Jumping Outside of the Box

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

There is a widespread feeling that as a nation, as a people, we need to make some profound changes, but we don’t know how to escape the box that we live in.  Some people have put forth ideas that at first feel radical and later come to feel necessary, but don’t really know how to get there, while others feel stifled and stuck but also threatened by all the changes being proposed.  Lately we’ve had a leader who has taken a sledge hammer to our way of life and our cherished values, but that has only destroyed what was good without bringing anything good to take its place. I think that secretly we want to expand our boundaries and explore new possibilities, but without “leaving home.”

So if we are living in a box (even a box with smashed walls) how do we get beyond it? How do we jump (to use a different metaphor) out of the frying pan without landing in the fire? How do we effect change in a way that will be life-giving?

Today I’m offering some thoughts I’ve long held and once preached about that I think might be helpful. If you like you can hear it here, in an audio of that sermon: 

The First Duty of Love

listening heartHere in America we are going through a cultural crisis and severe partisan division. Our divisions are characterized by an extreme unwillingness to listen to anyone who doesn’t share our point of view.  We are doing more talking than listening, and our talk is going on in silos, so that all we hear is other people shouting at us from across a great distance. Continue reading “The First Duty of Love”

The Trouble With Lying


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Fake news. Alternative facts. Calling lies truth and truth lies. “Gas-lighting,” that tool that some use to diminish and control others (found especially in abusive marriages) is a particularly pernicious form of lying. How are we ever to sort out what to believe?

Simply put, the trouble with lying is that it’s destructive on so many levels. Continue reading “The Trouble With Lying”

Drastic remedy?

Kalapana, Hawaii where sea meets lavaI began praying during the Obama years for the Republican party to be impeached (which I know isn’t possible constitutionally) because they appeared to me to be so blatantly racist in their opposition to everything Obama said and did, committed not to governing collaboratively but instead to persistent obstruction and vilification.  “How do we impeach a Congress?” I asked no one in particular. But now it seems to me that the Republicans have been impeaching themselves through these last three years of candidacy and presidency.  It looks like a greater good is being done through all the chaos: we may be experiencing a genuine purging of our national life.

Purging is good. It’s deeply unpleasant, sometimes painful, even dangerous, but sometimes it’s necessary, if the health of the body is to be restored. We have needed a purging in our national life for many decades: purging of racism, of misogyny, and of the lust for power and the irresponsible and greedy uses to which is has been put. A purging especially of the sinful heritage of slavery that still burdens us. Our un-repented racism has left a deep stain on the goodness of our nation and of our aspirations. It has weakened us in ways we’ve refused to see.

We seem to be waking up now. There are good and courageous people speaking out and doing all they can to speak truth to power and to expose the lies that keep the sickness raging. The important question is, what will we do about it? How will this story end? Are we living in an unfolding comedy or tragedy?

Though many are beginning to see and to speak aloud about the diseases that have weakened and ravaged us, this is still a crisis in the truest sense, for it could go either way.  Those who choose to be willfully blind are still powerful and resist strongly. Those who love their privilege and power too much feel threatened and fight back hard against the voices seeking and speaking truth. Which voices will prevail? Will we be cleansed, or will the diseases only go into remission to emerge again in great force later? Will they go into remission at all?

I’m praying that this crisis will turn out to be a healthy cleansing, opening the way for a genuine renewal of our national life. Now is the time. Too much is at stake for us to let this time pass without doing everything we can to create a healthier body politic. I don’t mean to sound “preachy” (I can’t seem to help myself), but as a nation we would do well to find a way to engage in the ancient remedies provided us by the major religions: a process of confession, remorse, repentance (i.e., embodying a radical change of heart), and a fully realized commitment to new behaviors that will shape the future.  Sadly, I don’t see that happening under our present leadership. But leadership can be changed. In the next election we have an opportunity to prove that we can be better than this.

Scripture says it is the gentle, the wise, the loving who will inherit the earth, not the bully and not the liar. That’s what I’m hoping for. May it be soon, please, Lord.  And may we not fail the opportunity that is open to us in these dangerous times.

Strength or weakness?

38a90875-557c-4676-a9f4-e3320a8f69f7Notes from Pope Francis at a TED 2017 Conference in Vancouver, Canada. Here’s what he said (the emphasis is mine):

“[Tenderness is] the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.

I couldn’t agree more. Here are my thoughts. The one who is genuinely and deeply weak is the one who often becomes the most outrageous bully, trying to hide his (or her) insecurity under a blanket of bluster, attack, and threat. It is always a mistake to give our power away to such people. They are to be pitied and not encouraged to continue in their behavior by our fear of them. Dear God, how did America ever get to such a place that we gave the power of the presidency into the hands of the weakest, most pathetic bully?! His power is ruining him and he doesn’t seem to know it. But worse, it is ruining the lives of so many people and of the one nation on earth that used to be the best hope of the earth (in my humble opinion).

A challenge to America

“America first proclaimed its independence on the basis of self-evident moral truths. America will remain a beacon of freedom for the world as long as it stands by those moral truths which are the very heart of its historical experience…. And so America, if you want peace, work for justice. If you want justice, defend life. If you want life, embrace truth — truth revealed by God.”
— Pope John Paul II in St. Louis, MO, January 26, 1999.