26 February 2008

sacrament of snow

This is a picture of my dog taken this morning. He simply adores being in the snow. Sometimes he'll just lie down in the stuff and gaze in the distance. Do dogs do anything approaching prayer? I think my Shetland Sheepdog could teach me plenty about peace with God. He might even think of snow as a sacrament, especially fitted (for him, anyway) for that very purpose.

15 February 2008

a brain for peace

More wisdom from the font of Jürgen Moltmann's autobiography. (I seem to be drinking deeply from it lately!) Here's something from the Gesellschaft für Evangelische Theologie (Society for Protestant Theology), in which he was an integral member. In August 1981, they published a declaration called "Spreading Peace." (This was Ronald Reagan's first year as US president; peace, at home or abroad, wasn't one of his top priorities.)

On learning to love our enemies: "Friend-foe thinking prepares the ground for wars. Artficially built up pictures of the enemy exploit fears and evoke aggressions...Once fear of the enemy is made the counsellor of politics, peace is endangered, not only outwardly but inwardly as well. The loyalty of a country's people to the government they have chosen will then no longer be assured through the fulfilment of the mandate to rule, but through the spread of fear, whether it be fear of the state's enemies, or whether it be fear of being considered such an enemy" (p. 259).

Politicians are good at whipping up fear, whether it is by claiming that the Soviet Union was the focus of all evil in the world (the "evil empire") or by declaring that "they hate us for our freedom." Citizens are good at whipping up fear by swallowing such nonsense without bothering to think for themselves. Jesus asks a good question in Luke 12:57. "Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?"

14 February 2008

a stellar valentine

I'm usually not one for public displays of affection, so posting something on my blog for St. Valentine's Day is somewhat of a departure for me. But I decided to let everyone who happens to see this know that my wife, Banu, is my Valentine!

As for the images of couples from Star Trek--starting in the upper left corner and going clockwise, we have the wedding of Worf and Jadzia Dax from ST: Deep Space Nine. Beside them are B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris from ST: Voyager. Below them, we see Seven of Nine getting singing lessons from the Doctor ("You are My Sunshine," also on Voyager). Unfortunately for the Doctor, Seven doesn't have the feelings for him that he does for her. Fortunately for the Doctor, he gets over it and eventually finds love. And finally, from Enterprise, we see Trip and T'Pol in costume.

Those familiar with the Star Trek universe may wonder why I omitted the best-known couple: William Riker and Deanna Troi from ST: The Next Generation. To put it kindly, I find them tedious. But that's far from the case with my stellar valentine. I wouldn't trade her for all the gold-pressed latinum on Ferenginar!

12 February 2008

one nation under

Why is it okay to grant amnesty to telecommunications companies, and the presidential administration working with them, but not to undocumented immigrants? With telecom amnesty, our spineless Congress is planning to reward years of illegal monitoring of American citizens through telephone, fax, and computer surveillance. You can see the whole sorry affair laid out, with a video of Sen. Chris Dodd breaking it all down right here.

Equally complicit in the Bush administration's continuous grab for power are the major news outlets: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox, I'm looking at you! If only we could tie this in to Britney Spears or Tom Cruise, maybe then this stuff would get the reporting it deserves!

it's not easy being green

I would like to believe that either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would make a difference as president in the machinery that is the American empire. Between the two, I favor Obama. But I really think our two-party system needs to have its grip loosened. Both the Republican and the Democratic Parties have become too comfortable and too entrenched.

The images I've posted speak volumes. The top one is a rather abstract impression of what it means to be Green. The lower one is what plenty of people think about the Green Party: visitors from another planet. If that's what it takes to restore some sanity to our political and electoral process, then I'm all for it!

As for the 2008 presidential campaign, so far it looks like Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney are the leading candidates heading towards the Green convention this July in Chicago. Every time I vote for a Green candidate, people say I'm wasting my vote. I look at it this way--if I vote what I believe, then the vote hasn't been wasted. But then, maybe I'm one of those critters arriving on the spaceship!

09 February 2008

at the table

I've been gradually making my way through Jürgen Moltmann's autobiography, A Broad Place. In chapter 19, he reflects on his time working at the Roman Catholic journal, Concilium. (I've read it myself on many occasions. It's a very good publication.) It was started right after Vatican II (1962-1965), when Rome began reaching out in new ways. Moltmann's work with the journal, both as contributor and then as editorial committee member, was just one small way in which that new spirit was manifested.

As a Protestant, he was in a rare position of getting to know many Roman Catholic theologians in every part of the world. When his term on the editorial committee was up, he wrote a farewell article. He includes it in his book. In the final paragraphs, he reflects on being at the table.

"I have always participated [in the Eucharist]," Moltmann says, "for from the time of my early ecumenical beginnings I have made it a rule that wherever and whenever I hear the voice of Christ inviting me to his table fellowship, I come--in whatever church it may be." He speaks of members of Concilium's fellowship who fell into ill-favor with the Roman hierarchy, especially with Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (now Pope Benedict XVI). He finishes the letter by saying, "let me in closing extol Concilium's table fellowship, which at the end of every annual meeting brought the heated participants together in peace and earthly enjoyment."

I've included images of the Lord's Supper and a quiet lunch my wife and I enjoyed some years ago at Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville. There's nothing like gathering at the table to foster an amicable spirit!

06 February 2008

lenten foolishness

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, which is the 40 day season extending to Holy Saturday. (That's 40 days excluding Sundays. Each Sunday of the year is considered to be a "little Easter.") Ordinarily, people speak of what they're "giving up" for Lent. One year, I decided to give up something that I enjoyed, and drank, too much: Mountain Dew!

Still, if Lent means nothing more than giving up something, then it's a waste of time. Not that there aren't plenty of things we don't need to "give up," but the Lenten season is much more than that. Consider a lesson from Matthew 6, the gospel reading for Ash Wednesday, where Jesus warns about "practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them."

Here's something from my Ash Wednesday sermon: "Receiving ashes on your forehead is something others will notice. Now, if you’re hoping others will notice the ashes and think you’re spiritual, then I would suggest wiping them off before you leave the premises. On the other hand, if you’re reluctant to let others see that ashy sign of the cross, that’s a different story. If you’re embarrassed and don’t want to look like a fool for Christ (my sermon topic two Sundays ago), then I would suggest that you leave that thing right where it is!

"That’s true for Ash Wednesday. That’s true for leading prayer in a group. That’s true for feeding the hungry. That’s true for peacefully demonstrating for an end to the war in Iraq. That’s true for visiting the sick and the prisoner. If love for God isn’t our motivation, then our treasure is meager indeed." Dare we give up our resistance to looking like a fool?

03 February 2008

patriots lose! patriots lose!

I am not a New York Giants fan--but I was tonight. Finally, someone put an end to the Patriots' "perfect" season. They finish at 18-1, and that's a big 1! I don't wish them ill will (I really don't!), but they didn't play with very much integrity this year.

Okay, I'll admit it. I am a Miami Dolphins fan, and I didn't want these New England Patriots to be the team that surpasses the '72 Dolphins 17-0 record. From "Spygate" to the way they ran the score up in the fourth quarter of games in the first two-thirds of the season...whatever, I'm glad they weren't the ones to go 19-0. Some day, somebody will--but not yet.