm with what was heralded as his New Jersey attitude. We were now used to hearing political views presented with volume, attitude, and as moral equivalencies left unchallenged. Even governors and presidential candidates spoke this way now. The seed for the Trump was planted. Trump is a media hound par excellence, self-promoter of great capacities, celebrity with reality television authority, and with money that everyone wished they had. He spouts outlandish things creating good ratings and if the press dare to challenge him more than he was comfortable they were barred from his events. His views if challenged at all were suddenly retracted or became suggestions not policies. He could challenge other candidates with loud voice, disparaging nicknames, policy simplifications, or outright lies. He spoke in a way the public had grown familiar with and to love. He was a natural politician they said. Genius of media promotion they said. But the real scary fact was we had planted the seed for him a long time ago and he had laid in wait and now the Trump had conquered the Truth. The only question left was were we to become pod people.