Wednesday, November 30, 2005
I got some serious flack from that post and feel I should clear things up. I want to first say this (which I heard a presenter say at a recent conference)--don't hear what I'm not saying. When I cited Bill Press I knew that red flags would go up. Heck, when I was creating the code to link to his cite I had to beat the red flags out of my face. Just because I cite Bill Press or any other article or author (see my right margin also) doesn't mean that I necessarily agree with them 100%, 70% or even 18%. And just because I do not cite certain other websites or authors doesn't mean that I'm anti this or anti that.
So, why did I post that article? Well, before I answer that let me say a few other things. I personally believe that Press over shot some of his statements. I highly doubt that President Bush assigned an IRS hit man to target the church. I don't know who did or why. I highly doubt that Richard Nixon is a fitting comparison with President Bush. And I don't really think that President Bush wants to headhunt that church or, as far as I know, Valerie Plame or Joe Wison.
I know where Press leans politically but I was intrigued by his comments about Jesus. That's what I wanted to look at.
Further, another reason is that I spent some time doing summer missions in Vancouver, B.C. When I was there a conservative church in the western part of the country was speaking out against the Canadian government's endorsement of homosexual marriage. That church had its tax-exempt status challenged because the church was speaking about "policy and politics." And even in British Columbia some pastors were having to weigh what they could and could not say on Sundays. My concern is that if a "liberal" church could face that kind of treatment then what about "conservative" churches when the pendulum swings, which it usually does?
My point was not that I support all of the doctrine of the liberal or conservative churches but that I am concerned that any faith community is threatened because of their stance on any moral issue. What if, in the future, (imagine this!) that there are unfair taxes on a vulnerable group of people and the church, like the Prophet Amos decries it, what then? The church, in my opinion, should be very interested in some developments within our government, because we should not separate our faith from our practice. However, I think that eventually church after church may have to come to a point and say, "Tax-exempt status be damned, we're doing what's right." Our hope doesn't come from exemption or from the government, in reality, our help comes from the Lord.
My parents read this site and give me feedback about some of my thoughts. Bless their hearts they had to live with me. Emailing my dad helped me sort through some of my thoughts. One person read this and told me that he was sorely diappointed that I would have an article like this. A person said I was, in essence, leaving behind Jesus, and therefore becoming "leftist." One said he would never read the cite again. And who said I couldn't kill multiple birds with one stone!!!! I guess that's why my degree wasn't in marketing.
I've spent over a week thinking of what to write in response, so thanks, Dad for the good help.
I was reading Evelyn Underhill (excerpts actually, from Devotional Classics) and she wrote, gee, 80 or so years ago about how three faculties (thinking, feeling, acting) go into praying and living out the "spiritual life." It seemed simplistic, which means that it was the hardest thing to do. So I spent some time thinking about what I needed to pray about, and well, I didn't get much past that. I often find that in my prayer my thoughts are jumbled and run from one thing to the next. I hope God doesn't mind. So I went in and out of that kind of prayer, which was really frustrating. Maybe I was still drowsy and not fully awakened, maybe I've just been out of my routine and rhythm, or maybe it was just one of those days and even though God didn't seem close he actually was. You ever have prayers or times like that?
My first thought was, "God I feel distanced from you." But then I realized that was a general statement so I needed to specify. I didn't feel God was far away when we were having some certain conversations at Jane and Jon's in St. Louis. I didn't feel God was far away when we talked to the soldier (see post below). The answer was, I felt far from God as it related to my reading of Scripture, prayer and personal worship. I want to get into a better rhythm and have felt the urge and starting tomorrow will take action.
That's a new kind of thought or two for me. It's not that I segment my life, but that in reality we have so many "tentacles" attaching to God at different places in our life (our personal, our private, our communal, and others) that at times we neglect some connections and they get corroded or become limp from dis-use.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
A great thing happened on the way home from Thanksgiving holiday. Barb and I make it to our gate two hours before the plane was scheduled to take off--we thought there might be other people wanting to fly that day. We sat down, got out our respective Narnia books and started reading. Do you ever enter into "book coma?" You know, you read and you read and all of the sudden an hour has passed and you hardly noticed. Well, when I came out of "book coma" I heard a man speaking to someone. I looked over to my left (Barb was on my left also) and I saw a 60-ish man speaking to a 20-ish man dressed in his battle fatigues. The soldier was sitting on a luggage rack as the whole seating area was full. Actually, Barb and I had our stuff in an extra seat, but that was before the "book coma." We're usually thoughtful people.
I heard the soldier tell the man he was going to battle, his first battle. My heart was instantly pulled toward him, and I felt God (somehow and in someway) prompt me to pay attention). Me, being the great "follower of Jesus" I am, tried to push it aside, saying, "Gosh, really. No, you can't want me to talk to a complete stranger about his faith. I'm really sensitive to sharing my faith and always try to go about it in sensitive, articulate and appropriate ways. How was this going to be any of that?
So, I go back to reading my book. And, well, Barb awoke from her book coma and said, "Jase, there's a soldier over here. He's going to battle. We should invite him to sit up here instead of on that rack."
"Yeah, of course. There's no need for him to sit there."
Barb invited him over and he sat on the end seat. I sat in the middle and Barb sat to my right. It was a three seat bench facing the runway.
"Thanks for giving me this seat."
"No, problem, man."
"We heard you were going. Where to?"
"Wow. I think we're on the wrong flight. We were only wanting to go to San Francisco." (actually, I didn't say that, but it would've been funny.)
Then he wanted to deflect attention off of himself, "How was your Thanksgiving? Are you from St. Louis?" We told him where we are from originally and that we live in the Bay Area.
He told us how he had just seen his family and his niece and how hard it was to believe that his brother had a wife and kid now. This soldier was only 23 and was the older of the brothers.
"Is it difficult to leave them right now?"
"You know, I've always wanted to do this, ever since I was little. When I jump from the plane there's nothing else I want to do. I can't believe I get paid to do it. So, yes and no."
I said, "It's good to find something that you are passionate about and come to a place where you can do that for a living."
"What do you two do?"
Barb told him she was an art teacher and I told him I was a pastor at a church north of San Francisco. He asked us what it's like to live in SF. I told him that there are some who solidify the stereotypes of SF but that many people are down to earth, that a lot of people fly the American flag, have patriotic bumper stickers and that I see innumerous "Support Our Troops" bumper stickers.
He said he had an art teacher that Barb reminded him of and they talked a little bit about that. He then went on to tell Barb and me about how he is greeted sometimes when he and some of his friends go out. Some places have paid for his meal when they see his military i.d.. Some people go out of the way to walk over and shake his/their hands and thank him for their service.
And then a surprise. He told us how some others greet them. He told us how some people are very antiwar and have threatened he and his friends and in one city even shot at the soldiers. It hurt for Barb and I to hear it and I'm sure it hurt him to have that happen, to leave and to serve and to face that at home. Unthinkable. But he never cursed those people and even in talking to us he was very calm and seemed to give leniency to them.
I patted him on the back and told him thanks for serving America and for doing the dangerous and hard thing. He shook our hands and we exchanged names. His name is Carl. I ended up giving him a book I was reading through and put Barb's and my name in so that he would remember us and know that we would be thinking of him.
Well, we were approaching "conversation coma" and then we realized that it was time to get on. We were going to be last in line. So we said our good-byes and he headed for the line. We ran to the restrooms real quick and watched him from a distance. The person behind him in line had also been in the service and he and Carl were chewing the fat.
I can't put to words what that did to me. Sometimes the war can become something like a miniseries on television. But that 15 or so minutes with this great American soldier restirred my love for our country, not that my love had diminished, mind you. Carl and thousands like him do the dangerous and brave thing so that I can travel freely with my wife, vote, speak about my faith openly and, yes, even blog without threat or pain of death.
Carl is scheduled to finish his tour in 18 months, so in the summer of 2007 (that's right) he will have finished his tour of duty. "God, preserve Carl there, and give him protection, guidance and wisdom in those hard decisions he talked about having to make. Bring comfort to his stateside family and peace to this earth. Amen."
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Eventhough the question was directed to Barb I answered for us. So Wednesday we arrived in St. Louis. That night we planned to surprise Bill and Brenda, Barb's parents, as they had just driven in from Kansas City. Bill opened the door and had a stunned look on his face and then closed the door right in our face. It's was priceless. We were greeted with the best hugs and kisses.
The next day we drove to the in-laws of Barb's sister, Bev. We stood outside as Bill and Brenda went inside and told them that they needed help getting some things out of the car. We surprised them and got hugs all around. It is a moment I will not forget.
Jane and Jon are such great people and their children, our cousins, Molly and Matthew, are becoming good friends of ours. I can't say how much I really enjoyed being here.
However, Barb and I did end up with the bug, so last night was a very long night. I've been meaning to lose those ten pounds, but I had other things in mind. We fly out tomorrow afternoon and begin the grind.
Hope all is well.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Below is an article that grabbed my attention. There is a cause for concern in this piece. I have a few questions I'm asking that I've included at the end. Feel free to include your questions or even some of your thoughts. I'd be very pleased to hear what others think..
Church Opposes War - IRS Declares War On Church November 10, 2005
Written by Bill Press and taken from www.billpress.com
Richard Nixon lives. In one of the more notorious acts of his presidency, Nixon turned the Internal Revenue Service into a White House attack dog, unleashing them to go after anyone who dared cross his path: Alabama Gov. George Wallace, Democratic Chair Lawrence O’Brien, Sen. George McGovern and the Ford Foundation, among others.
Richard Nixon lives on in the person of George W. Bush, only more evil than ever. At least Nixon only sicced the IRS on his political enemies. Bush has turned the tax cops loose on at least one religious leader simply for expressing his opposition to the war in Iraq. And he won’t be the last.
It started with All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., where Rector J. Edwin Bacon was recently notified by the IRS that his church risks losing its tax-exempt status. Why? “A reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church,” warned the IRS, because of a sermon preached by former rector George F. Regas on Oct. 31, 2004, shortly before the last presidential election.
Regas is one of Southern California’s best known clergymen, and a long-time peace activist. He was an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq. I met him in the 1980s, when he helped lead opposition to the Reagan administration’s illegal support of the contras in Nicaragua. It was no surprise when he stepped into the pulpit and spoke in opposition to the war in Iraq.
That’s not an unusual position for a priest, rabbi or minister to take. Regas, in fact, was doing nothing more than echoing the teachings of the Prince of Peace: “Put your sword back in its place. For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” In his sermon, Regas told the congregation that, were Jesus Christ alive today, He would not support the war in Iraq. In fact, said Regas, if Jesus could only make it through White House security (a Middle Eastern man with a beard?), he would tell Bush: “Mr. President, your doctrine of pre-emptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster.”
In taking that stand, Regas was hardly alone among church leaders. In fact, during the buildup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, only one religious organization — the Southern Baptist Convention — supported the war. Every other church or organization, including many individual Baptist churches, came out in opposition. The general secretary of the World Council of Churches called the war in Iraq “illegal, immoral and unwise.” Pope John Paul II sent his personal emissary to tell President Bush his plans for war were morally indefensible.
Indeed, when it comes to war, it is pro-war Christians, not anti-war Christians, who should bear the burden. The message of Jesus is clear: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Let those Christians who opt for war over peace explain why they know better than Jesus. But don’t punish those who take Him seriously and oppose a particular war — especially an unprovoked, pre-emptive war.
So why was Regas singled out for retaliation by the IRS? Surely, not for preaching the Gospel. But not for violating the separation of church and state, either. In opposing the war, he was talking policy, not politics. In fact, in that same anti-war sermon, Regas said that “good people of profound faith” could vote for either John Kerry or George W. Bush. He made no endorsement. No, Regas was singled out for one reason only: because he dared speak out against the war in Iraq. Consider this: Regas purposely did not tell members of his flock how to vote. Yet, at the same time, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other evangelical preachers told their followers it was their “Christian duty” to vote for Bush. Now Regas is targeted by the IRS, while Falwell and Robertson are not: proof that the attack on Regas is part of a political witch hunt, initiated by the Bush White House, and directed against critics of the war.
There’s one way to stop the IRS. All George Bush has to do is pull the plug. Of course, he’ll never do that. Bush wants to destroy Rev. George Regas, just like he tried to destroy Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame — and he won’t hesitate to use taxpayer-funded government agencies to do so. Even Richard Nixon would be appalled. --end
What of this is over-the-top rhetoric (witch hunt, "destroy Joe Wilson", et al) and what is factual?
--Should the IRS do that to any religious group who expresses an opinion opposite the current administration?
--Did Jesus really mean what he said, even what he said concerning war and conflict? If not, then how many qualifiers must be included in explaining my point?
--Is it true that Regas was targeted even though he didn't endorse either candidate and yet others who did endorse a candidate were not "targeted?"
--If others call Bill Press "liberal" does that make his articles less powerful even if it might be based on fact?
--President Bush, a man of [Christian] faith, had many believers counsel him against this war. How did this advice effect him or any of his decisions?
--What is the role of faith communities when it comes to voicing concerns over policy or any government in any part of the world?
--Are you concerned with what you read?
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
First, it's my birthday month.
Second, it's when both sides of my family (Reed and Elder) would gather.
Third, nothing is really expected toward the end of the month--just eating food, watching tv, and sleeping.
Fourth, I love being warm. Growing up we had this great wood heater that would suffocate the house with heat. I love the warmth and I love to see the smoke billowing from chimneys.
Fifth, gee, it's getting kind of thin. Perhaps I love how everything slows down. I think this season mathces my "rhythm." Does that make sense to you? I have friends who are definitely Spring people, or live for July. For me, I prefer the Fall. Actually, since being married, most of the trips Barb and I take are during this time. Did you know that "the Lost Coast" north of here and Monterrey, south of here, are both very beautiful. Every bit as beautiful as it is in summer, and that's saying a lot.
Anyway, how about you?
Friday, November 04, 2005
You know, sometimes I've got so much to say I can't wait to sign in to blogger and power up my text box so I can give my thoughts some kind of outlet. At other times, perhaps like today, I do have some thoughts to share but I'm not really clear on what it is I should write about, so forgive me if I ramble.
I took a drive on Highway 37 today toward the south side of Petaluma. It's beautiful country. I took a left onto Lakeville Highway which is lined with vineyards, dairies and other family farms. The eucalyptus trees spread up and hold hands over the top of the road as if the London Bridge is falling down. It rained a bit last night and the morning air was crisp like the first breath you take after a good dream. The clouds were marching by twos right above the coastal range and were white, black and gray--kaleidiscopic, schizophrenic and hypnotic. The leaves bounced in a wake in my rear view mirror and the road curved like suspenders on a portly old man. I found myself, with only 30 minutes separating me and my home, in another land, much like the land in which you find yourself as you read a book. It's like you are looking not down into the story of the book but are a participant in all that is happening. And so I felt I was not just floating through but a part of it all. And when I turned that curve and went upward over the mound I saw, 20 miles away, the city rising up through the Bridge, just right of a blue island. I immediately braked so the moment would last longer, more than just a few blinks of the eye and a breath from my lungs. I could have hung there like a leaf until gravity, time and destiny pulled me to parachute back down to where it all began.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Actually, Barb and I got a foamy mattress cover and it's even comfier now. So, to Wo and WMO, who installed their own hardwood floors and are some of the funniest people on that side of the Richmond Bridge, I say thank you. And, let's do lunch.