Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Military Consumerism

When in Kentucky recently, theologian Dr. Walter Brueggemann spoke at nearby Georgetown on the Georgetown College Campus. Dr. Brueggeman was a conference participant in a two-day conference on “Reimagining Faith for America and the World” as reported by Mary Meehan of the Lexington Herald-Ledger, 1-4-14.

Among other things, Brueggeman issued a call for people to put down the latest electronic gadget and tend to their spirit. Contending that our culture has become “all about buying and getting and eating and having our consumerism,” he said it is time for people to imagine a future that isn’t based on what he calls “military consumerism.”

“The military,” he said, “helps us control markets and resources, and we all recognize that the media, especially social media, and a captive marketing audience constantly reinforce the demands of consumerism. Thus, the United States enjoys an unparalleled influence and affluence when many around the world live on as little as a dollar or two a day and without clean water, pure air, jobs etc etc.Brueggeman suggests we do not want our pot stirred.

Recognizing that this is a kind of isolation that God does not really endorse, he also acknowledged, “It’s all kind of make-believe.” His comments were a sharp reminder to me of something I’ve thought about, but find there is little interest in being reminded of. In fact, some of my peers will forthright challenge my thinking and defend our militarism and bloated military consumerism.

George Bush used nine-eleven as justification for further exercising our military powers. A bloated Pentagon budget forms a sacred document to many people who enjoy American imperialism although disliking being called imperialists. The truth is, and there are available figures to document such facts, America spends more on its military expenditures than the next twenty nations leading our global community.

We have allowed the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us against in his second inaugural address to control the economics of our country. It is today so firmly entrenched, providing jobs to workers and huge fortunes to special interests, that we are afraid to let loose of this giant viper for fear it will squeeze the life out of us through deflatng our economy.

Consider the flack caught by General Colin Powell when he supported a smaller military force and using more effective technological development. What Senator or Representative is going to allow a military closure in his/her district without a huge protest about job losses and a multitude of other political reasons; I live in such a community. 

We enjoy a level of affluence and increasing technology that makes us comfortable with willingly living well off of the self-benefits of international conflict, global wars, and a world of militarism. We willingly live in a police state as long as we can live well.   We pay mercenaries like Blackwater as much as $30,000 a month to wage war for profit and then find taking caring for our wounded veterans interfering with Veterans Administration Executive bonuses.

Such an economy has within it the cancerous seeds of its own eventual self-destruction, so I am responsive when Dr. Brueggeman calls it a make-believe world. I believe him when he says people need to stay connected to the greater world and stay educated about what is happening outside of the comfort of their own lives. I know the truth of which he speaks when he says that churches do that through mission work and that more needs to be done.

When he says it is the job of the church and the faithful to raise questions about the ever-growing materialism in the world, because it is a way that no longer works, I cannot disagree! However, when he says “such upheavals are recorded over and over again in the Bible” and that for “this generation” it is time to “unplug and begin to re-imagine their lives,” I can only wonder why are we not being informed of this by more of our church leaders?

From Warner’s World, this is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com wondering if we are not being led down a primrose path of moral and socio-economic heresy.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Passing Another Mile Marker

I passed mile marker 87 yesterday. Following the savage winter we had, the day was near perfect. I spent it in solitude quietly doing what needed doing, receiving the best wishes of friends, and sharing family intimacies with family members. I overslept this morning so went to second service instead of the usual first service, but was glad that I went--although I found it difficult to sit through the clatter and bang of this younger generation. I’ve endured the mixed bag of worship at our church for 17 years since retiring. I stayed because I found challenge in the pastor’s preaching and solid friendship in our peer-relationship, a time in which he helped us through some stressful times. He has been gone a year now, during which he has served as regional pastor ministering to congregations across the state in all levels of difficulty.Currently he is an Interim pastor in Indiana and Susan is an Interim at another place.

Our new pastor has been with us for one year now. At times he shows a real flair for being a very good Bible teacher but in my view he is tied to the latest technologies, which bore me and are more than I can afford. I like his life applications but I view his sermons as canned so they can be coordinated with the videos he loves to use. Now I do not go to church to watch videos, so I am “unattracted” to them, or their humor. Today, once I endured my way through the overly-loud bass guitar and the so very insistent drumming of the too loud music (I grimace without intending to), I did find satisfaction in the sermon.

I get the point of what Pastor was saying  as he read the story of Paul in Athens when trying to introduce his new discovery of Jesus to an already very religious crowd of Jews, Greeks, Epicureans, Stoics, and what have you (Acts 17:16-34). Their reaction was typical and no different than today: “What is this babbler trying to say?” Paul was hoping to introduce his discovery of the resurrected Jesus he believed he had met, but some thought he was advocating “some new god.” There were some others who asked to hear more.

Most of us would have begun by telling the crowd how wrong they were; they were pagans. Paul chose to look over their multitudes of idols/gods/philosophies and observed very astutely that altar inscripted to “an unknown God.” With that common ground, Paul suggested, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you” (17:34). Knowing they were very religious already, he reminded them “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth.” He doesn’t just live in buildings or on a shelf as an idol. He made all of us as human beings and in him “we live and move and have our being.” Thus, Jeff made the point that Christians are people who are provoked to choose engagement over condemnation, grace rather than judgment. Christians seek common ground for engagement in restoring our world to some of the sanity with which God created it.

While Jeff applied his thoughts to our relationships with friends and neighbors, I was seeing some of those neighbors as who they are today. Paul was speaking as a Jewish Christian to varying ethnic people (Jews and Greeks) who also included Epicureans and Stoics, various philosophies et al. Today our neighbors may be Jewish, Muslim, Sikhs, or Hindu’s. There may be a few atheists, probably more agnostics. Most of those who brought “their faith” with them are devout to some degree. Yet, I see much evidence on Facebook of Christian hostility toward those of other faiths; granted, America was founded with a Judaio-Christian heritage. We tend, for example, to categorize all Muslims as radicalized terrorists, shoe-box bombers, although many of them are here fleeing from that past.

Muslims, for example, have a very different faith than Christianity, although we share common origins. Muslims only have five basic rules, but most are very devout in those few rules, one of which is the praying at regular hours. Rather than remind them that “we are a Christian nation” and they are ethnic foreigners and terrorists, why can we not befriend them as people God created, recognize their devotion, and then enrich our devotion by being who we say we are and practicing what we preach and be friends whose devotion to our faith matches their devotion to their faith. Then, we may be ready for further engagement (dialogue). I don’t know that Muslims have the assurance of God’s forgiveness and grace that Christians enjoy, but I’m told many of them would like to experience it.

One of the things we want to avoid as Christians is becoming Christian Pharisees. We have a world with a multitude of opinions, convictions, beliefs and what have you and at this stage of my life I would like to make every day count. I don’t want to spend my days polishing the picture window in the front of my house that overlooks a beautiful yard and peaceful lake, bordered by picturesque mountains. I understood Jeff’s illustration from Eugene Peterson. The owner of the house took pride in looking out of that window but got distracted by the visiting children whose dirty imprints on the window clouded the view. The church has invested so much time, money, and pride in keeping the window of holiness, unity and spiritual purity clear that it has sometimes perverted the purpose of the window – to reveal the beauty of the yard, the lake, the mountains et al and focused on keeping little visitors hands off. We end up window polishers, without friends with whom to share our beautiful view.

John 3:17 says, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (italic added). I want to be among those restorers of God’s world who seek engagement rather than condemnation, who offer grace rather than judgment. This is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com at Warner’s World.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

She Made a Difference

Today is Mother’s day 2014. It is a reminder to me of my mother’s passing in August 1998. I was her one and only son, her pride and joy. One of my more memorable pictures of her (and me) was taken at my installation in Battle Creek in late 1973. She was so happy for me to return to Michigan after living out-of-state for twenty-eight years.

I left home to attend Anderson College in the summer of 1945. I did a short hitch in the Air Force, spent 3.5 years in Portland, and followed that with more than twenty years of pioneer pastoring. During those years she saw very little of her son, except mini-visits during the annual pilgrimage to Anderson, when my wife insisted that I visit my home.

My parents met when mother moved into town to board with Uncle Dick and Aunt Addie. She and her mother [divorced] had moved from the northern coast of the lower peninsula and returned to G’ma Knapp’s  home area between Lacota and Grand Junction. This 15-year-old Baptist girl moved into South Haven to attend high school. There, she met dad’s sister Treva  and visited the fledgling congregation where dad was a Sunday School Teacher and assistant to Sebastian Michels, and the rest is history. 

They married in 1926 at Mother’s Superior Street home and she helped Dad support that little church for the next 68 years. Some of my sparse memories of those early years suggest they were hard years of adjustment for two young kids, neither of whom came into the marriage very well prepared, both being products of broken marriages (accidental death in dad’s case). Their relationship was a lifetime commitment yet it was often one-sided and filled with stress, making it difficult for me and the two little girls that followed me.

We were nurtured within the church family, but my unlettered father ruled by the razor strap. He meant well but when he said jump, you dared ask no more than “How high?” without regretting it. By the time I graduated from high school, I left for college at Anderson without ever looking back.  As I look back now, I see much that I would not wish upon anyone else; yet they were good years. Depression years! War years!

In spite of whatever difficulties we had as a family, we were family. We were a God-respecting family that was blessed to be in church every time the doors opened and blessed to be part of the Saints gathering at Grand Junction. From the moment of my conception, those were very formative years in helping me determine my call to ministry. The church was the center of my life from my very conception. It was not always so, but with the accumulation of years I look back and see that dad and mother were products of their time and I rejoice that they did as well as they did with what they could accumulate, and with what they had to bring into their marriage.

In time I came to understand how much of a handful I was to raise. The only model dad ever had was the sick and elderly old preacher that mentored him in his declining years--whose life I now cherish as a “long shadow” cast upon my life back in mid-twenties. I rejoice for the influence Saint Sebastian wielded in the life of my father while still an unmarried teen.

Yet, it was my mother who imprinted me; first with her family resemblance, then with her quiet, shy and reserved personality that could hide in a quiet corner and read a book while the world wanders past. If it could be done, she would avoid conflict, but she was fearless of work. She was faithful and persevering. She was sufficiently proud of my becoming a Pastor that she took special interest in mothering young pastoral couples. Bill and Effie Gibb came to America from Scotland via Gulf-Coast Bible College and they never forgot “Ruthie” and how she mothered them and looked after their special needs. She loved them like she loved me.

Many were the years when I took home quarts of canned peaches, especially prepared for me by my mother. When she took up baking bread, I again became the beneficiary. Many such blessings became happy memories when she completed her eternal commencement in August 1998; yet she found otherways to enhance my research when I was preparing to write my first small book in 2000, Saint Sebastian – The Long Shadow.

I am especially indebted to her former pastor, Harold Davis for two walnut plaques he presented her during his years in South Haven. In 1993 she received recognition as the first honoree of their VISIONARY HALL OF FAME, First Church of God, South Haven, MI. In 1995 she received MOTHER OF THE YEAR honors. Many lessons she quietly observed from my ministry elsewhere, she translated into support of her pastoral family at the home church. 

She made a difference in her little world. Based on numerous conversations with my friend Bob Bodfish of that congregation, I know Bob and his wife would concur with a hearty “Amen!” I can only hope that I have made as much difference in my world with what I have, as she did in her world with what she had.

From Warner’s World, I am walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com