I Hate My Country…

sometimes. We can be a very selfish people, self-centered, greedy, and given to violence. Often we seem like a culture with only goods and services and no soul, no heart, and nothing beyond the next gadget to buy. We can be promiscuous and vile, indulgent to our every whim as if it were the entire definition of our existence, and every feeling has become, for us, an ultimate truth to be defended at all costs.

I love my country…

because there is amazing beauty here, everything from the arctic to the tropical in one country. There is goodness here, as well, and if you understand that the movies, the TV, and the news aren’t documentaries so much as lurid attempts to get you to watch you’ll notice kindness, civility, charity, and friendliness in many places. We’re always among the most charitable nations on Earth and even though we could always do more we’re still moved by the poverty and tragedy of others. We forget them sometimes, but we really do have high ideals and there are very few countries that are as diverse of people, faith, and vision and yet have somehow still found a way to be together.

And because I love my country I recognize everything that’s wrong but still believe in what’s good and right and decent about us all. I enjoy traveling the world but this is home and I plan on fighting for the best of it, not with force or violence but by trying to be the best and most honorable person I can and by living my Faith to the greatest extent possible. I can’t control the past, but today, and the future, are surely something I can make better. And every time in the Liturgy when we pray for our nation, its leaders, the armed forces, every city and countryside and the faithful who dwell in them, I’ll mean it like I always have and perhaps even more.

Some might ask

if God is judging America and if the truth be known I don’t think so. My thought is that God is just, after we’ve had our tantrums,  letting have what we think we want and  the chaos and trouble we experience are the result. At some point in the future when we realize the reality of our what our choices have made happen God will be there ready to receive us back from our prodigal travels.

As the secular…

dark age settles in on America those who wish to live in the Light will increasingly find themselves marginalized from the structures of power and success as that age defines them. Those who understand will realize there is a freedom in that because being excluded from the trappings of a decaying culture means their hold on our imagination, our lives, and our souls, will also be broken. In the middle of an outward captivity we will be, on the inside, more free than we could have possibly imagined and it will be that freedom that will slowly but surely take back the darkness from both ourselves and the world we live in.

 

To Be Honest…

I’m disappointed with America right now, what we’ve become, the lengths it seems we’ve fallen from the good and how what is happening with us affects the larger world. Our freedom is becoming more and more about license and entitlement, our wealth is less about charity and more about hoarding, and our technology is slowly changing from servant to master. Our chief exports seem to be war and moral decay. Our chief imports are whatever toys we can get the poor and oppressed of the world to make for us at a price point to occupy us while our hearts empty and the world around us burns.

Trump and Clinton, we like to point out their mistakes, their scandals, their moral challenges, but they are us and we are them. They are a mirror for all of us and yet we don’t seem to understand that the person we see as we look is actually ourselves. We’ve got some rough years ahead and we may never remember to pull the chute as we free fall because we’re so busy looking at our phones on the way down.

The sadder part is that while this has been happening the church has often been the chaplain for the whole process of decay. Many churches are deeply compromised and, in fact, have become places where there is a veneer of Christian ritual covering a substance that is deeply and profoundly disconnected from the actual content of the Faith itself. Where there is a substance of Faith there is often a mass complacency to the real nature of the times, a denial of what is really happening around us and a bunker mentality that increasingly isolates us from the people who need us most, the lost, the confused, the massive numbers of people who are victims of these times.

Someone, and I forgot who it was said “Americans will do the right thing, after they’ve done everything else.” I think there is some truth to this. Perhaps, in time, the pain we’ve brought on ourselves from our continuing experiments in selfishness and decadence will finally get to be so high that some of us will start to think the unthinkable, the possibility that we were wrong when we thought that getting rid of the standards tested in time and the crucible of real world experience, the traditions if you will, was a bad idea. Already the cracks in our new world order are beginning to show and eventually even massive doses of TV and weed will not be able to medicate the pain.

Until that time we in the church need to strive as best as we broken people can to live the gift we’ve been given and share it at every opportunity. The times call for courageous, loving, and transparent people to stand for something that is very unpopular right now, the idea that there are things in the human experience that transcend the individual, things larger and more true than any emotion, purchase, urge, or perceived need. Your culture will find ways, at the present, to punish you for this because you will be, wherever you are, the child that reminds the emperors of this world that they really don’t have any clothes. Your mere presence will be an irritant to those who plan on making fortunes for themselves while the culture goes bankrupt, forgetting of course that the bankrupt culture will eventually make paupers of them as well. The way you live your life will be an affront to people who believe that power over others is the way to their utopia by eliminating the dissent that reminds them of their own emptiness.

So, there is hope but it will be hope realized in long term, peaceful, and activist struggle. The struggle of those who are looking for sanity to achieve it for themselves and then the struggle to change the world around them by sharing that sanity one person at a time until it prevails. Those who choose to take on the struggle will need to understand that for years they may have to be on the outside looking in as they make the deliberate choice to live as exiles in their own land until the day its soul destroying tendencies can be healed. For the churches that remain faithful there will have to be an almost entire change of vision, a reorientation towards the understanding that this America is already a pagan land, as it were, and that, far from being acceptable and normal in these times, we are a community often at radical dissonance with the world around us, a revolutionary body who have been called to be salt and light in ways that will make us uncomfortable as we are torn from our isolation and complacency. In the end only the churches that have refused to baptize the brokenness of this culture will have any meaning, substance, or even existence and we have to daily make a choice what kind of church we will be.

I’m disappointed in America right now. While in the larger and eternal scheme of things nations don’t matter because they’re temporary entities subject to change they can, in any one moment of time, be part of the larger human good. Right now this America I live in is often not. The only remedy I can see is to be fully a citizen of my actual and permanent country, the observant Christian will understand what I am saying, and that by doing so transform my temporary one.

Long live the revolution!

 

It’s a Crazy World Out There…

and a lot of people are shouting trying to be heard. Only God seems quiet these days as our culture seems to find ways to the bottom and then start digging. Yet, is that so?

I’m no prophet but the signs of the times in the United States appear to point to an era where observant Christians will no longer find support from the most of the major institutions of this culture, including many churches. Corporations, media, governments, and academia in many places are either not supportive of our lives, our visions, or our lifestyles, and often can be directly hostile. Truly the world of my childhood when towns were basically closed on Sundays is long gone and, in my lifetime, will never return.

So its a wilderness life for us until our culture cracks and breaks under the pressure of the many forms of brokenness that come to pass when people ignore the lived experiences of people over time we call tradition. It’s already starting as our nation, having jettisoned any idea of an overarching narrative informed by the graces of Christianity is becoming more diseased and turning on itself. Sanity will come, of course, but not after some years of tribulation while the old lessons being ignored are relearned through pain.

It can be all quite frightening to watch. Sad, as well. What kind of person can watch a society come unraveled without having some kind of compassion, especially a Christian? Yet, is it possible that in all the storms and hubbub God is not silent, but gently calling those who still seek Him to something beautiful, real, and holy. Stripped of all the trappings of the world’s support, could it be that we are being called back to our first loves, not the least of which may be the simple rediscovery of God?

We American Christians can make such an idol of our country, so much that we mistake its values for what should be our own, it’s ideals for ours, and it’s way of life for the life of Christ. That might be why so many of us are actually shocked and traumatized to discover that this culture in which we had put so much hope is starting to turn on us and one day might even use its power to make us outcasts in our own land.

Yet, our home, as observant Christians, was never truly in this land or any other for that matter. We belong to a Kingdom that can live in this world but ultimately is beyond it. If it is our lot to be exiles in this country the blessing in it may be that we rediscover Whose we are, who we are, and the very core of Truth about God, ourselves, and this world that’s been buried under the weight of an increasingly consumer and decadent culture.

The world is crazy, and I think, sadly, that we’ve not even come close to the end of the shouting all around us. Still, God is there, alive, present, and quietly inviting us to come to Him and find the real rest we’ve been seeking. In the end that still, small, voice, may be just exactly what we need to hear and the one place of true rest in a world of storms.

 

 

Many Years Ago…

guns were available at hardware and sporting goods stores, no background check and all the ammunition you could afford. Walk in, buy, walk out. You could even order them via catalog if you didn’t want to leave the house. My grandfather, as a young man, even had access to dynamite to help remove stumps from the ground.

Yet, no mass shootings basically anywhere. So what’s the difference between then, in the freewheeling bad old days of virtually no gun control and now? I don’t think its the guns. I do think its us.

The one difference I can see between then and now is that back then there was a larger moral framework rooted in a Judaeo Christian ethic where “Thou shalt not kill (murder)” was still taken seriously, and even the mobsters took care to follow it in their own way by trying to minimize “civilian” casualties.

Leap forward to now and that narrative is largely gone, done in by a culture where even some sense moral and social caution is identified as repression, where human identity is entirely divorced from any concept of the image of God and reduced to a basic consumer equation, and violence as a routine solution to human challenges has filled the moral vacuum with a hundred little deaths and, from time to time, explosions of death that make the headlines.

Politicians, bathed in this culture, see only more and different kinds of laws as the solution because they have forgotten about, or deliberately sought to undermine, the law inside a human heart. A moral human, properly formed, encouraged, and supported by a larger spiritual and ethical imperative, will hesitate to do violence even when its tools are close at hand but a person who has no  proper morals, and lives in a culture where there is no larger context than how a person feels at any given moment, will use any tool at hand and no law can, or will, stop them. Witness the couple in San Bernadino who obtained the weapons used in the horrific crime outside of the existing laws.

No, I’m not advocating a weapons free for all. What I am advocating is something that most politicians, pundits, and sometimes even preachers have forgotten. We need a moral revival, a return to a larger moral narrative that affirms human life, impresses a moral responsibility on its members to strive above all to do no harm, and calls us away from our consumer driven, violence saturated, world. That revival will start when Christians decide to be Christians again and churches do the same.

 

 

 

 

I Live in a World of Rage…

born of selfishness and entitlement unfulfilled. All around me the world I live in shouts “What you feel is what is real and what you feel you need is what the rest of the world is obligated to provide.” When this is not true, which is more often the case than not, I am told that raging against whatever is outside of me that has failed my feelings is my right, my obligation even, until the ever-changing feelings and needs inside of me are satiated.

I reject this even as I understand that in doing so it can be like a fish rejecting water. This is the ocean I swim in, the river that is my home, and the pond where I was born, and yet I know this, all around me, is not the real world even as it surrounds me everywhere. So I resist as I can, asking God for peace, for insight, and a sense of eternity in the world of time. My own world is too small and it is constantly unsettled and angry because of its smallness and in moments when I am distant from the Truth I can feel the anger of my tiny world’s unfulfilled entitlement swelling inside until I am ready to burst.

I must die, daily even, to this small world and its rage. Daily I must recall its illusions, its shadows, and its emptiness. Instead of the thousand shouting voices all around me telling me  to burn and hate and consume and make war I must listen to the one voice that matters, the still, small, voice that comes after the storm and earthquakes and fire have passed. That is the voice of God. The rest is madness.