29 September 2009

new possibilities for life

“We believe that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world.”

That’s a quote from Article 3 of the Belhar Confession. We used it in our worship service today at a meeting of the Presbytery of Geneva. We’ve been using it in a year-long process to explore the possibility of including it in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Book of Confessions. As can be surmised from the following statement of faith, the immediate situation in this South African confession was apartheid:

We believe “that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.”

The life giving Word of God enables us “to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society.” How badly we need that in our country, where it seems that we’ve painted ourselves into ideological corners. We’re so suspicious of each other.

But that isn’t the way of Jesus Christ. The way of Christ leads us “to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation.” There are plenty of voices in our society—fearful, paranoid voices who seek to fill us with fear and paranoia—but that is not the way of Christ. These voices are on both the left and the right. These voices deny “in advance the reconciling power of the gospel.” They should be seen for what they are: “ideology and false doctrine.”

17 September 2009

can we say "never again"?

With all the sound and fury of the health care debate grabbing our attention, there’s an issue still lingering in the background. How seriously are we going to investigate torture, which is illegal in both US and international law? Gay Gardner, an Amnesty International member, expresses some things in her letter to President Obama that I often have felt. This is part of Amnesty’s “Ten against Torture” action:

“As a human rights activist and volunteer member of Amnesty International for more than 25 years, I have worked against torture, and to end impunity for torture, in many countries. I never expected that there would come a time when the United States would be the principal focus of my human rights work. It saddens me to hear from current and former officials of my own government many of the same arguments justifying torture and advocating impunity for its practitioners that were made in so many other societies that have grappled with torture and its aftermath…

“We can and must demonstrate to ourselves and to the world that we are strong enough to look at the ugliness in our past and determine how to rectify it. This task is a vital part of strengthening our powers of moral suasion with other countries, which will be needed to help solve a host of global challenges. We must show the world that we understand how serious torture is and that we are committed to preventing it in the future. Hiding from our past will project weakness and fear, not confidence and strength.”

For me, this isn’t just political; it’s also an expression of spirituality. Those of us who would worship Jesus Christ must also admit that he is one who was tortured. He was condemned by the state, and considering the crowd he was attracting to himself, it’s not beyond the realm of possibly to see how he could be considered guilty.

As Gardner says, she—and I—hear the exact same arguments and excuses coming from our current leaders that we’ve heard coming from dictatorships all over the world. In his death on a cross, Jesus was executed as the lowest of the low—the worst of criminals. In those tortured today, Jesus is tortured yet again.

12 September 2009

from the sublime to the...

Since I like to watch the show Real Time with Bill Maher, I figured it was about time I got around to seeing Maher’s movie, Religulous (2008). (A fusion of “religion” and “ridiculous.”) First of all, the movie is very funny. And Maher is very up front about where he’s coming from. He even has some scenes with his mother and sister. Having seen his critique of religion before, I pretty much figured where he would be going with it. Maher goes after almost all expressions of faith, but he focuses mainly on Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism.

I’ve noticed that Maher tends to commit what philosophers call the “straw man” fallacy. He presents a cartoon version of the faith—which, admittedly, many people have never outgrown. For example, Maher says that Christians believe there was a “talking snake” in Genesis and that Jonah was a guy who lived in a big fish. Articulate people like Cornel West, when he’s appeared on his TV show, don’t let him get away with that!

But did I say that the movie is funny?

11 September 2009

I love being Rushified

“Living in the limelight / The universal dream / For those who wish to seem.
Those who wish to be / Must put aside the alienation / Get on with the fascination / The real relation / The underlying theme.”

I just watched I Love You, Man (2009) on DVD. I’ll admit that it was one of those movies that I didn’t feel worthy of a trip to the theater. Still, a movie that comes up with the word “Rushified” (something I experienced the first time I heard “The Spirit of Radio” from Permanent Waves), can’t be too bad.

The movie plays off the stereotype of men having fewer friends than women. In the character played by Paul Rudd, he has none. Though it is an exaggeration, it’s not too far from the truth. But as we see at the Snakes and Arrows concert, with the roles of Rudd and Jason Segel, Rashida Jones displays the unpardonable sin of not knowing who are the “Holy Trinity” of progressive rock! (By the way, for those who haven’t been Rushified, those lyrics at the beginning are from the awesome song “Limelight” from Moving Pictures.)

“Slapping the bass!”

03 September 2009

those bullies up the hill

I’ve been to HSBC Arena five or six times to see the Buffalo Sabres. One of the signs lining the rink is for Bully Hill Vineyards. (I haven’t been to the Sabres for two or three years; I suppose they still have the sign.) I didn’t know where Bully Hill was. I figured it was a vineyard in western New York!

Anyway, today was Banu’s and my 15th anniversary. We were up above Keuka Lake. September 3 is our anniversary, and several people had birthdays at the restaurant.

Bully Hill has quite a few buildings: winery, gift shop, art gallery, restaurant, and so on. In the gallery, Susan B. Anthony has a poster called “Constitutional Amendment, Mass Meeting.”

And that is Banu is sitting on a boulder next to one of the vineyards. (She bullied me into taking her to Bully Hill!)

01 September 2009

please forgive me...I couldn't resist

I couldn’t resist posting the latest offering from Tom Tomorrow’s This Modern World. I could blather on about how we brought this on ourselves by not paying attention / not caring what Cheney and Bush were up to. I could go on a rant about how we’re treading dangerously close to what dictatorships routinely do—violate human rights and commit war crimes with impunity.

But I won’t!  Let the monsters do the talking!