Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

The Beginning and the End

June 15, 2018

To go with the flow, or to go against it—that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler to nurture the notion that mankind was innocent in some presumed condition of noble savagery—or to accept traditional religion that pronounces us guilty of offenses against Nature or against God.

If we are, or were, indeed, noble savages in our beginnings, why should we have taken on the disciplines and restrictions of religion—doctrines that judge us culpable of sin and thus in need of repair, salvation, or some kind of evolving perfection yet to be realized?

Hawaiians, for instance, who were alive here on the island of Kauai (I am wondering, as I write this on Kauai in 2018)—those Hawaiians who lived here in 1778 when Captain James Cook suddenly showed up with his fancy ship and his threatening weaponry, his magical gadgets, highly-trained crew, impressive use of language and documents, his tailored clothing and highly developed European culture—those relatively primitive people who first saw Capt. Cook’s two ships sail up to the mouth of the Waimea River . . .

CaptCook

Why should they have accepted his intrusion into their simple, primitive life?

To go with the flow, or to go against it—that was their question.

Would they go with the “arc of history” or resist it?

Did they eventually accept highly developed European culture to replace their traditional tribal existence? Did they accede to it out of submission, or out of necessity, or out of attraction to the new fancy stuff they saw? Were they conquered? Or were they taken by the hand and brought gently, Christian-like, into 18th-century civilization, and ultimately into 19th, 20th and 21st-century lifestyle?

Look around Hawaii today. What do you think?

They accepted it.

They went with the flow. One thing we know for sure about the so-called primitive Hawaiians of 1778: they knew how to go with the flow. They were here on this remote island in the middle of earth’s largest ocean, long before we technolified haoles were here, and they had arrived here at some earlier time because they knew how to make “the flow” of this life and the Pacific Ocean work for them.

So now, 2018, it is what it is. Hawaii, like every other place in our modern world, is what it is. Some may lament the demise of noble savagery that has been the result of Captain Cook’s intrusion into this paradisical (though deadly if you don’t know what you’re doing) island. Others may celebrate the entrance of the Hawaiians into modern life.

Some may come and some may go.

Captain Cook came. He left and came back again. The beginning of Captain James Cook’s Hawaii experience happened when his crew sailed their two ships to the mouth of the Waimea River— a river that flowed from mile-high Waialeale crater down to sea level at the southwest shore of Kauai.

Waimea1

He died in 1779, shot dead by an Hawaiian on the Big Island of Hawaii, at the other end of this island archipelago. His sudden demise came in the midst of dispute between some of his own crew members and the natives of Hawaii.

Many have lived and died since that time.

Two days ago, up on the other end of Kauai island, the northeast end, at a strand called Larsen’s Beach, we witnessed the life-end of another person, a contemporary. The man was a traveler from Pennsylvania. He had been snorkeling at a reef in unpredictable waters when the Ocean took hold of him.

A little while later, his flippers floated to shore. After we had witnessed a team of chance beach visitors (us), and then a couple of jet-skiing lifeguards from some other nearby beach, and then EMT guys flown in on a “bird,”—after we had witnessed all this collective noble attempt to coax life back into the snorkeler’s breathless lungs and heart, we saw his neon-green flippers float back to shore.

Flipper

Maybe he was going with the flow; maybe he was going against it; maybe he was fighting against the current, or maybe he was just going with that flow of life and death that eventually captures us all.

In my case, that flow will, in the long run, take me to death, and then resurrected life, as was demonstrated by Jesus.

Am I really going with the flow, you may ask, in joining the historical current of the Christian faith into which I was born?

Or am I going against the rational flow by subscribing to such an incredible prospect as life after death?

God only knows.

King of Soul

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Feeding the Birds and the People

June 8, 2018

While staying on Kauai, Hawaii, I have been observing a cardinal every morning. This beautiflul red bird has lighted upon the deckrail, shortly after each sunrise each day. His visits demonstrate a boldness on his part to venture into areas of human domain. But that boldness is tempered with a shyness by which he promptly flys away as soon as I make any movement in his direction.

Comparing these bird encounters with similar episodes at our home in the Carolina Blue Ridge, I surmise a personality trait that seems to be characteristic of the cardinal breed. It’s probably my imagination that the  colorful creature has some comprehension of his special status among the kingdom of the birds. He seems to understand  (or so it seems to me) that this human is fascinated by his flashy appearance; he also knows that his bright profile is, in some settings, a liability, because the bright red makes it easier for nearby predators to catch sight of him and perhaps eat him.

However, Mr. Cardinal’s skittishness did not interfere this morning with my continuing attempts to capture a pic of him. I was pleased this morning to find that the different physical arrangement here in Hawaii have made it possible for me to snap the pic.

FeedCardnl

My Christian perspective on life in this world prompts me to accompany this amazing  (to me) photo with a scriptural reference. Here’s the first one I thought of, in the words of Jesus:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

In this case, I, human, am representing the heavenly Father in dropping those cereal crumbs onto the deckrail for our scarlet friend.

Meanwhile, feeling satisfied that I have managed to capture, here in Hawaii, that flighty image of the bright cardinal which I could never manage to obtain back home, I’ll cast another crumb of interest in here for you to nibble on.

Before Mr. Cardinal visited this morning, I was continuing my read of Edward Joesting’s excellent book on Kauai, Kauai: The Separate Kingdom.   

https://www.amazon.com/Kauai-Separate-Edward-Joesting-III/dp/0824811623/

In chapter 7, Mr. Joesting reports on the beginnings of commercial agriculture on the island of Kauai. The earliest enterprises were initiated by a trio of American business partners who were working with Hawaiian leaders with assistance from Christian missionaries who had arrived in the 1820’s.

Long about 1835, some Americans leased a large tract of land from Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) Kaikioewa, the governor of Kauai.

What fascinates me about this development in Hawaiian history is the changes in motivation that Hawaiian working people found themselves adopting in response to the new capitalistic farms.

On page 131 of his book, Edward Joesting wrote:

“In agreement with the philosophy of the missionaries, the lease stipulated that native laborers be encouraged to work on the land. For this right the company would pay to the king and the governor twenty-five cents per month for each man. And it was further stated that each worker would be paid a satisfactory wage and be exempted from all taxation. This taxation had taken the form of labor performed for the chiefs and such other contributions as the chiefs wished to impose.”

As agriculture and business later developed in Kauai during the next twenty years or so, what this arrangement amounted to, economically and sociologically, was this:

Whatever ancient cultural motivations that had traditionally compelled Hawaiian working folk to labor for their tribe and their chiefs—these motivations were being supplanted by new incentives, directly related to 19th-century agricultural scales and practices, and modern, capitalistic business.

On page 132, Edward Joesing wrote:

“The idea of Hawaiians working for an employer who paid them wages, which could be disposed of as the earner saw fit, suddenly introduced a concept of independence that was not easily understood by the commoners and was feared by the chiefs. Adding to the independence of the commoners was the fact that the commoners no longer had to pay taxes to the chiefs. It was more than the average islander could comprehend. There was nothing in their history, no precedent, no legend, that could be used to bridge the gap. . .

On occasion the workers went through the motions of caring for the fields, accomplishing practically nothing. The plantation manager was beside himself (mad). He did not know the Hawaiians still could not comprehend the fact that their wages and the things they bought with them would be their own posessions and coud not appropriated at will by the chiefs.”

My rationale for combining these two different encounters—one with a fresh understanding of historical changes in 1830’s Kauai, and the other with a visiting cardinal this morning—my reasoning may not be entirely clear to you; it’s not even so clear to me, except it has something to do with this quote from a gospel:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

FieldHawaii

King of Soul

The Deep

May 26, 2018

As we grow older in this world, we gain a deeper understanding of  what is going on here. But it can be discouraging. In many ways, what we find is not pretty, and it makes no sense.

The disconnect between the way the world is and the way we think it should be becomes an existential crisis for those of us who are sensitive to such issues.

Attached to this dilemma we find a long historical trail of people attempting to deal with the problem. Along that path we find tragedy, depression, pathos, melancholia, despair, existential crisis, schizophrenia and a myriad of other assorted travesties.

But there’s a favorable output that sometimes arises through this conundrum. It’s called art.

And music, and literature.

I’ll not get into the specifics of it; but we discern, threaded through our long, strung-out history, an overwhelming human opus of emotional and soulful profundity. It  has been woven through the sad, dysfunctional and tragic tapestry of our apocryphal struggle for meaning. It has been sounded forth and sculpted continuously even as our very survival is perpetually  called into question.

The depth of this existential crisis is expressed by the poet when he desperately cried out:

“O my God, my soul is in despair within me;

therefore I remember you from the land of the Jordan,

and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls unto deep at the sound of your waterfalls;

all your breakers and your waves have rolled over me.”

From the mountaintops of human awareness, and from the turbulence of many wanderous shore epiphanies, we homo sapiens somehow manage to  bring forth as offerings a cornucopia of creative endeavors; they are birthed in desperation, and they are often borne in desperate attempts to somehow attain hope.

You catch a hearing of that struggle to which I allude, in this music, composed in Spain in 1939 by Jaoquin Rodrigo:

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9RS4biqyAc

You can catch a glimpse of it in Picasso’s mural, composed in Spain in 1937, after the Luftwaffe bombing of Guernica:

  GuernicaPic

But in my exploration of these matters, the most profound expression of the pathos curse is manifested in the life of one person who, by his laborious struggle, imparted the purest and most enduring message of love ever etched upon the parchment of human history; but his great gift was rejected through our judgmental travesty: a sentence of crucifixion.

ChristCruc

Yet out of that most extreme humiliation there arose an even greater opus of creative, persistent love : resurrection.

If you can even believe it.

Smoke

The killing of God

May 2, 2018

Just because the potentates of old Europe wrangled the Bible away from its Hebrew roots and turned it into dead religion doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist.

God did, after all, create humans with a free will. We are not programmed bots. Just because we homo sapiens screwed it up over the course of a few thousand years doesn’t mean that God wasn’t in the midst of it all somewhere, trying to break through our cerebral density, carnal shenanigans and political bullshit.

Actually, God did break through. But look what we did to him.

In the Middle Eastern crossroads where our wayward cruelties had taken advantage of 1st-century Empire-building power politics to nail him, a stake was driven in the ground. It turned out to be a bloody mess and a sacrifice of universal proportions.

So, as the centuries rolled by, the movers and the shakers among us took that bloody sacrifice and ran with it, transformed it into a first-class religious system that rolled on through time and continent like a runaway ox-cart on a roman road. A thousand years later, we’d manhandled that pivotal sacrifice into high-powered religion, through which men and women worldwide were either convinced or manipulated (depending upon your interpretation of it) into the mysteries of practiced religion.

Long about 1500 ad dominum, a few upstart readers who were paying attention to the original scripts started to figure out that something had gone wrong somewhere along the line.

HusPrague

So they raised some issues. Well, long story short, all hell broke loose.

That great institutional juggernaut that had rolled down through a millennium of pox humana religiosity suddenly was under attack from men who were trying to get to the bottom of it all, which is to say . . . trying to get through all that institutional religiosity to . . . the truth.

The truth? What is truth?

Haha glad you asked.

This little question became a matter of serious debate.

Now that the snake was out of the bag, everybody and their brother was trying to figure out what the truth really was and how it should be used to improve the human condition. People like Rousseau, Hegel, Engels and Marx, Lenin and several other notorious bastards.

As the movement to replace God with human wisdom and government gathered steam, human history heated up quite a bit. And the conflagration of it increased exponentially because this historic development just happened to coincide with the 19th-century Industrial Revolution. So we had a lot more fire power to implement all the big changes that needed to happen in order to get mankind delivered from the great religious debacle that had held us in bondage for so long.

Some guys in Prussia figured out that, since the great juggernaut institution of religion had been exposed to be the manipulative Oz-like empire that it was, the immediate conclusion was that not only had we killed religion, but we humans had managed to finally kill God! Voltaire, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche made this point perfectly clear.

Several bloody revolutions and a couple of world wars later, we are in the process now of finally getting our ducks in a row and ourselves straightened out, now that we’ve finally gotten God out of the way.

Even though we had already killed him one time before, but that’s another story.

Actually, it’s The Story.

His-story.

You can’t kill it, because that death-sentence strategy has already been implemented several times, yet without conclusive results.

We humanos insist on perpetually resurrecting that Story. We just can’t get enough of the un-killable presence among us. It refuses to stay dead. Might be worth looking into.

King of Soul

The Justice/Righteousness Struggle

April 9, 2018

Maybe it’s because I studied philosophy in college many years ago. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the deep south in the 1950’s-60’s. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic and then, at the age of 27 turned to the “born again” approach to spiritually.

Maybe it’s because I, like Jacob of old, have had to wrestle with God before I could let him into my way of thinking and doing. Maybe it’s because of Moses, or Paul, or Jesus himself that I had this wrestling session yesterday. For whatever reason, I spent yesterday, Sunday, wrestling with God.

Not literally, of course, but mentally, spiritually.

Let me try to explain this.

On Saturday evening, my wife and I shared an evening meal, and several hours,  with a small group of friends whom we have known and loved for a long time, since the early 1980’s. We are, as they say, Christians.

These are people with whom we have, on a regular basis, gathered, prayed, worked, laughed and cried, for most of our adult life. We have all raised our now-adult children together and released them into the great wild world.

My struggle yesterday was precipitated by an ethical dilemma. The problem was working through my mind all day because our host friend had shown us a video link. The half-hour online presentation introduced to us—and to the world, generally— a work of ministry that is being carried out by our hosts’ son-in-law, whose life and struggle is being worked out in his chosen hometown, Ferguson, Missouri.

In the video, Jonathan “JT” Tremaine presents some historical information along with some gospel enlightenment, and he then goes on to explain his vision for justice that is linked to a Christian call to righteousness.

As I ruminated all yesterday (Sunday) on what Jonathan had said, and the images he displayed, I became perplexed while wondering about this thorny question:

Just what the hell is justice anyway?

Is it equality instead of inequality? Is it income redistribution? How does this monumental concept of justice really play out in history, American history?

For many blacks, that idea of “justice” is defined largely by what color of skin a cop sees on the face of some citizen that he is trying to protect, or . . . protect himself against.

And how does justice relate to this “righteousness” thing that we so-called evangelicals like to claim for ourselves?

These are the two primary points—justice and righteousness—that JT raises in his podcast, and in his ministry in Ferguson, Missouri, which he calls “Meet me in Ferguson.”

For many people, especially honkies, neither of these issues is any big deal. Yet that unawareness—that insensitivity— is part of the problem.

The bottom line I’m working toward here is this. Both of these issues—justice and righteousness—are very important issues that we Americans must address if we are going to move forward in our great, historical experiment with democracy.

As the Hebrew prophet of old, Amos, presented a challenge to his people—and to all people throughout history. . .

“Let justice roll down like the waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream!”

This is a message of many prophets of old, and many modern prophets as well, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks . . .

And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK1

And Dr. Billy Graham.

BillyG

Say what? Billy Graham? What’s he got to do with social justice?

You probably didn’t know that back in the 1950’s, Billy Graham insisted that the ropes be removed—the ropes separating blacks and whites at his very own gospel crusades. And when racist ushers of that day refused to do it, Billy himself did remove the damned things. So that blacks and whites could, together, participate in the work of bringing in not only righteousness, but also justice.

And we are, y’all, still working on it.

Let Jonathan JT explain. This thing goes way back . . .

  https://www.facebook.com/meetmeinferguson/videos/618272528508148/UzpfSTE3ODQxMTQ5ODg1Njc2NDoxODI4MzQ4NjE3MTk2MzY5/

I’ll finish this struggle session with a song:

Mountaintop

The New Opiate

March 10, 2018

You may have read somewhere that Karl Marx, the chief promoter of early communism, said that religion is the opiate of the people.

Marx

During the time that he wrote of such things—mid-1800’s—industry was rapidly progressing in the modern European world. Things were changing so fast that industrialists and capitalists were able to take advantage of poor working folk who did not understand the cataclysm of enslavement they were themselves getting into.

As the Western world industrialized at a whirlwind pace during the 19th-century, millions of people (the masses) got left behind in the rush.

Economically, that us. They got left behind in the money and wealth part, while the the fat cats and movers and shakers ran roughshod over them with a burdensome industrialism that slowly robbed the poor working-stiff proles of their only real precious asset—their labor—and nullified the workers’ ability to prosper and get ahead of the game.

Marx wrote in 1843 that religion was the opiate of the people. He explained that religion allows oppressed workers to be be inappropriately consoled, comforted, while they are being taken advantage of. The fulfillment that religion brings people cultivates a  false comfort among the masses. Such stupor enables an old autocratic system—or a new capitalist one— to justify its uncaring abuse of the masses.

This idea was used in a very big way when the Bolsheviks took control of Russia in the early 1900’s. Those rabid revolutionary communists worked relentlessly among the people to eradicate religion, because, according to developing communist doctrine, clueless Orthodox faith was the opiate that allowed the rich people to take advantage of everybody else.

But things have changed since then.

Now here we are, a hundred years past the forced imposition of communism on this gullible world, and we see that everything has morphed into a quite different scenario. Communism—at least the official version of it— appears to have been tossed into the dust heap of 20th-century Berlin Wall history.

And now Religion is no longer the opiate of the people, because it is way out of fashion. Who the hell believes all that old stuff anyway?

Well, there are still a few of us around, and we are noticing a thing or two about the present state of affairs.

We find ourselves mired in a new opiate: entertainment. It’s all around us. Can’t get away from it. I confess that I, too, have at times succumbed to this counterproductive opioid.

Being overtaken by Entertainment is, as some promoters love to proclaim—addictive. And it has an agenda.

Can you figure out what the agenda is?

Some media pushers promote product  this way: “It’s addictive!” as if that that’s. . . something good!

Habit-forming, bingeful, cringeful, winkin’ blinkin’ and nodding as we in our tickee-tackee nests drift off to sleep in front of the screen only to drag ourselves to bed and then to work the next day. Talk about your opiate of the masses.

But hey, sleepers Awake! The infamous opiating old-time religion’s got to be more productive than this.

Picture it: bunch of seekers gathered in a room reading out-of-style scriptures, singing songs and praying, maybe even proseletyzing other wandering souls.

Seems pretty to active to me, maybe even subversive—downright vitalizing and invigorating compared to the passivity of comfortably numb binge-watching video and obsessively tapping our tickee-tackee deviant devices as we scrunch down the manufactured munchies.

Something needs to change. We need to take back the means of fulfillment.

Believers of the World Unite! because

He is risen! and I ain’t talking about Marx.

ChristCruc

King of Soul

Stickin’ to it.

February 18, 2018

In the late ’70’s many of us wandered up to a cool mountain town; we were trying to figure out what the hell had happened. Some had survived the excesses of countercultural lifestyle; others were just there to do the college thing.

  By that time, the ’60’s flower-power revolution that had failed to actuate had been appropriated into the Establishment. Now you could buy faux hippie threads from the JCPenney catalog; that reality was really a bummer, but people were buying the stuff anyway.. The free love thing had been commandeered by Hollywood. It seemed like everybody was “doing it.”

Our little group of wanderers and students found ourselves congregated in the mother-earth lap of an Appalachian river valley. We had gravitated here to, as John Denver had phrased it, “find Jesus on our own.”

“On our own” turned out to mean: apart from the institutional Church, because it was out of touch with what was happening in the real world and everybody knew it was full of foolishness and hypocrites. Haha.

As the gathering developed, however, our little charismatic experiment turned out to be a little more infected with the ways of the world than we had anticipated. Even though we were a bunch of young bucks and does banded together, raising our kids as a sheltered new testament tribe, showing all the local old-school religious folks what the kingdom of God was all about, eventually after about 20 years it flew apart and we all went our separate ways.

But the failure of men to do God’s will is not the conclusive evidence about the credibility of Him whose crucifixion was inflicted by that same failure, our human failure. Ultimately his resurrection overcomes the crucifixion. The message of Jesus is not about what men do or fail to do; It’s about what he did for us.

By the late ’90’s when our little congregation fell apart, our three offspring had gone off to University, where they got a different view of things, different from the churchified bubble they had been raised in. Long story short: it was good for them to be educated, and all three retained their faith.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, some of us maturing saints—shell-shocked survivors of the great postmodern charismatic reactionary push—began gathering in our homes to “on our own” collectively continue our covenantal search to discern the Lord’s will for us. So we were then, and still now, gathering in our living rooms to read the Bible, pray, and seek God.

As for me and my wife, we have walked a middle road between that house-church body of Christ and another church, which is  a more conventional arrangement for presenting and living out the gospel in society.

This has worked well for us.

By ’n by, all three of our offspring became world travelers for one reason or another. Over the years we have done a lot of globetrotting, following them to various fascinating destinations around the world.

Like for instance, Europe. When we went to that Old World, I began to understand that America is the new kid on the block. Over there, they’ve been doing this Christianity thing for a very long time, about 2000 years.

While it is plain to see that there is a huge institutional legacy of the “Church” in the Americas, the cathedrals of Europe can be seen as indicators of a very different religious experience in days gone by.  Every major city presents evidence of some stupendous religious megalith that dominated European society in a big way for a very long time, until the purveyors of human rationalism came along to challenge their authority.

This Church as a human institution, whatever it shoulda woulda coulda been spiritually, was for a very long time the big kid on the block, the elephant in the room, the megalith institution that dominated  Old World society and cultural In a BIG way.

Those 1st-millennium continental Catholics erected a bunch of huge, monumental edifices. You can find them in every major city and small town.  Europe displays an infrastructure of past religious hegemony on a massive scale. The Reformers later did more of the same.

Case in point. Last year, when we were in Prague, Czech Republic, I snapped this pic inside a cathedral:

PChrch

So I’m thinking. It’s plain to see, this Christianity thing is much, much larger than what is represented by, say, the quaint quasi-classical structure down on our Main Street USA. Beholding this magnificent structure presents a challenge in many ways: it’s a theological, cultural, architectural wonder!

Who built this thing? Was it erected through the blood and toil and sweat of impoverished medieval slave-serfs? Was it founded upon the heretical  manipulations of indulgence-selling ecclesiastical con-men? What kind of empire were they building here? A corrupted hierarchy of covetous clergy? Does it give glory to God, or to the works of Man?

Now I could speculate vainly about the motivations and corrupt practices of those who went before me as  constructors of what is purported to be the Kingdom of God. I could judge them as users and abusers who took advantage of clueless poor people who probably could barely afford to pay the light bill and keep gas in the cart and the kids in shoes while they were fretting about their deceased relatives in purgatory or limbo. I could conclude presumptuously that this humongous structure is nothing more than a work of vanity and hubris and systemic abuse that was erected by men who were surely just as guilty, just as culpable, just as sinful and suspect as myself. I could condemn them as robber-baron ecclesiastic manipulators who were no doubt serving  Babylon or Rome or the  Pride of Man.

But, sinner that I know myself to be, I shall not so judge them. Rather, I shall admire the building for being, in an imperfect world, what  it should have been, and is generally in retrospect considered to be: overpowering evidence of the human impulse that strives to glorify God.

Furthermore, I understand that my assessment is considered to be an obsolete way of thinking. I realize, from both my common observations and study of history, that the religious  hegemony of this huge institutionalized Church has been supplanted, governmentally and socially, by the humanistic, democratic and socialistic movements of  the 19th and 20th centuries.

And that’s okay. Shit happens and nobody’s perfect, not even the humanists, who havre proven through their own systemic abuses that human government and politics falls far short of true justice.

We Christians do need reminders that there are other people in this world who have different fixes than we do for rectifying human injustice and misery. We don’t have to agree with everybody, but we do have to, as Christ and his apostles commanded, live peacefully with everybody insofar as it its possible.

What I am seeing now, in the present predicament of our world is this:

That big guilty-as-charged Churchified juggernaut that sought to order human activity and governance in the last sixteen hundred years—it is being challenged and threatened by a newer Religious juggernaut from the east.

And if I must choose between the two, I’ll go with the one that I know to be true, even though it has not always been righteous. In the end, I think it is better to build upon the testimony of the one who died on a cross and was, three days later, resurrected. It is better to stand with Him than with another religious empire whose plan would be to get us kaffirs all on our knees five times a day.

In his final revelation to those he loves, Jesus counseled his friend John to “strengthen the things that remain.”

So therefore and henceforth, I say unto thee: I’m with Jesus.

The failure of men to do God’s will is not the conclusive evidence about the credibility of Him whose crucifixion was inflicted by that same failure, our human failure. Ultimately his resurrection overcomes the crucifixion. The message of Jesus is not about what men do or fail to do; It’s about what he did for us.

That’s my faith and I’m sticking to it.

King of Soul

This thing’s all crossed up.

January 4, 2018

So now it’s come down to this:

a global schmobile electric hectic dyss-topia,

each faction nursing its own myopia

manifesting all the genetical heretical traits known to man,

in the clashes of history clashing again and again.

We’re racing down a  four-way street—

devolving in a  manic humanic socialistic beat

boiling in amped-up dead religion defeat

escalating in jihadi mahdi sunni shiite heat

leaving the deceased at a Roman soldier’s feet.

So now it’s come down to this:

That holy man lugged a rugged cross for you and me

exposing all our genetical heretical cruelty,

revealing our relentless senseless dysfunctionality

then abiding in the tomb for one, two, three. . .

Then by the light of that third day’s dawn

he’s shown us life’s insistence to go on and on,

whereby your assent to his demonstration

enables your ascent to his resurrection.

Now if that’s not enough simplicity

to provoke your complicity

Then feel the gravity

of our depravity

and the immensity

of his intensity

to dispense

eternal sense.

Hence,

It’s an old rugged cross, you see,

a stubborn damned thing

you cant kill his accomplishment there cuz he’s already been

beaten to death

you cant derail his train of believers cuz history

did already nail that good news

to an eternal signpost that is hewn

in the midnight star and the midday noon

at the crossroads of the old world and the new

to be seen by all the many and the few

at the intesection of ancient empires

at the apex of a million rising spires

you cant make it go away cuz its sign was forever staked

midway between Moses and Mohammed

a big blood-red light at the intersection of Torah and Q’ran,

a stopping point between Plato and Plutarch

the apogee of history’s arc

the fulfillment of the covenantal ark

the most convincing kabalistic spark

CrossC

and the greatest subject of great art

history’s liveliest encore part

world stage’s greatest curtain call

the rising to recover from our fall

an uprising  beyond Robespierre

a tragedy to provoke your tear

a word in every ear:

Death, where is your victory?

Nailed to a cross, you see,

by the light of that third day’s dawn

we continue on and on.

We were a fallen pawn

but only until that third day dawned.

Got it?

King of Soul

The Hollowness of God

August 20, 2017

So many people dis God these days–criticizing him because he (she, or it) doesn’t correct the dysfunction and atrocity of this world. And the word on the street or in the web is that the Deity, if he (she, or it) does exist, doesn’t seem to care enough about us and our faith  to make our proper expression of that religion a little easier to validate.

My guess is that God is a little skittish. When he did show up here to give us some direction, we nailed him to a cross. So perhaps you can understand why he doesn’t just throw his weight around; he knows we’re likely to just crucify him again. In fact, some of his people are probably being given the third degree in places right now here on this earth.

One thing that God has done lately that I know of, however, is: he has taken a lower profile. The deity’s presentation to us these days doesn’t appear to be aimed at  compelling us to revere the high and mighty aspect of his being.

This is a different scenario than what it used to be among us homo sapiens.

There is evidence in the earth, however, that in ages past, God’s presence was experienced and conceived of amongst his people in way very different than what his minimal interface with us today would indicate.

In times of long ago, it seems that God was Big.

Which is to say, when humans strove to express their devotion to the Almighty, they did it in a big way. They built big structures for a big God.

We were in Europe a few weeks ago, traveling between three fascinating capitals, Vienna, Prague, and Budapest. Traipsing through such ancient cities was a real eye-opener for me. These old megalopoli are amazing in the eyes of a clueless American such as I, who was born and raised, you see, in a the “new world.” I have discovered now that America truly is a new world, compared to this very old place.

In the new world we do have Big, but our Big is mostly applied to commercial stuff, like the Empire State building, Sears Tower, TransAmerica building, World Trade Cent–er, not that one. Anyway, we Americans developed Big Business, so we have built big buildings to express our big ideas about capitalism, and our big development projects and our big bank accounts.

In Europe, hundreds of years ago, Big was all about God. Let me show you what I mean. Here’s a shot of the inside of the Cathedral that the Czechs built in Prague, at a complex called Prague Castle. It’s named the Church of St. Vitus:

Pretty huge, huh?

You betcha. The Catholics worked on this thing for over 600 years before they got it finished. As you can surmise from the photo, the inside view of this structure is quite impressive, possibly incredible enough to even inspire the beholder’s belief in God, or at least provoke a thought or two within the viewer’s brain that God’s non-existence is an unlikely proposition, since humans would go to so much time and expense to build such a place of worship for Him.

The outside is pretty impressive, too:

PChrch2

In the 21st-century, however, most folks, mostly tourists such as myself, walk around such places and snap pics on their phones, and maybe ooh and ahh a little bit at the remarkable immensity of human propensity to fill the God-shaped hole in our collective souls by going to all the time and trouble and blood and sweat and tears to erect such an edifice.

Surely they. . . we. . . would not do all that for a God who doesn’t exist.

In the olden times, when believers would gather together in this place and others like it, they would attend masses that were performed by priests, and they would pray to God and pray at God and receive communion and then be dismissed by the priest to go back to their humble domiciles and live their simple lives. That’s what doing church was all about back in the middle ages when the construction of this Catholic temple was begun.

Nowadays, though, doing church is typically more like what these folks  were doing in Vienna, on a typical summer Monday morning,

lingering outside the incredibly impressive superstructure of the cathedral, buying trinkets, snapping pics, sipping coffee, then going inside and oohing and aahing at the hugely structured religion, or excuse me, the the huge religious structure, and whispering to their companions, admonishing them to be quiet so as not to disturb those Catholic worshippers who are up there in the front as we speak doing their religious thing. . .

Apparently that’s “doing church” in the 21st century.

But for the worshippers in that sancturarial up-front, whatever transpires mysteriously in that hollowness between the congregants and their risen Saviour is not the same as whatever we tourists are doing in the periphery as we gaze up at the distant ceiling.

I do wonder what’s going on up there. It’s a long way up. Incredible what men and God can do when they put their souls to it.

King of Soul

Vienna

July 8, 2017

My mama raised me to be a Catholic. Daddy wasn’t into religion much.

After I grew up, and became a man who could/would relate to the world on my own terms–after I had reached the age of reason and I had decided for myself what this life was all about. . . after I had lived life to the full, and managed to do a few things right and many a thing wrong–after I had made a grand mess of my life, then allowed the Lord of the Universe, our Creator, to take hold of me at the ripe old age of 27 and turn me around and plant my wayward feet firmly in the ground of the gospel of Jesus Christ–after all that. . .

I met my wonderful little women, Pat from New Jersey. We got married in 1980 and by n’ by she presented three lovely children to me. Eventually the kids grew up, became responsible adults, etc and, long story short, we have followed each one of them to various points of interest all over the world.

Our current adventure in following progeny has brought us to the wonderful city of Vienna, Austria.

Now I have to say that this is an amazing place. Walking around this city for just one evening has already taught me some profundities about what life is all about and where things came from, long before I was born. Previously unexplained elements of my childhood, my heritage as a Catholic kid who later turned born-again Christian, can now be contemplated from the perspectives of history itself, and the movement of certain people groups at various periods of time from the Old World to the New, which is to say, America.

I mean, we grow up and we see things and we don’t really have a clue where all this stuff came from or how it got here and how we came to be in the midst of it all. In my case, I was a kid in the middle of the Deep South, in Mississippi in the 1950’s. Growing up, snotty-nosed and clueless as I was, now I’m wondering how likely it could have been that I grew up Catholic instead of Southern Baptist.

Well, my mama was a French-American Catholic from Louisiana, and my daddy’s people were from Scotch-Irish stock from up in the piney wood of Mississippi and before that they had come through Pennsylvania and before that from the old country, Ireland or Scotland or somewhere over there on the other side of the Pond.

So now, at this particular moment in time, it just so happens that I wake up this morning on the other side of the Pond, which is to say: now we are in Europe, the Old World, because yesterday (or maybe it was the day before that) we flew from America– formerly the New World– to this Old World, and one plane led to another and now I find myself in Vienna on a sunny morning and thanking God for such a wonderful life a the one we now find ourselves in.

As we strolled along the Karntnerstrasse last evening, we encountered this very impressive big cathedral structure, so I snapped a pic:

Steph-z

The immensity of history–what has gone before–is what I’m feeling as I pondered this structure. The erection of this church building took lifetimes of work and toil and sweat, and devotion, back in the days of the Holy Roman Empire, whatever that was, and its long tails of historical development through Peter and Paul and later Constantine and then all the Popes in Rome and eventually the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Hapsburgs and their hunky-dory relationship to the Catholic Church. . .

Until that fateful day in 1914 when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand got shot in Sarajevo by an angry young Serb and the Empire ended and the Old World ended and World War I dealt the final death blows to the ancient reins of power and the reigns of the royal houses that had ruled Europe for a couple a thousand years or so.

As I was pondering all this, we did stroll inside, into the Church at Stephensplatz. We found there a group of devoted Catholics celebrating Mass. This kind of thing has been going on here for a long time. And I don’t care what you think or say about it . . . This was a good thing.

Steph-in

That devotional setting took me back to childhood memories of being Catholic because that’s the way Mama raised me, even though Daddy wasn’t into it.

So as I contemplated, and in some sense, entered into. . . the devotion of these congregants to their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and their expression of that devotion in the sacrifice of the Mass,  and as I reconciled in my mind between those ancient strains of high-church faith and the Protestant Reformation that later changed everything . . . right down to the johnny-come-lately tides of Charismata that had drawn me into my experience of the Christian faith in 1978, and my present appreciation for all that God has done for me and Pat and our grown-up children and their spouses. . . as I stood there in the quiet reverence of a tourist who just happened into a cathedral while other believers worshipped in their strange high-church way . . .

I could relate. I could relate to what they were feeling.

This morning, I can still feel it, devotion.

Devotion goes way back. This is a good thing.

King of Soul