Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

A big theme in the Bible is God's people becoming tasteless and good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled by men (Matthew 5:13), having joined the ungodly in the worship of their idols. In the book of Judges this happened over and over. Later on, Samaria, the northern kingdom, went into exile for the same reason, as described in 2 Kings 17.

Another 135 years, and Jerusalem also went into exile - having ignored the example that God had given them in Samaria - for serving the gods of the nations, for doing injustice to the poor, and especially for offering their children in sacrifice to the gods of this world.

From Cain up, people have been offering sacrifices to God that he does not appreciate at all, because they don't offer first the sacrifice that God wants, which is above all to be listened to, just as people made in his image want (Psalm 40:6-7). One of those sacrifices that God always hates is human sacrifice. There are two apparent exceptions: Abraham's offering of Isaac, and the death of Jesus on the cross. But both of these were offerings to God in the expectation of resurrection, which God had specifically promised, and not to death.

The doctrine we hear preached on Memorial Day, in contrast to the Bible teaching, is that death itself sanctifies. A violent, often sexually immoral, and arrogant young man dies a sucker in a shameful war of aggression on behalf of corrupt politicians and war profiteers, spreading misery and destruction in a far away land whose people have the same right to be left alone by invaders as we claim for ourselves - and he is made clean and holy simply because he got killed in the course of warfare in behalf of American power!

For unbelievers to believe such nonsense is understandable, because pagan religion has always found holiness in violent slaughter, from the Aztecs eating the hearts of their still living victims in their temples to the men of Tyre and Carthage burning their little children in the fire to Baal. When people do not know how the living blood of Jesus makes us clean when we abide in the truth and walk in the light (1 John 1:6-10), they will understandably hope to be made clean by the strangest things.

But where do "Christians" in America get the idea that sanctification comes of being killed in the service of any nation in this world? Could someone please show me that in the Bible someplace? And why don't these American Christians teach that Vietnamese, Lebanese, Iraqis, and Afghans are made holy by being killed repelling the invaders of their lands and homes? Or don't the prophets and Jesus and the apostles get to direct the thinking of Christians in such matters? Indeed, 1 Corinthians 13 puts it plainly enough: "Though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing."

I don't think it's all that mysterious, really. With very few exceptions, the bottom line for American Christians is America - their present world whose friends they are - and not Jesus. Their attitude is best expressed by Ahaz, who replaced the altar of the Lord with an Assyrian altar, saying of it, "On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, the evening grain offering, the king's burnt sacrifice, and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, their grain offering, and their drink offering; and sprinkle on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice. And the bronze altar [the Lord's, which Ahaz moved to one side] shall be for me to inquire by."

Their home is here, not in the heavenly places, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Jesus, and our Father in heaven, are important little gods in the American Christian pantheon, deserving, to be sure, to be obeyed and believed where it doesn't conflict with the prior obligation to worship America, in whom they live, and move, and have their being. The blood of our children killed or psychologically shattered by the wickedness they've been sent to do is to be offered on the altar of American militarism, along with the grain offerings of our wealth and that of generations to come, our civil liberties, and what remains of our republican institutions - while we claim that this folly in some way protects our freedom. But we'll then go to church to inquire of God, to pray and to sing hymns, pretending to godliness.

In the same way the European "Christians" all signed up for their national crusades in 1914. The Holy Spirit led the German Lutherans to die for Jesus in the service of the Kaiser. The very same Holy Spirit led the British to war against the Germans, the Huns. And in Russia, the Holy Spirit moved the Orthodox Christians in their holy crusade against the Austrians and the Germans. All this presumption and gross blasphemy left European Christianity in the shape it is in today - God is not mocked. But do American Christians fear God at all, to learn from this example and others like it?

It's fine to offend God by conforming our thinking to the world around us in contempt of his testimony, but to speak the truth about American nationalism and its conceits - now that would offend our fellow religious people, who would hate us for following Christ in opposition to the lies they love! But the apostles teach that we're to shine as lights in the midst of this perverse and corrupt generation - full of self-deception, murder, licentiousness, and empty nationalist self-congratulation. Do we shine as lights among them when we repeat their pagan pieties after them, like Ahab's prophets telling him to go up to Ramoth Gilead and prosper - agreeing with their murders, their kidnappings, their invasions and bombings, their tortures and disappearances of the innocent? Did Jesus and the prophets sit still for such things?

This Memorial Day and every day, shouldn't Christians remember Jesus Christ, remembering all else in the light of what he has to say?

Friday, May 21, 2010

A few good questions - Rep. Ron Paul, Republican of Texas

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Second sermon to Chino Valley school board (5/20/2010)

Good evening.

In the first of these talks two weeks ago, I briefly set before the four professing disciples of Jesus on this board what the faith requires of those in your position. Mr. Joseph responded with a “commercial,” gratefully received by Mr. Youngblood, in which he spoke of the “delicate balance” you must find between doing justice to any individual kid and the needs of the group as a whole. I already knew that Mr. Joseph is a nice guy, and I’m still more grateful to him for so clearly dragging into the open the bad doctrine that gives rise to your bad behavior.

This “delicate balance” is all about how you have to agonize about aborting the life of this or that individual kid for the sake of the larger interests of the district. We parents of these kids, who do not appreciate your difficulties, just don’t understand.

To paraphrase Caiaphas in John 11:49-50, we parents know nothing at all, nor do we take into account that it is expedient that one kid should have his life wrecked for the convenience of the district, so that the whole district can avoid trouble.

As you know, Caiaphas was explaining why Jesus had to be done away with, because doing justice to this one man would be too much trouble.

None of this is to say that you’re especially bad people, or that your apostasy is unusual. It is only what Paul wrote of your fathers long ago in First Corinthians 2:8: none of the rulers of this age has understood, for if they had understood, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Jesus said, “Whatever you have done to the least of these my brothers you have done to me. You do to the least of kids in this district what your fathers did to Jesus because you believe about them what Caiaphas believed about Jesus – that you cannot afford to do them justice and mercy. In this you are greatly mistaken, knowing neither the scriptures nor God’s power, because Jesus warned you clearly that if you cause the least of these kids to stumble – any single one of them – it would be better for you to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea. The problem is not the failure of Attwood, Higgins, or Keltner to understand the wisdom of this world in which you trust. The problem, as Paul wrote, is your failure to understand the wisdom of the God that you claim to believe in.

There’s more at stake for us than whether we help a school district to get over. Jesus lived and died for kids and other eternal human beings, not for school districts.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stephen medical news

Yesterday the 14th, Stephen got the surgery done on his right foot. Looks good. The surgeon said that the first week it would hurt so bad when he set it on the ground that he would wonder whether it would be better to pee in his bed than to get up to go to the john, but not so. Asked to rate the pain, he says - meh. Seems like God has listened to us all that have prayed for him.

We're looking at 6 weeks for the bone to heal, another 6 for the Achilles tendon to become reliable, and another month or so to shape up the leg after withering in the cast for 3 months. Then the same thing on the left foot. So after about a year, he should be able to walk normally, run, and stand without pain like other folks.

We're supposed to see the surgeon, Morris Baumgarten, on the 19th for the post-op.

In other news, we had his IEP meeting Thursday the 13th, in which the district predetermined that the NPS they've placed him at is where he has to go, threatening to yank his tutoring if he doesn't show up there. They know well that his present tutoring is the only educational endeavor that has worked at all these past three years. And this in the face of the DBH report, which documents how he can't function in their NPS placement. That same report recommends residential placement, which the district is eager to shove him into - but who can imagine doing that now that we're doing Stephen's feet? And with his feet as they are, who with a straight face can ask Stephen to go to the worthless NPS placement? It's a good schlep from the parking lot to anywhere in the school that he would go to see the teacher and get homework. And we're going to persuade him to go through all that for what? The district offered Home & Hospital. Do they think Stephen has forgotten what happened the last time the district offered him Home & Hospital?

The kid I'm working for in the Antelope Valley needs real math remediation, and I found someone that does ed therapy, majoring in math, who comes highly recommended by folks that I trust. She may be perfect for Stephen too. My assignment Monday is to look into that, and then I can respond to the district with further suggestions.

I had a nice conversation the day before the IEP with the incoming spedhead. Things may be better once she takes office July 1 in place of Heather Williams. Williams is moving to Human Resources, where she'll be dealing with union officials instead of ruining the lives of vulnerable kids. Better for the kids of the world, I guess, that she go there rather than leave the district and become a spedhead somewhere else. Too bad for the taxpayers of Chino Valley, no doubt, who would be better off not having to waste their money on such administrative dead weight.

Now I have to prepare my mini-sermon for the board meeting this coming Thursday.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

First in a sermon series to the Chino Valley school board (5/6/2010)

Good evening.

In your biographies, four of you declare your faith in Jesus, and you tell us what you do in church. One of you advised me to talk about Jesus here. To learn, to do, and to teach the word of God is indeed the real deal, so I’m taking your advice. Here then are some Bible basics, which I’ll apply to district business.

The good news is that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and don’t do what I say?” so if we’re not doing as he says, we’re not really calling on the Lord, but instead taking his name in vain, and that’s no help.

James agrees with that, reminding us that faith without works is dead. It follows that faith which is not dead is not without works, which is why all we need is faith, as Paul also wrote. A car without wheels and an engine is dead, but a car that runs includes these.

So what are the wheels and engine of real faith? Micah 6:8 says, “Man, what does the Lord want from you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Closing the three schools because you and Heatley judged those people too weak to resist – taking his advice when you knew what an unprincipled liar he was - did you do justice to those people, or love mercy? When you walked in the counsel of your crooked lawyers to pick an unjust fight with Lewis, did you walk humbly with your God? When you aid and abet injustice to Megan Higgins and to so many others, reasoning that if you do them justice you might then have to do justice to others - God forbid - are you doing the word of God that you claim to believe? When special ed robs kids, not even saving money but just being mean, and you back them up, carefully hiding your eyes from their malice, is that justice and mercy to the abused? What if it were your own kids? Mr. Joseph has written that we should forget all this and move on, but the past is not past until you forsake it in repentance, and have you even considered doing so? When we hurry to forget the past, we repeat it by way of reminder.

Aiding and abetting injustice, enabling merciless and cunning abuse, and walking complacently with your clever lawyers has been expensive trouble. Learning to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God might work better. What you teach in Sunday School, learn again to do it here!

Mothers Day

There's a lot of sentimentality around Mothers Day. Sentimentality is the emotional bath people take instead of actually loving people - that is doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with their God - so I find it nauseating. From Revelation 3:14-20, I'm convinced that in this my feelings are somewhat compatible with those of Jesus.

An unsentimental, practical, and therefore helpful, perspective from Donna Smith of National Nurses United.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Can you mock this church?

Nicholas Kristoff in the New York Times about some actual Christians in the Roman Catholic Church. It's great to see something working as designed. Read it. It's good to see that it's not ALL BS all the time. And while you're in there, you can reflect that the hostility of the secular press toward religious people is mostly not about hostility to the gospel. It's because the gospel is the last thing to be seen among Christoids. When some evidence for Jesus turns up, they respond just fine - indeed, they like the real Jesus when they see him a good deal better than the professing Christians generally do. Which, judging by who crucified him after fighting him all the time, is what we read in the gospels, isn't it?