Archive for February, 2016


the alleyFor the last several posts, I’ve taken a broad, sometimes sarcastic swipe at politician’s who’ve claimed that God has called them to run for office. As such, a reader wrote a private email requesting my thoughts of what true servant leadership should be.

To preface, I found many people who feel the large gap between what they expect from their Christian candidates and what’s received. We’re fed a steady diet of Biblical principles, heart-felt conversational stories, endless legalistic Biblical push button rules that secularize and polarize, while promising to return the country to the state that God loves. In reality, the candidates never had a deep God-centered relationship Him, never felt Him or experienced the kind of agape love Christ exhibited.

While Donald Trump claims to have never been called by God, he labeled Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as “not a war hero;” that Bush didn’t have the IQ [to be president]; that Bush has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife; that if Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?; that Lindsey Graham was a total lightweight.

As for Mexican citizens, Trump noted “They’re sending people that have lots of drugs, crime are rapists and some, he assumed, are good people.” And of course Muslims and Mexicans won’t be allowed into the United States.

Ted Cruz finally disavowed merchandise designed by the overtly racist artist Sabo. Cruz’s campaign pulled the designs, once featured on posters, buttons, and t-shirts, not long after an online liberal talk show, The Young Turks, aired a segment calling accusing Sabo of being a racist. Sabo publicly disparaged “blacks,” “New Mexicans (residents from New Mexico),” Syrians and repeatedly made reference to harming President Obama. Cruz campaign also suggested GOP candidate Ben Carson might be leaving the presidential race, drawing the lasting ire of the neurosurgeon.

Rubio has his own issues. He stated President Obama has no class. News media widely reported the senator’s “imprudent” financial decisions over 15 years, including his “penchant to spend heavily on luxury items” like an $80,000 speedboat; his “inattentive accounting” with local government fees; his “unwise” decision to liquidate a retirement account; and his questionable move to use a Republican credit card for personal expenses. His Tallahassee home nearly ended in foreclosure before finally being sold.

The coup de gras went to Ben Carson. Citing Obama’s time spent in Indonesia as a child, Carson said it is “a stretch” for Obama to say he identifies with the experience of African-Americans growing up in the United States. “He’s an ‘African’ American. He was, you know, raised white,” Carson said. If I summarize Carson correctly, Obama isn’t black enough.

From my perspective, the God of faith and agape love got lost? Or if this is there God, then I would not want to be in their version of heaven.

In his song Take Me Top The Alley, Gregory Porter embraces the beauty every one should demonstrate. Take Me To The Alley reflects what Christ does upon His return.

They will be surprised

When they hear Him (Christ) say

Take me to the alley

Take me to the afflicted ones

Take me to the lonely ones

That somehow lost their way

Let them hear me say

I am your friend

Come to my table

Rest here in my arms

You have party

Rest here, rest here

Take me to the alley

I want a candidate to Take Me To The Alley. Together, let’s find those who feel alone and convince them they’re not.

Take me to the alley.

DumpThe people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision. So I am suspending my campaign.

~~Jeb Bush~~

Way back in 2011, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum all said God lead them to run. In the 2016 electoral primary, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum also felt God’s calling.

So why does God call candidates to run but He never tells them to get out? Many claim God’s official okie dokie as a rite of passage, yet when bowing out months later, it’s often “The people spoke …” Based upon what I’ve seen so far from GOP candidates, I wish some critical thinking reporter would ask, “Which of you idiots were really called by God and which are hearing voices? And how would we know that His calling was true?”

The problem with running for election is that only one person wins, all others lose. That’s like saying the same God that honored me, dishonors all the rest. For instance, President Washington was very explicit in saying that he considered divine intervention one of the main reasons we (America) won the Revolutionary War. But remember, there were over 651,000 battle deaths in the revolutionary war. Did 651,000 have to die simply because God wanted to show Washington that divine intervention exists?

Why didn’t God just appear to him when he was taking a shit and say, “Let’s talk for a moment.” If that happened, 651,000 lives might have been saved.

In the current Presidential race, I believe the decision should be left with God – get all the candidates sitting in circle card table chairs and wait for God to appear and tell us who He elects. The last surviving GOP nutcase can print one bumper sticker with “FWDJV-M” (For Whom Did Jesus Vote – Me)?

As for the rest of us, we’ll just go about living until all of this is clarified.

More than likely though, all of us need to be prepared to hear “… the people have spoken …”

gods-calling-1200x800_cAlan Binder’s NY Times article Falwell and Graham Reinvent Their Fathers’ Legacies was an interesting read. Binder wrote that while Falwell and Graham, ponder the rewards and perils of creating identities apart from their fathers say there is no rivalry between them as they pursue different ways of engaging in politics.

Falwell endorsed Trump and Graham simply wants more Christians in office. Graham said, “I want to get Christians to run for office at every level. The Christian voice needs to be heard.”

That got me thinking. Why can’t Graham comprehend God is everywhere?

I mean think about it, God has been everywhere in this election has told almost every candidate to run. Need convincing? Here’s a quick rundown.

  • Scott Walker, the infamous Wisconsin Governor, was convinced God called him:

I needed to be certain that running was God’s calling — not just man’s calling. I am certain: This is God’s plan for me and I am humbled to be a candidate for President of the United States.

  • John Kasich wanted a message from God before becoming the 16th candidate to enter the GOP foray.

“… what does the Lord want me to do with my life? You know, he puts us on Earth, all of us on Earth, to achieve certain purposes, and I’m trying to determine if this is what the Lord wants, and I’m not going to figure that out laying in bed hoping lightning strikes, so I’m out there one foot in front of another. We’ll see what happens.”

  • Ben Carson’s belief was that God would make it clear if that’s something he was supposed to do. Carson also told Fox News last August:

“… that he would run “if God grabbed him by the collar and asked him to run.” 

  • Rick Perry wife’s likened him to Moses, describing his decision to run as heeding signs from above.

“He didn’t want to hear a thing about running for president,” she explained. “He felt like he needed to see the burning bush. I said ‘Look, let me tell you something. You may not see that burning bush, but there are people seeing that burning bush for you.’”

Later, Perry told CNN, “I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do. This is what America needs.”

  • Rick Santorum family had a divine understanding of what compelled his presidential ambitions.

“… defending God’s truth …” and “… it really boils down to God’s will. What is it that God wants? We have prayed a lot about this decision, and we believe with all our hearts that this is what God wants.”

  • Mike Huckabee asked his audience that he couldn’t think of a worse place in the world to be than in the Oval Office without God’s hand upon him. He’d rather not get near the place, but if that’s a (God’s) purpose, so be it.”

During the 2011/2012 GOP Presidential race, God told Rick Santorum (again), Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain (the same Cain who infamously quoted as being a brother (to the Koch brothers) from another mother, to run as well.

I am amazed the same God reached out Falwell, Graham and all these candidates. The ironic theme running through every message is that it’s from the same God.  You’d think all the candidates would compare notes. ” What? God told you to run too?” But while they’re somehow qualified to run the country, they can’t figure out how bizarre it is for God to have called everyone.

That means either God is extremely confused or has a huge a problem with commitment. I mean this is the same God that parted water, turned water into wine, had His Son killed, raised and then left for vacation. He could have selected any one for president, but each either failed or will fail. So what does this mean for God and for the candidates that claim to be doing his work in running for president? I sort of expect God to call and say, “Sorry, My bad!

At the end of the day, God is either a particularly cruel practical joker, He never really endorsed any of them or most Americans don’t give a crap. The first would be hilarious but the third is most likely.

There is no universal agreement among Buddhists about the right solutions to political issues or even how to prioritize them. There can be agreement, however, about trying to not make one’s political actions the product of greed, aversion, or delusion, and about acting mindfully and employing right speech, etc. That’s where many politicians fall short of God’s calling.

hooksAs many readers know, I’ve been absent for many months. Much of my time away has been due to a series of medical issues, high-blood pressure and heart problems. Then something new, cervical spondylosis, commonly called arthritis of the neck. Although many people with cervical spondylosis experience no noticeable symptoms that was not true the case for me.

So I read Kate Bowler’s column in the New York Time’s SundayReview with great interest. Writing of her struggles, she wrote of her Stage 4 stomach cancer diagnosis, heart and back and forth issues of religion, specifically prosperity gospel.

As many know, prosperity gospel belief’s center upon God providing material prosperity for those he favors. The idea goes both ways: materially successful people achieve such success because they’re favored by God and, at the same time, people who are favored by God will eventually be materially successful. In other words, godliness causes material prosperity.

Just to get this out of the way, to me, buying into the prosperity gospel message is like eating a week old banana – we all say we love it, but in reality, it’s shit. If the message of prosperity gospel were true, every single person of faith would bathe in material wealth. Additionally, it implies a nonsensical quid pro quo. The entire idea of a prosperity gospel is based on direct reciprocity – meaning if you believe in God, you will be given wealth.

So my question is as follows: how many prosperity gospel minded believers succumbed to cancer? More than likely, a whole lot. To phrase it another way, the late radio show host Bob Collins (WGN 720) once said, “In the end, something’s going to get you.” Prosperity gospel nor regular gospel will prevent one from cancer, car accidents, or any other malady. Death happens. That’s life.

So I can relate to Ms. Bowler’s comments:

It is the reason a neighbor knocked on our door to tell my husband that everything happens for a reason.

“I’d love to hear it,” my husband said.

“Pardon?” she said, startled.

“I’d love to hear the reason my wife is dying,” he said, in that sweet and sour way he has.

While keeping Ms. Bowler’s comments in the forefront, technically speaking, I understand my problems are no where near the breath of difficulty others have. But I cannot tell you the number of people who’ve offered me simplistic medical advice:

  • A new bed:
  • Eat a plant-based diet;
  • Quit my job and enjoy life;
  • Move to the southwest;
  • Natural medicine;
  • Participate in Reiki healing; and
  • Align my spine.

I’ve received many comments from the well intentioned, some are bizarre, others rude.

  • It’ll be okay, I just know it.” (Really? That’s great. Tell me how you know?)
  • Someday this will all be behind you.
  • Don’t worry, things will get better.” (Disk compression from cervical spondylosis does not get better. I can get spinal fusion, but the condition does not get better).
  • So when will you be all better?” (Disk compression from cervical spondylosis does not get better.)
  • When will your conditions be gone?” (When I die or until all the Southern Comfort in the bottle to my right is consumed … whichever occurs first.)
  • Live in the moment.” “Be strong.” “Fight hard.” “Keep your chin up.” “Don’t give up.” “Attitude is everything.” (I will remember this when I can barely move in the morning.)
  • We’ll pray for a miracle.” (Is spinal fusion considered a miracle?)
  • What’s your prognosis?” (Pretty fucked.)
  • Could be worse.” (Just did. Listening to you say that confirms it just got worse.)

And the coup de gras of all statements:

  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • It’s all part of a larger plan.”

To this, I remind myself of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s comments from “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero:”

You want plan? Then tell me about plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how the plan saved you, you better also be able to explain how the plan killed them. And the test of that has nothing to do with saying it in your synagogue or your church. The test of that has to do with going and saying it to the person who just buried someone and look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to blow your loved one apart. Look at them and tell them that God’s plan was that their children should go to bed every night for the rest of their lives without a parent. And if you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.

It’s just it’s too easy. That’s my problem with the answer. Not that I think they’re being inauthentic when people say it or being dishonest, it’s just too damn easy. It’s easy because it gets God off the hook. And it’s easy because it gets their religious beliefs off the hook. And right now, everything is on the hook.

In many ways I sympathize with Kate Bowler and for the seriously injured. For them everything’s on the hook.

Loopholes

LoveI admit up front, EMDR has wonderful benefits, so my spin on the rest of this blog post is not about EMDR, its use or merits.

I recently learned an acquaintance has been seeing a psychotherapist for depression. The counselor practices Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma.

After a year of counseling, he found himself significantly improved from his 20-year battle, to the point of calling himself cured. Newly awakened, my acquaintance, a husband and father, has decided he should never have married and is seeking a divorce. He finds his marriage unwelcoming, even to the point of mechanical. He believes the Catholic Church will allow annulment. How so? Well, his logic is based entirely upon mental state, that since he was mentally handicapped (i.e., in depressed) when married and accepting his vows, he can seek freedom and receive God’s grace.

As Philip Yancey would say, anyone who writes about grace must confront grace’s ugly side, loopholes. Retrospectively, if Moses and David could murder and God still loved them, why not a father freed from the prison of depression?

Loopholes have both personal and moral consequences. Of course his decision to leave will mostly likely inflict heavy, permanent damage on his wife and children. Even so, the force of living propels him forward, unto a new and brighter world. In essence, when most of us ask for grace, we confuse condoning and forgiving.

What my acquaintance is actually doing is simply ignoring the fact of his marital bonds, as he neglected to request and accept forgiveness. A man who admits no guilt cannot expect to receive grace. While I am happy he overcame depression, does he rationalize his decision as a way of escaping marriage?

In truth, many of us rationalize ourselves with accusers seen in life. Everyone wants to rip the flesh of some poor soul who deserves it, often chillingly destroying that person’s life forever. Think I’m wrong, just read the New York Times or any tabloid magazine.

My larger point is not whether the husband or wife mentioned should stay married or not. Certainly, I am unaware of their marital dynamics and I wish not to negate nor diminish those who have to separate. Still, often times we can only advance in God’s love by trembling, being humbled and without excuse, and begging for mercy, i.e., grace. I rarely see this very humbling experience and wonder what true repentance looks like, even in myself.

We need to move away from the “Yeah, I know it’s wrong, but I will ask for grace later” mentality.  For me, just as blood nourishes and keeps life flowing, loving one another actually nourishes our spiritual freedom, and in turn, love is kept flowing. By severing relationships so easily, we actually sever our true path of freedom, the one God calls “a religion of love.”

Love is the path to full spiritual liberation. Too bad most of us miss it.

What Should I Have Done?

lsAs a preface, I write of an event at the large grocery store store located in Missouri. I will briefly describe an incident that occurred February 11th at approximately 1:20 PM while waiting for service at 20 items or less checkout lane. This event has haunted me since and I repeatedly ask, what should I have done?

From an outward perspective, the event is simplistic. Yet, my deeper emotion also indicates a potentially deeper theological, political and even a moral issue. So much so that my own moral obligation resonated throughout the night and into today.

Approximately 1:20 – 1:25 PM I entered the 20 items or less checkout lane, purchasing diet coke and one potato. A Middle Eastern woman wearing a brown Squere Hijab was in front and a store’s employee who I presume to be on break was behind me.

Most the woman’s item’s had been scanned before I entered the checkout line. Thus, only a few items remained. The cashier rang the customer’s final items and informed the woman of her charges. The woman proceeded to swipe her card through the Point of Sale system.

And nothing happened.

The customer looked at the cashier and said, “Nothing happened.

Looking over her shoulder, the cashier responded, “You obviously have no money left on your food stamp account or you entered the wrong PIN number.” Turning her head forward, she looked at me, briefly sighed and rolled her eyes.

And that was it. The heart of the entire event lasted approximately five seconds.

But what I saw in those eyes was complete contempt. For those five seconds, I saw total disdain, from business to customer, from human to human. More so, what bothered me all night was the fact I did nothing. And what should I, as a customer had done? While feeling an undying urge to standup for this ordinary woman, I sank into a darkness rarely experienced and said nothing.

Based upon a single and exceptional encounter, it’s strange how everyone crossed at that precise moment of time. More than likely, neither path will cross again. Still should each of us have taken a different approach? Could we?

I’m unsure if the cashier has ever been to any Middle East country, but I have. The terror, anguish and brutality Middle East women experience is horrendous. Maybe this specific customer overcome tremendous odds to make it here in America, only to be humiliated here at a St. Louis, MO grocery store. Then again, maybe this customer is second generation Middle Eastern woman who proudly honors her faith. Then again, maybe this customer was recognized by the cashier and the customer repeats this same process each week. I acknowledge each scenario as potentially valid.

As a business owner myself, I believe there is a teachable moment for each and everyone of us that five seconds can make a huge difference in the life of each and everyone of us.

But as a dedicated customer of this store, I remain haunted. I sit nearly 21 hours later and ask, “What should I have done?

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